Our version of a “Happy meal”…Tightening our belts…Visit to a winery…

Here’s yesterday’s meal: bacon-wrapped, hard-boiled egg stuffed meatloaf made with grass-fed meat; salads with red romaine (cos), celery, carrot, and homemade salad dressing; sliced cucumber sprinkled with Himalayan salt; steamed green beans and broccolini;  oven-roasted zucchini; good-for-gut-bacteria probiotic sauerkraut; and my favorite low carb flaxseed and almond flour muffins topped with grass-fed organic butter. So who says “low carb” dining isn’t healthy?  (The red bottle in the center of the table contains homemade low-carb ketchup).

With a tremendous financial outlay upcoming over these next 12 months, we’ve had to carefully pick and choose as to how we spend our allocated budgetary allowances.

Subsequently, we’d decided to dine out on rare occasions while in both Penguin and the Huon Valley. After all, we’ll be on another cruise in 19 days which consists of “dining out” three times a day (if one so chooses) with generally great meals, all of which are specially prepared for my specific diet.

Our kindly landlords have encourages us to visit the garden anytime we’d like to pick the organic produce. What a treat this has been!

Tom has no trouble finding items he particularly enjoys even with his trimmed back agenda, preferring not to gain the former 4.5 kg, 10 pounds on each cruise. Instead, he’s entirely cut out toast and cereal at breakfast, bread with dinner and a multitude of sweet treats.

Instead of spending a fortune on dining out while in Tasmania, we’d chosen to take advantage of fabulous, readily available grass fed meat, organic vegetables, free range chicken and eggs and fresh caught fish for our home cooked meals.

Sliced cucumber, broccolini and green beans fresh from the garden added so much to our meal as shown below.

This upcoming Friday, February 17th, we are dining out, heading to Willie Smith’s Organic Apple Cider restaurant for dinner and the live entertainment (available only on Friday nights) to celebrate a combination of Valentine’s Day and my birthday.

Since the onset of our travels, we’ve celebrated each occasion separately dining at two distinct locations. However, this year, with our attempt at cutting back, we’ll only celebrate dining in one restaurant, having chosen Willie Smith’s after a recent visit. Please click here if you missed our story and photos.

What was I thinking when I took this lopsided photo of our hard boiled egg stuffed, bacon wrapped low carb meatloaf (made with grass fed beef)? 

After the upcoming dinner at Willie Smith’s, we’ll be sharing food photos, the menu options and pricing for our evening out. So please check back on Saturday, February 18th (the 17th for those on the opposite side of the International Dateline).

Had we not been cutting back to this degree (my idea, not Tom’s.  I’m the budget police) with the upcoming final payment due in November for the pricey Antarctic cruise (see the cost and details of this outrageously expensive expedition at this link), we may have chosen to dine out more frequently.

By-the-bottle, wine to go menu.

When we booked this cruise there was no doubt it would crimp our budget but we were willing to stretch ourselves for this once-in-a-lifetime experience. It’s one of those special events we decided to accomplish while we were still young enough to partake of all of the activities off the ship on the Zodiac boats.

Wine barrel display.

Adding the higher than usual cost of the 24 day cruise beginning on April 22nd from Sydney to Seattle, followed by the equally pricey cruise to Alaska on May 17th when we first arrive in North America before heading to Minnesota to see family, we stretching our budget to the limit. 

Adding the fact that we’ll be living in a hotel for six weeks in Minnesota, dining out for all meals, we expect a much higher monthly expenditure than our usual cost of living in vacation home in various parts of the world.

Locally made dinnerware and glassware.

Its easy to understand why we’d have to pick and choose where we spend our money in the interim. Dining out, for us, just isn’t that much of a treat especially considering my special diet. While cruising, the dining becomes more significant for the socializing at meal times than the food.

Many alpaca wool items are for sale at the winery’s gift shop.

When we visited the Home Hill Winery and discovered their upcoming special event as shown on their website, it was tempting to participate. However, spending at least AU 200, US $154 for the meal for two held little interest for us especially when we’ll have dined out the previous evening at Willie Smith’s as mentioned above.

Instead, we wandered through the winery taking photos at our leisure, reveling in the pretty scenery and their herd of alpacas, generally having our usual pleasant experience.

Diners can watch the chefs at work from the shown rear wall.

As an award winning winery, they produce wines offered at many Tasmanian and Australian establishments. Here a comment about their wine production from their website:

Dining outdoors on a sunny day is appealing at the lovely home Hill winery.

“The vineyard was planted out in 1992 with Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Sylvaner grapes. The grey loam, high-clay soil and reliable rainfall provide excellent growing conditions for these varieties.

The Huon Valley sits on the same degree of latitude as Bordeaux in France (albeit forty-three degrees south of the equator rather than not. As a result, these regions share a similar climate, with winters featuring fog, frost, snow, and an abundance of spring rain. This allows for the slow ripening of fruit during warm months and the perfect conditions for excellent climate wine to be produced.”

Indoor dining area at Home Hill Winery in Ranalagh, Tasmania.

Of course, a highlight of our visit was the opportunity for us to see their alpacas. They offer a wide selection of products made with the fleece of these beloved animals. 

There’s an option to dine outdoors away from other diners.

The alpacas didn’t approach us as readily as when in New Zealand, most likely due to unfamiliarity of a constant flow of visitors. We easily recall how shy and hesitant the NZ alpacas were when we first arrived.

It was ironic to be up close with alpacas when it was a year ago we were living among them in New Zealand, an experience we’ll always treasure.

When all is said and done, we’re happy with our decisions for future travels and don’t ever feel we’re sacrificing quality of life. On the contrary, even on quiet days like today (Sunday), we find ourselves embracing every moment as a special gift.

May your day quiet day be special as well.

Photo from one year ago today, February 12, 2016:

One year ago we responded to a request from readers as to our favorite places to visit thus far in our world travels. We posted this photo of the Treasury in Petra, Jordan after a very long, hot walk. Click here for one of two posts. This sight made us gasp with our hearts pounding wildly, less from the walk, more from sheer joy! For that post with more favorite location’s photos, please click here.

A great afternoon at Okurukuru Winery…Unexpected encounters…

Nothing is like crystal-like sparkles on the ocean on a sunny day.

With a dinner reservation for 7 pm last night at Okurukuru Winery and it getting darker earlier each night with fall fast approaching, we decided to change our reservation to a late lunch instead of dinner. 

The red, blue and black on these birds is an interesting combination.

It was a beautiful sunny day and spending time at the winery would certainly be more enjoyable in the sunshine. We weren’t disappointed with our decision. The views were breathtaking as we’d observed on our last visit when we’d only stopped by to check it out.

The menu was a bit tricky for me with most options including one form of starch, flour, or sugar as a part of the lunchtime choices. As a result, I selected a Thai Beef Salad while Tom went “hog wild” selecting a pizza with a huge bowl of fries on the side. 

There were four of these large birds playing in a garden.

The food was good, although my salad with a suitable dressing was a bit dry. Tom, on the other hand, took a doggy bag with the remainder of his fries, which he ate instead of dinner, which I’d offered to make along with the light meal I’d made for myself.

It was nice to see Tom order a beer. He hasn’t had any drinks other than on the few nights we’ve dined out.

After lunch, we wandered about the massive facility taking photos, enjoying the warmth of the sun and the scenery. As we walked along the veranda overlooking the vineyards, cows, and the sea, we heard American accents from three people chatting at a table, two young women seated and one gentleman our age standing.

As we walked by it was irresistible to say hello which magically resulted in a lengthy conversation with Rachel and Regan, sisters originally from Texas and Ed, from Connecticut. Ed had happened to stop by the winery had also just met the young women after hearing them speak with their southern-tinged American accents.

My Thai Beef salad made to my specifications.

This is the first time since our arrival in New Zealand that we’ve met any Americans. Don’t get me wrong, we don’t necessarily feel Americans have more to offer in conversation or friendship than citizens of any country, especially those with whom we can speak some degree of English. 

Tom’s Meaty Pizza.

Sharing commonalities with those from our same country or origin, elicits an amount of conversation of particular interest, especially, “What brought you here, so far away from the US?”

Of course, as often transpires, we encountered a coincidence of which we seem to expect when meeting other Americans. You know, the “Kevin Bacon, six degrees of separation” thing.

Tom was especially thrilled with the big bowl of fries, too large to eat with a pizza but good cold later back at home.

As it turned out Regan and her husband, a physician, have been living in Opunake for many months on a one-year contract. Her husband is practicing medicine through a project that brings doctors to small communities throughout the world where healthcare is desperately needed. 

View of the landmark smokestack and Sugarloaf Islands in downtown New Plymouth.

Coincidentally Regan is working as a volunteer at Everybody’s Theatre, which we visited and wrote a story only a few days ago. See our story here.  Small world.

We got a kick out of watching these cows wander back and forth through the barren vineyards maneuvering through the stake, fertilizing the soil.

Rachel became engaged only a few days earlier at a romantic spot on the South Island for which we enthusiastically congratulated her. Her fiancé had headed back to the US a few days earlier while she stayed behind to spend quality time with her sister.

The expansive views from the Okurkuru Vineyard are lovely.

While I chatted with the girls, Tom and Ed chatted endlessly, obviously also having a great time. This morning, Tom received a friendly email from Ed and we hope to see him again before he leaves within a week.

Another view of the pasture.

Finally, we were back on our way home unable to wipe the smiles off our faces, happy to have had a perfect day at the winery, a good meal, each other’s companionship, meeting new people, and some exquisite country and ocean views interspersed with a few birds and cows, always a favorite.

As we pulled into the narrow road to our temporary home on the farm, we turned to each other with that wonderful sense of joy we always feel each time we behold the precious alpacas, as many approached the fence when they saw us return.

The view at an overlook on the drive out of the Okurukuru Vineyard on the winding road.

Today, very cool and cloudy, we’re headed to town to shop with multiple stops on our “to-do list”, another simple activity we thoroughly enjoy each week. May the simple activities of your day bring you joy and purpose!

Photo from one year ago today, March 10, 2015:

The orchids in Hawaii are amazing. In this post, we were preparing for a houseguest, my sister Julie who came for a much-needed vacation. For more details, please click here.

Road trip…Endless array of interesting sites to see in NZ…

The grapes are robust and beautiful at the Okurukuru Taranaki Winery.

Waiting for a sunny day to get on the road was pointless. With rainy weather on the horizon, we decided to head out anyway, as soon as Isabel and Ra arrived to clean the house for the first time. They’d be fine on their own and it’s always best when we’re out of the way of the cleaners.

We were in awe of the beauty of the vines.

In a few short decades, New Zealand has gone from a practically non-existent wine status to wowing the world in international competitions on a regular basis.” For more about the growth of the New Zealand wine business, please click here.

The entrance to Okurukuru Taranaki Winery.

Without a plan in mind, we decided to drive along the ocean in a southwest direction and see what we could find. Unplanned outings have always been our favorite way to explore by driving until we feel like stopping.

We’d have preferred a sunny day for better photos.  Maybe it will be clear when we return.

Tom is the perfect driver in these scenarios anticipating when to stop for photos and offering to turn around if we quickly pass an interesting photo op. It’s almost as if I don’t even have to ask when he has a sharper eye than I as he spots interesting scenes I may have easily missed.

The Sugarloaf Islands and Paritutu Rock, located in New Plymouth can be seen at a distance from the winery.

As we made our way along the highway, our first stop proved to be much more interesting than we’d ever expected we’d encounter on an unplanned road trip. Before we headed out the door, Isabel and Ra suggested we stop and see the popular winery, Okurukuru.

We spotted several groups of tourists.

One may think visiting a winery when neither of us is wine drinkers could be pointless. Yesterday, we discovered that’s not the case at all. With a beautiful restaurant and grounds, there was plenty to see and we enjoyed every moment.

The vast ocean, the vineyards, the flowers, and the green hills create a fabulous view.

Introducing ourselves to the manager while handing him our business card, we asked permission to wander about exploring the grounds and taking photos. He welcomed our visit offering us free rein to explore at will.

Workers were preparing for an event on Saturday.

With neither of us hungry, staying for lunch wasn’t on our radar. Although, before leaving after touring the facilities and perusing their various menus, we made a dinner reservation for our upcoming wedding anniversary in March. 

We walked down several wide stairways for more views.

At this point, we’ve booked three fine dining dinner reservations; one for Valentine’s Day on February 14th (not celebrated in all countries), another for my birthday on February 20th, and now for our anniversary which is on March 7th. With the winery closed on Mondays and a wedding scheduled for the 8th, we selected March 9th for our anniversary dinner celebration.

The grounds are meticulously maintained.

Tom often jokes about all of these celebratory occasions occurring within a three-week period. A dinner out is all either of us care to do for such events when we have no inclination toward buying each other gifts with the need for wrapping paper, tape, and bows and, with no room in our luggage. 

Situated on the ocean, the winery’s scenery is all the more exquisite.

Long ago, we decided on this plan with both of us at ease with a warm hug and kiss on the special day that totally fulfills our need for acknowledgment. Our family members call, email, or send a message on Facebook when it’s our birthdays or holidays, and there again, that’s appreciated and meaningful.

Future plantings at the vineyard.

Although an enthusiastic wine drinker at a period in my life, I gave it up when I changed my way of eating almost five years ago knowing, in the long run, it wasn’t best for my health. I do miss red wine. Tom drinks wine only when it’s placed in front of him when included in a meal, never ordering a glass when dining out or at a bar.

The winery’s main building.

Neither of us had visited a winery for these reasons. Now that we have, as of yesterday’s tour, we’re convinced visiting wineries may be worthwhile for the exquisite scenery, ambiance, and meals. We’re excited to be returning in March. When we do, we’ll share photos of our multiple course meals and if Mother Nature cooperates, a sunset over the vineyards and the sea. 

Tom, at the bar and restaurant in the Okurukuru Taranaki Winery.

After we left the winery, we continued on the highway for more surprises along the road which we look forward to sharing over these next several days. Please stay tuned…

Photo from one year ago today, January 29, 2015:

Wisdom, the oldest known tagged albatross, had a chick last year at 63 years old.  This photo (not ours) was taken last year as she tended to her chick. For more photos, please click here.