Twitter Secret Santa 2016

by Diane on 28/12/2016

Just before Christmas it was #nzsecretsanta time again – one of my most favourite times of the year!

If you’re not familiar with the concept, please read about our experience in previous years: 2015, 2014, 2013 and 2012 & 2011.

This year 1979 awesome New Zealanders signed up to spread a little joy up and down the country. The supported charity who received the bad santa presents was Canteen. Players could also choose to add a Canteen card to their gift, which raised a little bit of extra money for this worthy course. And those who felt even more generous could send extra gifts directly to Canteen. From what I see on Twitter it looks like they got many great presents that will help them support children with cancer and their families/whānau, yay!

Our giftees

This year we were pretty lucky. No moaning teenagers that wanted to kill their siblings, no entitled kids crying for a specific present well above the recommended price range, and no One Direction/Something of Summer/Insert-flavour-of-the-month-boy-band-here fans we couldn’t relate to at all. Instead we all got people that were fun to buy for. Some were a bit more challenging than others, but in general they were superb human beings, and our gifts were much appreciated. Success!

Our gifts

I was coming back from Rarotonga on the day the presents arrived, so rather than unwrapping them in a tired late night session, we decided to leave it until the next day. Once Jennifer (our virtual resident who uses our address to receive her present because she lives in Australia) had arrived at work and was ready to facetime, we got started. I must say that we were absolutely blown away by our gifts, but more on that below.

The virtual resident (aka @Ilaeria)

Jennifer loves, loves, loves The Princess Bride. She read the book ages ago, and apparently there’s something different about newer editions. People even tweeted questions about the publishing date to compare with their own copies. I know nothing about this movie (other than that there’s a large rat in it somewhere, I think), so I have no idea what everyone’s talking about. Fact is that Jennifer was super happy with her gift and the Canteen card filled with nice words that came with it. Success.

Jennifer virtually opening her Twitter Secret Santa present.

The husband (aka @agentK)

Kai really likes fancy stationery, and one of his favourite things are mechanical pencils. His Santa gave him a vintage Parker pencil, that Kai is quite excited about. Success.

Kai's Parker pencil, the gift from his Twitter Secret Santa.

The cat (aka @karoricat)

First of all Max received the biggest box. It’s the perfect cat sized box, so we’re pretty sure it was intended to be an extra present. He loves the box dearly (as he does every box), it’s his preferred sleeping spot at the moment. But what was in the box? LOTS of presents! Not only for Max, but also for Ingrid (the chicken), Kai and myself! Wowsers! We didn’t expect that and were totally mind blown by such generosity.

Initially we were a bit confused, because Ingrids gift was the first one we saw. It’s a cute little jar filled with chicken pellets, and the conversation went like this:

Me: “Did you open Ingrid’s gift?”

Kai: “No, this is addressed to Max..?”

Me: “Why would he get chicken pellets?”

Jennifer: “It’s kitty litter, isn’t it…?”

Only then we saw the name tag and thought that it was really nice to include a little something for Ingrid. We then looked at all name tags, saw the ones for us as well, and opened the gifts intended for Max first. We laughed a lot when we opened the packet of food tins – Max loves chicken flavoured wet food! We never buy it for him, because we have our own chickens and just can’t get ourselves to buy a canned bird. We’re also trying to keep Max’s arthritis under control; and part of that means feeding him lots of fish. He’s ok with that, but I know he’ll go crazy for Christmas treats of different flavour. Very well played, his Secret Santa!

Max also got a fancy new collar. There are 2 types of cat collars, ones that have a little flexible insert that allows the cat pull the head out if it gets stuck with the collar somewhere. The other type opens completely when the cat gets stuck. We’ve tried both types and so far Max has lost every single one of the second type. Since he also wears a QR code with vet and medication details on his collar, as well as a bioflow magnet, we’re very happy that his Santa chose the first type of collar for Max! Does that mean his Santa is also a cat owner and knows of the pros and cons of different collar types…? Who knows…

Max also got a Christmas coloured/themed set of new toys. Initially he ignored most of them and only played with the furry red and green ball, but since unwrapping day he’s played with all of them. The mouse and the ball are definitely his new favourites.

Max's Twitter Secret Santa gift - wet cat food cans, a red collar, a card and cat toys.

Kai and I were well sleuthed too – Kai got a Lego Star Wars set and I got awesome lip scrub. It’s not only produced without harming animals, it’s also vegan and makes perfectly soft lips.

Gifts for Kai. Ingrid and myself from Max's Twitter Secret Santa: Lego, lip scrub and chicken pellets.

A lovely card – in which Max was called a “handsome puss”, which made him very happy – made the gift perfect. Max’s Santa absolutely nailed it for everyone.

The chicken (aka @karoricat)

Ingrid was super also lucky again this year. It amazes me how people get into the spirit of gifting to an animal, especially when it’s a chook. All of her Santas have been fantastic so far, and this year’s one was no different. Here’s what she got:

Ingrid the chicken on the front lawn with her presents as listed in the bullet list below.

  • a ball that leaves a little trail of treats when kicked around
  • a Poultry Pecker (a block of treats)
  • a donation to the SPCA (yay for supporting animals in need)
  • a super cute egg cup with salt dispenser that looks like a fox (so she can deliver her eggs in style)
  • a box of Cadbury Roses (for us, not for her, we assume!)
  • a lovely Canteen card (and yes, her foot is much better now!).

Me (aka @blauerpunto)

I personally think that I got the best #nzsecretsanta presents of all. But I think that every year, and so do lots of others – it simply shows the amazingness of all players. Here’s what I got:

All my Secret Santa gifts as listed below.

  • a very cool gardening quiz book “… for when the gardening is done for the day” – I only had a brief look at it so far and it looks like it’ll give me many hours of fun and brain exercise
  • a paper animal set to craft my own cat, dog, bunny and owl – so far I’ve only done the cat’s (her name is Princess Petunia) head, but it’s super fun and the perfect thing to do while listening to podcasts or audio books
  • a Parasaurolophus eraser that’s labelled as T-Rex – always cracks me up when I see my Santa’s added “LOL” on the box
  • Hawke’s Bay Black Doris Plum and Roasted Almonds chocolate – this is in fact my favourite Whittaker’s chocolate (I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned this anywhere online – does that mean my Santa knows me in real life???)
  • a Gourmet Treat for birds to attract more little feathery friends to my garden – I’m thinking of putting it inside the chicken run, so that Max and the neighbourhood cats don’t feel tempted
  • a lovely Canteen card with a nice message.

A few more thoughts

2016 was the first time since the very first year that I barely saw any negativity in the #nzsecretsanta feed. No players posting long wish lists full of overly expensive presents, no posts by someone ungratefully complaining about gifts they received, no heartless presents that have been put together without consideration for the recipient. This doesn’t mean that those didn’t exist, but as someone who constantly refreshes the #nzsecretsanta hashtag on Twitter (even while I was sitting at the beach in Rarotonga on the first day people started to receive presents) I’m sure there can’t be as many as in previous years, otherwise I would have seen them.

I saw a few people worrying about the value of the presents some people received though. All presents that we received easily sit well above the recommended value of $10, and we spent more on each of our giftees as well. I can see why this might stress someone on a tight budget, but I still think that it should be ok to spend as much as someone can afford or is willing to spend on a stranger. The pictures of gifts received by the community also revealed some clever use of Whitcoulls’ recent 3-for-2 offer and kikki.k’s 20%-off-everything – both were current during the week of choosing gifts for #nzsecretsanta. For me the giving is the more important part of the game anyway, receiving well thought through gifts is a bonus. I can see lots of ways to send me gifts that would cost very little – someone could bake a donkey shaped cookie for example, since I’m totally in love with my neighbour’s new donkeys – and I would still be over the moon because someone read my Twitter feed and thought about how they could put a smile on my face. As long as there is a common understanding within the community that the value really doesn’t matter, we should all be good.

Oh, and one more thing: A big thank you to AJ, Libby and their helper elves at NZ Post. Without their love and passion for the game, their tireless effort to make sure everyone finds joy in playing (including saving the Bad Santa Gift Stash from their earthquake affected headquarters), their superb planning skills (everyone saw the calls for Bad Secret Santa Stash donation in JUNE, right?) and their enthusiasm to make things right if they’ve gone wrong (like tracking misplaced presents and making sure they get to their intended recipient) we wouldn’t be playing #nzsecretsanta like we do. So together with @websam, they are the real heroes of the game. Thank you, thank you, thank you!


Japan 2015 – Nagomi Visit

by Diane on 27/02/2016

The Nagomi visit was definitely the second absolute highlight of this trip, right on par with seeing Stefan.

If you’ve been following our travels over the last years, you’ll have seen that we’re always keen to catch up with locals. There’s no better way to experience a country than hanging out with those who live there. A great way to meet locals in Japan is Nagomi Visit.

The concept is simple: Nagomi visits brings people together over food. You register on the website, say what day you’ll be in Japan and which train station will be closest to you, talk a bit about yourself, and then sit back and relax. 3 days later you’ll receive a list of potential candidates, who are keen to invite you to their home for dinner.

We received 8 invitations for dinner, and it was really, really hard to choose! Every single person/couple/family sounded amazing and I would have loved to meet them all. But we had to pick one, so we chose Midori and Shinichi.

The experience started with a friendly email exchange, in which the two introduced themselves and sent us perfect instructions to get to their train station (including photos). On the day of our visit we followed these instructions and got picked up from the station by Shinichi. During the short walk to their place it already felt like we were catching up with friends we had known for a long time. When we arrived at the apartment Midori was already waiting for us with the most amazing food you can think of. There were steamed veggies, awesome pickles, tofu steak and lots more – way too much to list it all here.

But not only the food was excellent, the company was great too. We had lots to talk about, shared details of our life in New Zealand and learnt heaps more about Japan. After dinner we even got shown how to make ink from a block of coal (I think it was coal?) and learnt more about Japanese writing. Shinichi even wrote down our dietary requirements in Japanese so we could show it at cafes and restaurants, which made the hunt for food in the following days much easier.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We absolutely loved our visit and have found new friends in Midori and Shinichi for sure. We’ll definitely catch up with them again next time we’re in Tokyo – and who knows, maybe they’ll come to New Zealand one day too?

If you’re going to Japan at some point this year, feel free to use my Nagomi visit discount code: MA1602. This will give you a 5% discount on your visit (the fee is to cover to costs of food for the host, but I’m pretty sure that our hosts spent much more money on us than what we’ve paid). It’s definitely worth it!



Japan 2015 – A day in Ōsaka

February 27, 2016

We stayed at an awesome apartment in Tokyo for the whole time we were in Japan, but for one day we took a day trip to Ōsaka. This was definitely one of the highlights of the trip, but nor for the usual touristy reasons. During our 2013 trip to Munich my nephew Stefan and I […]

Read the full article →

Japan 2015 – getting there and back via the Gold Coast

February 6, 2016

I can’t believe that I haven’t had a chance to blog about our Japan trip yet! It’s been almost 2 months since we’ve been on holiday, and life simply got in the way of me sitting down to write about it. There was Christmas with lots of sunshine and gardening time, there was the kitchen […]

Read the full article →

Twitter Secret Santa 2015

December 20, 2015

See what we got in previous years: Twitter Secret Santa 2010-2012, Twitter Secret Santa 2013 and Twitter Secret Santa 2014. We’ve just returned from a trip to Japan, but before I report back on this awesome holiday it’s time for the 2015 edition of Twitter Secret Santa. If you don’t know what that is, please […]

Read the full article →

Europe 2015 – Vienna

September 7, 2015

Final destination of our trip was Vienna where we met with Kai’s parents to celebrate their golden wedding anniversary. We stayed at the most awesome Airbnb apartment, run by the most awesome host, and Kai’s parents stayed at a hotel nearby. This way it was easy to catch up with them often, even though we […]

Read the full article →