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the return

April 8, 2011

The day arrived with much excitement and anticipation. April 5th…the day we fly home from New Zealand and a year after justin proposed. The day had potential for awesomeness, no doubt.

We packed our things and headed to pick up Lori & Drew, so they could take us to the airport. After a delicious breakfast at Shakey Isles, Lori & Drew drove us to the Auckland International Airport where we bid them farewell with many hugs.

We then boarded our first of four flights! We flew to Nadi, Fiji, where we had a 6 hour layover with no sleep but lots of veggie pizza and office episodes. The next flight took us to L.A. where we used the American money sent to us while in New Zealand by Justins sweet grandmother to splurge on some starbucks and pinkberry! From L.A. to Denver and then from Denver to Nashville.

We immediately felt glad to be home when greeted by lovely friends, followed by food and fellowship at one of our favorites, Mafia’Oza’s.

We are very excited to be home, and hold very dearly in our hearts our time in New Zealand. For more about where our life takes us now, you can check out:

all our love,

a &  j

Trent and Nicole with signs and cake!!

josh and justin together again

emily, me, and sarah!!

josh, justin, and trent!!


as the end draws near…

April 2, 2011


as the end draws near I’m getting incredibly reflective. Poor Justin, he has to deal with my “happy tears”. But seriously, we are so incredibly glad we came here. We have learned so much, met so many wonderful people, and had experiences that will be life long memories. It is so hard to say goodbye to people, whether it be over email or in person.


We are certainly going to miss the people who have impacted our lives…

and the places we have loved…

and the experiences we won’t soon forget!


We are so thankful to have had this experience, and are overwhelmed by God’s goodness to us since we’ve been here. Thanks to everyone who made this dream trip possible, we are forever grateful.


Lots of love to all, and SEE YOU SOON!

a & j


ps- if you would like, we will be posting to a new blog when we get home-go subscribe to it!

make a bucket list

March 27, 2011

I don’t think its possible to go on a trip like this and not have your eyes opened to a range of possibilities. Both Justin and I have spent moments here or there on this trip imagining all the things we could do. If it is possible to pick up your life and move across the world for six months and have adventures like we’ve had, then surely there is nothing stopping us from doing anything we’d like to!

A few weeks ago, both justin and i started writing down things we really wanted to do as they came to mind. A “bucket list” of sorts you could call it. Mine is already quite extensive, with around 18 i think, last time i counted.

Here are a few from my list:

1. Go to a Concious Eating Intensive at the Tree of Life Rejuvenation Centre

this is basically training and education on preparing raw foods, at the centre that puts on the Simply Raw 30 day program for diabetics, of which i’m keen on!

2. Go to Ireland with my best friends, Emily & Ellen.

Everything that seems important I do with these ladies. We have been talking about Ireland for years, and I know we will go (hopefully soon!)

3. Learn how to do a back hand spring.

a drop out of gymnastics class when I was a child, I have always wanted to learn how to do this, but have been a little scared. No longer!

4. Find a way to make vegan desserts without synthetic ingredients!

though not a vegan (yet :P), minimizing animal dependency seems like a great idea and I love an occasional treat. But all vegan treats (especially those with an icing of sorts) have a synthetic ingredient like margarine, which I am so not down with. this is my quest, and i’m sure justin will love eating my trial and errors 😛

That’s just a sample, and after a second glance, I have 19 written down so far!

Here are a few from Justin’s list:

1. Master the planche

no doubt he’ll do it, which is awesome! Click on “planche” to see a picture of what it is–>clue: gymnastic/acrobatic feat

2.  Learn piano

he is self-taught and can write beautiful songs (mostly for me 🙂 ), but being the determined achiever he is, i’m sure he would love to improve his skill

3. Build stuff

One day I think he’ll build me a house, but for now I think mastering a table, chair, or birdhouse is a ‘first step’! 🙂

I think its a great idea to have an idea of things you want to do or achieve, because life goes quickly, and we should have life abundant! So get to it! What are some things that would be on your “bucket list”?


a & j

surfing NZ

March 16, 2011

iPod pic of us in our wetsuits post surfing!

WE DID IT!!!!!!!!

I really, really, really wanted to try surfing while we were here. Though as a certain hiking companion of mine can tell you i’ve been a weensy bit afraid of fish, I was determined to face my mild fear of sea creatures and sea plants (seaweed touching my leg=ICK!).

After a morning of work, we set out for an hour+ drive to the town of Raglan, a picturesque place that Lonely Planet touts as being “NZ’s perfect surfing town”. We arrived at the Raglan Surfing School just before our 2 o’clock session was to start. I was glad to hear some of the other students were as nervous and anxious as I, though everyone in our group caught at least a few waves, and everyone had a great time. Our instructors, Andy and Lucy, were the picture of Kiwi surfers, though one was a true Brit and the other a naturalized one. We spent the first hour learning about basics and how to stand up in a old barn, which was super helpful pre-water immersion.

We got to the beach and donned our wetsuits, picked up our boards (“soft tops” or “foamys”-GREAT to learn on, as they are very forgiving!) and headed for the surf. I got a push by Lucy into my first wave, and there was no looking back. Both Justin and I lost count at around 20 waves each! IT WAS A BLAST! Its a workout, suntan, fun session all in one! I was able to “pop up” a few times, and Justin even managed to “drop-in” on a wave! We also managed to high five and hold hands while catching the same wave (cue “awww” sounds).

All in all, i think surfing is going to be a go-to vacation for us. I cannot wait to get back into the waves! We hope to either go back to Raglan this week, or rent boards and suits while we are in Tauranga saying goodbye to some previous hosts.

Seriously, you guys. You have to try surfing!


a & j, keen surf enthusiasts

the best way to garden

March 14, 2011

Since our last post, we decided to prolong our stay in Hamilton for two additional weeks. We have been learning so much from our host Judy, and she is such a gem! The main reason we came to stay with Judy was that she advertised on her HelpX profile that she gardened according to permaculture principles. We had been hearing a lot about permaculture, and as the Kiwis would say, we “were keen on” learning about it.

The word permaculture was coined by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren as the joining of the words permanent and agriculture. The core principles of permaculture have to do with growing according to nature and having a closed loop system, meaning that you grow, recycle, or forage for the things you need to maintain your gardening system.

Where organic gardening falls short, permaculture steps up to the plate. Many garden or farm organically because it is a niche market, not because of any conviction or persuasion. According to Michael Pollan in The Omnivore’s Dilemma, the USDA permits certain chemical fertilizers and synthetic food additives to be used in “organic food”. This is a result of what originated on hippie communal farms but due to the lure of capitalism became a financially viable market.

Local, sustainable food systems are what those who are concerned for their health and the health of the environment are moving towards. We have learned a great deal from Slow Food, the Hamilton Permaculture Trust, and our host Judy and her myriad of helpful books!

Here are some other interesting things we’ve learned about:

No-Dig Gardening: Though there are many variations on no-dig gardening, the basic concept is to build layers on top of existing soil so that old weeds die out and new weeds cannot take. The theory behind this is that soil is best left undisturbed.

Mulching: Mulching conserves water and soil, adds nutrients to the soil, and also serves as a weed suppressant. You can use newspaper, seaweed, cardboard, grass clippings, untreated sawdust, and compost to mulch, just be sure to leave a little room around the plant itself, as mulch right against the stems causes them to rot. Mulching is one way to add nutrients to your soil. Other methods include companion planting, crop rotation, and liquid “manure”, all of which you’ll read about shortly.

Companion Planting: This creates an environment where your plants are supported by each other, producing and receiving nutrients for and from each other. Other benefits of companion planting are repelling certain insects that harm and attracting certain bugs that are beneficial. the companion planting rule of thumb is “marigolds with everything.”

Crop Rotation: When gardening it is important to know the needs of the plants you cultivate. Soil needs, water needs, sun needs, nutrient needs, all of these are good to know about pre-planting. Crop rotation reduces pest and disease problems by rotating in one garden bed different plants each year that have different needs than the ones planting in the previous year. Legumes for instance, are able to fix nitrogen from the air and bring it into the ground. Leafy vegetables such as broccoli and kale have high nitrogen needs, so it the following year, you would want to plant leafy vegetables where you had legumes the prior year. Fruiting crops such as tomato and zucchini have high phosphorus needs, and root crops like carrots and garlic have high potassium needs. Though incredibly detailed, crop rotation can be summed up by- legumes–>leaf–>fruit–>root and back again.

Composting: Compost can be made from anything that is organic. Composting in my mind is the ultimate version of recycling, and is a huge part of permaculture. You would be amazed at how long it would take your garbage can to fill up if you made proper use of composting! Any scraps from the kitchen can be utilized in compost. If you are a meat-eater, there is a device called the Bokashi Bin, which is small, can be stored in the kitchen, and decomposes meat scraps. Anything vegetable or mineral can go into a compost bin in your kitchen, then once near full, taken outside to go into your compost pile. To make compost for your soil you need 25 parts brown material (carbon-rich) like leaves, straw, shredded newspaper, to 1 part green material (nitrogen-rich) like vegetable scraps, garden waste, and grass clippings. If you feed a lot of people and have more kitchen waste then this, don’t fret-just toss it in! It will just take a bit longer to break down. Now all the nutrients from your newspaper, kitchen waste, and mowed grass will all be put into the food you are growing…no waste!

Liquid “manure”: though you can utilize animal manure in these, the only way we’ve seen it done (and would prefer-I don’t want any feces near my zucchini, thank you very much) is with steeped plants and herbs. Our favorite and one of the most nutrient dense is comfrey. You can fill a container half full with comfrey leaves, then fill to the top with water. Cover it and leave it to steep for 2-3 weeks, stirring weekly. After that time dilute it to 1 part concentrate to 5 parts water. Then you can use this as a “fertilizer” in your garden. Comfrey is rich in nitrogen, potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium and silica. This is just one example!

Worm Farming: Worm farming is a method for recycling food waste into extremely rich soil conditioner. It can be utilized outdoors or indoors, making it ideal for colder climates and apartment dwellers.

This is only a brief synopsis (this stuff is gold, people!) but there is alot of information to be had out there! If you want to learn more, check out the following resources:

You Can Have Your Permaculture and Eat it Too by Robin Clayfield

Introduction to Permaculture by Bill Mollison

Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability by David Holmgren

Carrots Love Tomatoes by Louise Riotte

the Permaculture Institute in New Mexico

City Farmer News-



love to all,

a &  j

a little thing called community

March 7, 2011

This is the tale of our escapades in Hamilton, NZ. Hamilton itself is a beautiful city with a big university and great shops, restaurants, museums and the like. The city boasts many tourist hotspots, and the surrounding countryside known as the Waikato is breath-taking! We have fallen in love with this region of New Zealand, and though the aforementioned features are sensational, they are not the primary influencer of this affection. Neither is its name, though I have to admit a few displays of familial pride have occurred. The “indescribable quality” that has endeared this area to our hearts is COMMUNITY.


Our first night here in Hamilton we helped our host entertain a family of five for the evening. We had a lovely dinner, enjoying what my mother so lovingly refers to as “convivium”, then had intriguing conversation well into the night while the children played Monopoly.

-Justin and I were inspired and later played a four day long game of Monopoly, which Justin won, despite my surety of winningness 😛

Within in the next 24 hours we’d met several of our host’s friends, attended a potluck, and received a dinner invitation for the following night.  Needless to say, within a few days we felt more welcomed and loved then most people do in most places in most seasons of life. This inspired me.


We have met many people during our travels, many of other faiths, of no faith, and some who are adamantly opposed only to the Christian faith. As we began to know them and learn what experiences led to these misgivings about Christians, and compared them to our own, it became so clear as to why so many people, “Christians” and otherwise, are in the dark.


It seems that somewhere along the course of time, those who claim to follow Christ have lost sight of what their faith-when fully realized and lived out-could look like. We’ve gotten caught up in western civilization and the American “lifestyle”, where having the dream, fitting in, and maintaing the status quo are the ideals. I know many “christians”-and have been guilty of doing this myself- that strive so hard to make Christianity accessible. They seem convinced that the best way to influence or persuade others into Christianity is by minimizing the impact that the faith has on one’s day-to-day life so that Christianity and those who follow it appear “normal”.


A word on Christian community. If you read the Bible, Christianity was never about always attending church, striving to be good or living a normal life. It was RADICAL!! And it isn’t based on rules it’s based on LOVE! As I’ve been meditating on the things I’ve read in the Bible recently, I was lead to the book of Acts. Acts depicts the early church-and of significance to this post-tells about the coming of the Holy Spirit. There are two tellings in this book that resonate strongly with me. In Acts chapter 2, after the Holy Spirit is received by the believers-what I would consider to be Christianity, fully realized- the very next thing discussed is the way those who believed in Christ lived. They lived as one body, “had all things in common”, and shared evenly and fairly everything they had. Again in chapter 4, after praying for boldness the believers are filled with the Holy Spirit and the whole place they were gathered in shook. The very next sentence tells of how the believers were “of one heart and soul, and no one claimed ownership of any possessions, but held all in common”.


We have had such an eye-opening experience here as to what our lives can look like-loving, living, and giving generously. What I’m trying to communicate is this- it all comes down to love. We don’t have to live a life based on rules, we don’t have to have it all together, we just have to love, and when we do, a beautiful community can develop all around us!



a & j

ps- we CANNOT wait to be in community with all those we’ve missed! Looking forward to seeing everyone again 🙂


so much time, so little to do

February 16, 2011

So much time, so little to do…

…or rather, so little we HAVE to do!

We  have been relishing in the summer days here. We typically work in the morning, sometimes the morning and the evening, but always have the afternoons off to “engage in leisurely activities.”

We are fortunate to have a trail on the property that leads across two rivers and into this massive expanse of land known as Cascade Park. We have spent many afternoons there, lying on a blanket, soaking in the sun, eating oranges, and reading. I love nothing more than a good book on a lazy day! We have been pouring into many books, learning many wonderful things along the way. We have found these-The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan, The Herb Book by John B Lust, The Face on Your Plate by Jeffrey Masson, books by Mark Ament, The Ecological Health Garden by Edmond Szekely, Treat Your Own Back and Treat Your Own Neck by Robin McKenzie– to be very insightful and recommend them!

The most beneficial thing we have read and have done with all our time is one thing I have struggled with committing to my entire life. Yes folks, I am talking about having a “quiet time”. Cliche in Christian circles, I have never consistently taken time out of my day to quiet my soul and commune with God. I am irrepressibly glad that I do now.

We started a few weeks ago, Justin and myself, to committing to take time apart first thing in the morning to spend time with God. As simple and as easy as this seems, neither of us had ever been very good at it, using the excuse of busyness or lazy-ness or something. What a difference it makes however!

Our “time” as we call it (ironic since time is such a man-made construct), looks very different from each others and even differs day to day. Justin is often up in the make-shift studio here, singing, playing, and writing songs inspired by God’s love.  I am a little more all over the place: one minute i’m dancing, next i’m listening, reading my bible, thinking, singing, crying, praying. We typically spend about an hour to an hour and a half doing this.

This practice alone has transformed our individual lives and especially our married relationship! Who would have thought spending less time with Justin would actually be better? 😛 But truly, our love for each other has expanded exponentially as we draw closer to God and are filled up by His love for us.

In particular right now, we are being shown in a new light the passages of Hebrews 11 and 12, Galatians 5, and 2 Peter. Also, I had felt compelled awhile back to read through the Old Testament. Interestingly enough, in a dream I had someone asked “what about the 9th chapter of the 20th book?” I woke up and read Proverbs chapter 9, of which verse 10 says

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.”

WOAH! Amazing how as you draw near to God he actively leads and participates with you. For me this verse was directly corresponding to my reading through the Old Testament (“the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”) and our drawing close and yearning to live through our spirit, with the Spirit (“and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding”). WOW!

Well, all this to say God is awakening us to a life through Him, and we couldn’t be more excited!!

As simple as it is, we encourage you to set aside time for the Lord, and see what happens!

“And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” Phillipians 1:6 NLT

“Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.”  James 4:8 ESV


All our love and blessings and encouragement!!,

a & j

Our Valentine's Day date at The Organic Pizza Company!