A little time travel into the past: April

In April, we had a wonderful visit from my parents. It was great to spend time together again — especially for the grandkids to have their grandparents around! Spring really was a great time for a visit — not too hot and not too cold, and it’s so beautiful with all the blossoms and flowers out.

I was really excited that my mum could be here for the tea party I like to host in the spring, especially seeing that most of my pretty tea cups come from her! It was great to be able to introduce her to some of the wonderful ladies in my life and to all share together yummy teas and scrumptious food.

Our time together included a little trip down to Washington DC and Lancaster, PA.

Washington DC has so many impressive buildings, and it’s so clean compared to NYC! We did the touristy thing and took one of those city bus tours — it was a great way to see the city, and we could hop on and off to stop at the places we wanted to explore a bit more, like the Capitol and the White House. We had missed most of DC’s famous cherry blossoms, but still got to see plenty of other beautiful blossoms all over the city.

We were on our trip over Easter weekend, and got to attend a beautiful Good Friday service in DC. On the Saturday, we drove to Lancaster, PA, for a few nights to look around and to visit with cousins Hannah and Peter, and attended church with them on Easter Sunday. We rented an Air B’nB place in Lancaster — the most narrow little row house I’d ever seen! It was great to have a kitchen and living room area, though and so much cozier than a hotel room (though I have to say the hotel we got just outside of DC had nice big rooms and was plenty comfortable for the price we paid).

We spent our time in Lancaster by resting and taking it easy at our rental apartment, checking out a market in the city, playing with the kids at the local playground, and meeting up with Hannah and Peter for dinner. We also drove out to Intercourse and Strasbourg where the men took the kids on a steam train ride while mum and I went exploring the little shops with trinkets, fabric and crafts. I do love me some fabric!

Easter morning the children had an Easter egg hunt inside and outside in the little backyard. After going to church with Peter and Hannah, we went to lunch with my parents at The Greenfield Restaurant where I had the most exquisite scallops of my life. I think everyone else enjoyed their meals too, but I’m still raving about those scallops!

While my parents were here, they offered to watch our kids again so we could get away just with the two of us again.  This time we took a whirlwind trip to Playa Del Carmen in Mexico after we got back from our trip to DC and Lancaster with my parents. It was so good to have some relaxing time without the kids (as much as we love them!), getting to see some Mayan ruins, going snorkeling, and just working really hard at relaxing. I’m not even joking about that — when you’re always busy busy busy, it can be hard to relax! We were just so thankful that this was even a possibility, and that we could experience another piece of God’s beautiful creation, as well as get some great quality time as a couple.

Roadtrip ’16: Hoyt Reunion

After our great camping experience, we drove down to Columbia, SC, to spend the night and visit Ben’s parents’ old church where we got to meet people who knew them 40 years ago, which was pretty neat. Apparently Dad was a bit of a rebel back then, growing long hair. I’d love to see a photo of that! We drove past their old house, which was brand new when they bought it and looks a little bit different now.


After church and a lovely lunch put on by some of the church folks for Mum and Dad, we drove west to Georgia for the long-awaited Hoyt reunion.

People came and went as they could; we were thankful we could be there a full week. Somewhere in the middle of the week we had around 70 people there! What a wonderful time visiting, talking, playing, eating Aunt Nora’s great food, swimming, dancing, and just generally loving being together. Pretty much everyone I talked to wished we could hang out longer and spend more time together. This reunion we had loads of little kiddies, which can make it tricky to visit in the evenings and which is probably why a bunch of us felt like it was all over too quickly.

Disclaimer: some of the photos on here are pilfered from Bryan, who managed to get shots of some things I didn’t.

During the day we met at Uncle Stan and Aunt Nora’s church hall for activities, meals, games, and more.

We went out for trips to a nature reserve one time, played baseball another day, and went swimming most days.

In the evenings we did a bit of a house-hop for visiting and endless games of Mafia. We also had people over to our cabin one night for a bonfire and s’mores, which was one of the highlights of the week for me, but somehow I didn’t get any photos of that.

We had the traditional evening of folk dancing, which is always riotous fun, twirling and hoping like crazy you remember the right steps and don’t break someone’s toes or something.

We got to do some swing dancing on the Friday night, which was great — another highlight for me.

And of course, it wouldn’t be a Hoyt reunion without a talent show! We ended up having two of them — one more casual one on the Thursday afternoon and a more formal one at a beautiful church in the evening. So much amazing talent in one family is almost criminal.

It was great to see all the different licence plates from all over the States in the church parking lot. People traveled long distances!

There were a couple of trips to a nice restaurant in town called Grits (which, being the south, sounds like ‘gree-uhts’. Had it been the deep south it would have graduated to ‘guh-ree-uhts’). This was delightfully a kids-free event for me and Ben thanks to some kind cousins and grandma who babysat.

Our next few butterflies hatched while at the reunion. Man, they were pretty.

We were hosted by friends of Uncle Stan and Aunt Nora in a cabin on their beautiful tree-filled property that they use for guests and an office. Dan and Beth were such gracious and kind hosts. Beth has done a fantastic job of decorating in a really neat country-folk-meets-artsy style. That, coupled with the beautiful wood in the cabin, gave the cabin a really nice homey feel.



With our hosts and their grandson on the cabin porch.


So, as wonderful and fun as these events are, there is a huge downside to them… they only happen once every 3 or 4 years. So, as a solution, I propose lots of little mini-reunions in the in between times! Not the same, but it helps with the withdraw symptoms. Come on round!


Roadtrip ’16: Monticello

This year was the happy year where a US Hoyt reunion took place. This time was again in Georgia, so back in June we took a two and a half week long roadtrip down south. It worked out well that Ben happened to be between jobs at that point so he took 3 weeks off, which was so great.

For the trip down to GA, Ben’s parents traveled with us (we had hosted them for a few days before we left) and although we didn’t drive together we joined Jeremy and Lillian on most of the stops. The first of these was at Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson. It was a bit of a rainy day, but thankfully the rain had mostly stopped by the time we were done with our house tour.

We took a tour of the house, which was pretty impressive, especially as it was obvious how much thought went into planning it and making it a practical space.

We looked around the grounds and gardens which were beautiful. I especially enjoyed the veggie gardens.

We also joined in on a tour about slavery on the Monticello plantation. Even though Thomas Jefferson opposed slavery, he still owned them which is a difficult thing to wrap your head around.

After a look around the gift shop (I bought a couple of packets of seeds from their veggie gardens to try growing in mine next year), and a nice picnic lunch, we headed down to Tennessee for camping — which I’ll tell you about next time!

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He was tall! I’m even standing on my tippy toes.

Visit to New Zealand, part 4

A couple of days after Christmas Ben returned to the US, and the girls and I stayed in NZ for another 3 (full, but great) weeks. We met up with lots of family and friends and had such a great time that for the most part I forgot to take my camera along. I did manage to capture some photos of the more exciting or unusual things we did, but I’m afraid that many great conversations and cups of tea don’t feature in photographic form!

For me, the highlight of the last 3 weeks was the opportunity we got to sit down with so many people and to just get a chance to talk face to face. To spend time with family and friends — not doing anything unusual necessarily, but just enjoying each other’s company — was such a blessing.

At my parents’ house, it was so great to have many conversations and great meals together, for the kids to crawl into Oupa & Ouma’s bed early in the morning to watch kids’ TV shows, and to just spend time together. My parents had gone through a herculean effort to renovate the upstairs part of their house in time for us to be able to live up there comfortably. It was so lovely — 3 bedrooms and a bathroom all to ourselves. They even got bunk beds for the kids and special sheets and everything! Thanks again, Pappa & Mamma!

One day, my mum, the girls and I all got our hair cut. A fun way to spend a morning!

Another day we took a Sunday drive through Sumner

and then on through the Port Hills to Governor’s Bay where we stopped at She Chocolat for afternoon tea. It was probably my favorite afternoon of the whole trip (and not just because of the chocolate!).

Spending time with other family members was also a real highlight. Somehow I only got photos from the times we spent at Elrike’s house. The girls get along so well and had a real blast playing with their cousins (and I loved hanging out with Elrike!).

Bevan and Elrike have a pool, so a couple of times when the weather cooperated  there were some fun times in their pool with a whole bunch of cousins and aunts joining in.

Funny thing: one morning I turn up at her place and we’re both basically wearing the same outfit. We were both wearing denim bottoms, a black and white striped shirt, and a red necklace. And no, it was not pre-arranged. We got a real kick out of that.

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For cousin Erika’s belated birthday celebrations, there was a morning with cousins at Chipmunks. I had never been before — it was pretty fun! The place is all padded so you basically let the kids loose and check on them every now and then to see that they haven’t broken their necks yet. For the rest of the time you sit and chat and drink coffee. Or something like that. :-)

To finish off the series of posts on our trip to New Zealand, I’ll share a couple of photos with you that I got to take in the cockpit of the big plane that flew us from NZ to Houston. The cabin crew are usually happy for you to see and photograph your kids in the cockpit. But argh, I was fumbling around with the camera and didn’t use the right settings, so these didn’t turn out so good.

Just look how these kids have grown since the last time I flew alone with them in 2012!

We had a long lay-over in Houston, so we didn’t feel rushed to get from one terminal to the next, which was great. It also kept the stress levels low when the immigration line took about an hour to get through — there are perks to long lay-overs!

The trip flying back was overall a good one. Saying goodbye is always hard. Marica and I were struggling to keep it together after waving goodbye to everyone, but Esther and Laurelin were super excited to go on the plane again and to see Ben! So the tears got wiped, shoulders got squared and we got on with the business of flying. The flight to Auckland is always such a nice short flight and I find the walk between the terminals refreshing. We had a good amount of time — not too little, not too much before we caught our next flight. For that one, we had the luxury of booking a skycouch (a row of 3 seats that have a flap by the feet that can lift up and form a sort of bed), and the seat next to me across the aisle was empty too, so the kids were all able to lie down and sleep for a good long time on the flight from Auckland to Houston. Thankfully they were able to sleep through the ratbag boy a couple of rows in front of us who screamed at the top of his lungs for half an hour at a time, a few times… but I couldn’t quite do it. I gave the lady some Benadryl (she said she was so desperate for it she’d buy it from me, ha!), but I’m not sure it helped. I felt really bad for them. By the time we got on the plane to Newark, we were all so exhausted I think we were all asleep before take-off! Which meant, of course, that by the time we arrived home around midnight, we wanted some dinner and weren’t particularly tired. In our experience, jet-lag going to New Zealand is almost non-existent. Coming here, though, it takes about 2 weeks to fully recover from. I always say it takes that long for my soul to reconnect with my body — I just don’t feel like myself for a while! Maybe bodies weren’t made to travel so fast. :-) I’m thankful for it, though! It makes a trip home so much more do-able than if we had to spend 2 months on a boat to get there.

Thanks again, all you NZ folks, for making our time back home so special. We loved seeing all of you!