Pirongia, New Zealand: Hospitality and Recipe by da-AL

Vicky Apps (with her kitty) is a wonderful hostess!

We had less than a week to sample beautiful New Zealand. We’d landed in Auckland, spent a night in Rotorua, hiked a few hours in the Redwoods, strolled along Huka Falls, peered into Craters of the Moon and visited the Waitomo Glowworms Caves, and then river rafted in Taupo — then later Hamilton Gardens. (Eventually, in Australia’s Gold Coast, we visited family and birds of Australia Part 1 of 2 plus Part 2 of 2, then we marveled at the Spectacular Views in and Around Gold Coast, enjoyed a delicious meal on the beach and saw some wild things at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary.)

Pirongia was a lovely village (by the way, it was interesting to find that as far as I know, here in the U.S. we only use the term ‘city’, not ‘village’) to spend our final night before returning to Auckland. Short as our visit to Pirongia was, our hostess, Vicky Apps, made it memorable. If you’re ever in the area and need a cozy room at a reasonable price, I highly recommend emailing her at apps@xtra.co.nz

Vicky and her charming kitty, made us feel like family at her gorgeous, spacious home. We so enjoyed sitting in her flower-filled backyard and chatting with her. Moreover, she even washed (and folded!) my clothes at no charge. For breakfast, she shared delicious homemade jams and preserves, including one that was made from a guava type fruit found only in New Zealand. (By the way, New Zealand has its own variation of sweet potato too, which I regret not getting a chance to sample.)

Photo by Daria Nepriakhina on Unsplash.

When I much enjoyed some of Vicky’s Anzac biscuits, an immensely satisfying sort of oatmeal cookie that was devised for the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) during World War I, she generously hand-wrote the recipe for me!…

Vicky’s recipe for Anzac biscuits, page 1.
Vicky’s recipe for Anzac biscuits, page 2.

Do you have a biscuit or cookie that’s special to where you live?

Waitomo Glowworm Caves, New Zealand by da-AL

We’re a long way down in the Waitomo Caves.

Really I’d like to sound official, truly scholarly when I describe these magnificent caves. But I’d be faking it. I was too busy trying to keep my eyes in their sockets as I took in all the amazing sights to retain whatever our hard-working guide endeavored to teach us.

A mineral formation can be as delicate as a veil.

Here we were in New Zeand, and everywhere we visited was utterly beautiful and entirely distinctive from the prior site. Auckland wasn’t at all like Rotorua, which resembled neither the Redwoods nor Huka Falls, and Craters of the Moon (nor places we’d visit later like Taupo and Pirongia and Hamilton Gardens) were like any of them. (Later in Australia’s Gold Coast, we visited familyand birds of Australia Part 1 of 2 plus Part 2 of 2, then we marveled at the Spectacular Views in and Around Gold Coast, enjoyed a delicious meal on the beach, and saw some wild things at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary.)

And — New Zealand’s Waitomo Glowworms Caves were all their own too. We walked down, down, down, and then down, down, down some more while trying not to get bugs in our hair or smack our heads on nature’s sculptures along the way made of limestone and fossils.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

“The limestone formation in the Waitomo Glowworm Caves occurred when the region was still under the ocean about 30 million years ago … These cave decorations take millions of years to form given that the average stalactite grows one cubic centimeter every 100 years,” according to Wikipedia.

This photo might look like nothing — but those pinpricks of light from glowworms! They exist in New Zealand! What you can’t see because without electric light its so dang dark down there, is that the GLOWWORMS give off spiderweb-like strings to ensnare their dinners.

The white dots in the immense darkness are glowworms.

Looking for an adventurous new job? They’re always looking for explorers to map out new tunnels. These are just mannequins, but they give an idea of what’s required…

The explorers who map out the caves are quite heroic.

Have you visited a limestone cave?

Huntington Library, Art, and Gardens by da-AL

da-AL at The Huntington, sitting on a bench in rose garden

What better way is there to celebrate a special occasion than with an all-day excursion of gorgeous weather, strolling an array of gardens that span rainforest to desert and Japanese to Australian to more, seeing the worlds’s stinkiest (and amusingly phallic) plant, eating international fare, admiring fine art museums, and ending it all with a high tea?

My honey and I spent our special day at The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens (a collections-based educational and research institution) located in San Marino, California. Tap photos for captions…

da-AL and her honey having high tea at The Huntington

What’s your favorite way to celebrate a special day?

Guest Blog Post: “3 Funny Strange Things Dogs Do!” in the exact words of Zak

My recent Call for Guest Blog Posts is a success! Zak, a dog loving blogger from England, is our 5th guest poster. His Just Wags site compliments his team of dog sitters and dog walkers.

Here Zak writes about 3 dog facts he’s learned…

Zak’s team loves dogs!

1: Dogs hump….everything.

Sure, there is the obvious reason for humping. We all know that.

Did you know it is a very natural behavior for puppies to hump? It’s just as natural for female dogs. In their case, it certainly isn’t what you are probably thinking.

In training terms, this is called ‘mounting’, not humping, and dog’s do it for a whole lot of reasons! Puppies mount each other during play. Dogs will sometimes do it as a way of signifying dominance. Dogs mount out of anxiety or during stressful situations. Intact males or even un-spayed females will exhibit this behavior more often.

In the end, this is yet another one of those strange dog behaviors we usually find silly, but often mean something completely different than what we think.

Does your dog do this?

2: Dogs drag their butts… 

Have you ever seen your dog drag his or her bare butt across your nice, clean white carpeting? Your first thought is probably ‘GROSS’! Did you ever wonder why your dog is doing this?

But dragging is usually a sign there is something medically wrong down there. The culprits might be worms, among other things. Your pup might need his anal glands ‘expressed’. In this case, it is a good idea to consider consulting a vet.

Does your dog eat grass?

3: Dogs eat grass…

Like eating hair off the hairbrush, this is another strange one to snack on. Grass certainly can’t taste good, can it? Some dogs will even throw up after eating grass and then go right back to eating more grass, which doesn’t seem to make much sense at all!

In fact, experts say there certainly is a reason, and it probably isn’t because grass tastes good.

Some reasons dogs might eat grass:

  • Improve digestion
  • Treat intestinal worms
  • Fulfill some unmet nutritional need

More about Zak here.

Costa Rica: Jungle Hiking, Indigenous Abodes, and Rafting the Pacuare River by da-AL

A popular medical tourism destination, Costa Ricans live longer than Northern Americans. How? Thanks to their socialized medicine system, strict anti-smoking laws, overall healthy focus, and low sugar consumption in.

Hover or click images for more info and to enlarge.

Learn more about Costa Rica here and here.

Guest Blog Post: “Walking in the Forest is Good for My Soul,” in Denzil Walton’s exact words

When I (da-AL) happened upon Belgian blogger Denzil’s lovely site, I could hardly believe it — I was the first to comment there! Yes, it is new, but it so beautifully filled with joy and heart that I doubt it will remain a secret for long …

A lush forest road
Photo by Denzil Walton

I know that walking in my local forest is good for my body. It’s good for my heart – it gets the blood flowing. It’s good for my lungs – it gets the air circulating. It’s good for my muscles – it tones them up.

But good for the soul?

Surely, to refresh my spirit I should head towards my local church or cathedral, not to my local forest?

autumn view of tree lined lake
Photo by Denzil Walton

Don’t get me wrong: if you like to visit a magnificent cathedral to get a spiritual lift, that’s fine. You might be enthralled by the architecture and the stained glass windows. You might be impressed by the flower arrangements. You might marvel at the beautiful sounds of a choir. All of these things might lift your soul and help you see the glory and wonder of the divine – whatever name you give it.

However, for myself, my cathedral is my local forest, with the enormous trunks of ancient beech and oak trees rising up and over my head. With its canopy of green leaves forming the roof. Instead of stained glass windows, I see the delicately painted wings of butterflies and dragonflies. Instead of bouquets and vases of cultivated flowers, I see wild celandines, wood anemones and foxgloves. My choir consists of the sweet warbling of the blackcap, the drumming of a black woodpecker, the bark of the roe deer.

gorgeous forest view from park bench
Photo by Denzil Walton

And just as you might enter a cathedral and experience a touch of heaven, I walk in a forest and experience the wonder of creation. And it lifts my spirits.

I’m not one for New Year’s Resolutions. Actually, if you read one of my blog posts, I even recommend postponing them to Spring!

But if you are into resolutions, here’s one you might like to consider.

Resolve to visit your local forest regularly throughout the year – maybe once a week or month. Experience its peace and beauty. Take time to stop and look at the wild flowers. Listen to the birds.

I am sure you will come out with a refreshed and rejuvenated spirit.

Denzil Walton blogs on walking and cycling in Belgium at Discovering Belgium. His new blog is called Life Sentences, which he describes as “random, positive and life-affirming musings on various topics and experiences.”