Monday, May 27, 2019

Spring 2019 - Life's Throwing Lemons 2.0

It has been almost 6 months since we returned from Fiji & New Zealand and I'm glad to finally have time to complete all the trip reports and edit all the videos, clearing out my blog backlogs...very productive Memorial Day Weekend. =)

As mentioned in my Winter 2018 update, this work busy season has been one of the sh*ttiest one I've had, and just as I thought things were starting to slow down in April, we were thrown with more crap to deal with through May, which resulted in more long hours, working through weekends, and a whole lot of stress. When it rains, it pours, it floods..ugh!! Unfortunately, this work crap is not over yet, more 'fun' to come. 

Oh well, work never ends so let me take a break and spend time in my happy place (blogs). Here's a quick recap of my all-work-no-play life over the last 2.5 months.

Apr 21 (Sun): Easter weekend with the family. Thanks BIL & SIL for hosting!

Home-ownership 'fun' maintenance. Replaced our toilets, replaced the dryer vent, bought a blower to clean the gutters, and mulched.

Spent a good number of nights in hotels.

Drove several Toyota and Jeep.

Had countless meals in front of the laptop...working.

Ate-out much lesser than eating in.

My attempt to work-out consistently didn't quite work out. =P

However, one thing I managed to stay consistent through was Sunday meal-prepping. =)

Mar 10 & 17 (Sun): Roasted chickn, stir-fry veggies, stir-fry pork, chicken herbal soup, chicken noddle soup.

Mar 24 & 31 (Sun): Meatball, stir-fry veggies, pasta, mushroom egg roll, stir-fry pork, chicken noddle soup.

Apr 7 & 14 (Sun): Stir-fry potatoes, stir-fry veggies, tomyum mussel noodle soup, egg sandwich, bakuteh soup with chicken and shiitake mushroom, mushroom egg roll, beef & potato stew.

Apr 21 & 28 (Sun): Sausage, fried rice with spam and green beans, pasta, roast chicken, egg sandwich.

May 5 & 12 (Sun): Chicken herbal soup, stir-fry veggies, stir-fry pork, pasta, sausage, scrambled egg.

Beautiful spring days.

April was a tough month for the family as well. Received a message from bros on a Sunday evening that dad was admitted to the hospital because of stroke...his 2nd stroke after the last one in 2010. Another hemorrhage on the other side of the brain and he ended up being in the High-Dependency Unit (HDU) for a week. The stroke was in the thalamus, and impacted his movement, balance, speech, cognitive, and memory. =( The last stroke impacted his mobility on the left side, and while he has recovered enough to be able to walk and relied a lot on his right side, this stroke impacted his right side...a double whammy for sure. I thought about traveling back to help but since I've already booked my home trip for June, bros agreed that it made sense to wait till then, and to hire a helper to help mom at the meantime. 

The road to recovery is going to be tougher than the last one but we've gotta stay optimistic, be patient, and motivate dad to help him on his path to recovery.

These lil' munchkins are gonna be his cheerleaders.

Before (left) and after (right) the stroke.

Quote to share: "Life is not about how hard you can hit. Life is about how much you can get hit and keep moving forward!"

Sunday, May 19, 2019

New Zealand Road Trip 2018 ✈ Hobbiton & Auckland

Our 5th anniversary adventure brought us through 4 seasons and 2 new countries within 2 weeks. Started our trip hanging out with friends in San Francisco, followed by a relaxing getaway in Fiji, and ended the trip with a 10-day road trip across New Zealand. I'll share more about our adventures in the next few posts. Follow along!

New Zealand 10D9N Road Trip:
Day 1: Hokitika
Day 3: Milford Sound
Day 4: Glenorchy
Day 5: Queenstown
Day 7: Christchurch
Day 8: Wellington
Day 10: Auckland

Dec 4 (Tues): Wellington - Lake Taupo

When we first planned the trip, we knew that 10 days was probably a lil' too short to cover both South and North Islands. However, since we've strategically booked our flights to arrive in Christchurch (South Island) and depart from Auckland (North Island), I was determined to plan out an itinerary that would allow us to see all the main sights on both islands. If you've been following our journey, you can see that we spent a lot more time on the South island and the ONE attraction on the North island we were interested in was the Hobbiton. Can't come all the way to NZ and miss the main LOTR filming site right? =P

Drove 5 hours from Wellington to Lake Taupo. As compared to the South island, the drive on the North island was relatively flat and boring. 

Made it to Huka Falls at 5.45pm. The viewing point was right next to the carpark. It was cool to see the gushing water up close, and the blue color made it look so pretty!

Had dinner at BurgerFuel with a view of Lake Taupo. Total cost for 2: NZD33 ($24).

Quick photo by the lake before driving back to the hotel.

If you're wondering how we determined our stops for this road trip, it's based on where the chain hotels are located (where I could use points). =P Booked one night at Hilton Lake Taupo for 28,000 Hilton points.

Received a complimentary upgrade to the King Junior Suite. =) Wished we were able to spend more time here because the surrounding of this hotel is pretty.

We were too lazy to swim or workout. 

No time to enjoy the facilities but we certainly have time to enjoy complimentary drinks. =P

Dec 5 (Wed): Lake Taupo - Hobbiton Movie Set - Auckland

Complimentary breakfast at the hotel before driving 2 hours to the Hobbiton!

Pre-booked the 2.30pm tour online. Total cost for the both of us was NZD168 ($116), certainly not cheap but hubby loves LOTR and this was the only time we will visit Middle-earth.

The duration of the tour was 2 hours, including transport to and from The Shire's Rest (bus pickup). This was a fully guided tour around the 12 acre set; past Hobbit Holes, the Mill and ended at the Green Dragon Inn, where we received a complimentary Hobbit Southfarthing beverage.

Lots of tourists! These tours do sell out so make sure you pre-book online.

Beginning of the tour. We had about 20-30 people in our group so we had to take photos fast before someone else stepped into the frame. 

It was interesting to learn that there are fully operational farm on this set, with dedicated gardeners to keep up with the gardening.

The original set was built in 1999 for the Lord of the Rings trilogy using temporary materials. It wasn't until 2009 when The Hobbit trilogy was filmed that the set was rebuilt in permanent materials, which left behind this beautiful movie set we see today. 

Love the lush green pastures, blue skies, and white clouds! We were expecting it to rain (spot the rain jacket) but fortunately, it didn't rain until our tour ended. =D

There are a total of 44 Hobbit Holes, and no I wasn't counting during the tour, google gave me the answer. =P

Some photos to prove we were there...haha!

One of the most famous Hobbit Holes in the movie - Bilbo Baggins's home.

Overlooking The Green Dragon Inn with lush green pastures in the background. 

The Green Dragon Inn, the last stop on our guided tour.

Enjoyed our complimentary Southfarthing beverage at the Green Dragon Inn before heading back to the Shire's Rest to conclude our tour.

We were certainly blessed with such beautiful weather during our tour. 

The Alexander farm, a 1,250 acre sheep farm with iconic rolling hills and lush green pastures, a perfect 'home' for the Hobbits. 

Drove 2.5 hours to Auckland and made a quick stop in the city. 

Continued my hunt for a taste of home at Food Alley and depleted our cash on hand for this Hainanese chicken rice. Total cost: NZD12 ($9).

Our hotel for the final night in New Zealand - Holiday Inn Auckland Airport. Used 25,000 IHG points for one free night.

Dec 6 (Thurs): Auckland - Huntsville

One last round of shopping at Countdown for souvenirs before dropping our rental car at Jucy's office and getting dropped off at Auckland airport. Drove a total of 715kms from Wellington to Auckland, and spent NZD18 ($13) on gas, thanks to the free tank of fuel.

Our flight back to the US was on American Airlines. Auckland - LA - Dallas - Huntsville. Total cost for the both of us was $91 and 76,000 AA miles.

Had a very bumpy 12-hours flight to LA. Re-watched Crazy Rich Asians. =) 

Getting through immigration in LA took awhile, but at least the transit was long enough for us to grab some snacks at the United Club in LA.

That's a wrap for our 10D9N road trip in New Zealand! A road trip is no doubt the best way to see all that New Zealand has to offer. Thank you NZ for the breathtaking scenery, beautiful weather, and nice people! 

If you're curious how much we spent on our Fiji & New Zealand trip, check out the following posts: 
New Zealand & Fiji - Trip Expenses
Travel to New Zealand & Fiji for $600 - Cost Breakdown

As a token of appreciation for scrolling through this long post, here's our map and itinerary to help you plan for your New Zealand adventure! Click on the top right 'square' to open in Google Maps.