Thursday, March 28, 2013

Australian Invasion: Phoebe & Liam's Visit Part 2...

The day after our Australia Party, we took Phoebe and Liam to church and they were met with more introductions and people coming up to us requesting a new dance video (which is still in editing and will be done soon I hope!)... Phoebe had so much fun meeting people and feeling like a celebrity! She finally got to experience the church and community I have raved about for ages to her.

After church we went shopping at Scottsdale Fashion Square and then had family dinner with Aaron's family.

Then the next morning Phoebe and Liam left us for a few days to have adventures just the two of them in Las Vegas. I wish I could have gone, but I didn't have the PTO nor the money for a big Vegas trip. They came back that Thursday night and had family dinner with my family. We had actual dinner with my parents and Tyler. Phoebe and Liam got to try traditional American Chili and cornbread, which they loved! Then we went over to Shawn and Nicole's house to see the kiddos and spent the whole night playing Apples to Apples!

I will say I felt like a huge loser the first week because of the rain and them being gone in Las Vegas, we had so very little planned other than movies, sitting around the house and catching up, shopping and of course the Australia party. When they got back from Vegas however, we were going going going all the way up until they left!

Friday morning saw us waking up and heading out of town for the GRAND CANYON! Aaron sadly had to work, so it was just the three of us on this adventure. It was very reminiscent of our trip to Cape Tribulation in Australia... complete with Liam driving! He was keen to try his hand at driving on the other side of the road and other side of the car... so the open roads of the I-17 up to Flagstaff was the perfect time. I drove us out of town to Sunset Point, we took some pictures and then switched spots and I gave Liam a couple hours of driving on the open road!

Sunset Point
Teaching Liam to drive on the RIGHT ride of the road!
We got to Flagstaff and were ready for lunch! Their one request was to eat at a real all-American diner... so of course we picked Galaxy Diner right on historic Route 66!
Burgers, milkshakes, Americana paraphernalia all over the walls... perfection!
After lunch we set off for the Grand Canyon!

We got there just in time to a hike a couple miles down into the Canyon and then back to the rim to watch the sun set from several different look out points!


There was snow everywhere at the top of the Canyon! What a treat that Phoebe and Liam saw so many different Climates in our state.

Along the Bright Angel trail we met a Mule and his rider! We of course took a bunch of pictures and the ride (who worked for the National Park) told us all about the history of the Mule rides down the canyon and what exactly a mule was... education!

Liam was so bummed he hadn't planned enough time to hike all the way down to the bottom of the Canyon! He is determined to come back and conquer the Grand Canyon! Yay an excuse for another trip!

Phoebe wanted to be a real park ranger!
We literally took a million pictures of the run setting over the canyon. We drove to about 3 different look out points and waited until the sun was all the way down before we left the park. Such a beautiful sight! And now Phoebe and Liam can say they have seen a wonder of the world!

We drove back to Flagstaff for the night staying at the Little America Hotel! Love that place :) We sadly got there after the hot tub had closed, which was what we had been looking forward to! We were late because of course we grabbed dinner and had to also stop for a Dairy Queen Blizzard.

Love that they serve them to you upside down!

The next morning we woke up, had breakfast at the hotel and left to drive out to the Meteor Crater a few miles outside of Flagstaff! This was Liam's request and I was excited to see it again cause I hadn't been there in over 15 years!

One of the best preserved Meteor Craters in the world! Believe me, I know. The video we watched in their museum repeated it probably 15 times.
We had a lot of fun wandering around the museum and gift shop on site

American Astronaut Wall of Fame is blank... odd... "To Infinity and Beyond!"

Actual moon rock that weight several ton!

nope... can't lift it.

Quick! Call everyone!! A Meteor is headed toward earth!!!
 As you can see we had a little too much fun.

Where's Miranda? Can you see her?

Jumping shot...

Liam and the crater
This view was looking away from the Meteor Crater... so pretty!
We got our fill of the Crater and so we left and headed home through Oak Creek Canyon and Sedona... literally one of the most beautiful drives in the US in my opinion. Phoebe and Liam couldn't stop "oo"-ing and "ah"-ing.

Oak Creek Canyon drive

Red Rocks in Sedona

We stopped in Sedona for a walk around the shops and Phoebe and Liam got a traditional Old Time Photo! I think this was literally the highlight of Phoebe's whole trip!

Are they not PERFECT!
It was so hard to leave Sedona! We had so much fun! But back to Phoenix we went for more Arizona/American Adventures!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Australian Invasion: Phoebe & Liam's Visit Part 1...

I cannot believe it has already been almost 2 months since Phoebe and Liam stepped off the plane onto American soil!!!! I still can't believe they were here at all! It was such a whirlwind and before I knew it they were gone again and 2 months later it all still feels like a dream somehow!

In case some of you don't know who Phoebe is... read any of my posts from my 6 months in England, starting HERE... and then again any of my Australia posts, starting HERE...

The month of January in the Mertz home was entirely devoted to readying our abode for guests! Our first house guest! We needed of course to actually get furniture for the guest room, so weekend #1 was moving all my furniture from Elisabeth's house to our house... it was quite a task and we had awesome help!! Having my couches and my old bed and dresser and blankets in my new home made me feel more settled. Plus Phoebe and Liam would have a place to sleep :)

Weekend #2 was all about painting! We painted the guestroom and rearranged the furniture and then it was set.

Weekend #3 - THEY ARRIVED!!!!

I had the day off that Friday they arrived and so I spent the whole morning running around like a mad woman cleaning, doing laundry, grocery shopping and other errands. Then off to the airport for pick up! I was like a little kid pacing around the airport terminal waiting and waiting for their arrival... FINALLY they came through security and I ran faster than I thought I could! Phoebe and I stood screaming and slightly crying from joy in the middle of Sky Harbor terminal 4! Hugs for Liam too, of course!

(oh yeah, my hair is red...)
We grabbed their bags from baggage claim and drove home. One might expect upon first visiting Arizona that sun and heat would be their welcome... but not for them... instead Phoenix was rainy and chilly!! What?!

I am a terrible person because there are no picture for the first couple of days they were here... I think because it was so rainy and we ended up just laying around being lazy most of the time. To highlight the first couple of days:

- Got home and allowed them to unpack and shower. I had pre-made dinner, so I stuck it in the oven and we waiting for Aaron to get home from work.
- Gift exchanging! Phoebe and Liam brought gifts and decorations for our Australia Day party! Aaron and I also had a gift basket for them as well including Cactus Pear Jelly, and all other types of Southwest snacks and paraphernalia.
- Dinner and wine! Phoebe and Liam love wine and they introduced us to some pretty delicious stuff!
- The next morning it was super rainy, so we went to lunch nearby at Vovomeena and then took them to show them downtown in the rain... we did a bit of shopping and then back home to prepare for the Australia Day party that night!

The Australia Day Party!

So many people in my life were probably getting tired of hearing my endless Phoebe stories and might have started to believe she was a figment of my imagination (that isn't true, I have plenty of photo documentation). But none-the-less just a little over 24 hours after Phoebe and Liam arrived in the states we had a party to give all my friends the opportunity to say hi to the infamous PHOEBE!!! I will say here now that Liam also made a huge impression at the party. My brother, Tyler, noted that I built up Phoebe and she met all expectation, but I had seriously neglected to say how AWESOME Liam was. haha

The party was actually Phoebe and Liam's idea because that day (January 26th) happens to be Australia Day!! It marks the day when the first British Fleet landing in Sydney Harbor and when it was proclaimed as a British Colony. YAY Australia! It is kind of the equivalent of the 4th of July here in the States - Australian's usually BBQ and have lamingtons and pavlova and have picnics and party outside. Sadly for us, Arizona was rainy YET AGAIN, so the festivities were indoors. We did however have Lamingtons (brought all the way from Australia) and Pavlova (hand-made by yours truly). Some people came dressed in Australian garb - Tyler was Wolverine honoring Australian actor Hugh Jackman, Shawn was Daniel Johns from the Australian band Silverchair, and Nicole and the twins wore prison stripes in honor of Australians being convicts. haha.

Liam, Phoebe, me, and Aaron - I wore Australia Day colors - Green and Gold/yellow

Prison stripes!

My attempt at Australian Pavlova - is was a wreck, but tasted delicious!

Our Australia Day snacks - ANZAC biscuits, Lamingtons, TimTams, a Salad and S'mores treats (those are American), Shawn and Nicole brought pulled pork sandwiches and we had different jerkies of Emu, Crocodile, and Kangaroo.

Bundaburg Lemon Lime and Bitters and of course Vegemite

Hugh Jackman (Tyler) & Daniel Johns (Shawn)

Sarah brought a "gum" tree - like the song about the Kookaburra- winner for best Australia item!

Playing an Australia trivia game! I losing team had to take a tiny bite of Vegemite! It was disgusting!

It was such a fun night we had a BLAST!  So glad everyone got to meet them and understand how awesome they were!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Remember that one time...

I dyed my hair red?

It was short lived and only last about 6 weeks, but it was my wonderful post-wedding hair experiment!

A lot of women post wedding chop their hair short after having grown it out for probably the duration of the relationship in preparation for the wedding up-do. I on the other hand chopped my hair off soon after starting to date Aaron and so come wedding time, my hair was BARELY long enough for my up-do... I regret ever cutting it, so I wasn't going to do that now. I did, however, long for a change and so dying it a drastic color like red seemed like fun...

... who knew it would be such a process????

To give you an idea... this is what I was going for:


Thus began my quest...

I started by trying to just dye it with a box over my black hair... that was a stupid idea and resulted in no change at all except at my roots where my natural hair was growing out. Next I tryed a color lifter... DON'T EVER USE A COLOR LIFT!!! It smells like a rotting egg and leave your bathroom with that smell no matter now long you air it out... plus my hair smelled like that for over a week... needless to say it didn't work :(

Next step was bleach!
This picture actually makes it look descent, but in reality it was slightly more mustard than this
 I had to leave it bleached for 24 hours before dying it again, so for a whole 24 hours I was a brassy blonde.

Next came the hair dye!
This was a horrible orange color :(

What I got was ORANGE!!! I had to leave this in for another 24 hours... yuck!

Third time was indeed a charm... almost... I got the right color, but within a week it was faded again to nearly orange... I finally bit the bullet and bought a Groupon to Dolce Salon and Spa and had them professionally do it to the right color!

After 6 weeks from the beginning of the process I was done with the grand experiment and ready to be myself again... I dyed it back to dark brown and there it shall stay :)

... you'll see my red hair throughout all of the pictures with Phoebe and Liam, so it was immortalized!

Holly Jolly Christmas...

As I stated in a previous post, soon after the wedding, everyone started asking us about the holidays... even AT our wedding reception people were asking us what we had planned for Christmas... apparently it was going to be a big deal.

Lucky for us we have families that are awesome and understanding and accommodating and will to work with us on whatever worked best for US! I think that was important for me to remember through the process is that I couldn't please everyone and when it came down to it, I needed to protect my family first - meaning Aaron and I. I think the first thing we decided was that we wanted to spend Christmas morning just the two of us. We knew that when we had kids we would want to be a family during that time and so we firgured we would start this year and not risk the trouble of changing it later. So that was easy. What also made it a little easy was that my brother and sister-in-law decided that because they have 4 kids to haul around for the holidays that they would do one day with each family and not divide in the middle of the day. So they do Christmas Eve with my family and Aaron and I decided to do that too. So Christmas Eve with my family and Christmas Day with the Mertz'.

The sad part was my younger brother... it was a really difficult realization that I wouldn't see him on Christmas Day. My older brother got married almost 9 years ago and despite the first couple of years where he and Nicole divided the holidays in the middle of the day, we have spent most of our Christmas Days just Tyler and I with my parents. We would stay up late talking and hanging out just him and I. This would be the first year I wouldn't see Tyler on Christmas Day! Luckily my new in-laws had the wonderful idea of inviting Tyler along for a Christmas Day evening event! We decided we would go see a movie and Tyler would come with us! Super fun :)

So here are some pictures of the lovely Holiday!

First stop the Thompsons! We woke up and went over to my parents for gift opening, breakfast, and some park time! I mainly got pictures of the present opening, but it was a lovely day at the park too so in your mind's eye imagine the sun shining, boys playing basketball and the the little girls sliding down both park slides over and over again.

Mr Mertz & I

The girls opened their gifts first so they wouldn't have to be bored with our present opening. They got the mother load of gifts! A Barbie House from Uncle Tyler, PJs and baby dolls from my parents...

Emolyn got a chalk board from Uncle Aaron and I! And Elsie got a piggy-bank filled with money... she had asked specifically for "money dolla's"
The theme of gift giving this year was Charity! We decided last year after I bought my whole family charity based gifts that we would start a gift exchange this year and only give gifts that gave back as well! Some highlights:

- Shawn got my mom a ring with dried forget-me-nots in it (like a locket, but a ring). It was for an alzheimer's foundation! She cried and cried of course because he dad pass away from Alzheimer's a few years ago right before Christmas.
- Nicole got Tyler a Tshirt made out of recycled plastic bottles - seriously it sounds weird, but it is the most comfortable shirt ever! She also got him headphones that also went to giving hearing to people who are deaf from ear injuries!
- I gave Shawn a To Write Love on her Arms shirt... and Nicole ended up getting him the same one. haha

Jonah & Nathan are now not the only twins in the family!

Emolyn and Elsie quickly took to the chalkboard!
Tyler had to work on Christmas Eve, so he left at 12p. After Shawn and Nicole left with the kiddos to put them to bed at home, my parents, Aaron and I went over to see Tyler and take him dinner, then Aaron and I went home for the night!

Next morning was our first ever lil' Mertz family Christmas!!!! I was looking forward to sleeping in a bit, but my husband was an excited boy and woke me up early too excited to wait any longer to give me my presents! We sat in front of the Christmas tree and gave each other our first Christmas gifts as husband and wife!

We did good this year! Aaron got me the entire Harry Potter BlueRay set! He also got me PJs and tons of snacks in my stocking!! I got him a keurig and a watch along with a wallet and legos and other fun treats in his stocking!
After we finished gift opening, we got dressed and ready and headed over to his parents house :) Three sets of gifts! I like this married business on Christmas :)

Me, Aaron, Ashley, and Jess!

So many fun gifts - Manicure/Pedicure gift certificate, jewelry from Ashley from her trip to Ghana, Christmas decorations, and much much more! We spent the rest of the day hanging out at the house and then we headed over to Aaron's grandma's house with the Mertz extended family. Such a big family!!!

Tyler met us there to go to the Christmas Day late night movie! We were planning to see Les Miserables, but when we got to the theater it was already sold out :( Instead we decided to see the last Twilight movie - Breaking Dawn 2. Jess was gonna kill us for making him sit through it! haha! The rest of us loved it and by "loved it" I mean it was beyond awesome, but so fun to laugh through!

All in all a great Christmas!