Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Wardrobe Wednesday

Lace Collared Blouse: Thrifted from British Heart Foundation
Polka Dot Skirt: Cotton On
Purple Tights: ASDA (UK supermarket)
Obi Belt: Sailor Spy 
Wooden Heart Earrings: Miss Selfridge

Yes, that is me wearing make-up, shock horror! Before my brother came to visit, I ordered a whole bunch of new stuff from my fave online make-up shop ELF and he kindly made room for it in his suitcase. I went for a soft brown eyeliner and mascara to create more natural everyday looks. Also wearing a rosy blush from Model's Own and Nivea Pearl Shine lipbalm.  

I still forget I'm wearing it when I do though, and end up smudging my cat-eyes and smearing lipstick!

This week I'm wearing my beloved reversible Obi Belt, which was a thank-you present from the very talented Nin of Sailor Spy for helping out with her recent fashion show. It's great for defining your waist with slouchy garments and I love that you can wear it in so many different ways! 

I've been working on my skills with my Bamboo Pen and Touch this week and I think I'm getting a little better! I'm discovering my own style of drawing and enjoying creating stylised portraits like the one above. Next stage will be to develop some I can use for embroidery templates!

Here are some examples of my progression so far...

One of my first attempts

Second attempt

Colour experimentation!
Thanks for reading guys! Pop over to Miriam's this week to have a nosey at her wardrobe!

Monday, 29 October 2012

Road Trip: Day Eight

We'd planned to take a trip around the lake aboard a historical steam boat I'd seen on our last visit but hadn't had the time to go on. Unfortunately, our guidebook had not stated the correct times of departure and the first trip out wasn't due until after noon.

Slightly disgruntled, we decided instead to enjoy a coffee and cake on the pebbley lake front, attracting many greedy-eyed ducks in the process! I counted around forty shortly before a man let his Collie off the lead to herd the Mallards in their direction so his daughter could chuck bread at them. Interesting methods, I'll give him that!

The lure of shops and intriguing Kiwi art galleries got the better of us - much to the displeasure of Mr Bear - and we picked up a couple of goodies, including an iron-on Tui patch that I told Bren I could incorporate into a padded phone case for him and a book of Tin Man illustrations, by Christchurchian artist Tony Cribb.

We couldn't leave town before indulging in a famous Ferg Burger. Everyone we know who has ever visited Queenstown has always returned with tales of 'the best burger I've ever eaten' and 'gourmet burger heaven'. When we were on the scout for lunch there at Easter, we'd seen a place on the highstreet with a huuuuge queue out of the shop and down the street. However, we were very hungry hippos and had no clue about its amazing reputation so just walked on by. Not this time! 

The queue wasn't so bad on our next visit and we managed to bustle inside to gawp at the menu board. I was very tempted to go for a venison burger but couldn't bring myself to consume something called 'Sweet Bambi'. I opted instead for 'Sweet Julie' (I don't know any Julies, thank goodness), a tender grilled chicken breast with a ginger soy marinade. Burger heaven. In fact, food heaven FULL STOP! We scoffed our delights down by the water front of Lake Wakitipu, whilst watching the diving ducks bob on the waves and chinese tourists whizz past on segways.

Once we'd recovered from our burgers, which took surprisingly less time than would take for average burger consumption, I filmed the boys skimming the perfectly flat Queenstown pebbles in the lake and they posed for 'most wind-swept hair' photos.

Next stop was Te Anau, our half way point on the journey towards Milford Sound. Upon arriving, we booked ourselves in on a lake cruise to a glow-worm cave.

We'd seen several signs for spots to go see these shy creatures and felt it was something we must do before we headed home.

Known as the 'gateway to the fiords', Lake Te Anau is the largest in the South Island and the second largest Lake in the country. We set off from the town jetty at 4.30pm and journeyed across the still, glassy water, sitting for a short while on the upper deck before the cold wind drove us back to the warmth of the main cabin. Whilst outside, we had a perfect view of the snowy Fiordland mountains in the distance and the beautifully dense woodland on the opposite banks, its mysterious dark depths calling us to explore.

When we landed, we were split into three groups, each with our own guide to lead us into the cave to the glow-worm cavern. Our destination was only a little way into the cave, as to travel further underground would require diving gear. 

We were instructed to duck down for the first 10m or so as the entry into the cave was a little over a metre tall. Once we were able to stand straight, our guide led us up through the narrow passageway, alongside a fast flowing river, home to the occasional eel poking its head from behind a rock. 

After winding our way inside the cavern, we boarded a small boat and were asked to remain silent whilst inside the glow-worm habitat as they are incredibly shy creatures and will cease to omit light if they experience loud noises or light. The artifical lamps were all switched off at this point and our guide used ropes tethered to the cave walls to pull our little vessel along.

The darkness we then experienced was much deeper and finite than anything I've ever seen. The only perceptible noise was that of the water beneath us and the occasional soft thump as the boat touched the cavern walls. I suddenly felt an immense fear that I might bump my head in the darkness and felt my heart begin to pound. The lack of sound and light created the distinct impression of entering into another realm, and this feeling was certainly heightened when the glow-worms themselves came into sight.

The scene in front of us was the kind of stuff dreams are made of. The intense darkness coupled with the eery twinkling green lights the worms omitted was simply surreal. For the second time on our trip, I was faced with a sight so profoundly beautiful I felt tears come to my eyes.  

Our guide steered the boat so we were directly underneath a large patch of light, with the worms inches from our upturned faces. I then remembered how the glow-worms dangle a thread of saliva downwards to catch their food and promptly closed my gawping mouth.

As we headed back to the walkway, another group passed us in the darkness. Suddenly, several glow-worm patches extinguished their lights and we were plunged into an even deeper darkness. The other boat contained a party of Americans who, it seemed, had found it rather difficult to comprehend the request for silence. I thanked the twinkling starry lights above me I had not been in that boat or we wouldn't have seen anything at all.

We returned back to the boat and headed across the water back into town. After a quick trip to the supermarket, we set up for the night at our campsite and dined outside on soup and sarnies, reflecting over all the wonderful sights of the day.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Road Trip: Day Seven

Waking up with a view over sparkling Lake Wanaka and the misty snow-capped mountains beyond is one hell of a way to greet the day ahead.

After showers and more duck feeding, we drove into town to breakfast on porridge, topped with spiced apple, cranberries and vanilla mascapone. Incredible. We had a quick look around the shops before heading out to Queenstown, via the mountain pass.

The curator of an Arts and Craft shop we visited told us there had been snow on the mountain during the night but she thought it should be safe since people had been driving on it all morning. As we turned onto the road out of town, we passed a sign reading 'vechicles carrying snow chains only past this point'. Slightly worried, we decided to venture ahead and see what the conditions were like. The road was heavily gritted and no-one appeared to be wearing chains, despite the numerous designated 'chain bays' we passed on the way up.

Having tackled the snowy pass and headed down the other side of the mountain, we decided to stop off at Arrowtown, where the ladies at my sewing class had told me you can visit a recreation of a Chinese miner's village. 

Widely known for its gold mining history, the town attracted many Chinese immigrants after the West Coast goldmines opened in 1865 and drew most of the European miners to search for riches there. Subsequently, the Otago government invited the Chinese to mine in Arrowtown. They soon established their own settlement on the outskirts of the town, drawing both positive and negative attention from the original inhabitants of Arrowtown. They remained until 1928, when the amount of gold dwindled to next to nothing. 

Their houses were simple dwellings, built by hand with a basic chimney in the entrance and a small garden area where they would grow plants and vegetables to supplement their small income. These buildings soon fell into disrepair once the settlers had moved on, but were restored some years later. We spent a good 30 minutes walked around the settlement, reading the miner's stories and discovering the difficulties they faced as strangers in a very foreign land.

After a quick snoop around the lovely array of antique, vintage and shabby chic establishments that Arrowtown has to offer, a munch on a bag of chips and a stroke of a grumpy tabby who tried (and failed) to swipe at me, we were back on the road towards Queenstown.

We settled for a campsite with slightly higher prices than we had been accustomed to, since we'd been expected a rise in prices as we travelled into more touristy areas of the country. A trip to the bathroom soon explained where all the extra money they made was going....the bathrooms were snazzier than some hotels I've been in!

Among the many extra features listed in the camp's information sheet, I spotted board games and sent Mr Bear off to retrieve a travel sized snakes and ladders. I seem to be the only person I know to enjoy this particular classic. After four consecutive games, Martin and Brendan left me to play by myself. Sorry boys.

Friday, 26 October 2012

Road Trip: Day Six

For those of you who aren't quite so familiar with the landscape of New Zealand, Franz Josef is at the heart of glacier country. That's right; so far, we've had seaside towns, yellow sandy beaches, snowy mountains, rocky cliffs and now...glaciers. 

Friday was a grim day which started with drizzle and built up to utter down pours. Only Brendan and Martin made it to see Franz Josef Glacier as I opted to stay under a blanket in the camper!

I did decide to brave the weather at Fox Glacier, however, as the mist had cleared slightly and the chance of seeing anything seemed to be increased. And I'm glad I did, even if we were drenched afterwards! The glacier was breath-taking; an eery blue light seemed to shine from its ginormous mass. I envied the people who'd paid for guides to take them up onto the ice itself, but I tend to enjoy things more when they don't cost anything. The world has many wonders to offer that don't entail a fee!

We put our heads down and hurried back to the camper for a lemon and honey and a spot of Kea picture taking.

The drive to Wanaka would have been much more pleasant had it not been for the torrents of rain which made the rivers fat and created many temporary waterfalls, some of which flooded onto the road and threatened to sweep us into the greedy river beneath.

At last, we arrived at our campsite, where we had stayed on our holiday at Easter. We were joined for dinner by a mallard and his wife, along with an array of Chaffinches and a couple of shy quail.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Road Trip: Day Five

The sun rose on some very tired and sore campers that day! Feeling in need of a sustaining start to the day, we drove back to Motueka and had breakfast at The Red Beret Café. I opted for pancakes with grilled banana, boysenberries, cream and maple syrup. So bad but so gooood!

This was the day we'd factored in our big drive down the west coast, since our legs would need a rest and thankfully, we weren't missing any special weather. It was, however, perfect conditions for a visit to Punakaiki, the location of the Pancake Rocks. As it was raining and windy, the sea was crashing against the cliffs along the coast and we knew we were in for a really spectacular visit.

As we parked up, we were greeted by this little guy, a weka hoping to find visitors in a generous mood and maybe get a few crumbs of something.

"The Pancake Rocks that Punakaiki is famous for, are limestone formations that began forming 30 million years ago, when lime-rich fragments of dead marine creatures were deposited on the seabed, then overlaid by weaker layers of soft mud and clay.

The seabed was raised above sealevel by earthquakes to form the coastal cliffs and coastline. The sea, wind and rain have since etched out the soft layers to form the unusual rock formations we see today.

When conditions are right, heavy ocean swells thunder into the caverns beneath the rocks and huge water spouts blast skywards through the blowholes in a truly spectacular sight."

And it truly was awe-inspiring! We especially enjoyed 'the chimney' ( a blowhole in the rocks which spouts water when the sea fills the cavern underneath it, resembling a smoking chimney). A young girl crossing the bridge across from it was unfortunate enough to be caught in its spray, to our great amusement.

After lunch and a hot chocolate to warm our cockles, we were back on the road, heading for Franz Josef. Upon arriving, we found a very nice looking campsite called the Rainforest Retreat with its own hot pool, sauna and restaurant. We used the facilities to send a couple of messages home before having a very scrumptious meal in the restaurant and drinking more 'ale'.

Road Trip: Day Four

After showering and feeding some ducklings around the camper, we drove into the town to board our water taxi at 10.30am. 

 After launching, the boat took us first to Split Apple Rock, a popular tourist destination when visiting the Tasman region. Our skipper explained that this was once a huge boulder that would probably have been split when a crack down its centre filled with water, froze and expanded, causing the two halves to be pushed apart.

We whizzed off to the bay of Anchorage next, jumping off the taxi and watching it zoom back out to sea to drop the rest of the passengers further round the coast. Walking along the yellow sand, we were joined by a couple of oyster-catchers and a seagull who, like me, were enjoying dipping their toes in the frothy sea.

At the end of the beach, we found a sign with the different destinations you could reach on your walk, depending on which direction you took. We intended to walk back to the town, marked 'Marahau - 4 hours' on the sign. But a destination called 'Cleopatra's Pool', 1 hour and 15 mins in the opposite direction, sounded like a good spot to have our sandwiches! A decision which was later regretted since we didn't factor in walking back and the pool didn't turn out to be the glittering blue lagoon we'd pictured (still a lovely pool, but an experience slightly marred after I dropped my shoe in the water crossing the river to get to it).

So our walking time was altered to more like 7 hours. My feet were not happy. A four hour walk had sounded relatively easy and we would have been stopping off at the various bays positioned along the way and had plenty of chance to rest. But the day was getting on and we wanted to be back before dark! We managed to stop at one beach, Stillwell Bay, and I enjoyed a run on the sand, joining gulls in a pool made by a stream flowing into the sea, while Martin and Brendan looked on in amusement. Here we ate the rest of our sandwiches and bathed our feet in the stream, discovering many pretty shells to fill our pockets with in the process.

As we neared Marahau, my knees started to seize up, not being used to walking such distances. I stopped at every opportunity possible, the boys having to literally lift me off a picnic bench I'd decided to have a nap on at one point.

We got there in the end though, even if Martin did have to go on ahead to get the camper and save my legs a bit! We were rewarded back at camp by a big bowl of beans and chorizo followed by a Magnum ice-cream :)