April 30, 2016

One for the W column

I slept in, took Beasley for a walk, and then endured watched a Nats game. They won, which was great. It was 42 degrees and raining, which was decidedly un-great. But now, we warm up, eat some dinner, and enjoy Saturday night.

April 29, 2016

April 28, 2016

Thursday Thirteen

  1. I went to the chiropractor yesterday. I had a 4 hour stretch of sleep last night and didn't need Vicodin. So that's a win.
  2. Although allergies are totally kicking my butt, and sleep is still terrible. One thing at a time, I suppose.
  3. C-man had a baseball game last night. They lost due to some errors. But the team is respectable, and C-man is totally loving playing. It doesn't hurt that he is hitting well and made a really great catch in center field.
  4. He has a game again tonight. It was so cold last night, I'm sort of wishing for a rainout.
  5. I did just tell him last night that he had to choose between a game and his school Spring concert. 3 guesses which one he chose. And 3 more guesses at how long he deliberated on that very difficult decision.
  6. C-man has off school tomorrow. Of course he does. After all, it's Friday. Seriously, what the hell...
  7. At least Beerman is home again. For now.
  8. I should really go see my bees this weekend, but I don't know if I'm going to. I'm really subscribing to the less is more philosophy, and they're going to do their thing with or without me. The only problem is I won't get there the following weekend either if I don't go. Guess I should just bite the bullet and get up there on Sunday.
  9. Which means I need to reschedule my massage. Damn.
  10. It's the Packers draft tonight. I'm guessing that'll be our post-baseball game activity.
  11. I'm going to turn 40 next week. How the hell did that happen?
  12. I finally feel like I'm getting caught up at work after our vacation. Man, that takes a long time.
  13. I would like some cake.

April 26, 2016

Tuesday's Ten Things

  1. I'm exhausted. The arthritis pain has been so stupid, I'm only getting sleep in up to 2 hour increments.
  2. C-man plays baseball tomorrow and Thursday against 2 really good teams. We don't have super high hopes for his team this year.
  3. I'm in charge of dinner tonight. Pizza rolls it is!
  4. Game of Thrones is back, and I'm thrilled. So is Outlander, which is also exciting. It'll make up for the Vikings being almost over. Gah! So much good TV!
  5. I'm trying to get off the sugar again. I took a break from my sugar break during vacation. It's definitely time to get back on it.
  6. Allergies are kicking my butt right now. I've got to take more medicine.
  7. I almost can't take any more of the political talk on Facebook. I know who I'm voting for. I don't really care who you vote for.
  8. Speaking of Facebook, if you feel the need to share more than 2 links or videos in an hour, step away from the computer.
  9. Trip Advisor keeps sending me updates for places to see in New Zealand because I reviewed things there. Um, Trip Advisor- that's not very helpful.
  10. My back still hurts from being burned in Fiji. What the hell?

April 23, 2016

Boys of Summer are Back!

Today was a nice day. I got some housework done. Beasley got to go to the park. And we got to cheer C-man and the Nationals on during opening day. C-man struck out, walked, and got a huge bomb to right field for what should have been a triple (he stopped at second). Unfortunately, he hurt his thumb while catching, so we're icing and watching that. I'm really hoping he didn't do anything bad during his first game out! The good news is we're back to loving baseball again. (During wrestling season, we liked wrestling and 'hated' baseball),

Ahhh... Summer's so close, I can taste it!

April 22, 2016


  • My hive that came with the dead queen will not be replaced. The only option they gave me is to give me a new queen. Which was a stupid option. Since A) I'd have to get it in Appleton instead of Sheboygan, where I picked up my bees, (A point 2 - That's still a 1.5 hour drive, plus the additional hour to Coleman and then all the way back) B) The hive had already been queenless for who knows how long and I shouldn't have had to guess whether they'd stick around, and C) I had no way of knowing they were going to have a spare queen to just give to me even if I could get to Appleton to get her. So, so dumb. Honey Bee Ware is sooo off my list of places to buy from or ever recommend. I told them so, but I'm not sure they care.
  • I think I'm about 2 hours jetlagged now. I am having a hard time getting to sleep until midnight, and am awake around 4 a.m. It's getting closer...
  • C-man starts baseball tomorrow. We went to his personal training session last night in an effort to get him up to speed after the practices he'd missed. It looks like he'll play first base and catch on Saturday. At least it's not nearly as nerve-wracking as wrestling.
  • Beasley was groomed - aka shaved down - this week. Something happens to him when he loses all his hair. It's like the sass can come out that much easier.
  • C-man has taken to running Beasley when he gets home from school. They both love that.
  • I'm the adult champion for the Milwaukee Jingle Bell Walk this year. Which I guess means I'm the poster child for pain? Regardless, get ready for the donation asks and to mark November 13th on your calendars. I need a big team!
  • I got my hairs highlighted last night. Man, it's nice to get rid of those grays.
  • Sunday, I have a massage scheduled. Yes, please.

April 21, 2016

Installation Day

Yesterday, I left work and drove north to get and install three new packages of bees. I ordered the packages a while ago, back when I thought I'd probably lose one or both of my existing hives. But since I didn't, these are additions.

I did a check on the two existing hives (Abigail and Caroline), and pulled any remaining winter sugar off. Both hives were bringing in bright yellow pollen (no wonder my allergies have been kicking up!) and their own nectar. I saw brood in the frames, too, which means the queens are laying. The sugar syrup I'd left for the before vacation was hardly touched, which was nice to see, too.

The next step was to set up for the new hives - flattening out the ground, putting down the weed guard and mulch. But once that was done (pretty poorly, admittedly), it was time to get to work on the installation before it started raining and/or got dark.

The first new hive (Daphne) went in easily. I put her in, dumped in the bees on top, closed it up, and went on my way. The second, unfortunately, had a dead queen, so I couldn't install it. The third (Francesca) went in just fine, so I put the bees from the second hive in with the third. I sent the bee place an email telling them the queen was dead, but in the meantime, knew the bees would die without a queen. So 6 pounds of bees and Francesca it is. (I'm sort of hoping they just refund my money so I don't have to go do this all over again.)

I'll have to visit again in a week or so to pull the queen cages out, install the 8th frame back where the queen cage is, check on the sugar, and add more mulch.

April 20, 2016

Bee Day

Today, after I pick up Beasley from the groomer, I'm heading north to get and install three new bee hives. I'm really dreading the amount of driving and work it'll take to get it together before sunset. But I'm going to pretend I'm back in New Zealand, and it's just another day in the RV. Now if only there was a giant cheese platter and flight of wine waiting for me...

April 18, 2016

Things to know when driving an RV around New Zealand

  1. There are campgrounds everywhere, because even locals use this as a way to see New Zealand, so it's a really easy way to get around.
  2. Campgrounds are places where RVs can park on powered sites or tents can pitch on non-powered sites. Let them know which you want, and pay for the right one upon arrival.
  3. Install an app on your phone to help you find them. We found Campermate to be the best one.
  4. Read the comments on the campsite left by the users. They're often pretty frank, and can help you find what works for you. Just be careful that an angry face may have been left due to something you don't care about. So read them carefully.
  5. Once you're parked, it's best to stay that way. So if you need to get into town, be sure to choose a facility close enough to your liking.
  6. Most campgrounds have showers and kitchens. Some have paid laundry facilities, dump areas, and water refills. Still others have different amenities. Just read the icons and it'll be pretty clear.
  7. When they say they have BBQs, they are really just electric fry pans located outside.
  8. The kitchens vary in degree of how well stocked they are. Plan on bringing in your own pots, pans, and dishes. Dish soap and clean-up tools were always available.
  9. If you want to socialize, the kitchens are great places to do so. If you don't want to socialize, stay away from there, and you'll be left alone. Check them out, though, because campers who are done camping will often leave their things behind in case anyone else wants them.
  10. Top 10 Campgrounds are really family friendly. Sort of the Jellystone equivalent here. They are a little more expensive, but have jump pillows, trampolines, game rooms, rentable go-karts, and lots of families. So if this isn't your thing, avoid them.
  11. Laundry facilities are located at most campgrounds, and chances are you're parked nearby. Have NZ$2 and NZ$1 coins handy for them. It saves on the need to bring so many clothes, and you can get clean towels and/or sheets.
  12. Weekends are definitely rowdier times in the campgrounds because locals are out camping. If this isn't your thing, consider freedom camping.
  13. Freedom camping is where you just park your RV clearly off the road and camp for the night. It's pretty simple, but we found you have to find your spot at least an hour before dark or the prime spots are taken.
  14. Do a quick google search on whether freedom camping is allowed in the area you are. There's some backlash by locals that tourists are leaving the area trashy, so they are prohibiting freedom camping in certain areas.

  1. An obvious one - You're on the left side here. Always. Roundabouts - go left. Parking lots - go left. Fast lane - on the right.
  2. Most vehicles are stick shift. If you want to make learning how to drive an RV easier, get the automatic.
  3. One lane bridges are everywhere. If your sign has the larger white arrow, you get the right of way. Smaller red arrow, and you need to wait. Sometimes, on the longer bridges, there's a passing bay where you can pull over to let the oncoming vehicle go by. Train tracks down the middle? Luckily we didn't have to find out how to navigate this one!

  1. Towels were provided, but washcloths were not. Same with dish cloths and towels - bring your own.
  2. The RV is going to get dirty on the inside, so have some way to clean it up. Disinfectant wipes came in handy.
  3. Campgrounds often have dump stations and grey water refill, but don't always have fresh water refill. Make sure you know which it is so you don't drink undrinkable water.
  4. Try to avoid check out time to get this done, as there will be a line. And it takes about 15-20 minutes to do.
  5. Use the dump stations at least every third day or it'll start to smell up the place. Sometimes gas stations even have these. The phone apps will point the way.
  6. Parking lots more often than not have Camper Van parking. Look for it and park there.
  7. When you're ready for a break from driving, look for a lookout pull-off spot (because it'll be a great view), or even better, a marked walk. Every walk is clearly marked as to the distance it takes. When it says 25 minutes, they mean 25 minutes round-trip. This time is not padded, and the walk is not disability friendly.
  8. Cell service is often non-existent. Have a car GPS for directions instead of only using your phone, because the phone will be sketchy. A hard copy map doesn't hurt either.
  9. Have food delivered to your camper prior to your arrival. It helps you avoid needing groceries right away. Although if you need beer, you have to provide a copy of an ID or have the people at the RV place vouch for you.
  10. Having wi-fi in the RV was a plus, and I highly recommend it. Although, because of the sketchy cell service and pay-by-the-MB usage plan, it isn't the easiest or quickest. But it does provide a nice link when you need it.

Taking an RV around requires being in a vehicle, and more importantly, someone willing to drive the vehicle. The roads through the mountains are switchbacks, which can get tense. The beds are RV beds, so you're not in a posh hotel. And cooking and cleaning is on you. But as long as you're okay with that, it is an excellent way to see the country when and where you want. Your schedule is your own, so if something turns out less stellar than expected, or the weather isn't that great, you move on. It also allows for you to stop and get photos at lookouts and of sheep whenever. And the best part was when we were tired of driving, we got out and saw something for a bit.

It's an experience we won't forget, and I'm thankful to have had it.

April 15, 2016

NZ- When all things come to an end

Unfortunately, we reached our last day. But not ones to let it go to waste, we laid out a plan. We packed up our things, had breakfast, drove to the RV return, got a ride to the airport where we paid to stow our bags (Fiji Airways only opens 3 hours prior to departure), and walked across the street to the International Antarctic Centre.

We started the tour with a trip into the Antarctic Storm area. They gave us rubber shoes and coats to wear, and then put us in a windy, 0 degree F environment. We joked a little that it really wasn't that cold in comparison to Wisconsin. (Honestly, our noses didn't even freeze up) Other tourists were not accustomed to such ridiculousness, though, and were shivering.

After this, we moved on to see the little blue penguins. Finally, penguins.

After learning about the Antarctic environment a bit, we walked back to the airport for the long slog back home.

Our 16 days away were pretty tremendous. We snorkeled and swam, we climbed mountains and trekked, we zip-lined and jet boated, we drove an RV and rode go karts, we saw gorgeous views and tasted the sea, we searched for penguins and saw a whale. And we laughed. And smiled. And walked away from the experience with such tremendous memories that will last us a forever. And for that, I'm incredibly thankful.

NZ- City Life

After seeing our whales, we made our way further South toward Christchurch. Having skipped Nelson, we knew that we could slow down a bit and spend two nights in Christchurch before having to fly out. Beerman had fond memories of the city from his previous visit, and I'd always heard nice things. So, of course, we pulled into the Local Top 10 Campground so C-man would have his fill of kid-friendly activities. He was thrilled.

In the morning, we woke up, and made our way into town. We purchased the combo ticket for several attractions, and this was the first one. It was a slow, leisurely glide down the Avon River.

Afterward, we headed down the street to the Botanical Garden, where we had an even slower caterpillar ride (their version of a people mover) through the gardens. The driver/guide was so calm and serene, we joked she could be a part of the Shweddy Balls skit. Beerman was smart enough to pack us a picnic lunch, and we ate it while on the ride.

When done with this, we moved on to our third attraction, the tram.

We got off at New Regent Street and decided to make our way to a large kids' playground, Margaret Mahy. Even though it was a school day, it was packed with children. We've noticed there is a lot of recess and play time here for children - something I really admired. And C-man was thrilled to find a zipline and a boy who was willing to race him on the one next to him.

After the park, we walked a few blocks, passing a whole lot of empty nothingness, to see the cardboard church. This is the church that replaced the cathedral temporarily until it could be rebuit post-earthquake.

This one.

It seems that it, too, is doomed to be torn down. After years of trying to figure out how to rebuild it, they've decided it has to come down. Just like 80% of the city, which has all needed to come down or has been taken down in an effort to re-start the entire city from scratch. There really wasn't much to see in Christchurch as a result, and we learned that the sheer volume of construction prohibits tour buses from even coming right now.

Our one bright spot was when we boarded the tram with the wizard. Apparently he's a local legend, and we couldn't pass up the opportunity for a photo.

As a tourist, for the next year or so, I'd say you can skip Christchurch. There isn't anything to really see. But it was a good, slow way to spend the day at a trip's end.

April 14, 2016

NZ- Life at Sea

In the morning, we woke up, played a little on the jump pillow, said goodbye to a cute praying mantis we found in our RV, and booked our whale watching tour.

While it took longer than the available whale flights, and risked sea sickness, we decided being closer to the action would be better. After about a 30 minute ride along beautiful coastline, we stopped for the Captain to check for whales. They communicate with the planes, but also put a listening device into the water to listen for the whale's clicks. We moved a couple of times to get closer. As we did so, we got to see birds, specifically the albatross, which checked off another to-do from C-man's list.

When the Captain could no longer hear the sonar clicks, he declared the whale was coming up.

About 5 minutes later, there Taiki was. An impressive sperm whale, breaching to digest his food for almost 10 minutes.

And then they announced he was about to go down. With a flip and a whip, his tail flipped into the air, and down he went for another 45 minutes. We learned so much about the sperm whale, that it made the whole adventure all that much more impressive.

After seeing Taiki, we moved on to see seals. It was cool, but after having seen the seal pups playing the night before, I was impatient to move on to the Dusky Dolphins. Eventually, we did. And boy, was it worth it.

With about 800 in a pod, they were everywhere - leaping and jumping and swimming and fishing.

I was in love.

Eventually, we had to move on. So we said our goodbyes to the dolphins, and made our way back along even more beautiful coastline.

Finally, our trip was over, and we headed out to lunch. Beerman had the crayfish - the one last very New Zealand food he hadn't eaten yet.

Afterward, we look at some local shops. And then found a geocache as we made our way back to our RV.

Kaiakoura was definitely a memorable and beautiful place for us to stop, and I'm really thankful we made the time.

NZ - A Drinking We Will Go

In the morning, we woke up, had our breakfast, and visited with Eddie the Eel.

He and his three eel friends live in the river along the campground, and C-man was thrilled. Seeing a river eel was on his checklist of to-do's on this vacation, and having a friendly 'pet' one was the best. Having a million ducks show up to hang out didn't hurt either.

After saying goodbye, we moved along to wine country. For years, I've said I'd get myself to wine country in New Zealand until I couldn't drink any more. It was a beautiful warm, sunny day - such a contrast from the West coast. And the people were happy and friendly again. We started at Nautilus, my all-time favorite wine. And it was glorious.

I purchased a pinot gris, since we get the Sauvignon Blanc here. But we drank our way through the flight, enjoying ourselves immensely. C-man even got a bar of basil chocolate.

Then we moved across the street to visit Wairu River Winery. It was beautiful, but the wine wasn't for me.

And then on to see Whitehaven

And then we got hungry, so went back to Giesen, which had advertised famous small plates.

After we had a few tastes, we moved to the courtyard and ordered a cheese platter. It was beautiful. And the best part is C-man learned he really likes different varieties of brie. It was heaven.

After having our fill, we moved on to Cloudy Bay. It was the first tasting we had to pay for, but was still only NZ$10 per person - virtually nothing in comparison to the American wineries.

It was completely worth it, though, because the backyard was beautiful. And they let us get our taste and go out on the patio to sit or swing, and then return for the next varietal.

C-man was really getting into the experience, learning to sniff the different flavors. He was actually pretty good at it. At one point, he even asked me if this was heaven. I assured him it was.

Even the sheep agreed.

After Cloudy Bay, we moved on to lunch at Allen Scott Winery.

From there, I declared I'd had my fill of wine, and it was time to move on with happy hearts. This time, we moved South toward Kaiakoura. As we got into the area, I read about the seals at Ohau Falls. The mothers take their pups there to play while they go back out and fish. It only happens this time of year, so we thought we'd try our luck. And oh, were we lucky.

Completely pleased with ourselves, we made our way into a local campground. We chose a Top 10 Campground, a family-friendly one. While we'd passed others, they hadn't been in the right location. And oh, was C-man delighted when we registered and he realized what fun things were there just for him.

It was a great, great day.