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Hope Bray Photography bio picture

meet me here.


I absolutely LOVE photography! I started taking classes when I lived in Italy in college & I have not been able to put my camera down since then! There is a story to tell behind every photograph & my goal is to capture those stories & the moments in life that are priceless. My style is unique, & I focus on capturing life from a perspective or angle that you might not otherwise see.  I get SOOOO excited when I am editing photos that truly capture my photojournalistic style & the moment they were taken.  I am married to an amazing man named Chris & I have 3 children - Chase (5) & Ellison (3), & Payton (4 months) who are often the subjects of my pictures:) I am located in Charlotte, NC but open to travel! 

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Farewell New Zealand

I have been thinking for some time what my last post about NZ would say.  I think the easiest way to explain to you what this year has meant to our family is to tell you what we will miss most about living here. I started these posts about our life in NZ as a way for our family to look back on one day & remember what an amazing experience this has been for all of us. Hopefully it will be a really fun way to remember all of the things we came to love about living in NZ.  Here it goes…

1. the people -Kiwis are an amazing group of people. Some of the most warm & welcoming people that we have ever met. From the time we got off of the plane (literally, first person we met) we knew there was something different about being here. People go out of their way to help you. It’s almost as if the entire country is one big family who looks after one another. They make it their duty to be sure you are ok & enjoying yourself here. For example, we have driven in 2 cars this year that 2 separate families have just loaned us for the year – just because they could.  In this laid back culture, I never once felt like I was in the “rat race” that I often feel like I am in in America. Everyone dresses pretty simply, enjoys life, & really seems to look out for one another. I never really worried if I had on the right clothes or if I looked presentable enough to go pick up the kids from school b/c I know that no one would care except for me. They take long holidays during the summer (weeks or sometimes months) & seem to know what is important in life. There are quite a few of these Kiwis who will remain so close to our hearts forever.

2. the accents – this is something that I loved before I even came to this country & now that my kids even have a slight Kiwi accent, I love it that much more. The words they use, and the accents with which they say things is just so endearing. I am so used to hearing it now that I even catch myself saying certain words differently than I used to. Not hearing Kiwis talk everyday is going to be really sad for me.

3. the scenery – in Auckland you don’t have do drive very far to get to the ocean. In our case, you just have to walk to the bottom of the hill – it’s brilliant. I am a coast girl – grew up on the coast of SC & I don’t like it when I feel landlocked. It has been so nice this year to be able to get down to the water at any given time. My early mornings runs along the waterfront have become a time that I just have grown to love. The same people do their runs together so you end up knowing exactly who is going to be out there & I like that (fast walker man with dog, 3 middle aged men who run together, mum & daughter, girl who never wears workout clothes, boy who wears headlamp & rides his bike next to his running dad etc.). I run at the bottom of the hill along the waterfront for miles, just staring at the water & thanking God that we have had the opportunity to live in such a beautiful country. We have toured the island top to bottom & I have seen some of the most beautiful things I will ever see in my entire life right here on this tiny island.

4. my kids experience – I cannot think of any gift more amazing to give your kids (besides teaching them about Jesus) than opening their eyes to cultures beyond our own. I love that our kids haven’t just passed through this country as visitors but that they have actually been a part of the culture here. They have all 3 attended school & been immersed in the culture through their classmates, teachers, etc. They have learned how other cultures do things differently than we do & how not everyone is just like them. We have all learned to live like Kiwis this year & I think that is pretty cool.

5. uniforms – I love to see my kids in their uniforms. Has made this year SO much easier when they dress in the morning. I think they look so adorable in them that I made them do a photo shoot this past weekend in them – even Payton! I put them in their uniforms & went to my favorite beach to do the shoot – St. Heliers of course. Shoot went well for the first 5 minutes. After that, Chase taught the girls how to “log roll” & they all 3 piled up together as one log & rolled down the hill, ruining their clothes. Shoot over b/c they were too messy but they had fun!

6. no shoes – my kids never have to wear shoes here. Ever. Even in school or the shops:) No one ever says anything to them about it either b/c it’s just a part of being a Kiwi Kid. They are SO gonna look like such hoodlums when they get home!

7. safety – I don’t think I have ever as safe as I feel here. The school is completely unlocked all day with open entrances all around. After school the kids just run out to the playground & wait for their parents there – no checkout systems.  After school, the kids run up & down the street from house to house just playing until dinner time. In the past we have always had a home alarm. Don’t have one here & never felt like I needed one either.

Here are a few pics that I mainly took for the kids to remember their time here. The house, the cars, the uniforms,  & St. Heliers Bay.

New Zealand  - THANK YOU for this incredible experience. I cannot believe it is already time to go. We will miss you & your people so incredibly much. In our hearts we will forever consider ourselves Kiwi-Americans. Chris says we will be back so I am counting on it. I can’t stand to say good-bye b/c we have had to do it way too much over the past 10 years. Instead of good-bye, we will “see you soon,” New Zealand!

Love, your Kiwi-American friends.



all things Kiwi

I am very sad writing this post, thinking that we only have 5 short weeks left here in NZ. Where did the time go? I think what makes leaving here different than leaving anywhere else that we have lived is that there are so many people here that I see on a daily basis that I have come to know & love that I will never see again – ever. We do have plans to come back to NZ, just not anytime soon. However, there are a few of our Kiwi friends who have set plans to come see us in America & for that I cannot wait!

When we first arrived in NZ, I was fascinated with all things Kiwi. One of the things that I loved the most was the Kiwi accent & expressions.  So, a few months after we moved here I started a list of my favorite Kiwi words. Eventually, I stopped writing on the list because all of these words/expressions became commonplace to us. In fact, most of them are a part of all of our daily vocabulary now. I have been packing up this week & I came across “the list.” I was laughing b/c most of these words our family uses on a daily basis – so much so that I don’t even think about it now. I wanted to share it with you so that if we talk a bit differently (or the kids have a slight kiwi accent) when we get back then you will now know why:)


togs – bathing suit

people mover – mini van

growl – yell

rubbish bin – trash can

chilly bin – cooler

prezzie – present

lollies – candy

chippies – chips

capiscum – yellow pepper

corquette – zucchini

cuddle – hug

jandals – flip flops

heaps – tons

how are you going?  - how are you doing?

tinker – a stinker

have a go – take a turn

cheeky – naughty

that’s all right – no problem

gumboots/wellies – rain boots

boot – trunk

bench – countertop

flash – fancy

torch – flashlight

rubber – eraser

buggy/pram – stroller

diary – calendar

hut – fort

littlie – little person/child

queue – line

gutted – upset

kindy – preschool/kindergarten

car park – parking lot

rock up – pull up/show up

shattered – exhausted

dummy – pacifier

mum – mom

mummy – mommy

biscuit – cookie

nappie – diaper

morning tea – morning snack

afternoon tea – afternoon snack

bush – woods

plaster – band aid

keen – excited

baddie – bad person/robber









I have been known to take months to post pictures of our holidays here but here we have been back less than 24 hours & I am just itching to write down everything about our holiday so I don’t forget one single detail. 7 days in Fiji – no phones, no internet, no distractions. Just me, Chris & our 3 littles. It was seriously unreal – such a special vaca for every one of us. At the risk of sounding totally cheesy, I will tell you that Chris, Chase & I all shed a tear when our boat pulled away from the dock for the last time. Seeing all of the Fijian people lined up who we had come to know & love wave goodbye to us (with the kids waving back) was just all too much. Knowing that our our once-in-a-lifetime experience was over, there were certainly a few tears shed. However,  I overheard Chris tell many Fijians emphatically that we would be back, & I can only hope that he means it.


We spent the first 3 nights in Denerau which is the Fijian resorty area. It was everything that you would think a Fijian resort would be like, and so much more. We have been to several white sandy beaches with clear blue water, however the Fijian people are what made this experience SO much more than just a gorgeous beach. The Fijian people are just absolutely endearing. They adore children & always go out of their way to speak to them & play with them. Often they will just run up to you & take them out of your hands & lead them away just to play with them. We spent the first 3 days just enamored with the Fijian people, playing on the beautiful beaches, swimming in  the amazing pools, jet skiing, & going down the waterslides 5200 times. At night we would put the kids in Kids Club & we would go eat dinner & go to the after dinner entertainment where we would meet up with the kids. The last night we were able to watch Fijian fire dances on the beach where Fijian people would come out & do crazy dances while holding fire sticks & swinging them around. It was so wild the way they handled the fire & how fast they were able to twirl their fire sticks.

Mana Island

As if that wasn’t amazing enough, after 3 days on the main island, we headed off to another resort on a small Fijian island called Mana Island. As the ship pulled up to the island, I could not believe we were going to get to spend 3 whole days there in an ocean front beach bure. It totally fascinated me that they had a resort on this island. I could not get over the fact that all the materials to build & maintain everything on the island & all of the food they need to run the resort has to come in by ship from the main island daily. It took us a few hours to go just from the main island to Mana Island by boat. And when I say island, I mean “middle of Pacific, you can walk around it in 20 minutes kind of island”. Everyone who works on Mana spends 12 days on the island then goes back to the main island for 3 days. We met some of the most amazing people at our stay there. It was really really hot there (felt like home to me:) & while we were snorkeling, swimming, & relaxing, these Fijian people were just working away with the biggest smiles on their faces. They had huge hearts, these people. They loved our kids, and we loved them back. Kids Club was available for the kids during certain hours of the day. Morning, afternoon or evening sessions were available if the kids wanted to go spend time with other kids & the parents could get a bit of a break & spend time together too. Our kids loved kids club so much that they begged to go . We even offered  Ellison special time with just us while the other 2 were in Kids Club & she chose to go to Kids Club! I don’t blame her one bit. It wasn’t just some babysitting service – they did the most amazing things with the kids. Coconut hunting & lollie making, Fijian basket weaving, frog races, Fijian dances, snail races, crab races etc. At night the Kids Club would preform a show for the adults & it was always the highlight of our day. Chris & I got to eat dinner together alone every night as well as spend a few hours each day alone just hanging at the beach. One afternoon we took Chase out on a guided snorkeling trip. We took a boat out with a few other people to a sand bar which was right next to a giant reef. We snorkeled there in the clear blue water for hours. Chase had never been before & he was absolutely amazed. “Best day EVER” is what he kept saying over & over (of course each child said that at least 50 times while we were in Fiji). When we saw a tiger shark it was his double best day ever:)  I could go on & on & we have all been saying today how badly we wish that we could go back……right now!  It was honestly the most amazing vacation we have ever taken as a family & I know these memories neither our kids or us will never ever forget.


sweet sista’s

they both adore their Bubby (who apparently only owns one shirt:)

the number of times we went down this was somewhere in the 100′s or 1000′s:)


morning/afternoon tea is essential to good pool time

my girlies:))))))))


lucky ducks!

poolside paradise

one of the small resort islands on the way to Mana Island


Mana Island (our island:)

the Fijian welcome crew

this woman immediately grabbed Payton when we got off of the boat & Payton was totally in love w/ her the rest of the trip.

home sweet home

ocean view from our bure


C & E begged to have their hair braided like all of the other kids!

this is what we do to pass away the airport time

North Island tour

I seriously cannot believe how long it has taken me to post pictures lately. I think I have just adopted a bit of the Kiwi way of life & things are a little more relaxed around here lately.  The Brays came to visit here late Feb-early March for 2 weeks. We decided to tour the North Island b/c we had already done the South Island with my parents. We took a week to hit some of the highlights of the North Island & then The Brays headed to the South Island for a week to tour the legendary scenery down there. First stop was Lake Taupo – SO beautiful (beginning to realize nothing in this country is ugly though)! The first day we took a guided sailboat tour around the lake to see the Maori carvings in the side of the rock near the lake. The boat happened to belong to Errol Flynn at one time which was really pretty cool & the kids LOVED the boat ride! We were also able to hike the famous Huka Falls while we were in Taupo & it was like no waterfall I have ever seen – massive, rapid, & very powerful (pic below). Next we went to the famous city of Rotorua. Here is a short list of what we did there – Polynesian Spa & pools, The Luge, Maori cultural center, lion feeding & cub petting, just to name a few. Then it was off to Mt. Manganui. If you have never heard of it then it is worth taking the time to google it. It is a peninsula located in the Bay of Plenty where one side is harbor & the other side is beach. You can walk all the way around the base of the Mount which takes about 1 hr. It was by far my favorite walk that we have done in NZ. It is a popular holiday beach town so we took a few days to just relax, enjoy the beach, & enjoy the Brays. When we arrived back in Auckland, it was time for the Brays to pack up & head to the South Island. When they returned we took one last day trip to our favorite place to take visitors – Waiheke Island. We did some more relaxing & wine tasting with some of my friends from college at Cable Bay before they hopped on the plane back to LAX. It was pretty sad for everyone when they left. We have loved all of our visitors but it always really really hard to see them go. After they left we all said we were ready to go back to America now… until we went to Fiji & then everything changed!!!!!!!

best in-laws ever.


my sweet little bugger

love that smile, Ellie Bug!

Chris’s “mini me”

Maori carvings

Huka Falls

this picture totally cracks me up for so many reasons:)

not sure which pic makes me laugh harder though….

busted trying to steal the blow up Jelly Belly!

yep, we were THIS close while they were feeding – so wild!

this small cub wouldn’t take his eyes off of Chase – a bit scary

lion cub petting

she’s my animal lover

Marmie, Bo, & the Three Musketeers!

they really don’t eat ice cream every day – only on holiday:)

our boys learning The Haka!

The Haka is a Maori war dance used to intimidate the enemy – would you be scared of these guys??

Mt. Maunganui (The Mount)!!!!

the famous Copenhagen Cones – a “must have” after The Mount hike!

just cuz i love her.

me & mr. funny guy @ Cable Bay – Waiheke Island!

the trip of a lifetime – South Island, New Zealand

The South Island, NZ

I cannot believe that I am just now getting around to posting these pictures from the South Island. It has been such a whirlwind since Christmas! My parents were here for 2 weeks right after Christmas & the day they left we started hunting for a new house b/c we had to move out of ours. Seven days before we were due to move we found one & then school started, etc. Somehow “normal life” took over our blissful vacation life here. Now we are busy getting ready for Chris’s parents to arrive here on Sunday – we are SO excited!

The South Island was absolutely amazing & I have truly never seen anywhere like it in my life. Queenstown is my new favorite city in the whole world! We went  Whitewater rafting, Jet boating, took a gondala ride, went down The Luge, visited some hot springs pools, & took a train all the way across the span of the country while we were away. The kids were EXHAUSTED when we arrived back home. They were thrilled the day we got back to just chill out on their very own St. Heliers beach which has become home to them. I really missed my parents when they left – cried a lot that day. However, a few days later it was back to our daily life here which is really pretty amazing!. It is hard to believe that we only have a few short (and very busy) months left here. After Chris’s parents leave, a few friends from college arrive for a visit. Then early April we go on holiday in Fiji,  late June we are off to Australia,  & a few days after that we return home:)

We will be SO sad when we have to leave New Zealand. It has been such an incredible adventure not only for Chris & I, but for our kids as well. They have learned so much – how to be adaptable, how not everyone is exactly like them, & how different countries/cultures may be different from us but that is not a bad thing, just a different thing.  Chris & I keep saying “it’s all about the people you meet – that is what makes it so hard to leave.” We have moved around so much in the last 10 years & every city/country has a special place in our hearts. However, it is not usually how beautiful a place is or how good the weather is that makes us miss it when we are gone. It’s the people. That’s what we will really miss about New Zealand too – the people.  God always manages to put just the right people in our lives everywhere we have lived.  How hard it will be to leave the friends we have made here! They now have (& will always have) such a special place in our hearts. Thank you, God, for caring enough about the details of our lives to send us people who will be special to our hearts forever – no matter how far away. The right people at the right time – that’s our God. Cheers Cheers everyone!

North Head – Devonport

that girl loves her daddy

Playing the animal game – “I’m thinking of an animal that starts with the letter L….” This was shortly after the LICE outbreak in our house:)


Waiheke Island!

daddy’s shoulders are the girls favorite place to be



the bus stop to downtown is right outside our house – the kids love it!

love these guys:) Miss them so much.

this is SO the Chase man!

on the way to whitewater rafting trip

Queenstown – my favorite city in the whole world!!!

my girl loves the water. Bet she doesn’t even notice those mountains in front of her!

view from the Queenstown Luge


this picture is SO New Zealand – virtually untouched land.

Lake Wanaka!

daddy love

Mt. Cook!!

daddy of the year

wonder if they will ever see something like this again??

big brother absolutely adores his baby

love this lady.

this is so NZ!

Papoo & P


her smile always makes me smile – love my sweet girl!

Whitewater rafting in Queenstown!!

the whole family got to go!

I tried to fight it but he finally pushed me in:)