The Adventures of Kiwi Kyle | Part 5

Over the past two to three years, I have broadened my horizons when it comes to wine.  Before then, I avoided the wine list mainly because there was a beer on the drink menu I wanted to try or because I knew nothing about wine.  My wife Kari would give me a couple sips of whatever she was drinking while we were out and about, so I came to know what I liked.  If I want a white, it’s Pinot Grigio, but if it’s a red, give me a Malbec.  When I learned New Zealand was known for Sauvignon Blanc and that there were a few wineries just a 45-minute drive from Christchurch, I decided to check out the local scene.

My Internet searching brought me to Waipara Hills and its iconic stone building set among the picturesque Waipara Valley vineyards.  I knew they offered samplings, so I approached the bar, eager to dive in with Dennis, the lucky (or unlucky) employee to take me in.  When he asked me what I was interested in trying, I replied, “What do you recommend?”  He came back with, “What do you usually drink?”  I answered, “If I want a white, it’s Pinot Grigio, but if it’s a red, give me a Malbec.”  Period, end of statement, no more to be said, but Dennis was looking at me, waiting to list off more wines.  Reading the expression on his face, I let him know I usually stay in my lane with wine, so I will literally try just about anything.

As such, Dennis started me off with a Sauvignon Blanc that had a very intense fruit/sugar taste, which was way more than I had bargained for.  I asked Dennis to turn it down in that respect for the next round, which he did with Gewurztraminer.  Now, I couldn’t pronounce the name if my life depended on it, but I came to learn rose petals, lychee, cinnamon, and ginger are characters commonly found in the New Zealand version.  This particular batch was stored in an oak barrel, and it was a wine I very much enjoyed.  From there Dennis poured a Pinot Gris and Gruner Veltliner, which were good in their own right.  At that point, I decided to end my wine tasting journey and asked Dennis for a glass of the Gewurztraminer and a cheese plate. I took a seat on the patio, took in the view, and did pretty much nothing for the next hour.

When Kari was in town the following week, we went to Terrace Edge Vineyard, which was just on the other side of the road from Waipara Hills.  Terrace Edge is a much smaller operation but was equally enjoyable and has an awesome slogan:  “A dramatic landscape captured in liquid form”.  Who wouldn’t want to try a wine from a place like that!  Jill the owner told us about all the different wines as we sampled them and how her family bought the vineyard on a whim in 1999.  Her son even studied viticulture in college and now runs the day-to-day operations in the vineyard!  In going to both wineries, the excitement Dennis and Jill had for their craft was obvious, and that’s one thing I noticed about New Zealanders during my time here:  They are very proud and passionate about being from New Zealand and sharing whatever it is they love (wine, glacier hiking, etc…) with visitors.

carrollton girls’ weekend

last weekend i cruised west of atlanta to visit my dear friend sarah over in carrollton.  we were long overdue for some girls’ time, and since phillip was occupied for a couple days, i insisted i come into town.

the quick drive on i-20 led me to a few more turns and a relaxing whirl through her stomping grounds.  i pulled up to her humble abode and nearly jumped out of my car, i was so excited to see sarah and her home!  she came answering when i came knocking, gave me a quick tour of the house, and tried to keep her sweet pup maggie from attacking me with kisses.  i can’t say i minded the last one at all; everyone knows i’m a dog lover!

now, this visit wasn’t just about sarah and me catching up – it also was about getting to see her family.  her parents and siblings just have hearts of gold, and it wouldn’t be a complete visit to west georgia without seeing them, too.  so, sarah and i met up with her mom, dad, sister jenny, and other sister katie at a local antique shop.  hugs and stories were exchanged among us all as we perused the aisles and shelves in search of a hidden treasure.  although there were plenty of refurbished dressers and chairs i would love to have had, i knew phillip would kill me if i came home with another piece of furniture!  the condo and our storage unit are at maximum capacity!  i couldn’t leave the store without a souvenir from the weekend, though, so i found a lovely little rosemary mint candle from a darling little shop called uncommon scents.  the smell is subtle and relaxing and perfect to light for an hour or so before hopping in bed.

we all piled up and after shopping through another antique store and a local book shop, we met up at little hawaiian right near downtown carrollton for some dinner.


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february 12th – nyc


okay, folks.  even though the winter holidays aren’t too far behind us in the rear view mirror, i decided it was time for a vacation for phillip and i both.  actually, i decided it last fall when i planned the surprise as his Christmas gift, so it’s been many months in the making.  i just love surprises!

anyway, about this time last week i was hailing an uber to take me to the marta station.  a quick ride later, i met phillip at the delta baggage drop to check-in for our evening flight to our fabulous destination:  new york city!  yes, we were headed north to the city that never sleeps for a lovely five-day trip.  after leaving our overpacked luggage with the attendant, we made our way to the tsa precheck line like the local celebrities we are (or hope to be some day).  i do a fair amount of air traveling for work, so all those flights and miles have added up to some luxurious perks like precheck.  i felt so spoiled waltzing through the metal detector with both shoes on and my light jacket thrown over my shoulder.  ah, to be pampered is such a privilege!

we munched on some subway sandwiches in terminal t, and it wasn’t too long before we were boarding our md90 with all the other passengers.  as i walked down the aisle, i double-checked my boarding pass.  “phillip?” i asked.  “are you sure these are the right seats?  these are comfort plus.”

“yes, this should be us.” he replied.

“oh, okay.  well, let me get situated and out of the way.”  i moved into our seats and crouched under the bulkhead while other people shimmied by us.  we got our carry-ons safely stowed below the seats in front of us, buckled up, and sat back for take off.

phillip and i sat discussing our lucky circumstances, convinced that we were able to upgrade to comfort plus for free because of my status.

“well, isn’t that just the best thing you’ve heard all day!” i exclaimed.  i immediately grabbed the drink menu to decide what free drink i would enjoy.  funny how i can so easily adjust to a life of ease…

once we were up in the air, phillip and i both enjoy a quality glass of wente red wine.  it was the perfect drink to help us unwind from the work week and gear up for a great vacation.



soon enough we had a great view of all the city lights before banking left and coming in for a smooth landing at the laguardia airport.  we had arrived!  as t swift likes to say, “welcome to new york!  it’s been waiting for you!”  ah, such a sweet welcome!

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birthday getaway, west coast style

a few weeks ago phillip and i traveled to the great state of california to celebrate my birthday with extended family.  phillip has visited places near and far, but this trip was his first to the golden state.  ah, what a thrill!  to share such special things with him made our vacation that much better.  he couldn’t get enough of the weather and coastlines, and as such, he was the official picture taker of the weekend.  i may have also secretly deemed him the official picture taker of all events, but let’s keep that between you and me.  😉

i knew we’d want to share some of the trip’s excitement with you, but i also didn’t want to spend my birthday vacation with my head down in my journal in an attempt to capture every emotion of each moment.  so with that, we give you the highlights of our adventure as told through pictures.  enjoy!

day 1:  joy that we are going on vacation, misery after a rough flight, and phillip’s first in-n-out experience at nearly one a.m. pacific time.

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#dailyselfie: master painters!

with my weekend kind of wide open, i made some plans with my sister-in-law kari yesterday.  after working up a sweat with her at pure barre that morning and then grabbing some oatmeal and chicken salad at cafe jonah and the magical attic, we drove on over to amsterdam walk to scratch our creativity itch at dip ‘n dab.

i had been to a similar place a few times before, and since i always seem to have a good time, i figured it’d be a fun way to get out and do something a bit different.  this was kari’s first painting and drinking experience, so i was excited to have her join me.

first things first (after getting our aprons and canvases, of course) was to pour the wine!  last night’s class was an adult-only event, so bottles were being popped all around the room.  we started with some cabernet sauvignon, keeping it ultra classy with my eskimo joe’s cups.  don’t want to be breaking any glasses!



next we needed the paint so that we could actually make something beautiful.  a little white, brown, yellow, pink, red, and black ought to do it!


as we waited for everyone else to get settled, we busted open the groceries we’d picked up at publix before we arrived.  a little gouda, brie, proscuitto, salami, and sopressata paired well with our carr’s crackers and baguette.  this night would be quite an occasion!


we eventually got started with our brushes and paints since, you know, that’s why we were actually there.  first up was a tall, skinny pink bottle on the left.  beautiful!


now, we didn’t want it feeling lonely, so we added a tipsy plum bottle to keep the pink bottle company.


and then, because everything is better in threes, a large purple bottle joined the crowd.  mine was a little genie-in-a-bottle-esque, but hey, diversity is a beautiful thing!

we painted a few more background bottles, and in between color mixing, wine drinking, and food eating, we enjoyed some wonderful slow jams from the jukebox.  okay, it wasn’t a jukebox; it was probably just someone’s ipod or spotify playlist, but regardless, we were bumping along to some smooth tunes all night long!

a little bit later we had six lovely bottles set on a dramatic red background.  ooh, how inspiring!


by about this time my color palette was looking quite, shall i say it, artsy?  i was a mixing machine, purples of multiple shades and a lovely salmon/peach.  mm, get it girl!


as the night wore on, we got closer and closer to the final product.  a little outlining and corking and we were nearly there!


kari poured out the last drop of pinot noir (did i mention we’d opened another bottle…?) to finish out the night.  we got in the zone to put on the finishing touches and voila!  two beautiful lively bottles paintings were right there before us!  it’s like it was magic or something!

we were proud artists that night, glad to take home something we created ourselves but even happier to spend some quality time together.  with all the distraction in the world these days, sometimes it’s nice to just grab a glass of wine, some paint, and a brush and enjoy a creative and crafty evening.