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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! 

**If you want to keep up with new posts then just go to the "subscribe" tab on the main menu & follow the directions! 


the package

I never thought we would actually get to see this package. My mom asked us a few weeks ago what the kids were missing back home. SO, the kids (and myself) came up with a fairly lengthy list & sent it to her. I never actually thought she would buy EVERYTHING on the list – but she did. What a good granny:) So when it had not arrived after a week she started to get concerned. I told her not to worry about it because packages usually take up to 2 weeks to get here. So, after 2 weeks she called me & informed me that she had sent it to the WRONG address! Apparently I had emailed her the wrong address when I first got here & was delirious. So, Payton & I went on a mission that day to find the box. She told me the address that she had sent it to so I was determined to go down there & get my box back. I walked up my street until I found 5 Maskell St. The coffee shop – I should have known b/c this is my favorite coffee shop – of course she would send it there!  I explained to the nice ladies working in there what had happened & asked them that if they saw a massive package from America addressed to my kids to PLEASE let us know. After that I decided it would be a good idea to also stop any postal carrier that I could find & tell them the story. The first one did not speak English so that did not work out very well. The following day I went down the the village with the kids after school to get some books from the library. When I was down there I saw a different postal carrier service. I explained to him what had happened to the mysterious box. He told me that if he found it that he could not deliver it to me b/c it was addressed to 5 Maskell St., not my address…uugh.  Then as he was walking away (in true Kiwi style) he winked at me & said “but if it has your name on it & is addressed to the coffee shop then I will bring it to you.” I love Kiwis. So, the next morning that same man showed up on my doorstep with a giant smile & my giant box. Everything that we miss from the US was right there in that box. My kids went absolutely crazy after school when they ripped into it. Thank you, Yiayia & Papoo! We are SO happy to have that box!


a day in Paradise

I met Mandy the second week that I moved here. I was DESPERATE to get my kids into school – could.not.wait. So, I marched myself on down to the school to talk to the principal. He explained to me that he was obsessed with American football & that every other American had brought him an American football cap. He was very pleased that I was going to bring him a Panthers cap as he did not have one yet.  After we chatted for a while he asked me if I wanted to see the classrooms. Of course I agreed to go – my kids were not with me so really anything to make that last longer was fine with me! When we walked into what was going to be Ellison’s classroom, I spotted Mandy. From way across the room my radar immediately was drawn to the only other American within miles. How did I know she was American you ask? Well, it was honestly just blatantly obvious. I could see the bright pink lululemon jacket from a mile away & then as if that were not enough she was sporting a visor. She looked just like every rockin’ woman-mom that I used to work out with at the Harris Y in Charlotte (I really miss that place!). Anyhow, the principal, Dr. McCartheny, finally introduced me to the “other” American because he thought we would get along. Well, the rest is history – Mandy & I hit it right off. Both being Americans, we are on the same wave length about so many things – especially the fact that we could both stay here forever & be extremely happy. Last weekend we had the privilege of traveling to an island off of the coast of New Zealand called Waiheke with both of our families. Her daughter, Mae, is in Ellison’s class, & Issa is Chase’s same year in school. My kids were SO keen on the fact that we were taking a day trip with them. AMAZING is really the best way to describe our day. However, we first started off in a bit of a tizzy. We had friends over the night before for dinner so we were a little less than prepared to leave when we woke up in the morning. From the time we woke up we were rushing around in circles trying to get ready, assuming that we would miss our bus. We made it down to Mandy & Jacob’s house with what we thought was going to be 3 minutes before the bus came so we raced to the bus stop. In true NZ style, the bus was late. I just love it – life is good here, slow, & that’s perfectly ok. LOVE it! So when the bus finally arrived, we took it down to the ferry boat landing. The ferry was so cool – a 45 min cruise boat with tables,  a snack center, & an open deck up top where the kids could see all of the surrounding islands. When we finally arrived at Waiheke I was absolutely stunned. I just could not believe that a place like this existed. I am sure that I will feel the same way about every place that we visit in NZ but b/c this is the first place, I was just absolutely amazed. We got off the ferry with backpacks full of food but no no real plans except to explore the island. We bought some bus tickets but missed the bus so we decided to take a hike. We hiked  a short ways around until we got to a little portion of the village where we stopped to have a picnic. Then we hopped on another bus & had them drop us off on what seemed like the end of the island. It was so unbelievable! We walked along the beaches for @ 45 min.  - stopping every 2 minutes to take pictures. I just could not help myself – everything was so beautiful that I wanted to capture every moment on my camera. When we finally reached the end we realized that we had not payed close enough attention & we had come to the end of the beach with no clear direction of where to go to next ( we were trying to get to the wineries of course:) So, with an exhausted crew in tow, we turned down this one street & there it was – the stairway to heaven. At least that is what we told the kids it was called. There was this giant never-ending set of stairs that seemed to lead somewhere, we just did not know where. We were hoping it was to the wineries but we told them it led to heaven. About 1/2 way up & completely out of breath, Ellison looked at me & said “mama, I don’t think we are heading to heaven:) Sweet girl. Pretty sure she was wrong though b/c when we reached the top we found a sign leading to a Casita Miro Vineyard. When we arrived we walked into what smelled like an incredible restaurant. They looked us up & down funny b/c we had kids then told us that they were full. We begged to just sit outside on their lawn which they agreed to. So…. we plopped ourselves right down on that lawn, pulled out our picnic spread again & showed our true tailgating east coast colors – Go Tigers!  While the kids rolled down the hill & picked their olives to make “potion” we happily drank wine for a few hours. Waihiki – best day EVER!!!

Oh, & just for a funny. Mandy & I LOVE the words that people use here for things. They are different from the words we use in the US & we are both hoping they will stick with us & with our kids. Here are a few of our texts back & forth this week while we were trying to use our new words…

Hope: Mandy, do you want to go shopping in the morning?

Mandy: I can do tomorrow – in the morn!

Hope: Sweet! I am in!

Mandy: Sweet as!!! XXX See you later, girlie!

Hope: I’m so keen on that!

Mandy: LOL we will find heaps of things!

Hope: Hopefully some goodies, aye??

Mandy: Maybe some lollies (gummies)! Good on ya, cheers!

Hope: If we can find a car park then maybe we could have our morning tea there?

Ha ha ha! I never want this year to end……:)

view coming into Waiheke Island - beautiful!

I love these guys.

the coolest Americans on Waiheke Island:)

view from the hike

picnic lunch at the bus stop - so classy.

getting this picture was totally worth the bribe

my girl LOVES to pose!

daddy's shoulders are always the best

no words necessary...

yet another bribe - running out of coke bottles quickly though

NZ Father's Day was the next day so we snapped the best daddy in the universe:)

Christmas card!

What this year is all about...

I love that little bugger.

cheers to NZ!!

the American crew. Chase took these btw - Go Chase!

they have no clue how blessed they are to be here!





what I love about NZ…

Truthfully, I an enamored with this country. Really, everyday that I am here I let someone else that lives here know how awesome their country is. They usually want to know exactly what I love about it. So here is a short (but not exclusive) list of what I love about living here so far…

1. EVERYONE here is extremely nice & helpful & friendly – they go out of their way to help you & make sure you are ok. When we first got here our landlords were out of town. They sent their friend, Moira by to check on us. Wouldn’t you know that she came by everyday to see if we were ok! Most of the time she brought magazines for me, candy for the kids, maps, etc. Amazing hospitality!

2. laid back lifestyle. No one is in a hurry to get anywhere – they seem to just enjoy life. A lot of the mums walk over to the coffee shop after primary (elementary) drop off & hang out & drink coffee. If you are not there then you are more than likely at the bay on a run or walk. There are tons of people just walking up & down the waterfront drinking coffee, walking their dogs, or chatting with friends.

3. they don’t kill themselves working (hence Chris went in to work Monday & did not have to go back until Thursday last week – sweet!!)

4. they love & value children. I took Payton to the doctor & they told me that her doctor’s visit would cost $16 & “of course” all of her medications would be free b/c she is under the age of 6. WOW!

5. there is a bakery on every corner. And yes, I do stop at one almost everyday (sometimes twice/day:)

6. they have the best words for things… mum, mate, cheers, getting along (how are you doing), togs (bathing suit), people mover (mini van), flying fox (zip line), nappies (diapers) etc.

7. good morals. We bought a bed off of trademe (a website like ebay). The girl emailed me the next day saying that we had overpaid her & how could she get the $$ back to us. Amazing. The only story I have had so far or someone here being dishonest came from our friend, Capo. Apparently when he first arrived here he bought something & the clerk gave him his change in chocolate golden coins & mini batteries. I guess he figured he wouldn’t know the difference – ha ha – I think that is histerical!

8. It rains everyday at the drop of a hat. I know this is a strange one but after not seeing a good rain for 1 whole year in San Diego, rain is very welcome.

9. my kids love it here

10. I see my husband – everyday. He takes the kids to school a few times/week (school starts at 9) & has even been known to pick them up at 3! For those of you who know us well back in the states & what our life was like there, I am sure you are freaking out about that one!

11. We get to travel. Currently we are planning or vacations to the South Island where Lord of the Rings was filmed & then to Fiji & Australia – so cool!

12. You don’t see people checking their phones all the time (except for me of course). It reminds me of the days before iphones were around. You just don’t see people on their phones very often here.

13. SAFE. when the school bell rings at 3pm, all of the kids run out of their classrooms. There is no checkout system, no waiting to see if they are with the correct mum, nothing. They just get out of school & it is expected that they are safe. No notes home if you wanted a playdate with a classmate – the kids just go. SO UNBELIEVABLY SAFE! I see so many kids walking to school alone or playing outside alone at a young age.   Love it – reminds me of when I was a kid!

14. police don’t even carry guns here

15. Everyone has time to stop & speak to you. This is no exaggeration – EVERYWHERE that I have stopped to speak to someone, they all are more than willing to stop & start up a conversation with you. The bank, the butcher shop, grocer, park, etc. We have been here for a little over 3 weeks & everyone at the bank knows me & my kids by name. I even walked into the local coffee shop yesterday & before I could get my order out the barista already had my order going b/c she remembered what I like – enough said!

16. I don’t have a dryer. This again is another odd thing to like. In fact, before we left I spent hours researching & picking out the perfect dryer for our new home in Greenville. However, here we line dry all of our clothes – and I like it. Makes me feel a part of the culture. A bit difficult with school uniforms, but nevertheless it is fun to do what the locals do.

17. Finally, the scenery. It truly is beautiful here. I feel so blessed that God has laid out these adventures for our family to first live in San Diego for a year then to live in New Zealand. What an amazing experience  - one that I will never take for granted. On that note, several of you have asked for pictures of where we live, scenery, etc. SO sorry it has taken me a while. I am just now feeling like I am organized enough to even bring my camera around. I carried it with me this weekend so you could get a glimpse of God’s country (sorry, Greenville – NZ def. trumps your version of “God’s country”:) Enjoy & PLEASE come visit!

the hill on the walk down to "the village"

the beach is at the bottom of the village - we play here all the time

St. Heliers village

veggie stand where we get a lot of our fruits & veggies

the bakery - my personal favorite shop in the village:)

P loves the bakery too:)

beach at St. Heliers village

the Chase man

their favorite thing to do is to climb on these rocks

not a great pic but basically impossible to get all 3 together


Rangitoto - volcano across the water from St. Heliers


we call this our "pool"

the crew


first day of school!

I know that many mums might be sad when their kids first start back to school. Perhaps sad that summer had come to an end or that their kids are starting a new school year & growing up too fast. I, however, am ECSTATIC!!!!

the latest adventures


so I am LOVING having a blog again! I have really enjoyed each & every one of your comments! Please keep them coming as it really helps me still feel connected with everyone. So.. what has been going on lately? Well, too much to write in one blog but I will do my best to summarize. Most importantly, we signed a lease – yipee! We finally will be settling in to life in NZ when we get into our house on Saturday. Our house is going to be absolutely perfect for us & is within walking distance to the school as well as the village. However, our landlord is quite the particular one. I asked him if we could take Chris & Kapo (our awesome friend from Charlotte who is here w/ us) over to the  house last week so they could see it for the first time. Within 5 minutes of arriving at the house the kids somehow found the panic button on the alarm & set it off. Well, b/c we had just gone by quickly to check things out, I did not have the code to turn it off with me. Bummer. Kapo drove me back to the house while Chris stood in the front driveway & met all of the neighbors who came to see what all the racquet was all about. Ha ha  - welcome to the neighborhood, Brays!

Second great things is that the kids start school on Wednesday. I seriously could not be happier. I love my kids but they are starting to drive me  crazy b/c they are SO BORED! Their summer has lasted way too long & they are def. ready for some other friends to play with other than themselves! I had a meeting with the principal of the school today. LOVE their school – seems like all of the public schools here are just as nice as the private schools at home. Seriously, it was beautiful! I felt a little bit awkward being the odd man out though. The principal wanted to take me around to Chase & Ellison’s new classrooms. I was so excited to meet their teachers & classmates – I could hardly wait. He showed me where they would me taking their morning tea & where to buy their sunhats that they were required to wear b/c the sun is so strong here.   He then took me into each classroom & paraded me in front of the class telling the kids that he had brought a visitor to see them. At first I was excited to meet everyone until he asked me to speak in front of them. He had me talk & then asked them where they thought my accent was from. I felt like such a redneck puppet. The little kids raised their hands one by one & guessed that I was from “the States.” Then he made them guess how many medals “the States” had one vs. New Zealand. Huh? In that moment I was not sure if I was supposed to be proud that I was from “the states” or embarassed b/c they all looked at me like I was an alien!  Anyhow, other than that things here have been flawless. It does rain everyday which is kind of a bummer but I think that is only b/c it is winter. Right now I am faced with the daunting task of furnishing our house. I literally have to get onto trademe (ebay of NZ) & bid every few minutes just so that I will have a bed to sleep in when we move in on Saturday. The one thing that I have found out of everything that is the same is church. It is so amazing that no matter how far away you feel from home that Jesus is the same wherever you go –  Charleston, Greenville, Charlotte, San Diego & all the way to New Zealand. We definitely feel God’s presence here with us – no matter how far away from home we are.  It is definitely not what most people would call “normal” life here yet but we are getting quite used to it & think that is quite lovely:)

ps – oh, if you have an iphone then please download the app VIBER. That is the main way that I am keeping up w/ people right now b/c it is free calls & texts back & forth from US to NZ. It will alert me if you download it – cheers!