Monday, September 23, 2013

A Whimsical Venue - Yesterday Spaces

We found a wedding venue! After searching and searching we narrowed it down to 3 different choices...and after visiting them all we chose Yesterday Spaces in Leicester, NC. It's gorgeous! On my first tour I went with mom...the wedding guru...and we fell in love. She was all over it. The owner has thought through everything! They have a plan for everything...and mom's favorite plan, the rain plan.  They have two barns on the property...the main event barn and the dairy barn.  The dairy barn is the rain plan.

As you pull up to the property there is a huge field on the left for parking and then on the right you turn in to the farm. Immediately off the road (it's a tiny back-road) there is the farm house (that you can rent for family) and the dairy barn.  A bit behind the farm house is the second rental house that was recently purchased...score.  Then you drive up the road the main event barn.  When we toured it was a heavily fogged misty day, but yet it was so enchanting. To get to the ceremony space you walk through a row of gorgeous to the field where the mountains peek up in the background.  There's a lovely tree you can get married under but we might end up doing an arbor...we'll see.

The back-up dairy barn is gorgeous. We're actually going to use it for our rehearsal dinner which we're really excited truck! The barn has some original wood inside which is gorgeous and some dried flowers hanging from the ceiling...and it has a walk-in silo...what?!?! So neat!

The main event barn is gorgeous...the porches have beautiful log posts in a rich color. When you enter, the whole barn area is strung up with lights. The walls and floors are all a lovely oak wood and they have gorgeous hand-made oak round tables for us to use.  The whole barn (inside and out) is hooked to a sound system that you can control personally...ipod wedding. So easy!  They have 2 kitchens (one upstairs and one down) and our favorite part? Gorgeous bathrooms!! Beautiful hammered sinks and hand-made stall doors...they didn't miss a detail.

Downstairs are the stalls...and yes they have animals :) They had a donkey and mini pony when we visited and they said they were getting some llamas! So excited! You can go downstairs (and music is there too!) and pet the animals and most people set up a photo booth below. Pretty cool!

They also have an event field outside with a fire we will definitely be playing some lawn games (I hear Andrews uncle has lawn darts...oh dear) and cooking up some smores and late night weenies!

I am so so excited! Things are coming together :) Now to figure out attire, photographer, caterer, and all the other little details...we have some good I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Jumping Out of a Plane

So once we arrived in Auckland...we went straight to Auckland Skydive.  We had a GrabOne Deal (basically like Groupon) and Andrew and I had never been skydiving so we were really excited.  We were a bit nervous, but I would say more excited than anything.  So we got our instructions from the team...and then put on our gear...then it was time to go up in the plane.

I was fine...the whole time...and then Andrew was the first to go.  I'm sitting there, all excited and calm...and then I watched Andrew and his tandem partner jump heart sank.
The nervousness and fright set in.  Then the next guy went...and ohhhhhhh was he scared. It was like putting a cat in the bath tub.  He clawed his way out of that plane...attempting to grab at anything he could to stop his tandem partner from throwing him out the plane.  His guide didn't care....and off they went! Then it was my turn...the guy must be really used to people freaking out because he just pushed me right to that edge. I was so nervous. I looked down and there went my heart again, right in to my stomach.  And then one, two, three! Off we went! I was screaming like a bat outta hell! It was SO INSANE! And SO AWESOME!!! The free-fall was only a few seconds...I think like 60 seconds maybe...but oh my goodness was it a rush.  Once he pulled the shoot it was just a float down to the bottom. Very relaxing, and absolutely gorgeous scenery.  So neat.

One of the best experiences and one that I highly recommend to anyone who has considered doing it.

From there we took the bus to Auckland.  With alllll our crazy amounts of luggage.  A lot of lot.  And there we sat at the bus stop for about 2 hours waiting on Karla to get off work and come get us.  Man was it hot...and man was it awkward sitting at a bus stop with enough luggage to live off of for a year.  Karla is one of Andrew's friends from the Polo playing days.  It was so nice of her to let us stay with her and her adorable mother! Once she finally came to get us, we spent the afternoon at their home as Andrew and her reminisced of past times.  Drinking wine on their amazing rooftop deck that looked over the Bay.

I did a bit of work while we were staying with them since Karla had to work during the day as well.  But once she was home we did various things...went and saw her horsey...went on some walks down to the water...went in to town for some sushi.  On that Friday, Andrew and I went in to town ourselves to do some exploring and pick up some souvenirs.  We, of course, missed our bus stop on the way home...and got INCREDIBLY LOST trying to get back. Buses in Auckland are confusing. And apparently we cannot navigate them well.  Oh well. We eventually got back haha. That night we went out with some of Karla's friends downtown.  Very inviting group. We partied all through the night, bar hopping, had a blast! Then once all the bars closed we went through the drive through, while in a taxi, on the way back to the house.  That was a first. The last day we did brunch with some of Karla's friends then went down in to Auckland again for 'the best' ice cream later in the afternoon.  It was pretty good...Our flight went out that after ice cream Karla took us over the the airport.  It was odd saying goodbye, not knowing when you'll be back again.  Then off we went for the States....on a 13 hr flight.

We flew in to LAX and my cousin Johnny picked us up so that we could have a little celebration on our layover with my California family.  First stop was of course In-N-Out Burger...Andrew's first experience. He was hooked. Stupid that we stopped to eat on our way to dinner but you can't go to LA and not stop at In-n-Out Burger (haha).  Once we arrived at my Uncle Bob's house we had a fantastic dinner and Andrew got to meet a lot of my family for the first time.  Some yummy salmon and salad and wine, great company...Not a bad use of time for a 10 hour layover ;) That evening they took us back to the airport and off we went again.  One last layover in Chicago...and Andrew slept on the floor.  It was cute.  And then home at last in NC.

Overall, an absolutely amazing trip.  We might be ridiculously in debt from it...but it was WELL worth it! I wouldn't trade the experience for anything.  And who that I'm in love with NZ, and engaged to a kiwi, we might be moving there in near future...Talk about a dream come true huh?


The Maori Welcome Dance

So it turns out, I never finished my blog! I got so caught up on being engaged, then hurried off to the North Island (where I had no wifi)....So I figured, hell, why not...I'll finish it off so I have the memories forever in writing ;)

So after getting engaged we went up the next day, Friday, to our last polo match of the trip in Culverden. We drove up in the evening and ended up reaching town (which was a few hours away) around night fall.  We met everyone at the local pub for a drink and then headed out to the house we were staying at.  And on the way...ANDREW AND I GOT PULLED! I was so excited! Neither of us had been drinking and it's kind of just an expectation that you will get pulled when you leave a pub...everyone does...its just a safety thing...but still! It was so exciting! I even asked the cop if I could take a picture of the lights. He laughed. And knew I was foreign...haha. Who cares, I thought it was exciting.

The home we stayed at was one of the family friends and it was on this lovely farm, situated just high enough up on to the top of this tiny hill.  It made all the difference.  The view from the house was spectacular. You could look out and see the whole property. Quite neat. The next day was the first round of polo matches.  The day wasn't anything too exciting...but we had some lovely weather and got to go to a barbecue at the end of the game. That was fun! And the stars were out and absolutely beautiful.  I wish I could have been able to get a shot of the stars. They are something out of this world.  I never knew there were so many! And I'm a country girl! You can actually see the milky way! An amazing sight to see...

The next morning we said our goodbye's and headed off to Christchurch to fly out to Auckland.  In Auckland we were picked up by Andrew's bestest friend in the whole wide world...Harley. Oh how I loved Harley.  Such a character.  He comes in to the airport with his crazy dreadlocks and bare feet.  So funny!

He took us up to his home up in Whangarei where we met his lovely girlfriend Courtney.  I can't remember all of the details of what we did, but I do remember that on that first day we got to meet his two sons, William and Xander...adorable.  Andrew is their Godfather.  And William sure did know it!  As we were sitting outside on the porch we heard him come in the front door...Harley asked "Do you know who's here?" And William said, "Yeah! My Godfather!" and he raaaannnnnnnnn out to go say hi to Andrew.  SO FREAKING ADORABLE! I melted.  Andrew is quite awkward around them...Xander in particular...he said its because he doesn't want to break the baby.  I guess I can see that...haha. Still awkward.

Then, that next day (or maybe it was the same day I cant remember), we got to go on a beach trip! Up to Whale Bay.  Absolutely freaking gorgeous! The pictures say it all...and I saw my first nudist!! So funny...we walked away from all of the crowded area, tried to get to a little cove for just us...and we ran in to some people who had the sammmmeeee idea.  I'm sitting there...staring off in to the ocean...and I notice a guy walking out in to the water...annnnnddddddd I see his naked butt...I was like waiiiiittttt a minute. Is he? YEP! He's naked! I couldn't stop giggling. I'm such a little girl.

The boys proceeded to dig holes and play around as Courtney and I laid on the beach reading and soaking up the sun.  Then we went and had a small hike over to a beautiful look out.  And had a photo shoot.  Acting like a bunch of goobs. Then we drove back in to town, with a stop to get some ice cream at a local dairy.  Popsicles for all!  And then took the curvy drive home, jamming to Cherry Oh Baby - Ub40 ... "Yayeeyayeeyayeeyayeeyayyay" ...Great day.

No, we aren't in a gang...haha
That night (and some the night before) we got to meet all of Harleys fantastic friends.  Loved that!! And they did a Maori welcome dance for us! I mean...well...Zak did a Maori welcome dance...the rest...well...participated. I have it recorded somewhere....Great fun. We laughed and laughed and stayed up wayyyy past bed time haha.

The next day Andrew and I went off on our own for a little waterfall walk/hike.  Beautiful spot and a great time to just relax and have some alone time.  Not that we don't love all of our company.  And trust me, I adore the NZ company.  The waterfall was gorgeous...a  bit touristy...but the walk after that was nice and calming.  On the way through the forest walk we saw some AMAZING Kauri trees.  They're HUGE and take something like 1000 years to grow full size. Gorgeous trees...going extinct...obviously when they take 1000 years to grow.  I got to hug one :) I feel special.

On the way out of the forest...we got chased by chickens! Yeah...chickens. Just chillin in this forest. Chasing people away from the Kauri trees. It was hilarious! We were walking and all the sudden we heard this rustling behind us.  I looked and there were like 3-5 we started picking up the pace. They went faster. So we started running...and they chased us! It was so funny! We lauuughhhed and laughed. And then got lost. Sort of. We were waiting for Courtney to call us and tell us she was going to pick us up. So we decided, we'll walk towards town.  We obviously had no idea where we were going. We walked and walked and walked. I got pissier and pissier (haha)...then we finally hit town. And as it turns out, found the best fish n chips spot in town, right next to the salon that Courtney worked at! Funny.

Overall we had a fantastic time in Whangarei...can't wait to see all of our new (and old) friends again! After Whangarei, Harley drove us down to Auckland...the 'big city' of New Zealand, where we jumped out of a plane... ;)

Friday, January 4, 2013

Engaged on a Mountain Top in New Zealand!

So today...I got engaged :)

It all started in the morning when my meetings were canceled and it was a lovely sunny day.  Andrew decided that today was the day that we would hike up Little Mount Peel.  He grew up on his grandfathers farm below the mountain.  On the drive he talked about his family and growing up there...very cute.  We stopped at the info hut and decided what trail to take...on average...A 3 HOUR UP AND 3 HOUR DOWN HIKE. Kill me.  So off we went on the was absolutely beautiful...hiking through the trees...and in the mudd.  My hiking boots sure did get some use.  We were behind a couple as we were walking...and then met them again at a hugeeee puddle blocking the trail.  They had decided to give up.  We decided to march through the brush and make it work.  Didn't get wet at all ;) So up and up we climbed....Andrew promised I would 'set the pace' so he let me walk in front. And stop every 5 minutes. I am so not in shape...

At about half way, maybe a little less, the tree's cleared and we were in a bunch of brush.  Eventually getting lower and lower until it was just views all around us as we hiked on the ridge.  So cool.  This is a picture of where we were heading from the half-way point.  I thought he was kidding when he said "that's where we're going"...he wasn't.  So after the many times of stopping, we ran in to a group of dads with their kids.  It was then that I decided if kids can make it, I can make it.

We were (as Andrew says it) a "stones throw away" and I almost gave up.  I could feel my body getting super angry at me...getting light headed.  So we took a break for a bit, ate some granola bars, and kept on trekking up the ridiculously steep hill.

We finally got to the top and it was beautiful.  You could see all of the mountains and all the way to the ocean.   I had to sit and catch my breath...felt like I was dying.  And then Andrew says this is it...this is where I'm from, and this is all that I am...and he asked me to stand up.  Then he got down on one knee.  I literally answered him yes, no, yes, no, really? YES!  I'm a mess...I couldn't believe it was actually happening :) He gave me his grandmothers ring...she lent it to us until we could find one that we both liked, that is ours.  Its so gorgeous...and as everyone noticed, kind of looks like a NZ appropriate ;)

And to top it all off THE TOP HAS WATER! I was so excited about the water bottle was just about empty and we still had a 3 hour hike down.  My mom laughed when I called and told her, saying "It's a good thing you said yes or that would have been a horrible hike back" kidding haha. So we stayed at the top for a while...signed the guest book that is in the cabin at the top.  Sat around and took it all in for a bit...watched the lucky lady bugs crawl around (Andrew said he saw a few on the hike up and hoped it was luck haha). Then we hiked back down so we could make it for dinner...which is much nicer hike than up.

On the way down we had silly conversations of wedding colors and who we want in our bridal party...where will we have the wedding...when will we have the wedding.  So many things go in to these things!  Definitely made time fly!

Once we were allllmost at the bottom it started to we started to pick up the pace...and then it rained we picked up the pace even more...and then the rain turned to sleet! So we started to run! It was so cold! And all around us there wasn't a cloud in sight...except for right over our mountain.  So crazy! And such a mess! But so much fun running through the rain and the mud back to the car...then off we went to find some celebration beer.  Some of that Apricot Wheat beer...which is a pain in the butt to find.  It would be that our favorite beer on the island is the most difficult to find...but we found it ;)

Overall a fantastic day, fantastic moment, and I will never forget it for as long as I live...I am

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Best Fish N Chips EVER!

The morning of the 1st we headed off to Greymouth.  It's located on the west side of the South Island and has more mountains running in to the ocean but with a lot more native forest and RAIN.  The drive was through the middle of the country for half, quite with sprinkles of rain off and on, nothing too exciting...except for the gigantic deer on the deer farms! So cool! We had to stop and grab a photo there...then we finally hit the coast...
The wind and the rained picked up and it was chiiiillllyyyy! The waves crashed high against the cliffs. Absolutely beautiful! We took our first stop at Punakaiki's famous Pancake Rocks, a natural wonder of the world.  The pancake rocks are a heavily eroded limestone area where the sea bursts through several vertical blowholes during high tides.  They had a nice little walk through the rocks and we were able to see the awesome blowholes and all of the different formations of the layered rocks.  We even got one filming of the blowholes on camera...I need to remember to load that up.  It was such a beautiful place...freezing...but beautiful.

We arrived in the town of Greymouth around 5pm or so.  We stayed at this little adorable hostel right in town called Duke Hostel.  The people that ran it were SOOOO NICE! We asked them what to do for the evening and they said the best touristy spot for a night is Monteiths Brewery.  So we went over to Monteiths to do a tour and taste some lovely beers.  BEST BEER EVER! The tour was very informative...they no longer brew their main things there, they were bought out and brew up in the North Island now.  But they do still brew craft beers :) Like their apricot wheat beer! Amazing.  Oh man.

After Monteiths...drinking our fair share of free beers...we headed to a fish-n-chips shop that the hostel owners recommended.  She said that she doesn't eat fish-n-chips much but she heard it was the best local place...not touristy.  And boy was she right! It was by far the best little take-away fish-n-chips I have had in my life.  I will be craving them for years to come.  Drizzled with chicken salt.  Oh my...oh my...She even wrapped it up in newspaper! I think it was the cheapest meal we had in NZ too...only $14 for fish, a HUGE scoop of chips, and two jelly donut thingys.  We had enough for Andrew and I to be stuffed AND have some for breakfast! So amazing...worth the trip, in itself.

The next morning we woke up to a storm of rain....bad rain...sounding like waves on my window rain.  So we slept in a bit, hoping it would pass...11am came around and still there.  So we decided instead of doing some local hiking (as planned) we would take Arthurs Pass back home and stop along the way there, rain or shine.  So we went to fill up at a gas station and LUCKILY a woman asked where we were headed...turns out Arthurs Pass was closed because of the rain.  We would have got all the way there and had to turn around...there are only 2 passes that go through this part of NZ...Arthurs and Lewis Pass...Lewis was how we got instead of seeing a lovely new place, back through Lewis we went.  Boo.  It rained all the way through the mountains, back through the pass until we got on the other side of the mountains to Hanmer Springs where we had some lunch.

After lunch the rain started chasing us so we ran back to the car and home to Ashburton.  Overall a fantastic trip and drive.  Seeing more and more of NZ then I had ever expected!! These next few days are scheduled for work, and a trip up Mount Peel...where Andrew's grandfathers used to have a farm :)

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Kayaks and Head Banging

We left to head towards Motueka on the 30th.  We planned to drive up about 6 hours to Motueka and then camp 2 nights. While there we were going to do a big kayaking trip and didn't have much else planned. Then on the 1st we planned to drive back down and along the west coast to see a wonder of the world, Pancake Rocks, and stay for the night in Greymouth. In Greymouth we didn't have much planned except our hostel and maybe a Monteiths Brewery tour.  On the 2nd we would head home through the mountains through Arthurs Pass.  Along the way we wanted to stop there and do a waterfall hike and then stop at Castle Hill (where some of Lord of the Rings was filmed!!!) and check out the boulders before we headed home.

The normal drive up was via the east coast of NZ. But we decided to do a different route and go up through the middle of NZ through the mountains because Andrew had never done that drive.  So off we went in to the mountains. It wasn't till we hit the mountains that we remembered the weather forecast and started to regret our decision.  Sunny on the east coast...rain in the mountains. Not sure what we were thinking. It was still absolutely beautiful though! We stopped for lunch at Mangarata (I think) and had some 'rubbish fish and chips' as Andrew said...but on the plus side...I did find an Andrew coke :)

After lunch we continued on until we hit Motueka around 5 or 6pm.  Its a small town, close to the coast.  We were staying at Fernwood Holiday Park. Cute little campsite with very nice people running it.  We parked at our spot and started setting up our site. We had a horrible tent...and horrible NEW air mattress that deflated on us...and barely fit in our little tent. But we really didnt care too much. Well, Andrew did get very angry at the tent poles. Scared the neighbors. But whatever, we got it up haha.  After setting up the tent we went to the grocery store for some food for the night and for breakfast the next day.  We ended up with local beer, Mac's, some granola bars, some chips and my craving of the night, salami and cheese. I think I was needing it because its our Hofland tradition to have pea soup and good cold cuts for dinner Christmas I had to go at least half way and get the cold cuts ;) After that we walked to the beach where there wasn't really a beach...but there was a neat pool that was made with sea water in it. Interesting. Then we walked back, ate some salami and cheese, drank a few beers and went to bed.

The next morning was an early one.  We got up around 7am to catch our 8am bus to Marahau where we were going to kayak with Abel Tasman Kayaking. We got the "Soul Food" trip...4 hours of kayaking with lunch and a guide and what turned out to be pretty nice weather! We started by going up towards Fishermans Island, skimming the coast.  Then we cut over to Adele Island, a natural reserve for bird wildlife :) They even used to have kiwi birds there for a while, putting them there to help them survive in the wild without predictors to attack them.  The kiwi bird is native to NZ, but when the Maori and English came over and brought predators and burnt down forests, they started to become extinct because over time, the kiwi birds lost their ability to fly because they didn't need to escape anything.  NZ was a predator free island with mostly birds.   Now there aren't any officially wild kiwi birds...they are working hard to bring back the population of them though as best they can.  It's just hard when they don't have many natural defenses anymore.

We stopped on Adele Island for a little break and ended up losing one of our dutch (way to represent goon) trip goers to the wild bush..he went off on a hike through unmarked woods, got lost, and held us alllll up. Rude. BUT...if he wouldn't have held us up we would have never seen the baby seal over in the rocks! Andrew heard it and so we went over to see what it was...the cutest seal popped its head out to see us! ADORABLE! I melted. It was cryiiing and crying for its mom. It was all alone. The guide didn't seem worried so we weren't either.  The next stop was Watering Cove for lunch (picture above of us in our snazzy kayaking outfits). We had lamb tortillas with potato salad and chocolate cake for dessert :) Not bad! We hung out, re-grouped and then off we went back around the outside of Adele Island.

After we got around our guide decided that since we were super quick on our first half of the trip, we would lollygag a bit before heading back. When we finally decided to head back the wind and weather took a turn. The wind went in the opposite direction of us, kicking big waves in our faces. It was so difficult to paddle! I was soaked! And couldnt see...yay contacts. I was miserable. Thank God we made it.  I almost gave up haha. And almost killed Andrew in the process for not paddling in sync with me...grr. But we made it to the end, covered in water and mostly salt.

We bused back to the campite and took a nice 50c hot shower and decided to go out with Andrew's sister, who happened to be in town for a New Years Eve rock concert by Shihad (and various other artists I've also never heard of).  We figured, its better then nothing, and tagged along. Wasn't my typical concert. But it was a lot of fun pretending to be an avid headbanger ;) New Years hit and the concert pretty much ended. We were back in our beds for a much needed rest after the long day we had...and our air mattress didn't deflate tooooo bad.

Happy 2013! Next trip was to Greymouth...