Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Auckland in the Springtime

Greetings from beautiful New Zealand! Spring has sprung in the Southern Hemisphere and we are now heading into summer. I have just entered my 3rd trimester (woot woot!) and Hazel is going to be 2 next month. Where does the time go? And to boot, this week marks my 3 (gasp!) year anniversary in Auckland. Holy guacamole. 

Thankfully I've been blessed with another good pregnancy. Of course it's not without its hormone surges, back aches, and high level of ice cream consumption. I am growing another human for goodness sake and it can't live on lettuce alone. As much as life continues on as normal, pregnancy does change things.

We had bought concert tickets a while ago for a show at Town Hall, a venue I was looking forward to checking out, not to mention the great seats we had and the 8pm show start time. But then I got an email which might as well have been titled: Pregnant Woman's Worst Nightmare because it said 1. the location had been changed to a standing room only venue and 2. the artist wasn't coming on until 10:15pm. What were they going to tell me next, bathrooms were an additional charge, off sight and port a potty inspired?

It took me about 24 hours of trying to convince myself that I could make this fun and that I wasn't dead yet just pregnant before I was on the phone pleading my case with Ticketmaster - "Please don't make me do this! This is not what I signed up for! I can't be that far from my bed after 9 at night!" Of course all this translated in a warm, but professional I mean business sort of way. When the door to the concert closes, one to your couch opens. Shockingly Ticketmaster had mercy on my pregnant soul and refunded us our money.

Good thing since I recently paid $2.50 for a lime. A single lime. You would have thought at that price it would at least come with a Corona. Three years in and I still get sticker shock periodically. Good thing my American friend Alicia came over from Melbourne to visit me back in October. We could reminisce in person about our days in college and what it was like to pay a normal price for produce. Alicia and I have been friends for years and since she now lives in the Southern Hemisphere we are one of each others only friends that really can just come over for a weekend, something you treasure  being this far away. It was awesome to have her here.

In other news, I've been volunteering with an organization called Thrive, co-facilitating a teen mother's group out in Henderson. Ever since having Hazel, single parents and teen parents have been heavy on my mind and heart. It was quite a small group and seeing these young girls with their babies was quite inspiring. And unexpectedly, made me really excited for our own 2nd one because man they are so little and so cute and getting to cuddle newborns once a week is pretty sweet.

It was an interesting experience and nice to do something semi-professional. When I was pregnant with Hazel I knew my life would change, but only in an abstract way because you can't really know to what extent until you go through it. So this time I'm aware of some of the changes coming my way and feel a sense of urgency to live life to the fullest, minus late night concerts of course. My vision for my current life does not include what happened to me last week though.

Picture it. Auckland 2014. It's a rainy Monday morning and Hazel and I are heading to her little gym class (Olympics 2036 watch out!) and I grab my raincoat as I head out. Now I haven't worn this coat in forever, but it was hanging up in my closet which indicated to me a level of ready to wearness that I don't expect from the pile on my floor where I usually get most of my clothes from. So I put the raincoat on and head out. We get to class and after putting my bag down I take the hood down and raincoat off, but still feel something on my head. Strange I think so I reach up so investigate this phantom hood and from the top of my head I pull off a pair of underwear. I wish I made this story up for entertainment purposes only, but alas this is my actual life. I urge you, please check your raincoat for underwear so that you too don't end up a victim like me.

When I'm not embarrassing myself in public, this is what else we've been up to the past few months. Since my life revolves around my child the following will be copious pictures of her.

Ooh first I almost forgot - Halloween. Kiwis forgot it permanently up until a few years ago. It's really just taking off here so everyone that is our age didn't grown up trick or treating. Now those people have kids and it's starting to become more popular so they are trying to figure out what this holiday is all about. We didn't see any pumpkins or house decorations,  just a handful of people dressed up.

I really wasn't expecting anyone, so much so that when two teenage-ish boys came to the door in grim reaper masks I was certain death truly was knocking and it was my time to go. I quickly recovered and thankfully had some mini Snickers on hand to throw their way.

We ended up taking Hazel to a few houses in our neighborhood and I gotta say she loved it, but what's not to love about strangers and candy? And Strangers with Candy (1999-2000) for that matter, I mean how great is Amy Sedaris. Maybe I'll be Jerri Blank one year. Anyway, back to our life lately...

Butterfly Creek:

Hitting the local trails:

Exploring new playgrounds:

MOTAT (Museum of Transport and Technology):

Trips to the beach:

Whangaparoa Railway:

Practicing up for her new role:

Hazel 23 Months:

Monday, 3 November 2014

G'day Mate: A Long Weekend in Sydney

As I was standing in front of the Sydney Opera House, I was thinking this has to be one of the most recognizable landmarks in the world. It's iconic really and quite remarkable in person. As much as I love finding those hidden gems when travelling, it's so exhilarating to see something in the flesh that you have seen so many times in pictures alone.

Sydney is a beautiful city. It was recently Labour Day here in New Zealand so we decided to take advantage of the long weekend and head to someplace we'd never been before. Sydney is 3 hours and change from Auckland.

Hazel loves the airport and we love the fact that the Air New Zealand lounge has a kids room. This thing is priceless, especially when travelling internationally and you have those two hours to kill before your flight.

It also meant I could eat my Krispy Kreme donuts in peace. I was beyond excited to stumble upon the famous doughnut maker in the Sydney airport. I did pay an exorbitant $2.50 for each original glazed. Back when I was a kid you use to be able to get a whole dozen for $3.99. I can almost see the Hot Doughnuts sign flashing after church now...

Sydney, besides being one of the most expensive cities in the world and the place where Michael Hutchence of INXS died, is full of nice beaches, great shopping, and lovely restaurants with sweeping water views everywhere you turn. At least that's what it felt like, I mean even the zoo had amazing views.

The animals were pretty cool too.
You take a ferry to get there!

I love a good boat ride, to me it makes everything more magical. If only the dentist and DMV were accessible by boat only, how our world might be different.

It's a very easy city to get around with good public transportation and since we were staying downtown we didn't need a car. We walked A LOT.

Opera House check.

Botanical Gardens check (did you know Kiwis don't say check, they say tic?)

Bondi Beach check.

The weekend we were there they were having their Sculpture by the Sea exhibit so we did a cliff walk from Bondi to Tamarama to take it all in. The views were stunning.

But as they say here in NZ it was chock-a-block, just so many people. Apparently cool sculptures and dramatic ocean views appeal to others besides Adam and me. After almost 3 years in NZ, I gotta say my crowd limits have decreased dramatically. I've gotten so use to living in a place that is underpopulated that when I go to bigger places or events it's often too much (that's code for I get easily irritated). Despite the number of people it was still worth it as the scenery was really spectacular and the company wasn't half bad.

And we always had our hotel to return to, to recharge and relax. Although there was that one time when Hazel and I were in the elevator and I got off and she didn't. As in, our not even two-year-old was riding in the hotel elevator totally alone. It happened very fast and I attempted to used my pregnant superwoman strength to stop the doors from closing, but couldn't do it. FYI, this does not bode well for Hazel if she ever gets trapped under a car. So yes the doors closed and Hazel was on one side and I was on the other. Adam happened to be out getting us lunch during this time. I alerted the hotel staff and they got security on it and assured me that there was people on every floor looking for her.

After an exciting ten minutes, I returned to the lobby to find Hazel in the arms of a very nice housekeeper. She seemed to think it was all fun and games and was laughing and smiling when she saw me. She got off on the 6th floor (I had originally gotten off on the 12th floor where our room was) as I'm sure that's one of the only buttons she could reach. Oh sweet Hazel. It gave me such a fright and I was so relieved when I saw here. Shortly after we returned to our room there was a knock at the door and the manager had sent up chamomile tea and fancy bottles of water. Que Iggy Azalea {I'm so fancy I loose my kid in the elevator and get free tea}. Never a dull moment in the hotel world.

In fact, the day before I was at the bar getting my water bottle refilled before heading out for the day and the guy next to me was waiting for his coffee and after being faced with the harsh reality of his coffee 1. not coming in a takeaway cup and 2. having too much milk in it, he actually yelled "f*ck you" at an employee. I mean can you imagine?! What is wrong with people. Well I am a therapist so I can actually answer that, but c'mon. Cringe.

But back to our non hotel adventures. Sydney had tons of kid friendly stuff to do. We took a gorgeous boat ride through Darling Harbour that went under the actual bridge. That was really cool.

Hazel loved the playground at Darling Quarter.

Even warm enough for some water play!

Another day we strolled through some local neighborhoods - Kings Crossing. Darlinghurst, Potts Point ( I couldn't help but be reminded of Brooklyn) with a fantastic gelato stop at Messina. We stumbled upon the Night Noodle Markets in Hyde Park.

Sydney is a great city and one that I would love to return to one day. Perhaps with this guy*?

*I will take this time to thank the man behind most any of the good pictures on this blog. He's way better at taking pictures then I am so thank you Adam Wolf.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Great Barrier Reef: 5 Child-Free Days in Port Douglas, Australia

" You don't have to die to be in Heaven." That was the tagline of the resort we stayed in on our recent trip to the Great Barrier Reef.

I should have know it was going to be a good trip when I was crying tears of joy before we even left the Auckland Airport. That's apparently what happens when you send me on my first child-free vacation ever, well you know since having a child. Man I love that girl, but whew the time had come to have more then a few hours of adult time. Like I might want to get crazy and shower and use the bathroom alone in the same day. I became overwhelmed with joy after we checked our bags that I didn't physically have to carry anything. That combined with wearing white jeans without fear was enough to bring a tear to my eye. Despite being pregnant I had never felt lighter.

Here's the thing about having a kid, your standards for what can bring you happiness drop immensely, in a really good way. All the sudden that boring cup of coffee pre kids is elevated to a magical moment when you actually get to sit down and enjoy it. We were in the Koru Club before our flight and I order a flat white and well it wasn't that great. No problem! I ordered another one and happily stood there for another five minutes waiting for perfection, because I could. Because I was only responsible for myself and it was amazing!!

The Great Barrier Reef was on our bucket list and it did not disappoint. The Mai Tai Resort in Port Douglas was a indeed a little slice of heaven. Since we weren't bringing Hazel I certainly didn't want to be subject to any other little rug rats on our precious grown ups trip, which is why we chose a place that didn't allow children. When I was telling my father-in-law about our adults only retreat I quickly realized it sounded more like ADULTS only and the vacation version of the back room in the video store. Glad we cleared that one up.

We were served breakfast every morning outside and the view was incredible.

The pool was not too shabby either.

Port Douglas in a resort town an hour away from Cairns, Australia, the main hub for the region and the place you fly in to. It's a beautiful, easy drive along the coast.

The main beach in town is 4 Mile Beach. As far as beaches go it is pretty sweet. Wide and beautiful, and a great place to spend the day.

We got a tip from a local to go the opposite end of beach from where the tourists go and that made for a truly relaxing experience. The view from the Lookout:

One of the best things about Port Douglas is Shakes Gelati. I should know as I went there every single day. And one time twice in one day. De-lish. Ice cream on vacation just taste better, doesn't it?

Gelato aside, the main reason we were there was to snorkel in the Great Barrier Reef.

 It was truly spectacular. The reef was unlike anything I've ever seen. I didn't know what to expect, but a boat takes you about an hour and a half out and on the surface it looks like you are just being dropped in a random spot in the middle of the ocean.

Once you are in the water, though, you look down and see the magical world below. It is one of the coolest things I've ever seen or done.

For me it's the most unbelievable peace combined with an element of terror of what could be around the next corner. What everyone looks for in a holiday I know.  And yes, we saw a freaking shark. I was assured if we did see one it would just be a reef shark and it would not be interested in us. That sounded reasonable and reassuring when I was on the boat, but when I was actually in the water and saw one I was less convinced. I swam away from it and Adam swam towards it. The fish and the colors are just spectacular. We went to three different snorkel spots, all really great.

We also did a day exploring the Daintree Rainforest, the oldest rainforest in the world. I had high hopes as what doesn't sound amazing about the oldest rainforest in the world, but ehh to me it just felt like a forest. Perhaps if you had just gotten out of prison it would be awe inspiring, as fresh air and green trees can be quite exhilarating. We did this tour and the guide kept telling us to keep a lookout for the elusive cassowary, a flightless bird that looks like this:

I've never looked so hard for a bird I'd never heard of or cared about. Our tour also included a "crocodile cruise" down the Daintree River in which we saw not a single croc. HA! We did get to go to a secret spot with some pretty waterfalls and gigantic eels. Adam and I apparently are the only two out of 538 people on TripAdvisor who didn't think the whole Daintree stuff was amazing. Well, may a cassowary cross our paths when we least expect it.

Overall it was such a relaxing, fun trip. Hazel was a superstar and I was so excited to see her when we got back. It wouldn't have been possible though without the help of the grandparents. Adam's Dad and stepmom, Lois, came to visit us in September and Lois was kind enough to stay on an extra week and take care of Hazel while we went away. Thanks Grandma Lolo!

 To many more child-free holidays....