Wish you were here…from New Zealand

That’s it. It’s official. I’m in love with New Zealand. Five years since my last trip to the South Island and I can still confidently report that it is truly one of my favorite little pockets of land in the entire world. It’s just stunning. And it feels so, so good.

In these moments of pure awe, I keep asking myself ‘who, do you wish was here right now?’ Sometimes it makes me think deep, like who appreciates beautiful architecture, or who might need a laugh at this good people watching perch?….but sometimes it’s easy. This was an easy one. Landed in Christchurch, stepped off the plane and into our little Getz rental car and headed south. Easy. Done. Jori, I wish you were here.

jori

Jori loves beautiful more than anyone I know. She hikes and bikes and loves to be outside. This girl does PNW life right. And that’s how I know we should go in on a vacation home in Queenstown together. One day, Jori. One day.

New Zealand is home to some of the best hiking, biking and outside-doing on the planet. We zoomed our little Getz to Dunedin and then Milford Sound…that’s where the ‘feels good’ set in. The last hour of our drive to the lodge took us through winding turns that felt like a PNW pass met the Swiss Alps…all close enough to the windshield it seemed touchable.

Milford Sound

Milford Sound…Kara got it right…it’s magical. Maybe that’s why I thought of Jori so much…never have I seen such magically majestic things work together so seamlessly and impressively to create an even more magically majestic thing….beautiful mountains crash straight into the beautiful Tasman Sea. It’s even more beautiful to do the Fjordlands by boat on a morning cruise with a hot cuppa’ in hand. What a powerful way to start a day…

We used all that housed up power to hike up Key Summit, just a bit out of Milford Sound. And that was magical too…

Jori, you would love Queenstown. I L O V E Queenstown. It’s like Chelan meets German ski town, on steroids. It’s this quaint little adventure-junky-packed town situated right on top of a beautiful lake, surrounded by mountains. The shops are full of famous New Zealand merino sweaters, the Ferg Burger lane is full to the brim with salivating travelers and paragliders hang in the sky taking in the sweet, pure air and ‘sweet as’ view. Seriously, can you imagine a more perfect place?

One afternoon in Queenstown, Kara and I hired bikes, stuffed a bottle of wine and two leftover coffee cups in our bags and headed to the lake-front trail. We rode with no agenda. We stopped to sip wine and sit on a dock and talk about God and life and our awe of this place. If Jori were there, I imagine we would have taken a few more Insta-worthy pics and reminisce on PNW weekends. An agenda-less afternoon well spent.

Jori, you would have loved wine day. We loved wine day even more after a slight morning hiccup. We pulled in to AJ Hacketts bungey jumping [[throwback to when Kristen and I jumped off that infamous bridge, the home to the first commercial bungy site in the world]] for a coffee and an adrenaline-stoked-people-watching-sesh. Lil Getz locked us out of the car though, which annoyed the living daylights out of me [[$150 call-out for a car jacker is near enough to cardiac arrest an umemployed backpacker]], but it resulted in one of the funniest sights I’ve ever seen. Yall, we saunter back to the car, even more ready for a 10am Pinot Noir than when we arrived, to see half a dozen people have gathered around Getz. It seems that our locked-out episode was more entertaining than the line of people jumping off bridges in the background. Locals and tourists alike had every inch of window space covered, peering into the windows to help guide the effort. I was hot to trot, but found myself giggling over how entertaining it turned out to be. An unplanned lesson in civility, kindness and making lemonade, in hindsight.

Getz lockout

Back to wine day. It was utterly perfect. Stunning estates, beautiful Pinot Noirs and Sauv Blancs. We planned to hit half a dozen on our way to Wanaka but that’s the beautiful thing about this type of traveling…we didn’t achieve such plan when three forty-something-San Fran-Iron Man-guys distracted us for the rest of the afternoon. We sat out at an old converted church turned cellar door with a view of the mountains and a paddock full of sheep swapping stories with these guys-turned friends. A few bottles of Rose and cheese platters later and the whole afternoon disappeared. We couldn’t have planned it better.

Yep, Jori, you would have loved every minute. I wish we were a threesome for this week, except for the night we had to sleep in the Getz [[you wouldn’t have fit]] and except for the time we had to put on every piece of clothing we owned to get even CLOSE to our 7kg / pp weight limit for our flight back to Sydney. At 4am, it was an exhausted giggle fest trying to work out what we could shove into what pocket and how many layers we could possibly put on…Yeah that mess is for the birds and I don’t know that they would have allowed even one more tiny giggling, desperate American gal on the plane without emptying our wallets for the umpteenth time.

Other than that, you were fondly thought of and sorely missed, sweet-as-girl!

good.

 

 

 

#SoThisOneTime at the Kentucky Derby…

You know those friends and family and strangers, even, who stand by you and lend you shoulders for crying on, ears for soaking up the whinging, grace for your sour words and pathetic puffiness, and hope for your tomorrow…I have a lot of those people, no doubt. But for the sake of this one time, let me tell you bout this one gal..

At the very lowest that I’ve ever been—we’re talking down 30 pounds in 3 weeks, no eating or drinking or speaking, no caring about Christmas or spending time with my family….only sleeping or wish I was sleeping kind of low—one of those faces popped up in my inbox with an email that still gives me chills…

“Anne,” she wrote…”We love you to the moon and back.. Please use this [[referring to a Southwest giftcard]] whenever you feel the need to get away. Visit home, a friend or even us!!”

It was at that moment, that I knew without a doubt two certain things. 1) Kristen Kull knew me better than I knew myself in that moment of despair. And 2) I was going to the Kentucky Derby.

Months later, I’m greeted at the Louisville Airport by two baby ‘hair-pane’ lovin towheads and the hostess with the mostest.

THE Kentucky Derby

As our itinerary noted; we did it all, that one time. We did Kentucky Derby better than anyone may have ever done it before us. Not because we got our nails done to match our dresses, picked out the perfect hats, went to a Jocktails party where jockeys past and present brought me bourbon after bourbon. It wasn’t the best because we sat in the Turf Club for Oaks and then did a twofer, hitting up the box seats for Derby Day, where mint juleps went down as easy as money at the betting windows. It wasn’t even the best because I danced with the man of the hour [[next time you see Mark Kull, ask him for video proof. It’s fairly epic]], saw Joey Fatone in a blinding pink coat and see-through white pants, or because I puffed my first and only cigar at Churchill Downs, for the sake of a good story.

The sun shining on what I can only describe now as a spectacle to rival the Easter Bunny marrying the Vineyard Vines Whale had me smiling, really, truly smiling the entire time.

I don’t think it was the best for any one of those reasons; rather, I think that Derby was special for what it stood for. It might have been my first peek at growth and grace, now that I think about it. It was certainly a lesson in genuine generosity; pure, permanent love; and a selfless commitment to friendship and family. It was, and will always remain, one of the most beautiful gestures I’ve ever known.

Fast forward to departure day…I’m sitting on a plane, heading off into the unknown..feeling a little scared, a little sad, a little ‘what am I doing?’ when I remembered Kristen Kull’s package that had arrived a week prior with strict instructions to ‘OPEN FROM THE HAIR-PANE ONLY.’ I pulled out another note…

My sweetest Annie,

 I’ve been thinking about this moment…for several months now. I’ve been thinking and praying about what I want you to read, know and feel, but more importantly, what it is that God wants you to read, know and feel.

…I hope you always remember this moment and the moment when you get back on the plane to return home and how differently you feel. I wanted you to have something simple, yet pretty…Something to remind you of this journey every time you look at it no matter how long it’s been because after all, you will be changed – changed for the better with a clearer mind…When I found this necklace titled “Circle of Life” it seemed so fitting in so many ways. A circle for: going around the world, there’s no beginning or end…When I look at it I picture God’s arms wrapped around you for protection and comfort.

I also prayed for the perfect verse for you. As soon as I read Ezekiel 36:26 I knew it was meant for you.

“”I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.””

love where you are in every moment of every day, love God (praise Him) and above all else, love yourself.

***

Gifts aren’t my love language–experiences are–Kristen Kull gives me reassurance and comfort and confidence to go, do, dream–she perfectly gives experiences of a  lifetime.

I’m not even sure how to end this story, except that from the depths of my soul, I wanna grow up to be a Kristen Kull and from the depths of my soul, I hope you all have a Kristen Kull to make so many #SoThisOneTimes with.

kd9

Feels like home to me

Good luck getting that song out of your head…I hummed it silently for the duration of our all-too-short stay in Melbourne…but really, what a refreshing few days in a city that I’ve never been to, but that strangely felt familiar. Perhaps it wasn’t because of the city itself [[they still drive on the opposite side of the road, have adorable accents and cafes too cute for words]], but more because of how we spent our time in said city.

Katie, ‘Amazing Katie,’ as the American cousins have formally dubbed her, and her equally amazing mate, Gary, truly made us feel right at home. We read and cooked and worked out in a real gym [[!!!]] and did laundry and talked about our dreams and guilty pleasures and had friends over and did Tuesday night at a food truck and a local watering hole and explored the city by foot….

and….we did wine country…and it was amazing too.

The thing about wine country is that it really doesn’t matter where in the world you are, as long as your palate and mind are open to new grape varietals, the people you’ve trekked with were well chosen, the sun is shining and there’s cheese to be paired.

Yarra Valley

Yarra Valley is one of the great wine regions of Australia, where Chardonnays [[still not my fave..not even in Chardonnay land]] and Pinot Noirs take the cake, so you know it was dang near top of Kara’s and my list of things to do while in Melbourne. What better way to recoup from a great road trip, than indulging in a few tastings, afterall?

Indulge we did and at home we felt. Cheers to amazing people, amazing reds and a home away from home.

Drivin free and feelin great

I feel like every soul in the world must love the feeling of a full tank of gas, windows down, sunglasses on and shoes off, favorite tunes blaring as you cruise toward the beach. Every soul that I’d want to know, anyway. It’s just one of those feelings that screams freedom. Yall know how I feel about freedom.

We picked up our cross-over on the south side of Melbourne on a Friday morning and took off on what I’d soon realize was one of the most beautiful, awe-inspiring drives of my life. The Great Ocean Road’s name is as appropriate as they come.

DSC_0076

Not two hours outside of this sprawling metropolis we turned right [[but kept to the left side of the double lines]] and just kept driving.

At every bend in the road was another ‘holy *#^%, look at that view’…Great Ocean Road

Another sleepy beach town with organic cafes and sleek surf shops…

Great Ocean Road

Another hair-pin-turned jaunt through the rain forest; another canopy of gum trees that send eucalyptus aroma swirling through the car; another scenic overlook that you can’t pass up, cause it very well may be better than the last…

Great Ocean Road

Another surfer’s paradise where you could sit and watch the salty blondes paddle out and hitch a wave on repeat…

DSC_0005Another traffic jam of Asian tourist pulled over on the side of the road, cameras out to capture a momma and baby Koala hangin out in the tree across the road [[ok fine, that only happened once, but it was pretty cool]]…

Great Ocean Road Another flock of cockatoos that make their living by stealing food from unsuspecting tourists [[that only happened once too, but it was no doubt, a highlight of my trip..I’m still giggling…Unsuspecting tourist, Kara, is not..she says the cockatoo bites hard]].

DSC_0098We just spent an entire day with our jaws in our laps as we leisurely made our way toward the grand finale.

After a quick hostel workout and a cribbage match over our Thai dinner, we woke up ready to hit the open ocean road again. Destination:  The 12 Apostles.

Because a picture’s worth a thousand words, this:

Two days, 1 tank of gas and a whole lot of pretty later, we made it back to our Melbourne pad feelin pretty free and pretty great.

Great Ocean Road

Generosity abounds in Brisbane

While I’m intent on being mindfully present during this journey—not living in the past or the future—just sitting here and being here in the now, it’s painfully clear that I cannot wait to ‘pay it forward.’

It always amazes me how no time and no distance can distance those who really matter in life—you know, those friends and family who you can just slide right back into giggles and easy conversation. Those kinds are special. It’s probably one of my favorite life treasures—those kinds of people. They’re gems. And I’m swimming in those gems here in Oz.

We arrived in Brisbane on a sunny morning, where Jodi and Liz greeted us with those giggles and easy convos I find so simple and lovely. We sipped coffee on the top of Mount Kootha.

Mt Kootha

We catamaraned around the Brisbane River, walked around South Bank and caught up on the ins and outs of the Aussie / American rellies.

Then more rellie gems showed up at Rowan and Lynda’s for one of those ‘we only get together for a big family BBQ when an American Temme is in town.’ That people will just drop their plans, pitch in on a feast and spend a Friday night sipping Cab and swapping stories with two backpacking gals on the patio just warms my heart.

The parrots woke us bright and early, inspiring a quick 5k to the local Target—sounds so normal, so American, yeah? Except that flying foxes draped our pathway, our Target run was to collect various electronic adapters and breakfast was accompanied by one of those fancy flat whites that only a Truss home can whip up like it’s a simple brew. That, and our afternoon was filled with snapping selfies with old grey kangaroos and snuggling the eucalyptus-dazed koalas.

Lone Pine Sanctuary

Lone Pine Sanctuary

Lone Pine Sanctuary

We trekked out again the next day [no idea what day of the week that actually would have been…not a clue] to see the Natural Bridge where we likely could have spent the rest of the morning just sitting and watching that pretty waterfall crash into the cave below.

Cave

Lucky we didn’t though, as we also sauntered around the markets, snagged a few pies and watched surfers on the Gold Coast for the rest of the afternoon. Ohh, thank you for that indulgence—yall know I love sitting on the water. Just so ‘ahhh.’

As if that wasn’t enough, Jodi and Liz drove us up [or over or down??] to the lovely Hervey Bay where Kara and I spent a lavishly relaxing few days at Lyn and Warren’s sleek condo on the beach. Hot-tubbing on the deck overlooking the coast, riding our bikes along the windy boardwalk through town, getting caught in several pre-Cyclone Marcia storms, soaking up a different type of villa life, thanks to the Deputy PM and lots of home cooking could only be topped by a visit to Fraser Island.

Fraser Island was and remains one of my favorite places on the planet. As the largest island in the world made entirely of sand [with a lush rain forest populating the inner island]…

rainforest …a recognized beach highway [slash airport—yes, tiny prop planes, but planes nonetheless take tourists up for the birds-eye view of this World Heritage Site, using the packed sand as their runway]…it just is one of those places that you know God spent a little extra time with.

Fraser Island

Steve, our jolly tour-guide navigated us through the island in a big 4WD truck. Kara lucked out with the front seat, otherwise her birthday trip would have been a lot less glamorous and lot more vomit-y.

Fraser Island

I think these pics speak for themselves…not even a need to caption…this is just Fraser Island. And it makes me happy. I loved that we could celebrate a great 28 for my sweet Kare in this beautiful place.

Lots of pictures, lots of beach-time and relaxation, lots of beautiful.

The most beautiful was the generosity though…yes, I loved the real-time moments. But oh I cannot wait to pay it back to these precious, generous gems.