The Adventures of Kiwi Kyle | Part 3

One of if not the most important activities I plan for when traveling is eating!  What is <insert name of destination> best known for?  Where do the locals go?  Most of the time you can find those places via a quick online search, but sometimes you find them just by looking around and keeping your eyes open.  I’ve found a couple places like that in Christchurch, so here are my recommendations for future travelers!

First things first, breakfast, the most important meal of the day.  Unfortunately it’s not a meal I usually have while traveling for work because I’m so focused on getting to the client site.  A quick run to the local ‘bucks is usually all I have time for.  However, since this trip has me staying over weekends, I have ample opportunity to enjoy breakfast, and I found a good spot to do so at Tap N Grind.  While busy, it didn’t have the hustle and bustle, get-out-of-my-way-I-just-want-my-coffee feel to it.  Much more relaxed and casual.  My desire for my Waffle House Peachtree Road Race waffle must have been sending me subliminal messages, as I spotted the waffle and bacon and decided that was the dish for me.  As you can see, it looked awesome and it also tasted awesome.  The waffle was crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside.  The citrus mascarpone acted like butter to make the waffle soft but not soggy.  The caramelized banana gave it that little something extra and the variety of nuts a little crunch.  It was so good that I made a point to tell the waitress, who sheepishly said, “We just assume everything in America is better than what we have here.”  I told her she was dead wrong on this; it was hands down the best waffle I have ever had, and even in the top three as far as breakfast dishes go!  When I went back the next week, I had the same waitress and she smiled and asked if I would be having the waffle again, which, of course, I did!

For dinner, I recommend you check out O.G.B. (aka Old Government Building), as it hosted various government departments from 1913 to the 1980s.  After being vacant for some time, the building was threatened to be demolished but eventually made it to a real estate developer.  Today, the bar and Heritage Hotel call this place home.  They have a traditional restaurant space with the bar being in a separate area.  Eating in the bar is the way to go with a speakeasy feel consisting of a wood bar, dark colored walls, and the staff being dressed in 1920s and 1930s attire.  I had the beef rib burger, but just to be clear, we would call this a sandwich in the States.  In New Zealand they call a burger anything where protein (beef, lamb, chicken, etc…) is served between two pieces of bread.  The protein doesn’t even necessarily have to be formed into the traditional patty shape.  To flip it the other way, what we call a pulled pork sandwich, a Kiwi would call a pork burger.  Enough on semantics and onto the food!

The “burger” was cooked very well and had this molasses-like sauce that put it over the top.  It was paired with potato wedges and a house-made ketchup that tasted much more tomato based than American ketchup and, to be honest, tasted better than American ketchup.  The final reason you should go to O.G.B.?  Well, any place that uses a sousaphone as part of its decor is well worth the trip!

weekend warriors

recently my mom spent a couple of her final summer days at the condo with me before getting back to the school year grind at omhs.  while in town, she was kind enough to help us out with some home improvement chores that have been on the list a while but sometimes always seem to bump down in priority as the days come and go.  as a result, phillip and i rode her wave of can-do inspiration and completed a couple other projects on our own!

first up was the shower stall in my bathroom.  now, when you think about showering, you likely are getting in and out and moving on with your life.  naturally you probably don’t think twice about the condition of your shower unless it really is in despair.  for the perfect example, take my shower.  off the bat nothing appears glaringly wrong.  however, it had now come time that the bad grout job done by the previous homeowner be rectified.  enter phillip, me, a very sharp blade, and some very affordable sealant.

before we could apply the good stuff, we first had to get rid of the grody gunk that was already lining the corners of the stall.  thank goodness i have a strong live-in fiance for times just like this one!

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wooh!  i think i just broke a mental sweat watching phillip – good work, honey!  the next part was the more fun part, which was watching our quick weekend improvement come to life.  with a little elbow grease the shower was looking like brand new with some fresh grout from top to bottom in those corners.  now, we weren’t exactly going for perfection, but to the naked eye, things look much better.  i think i feel cleaner already!

with one bathroom marked off the list, we kept the good mojo going and took on our next project in phillip’s bathroom.  a pretty small space to start with, my mom commented that getting rid of this floor-sitting shelf and adding some shelves on the wall would help make the bathroom feel larger.  although it looks pretty compact and out of the way, we didn’t realize until we were done how much more open everything now feels in there.

so, i was off to ikea to find us some wall shelves to replace these shelves.  i wasn’t quite sure of what i wanted but then, out of nowhere, i spotted exactly what i must have.  before i got too excited, i made sure to double-check the shelf size against the wall measurements i’d written when i was at home and…it would work!  even though this new shelf was much longer, only one certainly wouldn’t do.  and, since when decorating things often work better in sets of three, three new shelves are exactly what i took home with me.  i even got lucky and found a very similar shelf being used in one of their many display spaces in the store.  instant inspiration!

i barged in the condo door and was bouncing with excitement about my fortunate finds.  “we must complete this project right away!” i hollered at phillip.  and, like any loving partner, he gladly obliged.  in our case, we were literally working with a blank space just above the lovely yellow tile and the toilet.  doesn’t it just look like it was meant for something more than being a white wall?  i couldn’t agree more!

after very carefully reading the instructions and inspecting the parts and hardware we would need, we got to work.  i was phillip’s trusty assistant and photographer for most of the afternoon, not wanting to miss a beat of the action or a moment of the fun.

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as phillip was putting up the final shelf, i was too overcome with excitement and energy and had to turn away until it was complete.  once ready i opened my eyes and hey, what do you know!  they look perfect!

a big hug and quick kiss later, i shooed phillip out of the bathroom, eager to give these shelves the finishing touch.  after shuffling things around quite a bit and then shuffling them around some more, i finally ushered him back in so that we could stand back and admire our work.  i’ll say, there’s nothing quite like the sense of accomplishment, even for something as “small” as new shelves and a spruced up shower stall, so i’ll take that joy any day.  what’s next, you wonder?  well, it’s your turn to get out there and go all hgtv – we know you can do it!

The Adventures of Kiwi Kyle | Part 2

It’s time for the sequel, and let’s hope it’s better than the original!  With two weeks in the books, I’ve been able to explore Christchurch and the surrounding area.  First, a quick history lesson before we delve into my adventures.

Christchurch is actually the oldest established city in New Zealand, being founded in 1856.  The best parallel I can draw for a city in the States is where I was raised – Birmingham, AL!  Is Christchurch as glamorous as being on-site in Dallas or Chicago?  Unfortunately not, but I can easily see it being a great place to raise a family.  The next biggest highlight after being the oldest city is one of tragedy, I hate to say.  In 2010 and 2012, the city suffered a devastating series of earthquakes.  Some of the older buildings just were not equipped to handle that kind of natural disaster and have been demolished.

Such is the case for the first landmark I visited, the Christchurch Cathedral.  You’ll have to Google the cathedral to see it in its heyday, but you can tell how beautiful it was by what is left.  I can picture the Gothic Revival architecture and stained-glass windows even in its present state.  Right next to the cathedral is the Citizens’ War Memorial, which didn’t incur near the level of damage as the cathedral but is blockaded due to it being so close to the cathedral.  Each year hundreds come to this Memorial to celebrate and honor the Anzac Day service (New Zealand’s Memorial Day).

Switching gears to something more uplifting, I took a hike along Taylor’s Mistake, a beach and bay about 30 minutes southeast of Christchurch proper.  As you’ll see in the pictures, this hike was no mistake, but how in the world did it get that name?  That name comes from the master of a vessel running into the beach area during the night, thinking he was somewhere else.

Aside from the great views and four legged friends I ran into, the hills above the beach were fortified with two machine gun posts to guard a coastal defense battery.  The machine gun posts were built in response to a perceived threat of invasion by the Japanese after the attack on Pearl Harbor, and the gun pits are still there today!

june’s ohio adventure

for those of you who know me well, you’re probably wondering to yourself, “who is this june?  is she a long-lost high school friend?  is she a college acquaintance she’s reconnected with nowadays?  is she a new coworker she’s kindly befriend?”  well, i hate that this isn’t more exciting, but june is what i named my lovely rental car for the week!  ladies and gentlemen, i introduce to you june, the 2016 grey chrysler pacifica!  isn’t she a beaut?!

the name hit me like a ton of bricks as i was weaving around winding suburb roads and channeling my inner mom, specifically my inner barbara billingsley.  i mean, it really is quite empowering, navigating this sturdy, speedy, and functional vehicle around town.  i felt like i could rule the world!  anyway, june and i became besties last week in ohio while i was up there for work and some personal traveling.  and, in an effort to spice things up on my solo trip, i decided to blog about all our adventures.  our first stop?  dayton.

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The Adventures of Kiwi Kyle | Part 1

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the first international blog post in the history of kelseyv.com!  I’m Kyle, Kelsey’s older brother, and I’ll be chronicling my experience here in New Zealand over the next six weeks.  While it is common for me to travel for my job, it has exclusively been in the U.S.  However, there is a client in New Zealand, specifically Christchurch, that needs my very particular set of skills.  After talking it over with my wife Kari, we decided I should take this short-term assignment.

While I had traveled outside the U.S. before, it was for my honeymoon in Jamaica, where they want more people to come to the country.  As a result, they have very relaxed rules on getting into Jamaica.  I learned rather quickly that not all international travel is so easy.  Kari and I got to the airport on Thursday and hopped in line to check one of my bags.  Once at the counter, I told the Delta employee I had a connecting flight in Australia before heading to my final destination of Christchurch.  She then asked if I had an electronic visa, and I immediately responded, “An electronic what?!”  Apparently to even step foot in an Australian airport you must have electronic travel authority (ETA).  Kari and I quickly jumped online and applied for one.  10 minutes and $50 later, I was cleared.  Phew!

We then got back in line to check my bag.  Once at the counter, I told the Delta employee I wanted to check the bag all the way through to Christchurch – I surely didn’t want to have to worry about grabbing it in LA or Australia and go through security again!  That request somehow didn’t quite seem to make sense to the Delta employee, and we were getting more and more nervous.  If we couldn’t get through this process quickly, I might not make the flight!  Luckily, a more senior employee helped me out, and I am happy to report my bag made it all the way to Christchurch.

The flights from Atlanta to Christchurch were long and uneventful, my favorite type of flight.  I thought I’d be in a reading mood, but that ended up not being the case at all.  So, I watched The Lego Batman Movie and Trainwreck.  While it was not as awesome as The Lego Movie, The Lego Batman Movie was still pretty good.  The unique plot, one-liners, and multiple references to previous Batman movies, cartoons, and comics made it an easy watch.  On the other hand, Trainwreck was just that, a train wreck.  I’ve enjoyed Amy Schumer the stand-up comic but personally ran hot and cold with her TV show.  I just wasn’t buying her at all in this movie and can’t really tell you why.  She just didn’t do it for me.  I honestly thought Bill Hader blew her out of the water, and Colin Quinn being in the movie was a delightful surprise.  However, at the end of the day was it worth killing two hours on a 14-hour plane ride?  Yes.  Would it have been worth a Redbox rental?  Not so much.

So, that’s it for now, readers.  I did get to Christchurch safely and in one piece, and as the weeks pass, I hope to blog about a variety of things.  The town of Christchurch, the food I eat, the things I do, the little differences between New Zealand and the States, just to name a few.  If anyone out there has any recommendations on anything, please send them my way!

showered with love

last weekend our crew had the privilege of showering our close friends kyle and liz with love and gifts in anticipation of their baby girl, due in just a few short weeks!  the day was perfect with friends, family, games, delicious food, and refreshing beverages.  with kari, kyle, and phillip by my side, i learned about the key elements you must have for a successful baby shower.  in no order of importance, they are as follows:

#1 – choose a theme.  if you’re short on inspiration, asking the mom and dad to-be for decor ideas they have for the newborn’s room is a great place to start.  you don’t have to get too specific (even a color theme will do), but i’ve found a general theme of some sort helps put you in a good direction for other parts of the party you’ll be planning.  i myself am dying to throw, attend, or be given a winnie the pooh themed shower some day.  just saying!

#2 – pick out and send the invitations.  now, on this one i personally went a little overboard and designed some custom invitations on vistaprint.  i know it’s so easy these days to do electronic invites and rsvp’s, but i still think there’s lots to be said for hand-addressed envelopes with personal greetings.  but hey, maybe that’s just the old soul part of me talking.  also, it’s hard to resist invitations when they’re this cute – just look at those squishy little animal faces!

#3 – decide on the menu and beverages.  of course this part of the planning depends on the time of day and how long you expect the shower to last.  will folks already have eaten lunch and not be hungry?  do you need to fire up the grill for a cookout or will finger foods do?  regardless of how much you do/do not do, i’d recommend making/getting the mom and dad’s favorite foods if you can find out what they are.  doing so adds a personal touch and will really make them feel special.

#4 – figure out how much decorating you’ll need to do.  this one will depend greatly on the space you are using to host the event.  if you’re having a “destination” shower at a local shop or venue, there might be enough natural decor or beauty that you don’t have to do much.  or, if you have a blank slate, you might want to get creative.  of course, all of this also depends on your budget (kari was the pinterest queen on this one!), but believe me that whatever you are able to do, the parents to-be will be overwhelmed simply by the gesture of the shower itself.

#5 – get all the help you can!  putting on a baby shower might not sound like it is a lot of work, but believe me, the to-do list tends to grow quickly and kind of sneaks up on you.  knowing that, i highly encourage delegating and making the event a team effort.  that’s what fiances and husbands are for, right?

#6 – make sure you make it easy for your guests to find your house (or wherever you are hosting the shower).  for example, darling balloons that match colors of your theme, wrapped sweetly around the mailbox.  believe me, there’s nothing worse than driving circles around a strange neighborhood while squinting to read street numbers in a place you’ve never been and all the while sweating through your cute shower outfit because of the humid georgia summer.

all credit goes to phillip on this one!

#7 – i think we’d highly recommend planning for at least one game.  it’s a great way to bring the crowd together, especially if you have guests from different areas of the parents’ life (you know what i mean, work friends and then the college friends and then the high school friends and then the family).  the game doesn’t have to be complicated or even last that long, but it brings some variety to the party.

#8 – take a bundle of awkward photos of the guests of honor as they open every single gift.  and then!  upon revealing each gift, gush over them all with “ooohs” and “awws”.  i think this is actually a baby shower law, and we do not apologize for all these pictures.  🙂

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and just like that, once the tissue paper settles and the toys are toted away, you will be done throwing the baby shower of the year.  but, i have good news for you – the joy doesn’t end there.  soon enough, there will be a whole new life to be thankful for, and i suppose that’s what all of it is about after all.  🙂

#carveyourpath

i have been looking forward to writing this post for a long time now.  the reason i’ve had to wait such a while is because i couldn’t get the product i want to write about until just recently.  you might be wondering how that is possible since everything you could ever want is available with the touch of a smartphone or by quickly visiting a website to place an order.  well, the reason i couldn’t just summon this product to my doorstep is because it’s only available in florida for the time being, and now that the suspense has built up greatly, i’ll tell you that what i’m writing about today is jacksonville’s first craft vodka carve.

vodka?  yes, vodka.  if i’m being honest, i wouldn’t consider myself passionate about vodka in really any way, but the reason this vodka is so interesting to me is because a former classmate of mine at uga is the founder!  paul grey and i had a handful of classes together for our mis major, and although i doubt he even remembers me among a sea of faces, i recognized his face immediately once he started promoting carve back in 2014.

i had reached out a couple years ago, asking if online ordering was available for the product, but the answer unfortunately was no.  they weren’t that big just yet, so i’d have to wait until my next trip to jacksonville to give the drink a try.  but, in a fortunate turn of events, my boss ended up moving to fernandina beach and so sweetly brought back a bottle just for me!  thanks, clinton!

after letting the carve chill in the freezer, phillip and i busted out the lemonade to make ourselves a perfectly refreshing drink in this hot, humid georgia july.

the smooth carve with the tart and sweet lemonade was just what the doctor ordered.  easy to drink and no burn, phillip and i happily sipped them down with no trouble at all.  now, i’m sure there are all sorts of distilling buzz words i could throw out there so that it sounds like i know what i’m talking about, but i’m not going to try and fool anyone.  carve was a great mixer for our summertime drink, and i would be happy to purchase another bottle again if it means i get to support a fellow uga alum.  go dawgs!

phillip <3s #carve!

when in philly…

do as the philadelphians do and eat a cheesesteak!  this past week i spent a couple days up in the city of brotherly love for work and decided to, of course, make the most of it.  although the weather wasn’t too welcoming upon my arrival, thankfully the friendly faces at geno’s steaks were.  i’d been to the rival pat’s several years ago and decided it’d only be fair to give the competition a try as well.  plus, a friend of a friend had recommended it, so i was happy to oblige.

i hopped out of the uber and tried not to look too much like a tourist.  well, that approach didn’t work really at all in my favor because there aren’t any instructions anywhere on where to order or how.  i didn’t want to rustle the feathers of any locals by taking an absurd amount of time, so i fessed up and told the employee i was from out-of-town.  he smiled when i shared the news and was happy to make a recommendation that would be sure to please.  he even gave me a pen as a souvenir!  awww.

i plopped myself down at a nearby table and, upon unrolling the sandwich, realized i may have made a mistake by ordering the sandwich and cheese fries.  that cheesesteak was huge and probably enough on its own!  i would never myself eat a sandwich that big with that much filling, much less with a heap of cheese-smothered french fries, but i was sitting right next to the order counter and felt the employees’ eyes peering through the glass, eager to know if i liked their famous sandwich.

i could do nothing else but roll up my sleeves, grab a mountain of napkins, and get to work.  the first thought i had as a bit into the cheesesteak was that the bread was insanely fresh; that i could not deny.  i also couldn’t deny that the rib-eye was sliced perfectly thin.  however, i have to confess that among the fresh bread, savory steak, onions, and cheese, i wasn’t getting the flavor punch i had hoped i would get.  perhaps instead of the grilled onions i should have gone for fresh onions, if that is even an option?  i don’t know, but i eventually powered through messy bites of cheesesteak and slathered french fries to the near end as best i could.

as i finally admitted defeat with a hunk of bread and a few fries remaining, i relaxed a moment to take in the atmosphere of this well-loved (and long-loved) philly establishment.  it’s clear that locals and non-locals alike have a special place in their hearts for the beloved cheesesteak.  open 24 hours a day, geno’s has earned its place as a traditional icon of the city, satisfying hungry wayfarers’ tastebuds no matter the time of day.

the juice you chew

okay, before you go running for the hills about a post called “the juice you chew”, i implore you hear me out on this one.  this past saturday i was at orangetheory with our coach alana, and after a sweaty 55-minute endurance class, we were stretching when she said she had a treat for us.  ooh, there’s nothing better than a hard-earned treat!  well, i couldn’t quite hear everything she was saying about this chuice stuff, but the bit i did hear was something along the lines of “you take a sip, you chew, take a sip, chew, so on and so forth.  it’s only 150 calories per bottle and it is healthy!  the chewing process helps you digest your food, and having something in a bottle for on-the-go lifestyles is perfect.”  out of respect and intrigue i figured i had nothing to lose, so i made my way to the front of the class to grab a bottle for myself.

now, i’d be lying if i said i wanted to chug it down right away.  the thick texture and very green color had me a little worried that i might not even be able to choke down a swallow of the stuff.  however, i’m usually down for trying something new at least once, so i went for it.

i cannot even begin to tell you how pleasantly surprised i was, but i shall try!  first, i enjoy kale, so getting to chomp on it along with some crunchy pine nuts didn’t phase me at all.  and, along with all the other fresh fruit and vegetables, it was quite a flavor explosion.  also, i don’t usually have a texture aversion when it comes to what i eat, so that was something i didn’t really have to get past.

i will say that drinking (or maybe eating?) chuice isn’t the most graceful of acts, in that sometimes you’re slurping up a piece of vegetable while also trying to sip.  just imagine that while trying to drive home.  oh, and here’s a pro-tip when enjoying chuice:  be sure to shake after each sip to make sure the thinner liquid actually mixes in with all the more solid ingredients.  the reason i say this is because if you do not you’ll end up with a big clump of vegetables and fruits at the bottom of the bottle that you cannot get out, which is a shame because all those vegetables and fruits are so tasty!

now, you might be thinking “eh, that evergreen flavor doesn’t look like my cup of tea.”  well, have i got news for you!  they also have one called heart-beet!  seriously!  i cannot make up this stuff, and you all know how much i love beets, so i am convinced it is fate.  you can purchase chuice online or, if you got to their locator page, you can find a store near you where you can indulge.  lucky for me there are plenty of nearby whole foods that carry them, so i just cannot wait to stop by.  do your body something new and good and give chuice a try!

santa barbara & sara’s wedding

I’m back and better than ever!  It’s Kelsey’s dad with a blog about our recent trip to Santa Barbara for my niece’s wedding.  None of the names have been changed to protect the guilty.

FRIDAY

Unlike the trip that Kelsey and I made out to San Pedro for my brother’s birthday a couple years ago, we left plenty early to drive to Hartsfield airport.  While on the way, I serenaded Kelsey and Phillip with a few powerful renditions of “Phillip The Man”.  Fantastic if I do say so myself.  Anyway.  We got to the airport and parked in extended parking row 63 (in tribute to 1963, the year that John F. Kennedy was shot).  Kelsey, Phillip, Kyle, Kari, and I all flew out together – a train wreck just waiting to happen.  We got to the gate and I began to chat it up with a lady sitting near us.  The lady loved my Chinese proverb “Humor is the passport to success.”  What can I say?  The flight itself was long and bumpy, but four and a half hours later we landed at LAX.  Victoria and Clark picked us up and we were on our way to Santa Barbara.

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Clark did a terrific job driving and also helped put together a specially requested “SoCal” playlist, a playlist only with songs about California or songs by artists from California.  We hit massive traffic going up Highway 1/PCH.  But eventually the traffic broke loose and we stopped at Neptune’s Net.  Neptune’s Net is a classic beach-front dive and we enjoyed their food and beer.  Some would say the highlight of Neptune’s Net were the two seagulls who were “doing the wild thing.”  Some would say this “doing the wild thing” was disgusting.  Anyway, just nature.

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We finally got to Santa Barbara where, guilty as charged, it was sunny and 72.  We found our hotel, The Inn at East Beach.  Only stay there if you DO NOT want air conditioning and DO NOT want an elevator.  Otherwise, it was okay.  Lucky for us that the Swedish girls’ volleyball team was staying there also.  😉

We rested and then were on our way to Dargan’s for a reception-type activity for those who were from out of town for Sara and Christian’s wedding.  Needless to say, the “Alabama Rednecks” traveled the furthest.  Anyway, Dargan’s was a huge hit.  All the Rednecks wore Hawaiian shirts, and I thought they looked great.

OMG.  While leaving Dargan’s, Victoria mentioned she was hungry.  Great idea and, even better, there is an In-N-Out in Santa Barbara!!!  Clark did another terrific job driving and got us there safely.  I ordered a double-double, animal-style for both the burger and the fries.  Heaven!!!

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