Kiwi Tracks: August 2006

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Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The fabulous adventure of creating and opening Ya-Ya House of Excellent Teas

Or: How a long story finds a happy ending...

I realize, this is only the third real entry in my tramping blog and I'm already WAY off-topic. Well, off-topic allright, but maybe not quite so far. My main intention with Kiwi Tracks was to share some tales about adventures in New Zealand and this tale certainly is about an adventure!

I'm so proud about the outcome, I'll just start with the happy ending:

Ya-Ya House of Excellent Teas is open

After having spoiled the ending (as you've seen, the teahouse is finished!), I'll start from the beginning.

When my partner Diane, her daughter Mia and I came to New Zealand last year, we came with the intention to open a teahouse here in Christchurch. It was Diane's dream and we knew now was the time to make it happen!
After much research, planning and real-estate hunting, we finally found the area we were looking for: Lichfield Lanes, the block around Poplar St / Cotter's Lane that contains a unique, old & industrial mix of brick buildings. Ok, we found the area (which is small enough), but which building is right for us? Teahouse Facade in September 2005I must admit that I wasn't all that impressed with the space that one of the owners had in mind for us. But Diane - using the great visual imagination that she possesses - could see already then that it would work.

The building wasn't in the best shape imaginable, but it certainly had a lot of potential.
Teahouse Facade in September 2005
After removing the junk that had accumulated there over an unknown period of time, we sat down to draw plans of the overall layout. Kitchen & toilets had to be created, Diane wanted a raised platform for floor-seating, etc.
We finally came up with a solution that was both feasable and visually appealing - which had to be changed a few times again, but eventually turned out the way it looks like now.
As soon as the interior steel poles (earthquake reinforcement) and new walls were up, even I started to see the teahouse in this place.Teahouse Steel and Gib
It must have been over the Christmas holidays when we finally started painting...

Over an extended period of time, we spent every weekend and available evening in the teahouse (to cover the peach-coloured bricks with a nice colour, to get sore arms and shoulders painting the ceiling, etc.)

In January, when the neutral coloured areas were painted, it all started to look inviting.

Then came the part we weren't sure what it would look like in real life, we could only imagine it to be quite cool: an enormous RED WALL. But again, Diane's sense for colour and design proved to be right and when we put our red brushes and rollers down, it looked fantastic!Colour

Fast-Forward to April: The outside steelwork that was scheduled for January finally went up. (Thanks, Anthony, for doing such a great job!)
After being sceptical about the new look at first, it has grown on us and we now like the slight industrial edge of "our 2 tons of steel"!
While we continued our beautification work inside, Anthony started to make the outside area more appealing. We had planned to create a Zen Garden with rocks, boardwalks, etc. from the very beginning and were eager to see it come to life. The initial plans had to be altered dozens of times to comply with council regulations, practical and accessibility issues, you name it. Diane always came up with a great compromise in those crucial moments when the whole concept seemed completely destroyed. DeckingZen-Garden-Design
Jason (who designed the original plans for the Zen Garden) helped us to finish the garden: creating a path with slate, filling all areas with differently colored gravel, leveling the gravel, etc.Path-DesignLeveling
During July, we worked extra hard to get everything organized so we could finally open. After postponing the opening one last time (sorry to everyone we promised to open in January, February, March,... It was truly out of our hands!), we opened the doors to guests on 28 July 2006!

Following a few pictures of the last stages and the finished teahouse. I hope I might see some of my readers in the teahouse. Maybe we could plan a trip into the mountains over a nice pot of tea...


More pictures, more information, a menu with all our teas, and much more is available on our website.Kitchen-ViewYa-Ya-TeahouseYa-Ya-Retail-Store

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BuddyMapping - What a cool Web 2.0 application!
I just discovered the service of BuddyMapping yesterday and it instantly made sense to me. An easy way to visualize readers or visitors of blogs and websites, combined with the option to leave comments and images. The perfect guestbook!
As a bonus, it works really smoothly, combines some of my favourite web-features (uses Google Maps, AJAX, etc.) and is VERY user friendly.

This is what BuddyMapping does: The service allows you to create a map where people (friends, blog-readers, website visitors, etc.) can add a digital pin of their location and leave information (i.e. email address, images, comments). Think of it as a guestbook with vastly improved functionality AND spatial context. Say, you're from Switzerland and plan to come to New Zealand to do some mountaineering. You might stumble across my blog and find some useful information here. You then leave a pin on the map with your location in Switzerland and your email address. Next time I'm in Europe, I might want to get in touch with someone that could give me ideas about mountaineering in Switzerland. I'd look on the map, find people in or around Switzerland and send out emails. If there wasn't a map, it would be a lot more difficult to determine where people come from...

But there is a lot more to BuddyMapping that I like! Not everybody wants to reveal their exact location (you might rather share information about your hometown than street address) or email address. The service allows for different levels of details and you don't have to create a user account!

In short: I like it! That's why I added it to my sidebar. Clicking the link opens another page with the "Kiwitracks Reader Map" where you can easily add yourself to the map. Try it out, it's easy and fun.
Let's see whether we can get some dots on the map!

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