Fall Family Fun

Despite the fact that mother nature still thinks its summer, our little family has been enjoying the various fall offerings around here.  Like every fall, we have attended numerous TCU football games.  It’s been a tough season with ugly wins and even uglier losses but we’ve stuck it out.  Last weekend we took Hannah to the game with us.  She hadn’t been all season and we really weren’t sure how she’d do.  She loved it!  Had fun at the tailgate sitting with the adults, eating junk food and raking in the oohs and aahs.  Then she enjoyed going into the stadium, seeing all the fanfare and cheering on the Horned Frogs.  As any true TCU toddler should be able to do, she said “Go Frogs” “TCU” “football” and “touchdown” quite well!  And she clapped, danced and cheered along with the crowd.

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The Arboretum hosts an amazing pumpkin patch every year complete with pumpkin houses, pumpkin carriages and all sorts of other pumpkin decor.  A few weeks ago, we joined friends for a Sunday morning (along with seemingly half of the metroplex) to see the pumpkin village.  It was a warm but nice day and we had fun taking various photos amongst the pumpkins.  We also took a break to sit and eat snacks including homemade cinnamon rolls and mimosas under the trees.  Despite the crowds we had a great time and hope to make a tradition of it!

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She was pretty upset that a stranger had mommy’s camera and was taking her picture with it :-D

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Hannah has really gotten into pumpkins this fall so on top of the Arboretum we took her to a local pumpkin patch that was full of pumpkins, cutout characters, mazes, bounce houses and more.  She was much more interested in the toys and play structures than the pumpkins.  She even tried out a bounce house for the first time and thought it was pretty cool despite her inability to actually jump. :-)

Playing at the pumpkin patch

Playing at the pumpkin patch

I've got this mom

I’ve got this mom

Bounce house fun

Bounce house fun

Mom and dad even got some quality time with just each other.  We took our first real trip away from Hannah since she was born.  Apparently all our trips prior to this point were with her (or me solo).  We dropped her off with the grandparents and hopped in the car for a roadtrip to the Texas Wine Country.  C’s aunt, uncle and cousins live that direction so we took the opportunity to visit.  The next day we spent time wine tasting a various tasting rooms along the main drag.  It was nice spending time just the two of us.  However, come Sunday afternoon we were so ready to see our munchkin again.

Wine, wine, wine

Wine, wine, wine

Our little picnic snack halfway through our wine adventures

Our little picnic snack halfway through our wine adventures

I kinda like this guy

I kinda like this guy

Last stop of the day - a little something for both of us!

Last stop of the day – a little something for both of us!

We may or may not have stopped at the baby store and bought a new diaper :-)

We may or may not have stopped at the baby store and bought a new diaper :-)

Grabbed cocktails at this super cool place with an amazing patio!

Grabbed cocktails at this super cool place with an amazing patio!

And you can’t celebrate fall without Halloween, right?  Several of our neighbors go all out decorating for Halloween with large inflatables, pumpkins, cutouts, lights…you name it.  So all Hannah has been able to talk about is Halloween!  She finally got to dress up and go trick or treating tonight and really seemed to love it.  However, after several houses she was done and ready to go home.  Then of course, about 5 minutes after being home she was ready to “find” Halloween again.

Our little cheerleader :-D

Our little cheerleader :-D

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She wasn't afraid to go up to doors and say "Happy Halloween!"

She wasn’t afraid to go up to doors and say “Happy Halloween!”

Checking out her loot

Checking out her loot

Of course, fall around here also means a big birthday.  But more on that in a separate post.

Cheers

Anybody Home?

Oh hey!  Anyone still out there reading my tiny corner of the internet?  If not, I wouldn’t blame anyone seeing as it’s been over a YEAR since I’ve blogged.  Yikes!!  I have the usual excuses: work, child, husband, life, lack of motivation, etc.  However, we are coming up on Hannah’s 2nd birthday and I started going back through photos of the last year.  I quickly realized I have TONS of photos but not many documented stories behind them. Sure I remember a lot of the memories just by looking at the pictures, but let’s be honest, that won’t always be the case.  So it’s time to start documenting again and I’m going to do it here.  If you want to follow along – fabulous!  If not, that’s cool too, it’ll serve as my own little journaling space.  :-) It’s getting late at night and I’ve been up since before the sun so I’m not posting anything of substance tonight, but check back in a few days to see what I have come up with.

Cheers!img_0190

From Sydney to Columbus

After we got back from our Australia and New Zealand tour we attempted to settle back into our routine again.  It took about a week of midnight play sessions and zombie-like days for all of us to adjust to the time zone but we managed!  The next big trip on the agenda came in mid-July and was just Hannah and I going to Ohio to visit one of my dearest friends from the TCU days, Emily.

We flew up on a Thursday and Hannah did pretty well.  I had the option to upgrade to a first class seat for a small fee which I decided to take advantage of.  I thought it would be nice to have the space and food seeing as Hannah was traveling as a lap infant.  However, it wasn’t really worth it.  I didn’t get the chance to eat because I was either entertaining her or trying to not wake her up.  I did, however enjoy some nuts and a warm chocolate chip cookie!

Playing in the airport playspace

Playing in the airport playspace – this little girl adored Hannah

Thank God for a carrier and a baby who enjoys being worn! Best travel tool ever!

Thank God for our Boba carrier and a baby who enjoys being worn! Best travel tool ever!

Em has a daughter, Grace, who is a few months older than Hannah and I was so excited for them to see each other again. Our last visit with each other was Emily’s visit when Hannah was only weeks old.  Obviously much had changed in the months since then!  At first Grace wasn’t too sure about this smaller version of herself taking her toys, crawling around her house and stealing her mom’s attention.  By the end of the weekend though she warmed up a bit.

Hannah and Gracie

Hannah and Gracie

Our first day was low key as we had arrived later in the afternoon.  We let the girls play while the mommas caught up on life and gossip.  We stayed up way too late just chatting.  The next morning we planned to have lunch then take the girls to a splash pad.  We hadn’t really planned well and didn’t bring any water friendly clothing or swim diapers.  That didn’t stop us from letting them get into the fountains though!  Grace loved it!  Hannah was pretty excited too, but was a bit hesitant about the water shooting up from the ground.  After the splash pad we headed down the road to COSI which had a great play space for younger kids.  The girls crawled all over sticking various toys in their mouths, nearly avoiding getting trampled by other children, going down slides and various other activities.  They also had a water play area with a few water tables, one specifically for infants.  It was so great watching them explore and have fun.  We may or may not have played a little long distance prank on C involving a fake x-ray and dress up bandages…. 😉

Splash pad fun

Splash pad fun

Gracie loved it!

Gracie loved it!

Hannah took just a little more convincing

Hannah took just a little more convincing

Our little head injury patient

Our little head injury patient at COSI

Fun on the playmats

Fun on the playmats

Water table

Water table

She had to go all the way to Ohio to sit on a saddle for the first time

She had to go all the way to Ohio to sit on a saddle for the first time

Having fun with Ms Gracie

Having fun with Ms Gracie

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After all that excitement we were all pretty tired.  It was a low key night back at the house with takeout food and a rousing game of Phase 10 after the girls were asleep.  Party animals, I know.  However, the next morning we were treated to some delicious homemade cinnamon rolls thanks to Emily’s stepmom (who runs a fabulous bakery out of her home).  We were more than happy to taste test her newest product before it hit store shelves!  We needed full bellies for our afternoon at the neighborhood pool.  Their town has a really neat pool complex with a zero entry pool and play area for younger kids, full lap pool and lazy river plus lots of grassy sitting area and picnic tables.  We spent several hours in and out of the water and we all had a great time.  Hannah crashed when we got back to their house taking a much needed nap.

Takes me back to college

Takes me back to college

Holy deliciousness batman!

Holy deliciousness batman!

Excited for pool time!

Excited for pool time!

She loved the water

She loved the water

Yep, that's my daughter trying to take out one of my best friends' daughter... proud mama here...

Yep, that’s my daughter trying to take out one of my best friends’ daughter… proud mama here…

Love love love

Love love love

See?  They do like each other

See? They do like each other

Em and Gracie

Em and Gracie

This is what exhausted looks like

This is what exhausted looks like

That evening Matt, Emily’s husband, showed off his grilling chops and helped us make a great summertime dinner which we enjoyed on the back patio.  Hannah woke up from her nap in time to enjoy some of my grilled chicken then play with their water table.  After dinner she had her first experience with a swing.  She wasn’t too sure about all of it and whined nervously until we took her out.

Swinging

Swinging

Our final day was spent shopping.  We started off browsing at Paper Source which is a dangerous place for me then hit up a few other stores.  I also made it a priority to get ice cream from Jeni’s because ice cream….

She really really wanted to try that ice cream but I selfishly kept it all to myself

She really really wanted to try that ice cream but I selfishly kept it all to myself

Hannah's first trip to Jeni's, but definitely not her last

Hannah’s first trip to Jeni’s, but definitely not her last

After a nap it was time for us to head home.  Our flight back was blissfully uneventful with the exception of Hannah throwing her food packet at the poor gentlemen next to us about 3 times despite my best efforts to catch it.  Thankfully he was a pilot and very sweet.  As always, it was so fun spending time with Emily.  I’m so happy we have girls close in age and can’t wait to watch them grow up together.  I only wish she lived in Texas :-)

Flying home

Heading home

Last Stop: Sydney

The final city on our Australia & New Zealand tour was Sydney.  We flew from Wellington into Sydney late afternoon, arriving in the evening.  After navigating the trains we walked a couple blocks to the apartment we’d rented.  Unfortunately we were greeted with bugs in the kitchen and living room!  Turned out to be german cockroaches according to the owner.  Thankfully we were able to get a hold of him, and since he lived in the same building, he came down and saw exactly what we were talking about (no less than 5 of the nasty little things scurrying around).  He offered to get a different apartment ready for us to check into the next day if we wanted and said it was higher floor, nicer amenities, etc.  However, we still needed to decide what to do that night.  Mind you, at this point it was after 9pm and we were hungry and tired.  I may or may not have shed some tears through all this.  C quickly started looking for hotels to stay for the evening and likely the rest of the 4 days in Sydney.  We were able to find one with good reviews, decent price and run by the same company we’d stayed with in Brisbane.  He called, they said they could provide a crib and a room and we quickly left the apartment.  Then we waited downstairs for a cab for about 30 minutes.  Ugh!  While waiting we met a very nice and funny Aussie who told us how he loved the U.S. and couldn’t stand how rude people were in Sydney (got a good chuckle out of that one) then our cab driver was extremely nice and helpful.  We arrived to the hotel/apartment and the front desk clerk was amazing.  He even pulled out a map to give us tips on where to go and what to see.  He did mention to avoid only one area in the city, King’s Cross.  Guess where our original apartment was located…?

Despite the rough start and late night, Hannah did great.  After a very quick bath we got her down for bed before crashing ourselves.  Sadly we were in a great location but the noise from the bars and clubs nearby was pretty loud.  The next morning we checked with the front desk to see if we might be able to move to a higher floor and mitigate the sound issues.  They told us nothing was available at that time but we could come back around noon and they would have something for us.  We decided to go grab breakfast before heading up to repack our things.  Long story short, there was some miscommunication, a new room was never put on hold for us and after waiting for quite some time, getting keys to an already occupied room and waiting a bit longer, we finally got a room on the 49th floor.  The room was amazing!  Completely updated, huge, had a bathtub and a large balcony with great views.  Our luck was finally turning in the right direction!

Views from the 49th floor

Views from the 49th floor

Sunset from the balcony

Sunset from the balcony

We spent that afternoon walking around the city including Hyde Park, the Queen Victoria Building and Darling Harbor.  It reminded us a lot of New York City but a little bit cleaner and not quite so foul smelling.  There were a whole lot of people milling about on the streets, shopping, sightseeing and just wandering.  I loved the Queen Victoria Building which was built in the late 1800s and has since been restored a filled with shops and restaurants. It houses a beautiful clock in addition to ornate ceilings, neat floors and good shopping!

Anzac Memorial in Hyde Park

Anzac Memorial in Hyde Park

Hyde Park

Hyde Park

Sleeping babe in Hyde Park

Sleeping babe in Hyde Park

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Old men playing giant chess?  Adorable entertainment for free

Old men playing giant chess? Adorable entertainment for free

Queen Victoria Building

Queen Victoria Building

Queen Victoria Building ceiling

Queen Victoria Building ceiling

The clock in the QVB

The clock in the QVB

The next day we decided to get out of the city and board a ferry to Manly Beach.  I knew I wanted to visit a beach and this was the easiest to access from the city with good reviews.  Despite it being a bit windy on the ferry, we enjoyed great harbor views and it was a pleasant ride.  After arriving in Manly we picked up lunch then headed to the waterfront.  We walked through a market, around a neighborhood and popped into a couple shops along the way.  We watched several surfers trying to catch the ultimate wave (Manly is said to be the birthplace of surfing) but the seas were fairly calm.  After walking along the sand for a bit, I suddenly felt a sharp pain on the bottom of my foot.  Turns out I stepped on a bee and got stung.  It hurt like crazy!  C took out the stinger and I rinsed it off in the ocean.  It started swelling up and was painful so we walked to a pharmacy to pick up something to treat it and hobbled back to the ferry terminal to get back to the city.  We ended up having to wait some time for the ferry so indulged in some gelato to pass the time.  Rough, eh?  We did get to catch the sun setting behind the Sydney Harbor Bridge on the ferry ride back and it was a gorgeous sight to see.  That night we stayed in thanks to my foot.

The Harbor Bridge from the ferry

The Harbor Bridge from the ferry

Sydney Opera House

Sydney Opera House

On the way to Manly

On the way to Manly

Someone's excited for the day's adventures!

Someone’s excited for the day’s adventures!

Manly beach

Manly beach

On the beach with my babe

On the beach with my babe

Manly wharf

Manly wharf

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<3

Looking down the beachfront

Looking down the beachfront

Sunset over the harbor

Sunset over the harbor

My goofy girl

My goofy girl

 

When traveling, I really enjoy visiting local markets especially farmer’s markets.  We couldn’t find a farmer’s market open within close proximity while we were staying in Sydney so we went to The Rocks Market instead featuring handmade goodies ranging from soaps to clothing to toys to jewelry and everything in between.  The Rocks is a historic area located at the base of the Harbor Bridge so the setting was quaint as well.  It was a great way to spend the morning and we even picked up a kangaroo onesie for Hannah! We worked up an appetite and decided to get lunch and a pint a Sydney’s oldest pub, Fortune of War.  Since we had a baby we couldn’t sit in the bar area, but did get a nice table near a window.  I even tried a kangaroo burger which was really good.

The Rocks Market

The Rocks Market

Shopping!

Shopping!

The Rocks

The Rocks

After lunch, Hannah was tired so we let her nap in the carrier and we walked over to the Opera House to see it up close.  It’s interesting in that it is much more beautiful from afar.  We wandered around the outside snapping a few pictures of it and the bridge in the distance.  Hannah was still asleep so we walked up to Hyde Park.  It seemed much closer on the map than it actually was!  We popped into St. Mary’s Cathedral which is on the edge of the park.  It was the first church we’d stopped in on this trip which is really rare!  We usually see one in every city.  It was not as ornate as those we’ve seen in Europe, but still very beautiful.  With tired feet we walked back to the hotel and called it a day.

The opera house from the wharf

The opera house from the wharf

Looking across the harbor to the bridge

Looking across the harbor to the bridge

Close up

Close up

Detail

Detail

Detail

Detail

Opera house selfie

Opera house selfie

St. Mary's stained glass

St. Mary’s stained glass

Rose window

Rose window

St. Mary's

St. Mary’s

St. Mary's Cathedral

St. Mary’s Cathedral

 

For our last day we contemplated several different plans.  First thought was going to the beach again, but a different one than Manly.  We’d looked into a few different coastal walks, but decided we were just too tired to do one.  So then we thought about going to the zoo or aquarium but couldn’t make up our minds.  We did make it out of the apartment to get cronuts for breakfast, but they weren’t as good as the one in Hawke’s Bay.  Finally by early afternoon we had decided to just relax, wander a little and really just focus on resting and packing for the trip home.  

The final morning arrived very early and we grabbed a cab to the airport much earlier than the sun.  We got to enjoy the Qantas Business Lounge which had a great breakfast spread then boarded a flight to Brisbane.  From Brisbane we boarded our long haul back to the states.  The flights were not nearly as smooth as our first ones.  It was daytime so Hannah had a really hard time sleeping despite being tired.  I’d also left the Boppy in our checked luggage on accident which was what she’d slept several hours on from LAX to Brisbane.  C ended up walking several hours with her in the carrier to get her to sleep and allow me a couple hours of sleep.  After a big snafu with a hotel we’d reserved in an attempt to allow all of us to sleep during our long layover, we ended up back at the airport with several hours to kill.  We tried getting an earlier flight home to no avail so spent several hours in the Admirals club.  We each were able to sleep in armchairs and get some food before getting our last flight home.

Farewell Sydney!

Farewell Sydney!

Couldn't have survived the flight without this guy entertaining and soothing Hannah as much as he did

Couldn’t have survived the flight without this guy entertaining and soothing Hannah as much as he did

Finally catching some Zzz's in LAX

Finally catching some Zzz’s in LAX

And this little monkey finally zonked out on mama's chest

And this little monkey finally zonked out on mama’s chest

Although the trip home was tough to say the least, it did nothing to diminish the fantastic adventure we shared.  It was a once in a lifetime experience and I am so glad we ignored the naysayers, took a leap of faith and did it.  We learned some valuable lessons of what to do and not do going forward when traveling with a child, especially an infant.  And we learned that seeing your child experience new and exciting things is even better than experiencing them yourself.  However, for our next great adventure with Hannah we’re planning somewhere with a shorter flight. :-)

Cheers!

Wellington, New Zealand

We left Napier on a beautiful morning.  On the way out of the area we drove through several vineyards with sheep grazing among the vines.  I was tempted to pull to the side of the road to snap a picture, but I’m pretty sure C would’ve freaked out. Instead I tasked him with getting a decent phone picture of the scenery.

If you look closely you can see the white sheep

If you look closely you can see the white sheep

The drive took us through more beautiful countryside including lots of sheep and cattle grazing, farmland, mountains and along the awesome but nerve-wracking Manawatu Gorge.  Finally we came to the west side of the island and were in the home stretch.  However, we desperately needed to get out, stretch our legs and grab some nourishment.  We stopped at a really cute roadside cafe that reminded me of England.  We made it inside the cafe just in time to miss an epic downpour.  It was a delicious lunch, Hannah got to play some then we packed back into the car for the remaining hour.  Driving into Wellington is pretty great.  You’re driving along with mountains on the left and trees on the right then all of sudden you see ocean and rocks to the right.  The sea was pretty rough making for some great waves.

The view from the cafe

The view from the cafe

How cute is this place?  The inside was even better

How cute is this place? The inside was even better

Views along the road

Views along the road

More driving views

More driving views

First views of Wellington and the harbor

First views of Wellington and the harbor

We made our way to the apartment we’d rented only to discover we had never received the check-in information from the host.  Thankfully the owner answered her phone immediately, gave us the access code for the door and we made ourselves at home.  We also realized we had never confirmed that we wanted a portacot for Hannah and after another quick phone call her lovely husband dropped it off and even offered to set it up for us.  This was by far my favorite lodging of our entire trip. The house had huge floor to ceiling windows in the living/dining room overlooking the city and water below.  The kitchen was well stocked, bed was super comfortable and everything was stylishly decorated.  Hannah even had her own bedroom!  However, it did have one downside….it was perched on a hill, at the top of a steep drive.

Dining with a view

Dining with a view

The kitchen

The kitchen

Our bedroom

Our bedroom

She loved the carpet!

She loved the carpet!

Safety first! Yikes!

Safety first! Yikes!

Can't beat this view!

Can’t beat this view!

Yes, its a steep as it looks

Yes, its as steep as it looks

That first afternoon we wandered around the downtown area looking at the shops and such but didn’t really do any sightseeing.  For dinner we ventured down the road to a great Italian restaurant which would have been rather romantic if it weren’t for an adorable 6 month old.  However, she did get lots of smiles and coos from the table next to us so we were okay with it.

They had this really cute old fashioned high chair

They had this really cute old fashioned high chair

The discarded toy graveyard

The discarded toy graveyard

The next day we popped into the National Museum of New Zealand, Te Papa.  It has the largest squid on display which was pretty impressive, if not a little gross.  It also had an extremely well done exhibit on the ANZAC forces at Gallipoli in WWI.  Unfortunately it was pretty crowded meaning people were moving very slowly and Hannah was starting to get hungry we we had to kinda push through the crowds to get through and find space to feed her.  Turns out I had completely forgotten to pack a nursing cover in our bag for the day, but the museum had a parent’s room which provided the perfect private space with comfy enough chairs to nurse her.  Afterward we were all tired so left without seeing much else.

While in Wellington everyone says you must explore Cuba street which is famous for coffee shops, bars and the music scene.  We did as instructed but weren’t super impressed.  Perhaps its because it was the middle of the day, but it just looked a little grungy and not all that exciting.  C found a coffee shop off of Cuba Street with really great reviews so we stopped in there for a cuppa and to rest our laurels before continuing on for the day.

On our last day we took a trip to the Botanic Gardens which were a short walk from our lodging.  It was a blustery day but thankfully we were protected by the large trees.  I really wanted to take the famed cable car down to the city center so we trekked from the rose garden to the cable car stop.  It seemed a lot closer than it actually was and we worked up quite a sweat doing it.  The trip down wasn’t anything too special but was a nice way to get to the city and rest our feet for a little while.  We finished the day with window shopping before heading back to pack our bags.  The last night we had dinner at a BBQ place which was very popular with the afterwork crew!  Thankfully, the waitresses were super sweet and helped us score a table.  We didn’t realize it until the next morning but Hannah dropped her beloved Sophie giraffe at the table and we walked off without it.  Big parenting fail!

The rose gardens - looked a bit barren but it was fall

The rose gardens – looked a bit barren but it was fall

Beauty amongst beauty

Beauty amongst beauty

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A glimpse of the cable car through the trees

A glimpse of the cable car through the trees

Views of the city and harbor from the cable car stop

Views of the city and harbor from the cable car stop

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This face!

This face!

The last picture we have of Sophie the 1st

The last picture we have of Sophie the 1st

Our BBQ spread - not too shabby!

Our BBQ spread – not too shabby!

We finished off the evening with a stroll through some of the city streets before catching a bus back to the apartment.  Our final morning was spent cleaning and finishing up packing.  We then dropped the car off at the airpot and caught our flight to Sydney, our last destination on the trip.

Ready for another flight!

Ready for another flight!

Sunset over the clouds en route to Sydney

Sunset over the clouds en route to Sydney

Lake Taupo & Napier, New Zealand

After Hannah’s dramatic episode while driving from Piha Beach back to Auckland, we decided to leave a day early and split our drive into 2 days.  Initially we planned to drive from Auckland to Napier (about 5 hours) but since we had no idea how Hannah would fare, we made the last minute choice to stop over in Lake Taupo for a night.  It took us longer to pack up and leave the apartment than planned so we ended up sitting in afternoon traffic on our way out of the city.  Once we hit the countryside all was well.  We passed through a lot of farmland, some hilly terrain and a few cute small towns before arriving in the evening.  We witnessed a beautiful sunset over some hills shortly before getting to our hotel for the evening.  Since it was fall, the town was pretty dead and we easily got a room at a well rated hotel and table at a cute restaurant.  After a late meal we settled in for the evening.

The next morning we got up, packed the car and headed down to the main area of town for breakfast.  We decided on something quick and ate while walking along the lakefront.  After we spent some time wandering the town streets and finding nothing terribly interesting.  There was supposed to be a market somewhere just outside the main area, but we decided to head out in time for Hannah’s morning nap.  The drive to Napier was another pleasant one, but much less inhabited.  There were long stretches of road with no signs of life, except for sheep, cows and the occasional farm truck.  I think we drove almost 100 km without passing a fuel station.  Driving into the Hawke’s Bay region was absolutely beautiful.  You come through mountains and more farmland until you start seeing orchards and wineries popping up alongside the highway.  Eventually the bay comes into view and it is gorgeous.  Thankfully, Hannah did wonderfully on the drive both days!  She was quiet (we assume sleeping) for 2+ hours each time and only started getting fussy in the last 20 minutes or so.

Lake Taupo showing off it's fall colors

Lake Taupo showing off it’s fall colors

My babywearing baby

My babywearing baby

More of the lake

More of the lake

This is what you get when you ask your husband to take pictures while you drive

This is what you get when you ask your husband to take pictures while you drive

We arrived in Napier and checked into our hotel which was very cute!  Then we did some exploring around the area most importantly walking down to the beach.  Hannah got a nap in our Boba carrier while C and I enjoyed the breeze coming off the ocean and the beautiful surroundings.  After she woke up we treated ourselves to an ice cream cone and went back to the hotel to research activities.  Since it was a sunny day we decided to head back to the beach later that afternoon and see what Hannah thought of the sand and water.  Well, she enjoyed putting her feet in the sand but did not like the cold water!  In all fairness, it was really cold even for me!  We finished the day off with some wine by the outdoor fire at our hotel and takeaway Indian food.

She was a fan of the book and toy the hotel provided with her portacot

She was a fan of the book and toy the hotel provided with her portacot

The view down to the waterfront from our balcony

The view down to the waterfront from our balcony

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The beach

The beach

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All ready for her first trip to the beach!

All ready for her first trip to the beach!

Mama I don't like this!

Mama I don’t like this!

Not too sure about the sand, either (although she warmed up to it)

Not too sure about the sand, either (although she warmed up to it)

The next day was Mother’s Day so I got to choose everything – my favorite kind of day!  We started with breakfast at a nearby cafe then went to the Hawke’s Bay Farmer’s Market.  I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was definitely impressed!  We arrived just about an hour before it was scheduled to close and things were still in full swing.  There were the typical vendors selling fruits, veggies, baked goods and cheeses. But there were also wines, olive oils, cider, hot foods and a juice bar.  Plus there was a girl singing & playing the guitar.  There were a bunch of families and couples milling around just enjoying the beautiful day and atmosphere.  We picked up a cronut and a bottle of cider and spent some time listening to the musician.  If we hadn’t just finished breakfast or were staying for a few more days, I probably would’ve bought some of the great looking food for offer.

Some of the crowd at the farmer's market

Some of the crowd at the farmer’s market

Having fun!

Having fun!

Fall colors were beautiful

Fall colors were beautiful

They're the best travel companions!

They’re the best travel companions!

We couldn’t stay long, though, because there was more planned for the day.  Next up was a trip to one of the many wineries in the area.  I had done a little research and found one of the best reviewed cellar doors (tasting rooms).  As we were pulling into the car park, one van was pulling out and we ended up having the place to ourselves.  The gentlemen who did the tasting was very nice and informative and we were able to taste some really good wines.  We ended up buying a bottle of Viognier and each having a glass outside.  Hannah took a snooze in the carrier and we just enjoyed the sunshine, quiet and conversation. Afterwards we loaded back up into the car and drove to a Cidery close by.  There we grabbed a spot at a picnic table, got lunch and washed it down with a cider flight.  We’d decided we had enough alcohol and sun for the day so went back to the hotel for some R&R.  I enjoyed reading & watching the sunset from our balcony while Hannah and C each napped.  And we ate the cronut from the farmer’s market which was delicious!!  It was probably a good thing we only bought one!

The view from the winery

The view from the winery

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Family photo with a sleeping bebe

Family photo with a sleeping bebe

Yummy vino!  Too bad we can't get it here in the states

Yummy vino! Too bad we can’t get it here in the states

A cider flight - pretty yummy

A cider flight – pretty yummy

Family selfie

Family selfie

Hannah among the apple orchard at the cidery

Hannah among the apple orchard at the cidery

The cronut...yummm

The cronut…yummm

Sunset over Hawke's Bay

Sunset over Hawke’s Bay

We were only in Hawke’s Bay for 2 days but we had a marvelous time.  I definitely would have liked to stay longer, explore some more and enjoy what the area had to offer.  But, alas, it was time to move on to Wellington, our next, and final, destination in New Zealand.

Buh-bye Aussies, Hello Kiwis!

After 3 days in Brisbane we bid farewell to Australia and headed for Auckland, New Zealand.  We lucked out on the flight and ended up with a row to ourselves, so Hannah got her own seat.  She did well on the plane and the Chinese tourists across the aisle from us just loved her.  As the plane approached the airport, I was treated to some amazing views of the west coast of NZ and some farmland as well.  Let’s just say it was love at first sight! We made our way to the apartment we had rented and were quite entranced with the views from our teeny balcony.  We had a low key afternoon and evening focusing on getting settled and getting Hannah some sleep.

It's difficult to "pack light" when traveling for 3 weeks with an infant!

It’s difficult to “pack light” when traveling for 3 weeks with an infant! (Our luggage while waiting for the train in Brisbane)

Ready for takeoff!

Ready for takeoff!

Enjoying her own seat

Enjoying her own seat

The first peek at NZ

The first peek at NZ

Isn't it beautiful?!

Isn’t it beautiful?!

The view of downtown and the harbor from our balcony

The view of downtown and the harbor from our balcony

Auckland at night

Auckland at night

Our second day was another low key day where we focused on orienting ourselves to the city, grabbing some groceries and buying C a new pair of shoes (his tennis shoes had quit on him).  We even ran into fellow Texans in the grocery store…too bad they were Baylor fans!  Our 2nd full day in Auckland we hopped on a ferry to Waiheke Island.  It is a largish island in the Hauraki gulf, easily accessible by ferry and know for beautiful beaches, wineries and a “hippie” culture.  We opted for a bus tour of the island to see the highlights.  We were treated to gorgeous views over vineyards, looking back at Auckland across the gulf and a few beautiful beaches.  After the tour we spent some time wandering the shops of one of the towns before stopping in for lunch at a restaurant.  The wind was picking up and it was getting colder so we decided to catch the next ferry back to Auckland.

Excited for the tour

Excited for the tour

I could live right here

I could live right here

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Or here…

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On the beach

On the beach

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Family selfie on the bus

Family selfie on the bus

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Some local flora

Some local flora

We followed up that day with a day at the Auckland Zoo.  After missing our stop on the bus, we hiked a little ways and finally arrived, just in time for the elephant’s walk around the zoo.  It was pretty cool to see this massive animal sauntering down the walkway.  Hannah loved looking at the various animals like giraffes, zebras, chickens, ducks, monkeys and more.  We tried to find the Kiwi bird but didn’t see any in their enclosure.  It was a really nice zoo and pretty empty so we were able to enjoy it without huge crowds.

Nothing to see here...just a big ol' elephant walking around the grounds

Nothing to see here…just a big ol’ elephant walking around the grounds

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Corey trying to talk to the hens and rooster

Corey trying to talk to the hens and rooster

Hannah liked the chickens

Hannah liked the chickens

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Checking out the monkeys

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I just love baby animals

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I couldn't agree more!

I couldn’t agree more!

Our 4th day in Auckland was the day we planned to pick up our rental car and see some of the surrounding areas.  Well, Hannah had a different idea and ended up taking a later and longer nap than planned.  By the time we actually picked up the car it was mid afternoon.  Nevertheless we decided to head to Piha Beach, a black sand beach west of Auckland.  It was an interesting drive with very windy roads, steep drop-offs but beautiful scenery through mountains and farmlands.  When we arrived it was a bit cloudy but nice.  There were only a couple other groups of people so it felt very isolated.  The beach was breathtakingly beautiful.  Black sand, a huge rock (Lion rock) jutting out of the sea, waves crashing against the rocks and wind blowing through.  After a little while the skies opened up and it started pouring on us!  We tried our best to run back to the car, but running through sand while wearing a baby and tennis shoes isn’t exactly easy.  Of course, by the time we made it to the parking lot the rain had stopped.

We decided it was time to leave anyhow, because we wanted to get back to the city before dark thanks to the windy roads.  About 10 minutes into the drive, Hannah started fussing and quickly escalated to full meltdown.  Despite C getting in the backseat to try and comfort her, she just continued to scream and cry.  Thanks to the stress and distraction of that, the windy roads and impending rain, I missed a turnoff and got a bit lost.  We pulled off in a town to get her out of the car and calm her down.  We decided to put her in the carrier and get her to nap.  We made several laps of this small town while she slept then loaded back into the car for the rest of the trip back.  Of course, she still fussed but it wasn’t nearly as bad.  We had a small fiasco trying to park the SUV into a teeny parking space at the apartment but finally made it back in one piece.

Lion rock on the left

Lion rock on the left

I just love this picture

I just love this picture

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Happy girl before the storm

Happy girl before the storm

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Looking down onto Piha beach

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Isn't it amazing?! I can only imagine how beautiful it is on a warm sunny day

Isn’t it amazing?! I can only imagine how beautiful it is on a warm sunny day

That night we decided to cut our time in Auckland short by one day in order to break up the drive to our next destination.  Since Hannah had melted down in such dramatic fashion, we wanted to minimize driving long distances as much as possible.  So the next day we packed up our things and headed for Lake Taupo.

All the feels

I am taking a break from travel posts because something is on my mind tonight and I felt the need to write it out.  Lately, I have been working a bunch and when not working, being stressed out about things at work.  I know it takes away from my time with Hannah, but it is hard to just forget about it at times.  However, this weekend I made it a point to be present with her no matter what.  If she was awake and I was with her, I was not looking at my phone or computer, thinking about work or stressing about life in general.   I was focused on her: playing, talking, singing, laughing.  I did not spend every waking moment with her. In fact, Saturday night C and I went to a party without her and watched the TCU baseball game at bar Sunday afternoon without her. But the time with her was devoted to her.

Today was a day for just us two.  She woke up early but nursed back to sleep.  When she finally woke up for the day, we played until she was acting tired and I put her down for a rather short nap.  Then we had lunch with a friend before doing some shopping at the mall.  We capped our afternoon at the grocery store where she played in the Boba carrier smiling at me and several other people while I loaded up on groceries for the week ahead.  Tonight I made dinner while C walked her as she was being fussy (due to terrible naps all day) but when it was time for her to eat, she gulped down the sweet potatoes I’d made her.  Finally it was bath time, one of our favorite times of the day.  She splashed, laughed, played, tried to stand up while still in the tub, squealed with delight and splashed some more.  Finally it was time to take her out and get her in pjs.  As I took her upstairs she smiled down at C while he said “goodnight, I love you” in his singsong voice (a nighty tradition ever since she’s been sleeping in her own room).  She then nursed, snuggled into my arms and fell asleep to lullabies playing in the background.  As I laid her down in her crib she stirred slightly so I placed my hand on her chest while shushing her. After a few seconds I quietly sneaked out of the room and tiptoed downstairs to relax before bed.

I had forgotten to order C’s last Father’s Day gift so I hurriedly designed and ordered it paying an exorbitant amount for rush shipping to have it in time.  But while doing so I was looking back through pictures of our little girl from the day she was born through last week.  And suddenly it hit me, a rush of emotions that are so difficult to put into words.  It was joy, sadness, love, desire, hope, pride and fear all wrapped up into a giant ball of “feels.”  It sounds so cliché but, in that moment, I realized how quickly the last 7 months have gone by and how quickly this fireball that is our baby girl is growing up.  And suddenly I wanted time to stop.  Don’t get me wrong, it is so fun and amazing to watch Hannah grow and develop and learn new things.  But at the same time, I want her to stay small and cuddly and….my baby.

Call me crazy but I kinda miss the squishy, snuggly baby who couldn’t sit up on her own, let alone crawl across the living room in no time flat.  But I know she will continue to develop, mature, learn and transform before our very eyes.  And since I can do nothing to stop it (nor do I want to, really), I will do my best to be present and engaged every step of the way.  I will try my hardest to focus on her and C when home and make my family my number one priority.  Because, when all is said and done, I won’t look back on this time and regret not working harder or longer.  I want to look back and remember not only the big moments like the first time she crawled, first solid food, etc but the magic and wonder of the everyday; like how she smiles at me when I get her out of her crib in the morning, her insistent whine when she wants to nurse, the squeal she makes when she gets excited, the shy smile she gives everyone in public, her laugh when I tickle her, the way she wrinkles her nose when she smiles or the feeling of her heavy weight while sleeping in my arms.  After all,  these are the things that bring me joy day in and day out.  It would be a shame to overlook them, wouldn’t it?

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Brisbane

We arrived in Brisbane very early on Thursday morning.  After going through customs and immigration we took the train into the city center.  From there we had a short walk to the apartment we had rented.  We dropped our things off and decided to wander a bit.  Unfortunately it was raining, but we made the most of it and managed to venture across the river and get a great view of the city.  Hannah napped the entire time (which was much needed!) then we stopped off for some lunch.

Trekking across the river to the other side of Brisbane

Trekking across the river to the other side of Brisbane

Shhh...sleeping baby!

The rain continued off and on throughout the day so we just laid low and relaxed, napped and played in the apartment.  Come dinner time we decided to walk to an Italian/pizza place we had found online.  It was a bit of hike but thankfully the rain held off for the most part en route.  We settled in for the night and crossed our fingers that Hannah would sleep well.  Around 4am we heard her fussing so  I went to get her.  I hoped nursing her would calm her and she would go back to sleep.  No such luck, she was up and ready to play! After playing for about an hour, she decided she was sleepy and back to bed it was.  We got up later and found some breakfast down the street.  Unfortunately it was another rainy day so we wandered around the shopping area and spent a little time at the museum.  The rain got pretty intense throughout the day with impressive downpours (even for Texas standards!)  We attempted to leave for dinner, but just walking half a block away we were soaked despite umbrellas so we turned back and ate whatever food we’d picked up from the grocery the day prior.

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Let’s play!

Just a smidge of rain as seen from our windows

Just a smidge of rain as seen from our windows

That sucker hovered over Brisbane alllllll day

That sucker hovered over Brisbane alllllll day!

Thankfully, our 3rd day called for sunny skies and absolutely gorgeous weather.  We hoofed it across the river to catch a boat to the Lone Pine Koala sanctuary.  I had read up on this animal sanctuary and the big draw for me was the opportunity to hold a koala and feed kangaroos.  We caught the boat for a lovely ride up the river with some commentary on various sights.   After about an hour we arrived at our destination, disembarked and entered the park.  The visit was great!  We got to pet and feed kangaroos and wallabies, walk around with emus, see a dingo, platypus and other native Australian animals.  And last but not least we saw a bunch of koalas and I even got to hold one!  We hoped to get a family picture with the cuddly guy but Hannah wasn’t having it so it was just me and my new friend.

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Brisbane from the river

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Having fun on the boat

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Koala cuddles

We had a great time at the sanctuary before boarding the boat for the trip back to the city.  Once we arrived back at the dock, I noticed a bunch of people and decorations not too far from us.  So we wandered that direction and stumbled across a festival celebrating Buddha.  It was fun walking around and seeing all the people, listening to music and taking in the beautiful surroundings.

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Passed out after a busy day

Passed out after a busy day

Eventually we crossed back over the river heading back to the apartment.  As it was our last night we packed our things and prepped for the next leg of our journey, Auckland!

Australia: Take 1

Once upon a time there was a young couple who loved to travel.  When the wife was pregnant, they planned a dream trip to Australia and New Zealand timed to coincide with their child being 6-7 months old.  Many people asked if they were planning to bring the baby along; and their response?  “Yes! Of course! Why wouldn’t we?”  So they booked plane tickets before they even knew the sex of the baby and over the course of several months worked on decided cities to visit, places to stay and what to see.  The baby got her first passport when she was only 2 months old.  The couple researched tips on traveling with an infant and took her on a few “practice” trips around the states.  Then, shortly after their baby turned 6 months old, they packed their bags and boarded a flight to the other side of the world.

Sounds crazy, right?  Well, that’s exactly what these crazy kids did.  As you know if you’ve read any of this blog or know us in the slightest, we have the travel bug.  We had been wanting to make the trip “Down Under” for years and had saved up a big chunk of airline miles to spring for business class seats.  We figured the best time to take Hannah would be when she was not yet mobile or talking or when she was old enough to occupy herself for 14+ hours in a metal tube.  So we picked the former because we weren’t interested in waiting until she was a teenager.  We knew it was going to be different than our previous travels, but were excited nonetheless.

At the end of April we packed up 2 large suitcases, 4 carry-ons and a stroller then headed to the airport.  Because we’d used miles we were in First or Business class the entire trip to and from Australia.  We arrived to the airport early, checked in, then headed to the American Airlines Admirals club to wait out or flight.  A couple hours later we boarded the plane, excited to start our big adventure.  Well, we were going to have to wait a bit longer.  A few minutes after everyone was settled, the pilot announced there was a maintenance issue and we would be delayed.  Shortly after that announcement he came back on the PA system to inform us the plane would be taken out of service, we would have to deplane and they would either find us a new one or we would all be booked on new flights.  We had a 12 hour layover in LA so we weren’t worried about missing our connection, but it was a bit annoying.  After about an hour, we boarded a different (and older) plane ready to get going.

All ready to go

All ready to go

Flying fun with daddy

Flying fun with daddy

As we were sitting there entertaining Hannah, a nice gentlemen walked up the aisle, smiled at her and made some comment about how cute she was and touched her.  C, Hannah and I smiled and said thank you as he took his seat in the row behind us.  As he walked away I turned to C and said, “Is that…?” He smiled and nodded.  We had just met Sean Astin who is most famous for his roles in The Goonies, Rudy and Lord of the Rings.  We were a little dumbfounded, especially since Rudy is one of our favorite movies!  As we taxied and took off C and him started up a conversation about Hannah and where we were headed.  When he learned we were going to Australia and New Zealand he offered up a lot of advice of things to see.  He was pretty interested in Hannah and they hit it off.  We talked with him off and on during the flight and he was a really nice and personable guy.  I wanted to ask him for a picture with Hannah (he was pretty smitten with her, as she was with him) but I didn’t want to be weird or annoying.  Of course, now I regret that.  It was her first celebrity meeting and I failed to get any evidence of it occurring!  Ah well, she’ll just have to trust us.

We made the most of our long layover in LAX and spent time with my family celebrating my mom’s birthday.  It was a great time and was nice to get out of the airport.  And, while at my parents’ house Hannah decided to roll from back to belly for the first time.  She was very proud of herself and did it multiple times while we were there.  Finally it was time for us to head back to the airport and check in for the flight to Brisbane.  We were able to enjoy some time in the Business Lounge for Qantas and it was fancy pants.  After an hour it was time to board our flight.  As I previously said, we saved up airline miles and redeemed them for business class seats.  We were able score seats in the upper deck of the plane so there were only 20 or so other people for Hannah to harass.

Celebrating with Grandma

Celebrating with Grandma

Thankfully she did extremely well on the flight!  We tried getting her to sleep in the bassinet which folded down from the bulkhead but it was so small that I don’t think she was able to get comfortable.  So we traded off holding her while she slept or played.  After 14 or so hours we landed in Brisbane before 7am local time.  We took the train into the Central Business District (CBD) and made the short walk to our apartment.

Enjoying cartoons on the plane

Enjoying cartoons on the plane

We survived the flight! Yay!

We survived the flight! Yay!

Trains are fun :)

Trains are fun :)

Up next, 3 days in Brisbane!