Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Memorial Day Quilt Guild Meeting - Quilters by the Sea Guild

I was shocked that four days before the big quilt show that there would actually be quilts shown at our monthly guild meeting, especially since the meeting was on a holiday!  This is another quilt by Betty V. who has to be the most prolific quilter in the guild.  Just stunning!!

This guild is very active in a number of community service activities including Neonatal Quilts, Habitat for Humanity quilts and Quilts of Valor for injured serviceman.  I counted about eight Neonatal quilts and 16 Quilts of Valor shown during the meeting!!  How appropriate for Memorial Day.  Hands up for the ladies of Quilters by the Sea Guild!

One of the many neonatal quilts.  A simple pattern but putting it on the diagonal makes it a lot more interesting!

The rest of the quilts were just some of the Quilts of Valor that were shown.  I still haven't gotten the ladies to hold them up for too long but they were better when showing off these quilts!!

Friday, May 23, 2014

North Carolina Symposium Quilt Show Preview

These are just some closeups showing bits of just a few of the beautiful quilts that will be in the show.  Enjoy!!  I took over 200 pictures of the quilts today which will be on a cd that hopefully will get done by the show next week.

Show details are:  

NC Symposium Quilt Show at UNCW Burney Center May 30 9-8 and May 31 9-6. Admission is $6. 

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Fiji - Part 2 - the Birds

We, unfortunately, didn't get to some parts of the islands where there was far less civilization and more of the endemic birds but we did see a few.  This was by far the most common and vocal of the birds -- the Common Myna.  They were at the pool all the time, trying to sneak food and taking baths in the pool.  They reminded me of our mockingbirds as they had many calls and had the white on the wings that our mockingbirds have.

Just a view after he took a bath -- all shiny.

One day I took the Bula Bus (bula is the common greeting in Fiji).  I spotted a couple of these Pacific Swallows on a power line at the Denarau Port where there was shopping.  Looked a lot like our barn swallows except for the markings on the head which you can't see well here.

This is a Red-Vented Bulbul which was by the pool.  I had seen the first one of these also at the Port.

There were three or four of these Parrot Finches feeding by the pool.  Warren noticed them first as one was right next to him in a bush.  They are really tiny birds (probably no more than 3 1/2 inches long) but very colorful.

Here you can see his color even better!

This is a Danaid Eggfly which seems to be very different from habitat to habitat.  Had to get an identification using the FB Entomology site.

I saw one other butterfly and a very small moth as well.  The butterfly looked like one of our sulfurs but  didn't land anywhere long enough to get a picture!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Fiji - Part 1

I don't believe I haven't mentioned it before, but I did all my booking online using Kayak.com initially.  I had no idea what the hotels/motels were really like but read the comments religiously and made my decisions based on gut instinct in most cases.  I really lucked out in most cases as many of the hotels were small independently owned places (in the US, you could get a "no-tell motel" but not in New Zealand).  My luck held out for Fiji as well as this was easily the nicest hotel on Denarau island.  It was the Sofitel which is a chain based in France (according to my daughter).  The rooms were wonderful and the grounds were incredibly beautiful with gorgeous landscaping throughout.  This is the view to our room which was on the first floor with a nice patio outside the sliding glass doors.

The pool was stunning and was a meandering shape probably 100 feet long and winding through the landscape.  Amazingly the water was always a refreshing temperature -- nice enough to cool you off after being in the sun but not too cool.  Chairs and umbrellas surrounded it with gardens interspersed.  The gardens even had labels identifying the vegetation!

Warren was enjoying the pool in his signature hat and tshirt.  I was afraid of sunburn but neither of us really got any at all.  It must be further from the equator than I thought!

Adjacent to the main part of the hotel was a water  lily garden with lilies of every color!

Here is a more inclusive view of the water lily garden.

 This was the view toward the beach.  We didn't take advantage of the beach as the pool was so nice!  You could see islands off in the distance and there were ferries to take you there.  If only we had more time, we would have seen more of Fiji.

There were beautiful flowering trees and bushes everywhere -- a regular tropical paradise!

At the end of the day, there were of course sunsets to view from our patio!  Unfortunately we only spent four nights and three days in this island paradise!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Our Trip to Doubtful Sound

The morning after arriving in Queenstown, we set off for a two day cruise on Doubtful Sound which is part of the Fiordlands national park in the southwest part of New Zealand.  Most people opt for the Milford Sound tour but my college roommate had recommended this one which takes two days.  Doubtful Sounds is three times as long as Milford Sound and doesn't take as long to get to.  However, the journey was definitely part of the fun.  Looking at maps, it is impossible to figure out how you would get there as there are no roads!!  The tour company actually sent a cab to our hotel to pick us up and we met up at tour company.  There we found out what the trip would entail!  It was of course pouring rain!!

The view here is the first sighting of Doubtful Sound from up on a hill.  We had sunshine on and off for the trip from Queenstown to Doubtful Sound.

The first leg of the trip was a 3 hour bus ride with a very knowledgeable driver who told us about all the sights we couldn't see in the rain.  He did talk about the changing landscape and the introduction of deer as an alternative to the sheep, cattle and milking cows that you see EVERYWHERE!!  The amazing part is that you don't see any houses anywhere near these animals in many cases.

The bus stopped at a roadside tearoom where we got lovely sandwiches to eat.

One of our biggest challenges was getting plain old black coffee!!!!  You had your choice of Flat White, Talls or Americano as well as all the mochechinos etc.  After two weeks of fruitless conversation, we finally settled on Americanos!!  Who would have thought?

After the 3 hour bus trip, we were loaded onto a boat that would take us down Lake Manipouri which took another two hours mostly in the pouring rain.  

Below is a picture taken before the rain hit on Lake Manipouri.  Again the brilliant fall colors!

After we finished with the ride across the lake, we headed to a second bus which took us on a private road owned by the power company which took us our final leg to get on the cruise!!  It didn't rain for this part of the trip.

Here I am in one of the many, many waterfalls we would see on this trip!!  There had been a lot of rain and so there were waterfalls everywhere, streaming down hundreds of feet.  It was impossible to get a good feel for this in the pictures.  I have many many waterfall pictures.  Here is me standing in front of one on the final bus leg of our trip heading to the Sound.  I wore this jacket almost continually the whole trip in NZ.  It served two purposes -- one, kept me warm; and two,
Warren could always find me!!

By this time, unfortunately, I was showing signs of getting the cold that he had been suffering from.  Luckily mine was just a few sniffles while he was still pretty miserable but at least he didn't have to drive!!

We finally reached the Sound and it was actually not raining for the first part of the cruise.  This was the view back from where we had come from.  It is pretty even in the mist.

 Nice reflections.

Another look back before the rain came!

 We were amazed by the colors even with no sunshine or blue skies.  The Sound is basically salt water from the Tasman Sea with a 6 inch layer of fresh water on top from all the rain and waterfalls.  
 You can see how blue the water is here!

Just some more scenery with the bright green and the rocks.

I loved all the textures in the rocks and the bright greens!

We went all the way out to the Tasman Sea the first day (it was an overnight cruise).  Right at the entrance to the Sound were rocks covered by the New Zealand Fur Seals.  I never get tired of the seals!

Some were doing a little posing but most were sleeping here.  The water was very rough in the Sea from the storms.

We saw many Paradise Shelducks.  Not a good picture but you can see all the colors on the female.

A pod of Bottlenose Dolphins.  This is the southernmost part of their habitat and they are much larger than where we live.  They were playing in the wake, jumping up out of the water and almost impossible to photograph with the boat and the dolphins moving!!

Another big surprise was the opossums that are found in New Zealand -- imported from Australia originally to breed them for their fur.  They are now a very very large pest and most often what you see the Swamp Harrier hawks feeding on by the side of the roads.  We couldn't figure out why anyone would want to have opossum fur as anyone who has seen our American variety would attest to!!  However, the fur on these animals is soft and quite beautiful.  They don't look anything like our animal.  However, we were told that there were three times as many of these now in NZ as there were sheep and that is saying something!!  Throws made from the fur were very expensive though so none followed me home.  This is Warren on the boat with one of the skins that I found sitting on the piano.  We had lovely buffets on the trip for supper and breakfast and wonderful desserts!!  We moored for the night in a lovely calm cove.  The next morning it was again very rainy and we proceeded backtracked although taking a slightly different path down one of the branches of the Sound.

This is what our American version of a opossum looks like! Thanks to Richwooders.com!  He doesn't have the nice fluffy tail and his fur is not nice at all!!!
Even more waterfalls!!!

On our way back, we took a slightly different route and met up with the Milford Sound people by another lake.  I saw these black ducks and identified them as New Zealand Scaups.  I had noticed that NZ had more than their fair share of black birds and wondered what the selective reason was for this.  In a lecture on the ship, the naturalist explained that there used to be no animal predators (I had noticed that many of the birds were not as frightened as I would have expected) but that their primary predator was a giant hawk or eagle of some kind (now extinct).  The dark color was protective coloration as they couldn't be seen as easily from above!  This is a male and female.

You can see the color of the male better here -- he does have some underneath.