Book Reviews: My Bali Book List

Three days before we head back to New Zealand and I’ve timed my reading perfectly!  I’m on my final book of three that I packed and I’ve loved them all.

To be honest, I probably haven’t spent as much time on a lounger reading as I would have liked, I totally should have left my laptop at home ergo, I should NOT have worked for two weeks!  But who can do that when they’re a girlboss?

Not me. 

The Roanoke Girls – Amy EngelNew Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Travelblog book Review The Roanoake Girls

Published by Hachette New Zealand.  14 March 2017 RRP $37.77 / EBK RRP $19.99

The Roanoke Girls is a bonafide, can’t put down page turner.  As the novel unfolds, it flips between ‘Then’ and ‘Now’ narratives, gradually unravelling the secrets and lies lived by The Roanoke family.

Two cousins, Lane and Allegra, become inseparable over the summer after Lane’s mother commits suicide and she moves to rural Kansas to live with her cousin and maternal grandparents.

City-girl Lane’s initial concerns are around adjusting to the quiet routine of small-town life.  The challenges she faces, however, are much closer to home and much more sinister.  

Engel’s poignant characterization of polar-opposites Lane and Allegra sets the scene for Roanoake history to repeat itself and yet another tragedy to unfold.

Loved it.  Awesome, compelling read.

The Perfect Girl – Gilly MacMillanNew Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Travelblog book Review The Perfect Girl

Published by Hachette New Zealand.  25th October 2016 RRP $27.99

There’s a bit of a girl theme going on here isn’t there lol.  MacMillan brings an eerie calmness and slightly detached sense of reality to her anti-heroine Zoe in The Perfect Girl.

The initial hook with which the reader is caught subtly becomes a secondary story-line as we meet the new players in Zoe’s ‘Second Chance Life’.

Everyone in The Perfect Girl is wound tight like a spring and the tension all becomes too much during Zoe’s first public performance since The Accident.  Zoe is a prodigal piano player and the irony of her immense talent, the very thing that defines her as a young girl, is that it kick starts a chain of events that leads to the death of her mother the same night as her return performance.

The Perfect Girl delves deep into the complexities of self, of family and the unravelling of both.  Zoe finds an ally in her step-brother Lucas and a reason to fight for her family in order to protect her little sister Grace.  How she does so is the ultimate finale.

An epic read, spanning a couple of days in the life of a young teen plagued by tragedy.  Edgy and gritty with a mean twist.  Loved it.

Woman in the Wilderness – Miriam LancewoodNew Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Travelblog book Review Woman in the Wilderness

Published by Allen & Unwin New Zealand.  April 2017 

I deliberately left this book until last on my holiday reading list as I wasn’t sure if it was for me.  Two weeks on and I’m relaxed enough to really appreciate a non-fiction account of two nutters (I affectionately call them that lol), who went bush in the New Zealand wilderness.

Miriam is a dutch native who met her partner Peter whilst travelling in India.  Their story is one of a road less travelled, without the material encumbrances (trappings?) of modern life in the privileged west.

Miriam’s writing is honest but not harsh.  In fact, the whimsy of it can take a while to get used to.  Once I settled into the prose, I began to get quite attached to the ‘characters’ in Miriam’s life and to Miriam herself.  Peter’s liberated world view and philosophy seem at once magnetic and infinitely wise, as if you could spend a lifetime of days with him and always learn something new.

Mouse’s story and relationship with Miriam is one that I eagerly waited for updates on.  He is so relatable to me and particularly reminds me of the kiwi blokes I now call friends in my late 30’s.  It is easy to understand what must have been a great attraction to Miriam; she’s exotic, foreign but with all the makings of a stand-up kiwi girl but she has partnered with a man 30 years her senior.

A complex situation indeed!

Miriam’s story is fascinating, as is her drive and intense lust for knowledge and harmony with the world.  I think this is something more and more of us are searching for as minimalism trends are becoming ever popular both in New Zealand and around the world.  Her travels and life adventures with Peter around beautiful New Zealand are both incredible feats of endurance and tenacity as well as wonderfully inspiring.  In fact, I’ve got a summer holiday plan for our family brewing as a result of reading Woman in the Wilderness!

An excellent foray away from fiction.  A refreshing change and an eye-opening account of a different side of my own country.  Great reading.

Noteworthy:

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Travelblog book Review Sally Anderson

The Co-Creative Age – The Next Evolutionary Phase In Leadership, Sally AndersonNew Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Travelblog book Review Sally Anderson

Purchase at via amazon, links below, RRP $39.95 NZD

Hard copy version

Kindle version 
A New Zealand woman who showed incredible determination to find a way to heal herself after one of the most dehumanising experiences, has written a book for leaders outlining her insights into the human psyche and how to advance it.  

Co-creative is a term Sally coined and refers to tapping into the ‘unknown, and from her personal experience she believes it is a missing link in most of the teachings of business leaders today.

“Most leadership training is linear, because everything in the ‘unknown’ is collapsed into religion, and that’s too political, personal and complex to fit into the business world.  And spiritual has negative connotations.  So the question is, how do you evolve a leader without talking about faith?  My book addresses this and I’m adamant the leaders of today must be as comfortable with the known as the unknown to lead people and companies through this disruptive age,” she says.

Family Travel Blog: 48 Hours in Tauranga

Earlier this month I was stoked to have been invited to compete in the first-ever Choice Hotels #ChoiceNZTravelgrammer2017 competition against 10 other NZ based Instagram Influencers.  We were despatched to 10 stunning and varied locations around NZ with the goal to ‘do the regions proud’ and snap up a social media storm across Instagram. 

Cool right?! 

I hadn’t spent any time in The Bay of Plenty since my misspent youth – one of those summers at The Mount…………I’m sure a few of you can relate? Needless to say, I was super excited to head south and check out the sights of Tauranga with Ethan – I’d decided I needed a teammate and who better than my 12 year old son.

48 Hours in Tauranga

Accommodation

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Travelblog Tauranga

We stayed at the perfectly located Comfort Inn Academy and we loved it.  We had a big, roomy suite (with an equally generous bathroom), crazy-good wifi, a lovely pool and spa, immaculate grounds and really, really fabulous hosts.  Tauranga’s attractions span the city from beach (Mt Maunganui 14mins) to bush (McLaren Falls 14min), so a central location will help you maximise your time in this beautiful, coastal destination.

Family Friendly Activities in Tauranga

  1. Visit the Mt Hot Pools for a swim
  2. Climb Mt Maunganui.  This is a must do, the views are stunning and it’s a great workout.  Ethan (12) did really well and I saw lots of younger kids having fun on the trail.
    New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Travelblog Tauranga
  3. Enjoy an amazing ice cream from Copenhagen Cones, located at the base of The Mount
  4. Have fish ‘n chips on the wharf at Bobby’s Fresh Fish Market.  BEST fish ‘n chips ever and I’ve eaten my way around NZ’s fried food establishments lol.
    New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Travelblog Tauranga
  5. Book an Evening Glow Worm Kayak Tour with the awesome crew at Waimarino Kayak Tours.  I can’t even describe how magical this night was.  I felt so fortunate to be out on Lake McLaren, experiencing the peace and tranquillity of night paddling with Ethan.  It was really special……..and the glowworm caverns were fabulous!  This, in my opinion, is the absolute BEST way to see glowworms in NZ.  Plus, there’s wine and cheese lakeside at sunset!!!!
    New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Travelblog TaurangaNew Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Travelblog Tauranga
  6. Visit the Paradox Inside street art exhibition at The Tauranga Art Gallery (showing until June 2017).  Get along to this if you can, featuring the largest collection of works by Banksy and other world-renowned artists in the southern hemisphere.
    New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Travelblog Tauranga New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Travelblog Tauranga
  7. Do some bombs at McLaren Falls!  Ethan and I spent hours here.  This is a seriously stunning spot where kids and adults alike can explore, swim, relax and take in some amazing New Zealand scenery.
    New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Travelblog Tauranga

Win with Choice Hotels NZ!

You can win your own NZ mini-break with Choice Hotels!  Follow them on Instagram (check them out here) before the 18th of April and go in the draw to win one of two short breaks at any Choice Hotel location in New Zealand.

Good luck and happy travels!

 

Family Travel – Hamilton, Balloons Over Waikato

This weekend away in March was amazing!  We ditched Auckland and had an epic three-day family adventure in Hamilton.  Our itinerary was co-ordinated by Hamilton & Waikato tourism and was so good I’ve decided to share it step by step in case anyone wants full details on how to max out three days with your kids, in a super-fun city just 127km from Auckland, NZ.

Day 1

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Hamilton Museum

We left Auckland around midday on Friday and had a great drive south to arrive in Hamilton at 2 pm.  

After check-in at the Sudima Hotel, we walked across the street to the Waikato Museum.  Let me tell you, Friday afternoon is the time to visit if you want a really peaceful, quiet experience.  We spent almost a full hour just in the Exscite exhibit.  Every activity is a kid magnet.  The boys ran around in a frenzy at first, touching on every station within the first 15 minutes.  They calmed down a little after that, took their time and really took it all in.

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Hamilton Museum

After visiting Milk Matters, For Us They Fell, Te Winika, Beyond the Cordon and the Bob Marley exhibit (all awesome), we left the museum and headed a couple of blocks along Victoria St to Bowl & Social.  Situated in Sky City, we were totally unprepared for how cool a bowling alley could be!

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Hamilton Bowling

We bowled one game with the boys (Even Nix loved it at 3.5yo) and enjoyed a really great meal overlooking the river.  This is hipster heaven, but equally perfect for a family fun date or birthday party – there were three parties in action while we were there!

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Hamilton Bowling New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Hamilton Bowling Pizza

Part of the Balloons over Waikato calendar is the City Burn and Markets.  The boys were a bit shattered so I left them with Dave and walked the single block to Garden Place in the city.  What a fun family event!  There were food vendors, market stalls, live music and of course the choreographed basket burn set to a really cool soundtrack.  I loved this, it was quick and awesome and makes a fairly early night for the kids.

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Hamilton

Day 2 – Super busy AWESOME day!

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Hamilton Sanctuary Mountain

We enjoyed breakfast at the hotel and loaded up for the drive south (54min) to Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari.  We had no idea what to expect, but if you LOVE getting your family out in the New Zealand native forest like we do, then this is a must-do on your next visit to the Waikato.  

Surrounded by the world’s longest pest-proof fence, Sanctuary Mountain’s ancient forest offers a sanctuary for populations of many of our most endangered species – from birds to bats, frogs to reptiles, tuatara to giant weta.

We spent the morning on an amazing tour along one of the many trails and just soaked in the abundant native wildlife that is being so well protected here.  Major highlights were seeing many Kaka plus Ethan and I did a solo mission to a freshwater pool and were wowed by the biggest Kura we have ever seen!

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Hamilton Sanctuary Mountain

Tip: Don’t be off-put by less-than-perfect weather.  We visited on a rainy, gloomy morning but the thick forest canopy did an excellent job of keeping us dry and happy.

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Hamilton Waitomo

Next on the itinerary was a trip to the famed Waitomo Glowworm caves.  After an easy 47-minute drive south-west of Sanctuary Mountain, we were sitting down for lunch at Waitomo Homestead.  Delicious cafe food, well-priced and a convenient spot to refuel before you begin your cave adventure.  

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Hamilton WaitomoThe Waitomo Glowworm Caves are an NZ institution.  I first remember visiting with my parents when I was a little girl and loved bringing my own boys back here to experience the beauty of the underground caves and magical, twinkling glowworms.  This is a beautifully run operation and something special but, as a kiwi, I couldn’t put my finger on what was missing and have only just figured it out as I sit here in Ubud completely surrounded by Balinese culture.  It is a completely sterile operation, almost devoid of any Maori/NZ culture or history – it could conceivably be picked up and plonked anywhere in the world.  I’m not sure international visitors would pick up on this but it seemed really odd to me.
New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Hamilton Waitomo

 The rain began to fall as we headed back to Hamilton and we were fading a little.  We were seriously considering skipping the weekend’s main event, the Balloons Over Waikato Zuru Night Glow.  Instead, we hardened up, charged it and were rewarded by the rain clearing and the most fabulous family night out in a long time.  Held at the University of Waikato, this is an event worth travelling for.  The food vendors provided ample choice (we chose some fab burritos), the music from The Jordan Luck Band was incredible, the hot air balloon light show set to an awesome soundtrack kept even Nixon in raptures and the fireworks finale was simply outstanding.

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Hamilton New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Hamilton New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Hamilton

Put the Night Glow Event on your family calendar for 2018.  It’s a seriously good night that I expect to become an annual tradition in our family. 

Day 4

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Hamilton

We delayed the inevitable drive back to Auckland for as long as possible with our first visit to the famed Hamilton Gardens.  Over the past few years I’ve been coveting pictures of the many varied landscapes within the gardens so was super keen to explore with the kids.

The space here is incredible, there are tourist buses aplenty (and rightly so) but you can easily find a spot to yourself and lay out a blanket and wile away an hour or two with a picnic.

Which is exactly what we did – after 2 separate plays at the beautiful Hamilton Gardens Destination Playground.  Both boys, big and small, had such a wicked time here.  Just like the wider gardens I feel like you may spot something new to do here every time you visit.

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Hamilton New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Hamilton

Phone ahead and let the professionals at The Hamilton Garden Cafe take care of lunch.  We picked up our laden basket and blankets and settled down to the most delicious lunch under a tree in the Rose Garden.  The food was ah-mazing, not exaggerating one bit.  I dream of another picnic like this one lol

What a weekend Hamilton/Waikato!  We enjoyed some incredible activities and visited some beautiful spots but we also saw twice as many things that are now on our to-do list for our next long weekend.

Our Accommodation

We stayed the weekend at Sudima Hotel in Hamilton City.  We had a huge 2 bedroom suite with, pretty much a full kitchen, 2 large bedrooms and a balcony – a perfect, kid-friendly hotel right on ‘the strip’ in Hamilton and surrounded by amazing restaurants and things to do. 

Tip – the street side room can be a bit noisy at night so pop the kids in the interior room and bring some earplugs if you’re a light sleeper like me.

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Hamilton New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Hamilton

The Worst Part of My Day…………just got a wee bit easier

I’m not exaggerating here, my kids’ dental hygiene is the bane of my LIFE.

The big one just doesn’t care/can’t be bothered/isn’t interested and the little one thoroughly enjoys it but would be only slightly less effective if he was using his toothbrush to scrub the floor instead of scrubbing his entire face – as well as approximately 10% of one tooth.

None of this is made any easier by the times of day that teeth-brushing is permanently scheduled in at; The Early Morning Before School Rush and Bedtime; Peak Procrastination Hour.  Undoubtedly two of the most difficult times of the day by any parental estimation.

Things began to look up late last year when Ethan got a toothy tech upgrade to the Philips Sonicare for Kids (read about that here).  The 2-minute timer has been amazing for improving his brushing routine plus I can hear its beeps and whizzing from afar so it’s much easier to keep an ‘ear’ on how long he’s brushing for lol.  The beeps are the quad pacer on the timer that helps him work out when to move to a different part of his mouth.  Kid-friendly genius!

That just leaves Nixie and now it’s his turn to hit the oral hygiene big league (meaning he’s got an awesome toothbrush too!).

Philips Sonicare for Kids have upped their game again with the launch of their mobile app to further aid kids with establishing awesome brushing habits.

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Sonicare Toothbrush

Look, I’m an unashamed modern mum and I’m perfectly at peace with exploring ways in which technology can benefit my kids – and by benefit my kids I mean provide my very easily distracted toddler with a visual reference on how to brush, why to brush and for how long to brush because I’ve tried and am failing!  

I can see wheels spinning and Mama’s shaking their heads thinking ‘generations of people before us have taught their kids how to brush their teeth without the help of an app’.

This is true.  But generations before us weren’t raising kids in this digital age we find ourselves in, where our toddlers have favourite YouTube channels!

After he decorated his toothbrush, we worked through the app setup process which is super-cute and really engaging.  Nix got to hatch his ‘Sparkly’ and name him – Truck.  His toothbrushing friend is called Truck lol!!!  This initial meet and greet (?) is very clever, it totally encouraged Nixon to take responsibility for Truck’s teeth and get cracking.  The visual interface shows kids their progress as they are brushing and provides a reference that helped Nixon actually understand, for the first time, why we need to brush our teeth.  Check it out in action in the clip below;

As I said, Ethan’s been using his Sonicare for Kids for 5 months now and the proof of its efficacy (Philips states they are 75% more effective than manual toothbrushes in hard to reach areas) was noted in his latest dental checkup.  A positively huge improvement from his prior visit when he was threatened with a stain to show just how much plaque his lazy brushing was leaving on his teeth.  That’s a HUGE parental win, I was so stoked with that.

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Sonicare Toothbrush

What you need to know about the Philips Sonicare for Kids

-A rechargeable sonic toothbrush for ages 3 and up

-Built-in Bluetooth wireless technology connects to the app

-Built-in timer

-Kids adopt their own Sparkly and help it brush its teeth so that it can be happy and evolve

RRP $99.95 available from major retailers nationwide.

Win this amazing toothbrush for a little person you know!

I have one Philips Sonicare to giveaway!  Make it yours by leaving me a comment below telling me who you’d gift it to.

Competition closes 18/4/17 NZ residents only.

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Sonicare Toothbrush