Red Bull Trolley Grand Prix

This past Sunday we were tipped off to an awesome event happening in our area. The 2015 Red Bull Trolley Grand Prix. Fifty teams were put up to the challenge of creating the most innovative non-motorized trolley to race for a grand prize of $10,000. The stakes were high and all the teams brought their A game.

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Before the race’s started, I was able to snap a couple of pictures of the trolley’s:

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Hakuna Matata

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Tank You Santa

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Turbo Toolbox

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The Rolling Thrones

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Sharknado

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The Hoonag “Bat-Mobile”

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Sinking Sensation and  Team Anchorman

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The Intergalactic Ilabb Wagon

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Project X

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Last but not least, the WINNERS: Red Stag Hunters

No event is complete without a live freshly shaved sheep:

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How we spend Saturday mornings: Matakana Farmers Market

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We finally got our car situation figured out! Now we’re able to start exploring the Northland.

Our first pitstop: Matakana

Matakana is an adorable small town that we stumbled upon on our way to Tawharanui. This town had the most perfect little restaurants, surf shops, and the friendliest people! The surrounding areas include multiple vineyards, beaches, and hiking trails.

The major event that draws visitors to Matakana: The Saturday morning farmers market.  It’s open from 8AM-1PM every Saturday.

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How cute is this little “dog parking” area?

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A newfound hobby of ours has been tracking down all of the local farmers markets. We love buying local goods directly from the locals and trying all of the authentic food. This farmers market was one of the best ones we’ve ever attended. There were stands set in little shacks selling: fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, cage free eggs, locally made honey, hand crafted chili sauces, smoked salmon, locally grown olive oil, macadamia nuts, all sorts of nut butters, jams, fresh baked breads, cheeses, and the list goes on! One of our favorite parts of farmers markets is all the stands that show off their cooking skills. This is a great place to grab a cheep delicious lunch!

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This is the best candid picture the Go Pro snapped. We tried a steamed pork bun (soooooo good), and Vietnamese spring rolls. I was super excited for the spring rolls! Except, when I took a huge bite out of it, all I got was a mouthful of cilantro (yuck!). I was so disappointed because then they were ruined for me. I know it sounds bizarre, but to a certain percentage of the population (up to 14% of the population) cilantro has a very bitter overwhelming taste. Some say it takes like soap to them, I think it tastes like crushed up stink bugs, ugh. Moving on, Chad seemed to enjoy them so they must have been delicious!

We ended up buying a container of olive oil and honey roasted macadamia nuts. Not much because we already had a cooler full of food in the car!

Tawharanui Sanctuary

Camping is a huge thing in New Zealand. Which means, we needed to get a tent.

We did some research and picked Tawharanui as our first camping location. This place was unreal!
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Tawharanui is a regional national park that is about an hour north of Auckland. The park has some of the most incredible white sandy beaches and blue luminous water.

 We stayed in the camping only portion of the state park. The camping grounds were protected right behind the dunes. There were no showers here, but there were compostable toilets and fresh running water. The first thing we did was pitch our tent and head to the beach!

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picture is worth a thousand words:

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Seriously, this is why people come to New Zealand.

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After we took a nice long walk on the beach, we went back for some meatball subs.

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Next, we head back to the beach to drink some wine and do some relaxing.

Tawharanui is an animal sanctuary that integrates conservation, recreation, and farming. The peninsula has a ton of great hiking. We went on the two hour ecology trail, which was 3.8km. Boy was I excited that we went on this hike.

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First the trail went through what looked like a mini rainforest. All you could hear were five or six different bird chirps that all came together to make a song. Next, the trail required a bit of a hike up hill. Totally worth it. It lead out to a cliff that overlooked the top of the peninsula. To our surprise, there were also a herd of cow right on our trail.

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The views from up there were unreal. I wish I had more adjectives to describe how beautiful it was.

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After our hike, we watched the sunset up on another hill, surrounded by sheep. The sunset was followed by dinner and a coma. I was so tiered that I couldn’t keep my eyes open!

The next morning, after brushing our teeth and a change of clothes, we headed back to Matakana for brunch!

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Sausage rolls and Eggs Benedict.

An update on our life in the city

The past couple days have been extremely busy for us.

Our task this weekend was to buy a car. We drove around to some dealerships and looked into buying something small and old to explore the country. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find the perfect car within our budget. Instead, we found city hop. City hop is a service similar to zip car. It takes all of the headache out of car ownership without worrying about buying a car, buying insurance, or reselling the car after our five months. Now that we have a mean of transportation, we will be back to exploring shortly. Next weekend will be our first time going camping, yikes.

Besides car shopping, we’ve just been spending a lot of time FaceTimeing with our family and friends. I’ve had virtual wine dates with my best friend Natalie back home, and virtual dates with Chad’s little goddaughter Charleigh.

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We’ve also been doing some exploring in the city. Chad took me on a lovely date to a Spanish restaurant on the water. We had all you can eat Tapa’s for the first time and sangria. I never though that little plates could manage to fulfill Chads appetite, but apparently enough of them can.

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Aside from car shopping and date nights in the city, we have been spending quality time together. We’ve been going on runs, exploring local bars, and planning our upcoming trips. There is so many incredible places to see here that we’re having a hard time planning a trip that will let us see them all!

  Besides that, we have been enjoying being a normal couple and having a normal life.

Here’s a non-climatic video to supplement our non-climatic blog:

Halloween in Waiheke

Happy Belated Halloween everyone! We are loving seeing everyone’s pictures from Halloween.

Although we are bummed that we could not go out and celebrate Halloween with all our family and friends in costume, we did spend our Halloween in a very non-traditional way. We took a trip to Waiheke island and did some wine tasting.

Waiheke island is about 17.7 km off the coast of Auckland, easily accessed via a short ferry ride. The island has many hills which makes it an ideal geography for growing wine grapes. The climate is slightly warmer then in Auckland which made for a beautiful sunny day in paradise! We ran into a friend who worked on the ferry and invited us in to the captains quarters where I then commandeered the ship!

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Once back on dry land, we started our exploring with trekking up the hill to “Mudbrick Vineyard”, our first stop of the day. Mudbrick has a very homey classic feel, with a ton of outdoor space and mahogany wood.

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The views were down right spectacular.

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We got to the vineyard a little ahead of schedule so we took the opportunity to take some selfies =P

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At 10:00AM we had our first wine tasting! Yay! Who doesn’t love wine first thing in the morning? It’s 5 o’clock somewhere, right? All the wine at Mudbrick was phenominal, we ended up buying a bottle of Syrah.

The next event on our agenda was “Cable Bay Vineyard”, which was a short walk from Mudbrick.

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Cable bay was really neat and super modern. Our favorite wine from Cable Bay was the Sauvignon Blanc, which is what New Zealand is known for. Our favorite part of the vineyard were the outdoor bean bag chairs that you could relax in. Who doesn’t wanna drink a glass of wine in a comfy bean bag chair facing this view!

Our next event was the main highlight of the day. I found a vineyard that had some awesome activities on site, “Wild on Waiheke”. Their main activity: Archery. I was super excited that I got the last booking available, and I wanted to surprise Chad. Unfortunately, I’m the worst secret keeper because I blew the surprise (by accident) within a couple of hours of making the booking. To see some footage of our first time doing archery, see the video below.

Archery and wine tasting at “Wild on Waiheke” was our favorite event of the day! Although it’s hard to pick one event since every place we went to was special in it’s own way. After archery we had lunch on the property. We have not eaten at a restaurant where the food wasn’t top notch, but this place in particular was “niebo w gebie”, which in polish means “heavin in your mouth.”

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Chad ordered their version of a meatball sub with a fried jalapeno. I ordered a bread and spread platter with salmon spread, hummus, and olives. As a side we ordered beer battered onion rings and beer samplers. Who goes to a brewery and doesn’t order the beer sampler?

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All the beers were tasty, our favorite was the non-alcoholic ginger beer. We’re figuring out that ginger beer is a big thing here in New Zealand.

During lunch, the sun came out and created the most perfect weather: slightly breezy with the warmth of the sun on your skin. I know we were warned that New Zealand does not have an ozone layer, but with us being professional beach bums I was sure that it wouldn’t be an issue to us. Boy was I wrong, thirty minutes in the sun and the spots where we didn’t put on sun block were turning nice and red. Luckily, the restaurant provided all it’s patrons with free sun screen.

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The next place we went to is called “Stonyridge Vineyard”. We didn’t do too much research on this vineyard before going there, but we were thrilled we had the extra time to go to this one. The environment was so laid back, and everyone there was in the mood to relax. We really enjoyed the scenery, the atmosphere, and the little amber doodle puppy that came to play with us!

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Seriously though, how cute is this puppy butt?!

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 This view…. woah.

After Stonyridge we were spent! From here we head straight to the beach for some serious relaxing. We planted ourselves in the sand and laid back to watch the sailboats.

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We then head back to the ferry and back to Auckland!

P.S.- Here is the aftermath of the battle wounds I obtained during archery.

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Leave it up to me to find a way to injure myself, typical. Thank goodness I went to nursing school, right? To manage to care for myself, haha.

Back to adventuring: Mission Bay, NZ

Monday, October 26th was Labour Dar here in New Zealand.

Since we had a day off, we decided to venture out and learn how to use the Auckland metro system and AT HOP card. This pre-paid card enables us to use the cities buses, trains, and ferries for a 20% discount. We caught the bus to the beautiful little seaside suburb of Mission Bay, New Zealand. Immediately upon exiting the bus we noted that there was a craft and food market happening.

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The moment we walked into the market, we ran into the “Pukeko Bakery” which is known for making handmade artisan breads. You guys know that anything that has to do with food has Chad’s attention immediately. We sampled (and bought) beat-root ciabatta bread with pumpkin seeds, and capsicum ciabatta. From there on, we moved onto a the booth next door which was also selling baked goods. We bought a hazelnut tart from them! Can you tell I was excited about that one?

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Wish we had more pictures of the incredible art work and crafts, but most artists asked not to be photographed. You’ll just have to take our word for it and trust that each stand was unique and enticing. There were local artists displaying their paintings, photography, woodwork, cuisine, and clothing. This was by far the best way to spend our Labour Day!

After we explored everything the market had to offer, we made our way to the short board walk and beach area.

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Every time we get near the water I am truly astonished with how greenish blue and clear the water is. Here we spent a little bit of time sitting on a bench and watching other patrons walk by with their friends, family, puppies, or children. Every single person we saw that day had a smile on their face. How could you not when you have great food, pleasant company, and phenomenal weather.

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After we spent a little more time just wandering around town, we head back towards the city center.

Sixteen miles within two days

Friday:

Yesterday we woke up early, had some oatmeal, and went for a couple mile run. Yesterday was sunny and it almost felt warm outside when the sun hit your skin. After our run, we hurried home to bake some fresh cookies for our lunch date with Chad’s new employer. We made white chocolate chip macadamia nut cookies. I forgot to take a picture since I had to hurry and hide them from Chad before he ate them all! I couldn’t find brown sugar at the store, so I substituted the brown sugar for organic coconut sugar which is also slightly brown in color. I was really interested to see how the substitution would affect the flavor of the cookies. They were a little less sweet, but equally as tasty. For all of you that don’t know this about me, I love to bake!

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(This is us before we went for our lunch date!)

For lunch we had some delicious local Thai food! After that experience, we are super excited to try all the other Chinese, Korean, and Thai food that New Zealand has to offer. After lunch we head back to our apartment to do a little relaxing since we were planning on going out that night. Unfortunately our Comcast application doesn’t work outside of the states, but good old Netflix was there for us with a small variety of movies. Madagascar 2 was our pick.

That evening we had dinner at the apartment. We made chicken breast marinaded in olive oil, sun dried tomatoes, and red wine vinegar. This was topped with sautéed spinach with a tiny bit of butter and garlic. For a side we had Kumara (purple sweet potato). For some reason, ours wasn’t very purple on the inside. I will have to pick up some more at the grocery store and hope I get a dark purple one.

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After dinner we got ready and went out to the bars! Ponsonby is a popular area to listen to some live music and grab some drinks. It was about a twenty minute walk from us, about 1.7 kilometers. Unfortunately, it was primarily up-hill! By the time we got to the bars, we were thirsty for not only a beer but also some water! After a few drinks at a neat little dive bar, and some great musical vibes, we head back downhill towards our abode. When we got home, my UP said that we had done another 8 miles today! Thats 16 miles in two day, no wonder our soles were a little sore.

Here’s a great picture I got of the Sky Tower lit up at night:

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Saturday:

Today is a very wet rainy day here in Auckland. We slept in the latest that we have since being here: 08:30 am. We had a slow lazy Saturday morning, unlike the past few days. For breakfast we made crepes with peaches and russian fudge drizzle. In our possession we had some “Donovans Russian Fudge” which is a New Zealand based company in Waikato. We melted down the fudge cubes and topped off our crepes. This was the most un-nutritious meal we have made so far but the biggest indulgence.

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After breakfast we had a little cleaning party! We did some dishes, the laundry, dusted and vacuumed our apartment. Since it’s a rainy day and we forgot to pack and umbrella or rain coats, we’re going to have a lazy day indoors. We took this opportunity to face time our families and our dogs:

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Cheers to all our friends and family back home!

                                                                 Sincerely,

                                          The couch potatoes

No one has a good hair day at Devonport.

Today was a windy & cloudy day in Auckland. Even though it was slightly gloomy outside, the sun was still peaking through at times and we couldn’t let the day go to waste. Therefore we decided to take a trip to Devonport!

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We were on our way after a $12 NZD ticket & a 15 minuet ferry ride! Once the ship arrived in port, we could immediately see how majestic the little town was. Mount Victoria couldn’t help but catch your eye.

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Upon our arrival, we walked to the entrance of the park and began to ascend to the top of the mountain.  Mount Victoria is located on Auckland’s North Shore and it is the tallest volcano in the area, roughly 87 m (285 ft) tall. No worries, it’s an inactive volcano. The hike to the summit was quit treacherous.  But, along the way we saw some gorgeous flowers and amazing views.

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We ascended to the summit of the mountain in anticipation of the rumored views. Our hamstrings and glutes were really suffering as we made it to the peak. Once we arrived at the summit, we were able to capture a few photos of the sweeping views of the Auckland harbor and enjoy a light lunch.DSC04319_edited-1

(The incredible view of Auckland and the Sky Tower from the summit of Mount Victoria)

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(This is the opposite side of the mountain overlooking the other islands)

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The coolest part is that there is a bar located on the top of the mountain called “The Bunker” where musicians meet every Monday and one Wednesday a month. We were hoping they would be open for a drink, but no luck. I guess we will have to come back during their hours of operation to listen to some impressive folk music.

We climbed down the opposite side of the mountain and made our way to Cheltenham Beach.

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Cheltenham Beach in located in North Head which used to be a military bunker. The hill is lined with old military tunnels and cannons, as well as the greenest grass imaginable. We took advantage of the secluded environment and had some fun with our new camera. Here’s some pictures from our photo op.:

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We then marched our sore feet back towards the town and the ferry building. Our steps at the end of the day totaled 17,000! Thats a little over eight miles, phew.

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We had some time before the next ferry so we stopped by a local cafe to have our first cup of NZ coffee!

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Best. Cappuccino. Ever.

Don’t forget to check out our youtube video that correlates with the day!

Many Tears & Good Cheers!

We spent our last weekend in Baltimore celebrating our amazing friendships and relationships by going to my best friends housewarming party, bonfires, taco dates, family brunch, and football parties! We ran around all weekend so we would get a chance to see everyone before we left, but it was more than worth it. Leaving is extremely difficult when you are leaving behind the most caring and compassionate people. We are very blessed to have such supportive and loving families.

We began our journey on Monday morning, bright and early. Our bags were finally packed, iPad & computers fully charged, we were ready to go! After saying goodbye to Chad’s parents and my parents, we were off to the airport. The hardest part was saying goodbye to my mom at the airport.

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Our first flight started off with an altercation between a passenger and a crew member which resulted in this person being escorted off our flight and the flight being slightly delayed. After a couple hour plane ride to Chicago, we got off the flight and wandered around the airport in attempt to find some Chicago deep dish pizza. Belly’s full with pizza, we continued on to LAX in Los Angeles. We were kinda bummed that we didn’t get to sit next to each other on either of these flights but after our four hour plane ride we landed in LAX and prepared for our international lay over. After this experience, I am even more convinced that LAX is one of the more frustrating airports to travel through. This is just simply my opinion.

At this point, by the time we got to LAX we were already traveling for close to ten hours. Yuck! We freshened up in the airport bathroom, put on some airport PJ’s, brushed our teeth, and put the baby wipes we had brought to good use. We were ready to board Air New Zealand and cuddle up in our Sky Couch! If you want to know what a sky couch is, check out this link.

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(Don’t mind the awful picture quality!)

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Finally, after close to thirty hours of travel we arrived in Auckland, NZ at approximately 0700 AM. We caught a shuttle to the office where we needed to pick up our apartment keys and trekked a couple blocks with our luggage to our new place. We had only slept for a couple of hours on the plane so we were exhausted! After we settled into our new apartment, we resisted the urge to go to sleep. Instead, we went to wander around our new neighborhood to find some food!

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Auckland blew us away! The city is so clean and up-kept. Everyone we have met so far is beyond friendly and helpful. This is the view of our apartment building:

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After we took our leftover pizza back to the apartment, we grabbed our backpacks and headed to the “New World” supermarket. It was intriguing to wander the isles that held numerous unfamiliar items. We picked out some golden kiwi’s, organic goods, and Chad even convinced me to get some fresh lamb meat. We tried to buy wine but apparently our Maryland license’s are no good in verifying our age. We will have to bring our passports to the grocery store next time we want to buy wine. We lugged our groceries a short half mile walk back to our apartment, put them away, and immediately changed into our pajamas. We can not wait to crash into our new bed the moment 2000 hits! Hopefully we’ll be able to adapt to the time difference and start fresh tomorrow!

P.S.- I will try to get up a video documenting our adventure within the next couple of weeks! First I have to overcome the challenge that is iMovie.