Christmas with the Byrnes

Each member of the Byrne family has a comically distinct personality. While staying at their romantic vineyard-side ranch house, we had a wine-country style holiday; something I had never experienced before. We cooked fantastic food, drank all sorts of wine, and hung out with the local animals (their dogs and Mrs. Cow, of course).

Hamish, the younger son and Dani’s old flatmate, was an excellent host from the moment we arrived. He gave us the Byrne Family Ranch tour including his hilariously melodic commentary. The anecdotes about everything around the house – including Mrs. Cow, who hangs out in the field next door – made the property quickly feel more like a home.

It was hilarious explaining my vegetarianism to Vinny, the tough dad who insists that everyone (including his children) call him Vinny. (Hamish claimed that it’s because he’s afraid of responsibility). At first, he looked at me like I was a weakling from a different planet, but eventually our relationship progressed to him showing me skulls of various animals (native and foreign species) that he had hunted over the years.

His wife, Sue, was the sweetest woman and the perfect surrogate-holiday-mom for my first Christmas completely away from  most of my family. She was super welcoming and together, we geeked out about recipes, shared random nutritional knowledge, and exchanged tips. I taught her how to make real lemonade! In New Zealand, it’s sort of a citric-acid/sugar mixture – with little to no actual lemons!

Hamish’s brother, Joe, started off kind of stand-offish, exhibiting a “why are you here” sort of confused shyness. After conversations over the next few days, however, he warmed up to us a bit and eventually even offered us his house in Christchurch for the few days that we were there! He and his roommates were all gone for the holidays, so we had the place to ourselves. It most certainly beat a campsite in the rain.

Pictures are coming! I swear.