30 December 2013

And that's how we rolled....for Christmas

Christmas already feels like a lifetime ago and yet it was only five days - how is that even possible?! We always have such a great family time at Nana and Poppa's and spent more time with my brother Sam and his partner Alesha this year than we have in other years which meant the world to us too.

Christmas really felt like it started early on Christmas Eve for us as we headed into Hamilton to have dinner at Sam and Alesha's new place. They've bought a place near the river and it was built to look like a tennis court pavilion. When they bought the place, the tennis court was in rack and ruin, so they have lovingly restored it over the past couple of months, and now I think you could just about host Wimbledon here (I joke but it looks pretty awesome!)

We all brought our trainers (sneakers) and before long everyone was out on the court taking turns playing doubles. There were a few heavenly wayward shots by the boys - Noah managed to lose at least 2 balls over into the neighbours but also managed a rather lucky shot when one ball landed on the neighbour's roof, bounced off and back over our side straight back onto the court and into play again. 

Then there was another shot that clean cleared the fence and out onto the road but luckily we managed to retrieve that too. I'd forgotten how much I enjoy tennis and I really loved having a run around. Mylo in particular was impressive in his first ever tennis experience - both in his ability to hold the racquet that was nearly as big as him and both serve and return the ball over the net with great gusto. Natural born sportsman that one!

Sam and Alesha were saying how they are often out here till late in the evening playing under the lights - I can imagine it's a great stress release after a hard day running the bike shops and teaching little whippersnappers in the classroom.

We were reluctant to leave we were having so much fun, but we'd also promised the boys a trip to see the Christmas lights around Hamilton and as the night closed in we went on our way.

I could not BELIEVE the number of people who had the same idea as us driving into Harrowfield Drive (the street in the city that's most famous for lights). Almost every house was impressively decked out but it was almost a bit too much to take in what with all the people slowly driving by in cars and walking along the street.

I much more enjoyed our trek over to the other side of town to see a house in Baverstock Road where a young guy had synchronised the lights of this house to 8 different songs including Avici and Katy Perry. It even made it into the news here - and it was definitely worth getting out of the car to watch at least a couple of the songs. 

We arrived home and put two little tired boys to bed at nearly 10pm - they were even too tired to put out beer and carrots for Santa and the reindeer but we promised them we would do it on their behalf before we went off to bed ourselves.

Despite the late night they'd had, two bouncing bodies were in our room at 6:30am excitedly exclaiming that Santa had certainly been. They also found the note that Eddy had left them before returning to the North Pole with Santa and so were sent around the living room hunting for their magical elves popping candy. Then we jumped back into bed together to open one present and read together - I so loved being able to support special friends who have self-published their stories this year - An Unexpected Christmas (by Simone Graham) and The Little Tree (by Sarah Gauntlett) - it was such a lovely way to start the morning together reading in bed. 

I then got my very own Unexpected Christmas surprise when I picked my phone up at 7am and saw a tweet from Kristy at Paisley Jade in my emails. Her tweet said that my Christmas present was on her blog, and in my slightly dazed Christmas morning haze I wondered 'hmm what giveaway did I enter that I've won', so I clicked on through to the blog post and got the surprise of my life!

My lovely (and totally sneaky) hubby had cooked up a plan with Kristy a few weeks before Christmas to write a guest post on her blog as a Christmas present to me. To say I was blown away was a bit of an understatement - I had absolutely no idea what was going on to start with and for the first paragraph or so I read not really comprehending. Once I actually had it figured out I lay in bed reading his words through increasingly watery eyes, in awe of the time and effort that had gone into this beautifully composed and utterly unique Christmas gift. It was a completely surreal feeling for me (usually the one doing all the writing) to read such heartfelt words that he'd been willing to share with the whole world. 

And I also couldn't believe the incredible timing, the words tying in so aptly a mere couple of days after I'd finished writing about the time in my life before I met Mark in my teenage letters series. It was such a wonderful surprise and it left me on a total high for the rest of the day. You can read my whole gift in his post here. And thank you to Kristy for being such a willing collaborator to allow it to actually happen!

After breakfast, we opened our presents before Poppa had to go out in his shuttle to the airport to meet one of the morning flights (the joys of being on duty on Christmas Day). I can now actually share the photos that I put together as presents for the family because everyone has now been given their various photos in frames and canvases. I'd set up the tripod a few weeks back and managed to coax the family into posing for a few shots - I was pretty pleased with how they turned out - nice not to have to pay for a professional family studio photo!

On Christmas morning, it's become somewhat of a tradition that I make mulled wine in my PJ's - the only thing different this year was that I tried out my new apron as well as the PJ's. And yes that is my pre-shower, no make-up and hair in need of a wash look....I must have been feeling brave to let this one be taken!

Christmas Day always seems to follow a lovely meandering routine after this, later in the morning we open our Christmas crackers from Nana - these are always filled with fun gifts, sweet treats and often a new decoration for the tree if we're lucky.

The kids are then kept happily entertained all day with their new toys (in this case a knights outfit, an old fashioned pop-gun and fedora and walkie-talkies - which made for great hide-n-seek games all around Nana and Poppa's massive garden.

Hubby makes freshly baked bread - this year trying out a new recipe.

Two litres of mulled wine seems to go down the hatch very easily throughout the course of the day.

There is always lots of chocolate consumed and even more gets sneaked when they think no-one is looking.

You can always find someone (even more likely to be someone who's had a few mulled wines) willing to don a Santa hat at some point during the day.

This year's new tradition was a game of yard cricket as a post-dinner exercise since the boys got a cricket set as a joint present this year. I can see this is going to become our favourite way to make use of the fading light to end a glorious day.

And once the kids are in bed there's always a hard fought game of Settlers of Catan for the adults to battle over while more chocolates and beverages are consumed.

We wouldn't have our Christmas any other way....over the past few years we've built up some wonderful family traditions which we wouldn't be without...it's how we roll and we love it.

27 December 2013

Things I'm Loving: Road trips, Cool chicks, Pedal power and Traditions

I wholeheartedly believe that no matter what is happening in your life, there is always something you can be thankful for..no matter how simple it is.

A quick trip is a good trip

The thought of a seven hour journey up the country used to fill me with dread when the kids were younger. These days it's a breeze. A quick loo stop at Mangaweka gave us our first chance (after driving this way every year) to jump in the old DC-3 plane on the side of the road and take a peek inside. A gorgeous cloudless sky made for an impressive view of Mt Ruapehu on the journey through the centre of the island. And a quick trip to Macca's in Otorohanga satisfied the hungry troops - this was a bit of a treat for Noah after his amazing school report. I was really hoping to try Georgie Pie for the first time since its big comeback but no such luck as they had no pies cooked (slackers!) so I guess we'll have to save that for another day! And then we were back on the road, by 1.15pm we were driving up Nana and Poppa's driveway and exhaling with the thought that now the holiday could really begin.

Arriving to a juicy roast chicken dinner and a glass of Lindauer Fraise. 
It was just the welcome we needed

Two pooped people after the trip north - and yussss we made it to the end of a long year!

Cool chicks and candy canes

I was so blessed to have the opportunity to meet up with 3 totally delightful ladies last weekend - Cait, Leonie and Dee - despite having been bloggy friends for a few years, I'd never actually met Dee before in real life so I was pretty excited about that! Our get-together included the gaggle of kids that goes with four families all pitching up for the afternoon - and not all the kids were actually there either! We met up at Cait's place which backs onto the gorgeous Taitua Arboretum - you can read about our fun walk in the woods at the Arboretum two summers ago here: if you go down to the woods today. Cait kindly crazily agreed to host us all for the afternoon and the kids had a ball doing a candy cane treasure hunt that her oldest two boys had arranged down on the edge of the arboretum. After some afternoon tea for the hungry hunters, most of the kids jumped in the pool and created merry havoc while we stood around chatting in the glorious Waikato sunshine.

Kids lining up to hear the rules of the treasure hunt

 The spoils

Fun in the pool

Had to actually pinch myself to believe I was hanging out with these lovely ladies: 
From left Dee, Leonie, Cait and moi!

Pedal power

Mark, with his fantastic packing skills, somehow managed to fit both the boys bikes into the car along with clothes for all four of us for 10 days as well as all the Chrissy presents (I knew there was a reason why I married that man!). We always take the opportunity to encourage as much practice as we can with the kids' biking whilst we have the luxury of the long flat roads around Matangi where Nana and Poppa live, as there's not a whole lot of opportunity for riding around our hilly neighbourhood in Wellington that's for sure. When Noah got his new 20" bike for his birthday we figured it must be about time for Mylo to move up from the running bike to Noah's old bike with the training wheels back on. We took both the boys down to Karori Park at the end of winter but it was nothing short of a dismal failure, and Mylo had pretty much refused to even consider the possibility of going on it ever since.

But we pushed the point by only bringing the pedal bike and encouraging him to get on and out for a ride the first afternoon we got here. By the end of the first session, he didn't really need the hand at the back. By the second session, he was riding along happily on his own, and by the third session we were running to keep up with him. It has made my heart swell to see the two boys biking along together chatting merrily away.


If there's one thing that's a guarantee with our Christmas holiday, it's a pilgrimage to the beautiful themed gardens in Hamilton. I think we have been every single year we've been coming to Nana and Poppa's for Christmas, and we have so many lovely memories of seeing the kids growing year by year on our various excursions.

I think it's obvious from these pictures that this trip has been just the right mix of fun adventures and relaxation we desperately needed. And this was only the first three days!

How have your holidays been so far? Totally chilled and relaxing or full of adventure and fun - I hope it's been just the right mix of both!

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