Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Life back in NZ

Back in NZ

It was a bit of a last minute shock for both Amy and I when we had to swiftly book a departing flight for me back to New Zealand. We no realistic visa option for us to apply for and with only days remaining on my current visa, the decision was made for us. So once again there I was commuting across the globe with all my possessions in-tow. This now including my Stand Up Paddle board.

I made it back to the familiar Christchurch on a gloomy day. Fish and chips and a trip to New Brighton was in order right off the 27 hour journey. I tell you what, I have never felt so confused in my life. Such a dramatic transition from normal life in America with my fiancee, to being back in NZ all on my own.

I occupied and entertained myself by visiting friends and keeping busy. I jumped up to Mt. Hutt for a day snowboarding with my mate Andrew, and I took Gran out to dinner at Cassel's and Sons, treated by Amy's grandfather.

I headed down south to Queenstown to hang out with John, do some snowboarding and coincidentally be Kel's carer after her accident. I enjoyed being in the company of family and Queenstown turned it on with a month straight of sunny days. Not great for the snowboarding, but fantastic for other activities. We did hit up the mountain a few days. I didn't have a pass, so I just hiked up to the terrain park and would walk laps of the jumps and rails. But I was most stoked to get out playing disc golf. I loved the new course at Tucker Beach on the side of the Shotover River and while there did an Ice Bucket Challenge in the river. I took a nice mountain bike out to Arrowtown as well, and had some good walks round into town and round the lake. We all cruised for a few drives, one to Glenorcy for a game of golf (real golf) and a milkshake, and out to The Fork and Tap in Arrowtown for some pints and bites.

A string of job offers led me back to Christchurch where I have now set myself up in a sleep-out room in a big flat in Fendalton. I have embraced a slice of normality taking a team leader position landscaping. Ute and smartphone and all. I am enjoying work, good hard stuff that it is, but I do hold some authority so I can delegate wisely.

So I have been busy spending my salary on craft ales and water sport toys. I get out and about every week night just keeping busy till Amy arrives. I play a lot of evening golf at Hagley, I went to my first BBQ of Summer, I always get out on my bike, even up mountain biking in the Port hills this weekend. I've got out to Sumner on my SUP and actually caught some good water on it. Played my first round of disc golf at the Jelly Park course and I have committed to learning and mastering windsurfing, having a slow but successful first outing on the estuary. As usual I have been enjoying cooking and eating mostly vegetarian food and entertaining my ears with good bass music.

Lastly, I participated in the first Christchurch Parkrun in North Hagley Park. I bettered my time each run getting into the low 20 minutes winning my age category and finishing in the top 10. I would say my lifestyle is "active" and I'm loving it. Just really need my darling fiancee Amy back in my life ASAP.

Our Hot Air Balloon Ride!

Sunrise hot air balloon ride over Connecticut
For our birthdays, my mom and I got tickets for a sunset hot air balloon ride. We tried to schedule it in a few times, but each time it got cancelled due to the weather. Finally, I made the executive decision to do an early morning sunrise ride, in hopes that the weather would hold out and we'd be able to do our ride before I left. We got lucky, and had chose a perfect Autumn day in October.

So my mom and I got dressed in extra warm layers, and left the house before 6am for the dark drive north to the launch site. We arrived 20 minutes before sunrise and to our surprise, were asked to help the crew of local churchgoer volunteers set up!

Sunrise from the balloon
With the experienced pilot and one other couple, we hopped into the tiny basket, were told to wrap our arms around one of the 4 posts and to hold on! The balloon lifted off the ground and we soared above the trees as the sun was rising in the sky. The group of volunteers jumped into their cars, and become 'balloon chasers,' driving around on the ground chasing our balloon in the sky in order to be there whenever we landed, wherever the wind took us.

Looking down at a lake and treetops

We had spectacular views of the New England foliage, and our hour long flight took us both high up in the air, and sometimes even low enough to touch the tree tops. We flew over Lake Compounce, one of America's oldest amusement parks, and saw the old, historic, wooden roller coasters and all the modern ones as well. The edge of the basket was about at my waist, and I was nervous that if I leaned over too much, I'd just fall out. There were no problems though, even as we awkwardly switched places and moved about the cramped basket.

It was an incredibly exhilarating experience, floating above the sleepy little towns, as the sky got lighter, and the wind took us in whichever direction it wished. We had views out for miles and on the horizon we saw the surrounding cities in the distance. It wasn't too much of an adrenaline rush, but it was peaceful and lovely, and the view was spectacular.

Amy on board

We finally started to lose altitude, and our balloon started to float down over a golf course! Golfers below were baffled and intrigued and took photos of us coming down, and then ran over to tell us that a tournament was going on and we'd have to leave ASAP! So one of the guests on board our balloon was asked to 'walk the balloon'. We didn't know what this meant, but he jumped out, took hold of a rope and pulled us off the fairway.

'walking' the balloon off the golf course

We had to help pack the balloon back up, as it took the volunteers forever to find us. They finally arrived, got the gear on the back of the truck, and drove us back to our cars, which was four towns over, where we started. Once we were there, they offered us champagne, cheese, crackers and cookies and we all talked about the ride and how beautiful a morning it was. To be able to fulfill my mother's dream of hot air ballooning, and share the experience with her was the best part of all. 

Me and my mommy

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Long Beach Island

The Sierpina family

For 25 years running, the Sierpina family have been making their annual pilgrimage to the New Jersey Shore. Specifically, Long Beach Island or LBI. This 18 mile long sand spit is full of Summer holiday madness. Roasting yourself in the sun, out for family dinners, playing mini golf and gift shopping. Join in or get left behind. Embracing this tradition is what I'm into and its not a bad way to spend a week, really. The key to surviving is reducing the portion sizes, not lying in the scolding sun all day is a start, sharing one meal at dinner helps too, limiting shopping saves a buck and drinking something a bit nicer than Bud Lite transforms the experience. This goes for general American life too, so I have gotten quite good at it.

Thomas with the sexy Sierpina ladies

Brady enjoying his first time to LBI
On August 2nd, we packed up two cars and drove the nearly 3 hours down the massive Garden State Parkway to LBI. It was a family affair, with Ted and Diane, Shannon, Amy and I, Tom, Nicole and baby Brady and even the dog Diem. Unfortunately, with a shortage of beds I ended up on the couch. During the day, whenever back at the house, I lived on the deck with a beer in hand, often sitting with Ted watching the world go by. The girls loved fussing over and looking after Brady.

We would spend essentially all day out at the beach, sandwiches for lunch and always some chips and crackers to snack on. The days were hot and sunny. The water was cool and refreshing with nice waves to play in and I managed to not get into trouble with the lifeguards either! It really is an unbelievable sight just how many people park themselves up on the beach for the day, and this is replicated up almost the entire East Coast of America. Just imagine the amount of pee there must be in this stretch of the Atlantic!

I dug a mean hole. 
I myself had some good sessions of recreation, going for a few beach runs, some early morning and evening Stand Up Paddle board out on the bay as well as in the ocean on a glass out morning. One morning I paddled over a big school of fish and through swarms of bioluminescent jellyfish. Another day a killer pulse of swell pushed through and I literally surfed from sunrise to sunset. With an evening offshore wind change, I got the chance to surf some of the steepest and hollowest waves I have come across. I gave these waves the tag "Jersey Barrels," since they were incredibly fast, steep forming tubes with quick closeouts. It was a great experience attempting to surf these waves.

Some more of the family times involved playing lots of board games, Bananagrams, Trivial Pursuit and Pictionary. We played some good games of mini-golf, one round included a winners balloon hat made by a clown for me. We had some nice dinners out, but like I said its a holiday. One incredibly popular restaurant, The Chicken or the Egg, is always madness. But we put our name on the list and waited the 2 hours to get in. We walked around the little shops nearby during the wait though, and Amy and I played lots of fun games at the arcade and while the others were shopping, we saw a beautiful, burning, red sunset over the bay, so it was worth the wait. I was very happy to eat lots of clam chowder, and even accomplished my dream of having one in a bread bowl! 

We spent one afternoon watching a Surf Lifesaving Competition. LBI is separated into towns, each with their own mayor, police, fire department and Surf Lifesaving club. We cheered on the team from our Surf City township. They had to race the other teams out to the buoys either by swimming, while rescuing a "victim," rowing in boats or paddling on a surf board. Our team did pretty well, but the team from Barnegat Light win every year, and this year was no exception. 
           Lifeguard Competition 
It was a fantastic week and we look forward to spending more time in LBI in the future.

 Having fun in the sun

Monday, October 27, 2014

'Glamping' in Narragansett

Amy tending to our dinner in our glamorous campsite!

Corn on the cob in the fire

We had planned on returning back to Narragansett all summer and we were very lucky to sneak in a reservation for Fisherman State Park campground due to a concidential late cancellation. We really made the most of our time and enjoyed some good quality glamorous camping. We came prepared with chairs, firewood, sheets, blankets and pillows galore, marshmallows and plenty of food and snacks. Maybe this still doesn't sound that glamorous, but it is for us!

We set up camp and were greeted with the "hello neighbor" from the older couple in the campsite next to us. Just a short walk from the campground was a beach, so we headed for an afternoon swim and a good lounge there. Later that afternoon I also boosted off for a quick paddle board around an inlet backing onto the state park. A good breeze and some currents made for a strenuous hour and a half workout on the water. No problems, I was back just before dark to make us a delicious campstove dinner including roasted corn on the cob cooked directly in the fire.

Rising early is never a problem when camping, so off we were early to get to Narragansett Beach before 9am when the entrances to the beach get manned by teenage locals charging beach goers a fairly steep entrance fee. We set up a good wee beach site there with the SUP, surfboard and chilly bin containing lunch.

Thomas catching some "waves"
It was a beautiful day with some small waves and moderate temperatured water. We had a blast soaking up the sun, getting some waves and I even mannaged to break my fin on the micro waves. For me it was the perfect day, I just played in the water, then back up in the sand, then back to the water, back and forth all day. Amy did some good relaxing and had a bit of a splash around in the water too, one time with us both in the water we looked back at our stuff on the beach to see a seagull dragging Amy's notebook off along the beach. She managed to chase the bird a little bit, and get him to drop the book!

Feeling like we had our fair share of sun for the day, we posted ourselves up at a local pub and had ourselves a few $10 pitchers of Narragansett Summer Ale. And back for another chilled evening by the fire.


The morning before making the three or so hour journey back to Stamford, we went down to the Point Judith Lighthouse. We also stopped into the old seaport town of Mystic, CT. The two days away was exactly what we wanted and needed really, just a little quick, easy and cheap getaway from our somewhat busy little lives. No computers, phones, television and nothing to worry about. Its unfortunate we only got away the two times camping over summer but none the less we did get away and did well on our two little vacations. I can't wait to return another time and get back into our little tent again.

Enjoying our mini holiday

A Summer Engagement Party

Well, we'd been engaged for a few months, so according to my mother, it was time for an engagement party. We just wanted to have a casual backyard BBQ with our local friends and family. So my parents, Thomas and I picked a date and invited the guests! We had about 40 people, mostly my aunts and uncles and cousins, and a few of our Stamford friends were invited too. Thomas invited some co-workers from Cask Republic, and we had an afternoon of drinking, eating and playing games in my parent's backyard.

Amy and her ladies
We were so fortunate that some of my friends came from out of town in order to join us in this special occasion, and that Thomas' new friends could come and celebrate with us as well. The keg of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale that Thomas provided, probably made a difference! It lasted into the wee hours, along with the home made sangria and the full bottle selection. 

 Later in the evening we cut into our cake, and had some fun popping the corks on some champagne bottles and celebrating.

Thomas making a scene, as always!
This evening was absolutely fabulous. We're so happy, enjoying our engagement and are grateful for everyone who came to the party and those around the world who have been showing their love for us. We received heaps of cards and some very generous gifts as well. During our party, my sister Nicole bought us Mr. and Mrs. pint glasses (very appropriate) and my Aunt Debbie and Uncle Alan got us a pair of incredible Swarovski Crystal champagne flutes (maybe not conducive to our current lifestyle, but one day!). We got a few more bits and bobs for our nonexistent house, but sometime in the future we'll be able to decorate! The Sierpinas sure do take their parties seriously and full credit to my parents for orchestrating a flawless event allowing Thomas and I to enjoy the company of our North American family and friends. 

Cheers to the future Mr. and Mrs. Deverson

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Pasta Making with Grandma Louise!

Grandma Louise teaching Thomas a thing or two about Italian cooking!
So Thomas and I always like to make things from scratch. Beer, bread, jam, cheese, pasta, etc. We haven't had too much experience with some of these things, but its definitely our goal in the future, when we're finally settled somewhere. So back in the middle of the summer, we were helping my mom bring items she was donating to a tag sale. While we were there, we spotted a pasta making machine! I asked if we could purchase it then and there, but then ladies actually said no! I'd have to come back once the tag sale officially opened. Once we did, the pasta maker had been sold already, and we were gutted. In mentioning this story to my Grandma Louise, she got the idea in her head to hunt down her old pasta maker. My grandma comes from Italy, and making pasta and sauce from scratch has been something she has done since she was little. A few years back though, she gave her pasta maker away to her niece. But once I told her we were interested in making our own, she contacted her niece who agreed that I should inherit my grandmother's pasta maker! So surprise! My grandma gave me the maker, along with a family recipe for homemade pasta.

Thomas crushing tomatos

We had set a date for my grandmother to come on over and teach us how to make her homemade sauce. She was so adorable, coming over with all the ingrediants we would need, and even food for us to make lunch for ourselves while the sauce was cooking! She was serious about her sauce though, and we immediately got to work. She had Thomas chopping up ingredients and making meatballs. I was in charge of browning other meat in the pot and Thomas took on another job of crushing the tomatos to make the sauce. We put the sauce in the pot with the meat and let it simmer for hours. The meatballs went into the oven first, and then to the pot as well. While that was cooking, we enjoyed some sandwiches for lunch, and Grandma told us stories about her childhood. It was a wonderful afternoon!

A couple of days later, with our family recipe in hand, we took on the task of making pasta. We invited my siblings, my grandparents and my friend Dana over to my parents house for a completely handmade meal from Thomas and Amy. So we started off in the early afternoon making the pasta dough and putting it through the machine until it came out into long sheets. We didn't really factor much time into letting the pasta sit for awhile, so eventually we started rushing and were sort of frantic. But Dana came over early, and helped us out! As Thomas put those long sheets back through the pasta maker to make linguini, Dana and I seperated each strand and laid them on bedsheets in my parents dining room so that they could dry. That was quite a tedious task, but it was all well worth it.


Right as my family started to arrive, I rushed to handmade some rolls, which I've never done before, and I must say, were pretty delicious. Thomas then took handfuls of the now hardened pasta and tossed it into boiling water for a few minutes.


We were right on schedule. With a few bottles of wine, and craft beer we offered the family our homemade sauce, homemade pasta, homemade rolls and salad too. If only we could have offered our own homemade cheese that would really have been perfect! But it was a wonderful evening, and the pasta was incredible! Being able to spend the quality time with my grandma and learn her family recipes was even better though.

Sunday family dinner

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Kettletown State Park

iSup on Lake Zoar.
Jumping away for a quick overnight camping trip to Kettletown State Park was one of the most bizarre experiences we have had.  Maybe more so for me, but even it was somewhat of an experience for Amy as well. In early July we decided to go camping to get away from our busy lives in Stamford. We wanted to find the closet place we could camp, with access to some form of water where we could paddle board. We discovered Kettletown State Park online. This place, just one hour drive from Stamford, Connecticut, was in complete stark contrast to the busy, hustle and bustle urban density that we experienced day to day while living in Stamford. We made the most of our 24 hours off work and enjoyed a bit of peace and serenity, wild weather and some amazing paddle boarding.  

Bush walk, through some dramatic Connecticut scenery.
We wanted to make the most of our time at Kettletown, so we quickly packed the car, got some food and headed off, not paying much attention to the weather report. Maybe we should have, but all that would have made us do is potentially not go. So being ignorant worked out for us, and we soon arrived to a deserted lovely lush and green forested camping ground. Turns out its mostly a family weekend spot, perfect for us as it was Monday. As soon as we arrived, we went on a couple of short hour or so long bush walks, on the deathly humid and overcast day through some beautiful, rocky, forested hills. Once we were allowed to check in, we set up camp before a short rain shower came through. 

SUP yoga
Only to be followed by beautiful sunshine, perfect for Amy to sit and read by the lake edge and for myself to go out and explore on my paddle board. Lake Zoar is a long and narrow man made lake formed within a flooded valley. The water was black with forest lapping right to the shore. I observed  a beautiful mother and baby deer drinking at the lakeside, numerous birds and the drifting misty clouds and humidity produced awe inspiring effects looking off into the distance up the lake and over the rolling hills. 

After really enjoying the sunshine, the weather took a turn. We ran back and quickly dashed into our tent to escape the rain. The rain came down with such force it nearly washed us and our tent away. We were surrounded by about 10cm of water almost instantly, and our $20 wal-mart tent's waterproofness was severely tested, it did ok considering. Only at one point did we unzip the tent quickly to take a look at the rain-made lake that surrounded us. The rain let up only slightly, and we cuddled together in the middle of the tent to keep from getting wet from the drips of water running down the seams and soaking our air mattress.  Somehow we made it through the night with the roar of thunder and the peaceful pitter patter of rain in the forest.  We woke early, hit the lake again quickly, with even Amy having a paddle around, packed up camp and made it back to Stamford for us both to go to work at 11am.

A fantastic escape just an hour from home.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Family time in England

At the White Horse Inn on the 9th of May
This seems like a bit of a silly blog to write, because I feel most of the people that read our blog were actually on this trip with me. None the less, in time to come when my memory fades, I will have a copy for myself to remember, as with all our blogs. I was looking forward to the trip alot. Mum and Dad were over to visit Char, Mike and Elliott who had just settled into their new life in Oxford. What a great time to head on over and catch up with them all. Getting to see the family, with some excursions around, made for a great holiday over in England. 

Yes, I remember Adlestrop.
For the first few days I was in England, we made excellent use of the rental car that mum and dad had. We had day trips all over the show. I would have no idea right now of the names of the small towns etc that we visited other than the one memorable village of Adlestrop. Apparently famous for a poem written at the train station, however my father's version of the historic Adlestrop and its significance was much more entertaining. Involving naming a flat he lived in during his younger years with his buddies after what would turn out to be a muddled up version of the towns true history from his high school english class. So that was Adlestrop. On my birthday I got to choose what we did, so I decided I wanted to go for a walk in the hills and drink lots of ale. We did that going to the Uffington White Horse and walking the historic sites of the area including the extremely large standing stone circles in Avebury. Along the way we stopped at a few pubs and I enjoyed some lovely Golden Ales, my new favourite beer style of the trip. It was a beautiful day and it was lovely to spend it with my parents, then home in the evening for curry with Charlotte, Mike and Elliott.
Looking down to the main street of Oxford and to the countryside in the distance.
For me the trip was not like my usual travels but more just an opportunity to spend time with the family, making up for the time we spend apart. Just generally hanging out, exploring more the local stuff and experiencing a bit of the normal day to day life that they live. Saying that, we still got up to a lot in the two weeks that I was there. But the things I enjoyed the most were smaller activities like reading to Elliott, taking him to swim class, playing with the lego and Thomas the Tank Engine puzzle game, helping Charlotte plan out her garden, running the 10km race with her and enjoying family dinners each night. While in Oxford, I did get a good look round the town. Getting panoramic views from one of the many church towers, and really getting a feel for the historic town and how close and connected it really is with the farmlands and small towns in such close proximity. 

Father and I enjoy one of the many daily pints of ale.

I quickly snuck into London town for a day catching up with my good friend Marc Rogers. I spent the day sightseeing London on foot taking in some more of the lovely weather and catching a few of the art galleries which I hadn't yet made it to: The Tate Britain and the National Gallery and just generally having a good walk around town. I met Marc that afternoon at a pub that was getting two unfiltered and unparsturised oak barrels of Pilsner Urquell served as fresh as it would come from the brewery, as it would be in the Czech Republic. Marc rocking his professional dress of business suit and briefcase, we spent the night at a few different bars, drinking some nice beers and we even found ourselves at a live punk rock gig.

Marc and I at some trendy back alley East London bar.
Headed for the Cornish Coast we found ourselves in for a very long day of driving with a few stops along the way along the Jurassic Coast digging for fossils and taking a few cliff top walks along some spectacular coastline. This part of England really surprised me, with its crystal clear Atlantic waters, beaming warm sunshine and quaint & relaxed beachside towns. We had obviously struck it rich with the weather and made the most of it. Spending time walking the narrow streets of St Ives, to running the Coastal pathway with Mike, playing in the sand with Elliott at the beach and even having a brief swim. We took a small day trip along the rugged coast and rolling green hills, had a picnic lunch and ate fish n chips of the harbour wall as the sun set. 

The beautiful Cornish town St Ives from our Airbnb apartment looking out to the Pacific.
I relaxed one day as the rest of the family went off for another day trip. I took in the view from the large front room window, a view I could look at for hours on end, then later set off along the Coastal Pathway heading north this time. I also explored the harbour at low tide, which is an extraordinary sight with the whole harbour draining twice a day at low tide. Even more exciting looking up at the wall from the sea floor then the following day jumping of that wall into the now returned ocean. 

This is what the harbour looks like at low tide.

800+ year old bridge in .......
I really enjoyed this trip with my family, and look forward to catching up again somewhere else in the world, hopefully sometime soon. 

Little pee-pants acting like a G.