Monthly Archives: August 2016

Penrose Stickers

I did not make this in Sydney, but there is a reason for inserting this post here. While we were in Sydney, our friend told us about Penrose tiles which have both reflectional symmetry and five-fold rotational symmetry. They were invented by a mathematician (Penrose) so our friend thought I would be interested. When we got back to the States, I did a bit of research and decided I was indeed interested and wanted some Penrose tiles on my phone. However, you generally have to (a) know someone who can make the tiles for you or (b) make them yourself. So I opted for a hybrid approach.

First, I found a picture of a Penrose star and traced the shapes. Next, I split them up by shape: one image for each of the two tile shapes. Then I used a vinyl cutter to cut out the two sets in different colors. Finally, I combined the two sets of stickers and applied them to my phone. I quite like the result and am planning on writing software to auto-generate patterns for this from scratch so I can get a variety of Penrose tile stickers.

I like the green and blue color combination and thought it would show up well on my phone.

I like the green and blue color combination and thought it would show up well on my phone.

Sydney (pt 1)

On the way out of New Zealand, we had to stop by some friends of ours who live in Sydney, so a trip to Australia was necessary while we were (relatively) close by. We probably didn’t do as much exploring around greater Australia as we should have, but we certainly got to everywhere in Sydney. We got hooked on taking the ferry everywhere and I think by the time our week was up, we had taken every single ferry line in Sydney. I would highly recommend taking the ferry to get around in Sydney; it goes nearly everywhere a tourist wants to be, it is scenic in its own right, and no traffic jams exist on the water.

We made it to a lot of the better known tourist spots, but this post is going to cover the botanical gardens (very pretty), Sydney Zoo (full of Australian critters), all of the parks on the water front, the food, Cockatoo Island (convicts, and shipbuilding, and glamping oh my), and the fish market (conveniently located next to a cement plant). So you’ll have to forgive my exceeding my personal 5 picture limit. We enjoyed Sydney quite a lot.

The Zoo was really cool for me as we got to see all of the Australian animals which are a bit hard to find in zoos oversees. And, frankly, I don’t know that we could see all of the animals in the wild if I tried. We saw some koalas, kangaroos, wallabies, duckbill platypus, Tasmanian devils, wombats, crocodiles, lorikeets, emus, and more that I surely forgot. So that was cool.

And, lastly, the food and cafe drinks in Sydney were awesome. We went to a dozen restaurants and cafes and I think I wanted to go back to half of them even though half of my enjoyment in traveling is trying new places to eat. But Sydney had the highest percentage of great restaurants anywhere I have been and I highly recommend the flat whites at any number of cafes. And perhaps a schooner for the evening.

The emu was vveerrryyyy friendly.

The emu was vveerrryyyy friendly.

Yes. Roos are just that lazy. In their defense I would just lay around if I lived in a hot climate as we..

Yes. Roos are just that lazy. In their defense, I would just lay around if I lived in a hot climate as well.

The very long hallway to a quite tasty lunch.

The very long hallway to a quite tasty lunch.

The best views of the Sydney Opera house are from the commuter ferries. That is why I am sharing a panorama from the sidewalk.

The best views of the Sydney Opera house are from the commuter ferries. That is why I am sharing a panorama from the steps.

In the botanical gardens this young lady donned a fancy hat.

In the botanical gardens, this young lady donned a fancy hat (knit hat on  a marble sculpture).

Mmmm, Mackral. We enjoyed some oysters from the Sydney Fish Market which is huge and well worth a visit. I wish I could shop here all the time.

Mmmm, mackerel. We enjoyed some oysters from the Sydney Fish Market which is huge and well worth a visit. I wish I could shop here all the time.

And just tons of cool little parks on the waterfront. No end of neat little walks to do around Sydney. Especially when punctuated with awesome cafes.

And tons of cool little parks on the waterfront. No end of neat little walks to do around Sydney. Especially when punctuated with awesome cafes.

Christchurch

In the continuing quest to actually get caught up on our travels, we have finally arrived at Christchurch, our final destination in New Zealand. I rather like Christchurch, and Jasmine did as well – especially as it was near her old university of Canterbury. It has a cute old town feel, a bunch of up and coming shops, and seems like it isn’t too hard to get around.

Now for the downside: it was hit really hard by an earthquake about a decade ago and hasn’t quite recovered. Of all of the places in NZ, Wellington and Christchurch were really my favorites, and I hope that it does make a full recovery. They seem like they are trying hard to attract the right people to the city to make it great, but it is indeed a hard slog.

On the plus/minus side we spent a whole extra day than intended in Christchurch. I messed up and purchased a ticket from Auckland to Sydney, which, for obvious reasons, didn’t work to get us out of the country from Christchurch. But after some time, effort, and money, we changed the flight from 9am out of Auckland to 7pm out of Christchurch and just went back into the city for the day. I think we managed to enjoy ourselves, and our friends in Sydney were nice enough to still pick us up from the airport after we changed the schedule by half a day.

The first thing we did in Christchurch was a fancy dinner on the tram line. I felt classy.

The first thing we did in Christchurch was a fancy dinner on the tram line. I felt classy.

Cuidad! Sheep?

Cuidad! Sheep?

On our extra time we took a canoe (in NZ: a Canadian) out on the Avon river. It was an awesome little meander around a Botanical Garden.

On our extra time, we took a canoe (in NZ: a Canadian) out on the Avon River. It was an awesome little meander around a Botanical Garden. Tour guide Lloyd on hand.

The Cathedral. This says a lot about Christchurch.

The Cathedral. This says a lot about Christchurch.

And finally powdered milk for sale in the Airport Duty free. This says a lot about New Zealand.

And, finally, powdered milk for sale in the airport duty free. This says a lot about New Zealand.

Baby Booties

Friends are having babies so I decided to make baby booties for them. I spent some time finding interesting, new (to me anyway) patterns and made up one set of each. These were fun and quick projects!

The first set I made were baby wellies. I thought these were pretty cute even if they weren't waterproof!

The first set I made were baby wellies. I thought these were pretty cute even if they weren’t waterproof!

The second set were baby hiking boots. Just because you can't walk yet doesn't mean you can't get some cool boots.

The second set were baby hiking boots. Just because you can’t walk yet doesn’t mean you can’t get some cool boots.

South Island Road Trip

In contrast to our train ride down the North Island, we drove ourselves all around the South Island. This in in part due to the fact that the South Island is considerably less populous and, thus, has minimal public transit, and also that we wanted to visit a lot of locations all around the island. But Jasmine did a great job of planning the trip so we only had to drive 4 hours max on any given day; other than the 6 hour trip to Queenstown, but that was due to fog, rain, snow, and camper-vans in the preceding conditions.

The first stop was some wineries in the Marlborough region, which is known for it Sauvignon Blanc. They were tasty, but I have to say that if you ever get the chance, get a Pinot Gris from NZ. They are similar and much tastier on the whole. And thus are reserved for internal consumption :).

Our second stop was my desire – the jade beaches on the west coast. Called thus not for the colour, but for the fact that there is a large quantity of jade (pounamu) on the beach that anyone can just go pick up. As I am into the jewelry making and craft in general, I had to go and collect some jade. And now I have a kilo of it in my backpack after lugging it around the world, but I will do something cool with it I swear!

Then we kept on down to Franz Joseph Glacier, and we were super disappointed by the fog which made it impossible for us to see the glacier. But we got to go on a nice bush hike in the mountains, and we got extremely rustic scenery on the coastal drive so we were somewhat compensated. Though I think if you are visiting NZ, you could safely not make the trip to the Western half of the Southern Alps and content your self with the Eastern Mt. Cook region. That being said, we didn’t make it all the way south to the Fjordland, which I am sad about, but winter = rain in that rainforesty area.

We carried on across the mountain till we arrived in Queenstown, capitol of the touristy tourists, and home to surprisingly busy roads. Jasmine and I are convinced that one scenic area per region must be sacrificed to the gods of people who tour but despair of being 10 meters away from a motor vehicle and Queenstown is that area for the South Island. That being said, it is really pretty and if you go there you should certainly go to the Sherwood hotel for dinner. It was one of the better meals I had for the 1.5 years I was in NZ.

Next was Mt. Cook as previously posted, followed by Christchurch which will be posted upon next. But in between the two, we went to Peel Forest which is one of the few remaining old growth forests in New Zealand or, frankly, the world. It is certainly worth the trip from Christchurch; it is close by and on the way to Mt. Cook, especially if you like forests. It is not a large forest, but is is pretty, has some huge Totaroa trees, and some pleasant walks through the aforementioned wood.

Dedicated to the humble sheepdog, who made ranching this rough land possible.

Dedicated to the humble sheepdog, who made ranching this rough land possible.

Jade Beach! Probably 1/1000 of the stone on the beach was jade.  That is a lot of jade.

Jade Beach! Probably 1/1000 of the stone on the beach was jade. That is a lot of jade.

At Fritz Joseph Glaciet there were some insanely blue rivers. We hiked down this one for a while.

At Franz Joseph Glacier there were some insanely blue rivers. We hiked down this one for a while.

We may have gone to Queenstown because jasmine thought I had to visit a lake with so may skipping stone. She was not wrong.

We may have gone to Queenstown because Jasmine thought I had to visit a lake with so may skipping stones. She was not wrong.

The tallest of the Peel Forest Totaroa. 1000+ years old. I think the totaroa and the pohutakawa battle for my favorite NZ tree.

The tallest of the Peel Forest Totaroa. 1000+ years old. I think the Totaroa and the Pohutakawa battle for my favorite NZ tree.

Aoraki / Mt. Cook

When we were visiting the South Island, we decided to go and visit Mt. Cook. As it was the middle of winter, this may have been a poor choice since the road is closed when there is snow and snow is quite common at Aoraki. But we were very lucky; the weather was wonderfully bright and sunny – if a bit cold and windy. But we got ~1 cm of snow overnight and it was delightful to see snow again.

Jasmine and I splurged on the hotel; we stayed at the Hermitage on the 2nd to top floor. It was an awesome view from the room and well worth the price for a two really cool nights. And we got to see glaciers!

We also did some nice hikes with awesome views of the Southern Alps and the nearby alpine lakes. It was very pretty and well worth the trip if you are in New Zealand. While it was fun, I have to say it was not that different from the High Cascades, Sierras, or the Rocky Mountains. So very pretty and worth going to, but I don’t know that I would base a whole trip to NZ around Aoraki. That being said, it was very picturesque so prepare for pictures!

View from the hotel room. totally worth the price.

View from the hotel room. Totally worth the price.

And the view from the hotel lobby. The lobby bar had some tasty food and nice people, the hotel restaurant did not.

And the view from the hotel lobby. The lobby bar had some tasty food and nice people; the hotel restaurant did not.

To start the hike Jasmine posed in the manner of Freda du Faur, the first woman to climb the Mountain.

To start the hike, Jasmine posed in the manner of Freda du Faur, the first woman to climb the Mountain.

Some serious foot bridges on the hike over some serious cold fast moving rivers.

Some serious foot bridges on the hike over some serious, cold, fast moving rivers.

Mt Cook with a pretty river view.

Mt Cook with a pretty river view.

Mt Cook with a pretty glacial lake view.

Mt Cook with a pretty glacial lake view.

Finally, we were very confused by this diorama in a local museum. I think the stoat is evil invasive species, but the rabbits are invasive too?

Finally, we were very confused by this diorama in a local museum. I think the stoat is an evil invasive species, but the rabbits are invasive too?

Cook Straight Ferry

After Wellington, we took the ferry between the North and the South Islands. It was the longest ferry, or frankly boat ride, that I had every been on and it was a really pretty ride. It was a really calm day, so there was no chop, but we were pretty much in the open ocean so there was a serious rolling back and forth which took me a little bit of time to get accustomed to.

And while it was a pretty ride, and I would highly recommend it if you are in NZ, it was not that photogenic. For some reason, the scale was too big to really be captured by my cell phone camera, but I hope you enjoy the pictures anyway.

Ferry time. With fancy hat to match.

Ferry time. With fancy hat to match.

And the Cook Straight with the Tasman Sea in the distance.

And the Cook Straight with the Tasman Sea in the distance.

The sounds around Picton make a lot of cool islands and inlets. It would delightful to sail around here.

The sounds around Picton make a lot of cool islands and inlets. It would delightful to sail around here.

And after we took the ferry we decided to to treat ourselves to a winery visit!

And after we took the ferry, we decided to to treat ourselves to a winery visit! 

Wellington

Now for the capitol, Wellington! I think that of all the cities in New Zealand, my favorite was Wellington. This might be unfair to Christchurch as it is currently in repair after the earthquake a couple of years ago, but Wellington has it all: nice walks, a bunch of forests nearby, cool hills, and more waterfront than you can shake a stick at. And a fair bit of good food. I sort of wish that we lived in Wellington rather than Auckland when we lived in New Zealand.

While in Wellington, we walked all over the place and there were a lot of things to walk to. We probably enjoyed the harborside walk, or perhaps the botanical gardens, the most. If there is one thing that New Zealand is lousy with, it is awesome Botanical Gardens. Now time for pictures!

The Beehive! This is actually parliament building. You can walk right up to it, which seems a bit more chill than the white house or congress.

The Beehive! This is actually parliament building. You can walk right up to it, which seems a bit more chill than the White House or congress.

There were some really cool wire plant sculptures at the botanical gardens.

There were some really cool wire plant sculptures at the botanical gardens.

What's a botanical garden without a rose garden.

What’s a botanical garden without a rose garden?

And some really pretty harbor views in wellington. I like the Norfolk pines.

And some really pretty harbor views in Wellington. I like the Norfolk Pines.

And a view back onto the city from a pleasant hike on the southern walkway towards Mt. Victoria.

And a view back to the city from a pleasant hike on the southern walkway towards Mt. Victoria.

Crochet Phone Case

I am back to doing crafts and decided to start with a crochet phone case. The idea of this design was that it could be used in place of a purse and hold a phone, ID, and credit card while also being visually interesting. It was quick to make and I definitely like the way it turned out, but would like to make a few changes such as a wristlet-style strap and a longer cover flap. So stay tuned for similar posts!

The front of the purse. The crochet provides a bit of cushion for impacts as well as an excuse for a pretty design!

The front of the purse. The crochet provides a bit of cushion for impacts as well as an excuse for a pretty design! I’d like to try something a bit more complicated…

The back of the purse with extra cushion for the screen. I also added a card pocket with a flap so the cards wouldn't slide out.

The back of the purse with extra cushion for the screen. I also added a card pocket with a flap so the cards wouldn’t slide out.

KiwiRail Auckland – Wellington

In order to see the maximum of the North Island while driving the minimal amount, we decided to take the train from Auckland down to Wellington.  The plus side was a quite scenic train ride; the downside was that it was 8 hrs long vs the 1 hour flight. But, on the plus side, we left from City Center and arrived at City Center so that was quite nice for walking with all our bags.

It's sunset for Auckland

It’s sunset for Auckland.

And Sunrise for travel!

And sunrise for travel!

Ruapehu had a commanding view for a large portion of the trainride.

Ruapehu had a commanding view for a large portion of the train ride.

And it is not a scenic day unless it if full of gorges.

And it is not a scenic day unless it if full of gorges.