Jenna and Sam's Wedding Photos! 

 

*Photography thanks to Julie Summa, Jamie Bone, Jennifer Knighton, Annie Banany, and Joanna Shindler.

* Rings by George Rousis: Organic Iron Concepts

 

close almost done finished!

Rehearsal at City Market Park and dinner at Blue Nile        

Setting up right before the Ceremony                    

First Dance was "The Walker" by Fitz & the Tantrums.    

After the Ceremony, there was mingling, gaming, and lots more photos!

 

 

Honeymoon - North Island, New Zealand

Flew out 24th of Dec.  Arrived in Auckland Airport 26th of Dec.  The 25th never actually happed for us.  Then we took a shuttle into the city and from there walked to our hostel.  Or at least we trundled around the city trying to find it.  And walked up very steep hills. After asking directions once, and getting a few friendly tips from locals, we still got a bit lost, then found the hostel after I'd all but given up hope.  Walked back into the city after a nap and shower.  When people in New Zealand say it takes 30-45 minutes to walk somewhere; it turns out, they aren't exaggerating, or compensating for people who walk slowly and take many breaks.  My first photo of the trip - tidy commercial buildings, nearing center of the city, stunning foliage running almost wild, and a couch so we followed the couch, found stairs and a new view We tried to find a place to eat that was open (still holiday) and found a little stand where we ordered some Japanese curry that was quite good.  We also found a little gelato shop with an ice cream Christmas Tree. I had Christmas Cake flavor, it was yummy. Looking up, we read over the tour signage at the Ferry Docks (since we were but a stone's throw away), and decided one of the extolling signs suited our fancy.  Therefore did we take ourselves over and purchase two ferry tickets and a tour of Davenport Island. After a glorious ride, with the salt wind in our hair, we turned up for what turned out to be a private tour of the island; only because we happened to be the only two who showed up.  We saw the point where the first Maori landed and built a fortification (or Pa) on a volcanic hilltop , some of the first colonial houses , some dark World War 2 labyrinthine bunkers and tunnels , (talking photos of flowers became a bit of an obsession at this point, and this was only the first day in) , and a really impressive brass recreation of the surrounding islands. Standing on Mt Victoria here This sign gives a little bit of the history => You can see Auckland in the distance - the Tower of SkyCity is easy to pick out.Steam vents disguised a mushrooms.  We asked to be dropped off in town so we could take a little walk though town before heading back to the Ferry.   Stopped in at a little cafe where we had coffee, and a chance to read another newspaper. Turns out all those blogs I read about New Zealand coffee being the best people had had anywhere, were not making it up.  Of all the coffee I had down there, there was one or two cups that were equal to Seattle or Kansas City coffee, and the rest was just exponentially better.  - Marveled at the meaning of this quilted tree until I got back to the States and looked it up.  It is graffiti knitting.  It apparently started in the States, and was then adopted by a Kiwi as a wonderful artistic expression, and exploded from there.  We saw more than a few on our journeys. Really cool "Construction Project in the Works" wall. Standard Couple's Photo with Auckland in the background.    Ferry ride back to Auckland Later on that day we walked through Albert Park on our way back to Lantana Lodge. Walking will be a great theme in all this. It is Middle-Earth after all. Photos of flowers will also feature prominently.  Just deal with it--or enjoy it.  I hope you enjoy it .  We happened by the University and this . A Maori Marae. We slept well that night. Lots of walking.

(Second Day)  Walked into the city again with all our gear, and as chance would have it, we came upon this little glade with fountains and a Saturday Farmer's Market near the quay.  The sweet scents of fresh bread washed over us, and we spied fresh hummus and olives.  Sam refused the olives, but not I, and I offered many compliments back for the gift.  We decided to take lodgings at The Queen's Head that night and there stowed some of our gear so that we could move more unencumbered.  Back we went to the Market, and there we sampled for the first time roasted kumara (a sweet potato)- Sam asked it be topped with roasted apple, coconut milk, and granola.  It was incredible, like meltingly rich starlight.  It is Middle-Earth after all, I'm going to be melodramatic. Everywhere, children laughed and played, people picked up trash, courtesy was easily sought, light played off the playful fountain water.... it was lovely.  Earlier, I asked for an apple green tea which turned out to be green tea enhanced with fresh juiced apples. To say refreshing is to not give it enough credit.  If you have a juicer you could make your own version quite easily.  I really enjoyed it.  A purchase of a fresh sourdough loaf  kept us in good stead for several days thereafter.

With two full access bus/ferry passes we next took a day trip out to Waiheke Island to hike the Onetangi bird reserve Pōhutukawa trees - also called Christmas trees because they have red blossoms and bloom around Christmas time.  They are everywhere and much prized for their beauty. Sadly, possums were imported, let loose, and since they have no natural predators, they are eating up the trees and the bush, just as feral cats are eating up all the birds. We left the preserve, walked back to our bus stop - and a bit of a run when we thought our bus there and loading, but while it was there, it was taking a 10 minute break.  There we got to stand in line for 10 minutes.  That was fortunate for me, because I wanted some water.  I sent Sam into the little beach convenience store to buy water. He came back with a bottle, and we carried that bottle with us to the very end because it had cost $4.  It was also a really good bottle.  Ferry ride back - Auckland, Quay Street Ferry docking

(Third Day) Woke up at 6am in Auckland to catch our Nakedbus to Waitomo Caves. Stop was a the i-site, we bought our voucher there, walked the half kilometer to the visitor center, turned in our vouchers for a tour of the glowworm caves. Photography was not permitted inside the caves, so a bit of google-fu should have to suffice for pictures. After winding our way through the cave entrance and down some stairs, we came to the Cathedral chamber, named so for its acoustics. One of the guides sang a song, with a view of the cave formations and a small patch of glowworms up close. After the song, we went down yet more (metal) stairs to a boat, where our tour guide maneuvered  us around the underground river (using guywires), largely in the dark save for the glowworms high high above us, and reflected below us in the water. It was much like a starry night, underground. So, for a small primer on what the glowworms are, they are the larval form of some bug that attaches itself to the ceiling of caves, creates a flypaper-like tendril of mucus to trap prey, and glows phosphorescently to attract lethally curious other-insects that got trapped in the caves. The Glowworms aren't too keen on noise, and will cut back on the glowing if there's too much of a racket, which a couple behind us decided to test out. The glowworms appear in a number of New Zealand caves, and many Kiwis were not aware that they are a life form unique to their island. On the walk back to the i-site, I kept stopping to take photos of flowers. I kept getting "will you hurry up already" looks. I kept stopping anyway. There's the little epicenter of the little Waitomo village.  There's the i-site, a cafe, a lodge with a really nice pizza cafe, the Caves training school, and another restaurant.  We had our lunch at the Lodge's pizza cafe, and it was a really nice lunch.  We found that many places are all open wall in the summer because it's just so nice outside. The we went back to the i-site and walked through the little museum they had in the back Next door, we shared a ginger beer, charged devices, and read some mythology books from their bookshelves. Later on we had moved outside to read and wait for our next Nakedbus, and some other travelers saw a baby hedgehog nearby.  I took a photo with my camera, and then went off to get the camera AND, you should check out the little YouTube I put up as well.  Nakedbus delivered us to our next stopover which was just an overnight flea bait hostel (actually not so bad, save for the horrendous snoring that our roommates performed in two part harmony) in Tauranga (Central) so we could sleep in bed before we made our way to Taupo where we spent the next several days.  (Day Four)  But first!  Breakfast. Breakfast at The Dry Dock Cafe.  Sam received four strawberry marshmallows with his hot chocolate, I had a flat white, and then we had the yummiest French toast with grilled banana, raspberries, and honey we've ever had.  It was also wildly expensive, which I later realized was normal for breakfast in almost any cafe. But it was worth it just once.   Oh, and the Auckland Herald was Sam's favorite newspaper to read (with some amusing similarities to the Daily Mail, although no page 3 girls)

Our bus pulled into town, and Sam's first reaction to Taupo looking out the window was, "They have giant Chess!  I have to go back there and play a game!" The i-site drop-off point was not far off, and in the direction we wanted to walk anyway, so we watch a game, and befriended a pool shark cum chess shark. Left to find our lodgings, which was a nice hostel with a private room for us, complete with little kitchenette, and deck.  We bought internet, bought a trip out on the lake for the next day, then we walked to the chess game back so Sam could play a game... or two himself.  He won the first round against one of the reigning champs, but only because they were out of most pieces, the gentleman conceded the game.  Went back to the i-site to buy tickets to Wairakei Terraces and their Maori Cultural Experience for the next found a small grocer to buy some snacks, and continued wondering through town. The weather started to turn a little gray and sprinkly, so we turned to the restaurants we were  next to and decided that a Fine German Cuisine restaurant in New Zealand seemed too amusing to pass up, so in there we went. We ate roasted pumpkin pizza at the Crafty Trout, walked through a rose garden, and shambled along the docks till we were ready to call it a day Oh!  And this made me think of Annie, so I took a photo for her.

 (Day Five) While we waited for our sailing time, we decided to check out the local Taupo history museum Had a garden out back too.  Then! We sailed on The Fearless Please, note the pirate flag.  We noted it repeatedly, and with much glee. This is The Ernest Kemp, a replica steamboat we almost took.  I gave Sam a random choice of hands because we couldn't really decide between the two, and he happened to choose The Fearless.  I actually think it was the better choice.  More intimate.  And there was tea and milk with lazy sailing on the way back. We saw the Maori carvings done in the 1970s It took two summers, and lots of tools.  But the West Wind did not blow down on them, and there is tribute paying thanks to the West Wind deity in the carvings.  Later that afternoon, we were picked up by a crazy taxi driver for our Maori Experience.  Sam was chosen to be chief for our visiting tribe because he wasn't wearing shoes, as is common/accepted in New Zealand. Sam was seen as a kindred spirit and closer to the earth because of this. He was given a silver fern leaf as a peace offering - the peace offering ceremony was intense, beautiful, and quite awe inspiring.

This is some of their hot springs This is a kauri tree carving giving to them from another tribe and has a great place of honor We were shown through the village, which is set up with the idea of going through a human body.  We have wood carving flax weaving tattooings martial arts A traditional dinner was laid out of us at the end of the tour with song and dance Because Sam was our Chief, he had to partake in the ending song and dance By chance, pure amazing chance, once we started talking to the couple we were sharing a table with, we discovered not only where they in New Zealand on honeymoon, but had gotten married Oct 4th - our wedding day as well.  We bonded immediately.   They were from the northeastern part of Italy.  Taxi ride back, with a wonderful taxi driver this time.

 

(Day Six) Up early to get our Nakedbus to Auckland; we got in a 4:15 and walked over to the SkyCity hotel.  Now, while it only took us about 15 minutes, it was not as easy as I figured it would be, since it was all up hill.  After checking in, we found out our room was a suite, complete with champagne and chocolates.  New Year's Eve in Auckland!  Much thanks to my (second, but no one is counting) cousin Helene for the pamper and delights!!!!  A blissful shower followed, and finally Helene and I made contact with each other.  Dinner at the SkyCity restaurant Showed off the suite.  Went walking around SkyCity Bands were playing, we did a little dancing. We went back to our rooms to drink champagne, and eat chocolates - leaving one glass apiece for after Midnight The terrace on our floor opened up onto a nice little deck right under the Tower and waited FIRST MIDNIGHT OF THE WORLD!

(Day Seven) New Year's Day right before we checked out and met up with Helene and the kids, Sam and I went up the SkyCity Tower to check out the 360 degree view Then, we headed off to the Arataki bush, and later on, Piha Beach.  Tall Bird - also known as the now extinct Moa. Kauri Catherdral! Wiki link for more about Kauri trees, suffice to say these were 200-400 hundred year old trees that are pictured, and they live far, far longer given the opportunity , and Piha Beach , then a drive back to have dinner with Helene, Greg, Madeline, and Harrison.

   

We then took an overnight Nakedbus  to Wellington, where I believe I slept through much of the horror. We were supposed to have a sleeper bus, but none were available. While I managed to drift into an uneasy sleep, Sam was awake for the change in bus drivers halfway. The new bus driver was awe-inspiringly incompetent, grinding gears, stopping, muttering to himself, and never making it above ~30 kmph for about 50 or so minutes. He was joking with another passenger about needing to get out in push, or perhaps maybe someone who can learn a stick faster than our driver needed to volunteer to drive. Sam said he was curious if he should have woken me, or let me die in my sleep, since we were profoundly not in good hands. He decided to let me sleep, for which I was... thankful, I guess? The driver finally got things figured out, and didn't have any major problems until he decided to parallel park at our destination. One more skill he didn't quite acquire at Bus Driver University.

(Day Eight) The lodgings (Nomads Capital) turned out to be tucked away right across from the Wellington Library, which is huge, and wonderful.  The Wellington i-site also happened to be snuggled away there too, so as soon as we stowed our totes, we were over there to book tours, find maps, and brochures.  The Lord of the Rings tour full day was sold out, but we landed the half day tour.  The we walked up through town, found, and took the Wellington Cable Car up the side of a rather steep hill/cliff, walked over to the Carter Observatory,

which has a really nice planetarium, and a bunch of cool interactive displays. For example, one display allowed you to use the formula for calculating the number of alien civilizations out there, punching in your own numbers for the variables. My numbers came out to be 0 Alien Civilizations, Sam estimated 18,000. We touched actual moon rock!  Pieces of Moon!!!!!  little library room, and the planetarium viewing was really good, but I was so sleepy, I had to fight to stay awake.  Sam learned where the Southern Cross was, and that was a special interest to him.  I retained some of the star mythos, like the great Waka (or canoe), but not as much as I would have liked.  Strolling back down the hill through the Botanical Gardens was delicious and I soon found the bench I wanted and took a nap using Sam as my pillow.  The day was so perfect, and the breezes had the gentle perfumes of ten thousand blooms, I kept demanding five more minutes of , sleep, but I roused eventually for some more city explorations.  We walked all through the gardens, found The One Road That Leads Back to the City, except it just coiled round and round, and we walked through cemeteries, and then that dumped us out into we didn't know where, but I figured turn right, should be fine one way or the other.  And eventually there was a bit that looked right, and it was, and we walked back to the Library, I pestered the i-site is there were any cancellations for the full day option, and there was none.  I debated about how to finagle my way onto a full day tour, much to myself, and sometimes to Sam, but then we walked down to the quay, and up to the Night Market and this bookstore, named Pegasus Books. There was curry after. And garlic naan. 

 

(Day Nine) AHHHHH!!!!!  The morning dawned!  I wanted to get there early and pester the driver if there were full day spots. We walked at the appointed place (we walked a while 20 feet to get there).  Another tour van pulled up and we decided to inquire if she had any information on our tour... and she said she had heard all half days could upgrade with the driver.  Because apparently there had been lots of requests for full day tours. ::grin::  Our driver pulled up, we verified our names, and then I blurted out the question of if we could upgrade to full day??!!! Yes, of course! I think I woohooed and did some fist pumpings in the air. SO  AMAZING AND HAPPY DAY!  Full day tour of WETA Workshop, and Lord of the Rings filming locations with Rover Ring LotR tours (Wellington shown below).  Our first stop of the tour: GET OFF THE ROAD! This is the spot in the movie where Frodo gets the weird feeling and tells everyone to get off the road. We heard the story of what the big tree they were hiding behind looks like, and how the scene was filmed.  They imported critters from Australia to give it a creeper feel... and then shipped the back to Australia when they were done.  

Little Tuppence brought in the snuggle attack!

WETA Workshop and this is because I really like Jane and the Dragon =>

The Great River Anduin

Rivendell!  It's now an actual place Tree that Legolas posed under for all those movie promo shoots This arch is an exact replica of the one from the movie.  The tour guides over at Rover Ring Tours and the people over at WETA reconstructed Rivendale's Gateway arch

Saurman's garden pathway Gandolf and Saurman walked this path and talked. .  Also, Christopher Lee is THE most interesting and mysterious human on planet Earth.  Ever. Joined the Finnish Special Forces to kill Communists. Then he joined the British Air Force to become a pilot, and then possibility did some secret service work afterwards... anyway, he knows exactly how a person sounds when they have been stabbed in the back. Then he became an actor.  He lived down the street from Boris Karloff, and then later played Dracula himself.  He has The Most Screen Credits, and for his 90th birthday, he released his latest death metal album with his band. 

At the end of the tour, our guide gave us each a gift.  One of the best gifts I have ever gotten - a map of Wellington, done in Tolken style, in Elvish! 

(Day Ten) I am going to just tell you, I started off my day with some of the most horrid cramps I have ever experienced, and that was with taking 4 Midol.  I was a bit insane with the pain I couldn't feel, but powered through it anyway, and yeah, there was insane laugher.  Our first destination was the Te Papa Museum where Azog was in residence. As well as some Elvish Armour   Other cool stuff there too - Maori artifacts, history, and lore , Cuba Street Market (bookstores and comic shop).  Oh, and one quick stop back at the i-site for a photo op

(Day Eleven) Early morning rise, morning coffee and pastry- had a really lovely talk with another patron who was also taking her morning coffee  , walked past the street I meant to turn on to get to our bus, but fortunately realized at the next block that something was greatly amiss.  Turned back, saw the line of Nakedbuses, and made our 8am bus in time. Queen Elizabeth was on our side that day - a little green glowing queenly icon was used for the "You can now walk/sprint/cross the road now".. Spent the day mostly in travel, arrived in Matamata just before 9pm, checked into The Horse and Jockey, and I fell into bed with a welcoming groan of exhaustion.   

(Day Twelve) Packed up our little luggage, walked across the street, and picked up our Hobbiton tickets at the Matamata i-Site The Hobbiton bus picked us up at 10am. We didn't know what to do with our luggage, so we took it all with us.  Some i-sites will let you leave luggage there, and I didn't see any indication that this one did that, and then I didn't flat out ask.  But, anyway, to Hobbiton! (Shire! Baggins!)  This day is in the top days ever - and that includes my wedding day, and the WETA Workshop day.  This photo is taken from the road driving in The Welcome to Hobbiton sign which includes the request to wear shoes at all times Every hobbit hole is different Many of them gives indications of occupations: fishmonger, bee keeper, cheese maker, gardener. etc there is a real garden that is tended every day this is another one of those hyper-realistic details, smoking chimneys to give the impression of cooking coming from within It is huge - this is on the other side of the hill so that sweeping film shots could be done.  There are 43 hobbit holes and each one is unique. Party Tree there looking down from the top of the Hobbition hill where the Bag End is I'm hobbit sized!  The Oak tree above the Baggins home. This tree is made entirely in the WETA Workshop.  Every leaf. Gardens Bag End    Sam's hobbit hole Off to The Green Dragon , had an stout at The Green Dragon, and Sam had a cider, then back to the bus to take us to the gift shop/restaurant And feast we did back at the Shire restaurant, did a quick gift shop purchase.  My "No Admittance Unless on Party Business" is beautiful. Returned to town where we were again picked up by a gracious farmer for a Farm Stay with Ian and Joy at The De Preaux Lodge. There we met Daisy, the pet sheep, who, at four months old was riding four wheelers as if she had been doing it her whole life.  Which in fact, she had. (Day Thirteen)  Morning fog at the farm , Wonderful breakfast, then back to town, where we were told we COULD stow our gear at the i-site for a small fee (so many groans).  Thus, we stowed our gear, and took a long walk through town, and down the road to Tower Firth and back again.  More coffee, a small lunch, a bookstore (note to self - graphic novel form of A Wrinkle in Time is a must have).  Bought a Smaug coin.  How could I pass up the chance to own a gold coin (legal tender) with a brilliant Smaug blazing out!  Some waiting and then a Nakedbus to Rotorua, where we checked into lodgings late that night.

(Day Fourteen) Tickets for Te Puia aquired at the hostel's front desk, where we happily met new friends who were also going to Te Puia and offered to drive us there! Emelie and Joseph! Awesome people and we spent the day walking the hot springs grounds together and watching hot water shoot up 30 meters into the air.  SAW KIWI BIRDS!  Were not not allowed to take any photographs or make any sounds. Took a bus back into downtown and took another bus to the Redwood Forest not far away. 

(Day Fifteen) A Friday.  Nakedbus back up to Auckland.  Took city bus to Helene's house where is did laundry like it was the most glorious thing ever - line dried as much as possible.  Greg came home about 3pm and we left for Omaha beach.  Saw Omaha beach. Was photgraphed with Omaha beach in the background.  I have now become tan and radiant. Whereas before, there were always parasols, hats, and an avoidance of any light that would burn me. I have not been this tan and radiant since I was 15 and hiked the Blue Mountains. Once I returned back, my regiment of Sun Avoidance had returned.  Slept in the biggest family sized tent I've encountered out in the backyard.  Quite nice and relaxing. 

(Day Sixteen) We all drove to FNORDM- Beach about 20 minutes down several roads, and spend the day relaxing in secluded reef break waters with a little island in the middle, with gentler waves, and warm, fairly clear waters.  I was deemed Shark Bait by the girls because I swam the farthest out.  Bit of a sun burned back by the end of the day.   Only peeled a little a week after we got back.  Sam iced my back down the night after it happened and I slept with ice cooled paper towels on my back.  It helped so much.

(Day Seventeen) Back to Omaha beach to swim I swam with a shirt on to keep the burn protected as much as possible. 

(Day Eighteen)  Birthday party for one of the girls, Gigi, and she turned 11.  There was feasting and An Amazing Race with teams, drivers, clues, and challenges.  Oh, and badges and check sheets.  It was impressive.  Sam and I helped with water balloons and the blindfold Challenges.  Contestants had to direct a blindfolded teammate to complete a task using only voice commands.  Later that day, Sam taught some of the kids Poker.  The next day, I helped teach them Black Jack.  I can only imagine how that will play out.  However, at the time, we all had a blast.

(Day Nineteen and Last Day) Horse back riding on Pakiri Beach My horse's name was Stan, and he was the tallest of the horses we rode that day.  He liked to stay in front, but not quite be the leader.  He wanted to headbutt the first horse after the lead horse, and I had to reign him in after that.  Final dinner with Helene, Greg and the kids before heading off to the Auckland Airport. Plane left at 10:45pm, and we arrived in Kansas City at 11:30pm.  It would have only taken us 3 minutes to fly halfway around the world, but one of our planes delayed for 45 minutes.  I slept the following day. 

 

*side note: the text in green, is actually Sam talking.