Back to the Kiwis?

So, I got some news yesterday…


My first reply from a grad school application.  My first acceptance.  Obviously my brain immediately flew into overdrive, but I’m trying really hard to just take a few days to be happy about those things before I actually have to figure stuff out.

It’s weird even to me that I can’t just automatically say “YES!  Bret and Jemaine, I’m coming for yoooou!” because all I’ve wanted for the past two and a half years is to go back to New Zealand, and they just gave me the chance.  It’s more complicated than that, but not right now.

Right now I’m just thinking about my good old psych building at the University of Canterbury, and what it would be like to be there again.

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I guess we’ll see, huh?

Easter Away from Home

Happy almost Easter, everyone!  I hope most of you have some fun and festive things planned.  I myself will not be doing much.  Church in the morning, beach in the afternoon.  That’s the plan, and I’m stickin’ to it.

This is the… let’s see… fourth time I will be celebrating this holiday away from my family.  Fourth Time Around, you might say (just wanted to work that in there).  Easter has always been a very family-oriented holiday for me – my parents would leave my brother and I Easter baskets in the morning, we would all go to church together, and then get down to business making sure that my brother had all the jelly beans and I had all the Reese’s eggs before having a big yummy dinner in the afternoon – so being on my own tends to also do away with a lot of the tradition.

I’m sad about not being with my parents and brother this year.  I’ll miss getting to feel like a little kid and hunt for Easter eggs.  I’ll miss the lilies and the music of the Easter service at the church I grew up in – it’s always so beautiful and moving.  I’ll miss eating my mom’s fantastic ham dinner and then collapsing in a food coma to watch some silly movie all together.

But when I got to thinking about it, I realized that the few other times I’ve had to miss being with my family on Easter have been for some pretty special and memorable occasions… so why should this year be any different?

Easter 2006

This was the first time in my life I wasn’t with my family on Easter, and I remember being really bummed about that fact.  I was sixteen, and away from home because I was on a two-week trip to France with my high school language class.  Easter Sunday fell during the latter part of our trip, when we were staying with host families in Albertville.  My host family was absolutely wonderful and their house looked like a sweet little Easter gingerbread house anyway!

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Their family was small – just Alexandra and her mom – but they made me feel so welcome, and it was fun to spend the holiday with just us three girls.  We had a big breakfast, and then Alex’s mom took us to the old village to walk around the old cobbled streets and visit some beautiful churches.

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We had cheese fondue for dinner that night.  I remember that I was surprised that there was wine in the fondue, and that Alex taught me the French word for cloud (le nuage, if you’re wondering).

Easter 2010

This time, I was on the other side of the world!  It was funny celebrating Easter in New Zealand, because even though it still occurred in April, it was during autumn instead of spring.  Although I definitely missed my family, I really wasn’t too put out about missing Easter at home this year, because (as I’m sure you’re tired of hearing on this blog) I was in love with New Zealand.

Easter Sunday fell smack in the middle of my roadtrip around the South Island with Erika and Katharina.  We were in Queenstown that day, and started off the morning with a walk around the beautiful waterfront before having a big Easter brunch together at one of our favorite Kiwi restaurants, Dux de Lux.


After we were fully fed, it was time to get our Easter adventurin’ on!  We all caught a shuttle up to Coronet Peak so that Erika and I could go hang gliding.  It was AMAZING – definitely the most adrenaline-filled Easter I’ve ever had!


Easter 2011

Last year, I wasn’t off on any exotic adventures.  I was just at school, getting very close to the last finals week of my college career, probably on duty, and not able to go home for the weekend.  My mom sent me a care package with Easter candy and the same stuffed chicks and bunnies I used to get when I was little, and Meg, Erin, and I went to church in Geneseo that morning… but I was still sad not to be at home.

However, I happen to have some wonderful friends, many of whom were also unable to be with their families for the holiday, so Meg volunteered to host Easter dinner at her house.  It was the perfect mix of old-fashioned traditions and college-kid fun.  Business in the front, party in the back.

We feasted:

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We colored:

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We wore aprons and knight helmets and played pizza box:

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We had fun.  We weren’t homesick.  In short, we were each other’s family.  And we were really happy, as this sole blurry shot of the whole group proves:

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So… actually writing those years out made me realize that not only will this be the fourth Easter I celebrate away from my family, but the third year in a row, too.  I feel like not going home for holidays is a very grown-up-life sort of thing, and I’m not too keen on it.

Mom and Dad, I’ll be home for Easter next year.  I promise.  Unless I’m back in New Zealand by then.  In that case, you’re coming to me!

Do you still go home for the holidays, or celebrate solo or with your friends or own family?  Who else goes hang gliding in honor of Jesus coming back to life?  And Meg, how on Earth do you make that incredible baked Brie again?

Photo Book Showdown

Well, the time has come.

The time to take the 2,223 pictures I took (yup, no joke) during my semester in New Zealand and turn them from a giant space-sucker on my computer into something that will allow me to actually enjoy them.

As much as I love taking pictures (as the however-many gigs on my hard drive and the giant Tupperware of prints under my bed can attest), I’m not that great at doing anything useful with them.  I’ve always had very ambitious goals of scrapbooking/photo album-ing my whole life… but you can probably guess how many of those I’ve actually made…


Three!  You were going to guess zero, weren’t you?  Come on, give me a little credit… anyway, I have made a pretty cool scrapbook (yes, they’re very quaint) for each of the major travels I’ve taken: Panama, France, and Australia.  It worked out pretty perfectly for these trips: each was 2-3 weeks long and left me with 500 photos max (and I definitely didn’t print and include all of them).

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That puffy pink coat with fake fur trim was a great choice, 16-year-old Julie.

When it came to doing something with my New Zealand pictures, this formula obviously wasn’t going to work.  Five months in the most incredible country on Earth simply left me with wayyy too many photos, even considering the number that wouldn’t make the final cut.  I know there are plenty of modern ways to enjoy your photos in their digital state (e-albums, slideshows, etc.), but I guess I’m old-fashioned in that I want something big and glossy and coffee-table-worthy that I can flip through at my leisure while wearing a smoking jacket and sitting in a leather recliner.

One possibility was to break down my trip into manageable segments that could each be their own scrapbook: life in Christchurch, South Island roadtrip, North Island roadtrip, uni & friends, etc… but that would be more than even my sturdy little coffee table could handle.  Plus, that many paving stone sized scrapbooks wouldn’t really accomplish the goal of concisely and effectively displaying all my photos.

Just when I thought all was lost, I found out about these nifty photo book things.  You can create them online, have them printed and bound, and shipped right to your door.  Actually, I should have thought of this earlier, since my brother and I created one for our parents last Christmas, but the number of photos we used for that project was so much smaller than what I’m dealing with for NZ that it didn’t cross my mind as a similar undertaking.

Anyway, I really got the idea again from this post on Young House Love.  Ooh those are some swanky looking photo books, eh?  They seemed to have a lot of pros for making a photo book through MyPublisher, like they did, including:

  • A 600-photo, 100-page book that ended up being about half an inch thick
  • Really high quality printing
  • Frequent promotions to bring down the price
  • Lots of creative control over the layout of your book

So after that vote of confidence from my BFFs John and Sherry (nope, false, I’m just a creep), I was pretty much going banana sandwich at the thought of having a b-e-a-utiful shiny New Zealand photo book through MyPublisher in my arms to hug and hold in just a couple of weeks.  But then I figured it would be good to look around and just make sure this was the best option, and I found out about Blurb.

For comparison’s sake, or if you’re in the market for a sweet as photo book of your own, here are the sites for MyPublisher and Blurb (side note: is it bad that I got completely sidetracked by the picture of the Royal Wedding photo book on the MyPublisher website and considered ditching my whole project and just buying that one?  I can’t help it.  They’re just so gosh darn classy.)

Anyway, there were definitely some clear pros to Blurb as opposed to MP:

  • More options for size and shape of book
  • No 100-page limit
  • Less expensive overall

I know, that makes it sound like no contest.  But here are the main reasons I’m still hung up on using MP: 1) they sent me a coupon for 50% off my first book, which pretty much negates the price difference between the two websites, 2) a bit of Google searching turned up the conclusion that MP print quality is better than Blurb, and 3) MyPublisher is the YHL-approved option.

What to do, what to do?  I found this very thorough review and comparison of these two and other photo book websites, but unfortunately, it’s a year and half old, with only a few updates… so I’m not sure I should make my whole decision based on that.

So, any words of wisdom?  Have any of you actually made photo books through either of these sites (or other ones) and ended up with any conclusive evidence to share?  Or can you make better sense than I can of the reviews that are out there?  Any and all advice is appreciated.  This is definitely something I’m willing to spend money on, especially considering that printing hundreds of digital photos and purchasing materials to make my own scrapbook would cost far more than either photo book option, but I only want to do it once and I want to be really happy with the result… after all, these pictures are the highlight of my life thus far.


I realize that the pictures in this blog post give the impression that I primarily hang out on snowy mountains… which is ironic, since I live at the beach.

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