Monday, January 6, 2014

A Very Vettoretti Christmas

The gorgeous Vettoretti home
Being left in New Plymouth during Christmas with nothing to do, we were fortunate enough to have an invite up to Auckland with our friend Gina. Gina is a good friend of Amy and mine that we knew from university in Christchurch. She was up to visit her parents in Auckland for two weeks and we jumped on the opportunity to get away and meet some lovely people. We can't begin to express how grateful we were that they opened up their home to us and let us be a part of their family Christmas celebration. The Vettoretti's were unbelievably kind and generous, and we thank them from the bottom of our hearts for giving us some Christmas cheer and a fabulous time in their beautiful home on a lovely 10 acre lifestyle block not too far from Manakau. It was a gorgeous place to spend Christmas and they treated us just as a part of their family.

Amy, Thomas and Gina with Santa!
As soon as we arrived, Gina's mum asked if Amy was "really American," and thus wanted to decorate their Christmas tree, since she knew American's like that sort of thing. Amy was thrilled because she LOVES that sort of thing, and with Gina's help, the girls decorated the tree with every decoration offered, not even leaving out the Santa Head lights from the '80s. On Christmas Eve Gina took us for a drive around the area. We ended up at a small town to visit the local hall which was decked out with Christmas lights trees, trains, elves, reindeer and so many dancing Santas. A few cheeky Santas dropped their trousers, and one even got Amy in the face with some water, quite amusing. We then headed to the wild Karioitahi beach were I was the only one to have a swim in the rough and turbulent ocean.

Thomas and Gina, with the gorgeous decorated tree!
We had a great Christmas day of presents on the morning, and as usual I did very well for myself. As did everyone, with thoughtful gifts. But again, we most appreciated that we had been invited into the Vettoretti family. We had a big lunch of ham, chicken and leg of lamb with all the usual trimmings. Aunties, Uncles, cousins and Gina's grandma came for lunch. A second round of leftovers and more family members followed for dinner, not that we hadn't eaten enough at lunch though! Amy particularly gushed over the Christmas crackers, as they're not a thing for American Christmas, and we laughed about the pathetic toys they included and wore the crowns the rest of the day. We even tried all the different traditional Christmas cakes and puddings and played outside with the rugby ball, cricket bat and Frisbee. That night, we drove off with Gina and her parents to find a house decorated in Christmas Lights that was apparently an impressive sight. As we arrived, along with hundreds of other hopefuls, we saw that the lights weren't lit! We waited around awhile, and even walked up the road and back, but they never turned on. Disappointed, Gina's dad made a spur of the moment decision to drive all the way into Auckland city to find Franklin Street. They told us that this street is famous for its Christmas lights and decorations and apparently every house needs to sign an agreement that they'll decorate during the holiday season. Almost every house or business was covered in lights and we walked up and down the road with the sky tower lit up red and green in the background. It was very impressive!

Thomas and Amy enjoying Christmas Day
We stayed for about a week, and felt like we became part of the family. Life was extremely chilled, as we tried to keep away from the Christmas hustle. We spent Boxing Day out in Cockle Bay, visiting Tom and Dorothy Deverson and catching Alan Deverson quickly before we left. It was so nice to see some family during the holidays, as well as catch up with them after about a year and a half. We also went on a mission with Gina to find a second hand shop to get me a pair of shorts, went on a mission through the Botanical Garden to find the sculpture exhibition and we also drank lots of wine. We enjoyed our time in the spa pool and played a good few games of Cluedo and Trivial Pursuit. We were well looked after food wise but we were able to treat our host to some of our staple Greek dishes. What we enjoyed most was just spending the week with everyone, chatting and sharing stories.
Amy enjoying the view of the Sky Tower
Amy and I did head into the city one day and had a yummy Southern American style lunch, which was a Christmas gift from Amy's grandma Louise (She gave us money to go out to a nice meal), followed by taking the ferry to Devonport. We looked around the naval museum and did some shopping and enjoyed the hustle of a big city.

We hope your Christmas was just a great as ours! Merry Christmas!

One of many fabulous nights in Auckland

The Making of a Christmas Card

Our Christmas Card!!

As you may, or may not know, for the last few years Thomas and I have been sending out a Christmas Card. I'm sorry if you haven't made the cut-usually they're just sent to our parents and siblings with maybe a few lucky family members thrown in. We started this tradition the Christmas we spent in Australia, Amy's first away from home and first summer Christmas too! I wanted to send a card to my family with a picture of us on the beach in our bathing suits with Santa hats, just to rub in that I'm in a tropical paradise while everyone back home is in a blizzard. We continued the tradition last year taking a picture while snowboarding in Colorado, and it seems we want to make the tradition be us somewhere that perfectly depicts our current lifestyle and home while wearing Santa hats. I had the idea that this year in New Plymouth, we should be on a surf board. I didn't think it would be as difficult to take a good picture as it was! Luckily, we had a professional photographer (Kent, Thomas' cousin) on hand and his underwater camera. It was easy to choose the picture that ended up on our Christmas Card, because it was legitimately the only good one. But the rest are hilarious, and it was an amazing afternoon playing in the surf as well.

My [cousin's] Big Fat Greek Wedding

Shannon, Amy, Nicole, Tom and Alex

If you've been following our blog since the 
beginning, you may remember a post about a year and a half ago titled "My Girlfriend's Cousin's Big Fat Greek Engagement Party." Well the engagement party for my cousin Danny and his now wife Despina was a ridiculously huge Greek party and thus their wedding was something I refused to miss. Considering that this is the only cousin in my family marrying another Greek, and considering that Despina and her family are exceptionally Greek, we all knew that this wedding was going to be the biggest Greek event our family has seen and will likely ever see.  What a perfect excuse to head back to New York to attend the wedding of the century! It all started Thursday Oct 17th, with a rehearsal dinner (I wasn't invited) and continued Friday night with a surprise "pre-wedding" party! Apparently this is a tradition in Despina's family, and I thought it was just going to be a gathering of close family for some drinks and dancing, well it was in a rented hall, with a sit down meal, open bar, a Greek DJ AND a Greek band, and the throwing of the money of course!

Greek Ceremony- boo iphone quality

Poppy ready to party with his $250 in dollar bills!

Luckily we had Saturday to recover, as the wedding was Sunday October 20th. On Sunday, we all arrived at the Greek Church in Norwalk, Connecticut for the traditional Greek ceremony. After throwing some controversial rice at the newlyweds, we followed the bridal party about an hour north to Waterbury, CT for the reception. They chose this location for its unbelievably gorgeous view and especially this time of year with fantastic foliage, which can be seen in the first picture behind me and my sisters, brother-in-law and cousin Alex. We all stood around for an hour eating delicious hor d'oeuvres and guzzling numerous alcoholic drinks! Finally, the wait staff opened some French doors and we were ushered into this magnificent hall, with purple lights, over the top centrepieces and two winding staircases. The decorations were gorgeous, and the view from the windows was magnificent before the sun set. As soon as we entered, the dancing begun.

The bride and groom, bridal party and even parents and grandparents were announced by the MC as they walked down the winding staircase in the center of the hall. They newlyweds came down last, and immediately went to the center of the floor for their first dance. From this moment, the money started flying, and it hadn't stopped by the time we left, which was before the wedding ended! My mom was nice enough to give me some dollar bills to throw, and along with everyone else, there ended up being an ocean of money on the floor, much to the excitement of the flower girl and ring bearer.

We ate, we drank, we Greek danced, we took silly pictures in the photo booth, we listened to amazing speeches, especially from my cousin Steven, the groom's brother, and we looked on as they cut the cake and had their first dance. My grandfather got up and danced with me, and even showed us all his fantastic Greek dancing moves! I'm sad that the night had to end, but I look forward to more fantastic parties from the Sentementes-Triandafilides families. 

Despina and Danny Sentementes