Family Travel – Four Days in Napier

After a pretty manic end to 2016, Dave and I had absolutely no inclination to plan an extended, extravagant summer holiday with the kids.  There was to be nothing involving chilly-bins or tents, no road trips, no car/boat combo packed to the hilt…..

Some years that stuff seems easy, is easy, this year we just couldn’t manage it.

What we could do (and did lol), was plan a mini-vacay with minimal fuss, minimal rushing from here to there i.e a minimal, or even better, NO itinerary and minimal expense to be honest.  

Napier was our choice of destination as it ticked all of those boxes plus even more.

In Napier City there are;

  • Flights leaving from Auckland daily – we flew with our travel partner Jetstar
  • Plenty of accommodation options right in town
  • ‘Town’ happens to be a $25 dollar taxi ride from the airport, no rental car needed.
  • ‘Town’ is right across the road from the beach, the pools, the fountain – which kids are welcome to play in!
  • ‘Town’ is the Art Deco capital of New Zealand!  Everywhere you look Napier is freaking stunning!
  • Plenty of awesome family friendly activities you can do, again, without having to rent a car.

We loved it!

So what DID we do?

We arrived at 9.30am after our quick and easy 1-hour flight, jumped in a taxi that was waiting right outside the terminal and headed to our hotel to offload our bags.  We always fly as early as we can for two reasons;

  1. The kids are better when they are well rested and fed.  After breakfast is the perfect time to confine my boys to a small public space where they must remain seated lol.
  2. Arriving early means you’re not travelling during one of your allocated ‘holiday’ days!  We always have our whole arrival day to explore and get cracking with making the most of our vacay time.  Also, if you arrive prior to check-in, your hotel won’t mind storing your bags for you whilst you get your tourist on.

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

We stayed at the stunning Scenic Hotel Te Pania which boasts an unbeatable location right across from both the beach and the pools and a single block walk to the main hub of beachside Napier.  We would absolutely stay here again, outstanding beds, great service and a lovely bar in which to sip a Hawkes Bar wine whilst working – as I had to throughout the trip lol.

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

On Friday we explored!  We hit the shops, the stunning pier, had a swim, enjoyed cocktail hour and finished our day off with takeaway pizza in our hotel room!  Kids were stoked lol.

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

On Saturday, Dave and I both had to work a little, so I took the kids across the street to the amazing beachside pool complex that is Ocean Spa Napier.  With multiple pools and depths, there is something for everyone here and the boys begged to come back each day during our stay.  It was also great value, a Family Pass cost us $30 and I was able to leave, pop into Subway for some lunch and bring it back to the boys and Dave.  We spent most of the day here before heading out and about for another stroll, enjoying the Art Deco sights which are everywhere!

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

Sunday was one of the most fun family days we have ever had I’d day!  The weather wasn’t amazing and we had to change plans a little but everything just fell into place.

We walked across the road to the beachside market in the morning for breakfast and were a tad overwhelmed by the choices on offer!  Nixon enjoyed waffles-on-a-stick, Dave and I treated ourselves to humongous bacon and egg sandwiches and Ethan combined both into a bacon and egg waffle!  We also picked up some fresh fruit as snacks for the remaining two days.

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

After filling our tanks, we rented bikes from Napier City Bike Hire and Tours on Marine Parade, who had the best prices and incredibly helpful and accommodating staff.  Nix was well catered for with a super-comfy toddler seat on the back of my bike and so we headed north along Marine Parade.  Our destination was Pandora Splash and Play, an easy, flat 5km cycle along the waterfront.  We knew Ethan and Nix would have a lot of fun at the inflatable water playground however super high winds meant it was closed for safety reasons.  Not really a big deal as we all enjoyed the ride anyway!

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

With some time on our hands, we pedalled south to the National Aquarium of New Zealand, locked up the bikes and spent a couple of blissful hours exploring hands-down, the BEST aquarium we’ve been to.  Once again this was such great value for money, $54 for a family pass was definitely money well spent and money I’d spend again in a heartbeat.

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

Because we’re cheap lol and the children were too tired to risk eating out we had dinner in our room again, this time a roast chicken, salad and buns from Pak ‘n Save.  Easy and delicious.  When travelling,  we often will visit a little cafe or restaurant later afternoon for a glass of wine, a beer for Dave and a couple of appetisers to share.  This keeps the boys fed and happy and gives Mum and Dad a little respite and a chance to enjoy local offerings.

On our final day in sunny Napier, all we had on the agenda was relaxing, swimming and soaking up some of the sunshine that had been in such short supply in Auckland!

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

Dave headed off to get a skate in at the newly opened concrete skatepark, just south of the Sunken Gardens on Marine Parade whilst the boys and I headed back to the beach for more swimming.  Of course, a trip to Napier with a small child wouldn’t be complete without a dip in the Tom Parker Fountain.  Who am I kidding, BOTH of the boys swam in this fountain every day, playing with local kids and tourists alike.

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

On the way back to the hotel we stopped in at the Hog’s Breath Cafe for a fruity ‘umbrella’ drink and an ice-cream sundae for the boys to share – a perfect ending to an absolutely awesome long-weekend – and we didn’t even make it to any vineyards!

Visit Napier, do it with the kids, you’ll have an amazing time.

Thanks so much to our travel partner Jetstar, we love flying with you guys!

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

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Napier
Sunset over Marine Parade. View from Te Pania Scenic Hotel

 

 

Explore Queenstown Like a Local

AdvertisementDespite my sensibilities saying otherwise, packing up the kids and heading to Queenstown the Monday before Christmas was a genius idea – a trip I’m keen to repeat each December as a respite from the madness that is Auckland during peak retail season.  Trading the domestic duties of home for hotel life at the Crowne Plaza for a couple of nights was definitely NOT a difficult decision lol.  On a previous stay in Queenstown, we had coveted its lakeside location and as guests, we were not disappointed.  The views from our balcony were Instagram perfection!

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

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Queenstown Lake Wakatipu

We’ve got our family hotel-routine down to a fine art now.  As we spend an absolute minimal amount of time in our room, we bunk together, leaving more money in the holiday fund for our adventures.  The twin balcony room with views over Lake Wakatipu and out to The Remarkables was a perfect choice for Dave, the two boys and I – great, comfy beds, a workspace for me and a well-appointed bathroom for those holidays baths at the end of each busy day.  We’ve always found that IHG hotels do family stays really well.  The kids are always made to feel welcomed and catered for which is massively important when you travel a lot as a family.  Little touches like the activity packs gifted to the kids upon arrival were well thought out appreciated by both the boys and Dave and I.

Find out more about the deals available at Queenstown Crowne Plaza here

As one of New Zealand’s most visited tourist destinations, traffic in Queenstown can be a chaotic, gridlocked mess.  The first thing we did upon checking in was hand over the car keys to the hotel valet.  When you’re staying right in the centre of town, exploring on foot is a much better option than jostling for a car park.  Aside from day trips that may take you further afield, you have no need for a car when basing yourself at Crowne Plaza.  Foodies are spoilt for choice here, from Josh Emett’s renowned Rata (make a booking, it will not disappoint), to the iconic Fergburger (prepare for an epic wait for your epic burger), there are options for all budgets and tastes within a 2-minute radius of the hotel.
With 2 young boys in tow, breakfast sets the tone for the day.  Nix and E need to be loaded up and they need it early!  It was awesome being able to cruise downstairs as we woke and enjoy a full buffet that offered everything from a juice fountain to an egg chef plus cafe quality barista coffee for Mum and Dad!

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Queenstown Crowne Plaza

Queenstown in summer is just as spectacular as the winter vistas the region is famed for.  The many lakes and surrounding mountainous terrain make it pretty easy to lose yourself in nature and ‘go bush’ if that’s your jam (it’s totally how we like to enjoy Queenstown!) or, you can go ‘Full Tourist’ and invest in the multitude of action adventures and guided tours on offer within the region.

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Queenstown Crown Range

The sheer amount of options available in Queenstown can be overwhelming, so we chatted to a few locals whilst we were in town, gathered their opinions and formulated a wee list of faves to help kick off your own Queenstown adventure.

Explore like a local in Queenstown

Best place to Treat Yourself: Caci Clinic – trust me, you will fall in LOVE with microdermabrasion after just one session here!

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Queenstown Facial Caci Clinic

Best Breakfast: Joe’s Garage, good coffee, open early.  Also try Bob’s Weigh.

Best Sweet Treat: Patagonia for chocolates, coffee, ice cream and frozen yoghurt.

Best spot for Drinks with the Girls: The Sundeck

Best Family Hike: Moke Lake circumference

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Queenstown Moke Lake hike

Best Quick Trip: Lake Wanaka

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Queenstown Lake Wanaka

Best Fish and Chip Shop: Fernhill

Best Burger: The World Bar

Best Pint with Kids in tow: Cowboys

Best wine Tasting: Gibbston Valley

Best Pub Lunch: Cardona Hotel

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Queenstown Cardrona Pub New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Queenstown Cardrona Pub

Best Lake Cruise: Million Dollar Cruise

Best Date Night Dinner Tips: Use www.firsttable.co.nz and www.bookme.co.nz to save some $$

Best Lunch on the Run: Pita Pit picnic boxes.  $15 pp incl. drink, pita + side

Best Sharing Plate Dinner: Blue Canoe

Best Sushi: Hikari Japanese Restaurant

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Queenstown Sushi

InterContinental Hotel Group are all about helping their guests make the most of local destinations and their precious holiday time.  I was chatting with the front desk staff at Crowne Plaza and they got so pumped discussing the seemingly endless options for family fun in Queenstown.  One thing they love to do is putting together packages and guides for guests whose interests might run the gamut from wine tasting to extreme adventures.

If you’re planning a trip in the near future then I’ve got a deal for you!  With my Refer-a-Friend code, when you make a booking over $80, you’ll receive a $40 charge-back from Booking.com on any completed stay when you make your booking using this link > Booking.com.  It couldn’t be easier; book your stay, have an awesome time, come home, check out your holiday snaps and look forward to $40 hitting your credit card account!

Disclaimer: Booking.com uses third party cookies to help provide personalised ads and analyse their traffic. This information may be shared with our advertisers, where it may be combined with other information you’ve given their website.

Smart Money – Make Insurance a Non-negotiable Expense

I’ve written before about certain milestones that signify the one-way, no-turning-back transition into adulthood; purchasing a brand new bed (this is HUGE!), making a will, solving problems with wine, admitting that Friday nights in with Netflix trumps all etc, etc.

Possibly preceding all other mature financial decisions is the realisation that we need to protect the things we love and those we’ve worked hard to acquire.

We need to insure our stuff.  Fact.

My initial experience with insurance was when I took proud possession of my first car – a 1977 Ford Escort Station wagon purchased for me by my parents.  They insured the car for me with their provider and I kid you not, 20 years later our vehicles are insured with the same provider!

Convenient?  Yes.  Smart?  Maybe not.

I had a firm perception that shopping for insurance was a boring, expensive, confusing and arduous exercise – possibly why I hadn’t bothered to shop around for my vehicle policies in over 20 years lol?!  Forget the ‘need’ for a broker and forget about ‘Insurance Apathy’, it’s easier (and more important) than you think to get your insurance ducks in a row and do it at a great price.

Continue reading Smart Money – Make Insurance a Non-negotiable Expense

Auckland’s Christmas Tradition – Farmers Santa Parade 2016

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Summer mum Santa Parade

Kiwi’s are a funny old bunch when it comes to traditions aren’t we?  Here in New Zealand we don’t have too many hard and fast holiday routines when compared to other countries but we sure love those traditions that have stood the test of time – none more so than the spectacular Farmers Santa Parade which is set to kick off the Christmas season on Sunday 27 November (rain date 4 December) for the 83rd year!

My childhood can pretty easily be delineated by the annual pelting of one’s small body with a barrage of Mackintosh’s toffees, Milkshakes and Minties during the parade, the awe inspiring thrum of the bagpipes as they moved up Queen St and the frantic last minute dash to claim Dad’s shoulders and get a good wave in before Santa passed by for another year.

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Summer mum Santa Parade

I loved it in the eighties and I love it even more now that I get to share this special event with my own kids!

Making the Farmers Santa Parade Easy

Don’t put the parade in the too hard basket guys!  This is definitely a day that’s a childhood rite of passage and the kids need YOUR help to get there!  We took four kids last year, had no trouble finding a carpark, found a perfect, uncrowded, front row spot and didn’t get stuck in traffic on the way home – it can be done and the kids (and you) will have a blast! 

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Summer mum Santa Parade

  • Leave early – rushing = stress.  The Farmers Santa Parade 2016 is on Sunday 27 November (rain date 4 December) at the earlier time of 1pm.
  • Plan ahead – Know where you’re going ahead of time.  Plan your public transport here or figure out where you’re going to park before you get to the city.  Enjoy free parking at both Downtown and Victoria St carparks for all vehicles exiting between 1pm and 6pm on parade day!
  • Know the new route – The Parade Route starts at the corner of Cook Street and Mayoral Drive, turns left into Queen Street, travels down Queen Street and right into Customs Street East, ending at the corner of Britomart Place.  More info here
  • Get ready and get in the Christmas spirit!  Think backpacks full of water,  a picnic blanket and a packed lunch or treat yourself to some yummy eats whilst in town.  Either way, you’re going to have a great afternoon!

This year a new charity partner has been announced with funds collected at the 2016 parade going to The Salvation Army to provide much needed support for families during the challenging Christmas period.  Last year we had Elmo (Nixon’s favourite!), this year parade highlights include three Angry Birds helium inflatables from Canada, Disney’s Mickey and Minnie inflatables, an Olympics float, LEGO character Clay from Nexo Knights, Austin Powers and a Cinderella float – it’s going to be amazing!

The party doesn’t stop there, if you’re keen for more festive fun, swing by Aotea Square for Santa’s after party starting at 2:30 pm and featuring a continuous stage show as well as rides, celebrities, face painting and a spectacular LEGO Christmas Tree. Santa will be on hand too for those that just need more of the Jolly old Soul!

We’ll be there with bells on – probably literally!

Merry Christmas!

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Summer mum Santa Parade

 

 

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Summer mum Santa Parade New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Summer mum Santa ParadeNew Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Summer mum Santa Parade

DIY – Nightmare Before Christmas Halloween Wreath

Nightmare before Christmas Halloween Wreath

In hindsight it was a totally ‘oddball’ purchase, but the first animated/family DVD we purchased when Dave and I found out we were pregnant 12.5 years ago was Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas – how can that movie have come out in 1993?!

the_nightmare_before_christmas_posterAnyway, I freaking LOVE this movie, it’s a stop-motion masterpiece and thank goodness it’s on Netflix as there is literally nothing I despise more than DVDs………….except CDs lol.

We also LOVE Halloween.  You guys already know (I’m sure) that Dave is American and I lived there for 6 years so we bring our A-Game at the end of every October.  New Zealand is slowly starting to embrace the spooky season and we are super lucky to live in an amazingly Halloween Friendly neighborhood which has become a bit of a ‘destination’ for Trick or Treaters over the past few years.

So, decorating for Halloween is one of my favourite themes to work with as it doesn’t matter if it’s *less than perfect*, which to be honest, is how I roll 24-7.

So, If you’re hosting a Halloween Party or welcoming Trick or Treaters, a wreath is an easy way to set the mood and create a great focal point – it doesn’t have to hang on the front door, this one will probably go on our mantlepiece with some other spooky decorations.

I’m creating a Jack Skellington themed wreath this year because my kids NEED more Nightmare Before Christmas in their lives, I’m a bit worried I’ve been failing them on the Tim Burton front – Ethan hasn’t even seen Beetlejuice ::::::gasp!:::::

How to Make a Nightmare Before Christmas Halloween Wreath

You will need:

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Halloween Wreath Nightmare Before Christmas

1 x foam decor ring, 1 x foam decor ball for Jack’s head, wool/fabric strips in your choice of colours, artificial flowers, craft glue, a black permanent marker or black paint, scissors, pins, artificial spiderweb, ribbon for hanging.

Step 1: Cover your foam ring

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Halloween Wreath Nightmare Before Christmas

I used a mix of cheap acrylic yarn, fabric from my stash cut into long strips and spotted crepe paper streamers.  I tied the wool off then applied craft glue to the inside of the ring.  Holding the ring between your knees as you wrap it will help things move along quite quickly!  Wrap the ring in whatever pattern/configuration you like – Jack’s colours are traditionally black and white but I wanted to add a pop of colour so used orange for contrast.  Leave a section unwrapped to save time as this will be covered with flowers. 

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Halloween Wreath Nightmare Before Christmas

Step 2:  Attach flowers

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Halloween Wreath Nightmare Before ChristmasI used dressmaking pins but you could also affix the flowers with craft glue.

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Halloween Wreath Nightmare Before Christmas

Step 3: Draw Jack Skellington’s Face

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Halloween Wreath Nightmare Before Christmas

Find an image online to work from – I used this one.  Sketch the features on in pencil, It’s pretty simple just watch the proportions.  When you’re satisfied, trace over the pencil with black permanent marker and colour in the eye sockets.  I went over the eye sockets a couple of times to get a good black finish.

Step 4:  Suspend Jack in the wreath

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Halloween Wreath Nightmare Before Christmas

Pin (or glue) ribbon to the back of Jack’s head, make sure it’s angled so his face is square.

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Halloween Wreath Nightmare Before Christmas

Pin (or glue) the other end of the ribbon to the back-top of the wreath.

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Halloween Wreath Nightmare Before Christmas

I used a large needle to hold Jack’s head in place, glue would also work fine.

Step 5: Wrap wreath with artificial spiderwebs

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Halloween Wreath Nightmare Before Christmas

Step 6: Attach ribbon for hanging wreath

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Halloween Wreath Nightmare Before Christmas

Fold ribbon into a loop and staple or glue.  Fix to the back of your wreath using glue or pins.

Step 7: Marvel at your creative genius!

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Halloween Wreath Nightmare Before ChristmasHappy Halloween!

Toddler Snow Gear – Warm, Dry and Super-Cute

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Kids ski wear

Last week we braved the long drive, the blizzardy weather, the LOUDEST two children on earth and made a family mini-vacation in the snow happen.  I’m going to need a whole year to recover before I attempt that again so I hope our little guys loved every second of it lol!  (Secretly I did too x).

Getting your family snow-ready is really an exercise in layering.  Dave and I have plenty of snowboarding gear – enough to outfit Ethan, so we just needed some updated thermals to get the 3 biggest Jacks packed.  This would be Nixon’s first visit to the snow so we needed to outfit him from the ground up.  Much easier than it sounds when your scheduling means you’re shopping for snow gear in Spring!

I found some little snow boots for Nix in a clearance sale and picked up everything else at Macpac.  They launched their new Spree Kids Ski range this season and it’s filled me with envy – I want his ski jacket and pants in an adult size, they are seriously amazing!

 

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Kids ski wear

Spree Ski Jacket Kids $199.99, Spree Ski Pants Kids $159.99, Kids Mitts $29.95, Geothermal Crew Top Kids $29.99 (Now 2 for $30!), Geothermal Pants Kids $29.99 (Now 2 for $30!), Ski Socks Kids $19.99

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Kids ski wear

The first day we headed up to Turoa was in gale conditions, but, as the kids were jonesing to see snow we headed up the hill for a little play.  It was freezing!  I’ve never been so cold in my life.  Dave and I had neglected to put on our new Macpac Geothermals that morning but thankfully the boys were toasty and warm in theirs!

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Kids ski wearI couldn’t believe that despite making snow angels in those conditions Nixon remained completely dry and warm – he pretty much spent the whole time we were there crawling around on his tummy in snow drifts so the waterproof membrane on the Spree pants and jacket passed the toddler test really well!

Our second day on the mountain was much improved.  Nix got on skis for the first time and had a blast, Ethan nailed his snowboarding lesson in the morning and charged hard all day with a friend he’d made in the class and I rented some skis for the first time (after snowboarding for 14 years!) and loved it!  Dave got the solo-mission and headed way up the hill for some good runs while I hung out with the kids and cheered Ethan on throughout the afternoon.

Our final runs were made with blue skies overhead and big smiles on everyone’s faces.  An awesome day made super-easy as neither of the boys ended up cold or wet, which meant no complaining!

A parenting win!  

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Kids ski wear

Things I LOVE about the Macpac Spree Ski Wear

  • The Spree Ski Pants come with the ‘Space to Sprout’ system meaning Nix will get two seasons from one pair!  You just unpick the red stitching in the lining to grow each leg by 4cm!    
  • Both jacket and pants have a waterproof, breathable membrane with insulation
  • Available in sizes 4-12
  • The hood on the jacket doesn’t fall down!
  • Waist snow gaiter on Spree jacket – perfect for preventing cold tummies during snow angel sessions
  • The Spree pants have velcro waist adjustment tabs
  • Nixie’s Mitts stayed on all day with no fussing from the little guy – snowballs ahoy!

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Kids ski wear

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Kids ski wear

Road Trip Diary – Day 2 Rotorua

We are off on an amazing 4 day tour of the upper North Island  in conjunction with Choice Hotels Asia-Pac, Hamilton Waikato Tourism, Destination Rotorua and Destination Great Lake Taupo!  

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Rotorua Travel Blog MacpacDespite a thunderous night in Hamilton we slept really well at the Quality Hotel Ambassador and started our day with a seriously good breakfast buffet at Retrospect Cafe, Bar & Grill on site.  There were gluten-free options as well as hot oatmeal, fresh muffins, a comprehensive cereal bar, toast and a full cooked menu of bacon, eggs, kransky sausages, potatoes, baked beans and mushrooms.  Awesome spot, no hesitation about staying again – would love to try the brand new Clarion Suites, which have been purpose built using green principles and a firm dedication to use local tradesmen and suppliers to fit out these luxe suites.

 

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Rotorua Travel Blog Macpac

Nix is wearing LFOH Frost Henley and Macpac Astro Hooded Down Vest (see below), Ethan wears Macpac Pack-It-Jacket

The drive between Hamilton and Rotorua is quick and quite lovely, particularly so at this time of year as the leaves change colour – the Waikato was looking beautiful this morning!  We made it to the New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Rotorua Travel Blog MacpacSkyline Rotorua in just over an hour and headed straight up the hill on the gondola.  We seem to be getting really lucky with the weather this weekend despite many parts of the Waikato getting pummelled.  It was a blue sky morning heading up and the view across Rotorua from both the gondola car and the summit of Mt Ngongotaha makes this a must-do activity.

The age gap between the boys sometimes makes activities a little difficult, but Nix was able to tandem ride with Dave and I on the luge so this was another fun family morning  when we were all able to participate, TOGETHER!  Love that.

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Rotorua Travel Blog Macpac

The rain set in after lunch so we took the team down to Kuirau Park for a cruise around the hot pools and a lovely foot soak in the public mineral pool.  Fun, free and a definite taste of local Rotorua.

Despite checking in early (which I really appreciate on a rainy day with two tired kids!) we were greeted with warm smiles, patience and time at Econo Lodge Cleveland.  When doing some background reading about the property, I came across the quote that proprietors Brij and Ronnette are aiming to provide five star service at a 3 star price and I can attest that this is absolutely the case.  Ronette is a wealth of knowledge about what to do and where to go and most importantly what would best suit your travelling party – I really appreciate this when I encounter it, it’s such a value-add to anywhere you’re staying, as is free unlimited wifi which is available in each unit! 

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Rotorua Travel Blog Macpac

You know when you’re first settle into a hotel/motel room and you’re feeling a little bit dodgy and wondering if you should check the sheets, but maybe it would be better if you didn’t?

Yeah well, that’s not happening at Econo Lodge Cleveland.  This is the cleanest accommodation I have ever stayed in.  The stainless steel bench tops could make a grown woman cry – so shiny!  We settled in quickly and hit the beautiful heated pool for some fun before the sun went down.  This is classic kiwi accommodation done right.  Brij and Ronnette are working hard at property upgrades and it looks great.  The latest addition is Cleveland Cottage, a stunning period villa that has been beautifully restored, boasts a full, modern kitchen stunning bathroom and sleeps 7-9 guests.  I want to stay here!!!!  So gorgeous. 

We didn’t manage to squeeze in a soak in either of the 2 mineral pools on site, with the kids sleeping, we opted to enjoy the  comfy separate lounge, free wifi and Sky TV in our unit.  We are planning to bring the kids back here over summer, the awesome outside facilities plus the close proximity to the lake and amenities tick all the boxes for excellent family accommodation in my book.  

FYI, all units have new beds and they are hands down the BEST beds ever.  Slept like a baby……..until our baby woke at 2.40am groan!

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Rotorua Travel Blog Macpac

Nix is wearing LFOH Frost Henley and Macpac Astro Hooded Down Vest (see bove), Ethan wears Macpac Pack-It-Jacket, Dave wears the Macpac Uber Light Down Jacket and I’m wearing the Macpac Uber light Long Down Jacket

 

 

DIY: Easter Wreath+ Happy Birthday Spotlight Giveaway #2!

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Easter DIY

Happy 20th Birthday Spotlight!  This month Spotlight celebrates 20 years in New Zealand with in-store parties this Saturday, March 12th at all Spotlight NZ stores.  Visit your local for huge discounts, giveaways, games & even birthday cake at 1pm in each store!

Here at The Best Nest we are doing a spot of celebrating ourselves, with three days of Easter themed DIY’s, all shopable at Spotlight, plus there is a $100 Spotlight Gift card to be won each day!

I love adding simple, unfussy decor items to our mantle to set the tone for the season or celebrate the holidays.  A wreath is always my go-to as it can be placed anywhere and when you DIY, it can be modified and re-purposed very simply.  Plus, it’s such a welcoming decoration to have on your front door or in your home, and can form the basis of your holiday decor by tying everything together if you build you colour palette on the wreath itself. 

This pretty Easter wreath took me 20 minutes tops, so get creative and give it a go!

DIY: Easter Wreath

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Easter DIY

You will need:

Instructions:

  • Wrap foam ring with the burlap (or your choice of ribbon, fabric or bakers string looks great!), fasten on the back side with floral pins.
  • Place the large artificial flower stems and fix with floral pins.
  • Attach the paper bunting.  This comes with adhesive stickers which are holding just fine on the burlap.
  • Glue the eggs in place using a craft glue.  I used Helmar Craft Glue.
  • Place remaining small flower heads and burlap flowers.

Enjoy!  Happy Easter! (Don’t forget to scroll down to enter the Spotlight Birthday Sweepstake!)

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Easter DIY New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Easter DIY New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Easter DIY 

DIY: Chocolate Easter Nest Spoons + Happy Birthday Spotlight Giveaway!

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Easter DIY

Happy 20th Birthday Spotlight!  This month Spotlight celebrates 20 years in New Zealand with in-store parties this Saturday, March 12th at all Spotlight NZ stores.  Visit your local for huge discounts, giveaways, games & even birthday cake at 1pm in each store!

Here at The Best Nest we are doing a spot of celebrating ourselves, with three days of Easter themed DIY’s, all shopable at Spotlight, plus there is a $100 Spotlight Gift card to be won each day!

My first easy-peasy Easter DIY  is these yummy chocolate Easter Nest Spoons.  They are perfect party favours or place settings if you’re hosting friends or family this Easter, or use them in your egg hunt or as gifts for the kids friends.

DIY: Chocolate Easter Nest Spoons

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Easter Nest Spoons

You will need:

Instructions:

  • Melt chocolate per directions on the pack, I used the defrost function on the microwave for 2 x 30 seconds, stirring in between.
  • Spoon melted chocolate onto your plastic spoons, underfill slightly.
  • Leave to cool a little whilst you fill more spoons.
  • Stand up 2 Cadbury Mini Eggs in each spoon then sprinkle with either the hail or confetti.
  • Once set, shake off excess sprinkles, pop spoon in the cello bags and tie with ribbon or raffia.

Enjoy!  Happy Easter! (Don’t forget to scroll down to enter the Spotlight Birthday Sweepstake!)

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Easter DIY

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Easter DIY

Enter via the widget below to win a $100 Spotlight Gift Card!  Competition closes Sunday 13th March 10pm.  There are 3 gift cards to be given away, look for the next Easter DIY post tomorrow!

Creating the ULTIMATE Easter Gift Basket + Giveaway!

New Zealand's Top Mummy Mommy Blogger Blog Travel Easter Gift Basket

I’m shaking things up a little this year and combining the family’s treats into one, Ultimate Easter Gift Basket.  Shopping for the kids Easter gifts is one of my favourite excuses for heading in store to The Warehouse and stocking up on my spirit-food……………….chocolate of course!

I thought quite hard about the boy’s Easter baskets this year, as you do lol.  I really love the look of cane baskets, and they are super fun to decorate with ribbon and cellophane but, I find them a nightmare to store and they take up valuable cupboard real estate only to be used once a year.

So function it is this year, although good looks have hardly gone out the window!  Whilst searching for the perfect ‘vessel’ at The Warehouse I headed in-store to the storage department and spotted a range of hampers perfect for Easter styling.  Comprising pretty pastels and fresh minty greens, you can get the Easter Bunny sorted and then re-use your on-trend hamper for disguising  your household mess –  Win!  

I used the smaller size Hexagon Hamper which was a steal at just $16.  It’s actually pretty big so I popped 3 rolled up towels inside and folded the front edge down to create the perfect base for the Easter goodies.

New Zealand's Top Mummy Mommy Blogger Blog Travel Easter Gift Basket

10 Easter Gift Basket Essentials

  1. A suitable bag, hamper or basket.  There are super-cute traditional willow baskets available at The Warehouse ($7+) but I wanted to think outside the box a little and pick out something that could be repurposed throughout the year.
  2. Coloured shredded paper $2 – it’s just not an Easter basket without this stuff, it instantly ties everything together.
  3. Non-sweet treats.  I always like to include a couple of non-sugar based items in the boys baskets.  This year I picked up the latest Bear Grylls novel for Ethan, and for Nixon, a Transformers blind bag, a Play-Doh Spring Characters 2 Pack $7 and  a box of Play-Doh Spring Eggs $12.  These are the cutest.  Nix is obsessed with watching ‘Surprise Egg” videos on YouTube so is going to love having some of his own!
  4. Every basket needs an Easter bunny!  Cadbury Crunchie Bunny for E, a Kinder Bunny for Nix and a couple of Lindt Bunnies for Mum and Dad.  (If you’re looking for allergy friendly Easter Eggs check out the range from The Warehouse here
  5. A hollow egg – it’s tradition!  A Cadbury egg each.
  6. Cadbury Mini-eggs.  I die over how much I love the boys love these!
  7. A novelty item – I picked out a tube of Reece’s Peanut Butter Cups for E and a Smarties Chicken for Nixon.
  8. Creme Eggs.  IT’S NOT EASTER WITHOUT THEM, never forget the Cream Eggs ok?
  9. Plastic eggs for the hunt on Easter Morning.
  10. Assorted small eggs, including marshmallow eggs (these are also compulsory at Easter!) for the hunt.

New Zealand's Top Mummy Mommy Blogger Blog Travel Easter Gift Basket

I LOVE the Easter long weekend.  It’s a cruisy, family time spent in the twilight of the warmer months.  The hustle and bustle of summer and the start of the school year is over.  It’s probably one of the few times of the year when I find it easy to relax and actually take some downtime.  And the best part is that I’m already totally prepared for Easter – early!

The Easter range is in-store and online at The Warehouse now.
New Zealand's Top Mummy Mommy Blogger Blog Travel Easter Gift Basket New Zealand's Top Mummy Mommy Blogger Blog Travel Easter Gift Basket

If you would like to win a $50 gift card from The Warehouse enter via the widget below!


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