Posted by: Vallere | May 13, 2011

Friday’s Flipside Five: Currency

Today’s FFF will be all about the differences between American and Kiwi currency. Not just what it looks like (because there are enough differences there to do a whole FFF post), but also on how it works when you want to buy something.

1) The Look

New Zealand money is hands down prettier and more interesting than American money. It is more colorful, it has nifty see-through bits, and it has pictures of not just famous people and buildings, but also of native plants and animals.

2) Change You Can Believe In

While America has pennies, nickles, dimes and quarters, New Zealand has 5 different coins, and only one of those has an American counterpart. Kiwis have ten cent, twenty cent, fifty cent, $1 and $2 coins. There used to be a five cent coin as well, but it has fallen out of circulation. The coins, like the notes, are visually interesting. While each features HRH on the face, the reverse has a picture straight from Kiwi culture. The $2 has a Great Egret, the $1 has a Kiwi and a silver fern leaf, the $0.50 has the boat Endeavour and Taranaki, the $0.20 has a Maori carving of Pukaki and the $0.10 has a Maori warrior head.

3) Why no pennies and nickles?

Because all the prices in NZ are rounded to the nearest ten cent. Fantastic!

4) But but…what about tax??

 You don’t have to worry about tax when you pay for something. The price you see on the sticker is the price you pay. Tax is already added in and accounted for. And this is for everything. No more wondering whether a certain item at the grocery store will hit you with a food tax versus an item tax. No more thinking you got a great deal on a hotel room only to be sucker punched with a huge tax on checkout. What you see is what you pay. This might be one of my top 10 things that I love about NZ!

5) Orderly 

 All of the Kiwi notes are sized to make them easy to find. I’m not sure if it was done specifically to help those with visual impairment, or if it was done just to help keep people from grabbing a $50 thinking they had a $5, but the effect is beneficial in both cases. The notes get incrementally shorter as the value goes down. You can see this in the photo at the top…the $100 note is longer and wider than the $50 note, which is longer and wider than the $20, and so on.

Their coins make tons more sense than American coins, as well. For example, back when the five cent was still being used, it and the ten cent coins were copper colored, with the five cent coin being smaller than the ten cent coin. The twenty and fifty are both silver, with the twenty cent being smaller than the fifty cent. The $1 and $2 coins are gold, with the $1 coin being smaller than the $2 coin. Simple. Orderly. Makes me wonder who on earth decided that an American nickel should be bigger than a dime.

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Well, that’s it for this week! If there is any topic you’d like me to cover in an FFF, or just in a random post, please let me know. The longer I live here, the less things are sticking out to me as “different”, so I almost feel like I’m going to run out of ideas for FFFs! 

Also, please pass the blog link along to any friends who might be interested in what life is like in New Zealand, and please keep leaving comments! Hearing from friends back home is such a boost for me!

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Posted by: Vallere | May 10, 2011

Big birds and dirty kids

We had some more new visitors outside our house today! A pair of these beautiful Kereru (New Zealand Wood Pigeons) were filling up on berries from a bush in our front garden. These guys are huge…the size of a hawk or chicken. They are at least 3 or 4 times bigger than any pigeon I’ve ever seen in the states. I wish the pictures could do them justice, but it’s hard to tell just how big they are without seeing them in person.

They are this really pretty iridescent green/blue/purple color on their backs.

They also have a white breast with a white collar that comes up over their shoulders.

I was really thrilled to see them, as I’ve read that they are getting rare on the North Island. What a gorgeous pair!

And, since we were outside looking at the  birds, the boys asked if they could play in the cul-de-sac. It rained some yesterday so water was running down the gutter into the drain. The boys LOVE getting leaves and sticks and having them “race” down the water into the drain. And of course, Ceirdwyn had to show off her new walking skills. Yes, she’s only 10 months old, y’all. And my girl can walk, go up and down the stairs, and get down off the bed or couch by herself. *sigh*

Here’s a good shot of all of them playing in the water together.

Ian was making waves to get the leaves going faster.

Zollie, helping a leaf along that got stuck. (yes, he’s in pajamas…or, as they spell it here…pyjamas…sometimes it’s not worth the fight to get him into real clothes)

And the dirtiest baby in this hemisphere, I’m sure. She had a blast splashing in the muddy water. And then she had a blast splashing in the tub a few minutes later.

We’ve been in New Zealand for a bit over 3 months now. In some ways, it seems like we just got here last week, and in others, it seems like we are just another Kiwi family.  But even though we are comfortably settled in, with a weekly schedule that we’ve gotten very used to, there are still a few things that never cease to surprise me!

1) Earthquakes

There have been quite a few since we’ve been here. Obviously, the big Christchurch quake just after we arrived, but also a ton of smaller ones. We’ve actually felt two. Now, I’m a North Carolina girl. I was born there and I lived my whole life there. I can tell you anything you need to know about a hurricane, a drought, a flood, a hail storm, a snow storm, or even a tornado. But earthquakes are a new one for me. The first one I felt was while The Doc was down in Wellington for an overnight work-related trip. The epicenter of that one (a 4.5 I think) was right under him, and he said it felt like someone had lifted his bed 6 inches off the floor and dropped it. To me, 2.5 hours down the road, it felt like my washing machine was on spin cycle and off-center. There was a noise, like a truck coming up the road, followed by a low vibration that lasted just a few seconds, and then the noise flowed away. Perfect doppler effect! The second one we both felt here in our house just last week. Again, it was just a low vibration, like what the washing machine does to the house when it’s unbalanced. It lasted maybe 5 or 6 seconds, and was over.

I don’t know that I’ll ever get used to them. I don’t think it’s typical for Wanganui to experience destructive earthquakes, but then, it wasn’t typical for Christchurch either. These little ones are barely noticeable, but you never know when it’ll turn into “the big one”, and unlike hurricanes (with a weeks head-time) or even tornadoes (where you at least know the storm is coming and might have a few minutes to take cover), earthquakes have zero warning. You go from tra la la to ohwowwhatwasthat. So strange!

2) Meeting other Americans

Ok, I know that sounds weird, but when you’ve been submerged in an accent for 3 months, it REALLY throws you to hear someone who sounds like you! I know it’s hard to imagine, but I really don’t even notice the Kiwi accent anymore. Well…I don’t notice it in adults. Kiwi kids sound SO CUTE and I totally gush over their adorableness when they start talking, but for the adults, I honestly don’t even notice that they have an accent. I’m so used to hearing it, that the thing that catches my ear now is someone withOUT a Kiwi accent.

Wanganui is actually a very culturally diverse town. It can possibly be blamed on the hospital – The Doc has colleagues from America, Bali, Malaysia, South Africa, Zimbabwe, India, England, Scotland, and probably other places I’ve forgotten. There is also a very large Maori population here, and, although they have a Kiwi accent when speaking English, the Maori language is beautiful and melodic and I thankfully get to hear it being spoken quite often on the street. So we hear other accents a lot. But nothing sticks out to me quite like an American accent nowadays. Even on TV, if I hear an American speaking, I almost do a double-take. And it’s even worse in person. This past week I met two American doctors who work with The Doc and it was really weird to talk to them! That American accent seems so out-of-place here!

3) Safety

This is such a safe place to live…and I’m not really talking about the “lack of crime” aspect, although that is there as well. I’m talking about the fact that pretty much nothing in my yard…or the park…or at the beach…is potentially going to kill me or my kids. North Carolina has 2 poisonous spiders and 6 poisonous snakes. There’s also poison ivy in the ditches and woods. There are fire ants in the yard. There are coyotes yipping at night. Bears, wolves, puma. Probably some gators in the swamp.

What does New Zealand have? Well…there are a couple of spiders that bite. The bad one – the katipo – is so hard to find that I know women who are grandmothers who have lived here their whole life and never seen one. There’s the whitetail. We’ve killed a few of those in the house, but I hear that even if they do bite, as long as you keep the wound clean, it’s no biggie. And maybe if you go swimming in *some* areas there *might* be sharks and killer whales, but that is easily avoided. That’s it. There are no indigenous mammals here other than bats, and the introduced ones aren’t going to hunt you down while you’re on a bushwalk. No snakes to watch out for in the woodpile. No top-line predators hiding in the night. It is safe here. I can let my kids play in the back yard and not have to worry that they are going to stumble over a snake hole or get nicked by a coyote in the evening. We can hike up a mountain with no fears of coming around a bend and being face to face with a mama bear…or worse yet, a baby bear. You never need to worry about whether you’ll accidentally set your tent up on top of  a snake.

I love the safety…but it’s hard to get used to. I have to constantly fight the urge to hover when we’re outside. When we’re on a bush walk and I see some movement by the side of the trail, my immediate thought is “SNAKE!” until reality reminds me that there ARE no snakes. I wonder how long I’d have to stay here to get used to that?

4) Nature sounds

I grew up on a farm out in the country, so I’m used to being woken up by the sound of birds outside my window. But the animal sounds I hear here are so different! There is a tui that lives in a tree across the street from us, and he sings all. day. long. It is the most curious song ever. Something like toooEEEE…wooo wooo wooo wooo. And then he croaks like a frog. I love it! There are bell birds who have this sound I can’t even try to explain. The little fantail that hangs out on our patio sounds like a squeaker toy that a hyperactive toddler got ahold of. I hear sheep bleating and cows lowing through the open windows at night.

All of these sounds are so totally out of the ordinary for me, that every time I hear them is like the first time. It just thrills my soul, every single time. I hope I never get so used to hearing our tui that I don’t notice him anymore.

5) Tea means 10 different things

I love tea, and I’m really thrilled to finally live somewhere that tea is appreciated. Every house has an electric kettle and a box (or 3) of tea bags in easy reach. Earl Gray, English Breakfast, Orange Pekoe, Chai. Mmmm.

But is tea by any other name…still tea?

Because in New Zealand, you have to listen for context to figure out what someone means by “tea”. If someone says, “We’d love to have you over for tea!” as an American, I’d assume they want me to come by for a cuppa. But I could be wrong. The word “tea” can mean a lot of things. Tea can refer to the drink (hot, in a cup, with sugar and milk). It can refer to break time (ie, morning tea or afternoon tea). It can refer to a meal (Kiwis eat breakfast, lunch and tea.) This is the most confusing to me. I’m not sure WHY they substitute “tea” for “dinner”, but they do. And it always, every time, confuses me.

Like the time when a friend said her husband had to work late so she stuck his tea in the oven.

My brain shut off and it honestly took me the rest of the conversation to figure out that she meant that she put his DINNER in the oven, and not a kettle.

*shrug* Well, maybe one day I’ll get used to it!

Posted by: Vallere | April 30, 2011

Friday’s Flipside Five – The Doc Speaks!

Woohoo! My first guest blogger! I’m big time, now, y’all!

Today’s FFF is being turned over to the very capable hands of The Doc, who will give us a little insight into the medical world. He’ll be sharing five comparisons between the US medical system, and the one here in New Zealand. Enjoy!

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While different,  both systems are very capable.   Below is part fact, but also part opinion.   At the end of each of the five differences,  I will choose the winner.  This is the one I like the most, though realistically both have their advantages and disadvantages.  Much of what I am writing about I have experienced first hand, but there are some areas I have only heard second-hand.

1) COSTS

While certain things can still be quite expensive, costs are for some reason better controlled in New Zealand.  There is an expectation by many here that they will not have to pay much for care.  All routine and accident care is subsidized.  Accident care is free if you are taxable and routine medical care is free if you are a citizen, resident, or here with a two year or longer VISA.  I really have no idea how a country the with only between 4 and 5 million people and a tax base of probably between 1-2 million can provide care at all, even less more cheaply.  These prices are affected by significant inflation here, as in the U.S,. and are on the  rise, and the system is thus under stress. This is the case in many countries, and there are concerns  that many of these  costs will begin to trickle down to patients or tax payers.   Here are probably a few of the reasons, though, that this rate of inflation of medical costs has been slowed in New Zealand compared to the U.S.

     1)  Rationing –  While I think there are ways that this could be improved, this is a drastic difference between the two countries.  If you get sick you have less medications to pick from, but still a good number are available, some not even available in the U.S.  You are forced to  pick a cheaper medicine and trial this and other alternatives before moving on to other options.  I think this system is not run as effectively as it could be, as some really expensive medications do not require “special authorization.”  For example, many expensive atypical antipsychotics are available without trialing the cheaper generic brands first.  In some cases there is a restriction in options despite generics that are cheap being available (for example there is no extended release amphetamine and only one amphetamine product on the market).  At the same time, though, you can get permission to ship some of these drugs in at the patient’s cost if you can justify their need.  Overall, medications are rationed by costs significantly more effectively.  Additionally, so are tests such as MRIs and other expensive diagnostic procedures.  These are available if needed but are not in many towns and thus not used often.  Less tests of low yield are often ran in order to rule out the more uncommon or rare possibilities.  This may be due to availability, differences in training, but also a  lesser degree, a less litigious society.  Doctors cannot be sued for insane amounts of money which removes many of the costs associated.  Despite this, they can be reprimanded to a degree by the Ministry of Health and have professional or criminal punishments applied where applicable.  If someone is injured, they end up being cared for by the ACC, much the same as if they got injured in a motor vehicle accident.  In these cases, medical bills are covered and they get some routine income that is quite limited. 

2)  Monopoly – yes you heard it ….the government or any organization can lower costs when they have the lion’s share control of the market.  New Zealand has an entity called Pharmac that makes deals with drug companies about what drugs they will even allow into their country.  If these companies give reasonable prices, then they buy the drugs and allow access to this market.  As such, they get lower prices for many of the same medications.  The drug companies really hate this and you do not see their presence much in this country in the doctor’s offices as  there is no such thing as the a drug closet in each office with the newest and most expensive medications.  Often times it’s the case that many of these medications are no more effective or less so than older ones.  As for drug commercials…..I have not see one on the television yet.  The down side to this is that some drugs are not offered here as it is not thought of as a profitable market.

Winner – New Zealand.

2) PROFESSIONAL  LIFESTYLE

Doctors and other staff are paid less here, but they do get access to other resources  such as more time off.  Six weeks is standard along with 2 weeks of GME.  There also is a significant chunk of allowable annual money for continuing education.  Additionally, the hours here are more in the 40-45 hour a week range, something I am not used to but am liking, and Vallere has noticed I get more family time.  The amount less is not a huge bit for some professions, but for the procedural fields it is significant.  Again, the tax rate is 38% above about $57,000  which eats even further into what you take  home.   From what I have read, the pay is more correlated in this country with the years training.  On the downside, many health professionals leave the country to make more money and to unfortunately avoid paying back their student loans.  I have been told they have to be taxable for the government to get their loans back, but that this may be in the process of being changed.  This may be why New Zealand is forced to recruit health care workers from abroad and I presently work with a very diverse group of physicians.

Right now, I feel I can ethically provide great clinical care as I get adequate time with my patients.  I can spend 90-120 minutes on new evaluations, see therapy patients, spend 45 minutes to even an hour on some follow ups.  It takes longer to do good records here as the paperwork is slightly more.  Despite this, I get more face to face time with clients.  I can even make trips to schools to observe kids or attend meetings there or elsewhere at times.  While one can do this in the U.S., it’s easier to do here and leads to the primary difference in number 5 below. 

Costs of living are quite reasonable overall and there are tons of free things to do with all the natural beauty around.  If you want the big city, though, there are less limitations as only a few exists in New Zealand. 

Draw – This Depends on what your values are.  I personally favor New Zealand at this point in time.  If you really favor the higher salary and the big city, then the US would be your choice for winner as you make less, the taxes sting more, and most locations consist of small cities.

3) ACCESSIBILITY

In New Zealand, the wait may definitely be longer to see a doctor, but such is not always the case.  If you have a doctor, you can get in to see your general physician fairly quickly, but sometimes there can be a shortage of these doctors that are taking on new clients.  Many times you are led to see nurses or other professionals first, but when you do see a doctor, you see a doctor.  Physician extenders do not exists here which has both positive and negatives.  As there are few to no costs associated with seeking health care and being on daily medication treatments, I think the access to care is more equal across the different socioeconomic areas.  Medications that are subsidized cost 1 dollar a month or about 80 US cents, and this is the majority of medicines.  If you get a certain number of scripts a month you can get them for free  by getting a high usage card.  Private clinics and hospitals do exists and allow you to get uncovered services, or be seen faster if you desire, and private insurance is available here for hundreds a month (yes you can gasp as in the US it cost our family of five $1700-$1800 dollars a month on the private market).  Some surgeries that are elective can have long waits, a year or more I hear – though have not witnessed such.  Again you could probably get these faster if you carried a private policy

Winner –  New Zealand due to universal coverage.  This likely removes some of the financial barriers to treatment and may also reduce tertiary treatment needs in future years, though I cannot show the numbers to support such a claim.

4)  CHOICE

This is an area that is often a weakness I hear in similar systems.  In the US, you can get access to a specialist or sub specialist faster and there are more options available for treatment  and placement, though many are not necessarily options to those that cannot afford them.   In the US, if you are not happy with your care you can easily move on to another facility, doctor, therapist, social worker etc.  You can ask to do the same here but there are limitations and you often have to stay in the same office unless you move or find someone in the private sector.  Even if you do, many general doctors and clinics are full and there are less options. 

Winner  – U.S. hands down

5)  COMMUNICATION

Communication between doctors and other health professions is better in New Zealand from my limited experience.  I send a summary letters for most appointments to general and consulting doctors.  The only exception is that when I am seeing someone weekly I will often combine letters and only send them out every couple of weeks.  I am in a weekly committee with others from different systems such as the educational system, and early intervention, private organizations, and pediatricians (specialist here)  and discuss the more difficult cases (with consent of course).  I honestly have never seen anything like this in my 6 years of training in the U.S. though I am sure it exists in some places.   I think this allows for better quality care in many instances as you are not constantly “reinventing the wheel.”   It also allows for better relationships between organizations and systems.   I think this is limited more in the U.S. due to time restraints on physicians.  You need time in your day to do this and that is difficult to make due to strains on time and the need to turn profit.  Obviously, attending an hour meeting 3-5 times weekly would likely bring in zero money in the States unless you were contracted for this time. 

Winner – New Zealand

As far as quality of care – this is something I could write about for hours on both sides.  I think it’s a bit dangerous to put this online though as it would be even more opinion based than that above.  I would not want to waste your time here without more facts and evidence.   Even though New Zealand won 3 out of 5 of the categories above, I would not venture to say the system here is superior,  but it is quite different and one that has been a refreshing change thus far for me and my family.

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Well, there you have it, folks! Tune in next time 🙂

Posted by: Vallere | April 26, 2011

10 months ago…

…I was snuggling my new daughter for the first time. She had just been born in our dining room. The perfect birth. Everything went exactly how I had envisioned it! She was perfect. Beautiful. Just a smattering of dark hair (which quickly fell out and came back in blonde, like her brothers).

That precious baby smell.

Those kitten noises.

Blue-gray eyes.

Porcelain skin.

Overwhelming love – again!

Adding children doesn’t divide your love…it multiplies it!

My sweet girl. My rainbow baby. My light at the end of an incredibly stressful (yet perfectly healthy) pregnancy.

Looking into her eyes made everything right in the world. Seeing her daddy hold her gently in his strong arms. Seeing her brothers plant sweet kisses on her head.

Life is good.

My wee bit is 10 months old now, and just took her first steps.

She’s saying mama and dada and baba…but I don’t think she means anything by them. She loves her baby dolls. She chases her brothers around on lightning fast hands and knees.

Thank you, sweet Ceirdwyn, for proving to me that miracles do still happen. That even though the definition of “normal” is as transient as the wind, life still goes on and Life. Is. Good.

I can’t wait to look back in another couple of months as we celebrate your birthday and see how much further you’ve come.

Posted by: Vallere | April 25, 2011

Our first houseguest!

This little guy showed up in our living room a couple of days ago, and he’s still hanging around. I’m perfectly happy having him live here with us…he’s free pest control as far as I’m concerned!

Plus, the boys think he’s super cool!

Posted by: Vallere | April 22, 2011

Friday’s Flipside Five: Exchange Rates

Y’all…I’m sorry. I totally forgot about last Friday. I mean, I realize that all 5 of you are hanging on my every word, clicking refresh all day on Thursday (in the States anyway, since I’m living in Tomorrow Land), unable to stand the wait until my newest post pops up, and I totally let you down.

You should be impressed…I actually wrote all of that with a straight face!

Seriously, though, I did forget, and to make it up to you, I’m going to do a double today! We’re going to talk about the exchange rate, and specifically, comparisons on what things cost here verses in the States. So I’ll have 2 lists of 5 today – 5 things that are cheaper to buy in the States, and 5 things that are cheaper to buy in New Zealand.

So here we go!

Things you’re better off buying in the States

1) Toys

On the whole, toys (especially name brand toys) are way more expensive here, even taking into account the exchange rate. For instance, last year for Hanukkah, we got both of the boys Zhu Zhu pets. I got them at Dollar General and paid $5 each for them. I think that’s a bit cheaper than you can get them at Walmart – they are showing $10 as the price for them now.

But here in New Zealand, a Zhu Zhu pet will set you back $25.99, which, converted, is $20.80. That’s at The Warehouse, which is pretty much the NZ version of Wally World. Needless to say, any new Zhu Zhu pets the boys get this year will come to them via the suitcases of family.

2) Fast Food

I’ve mentioned this before, but here’s the breakdown. In the States, to feed our family, we’d generally get a 10pc McNugget and small fry for the boys to split, 2 McDoubles and a tea for me, and 2 McDoubles with a large diet Coke for PG. That would have looked something like this:

  • 10pc McNuggets – ~$3.60
  • fry – $1
  • 4x burgers – $4
  • tea – $1
  • large drink – ~$1.75

Total: $11.35

In New Zealand, that would look like this:

  • 10pc McNugget – ~$6
  • small fry – $2.25
  • 4x McDoubles – $10 (they are $2.50 each…and on the Value menu, which includes 6 whole items under $3!)
  • tea – There is no such thing as sweet tea in New Zealand…so make that
  • 2x large drinks – $7 (around $3.50 each – and a large here is more likr 20 oz, not 32)

Total: $25.25 –

Converted to USD, that’s $20.20

Going to McD’s is a special treat here in Kiwi Land!

3) Electronics

This doesn’t make a lick of sense to me, since NZ is so much closer to the Asian countries responsible for most electronics, but be-that-as-it-may, electronics here will set you back quite a bit.

For instance, at Best Buy, a brand spanking new TomTom XXL 550 will set you back $166.99. At Dick Smith (the NZ version of Best Buy), their sale price is $229 – and that’s with $100 off! Converted you’d pay US$183. Even once you add tax, you’d pay more in NZ. Assuming you missed the sale, prepare to shell out US$319 for it. *groan*

4) Housewares

Much like electronics, housewares typically cost more – especially if you are looking for something that most folks here don’t own…like a drip coffee pot. Yep, the staple of every home in America is a rarity here in New Zealand. Now, EVERYONE has an electric kettle – and let me tell ya, I don’t know how I lived this long without something that can boil a liter and a half of water in under 60 seconds. Forget tea, this thing has saved me hours in cooking time for making oatmeal in the mornings! But, back to the coffee maker!

Walmart has a Hamilton Beach 12 cup coffee maker for $14.96. It’s nothing flash (you see what I did there?), but it’ll get the job done.

In NZ, on The Warehouse site, when you search for “coffee” the ONLY things that come up are French Presses. Honestly. I couldn’t find one on the Farmer’s site either (Farmers is sorta like Sears, I guess). Ridiculous, donchathink? However, I have seen them for sale here, on a little back shelf of Farmers, and there were only about 2 choices. The least expensive one was somewhere in the range of $55. Converted, that’s US$44. Enjoy your cuppa! I’ll have tea, thanks.

5) Gas

Sure, I’ve said it before, but with the never-ending stream of Facebook posts about how folks are going broke buying gas in the States, I thought another reality check was in order. Gas here has gone from $1.99/L when we arrived to $2.20/L when I filled up yesterday. Considering that there are 3.8L per gallon, and taking into account that the NZ dollar is currently worth US$0.80, that means that while you guys are bemoaning $3.80 per gallon, I’m paying US$6.68 per gallon over here. And I hear that in Europe, it’s double even what NZ is paying.

It’s all about perspective, folks!

Now, to make up for missing last week, here is part 2 of this weeks FFF:

Things I’m stoked about buying in New Zealand

1) Lamb

The clichés are true…there ARE 400 sheep per person over here. We have a paddock of sheep just down the road from us, and we’re less than a kilometer from downtown. The upsides? The gentle bleating of lambs can be heard through your windows at dusk…and I had the most fabulous leg of lamb for Passover this year EVER!

According to Harris Teeter, leg of lamb goes for $8.99/lb. For Passover this year, we got a 3.5 kg leg of lamb for NZ$35. That’s $10/kg x .8 = US$8 / kg. There are 2.2lb per kg, so we paid US$3.63 per pound for lamb. It was worth every cent!

2) Honey

I can’t remember specifically, but I think I paid $6-$7 for a half pound of local honey back in NC.

This week I swung by Ilse’s farm to pick up milk and eggs and grabbed a jar of her honey since I was out. The jar holds 1.25kg of honey, so that’s 2.75lb. I paid $10…or US$8. You can’t beat that with a bat!

3) Produce

Overall, fruits and vegetables are cheaper here if you know where to look. I never buy any produce at grocery stores…the markets and local farmers sell them for heaps cheaper. For example, this past week, one of the local farms – Laugeson’s – was having a “pick your own tomatoes” event. It’s nearing the end of tomato season, and they were giving folks a couple of weeks to come out and glean the fields before they plow them under. You could pick your own tomatoes for $1/kg. That’s US$0.80 per 2.2 lbs… That’s $0.36 per pound! I have oodles of tomatoes frozen now, waiting to be turned into chili and stew this winter.

4) Organic stuff

In the States, I’m pretty sure organic stuff usually ran 50-100% more expensive than its counterparts. Here, though, while organics might be  a tad more expensive, it’s only nominally so. For the most part, organic items really don’t cost much more than non-organics. Baby teething crackers, for instance. A box of regular ones might run me $3…a box of organic ones might only be $3.50. With the exchange rate, that’s almost nothing.

5) Natural candies

I made this find and I’m so stoked about it! My boys can’t have things with artificial dyes, especially red, because they go nuts. I mean bouncing off the walls, could run a power station all by themselves, unbridled energy nuts. So candy is hard to find…and in the States, finding candy with no artificial dyes meant paying out the wazoo. But here, they have this wonderful company called The Natural Confectionary Co, and all of their lollies use natural colors and dyes …like beet juice. And the best part? A bag like this one cost me just NZ$2.45 at The Warehouse. That’s US$1.96!

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Hope you enjoyed! And again, sorry about last week. 🙂

Posted by: Vallere | April 12, 2011

Around the house…

Just some fun things around our house!

Here is what I saw when I just walked into the living room. Apparently, chairs are for losers.

And this is what happens when you put some bread crumbs out on the patio. These are wrens (I think) and there were a dozen of them out there within about 5 minutes of me putting out the bread. We also have a fantail that likes to come and dance and sing to us, but he was being camera shy.

This is Ian with his new favorite snack – the feijoa (pronounced FEE-jo-ah).

We get them from our neighbor’s tree that just happens to have a few branches hanging over our fence:

This is looking out the side door, where the car is usually parked.

We had no idea what they were until I asked a Kiwi friend who came to our Purim party. She happily told me they were feijoa and that they would drop off when they were ripe. They do…often. We are able to pick up 2-3 a day.

To eat them, you just slice them in half and scoop out the flesh with a spoon. I’ve also been told they make great muffins.

Feijoa are so unique…I can’t explain the taste at all. Nothing I’ve ever had tastes like feijoa – except feijoa flavored gummies, which we bought the first week we were here and proceeded to rack out brains trying to identify the flavour to no avail. They are very aromatic, the way papaya is…the smell is so overwhelming that when you eat one you can’t tell if it has a taste or just a very strong aroma. Other than that, I got nuthin. You’ll just have to try one yourself.

Ian absolutely loves them.

Just a little glimpse into our house today. Don’t mind the messy floor, breakfast dishes still on the table, or jar of peanut butter on the couch. I promise, I’ll clean if I know you’re coming to visit!

Posted by: Vallere | April 8, 2011

Friday’s Flipside Five – Birds!

Today I thought I would share five birds that I have learned about since I’ve been in New Zealand that I never knew existed prior to my arrival. Some I’ve seen in person, others I can’t wait to meet during our stay here. This will be the first post with pictures I didn’t take myself…none of these are mine, and I’ll credit the photographers for each of them.

1) Pukeko (pronounced POO-keh-koh)

These neat birds live near water and wade along the banks of places such as Virginia Lake, right here in Wanganui. I’ve seen these up close and personal, and they are REALLY neat looking! They nest on the ground (a lot of native birds do, as, before humans arrived, there were no native mammals other than bats, so ground nests would have been quite safe.) They are also the main character of a number of children’s books here – sometimes as heroins, and other times as cheeky trouble makers!

2) Kea (Pronounced KEE-ah)

This is a parrot that lives in the alpine (yes, I said alpine) forests on the South Island. This is an interesting bird to me, because I would have never thought of a parrot eating meat! But, these guys do…and not just carrion, either (though they will). I’m talking live pray. And their food of choice is sheep! Yep, this sweet looking parrot will attack sheep and eat them alive. Because of this, farmers nearly hunted them to extinction. They are also clowns, with little fear of humans, and will commonly approach skiers to steal their food, peck at their clothes or rip the rubber bits off their cars!

3) Takahe (pronounced TAH-kah-hey)

This bird is a relative of the Pukeko, but with some major differences. Firstly, it’s flightless. Secondly, it’s amazingly rare. So rare that they thought it was extinct until a few were rediscovered. There are about 250 of these birds in existance. *insert big frowny face here*

4) Ruru or Morepork

Ruru is the Maori name for this tiny owl. Those of you who have read the Diskworld books will easily recognise (and then snicker at) its English name. These are cute little guys who eat small mammals and insects, including weta (which, by the way, Bear Grylls say are THE most disgusting thing he’s ever eaten).

5) Tui (pronounced TOO-ee)

The tui is included because of its wide use as the spokesperson and namesake of Tui beer – made right here in New Zealand. This is another one I haven’t seen in person, but certainly hope to. They are dark colored birds with a signature pair of white feathers under its neck. Very pretty!

And, according to The Doc, a pretty good beer.

Join us next week for Volume 5!

Posted by: Vallere | April 1, 2011

Friday’s Flipside Five – Words and Phrases

Welcome back for Volume 3 of Friday’s Flipside Five! Today, class, we’ll be learning some new words and phrases! There’s no possible way I could have narrowed this down to just five, so I’ve got five categories with 5 words each, and then 5 phrases. That works, right?

Here we go!

1) Foods

Biscuit – If someone in NZ says biscuit, they don’t mean those delicious, fluffy, staple-of-every-Southern-meal that all North Carolinians know and love. They mean a cookie. If you are talking to a small child, you might say “bickie” instead.

Candyfloss – Cotton Candy

T-sauceThey say this means ketchup. I don’t think tomato sauce tastes anything like ketchup. To me, tomato sauce is much sweeter. But, it is still the topping of choice on “chips” and “sausies”.

Cuppa – Cuppa tea, cuppa coffee, cuppa drinking chocolate…

Greasies – Slang term for fish and chips. Greasies = yum! And, speaking of which, here was our dinner tonight! Straight from George’s Fish Market, home of the best fish and chips in Wanganui!

2) Clothing

Jersey – A light sweater, ie, “Bring a jersey as it can get chilly in the bush.”

Jandals – Sandals, specifically flip-flops. In Australia, I understand they are called thongs. *snicker*

Braces – Suspenders.

Sunnies  – Sunglasses.

Togs – Swimsuit, ie, “Get your togs on and come to the beach!”

3) Around the house

Sticking plaster – Bandaids.

Cotton buds – Q-tips

Rubbish bin – Trash can, either an indoor one or an outdoor one. “Rubbish Day” for us is Wednesday, fortnightly (ie, every other Wednesday). Here’s our outdoor rubbish bin:

Chilly bin – Cooler. In Australia, an “eskie”, as in “Eskimo”. Watch this video of the All Blacks summer skills to see a reference to a chilly bin as well as a couple of other things on this list!

Flannel – Wash cloth.

4) On the road

Sealed – Paved, ie, “If you’re driving on River Road, you’ll hit sections where there’s no seal.”

Judder bars – Speed bump.

Car park – Parking lot. I think this can also refer to the parking area at your house, but I’m not 100% certain.

Bach – Pronounced “batch”, this refers to a holiday house or beach house, ie, “John has a bach out at Kai Iwi where he spends his weekends.”

Bonnet/boot – Bonnet = hood of the car, boot = trunk. The thought of someone saying, “Stick a boot in your boot,” makes me giggle!

5) Baby items

Dummy – Pacifier.

Nappy – Diaper…and can I just say how awesome it is that real, nice, one size pocket diapers are sold in the GROCERY STORES here??? *faint*

Pram – Stroller, but more of a “bassinet on wheels” sort of thing.

Push cart – A more modern stroller, like a jogging stroller.

Cot – crib.

And now on to the phrases!

1) She’ll be right!

This phrase might just sum up Kiwis as a whole. “She’ll be right” means “It’ll all work out, no worries” and that seems to be the way most people around these parts look at things. It just seems to be a pervading optimism…We heard this a lot when we first got here and were being asked about how we were settling in. “Well the driving on the left thing has us all confused…” “Aw, no worries…she’ll be right!”

2) On the dole…

Someone who is receiving welfare is said to be “on the dole.” Someone who is on the dole who isn’t even trying to find work and is enjoying living off the ratepayer’s (taxpayer’s) dime is a “dole bludger.”

3) Bring a plate.

This is something you see on invitations to dinner parties and church picnics. “Bring a plate” means bring something to share, usually some sort of finger-food. It does NOT mean to bring an empty plate to eat on. Trust me.

4) I’m stuffed!

Unlike in America, where being stuffed means you ate too much, in New Zealand, stuffed means tired. Now, I guess you could be stuffed because you are stuffed…but that’s a whole ‘nuther post!

5) Sweet as!

This is a phrase used to describe how awesome something is. Yes, it looks like an unfinished simile, but it is what it is. At some of the Dairys (corner stores), Tip Top ice cream (“the” Kiwi brand of ice cream…would be like Bryers in the US) often has signs that say “Tip Top…sweet as!” The phrase doesn’t always have to be “sweet” though…any word can be used. If something was described as “kiwi as,” that would mean it was something that was quintessentially Kiwi. Perhaps apple pie would be American as!

Well, I hope you enjoyed today’s FFF! It was fun to put together! I had to leave out a ton of words I would have loved to have included, but that just leaves me plenty of content for upcoming Fridays. As always, please leave comments and if there is anything in particular you are wondering about, just let me know!

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