Blogs > News-Herald Food and Travel

Food and travel captivate Janet Podolak, who chronicles both for The News-Herald. Get the back story of her three decades of stories here. Guest bloggers and fellow News-Herald staffers also periodically share details of their trips.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

It's still winter at Snow Trails resort

Welcome N-H staffer Tracey Read and her account of experiencing a snowy Ohio day at Snow Trails in Mansfield.

With the extremely mild winter we’ve had, skiing is probably not in the forefront of most people’s minds in Northeast Ohio.
And since I had only been on the slopes twice before in my life — and was awful at best — it definitely wasn’t on my mind.
However, my two boys, ages 8 and 9, seemed curious about downhill skiing so I put my apprehensions aside to let them try it out on a recent Sunday at Snow Trails in Mansfield.
The facility was hosting Media Day to celebrate its 50 years in business.
The 1 1/2-hour drive each way was well worth it for the three of us.
I grudgingly put on skis for the first time in 15 years simply so I could keep an eye on my kids.
But after a group lesson with Dave, our instructor, I was feeling very confident and I actually enjoyed going down the bunny hill from the start. More importantly, I was having a great time watching Nate and Alex naturally take to the sport (they must get it from my husband).
After several hours of skiing, we warmed up inside with hot chocolate then tried the snow tubing hills.
We rode a conveyer carpet to the top of the hill and then went down the tube 1,100 feet. The kids did not want to leave, but it was already dark and it was a school night, so we finally had to go.
Snow Trails is Ohio’s first ski resort.
If you’ve never been there, a good time to try it would be this weekend, when they host the 51st Annual Winter Ski Carnival Saturday and Sunday.
Events include the Bikini and Chippendale Slalom races, the SoBe Kid’s Challenge and Cardboard Creation Race, in which competitors build something out of cardboard, tape and paper to be raced down one of the snow tubing lanes.
There is also the Skier and Boarder Cross race Saturday — a hybrid of downhill skiing and snowboarding over a motocross-styled course of snow. Five or six contestants race down the course.
On Sunday, daredevils on snowboards or skis will compete in the Mountain Dew Slush Cup — skimming across an icy pool of green colored slush and water.
The carnival will be held Feb. 25 and Feb. 26.
The resort is located at 3100 Possum Run Road in Mansfield. Visit for more information.

-Tracey Read
Twitter: @Tracey Reporting

Friday, February 17, 2012

New Zealand's merino sheep make the best long johns

When I discovered the Baaa code on my New Zealand long johns I couldn't resist. I entered it at the maker's website Icebreaker. com and discovered which of the many sheep farms its merino wool had come from.
I'd discovered the wonders of merino wool a few years back when I shopped at the Auckland airport en route to Melbourne in Australia, and I intended to buy more of it when I went back last November. It was the beginning of springtime in the southern hemisphere so I figured I be able to buy it at end-of-winter sales - a perfect time for saving money and coping with an Ohio winter.
This visit I discovered an Icebreaker shop with an entire wardrobe of merino wool wonders at the same airport, which had been modernized considerably since my 2003 visit.
Merino wool is made from a certain hardy sheep breeds,  one of the many types raised for wool and meat  throughout New Zealand. The Baa code's web trail led me to Castle Ridge farm on the South Island, where I wouldn't be able to visit on this trip. But the website revealed this 8,000 acre  family owned farm has 10,000 merino sheep in addition to 300 Angus cattle. My Icebreaker long johns are soft and not itchy at all and used as an under layer, they've kept me warm enough to use just jackets, sweaters and shawls through the entire winter.
On this New Zealand visit I learned that the clever kiwis are combining merino yarn with that of a pest, the bushy tailed possum, to make an even more luxurious fiber garment. It's a great solution since these tree dwelling possums eat their weight and more in vegetation and have no enemies except man on this island nation. Unless controlled they stand to wipe out much of New Zealand's crops. The possums there are nothing like ours and have big bushy tails much like our raccoons. The merino-possum garments I found were well outside my price range, however.
Many Maori men work as sheep shearing crews, traveling among New Zealand farms when sheep need to be sheared. It takes them about four minutes or less to shear a sheep and the creatures actually seem to enjoy the experience.

Like most Americans, I'd heard that sheep far outnumber people in New Zealand, so before I took this trip I arranged a visit to a sheep farm - one that also takes guests. I  later learned that the sheep population has declined despite the great garments and delicious New Zealand lamb exported from the country. Sheep may have declined, but  they still outnumber people with a ratio of seven to one and are seen peacefully grazing everywhere. In my next Kiwi Kronicles installment for The News-Herald's Travel section I'll take you onto the floor where sheep are shorn, out to a pasture where sheep dogs control the herd and into the lodging and dining areas of the most amazing sheep farm on this earth, at least in my opinion.

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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Wearable art showcased in Wellington, NZ competition

The fashion is like nothing you’d ever see on the streets of Auckland or Wellington - or even the moon - but the annual World of Wearable Art Show in Wellington, New Zealand draws entrants and interest from all over the world. Called WOW for short, it’s a showcase for up and coming fashion designers — but with a fantastic twist. My group at the Society of American Travel Writers autumn meeting in Wellington was treated to a special showing of costumes created by winners of the 2011 show and I was standing up in front shooting videos you’ll see here..
Materials used in these wearable contrivances includes books, car parts, recycled plastic bags, human hair, coins, ballet shoes and anything else the young designer could  conceive.
Some of the winners have gone on to work for WETA, producers of the notable Lord of the Rings films and the Hobbit, and for Cirque du Soleil among others. The show,  which this year is Sept. 28, awards $150,000 in prize money plus scholarships to the creative winners. The full show runs for two weeks around that date.
Meet young Claire Prebble in the second video  with this blog. She’s been entering the competition since she was just 8 when she and her mother entered The Junk Fish. Since then she’s entered WOW 15 times and became the youngest winner of the Supreme award when she was just 18 in 2004.
Claire is a New Zealander, but other entrants hail from the U.S., Australia, India, Thailand, Japan, Germany, the Netherlands, Israel, Fiji, Canada and the United Kingdom.
Find out how you can enter at

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Thursday, February 2, 2012

Visit a New Zealand mission little changed since 1830s

The Elms, built in the 1830s as a mission house on the Bay of Plenty, is the oldest European building in this part of New Zealand.

Many of the books in the library at the Elms were brought by missionary Alfred Brown from England when he came to New Zealand in 1829.

Early New Zealand missionaries came to end the Maori people’s occasional cannibalism, bring them to Christianity, and teach them English.
An Anglican mission house, built in the 1830s, housed the earliest missionaries and their descendants who occupied in until 1992. Today it’s a museum and a must-see during a visit to Tauranga.
I’ll focus on that area, in the northern part of New Zealand’s North Island, in my Kiwi Kronicles series which begins in the News-Herald on Feb. 12.
 The Elms, as the mission house was named,  is the oldest European heritage site  on the Bay of Plenty. It  was built as an Anglican mission house in the 1830s. Although the city of Tauranga has grown up around it, the house was lived in from 1847 to 1992 and everything — from its furnishings and outbuildings to its gardens reflects the past.
Because early missionaries had to be self sufficient, its library contains original books covering topics that range from the expected theology, to medicine, music and gardening.
The wood framed house is small, but it was heartily welcomed by Alfred Brown, his wife Charlotte and their two young children when it was it built to replace a home made of rushes that first housed the missionary family. Missing the oaks of his English homeland led Brown to plant an acorn brought all the way from England. Today it is a giant tree among the Norfolk pines that are more customary vegetation in New Zealand. To build the stately Georgian style home, Maori workman floated native kaury logs down a nearby river and built the house to face the sun in the north. The walls of the house were filled with rushes to keep it cool in the summer and warm in the winter.
 Brown traveled on foot around the area teaching English to the Maoris and bringing the word of God to them.
Their son died as a child and Charlotte followed a few years later, meeting her end in Auckland where she had traveled to seek medical help. Brown remarried in 1860 , the year that land wars between the settlers and the Maori ended his mission work.
Some of the 17 acres which originally surrounded the home were sold in 1913 to pay for its maintenance  when lean-tos were built on each side of the house so a kitchen could be installed in one and bathroom plumbing in another.
Those who followed the Browns cared lovingly for the home and added to the gardens, which today are a wonderful combination of old England and New Zealand plantings.
A chapel, built to replicate the original church, is today a popular venue for local weddings.
It's a fascinating slice of early life in New Zealand. 

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