MeRF Getaway

Back in June, some folks in our church (MeRF = Messiah’s Reformed Fellowship) headed out to Pennsylvania for a getaway at Kirby House, a beautiful old house that was once used by the Kirby family as their summer home in the mountains.

It was really great to spend some decent time with church folks. Our church is a commuter church so most of our fellowship times happen on Sundays because it is so difficult to get together during the week. So, having a weekend to spend time together was great. I didn’t take many photos, which is a shame because the grounds are gorgeous, but I was spending time with people instead.

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I handed my camera off to someone else to take the real photo — this one was me getting the settings right — but the ‘real’ photo didn’t turn out, so this is the best I’ve got!

We had some good talks led by Pastor Murphy, time for swimming and walks, and just hanging out enjoying each other’s company. We also had a talent evening, which was fun!

Looking forward to the next one!

It’s been a decade

Like I said last week, it’s been cold here! However, Ben and I did have a blessed little escape from the cold back in January for 3 nights, when we eloped to Jamaica while my parents looked after our kids. Wait, you can’t elope when you’re already married… Well, it was to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary. We figured a decade is a pretty momentous occasion, so we decided to do something pretty momentous. Jamaica was fantastic — a really relaxing few days, the snorkeling amazing (which we did every day right off the cliffs of our hotel and one day at a nearby reef), the weather perfect, and the company just like the weather.

It was fun to walk to the nearby town one day and get a taste of local culture. I’d say it felt like Africa in the Caribbean, which probably isn’t very original. We bought some trinkets and I got my hair braided. We also had the yummiest fruit popsicles ever.

The hotel where we were staying had lovely gardens with all sorts of interesting plants.

We were right on the ocean, and had stunning views especially of the sunsets. Each of the 3 sunsets we saw were different!

Our hotel was lovely — the setting beautiful, the staff super-friendly, and the whole atmosphere just so relaxing. If it weren’t for these photos, I’d think it was just a dream!

I have been so blessed to be married to Ben for the last 10 years. I can rave about all his wonderful qualities for hours, but it’ll make him blush. :-) You could say I was just a child when I said ‘yes’ (I was just 19!), but I still reckon it was the best decision I’ve ever made.

May there be many more decades!

Camping in the wilds of New Jersey

The first weekend in September we went camping with Lillian and Jeremy and Shanna at High Point State Park. We didn’t really know what to expect, seeing that we had never been there before, but we were up for trying it — our very first camping trip in the U.S.! Ben took the Friday off work and we were at the campgrounds by lunchtime, which was great to set up camp and all that. What wasn’t so great was that it was predicted to rain all that weekend. We weren’t going to be deterred!

We were right next to a lake. There was the little misunderstanding about how I thought the lake in the photos would be the same one we’d be camping next to, but that was a little further up the road, a bit cleaner and swim-able. The one we were next to was definitely not a swimming lake. It was pretty, though!

It was a wonderfully relaxing weekend. I was so ready to get out of the city! It was wonderful to enjoy nature, enjoy Jeremy and Lillian’s company, enjoy camping food (barbecued meat! potato salad! marshmallows!), and to smell like sweat, smoke and insect repellent (yeah, I’m weird. I kinda like that smell. For a couple of days, anyway!).

We went for a walk around the lake. It was a very pretty walk, and we also got to see all sorts of interesting flowers and critters!

We were so blessed that the rain that was predicted to be drizzling all day really only came after dinner on Saturday night. We even got to make stick bread, one of my favourite childhood Voortrekker (scout) camping memories — bread shaped on the end of a stick, roasted over the fire. Like a marshmallow, only longer. :-) I was having so much fun, I neglected to take a photo of it, which is a shame. Well, when the rain came, it really came down something fierce. I think two storms passed over us during the night, but we were all nice and snug in the tents, and in the morning the sun rose brightly and dried off our tent in time for us to pack it up!

We did get to spend some time at the lake in the photos too where the water in the taps were also a little less brown than at the pump by our campsite, so we filled up our bottles there. On the day we left just Ben and the kids and I went back and there was some sort of community event that let people use kayaks and canoes for free. I stayed on the sidelines with a tired Laurelin, and Ben and the two older girls enjoyed the free kayaks.

We all got home very tired, but it was a good kind of tired.

Fruit picking in Princeton

At the end of July (boy, how is it that the end of July is already months ago??) I took the girls fruit picking at Terhune Orchards just outside of Princeton. It’s a lovely place, and it’s always so nice to pick your own produce. What made this little trip even nicer was that Lillian with Shanna (and her mother-in-law Hilary, for a little while) met us there. It was a great morning of berry picking, picnic food eating and drinking in country life. I’ll pretty much just let the photos do the rest of the talking.

A morning in Montclair

A few Saturdays ago, we headed about 20 minutes west to Montclair for a bit of a greenery and suburban fix. We just had a little picnic morning tea in a park, the girls ran around, and we admired the big mansions surrounding the park.

Walking down the road looking at some of the little shops, we spotted this cool mosaic:

An impromptu lunch at a Mexican restaurant topped it all off!

20 years of friendship, and still going strong

In March, my friend Lizel visited us from South Africa.

Lizel and I have been close friends since we were seven years old, despite living apart for 15 of those. As kids, we would do all sorts of crazy things like pelt the neighbour’s house with mud cookies, or knock on people’s doors and run away, or take whoopie cushions into shops and walk through the aisles making farting noises.

We also used to busk together at Christmas time, split the money exactly between us, walk over to the church office and give them 10%, and then walk back to the shops to spend the money on Christmas gifts and loads of candy.

Her visit to us was only the third time I had seen her since leaving Namibia in 1998. I went back for a visit in 2002 and she taught me how to play the guitar. We wrote many songs and dreamed of being famous.

Having her here was fantastic for so many reasons — not least of them that I hadn’t seen her since she came to New Zealand (as a BIG surprise!) for Ben and my wedding in 2005, more than 7 years ago. We still can laugh so much that our stomachs hurt and our eyes water, and we’re not always even sure what we’re laughing about. Ben jokes that our maturity levels dip by about 10 years when we’re together, but I think that’s good for the soul sometimes! Lizel spent 12 days with us, and they were almost all jam-packed with sight-seeing, shopping, exploring and laughter. Here are some of the things we did together:

We walked the Brooklyn Bridge,

went through the financial district and saw Wall Street,

and took the Staten Island Ferry to see the Statue of Liberty,

and rode the subway quite a lot.

We spent a day in Central Park with my friend Neli.

We went to Prospect park once with the whole family,

and once on my birthday (without Ben).

We went on a double decker tourist bus to see some city sights quickly,

and we gawked at Times Square.

Lizel even got her photo taken with a NYC cop!

We rode in a yellow cab,

went up the Empire State Building.

(View of lower Manhattan and Jersey City across the river.)

We saw Wicked on Broadway,

and even got a photo with the lead singer afterwards (when she wasn’t green anymore!).

We went to Ground Zero and saw the memorial pools and the new World Trade Centers under construction.

We saw the view of Manhattan from New Jersey,

and we went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

We went shopping,

and Lizel bought a truckload of gifts for people back home (but not from Macy’s!).

We ate far too many yummy things, most of them containing chocolate of some form.

We also took a trip out of the city to Lancaster County to give Lizel a little bit of a taste of rural America. Marica stayed with friends that weekend who took her to a ballet performance, so it was just Esther in the back with Lizel. The whoopee cushion (with new! improved! technology — it blows itself up!) came along for the ride.

We saw beautiful Amish farms,

and workers in the fields.

We stayed at a farm that also has some cabins. The grounds were so lovely and peaceful, and the cabins were clean and comfortable. It did have a decidedly farm smell about it, though, but that all added to the authenticity!

And we went on the Strasburg steam train which was quite a neat experience.

If you’ve made your way through this post, I applaud you.

Whew, what a wonderfully fun and full 2 weeks! Let’s hope it’s not a whole 7 years before I see Lizel again!