Corona Diaries – Lockdown Day #1

Today I;

  • Did 5 pull-ups in a row for the first time (with technique so bad it looked like I was hauling myself into a tree to escape an alligator but heyho)
  • Ate 7 Lindt balls in 20 minutes to celebrate the fact that I hadn’t eaten any Lindt balls in 8 weeks – BRAVO
  • Had voffee (virtual coffee) and completed a group workout over Zoom for the first time
  • Listened as our 15yo suffered through getting Nix to focus through his entire reader, and thought “these sibling moments will be the gold that comes out of this lockdown”, and also thought “thank God it’s Ethan and not me!”
  • Laughed as Nix had a Facetime playdate with a friend and they spent the entire time asking “CAN YOU SEE ME?!” and making fart noises
  • Washed a blanket. That was the extent of my ‘extra’ house-wife-ing, I have to pace myself you know, can’t get too ahead, there are 4 weeks to fill in after all!
  • Barely checked the Herald app or watched the news for the first time in weeks. We are in isolation, what more do I need to know?
  • Didn’t fight with Dave, can’t say the same for the kids!
  • Lost the dog (again, 2nd day in a row). Found dog, he’s surprisingly quick for a blind old man.
  • Made 2/3 beds before 8am. Happy with that.
  • Got out of jammies quickly but have been in activewear since was first active this morning. Dubious hygiene kicking in quick lol
  • Up too late writing this list.

Good night! Hope day 1 was a box of birds for you my fellow locked-down New Zealanders! xx

Set & Forget – Investing just got easier

Check out Part 1 of my investment series in collaboration with Sharesies here

Just like anything, instilling responsible financial habits in both ourselves and our kids takes both time, patience and practice. As I mentioned last month, we began contributing to the boys’ savings accounts as soon as they were born, setting up automatic payments of $10 per week and then essentially ignoring the accounts over the past 14 years. Obviously a very passive approach to saving but one that has easily become a fixture in the family budget.

Now that we are actively teaching the boys about investment diversity with the help of their Sharesies accounts, it’s time to level-up and get them thinking about their money, and where it’s going, on a more regular basis. If kids are earning pocket money, or if they receive money as a gift from friends and family, an easy way to foster a very intentional mindset towards saving is to introduce a spend/save/donate ratio which is in line with your family’s financial strategy. This is easy to implement from a super young age using low denomination coins and different envelopes, boxes or containers for spending, saving and donating.

Applying this practice of regular contributions to existing investments is also worthwhile implementing with our kids’ accounts. Many of us probably pay into our KiwiSaver accounts with uniform deposits via our pay schedules or, manually instigated automatic payments. As of last week, we can now do the same with our Sharesies investments – auto-invest is now live on the platform and it’s so easy to set up!

I’m all about automating as much of our family’s ‘Life Admin’ as possible – especially those voluntary tasks which can be easy to overlook like, savings and investment. I’ve had Christmas Club savings in place for over 10 years now at both a supermarket and The Warehouse and let me tell you, the value-add of decision free, locked-in saving each week results in a massive high five to yourself come Christmas time. Hooking up your Sharesies account with auto-invest is another one of those adult life hacks that you spend 5 minutes on now and end up patting yourself on the back for years to come.

Why use Auto-Invest

  • Sharesies auto-invest helps you stick to an investment strategy that’s right for you. For Dave and I, this means contributing small amounts regularly to each of the boys Sharesies portfolios.
  • Auto-invest helps you build on an investment when you don’t have a large, lump sum to begin with – which is what Sharesies is all about to be honest!
  • With Sharesies auto-invest you can choose between 3 pre-made orders (one of which is specifically for kids accounts) or you can build your own DIY Order.
  • Auto-invest is faster than setting up an AP via internet banking – I’m not exaggerating. I set up auto-invest on both boys Sharesies accounts in under 4 minutes total. The platform is so intuitive and easy I feel safe and confident with what I’m doing every time I log on.

I’m pretty excited about this new offering from Sharesies for a number of reasons, but probably top of the list is that from now on, the boys will be able to see the benefit and growth in their portfolios as a result of regular investing. Getting our ‘foot-in-the-door’ and being able to purchase shares in a way that is accessible and easy to understand is a game changer for families and individuals alike. Now with auto-invest, diversification of our savings investments is just as simple to automate and as free of fees as our Christmas Club at the supermarket (but maybe not quite so boring so I should be able to get the kids to pay attention at least once a month lol).

Parenting and Ice Cream: When simple things are the best remedy

I inadvertently taught myself a good lesson this week;  despite my best intentions not to work on Monday’s as Nix is home from kindy, I found myself a participant in a continuous string of phone calls for over an hour, whilst I madly multi-tasked, wrote a difficult email I’d been dreading and stressed about the next deadline.

This was not how my summery Monday’s with Nix were supposed to go, in fact, where DID my summery Monday’s with Nix go?

IT’S AUTUMN!!!

Not to worry, antipodean New Zealand weather patterns say NO to seasonal conformity and say YES to 28° in the first week of March.

Hallelujah.

In need of an instant Monday-itis remedy I told Nix to ‘load up’, we were off to eat ice cream by the river.  

“No, you don’t have to get changed” – he was wet from water play at home.

“No, you don’t have to wear shoes” – we live in New Zealand!

“Yes, you can pick any flavour you like” – even though you are a creature of habit little darling and choose the same flavour every time.

Overseas travel forgotten, birthday parties agonised over…….a nondescript Monday afternoon had become my four-year-olds Best Day EVER.

The simplicity of a memory made, for the cost of a Jelly Tip and a Popsicle, was a lesson for me in ‘less is more’.

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Tip Top Ice Cream Kids

Food nostalgia plays an important role in shaping cultural identity and as New Zealanders, we have our own culinary cues which many of us hold dear.  After 6 years of living in the states, upon touchdown in Auckland back in 2006, I was positively pining for a mince and cheese pie, some quality bread and Tip Top Hokey Pokey Ice Cream.  Combine those homesick-hunger-pangs with the imminent joy of introducing my new husband and toddler to my kiwi faves and I was one hangry, home-again traveler!

Growing up in NZ where many of us come from a farming or primary industry background, it’s no wonder as a Kiwi I feel a pang of familiarity and that ‘this is HOME’ feeling every time I crack open that iconic blue 2L tub and endeavour to peel off the perfect scoop of ice cream!  New Zealand milk and cream is coveted the world over mainly due to the pasture-fed lineage of hometown heroes, the NZ dairy herd. When one of our most iconic NZ owned companies, Tip Top, only uses fresh New Zealand milk and cream in their ice cream, it gives me hope that such an enduring taste of NZ will continue on in our freezers to share with our friends and families, making memories together for another generation to come.

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Tip Top Ice Cream Kids

And so, Nixon and I sat and enjoyed our ice cream, a perfect #GoodtoShare moment, and then we ambled along the river, talking about crabs and if eels attack ducks and he got muddy (and loved it) and clambered and danced and sang and generally revelled in the peace and open space that is so easily forgotten (even though this spot is only 1.5km from our house!).  And as I felt my not-enough-hours-in-the-day anxiety begin to dissipate I quietly laughed at the knowledge that I had just proven a meme correct and how entirely 21st century Digital Mum that was of me;

“Ice cream solves everything”.

And Nixon wholeheartedly agreed.

This post was brought to you in collaboration with Tip Top!  For more info head to: https://www.tiptop.co.nz/education/

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Tip Top Ice Cream Kids

Recipe for Summer – Fruit and Ice Cream

Waitangi Day is the line in the sand when it comes to New Zealand summer I reckon.  The big stuff all happens ‘Pre-Waitangi’; the massive 6 week school holiday kicks off for the kids, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve, road trips, tropical cyclones………….

Come Feb and the return to school – ‘Post-Waitangi’ summer kicks in.

It’s just my opinion but this is where the best summering happens as we all begin to savour every last sunshine-y Sunday, every after school beach-dash and every balmy BBQ dinner.  Shaking every last grain of sand out of summer in New Zealand is our duty as Kiwis.  Much like our ‘no man left behind’ attitude to summer stonefruit or our ‘eat ALL the berries’ culinary philosophy, making the most of these golden days is in our blood and helps me survive the extreme hardships of winter……in Auckland :::::::shudder::::::

Forget your kiwifruit or Navel Oranges, or any other fruit growing without a stone, bramble or vine.  I’m a summer fruit girl from way back.  As such, a snatched glimpse of a laden Christmas Plum or Golden Queen tree has always been a bit of a trigger for me (I’m sure many of you can relate right?).  I can remember a very blurry summer holiday when I was around 12 and had the good fortune to be invited away with my besties family.  The bach we were staying at had a marvelously overgrown and steep backyard that wound its way uphill towards the neighbouring fence line.  Exploring in the shade of the afternoons once we returned from the beach yielded a marvelous discovery – a Golden Queen peach tree, surely as ancient as the Kauri, (I mean, it was definitely as BIG as a Kauri wink wink, I was 12 remember!) literally groaning under the burden of its fruit.  The dilapidated fence separating us from our golden prize was merely a challenge, and not of the moral kind, unfortunately.  The lack of houses in any direction simply reinforced the fact that this ripe token of summer was ours for the taking, and besides, pilfered fruit always seemed to taste a wee bit better when you were 12!

Fast forward more than 20 years and some of the first things I purchased when we bought our house were fruit trees.  One Golden Queen peach tree, one heritage black plum and one nectarine tree.  To be honest, my mini-orchard was on the back-foot from day one with its care in my decidedly less-than-green hands so we are struggling, but, I’m picking the 2019 harvest will be a beauty, ie we might get some fruit we can eat!  My lack of peach-prowess could, of course, be due to the fact that we do not live in the Hawkes Bay.  They’ve got that peach growing on lockdown there which is why another kiwi fave of mine, Tip Top, keeps it local and uses real fruit grown by real NZ farmers in their Peaches & Cream Ice cream – no dodgy fence jumping going on here either, tsk tsk 12yo Melissa lol.  When we’re growing so much amazing produce right here in NZ we should absolutely expect that our local suppliers are sourcing FRESH ingredients from those growing it locally.  Combining one of our most beloved summer fruits with the goodness of New Zealand milk and cream is a taste of summer I hope my boys will remember as synonymous with growing up in New Zealand.

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Summer Tip Top Ice Cream

The iconic Boysenberry is another kiwi fave that takes me back to pinching fruit from the vine on my Nana’s farm. Its incarnation into the multiple award-winning Boysenberry Ripple ice cream from Tip Top has made boysenberries a generational obsession in our family.  If there was a momentous stop for a scoop of ice cream when I was a kid,  I don’t remember my Mum ever (ever, EVER) selecting any flavour other than Boysenberry.  Habit or heritage, whimsy or some other romantic hankering for the past, the fruit and flavours of New Zealand are freaking awesome and play a huge role in how I remember the 38 summers of my life.

Nelson farmers have taken up the reins and for years have been supplying Tip Top with enough kiwi boysenberries to keep that famous ripple in the freezer year round – but I reckon ice cream always tastes better in summer, yeah?

Keeping it real and, real kiwi is a big deal to Tip Top, one of the bit-players in each of my summers.  Recognizing the importance of legacy ingredients in our lives, it’s rad to see that using REAL fruit grown right here is just as important to the big guys as it is to would-be-backyard-mum-orchardists who might one day grow enough peaches for each of us to have one simultaneously.

This post was made possible by the good peeps at Tip Top!

PS Find our waffle recipe here

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Summer Tip Top Ice Cream
Ethan and one of his best friends planned a Waitangi Day Waffle cook-off and nailed them! They were pretty stoked when I whipped some surprise toppings out of the freezer – Peaches and Cream and Boysenberry Ripple ice cream from Tip Top.

Summer like a Kiwi – What happens above 23°

January marks the second, ‘official’ month of New Zealand summer.  We Kiwi’s are comfortably settled into the annual, seasonal slow-down we look forward to every year.  The kids have chilled out after the excitement of Santa’s visit, Mum’s everywhere have celebrated ‘un-decking the halls’ and returning Christmas to the boxes in the garage and everyone sadly mourned the last slice of festive ham and wedge of Pavlova.

If you missed the mania of the Boxing Day sales, tragic New Year’s Eve jandal blow-outs were easily rectified by those crazy enough to brave the malls and give the beach a miss for at least a couple of hours, joining those shoppers equipping themselves with everything they need to smash their NY resolutions once and for all.

The Summer of 2018 is definitely shaping up as one to remember.  In true NZ style, the weather has given us highs and lows (!! lol !!).  The gaudy, golden sunshine and blistering temps of the week before New Years gave many campers revelling in #ThatTentLife a false sense of security, as evidenced by the appearance of many quintessential Kiwi behaviours, only exhibited when the mercury begins to rise;

What happens in New Zealand when the temps rise above 23°?

  • An unwritten law in NZ requires many to revisit the ‘Togs, togs, togs……undies rule’ each summer.  If you’re unsure or have forgotten the accepted rule of thumb for ‘how far is too far’ to wear a speedo from the water, then please watch the public service announcement in the link above.
  • Unlike togs, there is less regulation around jandals ie, you can wear them everywhere for the period December-March (Summer here in New Zealand), and then again from April-November.
  • Here in New Zealand, we punch above our weight 24-7 – but if you’re talking about the ozone layer……..yeah we have none.  Hot times put everyone at risk of Coconut Ice Sunburn.  This kiwi fave is only acceptable when talking fudge, NOT tan lines so slip, slop, slap constantly.
  • No-one is too old for a swim in a paddling pool.  No-one.
  • Chilly-Bin ownership is mandatory, as is taking your chilly-bin everywhere with you in Summer.
  • Similar to birds flying in formation, New Zealanders possess a synchronicity that sees us switch from ice cream to ice blocks as soon as the temperature hits 23°.  This proven phenomenon is backed up with retail stats and the age-old debate surrounding the Best Fruju Flavour of All Time.  Of course, the big talking point amongst those participating in Summer this year, is the irresistible mash-up of  Kiwi icons Fruju and L&P, firing up the Fruju-flavour-frenzy even more!

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Tip Top Ice Cream Summer Fruju

How Our Frozen Summer Faves got even BETTER

Like most parents, Dave and I are becoming more and more aware of how the food we feed the boys affects their health, mood and wellbeing.  Nixies shortened GI tract following Hirschsprung’s surgery means food moves through his little system super fast and adverse effects on his mood and behaviour become apparent really quickly.  Avoiding those dreaded artificial food additives can seem daunting but is made infinitely easier when you know that one company has eliminated all the baddies from their entire range of yummy products!

Who?  Tip Top that’s who.

The commitment to only using natural flavours and colours is a big deal, especially when you do a tiny bit of research about the alternatives.  You can’t really talk ice cream without thinking about chocolate right?  Tip Top has replaced dodgy additive E155 – Brown HT (made from coal tar, a suspected carcinogen and mutagen that is banned in the US, Denmark, France, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, Austria, Norway, Belgium) and is now using simple, caramelized sugar to achieve that rich chocolate brown colour we all expect in our fave Trumpets.  There are super-cool, and surprising, alternatives in place throughout the Tip Top range that sees beetroot, spirulina, gardenia and turmeric extracts replace the synthetic dyes and coal or petroleum derived additives that other companies are still using today.

We Kiwis are the best at just about everything we do, so we want our awesome, NZ made products to reflect that.  Gone are the days of ‘numbers = colours and flavours’, we are discerning consumers with a growing consciousness towards what we put in our bodies.  As we make better choices we are expecting the producers of our favourite foods to do the same.  It’s pretty awesome to see Tip Top, a name synonymous with New Zealand, take the lead and make our summer treats #GoodtoShare for everyone.

This post was made possible by the good peeps at Tip Top!

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Tip Top Ice Cream Summer

Heating your home: 5 things you need to know

In came the rain this week as well as some low temps around the country.  I’ve got a sore throat and am in full hibernation mode so keeping our house toasty and warm is #1 on my list of priorities throughout the day.

I had no idea what temp we should be maintaining our house at – but it’s a pretty important figure in winter, so I thought some of you might be interested in what I found out about heating our homes;

  1. The minimum temperature for occupied areas of homes as recommended by the World Health Organisation is 18°or higher for households with children, the elderly or family members who are ill.  The layout of our house allows us to use one heat pump to keep our playroom and the 3 bedrooms at 20°.  I find maintaining a steady temperature is a more efficient use of energy than trying to heat cold rooms quickly, so I keep the heat pump on throughout the day – both Dave and I work from home, otherwise it would be on a timer!
  2. Become an insulation expert!  Get savvy about what is or isn’t keeping your home warm and if possible address any potential issues first.  Pay attention to floor, ceiling and window insulation.
    Many Kiwi’s won’t have experienced the wonder of double glazing as it’s only become a more mainstream install on new builds in the past 10 years.  It’s incredible what a difference it makes in reducing heat loss through glass, particularly in older homes.  If you can’t afford to retrofit your whole house (me!) or are renting, I honestly can’t recommend DIY double glazing enough.  Dave and I used in all of our old dodgy rentals; it’s cheap and easy to install once you get the hang of it and is available in hardware stores nationwide.  Check out this video to see how it works > DIY Double Glazing.
    Soft furnishings aren’t just for decoration!  A thick rug or thermal curtains will do double duty during winter and help retain heat as well as looking great.
  3. New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family CrockPot Dyson HeaterChoose your heating appliances wisely.  Trying to warm a large space with an under-gunned heater can often cost more than you’d expect.  We utilise different types of heaters in different spaces around the house.  In Nixie’s room, we have a teeny oil column heater on a thermostat.  His room is small so we have this set on low and it stays toasty all night long.  Our lounge and kitchen, on the other hand, is quite a big, open space.  This winter we haven’t used our expensive, barely-heats gas fire at all and are using my new favourite appliance exclusively; our Dyson AM09 Hot + Cool. This fan’s ability to circulate heat evenly around the room, whilst maintaining the set temperature and doing so quietly, without blades (Nixon-proof!) makes it the perfect option.
  4. Plug the draughts.  Get old school if you have to and pick up one of those draught-stopper snakes.  So far this winter I’ve seen them at Kmart, The Warehouse and Mitre 10.  They are cheap and work wonders along the bottoms of our wooden doors and window sills.  I don’t want to be paying for heating if it’s escaping out into the cold!
  5. Like I mentioned last month, rest assured knowing that when you flick that switch, you are getting the most bang for your buck.  Use websites such as www.powerswitch.org  to get informed and take ownership of how much you’re paying.  Our new power company Electric Kiwi is not only awesomely priced but has been awarded the 2017 Most Satisfied Customers Award – Electricity Providers. Whoop whoop!  I can certainly agree with that.

Thanks so much to Electric Kiwi for partnering with us this winter, love your work guys!New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Electric Kiwi

Header image originally from Your Best Digs

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

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!

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