Friday, December 24, 2010

A bit of travel before Santa visits

We took a 2-day trip north to see Hobbiton and the Waitomo Caves.
Wish we could share some of the amazing photos we took at Hobbiton - but we promised that our photos would not be shared/posted. It is a confidential movie set and we signed papers saying we would not share our photos - sorry.

We can however show you some of the insides of the wonderful Caves. Above photos of are Ruakuri and Aranui Caves. Stalactites and stalagmites everywhere. And Glow worms!!!
The Glow worms are very difficult to photograph but here is an attempt. The tiny bluish specks are the worms and the thin threads that dangle is how they catch their food. If the marketing guys did not get a hold of it you might call it "Shiny Maggot Poo" since what they really are are maggots or fly larva and what makes them glow is the chemical reaction form digestion(shit).

These caves are 100 - 200 feet below the surface of the earth.

We are looking forward to traveling the South Island again.

More soon...

Stacy & Eric

Holiday Time

Holiday Greetings to all !

These are photos of the Telecom tree in Wellington. It is quite amazing and beautiful. The patterns continuously change. The other night (Dec 15th) we met some friends for holiday music by the tree and had a wonderful time. Finally started to feel like Xmas time with holiday cheer.

My office will be closing on Dec 20th and reopening again on Jan 5th. I will be going back on the 10th, - taking a few extra days since Eric's Mom Sue and her brother Rich will be visiting us for the holidays. We are looking forward to it.

We wish everyone all the best for the Holidays!
Missing our family and friends back in the States, and enjoying our new friends here.

Cheers to all,
Stacy & Eric

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Happy Holiday Cheer

Wishing everyone a healthy and happy holiday season!

The cost to send actual holiday cards from New Zealand was just silly, so we decided to send ecards instead. And it's the "green" thing to do.

Stacy & Eric

Friday, November 26, 2010

Hello and Happy Thanksgiving!

It has been a while since I posted. November has been a very busy month.
It began with the launch party for Blood Drive. Our company's (and Activision's) latest game release. Interestingly though, it will not be released here in Austrailia or New Zealand.(too bloody/violent). The party was followed by AnimFX, a small industry conference held here in Wellington for 3 days. I was asked to be a guest speaker and did a 50 minute presentation on "outsourcing art". The conference was great fun and I met a lot of great people, including the director and co-writer of How to Train Your Dragon, Dean DeBlois. I also got to see a great presentation on the making of Avatar.

A few weeks later, I spent 2 days in Auckland with 2 co-workers at a workshop on LEAN processing. (work related practices) I was not sure what to expect, but it turned out to be very inspiring and educational.

This was my first Thanksgiving away from the US and family. It seems odd to be my age and say that. Anyway, it was and interesting week. We got together over the weekend before with some other ex-pat friends to celebrate in a very untraditional manner. We all brought various dishes of food (we brought a 5 layer dip and chips) to share and we watched all 3 Lord of the Rings movies back to back. It was fun. Then early in the week we heard about the snow in Seattle and all I could think about were my friends and family enjoying the snow and getting an extended holiday break (no work all week). Thanksgiving here is not a holiday, so it was business as usual, which did indeed feel odd. But alas, we did not completely let go of the tradition... As you can see we did make an effort to begin a new tradition and have a Thanksgiving meal just the two of us. We picked up a small stuffed chicken because turkey is not available here until closer to Xmas (that's the only time they import them) and I made my sweet potatoes with marshmallows, for the first time from scratch (they are called Kumaras here) and they came out great! Interesting to know...marshmallows here come in bags of white(regular) and pink(strawberry) so we had to sort out the pink ones. AND Eric made a pumpkin pie using fresh pumpkin - no cans here - that also came out delicious! It felt good to have a little Thanksgiving even though we weren't in the US.

Overall work is going well for me. I made the arrangements for talent and spent 2 days at the Weta facility helping with some motion capture for our upcoming Rugby game ( The technology is quite amazing. Eric is still working the Hobbit possibilities and the general consensus is that hiring for that will begin after the New Year.

The other photo above was taken from the gym where Eric and I workout. Quite a view huh? Wellington has just bee named the coolest "little capitol" in the world by Lonely Planet's Best in Travel. The cone shape objects are more wind art. On windy days the cones spin and shift with the wind and at night they also light up.

With the holidays around the corner we have lots to do. It is a very different feeling here with Xmas being in the summer, but we are still trying to get in the spirit.

Cheers to all and we will follow up again soon.

Stacy & Eric

Sunday, October 31, 2010

14 years and still going!! - part I

Fourteen years....where does the time go? In 2006 Eric and I celebrated Valentines Day in New Zealand. Specifically visiting Hobbiton and Rotorua. We had no idea then that we would be back in 2010 to celebrate our anniversary. So what did we do? We packed up the car and went exploring more of this amazing country.

Saturday morning we packed up the car (food and cameras) and headed North. Our first stop was a sculpture garden called Efil Doog. (Good Life spelled backwards) It was a beautiful garden with a variety of great sculptures scattered throughout. The Rhododendrons were in bloom, reminding us very much of Seattle. We spent a couple of hours roaming around and photographing and then took out our packed lunches.

From there we continued on toward Martinborough and Featherston. We decided to take a road on a map that said it went to Glendhu Rocks...We drove and drove and drove -to the end of the road -literally. I do not know where we were other than the road on the map but we never really arrived anywhere. It was just beautiful countryside with lots of farms and sheep and cows along the way. There was a dead rabbit in the road that had a great raptor(falcon-like bird) perched upon it eating away. We tried to stop and photograph it, but it just flew away each time we approached. (need a longer lens!)

We eventually drove back to Featherston and had a nice dinner at the Royal Hotel Restaurant and stayed at Benvenuto -a nice little B&B.

It was a great day!

14 years and still going! - part II

...the second day we got back in the car and headed for Stonehenge-Aotearoa.
"Although similar in size and appearance to the original Stonehenge in England, this is not a replica. It is a complete and working structure designed and built for it's precise location in the southern hemisphere." It was quite interesting and according to this our zodiac signs are not what we thought they were. the sun has moved over thousand of years and based on this I am not a Cancer but a Gemini and Eric is not a Capricorn, but a Sagittarius. Huh? Who knew.
But I am keeping my birthstone Darnit!!!! I like rubies - not to fond of pearls.

From there we drove down to Cape Palliser. It was a beautiful drive with great weather.
(on a partial dirt road). The end of the road is the light house along with a seal colony. We did see a few seals, but most of them were out in the water and not sleeping on the beaches.

On our way back we stopped at the Putangirua Pinnacles. We hiked about 40 minutes up to see these amazing 1000 year old rock pillars. These rock formations also served as one of the locations for LotR -Return of the King.

Our timing was perfect we got the most amazing sunset as we drove back towards home.
It was a great Anniversary, and we can't wait to do another road trip again soon.

Thank you to everyone who wished us a Happy Anniversary.

Love to all
Stacy & Eric

Friday, October 29, 2010

Hobbit Stays in New Zealand!

We fought for it and won.....
What a roller coaster ride it has been. Last Monday there were rallies held all over New Zealand supporting Peter Jackson, Weta, and everyone whose livelihood was on the line if the Hobbit filming moved elsewhere. Eric and I joined many of our Weta friends in the Rally.
The Rally was Monday and by Wednesday evening it had been announced that the Hobbit films would stay in New Zealand... And there was much rejoicing!

Now Eric can start to look for work on the film in some capacity. We are keeping our fingers crossed. Filming will start in February 2011.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

I have been meaning to get back to the blogging, but have finally hit the point where I could no longer stand living out of boxes. Five month of living with boxes, piles and suitcases is too long. I had to focus my spare time on finishing the move.

And now it is completed!

The last few weekends have flown by. And what have we done?I made a large pot of spaghetti sauce. And learned that not only do these people call "ketchup" "tomato sauce", but that "tomato sauce" when bought in cans is actually "ketchup". Needless to say the spaghetti sauce came out very sweet. I added a LOT of garlic and other seasonings to try to help and it did. Next time we will be buying "tomato puree".

We have enjoyed some nice sunny days walking the neighborhood and sitting out on our deck. And we have made a very nice home for ourselves in our rented flat in Miramar. Spring is here and we are really looking forward to enjoying our weekends exploring the parts of NZ we have not yet seen as well as returning to some of the places we really liked.We are also crossing our fingers that Eric will hopefully find employment on the Hobbit if it finally goes into production here in New Zealand.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Nice day for a walk.

While we spent most of the weekend continuing to unpack boxes and move furniture around, we did get out for a short walk in the sunshine. This is what we can see when we walk across the street and down the hill about 5 minutes. Karaka Bay. The plant life here is amazing too.

French Fry Sandwich?

No joking....This is a "Chip Butty"
So while this apparently is not a delicacy born here in New Zealand, it apparently comes from the UK, but has been adopted.

White bread, butter, french fries or as they call them, "chips" and topped with tomato sauce(or ketchup)

These were served at the office on Friday and yes, I tried one.

Certainly nothing healthy there, but actually doesn't taste half bad.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Because you asked

It was quite a stormy day. Photo ops were few. But we intend to go back with better weather.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Moving in

This is exactly what you DON'T want to see, and unfortunately what our container looked like when we opened it.

The good news is that believe it or not we got lucky and nothing of great value was damaged. A few of the plastic flip top bins wee bent out of shape and probably trash now, but if that's all the damage we are thankful. We are still in the process of unpacking. Probably about another 20 or so boxes and I am guessing another 2-3 weeks before we feel entirely set up and done.

We will take some photos of the rooms as we complete them.

Right now it's more of a chinese fire drill where we move everything from room to room while we set up the next space.

We did get our last appliance - the Dryer. Bought it used off of Trademe It's in great shape and only 2 years old. We had to drive up the coast about an hour to pick it up. It was a fun drive and we got to see more of the area around us. (photo above)

The weather is still bouncing all over the place. We are getting wind and rain mixed in with some sunshine. They say spring is near but that only means more wind for a bit. October is supposed to the windiest here.

Cheers for now,
Stacy & Eric

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Fun Food Facts

I had meant to post this earlier in the week but I have been too busy with the getting ready for the movers and then with the unpacking.(more on that later) The computers went off line for a bit and blogging from my iphone was not what I wanted to do. So here it is, my first food rant....

Where to start... First off, food is generally more expensive here. I wouldn't mind spending more for my food if I didn't feel like I was constantly settling for the stuff I was buying. Where are all my favorite brands and foods??? I have found some Campbell's, El Paso -counts as mexican here, Doritos, Oreos, Kellogg's, Best Foods, Kikoman, Paul Newman's dressings, and of course Coca Cola products. Most everything else is stuff I have never seen or heard of.

The cubes of butter you buy here are double size. They don't fit in my butter dish unless you cut them in half yourself.

The expected fast food is here, but we don't go near it. - McDonalds, Wendy's, Burger King, Subway and KFC.

Note these are in NZD - New Zealand Dollars
I could convert them for you but since my salary is also in NZD it only makes sense to stop worrying what that is in USD.

Big Mac is $5.10
Starbucks Venti drip $6.30
I believe our first major shopping to fill the pantry and fridge including all the basics and cleaning products was close to $600.00. Thank goodness I won't be doing that every month.

Interestingly, high fructose corn syrup is considered and "additive" and not allowed here.
we have real sugar! That probably explains why half my favorite food/brands aren't here.

Oh, but you can still buy saccharin here.

They seem to very conscientious about allergies and lots of places have gluten free items on their menus and markets carry a good number of gluten free items. Organic food is still hard to find or very expensive. And I can't find brown rice. I know I am not the first "expat" to say it nor will I be the last, but Trader Joe's could make a killing here.

Fun food: They have a chain called Wholly Bagels.
Good New York Style bagels, are something I missed in Seattle and love having again.
On the subject of "wholly" we also have two pizza chains here Hell pizza and Heaven Pizza.
Haven't been to Heaven yet(lol) but Hell pizza is quite good and the menu is very entertaining check it out.

You may have to look up some of those toppings. Capsicum -thats kiwi for bell pepper. And notice there is no sausage? not sure why.

They also use the name sultana for raisins as in we have Kellogg's Sultana Bran.

So, I have pizza and bagels and cream cheese, what else am I eating?
falafel, yogurt, cheese and crackers, ham (turkey is not common here and expensive if you can find it) and my new replacement for Clif Zbars is called Naturally Tasti Nut Bar-Choc & Peanut. Tastes too good to be all that healthy, but it is only a few more calories(which they call energy (kj) Argh metrics! than the Clif Zbar with more protein.

What I am missing:
Triscuit crackers
Robert's American Gourmet Smart Puffs
Jif creamy peanut butter
peanut butter Clif Zbars
Carroll Shelby's Chili Mix
Cheddar cheese
Pepperidge Farm crackers
Cinnamon Altoids

Still trying to tracking down Edamame, Herbs de Provence and onion power -go figure
Might be cheaper to make it myself.

In the category of odd foods

Kiwi fruit and habanero sauce (see photo)
Milo -Nestle's odd version of Hot Chocolate
Oh and I forgot to mention if you order a hamburger here it will come with aioli (mayo+) and beet root. If you'd like ketchup, it's called tomato sauce (tastes different) and in some places you have to pay extra for those little packets.

I am sure O am forgetting somethings and that there will be more fun discoveries ahead.
I will continue to post.

Cheers for now,
Stacy (and Eric)

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Not much shaking here

Hi all -
So yesterday there was a big 7.1 earthquake that rocked Christchurch at about 4:30 am. Eric and I did not feel a thing. Except for when we learned of it, we felt a lot of empathy for those who did feel and experience it. Both of us experienced the 6.8 quake that rocked Los Angeles, CA at about that same time back in 1994. It is quite scary to be sound asleep and woken by such violent shaking and damage. The shock of trying to figure out what happened, what to do first and trying to get in touch with loved ones. I do not wish the experience on anyone. For what it is worth, the experience was made better by knowing that we were not alone and so many people banded together to help where ever they could. We were touched that so many people thought about us over here and reached out via emails and Facebook to make sure we were alright.

We are currently busy moving in to our new place, boxes everywhere. As we are putting things away and setting things up, it serves as a great reminder that we are indeed in earthquake country and need to secure things well.

Thanks again to everyone who checked in on us,
and if you know anyone in Christchurch our thoughts are with them.

Love to all,
Stacy & Eric

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Seattleites defend yourselves!

This is a billboard posted by Gravity Coffee obviously aimed at...
Eric spotted this along the highway and thought is was hilarious.

Here is the new "petrol friendly" Automobile

Yes, it is small, but you can't beat the fuel efficiency. And at approx. $5.00 a gallon it is crucial.
It is 2002 Honda Fit with about 55,000 miles on it. It is in great shape. Even if the steering wheel is on the wrong side.

Oh and we won't be getting personalized plates...they cost about $600.00.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Sneak peek at the house

Here are some photos of the flat we've rented. Hard to tell much from these images, but it's a start. We will take better ones once we move in. It has a parking spot for one car. Three bedrooms -one is quite small. We will use the large one with the small walk in closet. The other one will be our office and the 3rd one will be the guest and "other" room.

Coming much does a Starbucks coffee or a Big Mac cost in New Zealand? Feel free to send us what you want to know.