Family Travel – A getaway that’s #closerthanyouthink

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Rotorua

Location, location, location. It’s everything when you’re deciding where to escape for a little R&R and even more crucial when you’re holidaying with the kids in tow. We’ve travelled with the kids a wee bit internationally and A LOT around New Zealand and after a few less than ideal accommodation choices, Dave and I both agree, that your home-away-from-home whilst travelling can set the tone for the entire trip.

Initially planning only a two night stay, we headed south last weekend and checked into the Novotel Rotorua a day early to make the most of the stunning weather and squeeze as much out of our stay as possible. Rotorua is the perfect destination for an adventure filled, family getaway. Just over three hours from Auckland, my two crazy boys survived the trip with only 1 quick toilet stop for Nix – the worst part was negotiating Auckland traffic on the way out of town!

While still at home, we had completed online check in, so upon arrival at the Novotel we were able to quickly settle our two very excited boys into our adjoining Family Rooms and THIS amazing view!

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Rotorua

Even Nixon, who rarely sits still, was completely enamoured with the view over Lake Rotorua – a mere 600m from the hotel lobby to absolute lakefront, a great playground, paddle boats, the Rotorua Walkway and the Soundshell Market (which we visited on Sunday).

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Rotorua

Before we could explore (and then again after we had finished exploring each day), we had to hit the pool.  I’m pretty sure a pool in your hotel (or Holiday House as Nixon called it!) is The Best Thing EVER when you’re a kid, Dave and I get that, so we happily made the twice daily pilgrimage to the indoor pool complex on the ground floor.

It wasn’t exactly a chore mind you! Dave had packed his running gear (oops I totally forgot mine – ha!) so he made good use of the really well appointed gym whilst the kids and I swam in the geothermal mineral pool and hot tubs – totally luxe, plus the perfect routine to get the kids off to sleep peacefully each night. I was able to sneak a couple of saunas in when Dave had finished working out, so I totally got a sweat on too, albeit a more relaxing one.

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Rotorua

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Rotorua

5 Things you NEED to do in Rotorua

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Rotorua

If location is everything, then the Novotel Rotorua is smack bang in the middle of where you want to be. Basing your family here allows you to make the most of every, precious, get-away-day by minimising time in the car and maximising family fun.

Check out these Rotorua Must-Do activities before you plan your next trip;

  • Tutanekai Streat – Eat Streat Food and the constant search for the next meal is always a massive consideration as the mum of two boys. Deciding what and where to eat when on holiday can literally eat up much of our day. Novotel Rotorua is across the road from Eat Streat, home to quality restaurants, cafés and bars as well as the famous Lady Jane’s Ice Cream Parlour. With it’s covered central walkway and thermally heated footpath, Eat Streat (and surrounds) is an awesome, family friendly place to dine. We loved Indian Star and Fat Dog Cafe (just around the corner).
  • Happy Ewe Cycle Tours Located at the Rotorua I-Site, a mere 6 min walk from the Novotel, owner-operator Roger will have you falling in love with Rotorua as he guides you on an 8km FLAT cycle around the geothermal wonders of  Rotorua. Nix was well catered for with a toddler seat and Dave, Ethan and I were riding in style on the comfiest bikes ever.  DO THIS TOUR GUYS!
  • Skyline Rotorua A nine-minute drive from the Novotel, we had a great time on the Skyline Gondola and Luge. Another perfectly family-friendly activity, Nix simply rides tandem with either Dave or I as we have a race to the bottom with Ethan.
  • Redwoods Treewalk We were already enamored with Rotorua’s breathtaking Redwood Forest after a previous visit, but the 6-12m high treewalk is next-level beauty. A quick 12-minute drive from the Novotel, this is another family must-do. No skill required all you do is walk and take it all in!
  • Polynesian Spa Lakefront Rotorua is where you want to be and spending an afternoon at The Polynesian Spa was exactly what our family needed after a busy couple of days.  This was another activity that catered beautifully to both parents and kids alike. We spent some time relaxing at the Lake Spa and finished up in the Family Spa where the boys could splash, swim and slide to their hearts content! Again, super-close to the Novotel, just a 15 minute walk – keep in mind Rotorua is pretty much completely flat!

 

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Rotorua

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog RotoruaDave’s working on an American project right now which means he has to start work at 2am every day. Our adjoining family rooms (when you stay as a family the second room for children is half price!) made this so much easier as he was able to sneak out and head down to the lobby (where there is a dedicated workspace) without waking the kids –  or me! We were free to laze in our beds and wake at our leisure (6am!) to watch the All Blacks play Ireland on Sunday morning – Sky Sport in our room made me a very happy mama!

An early tip-off that the staff and service were going to be amazing at the Novotel was the personalized welcome we found in our room; a handwritten card, super cute swim towels for the boys, swim diapers for Nixon (I’d forgotten those!), water and mud masks for me! This wasn’t special treatment either, it’s just part of the awesome service you get when you book a Family Room.

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Rotorua

On Saturday night we were just too tired to venture out to Eat Streat but were equally wowed by the buffet and a’la carte menus available in house at the Novotel Rotorua’s award winning Atlas Restaurant. Dave went on a seafood bender, I demolished the most amaze salad bar ever whilst Ethan and Nixon just ate pretty much everything, including fresh SUSHI – they were actually in heaven.  As an Accor Plus member I can receive up to 50% when dining in hotel restaurants plus the kids eat breakfast free! Little perks like this and (free wifi) really make these mini getaways that much more accessible, enjoyable and #closerthanyouthink. Likewise, having amazing kid-friendly amenities and services within the hotel itself makes me want to start planning ahead to our next long weekend!

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Rotorua

If travelling is your thing, either in our own backyard here in NZ or internationally, then joining Accor Plus (NZD$385 per 12 mths) will not only make you feel like a VIP every time you stay, but also make your getaways #closerthanyouthink. Member benefits include a complimentary nights stay when you join, 10% off best available accommodation, automatic Silver Status which gives you online and priority check in, free internet, a welcome drink and late check out as well as the dining discounts mentioned above.

 

#weloveaccorhotels #accorplus #closerthanyouthink

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Rotorua
AccorHotels graciously made our trip possible and completely exceeded all expectations, thanks guys! All opinions are my own, but to be fair, any hotel that puts THIS much effort into making Christmas magical for their little guests is going to get a BIG thumbs up from me!

 

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

Things I’ve learned about Saturday Sport

Our 5th season as rugby parents has just come to a close, and with that our washing machine, gumboots, weekday evenings and Saturday mornings breathe a collective sigh of relief!

Don’t get me wrong, we LOVE rugby, but it’s a big commitment at J1 level – and the commitment is required by the whole family, not just Ethan.

In terms of wins, it wasn’t the greatest season for the team.  In terms of intangible personal growth and the cementing of lifelong friendships for both players and their parents (I hope!) – it was a cracker season.

That’s the beauty of sport.  For boys Ethan’s age, (those navigating the notoriously up-and-down pre-teen Chasm of Angst) having an outlet that is theirs is a must.  They need to be able to forget about who they are ‘supposed’ to be at school or at home, forget about the pressure of growing up while still feeling like a little boy at times and simply focus on a single ball – without the distractions of homework, chores and devices.

Sport can be an amazing respite for both growing minds and parents alike!

Things I’ve learnt about Saturday Sports

  • It doesn’t matter which sport it is, it’s ALL good.  Sports code snobbery exists to some degree, other parents will tell you up and down that soccer/rugby/hockey is the absolute BEST sport for EVERY kid.  Ignore.  The best sport is the one your child enjoys!  Ethan played 2 seasons of soccer before transitioning to rugby and enjoyed every second of it.
  • You can only be *THAT* parent for so long before your loud, bad attitude gets you kicked off the field and your kid is embarrassed by your sideline coaching/bullying.  Just don’t go there guys!
  • Tired kids can’t hang.  It’s so tempting to throw bedtimes out the door on Friday night, but it might pay to reconsider how late you let your little athlete stay up.  Kids enjoy their activities so much more when they are full of energy and can give 100%.
  • You’re going to get cold and wet.  Really wet.  Always keep a large umbrella in your car and expect game time to be colder than you think.
  • Kids playing field sports will get muddier than you can possibly imagine.  Keep a plastic bin in the car for muddy boots and gear and wrap kids up on old towels for the ride home.
  • Just like their mates Tired Kids, Hungry Kids struggle to get up and at ‘em on the sports field.  Make time for breakfast before the game, even if it means cutting your Saturday sleep-in a bit short (I’ve heard sleeping in exists but it’s a total myth in my house lol).  Also be prepared for ravenous kids after the match.  Pack some easily portable, nutritious snacks such as nuts, fruit, vege sticks plus plenty of water.  Pro-Tip: a warm thermos of MILO will do wonders for chilled hands and tummies plus has a 4.5 star health rating!

Choosing wellness for ourselves and our families is something that we all consider (and are reminded of constantly!) but honestly, sometimes it becomes difficult to prioritize and can seem really overwhelming, especially when you’re doing the parenting juggling act!

Implementing one small change at a time can help make lasting differences.  For example, using the points above, focus on earlier bedtimes for the whole family (Mum and Dad included!) one week, try working on better – more relaxed/more nutritious/less stressy breakfasts the following week.

For more inspiration and lots of tips to help you make small, positive changes in your life take the Nestlé Choose Wellness Quiz here.

Win with Nestle!

If you would like to win an amazing Nestlé Prize Pack valued at $150, share a small change you’d like to make in the comments below.  NZ residents only, competition closes 15/10/16.  For a second chance to enter visit click here > Winter Rugby – Our Kiwi Saturday Morning Ritual

Please see full competition Terms & Conditions below.

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Saturday Sport

Terms and Conditions of The Best Nest competitions:

  •    By entering the promotion, you agree to these terms and conditions.
  •    Entry is free, no purchase is necessary.
  •    Entry is open to everyone UNLESS otherwise stated within the individual giveaway.
  •    The Best Nest reserves the right to amend or cancel the promotion and/or these terms and conditions at any time.
  •    The Best Nest reserves the right to verify entries and disqualify incomplete, altered, illegal or illegible entries. No responsibility will be accepted for entries lost or delayed.
  •    The Best Nest is not liable for any person’s inability to complete entry, and no responsibility will be taken for technical, telecommunication or website errors – proof of entry is not proof of receipt.
  •    Only one entry per person unless otherwise stated on the giveaway or competition.
  •    Winners of giveaways on Facebook, will be notified on Facebook.  Please check back on the giveaway for the announcement.
  •    The Best Nest’s decision is final in all matters and no correspondence will be entered into.
  •    No prize draws, promotions or competitions are in any way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook or Instagram.
  •    Unless stated otherwise, all prizes must be claimed within 3 working days or the prize is forfeited and another winner will be chosen.
  • To claim the prize, photo ID may be required

The Nelson Ark – Helping Teens and Rescue Dogs Move Forward

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Jetstar Flying Start
Jetstar crew Ebony Main, left, and Peter Murray, far right, give Ark representatives Jeff Grimmett and Karen Howieson the Flying Start Grant worth $30,000.

One of the awesome things about our Flying Start judging panel is that each time we convene it’s an exciting process of discovery as we are introduced to some of the many amazing community groups that are out there, often flying under the radar, doing some really cool stuff.  Jetstar’s 18th Flying Start $30,000 cash / flights grant recipient is no exception to this.

As soon as I read their application, I knew that Nelson Ark was the perfect fit for my vote.  

Their tagline is Compassion in Action and the premise of this organisation is both unique and very special.  The A-PART Program (Animals, People and Rehabilitative Training) pairs a dog from the local pound or SPCA with a troubled teen and a support team consisting of a dog trainer, educational facilitator and several volunteer supporters.  Together over an 8 week period the team work together to give the rescue dog a second chance at life as well as fostering responsibility, empathy, compassion and, I would imagine, a great sense of satisfaction at working selflessly to help another creature see the program through to completion and hopefully a successful adoption.

The two-pronged benefit to both an animal in need and a teen that’s lost their way is an incredible initiative that to me at least, pairs charity and ‘the social good’ with some old fashioned common sense!

This is no walk in the park!  The teens are committed to training their dog for two hours, three times a week for the duration of the eight week course culminating in a graduation ceremony to celebrate the successes of each dog and trainer.

As with many charitable organizations, funding can be a struggle.  The $15,000 cash component of the Jetstar Flying Start grant will be a massive boost to Nelson Ark’s operational fund and the $15,000 worth of flights will be used to bring program facilitators from around New Zealand to train in Nelson. 

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Jetstar Flying Start

To find out more about The Nelson Ark and the work they do click here.  To find out more about the Jetstar Flying Start program or to apply for a grant, click here.

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Jetstar Flying Start

How I shopped the H&M Launch in Auckland

If you’re a fan of global mega-brand H&M you’re probably already planning your first look and the new store at Sylvia Park that opened it’s doors for the VIP shopping preview last night.

Guests were not disappointed.  The red carpet was rolled out, shopping bags, champagne flutes, gorgeous canapes and wonderfully helpful sales assistants were everywhere in abundance.  Mum and I were among the first through the doors so we got straight to work before the 500 other guests rolled in!

The store is huge, do not visit if you’re in a rush or have small children – you will either lose them or wish you could lose them lol.  I’ve been to H&M in Sydney in a hurry and left feeling overwhelmed and far too old to shop there, when in reality, this couldn’t be further from the truth.  You just have to have time to look and be selective.  The Auckland store is spread over two spacious floors, Ladies and Menswear on the ground floor, more ladies, intimates, activewear and kids on the 2nd floor.

Mum and I were methodical and brutal, if we weren’t sure on size we grabbed two so we wouldn’t have to hit the changing rooms more than once – that’s where the lines were.  I’d say most things are true to the sizes that we know here in New Zealand.  I loved the women’s wear, the little boys section was cute but I wasn’t wowed and the men’s department was pretty great to be honest.  Not entirely to Dave’s taste but this is where I’ll be bringing Ethan to shop from now on.

The price?  Ah-mazing, pretty much exactly what you’d pay in Aussie.  My favourite pair of jeans are from H&M and they were in stock at $29, the same price I paid in Sydney earlier in the year.

The Best Nest Shops H&M

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family H and M Auckland

L-R Off-the-Shoulder Dress $29.99, Chiffon Blouse $29.99, Jersey Top with Perforations $24.99, Skirt $59.99,  Vest Top with Frilled Sleeves $24.99,  Jersey Top with Puff Sleeves $14.99, Jersey Top $19.99, Patterned Cotton Cap $12.99, 5 Pack Socks $14.99, Printed T Shirt $12.99Blue Hat $7.99, Mustard Skirt $59.99,  Palm Tree Shirt $19.99, Cactus Shirt $29.99, Men’s Cap $14.99

So here’s most of my H&M Auckland haul, the red dress and Mustard skirt are definitely the stand-out pieces for me, the rest is mainly just comfy casuals.  Little things like nice socks for little boys that aren’t in goofy colours or overdone with patterns was a welcome respite and I LOVE the scorpion, desert-themed tee I picked up for Nix!

It was a really excellent opening party and I’m pretty sure 99% of those attended had a fab time – Mum and I sure did!

Good luck if you’re heading out tomorrow, it’s going to be absolute bedlam!  Have fun!

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family H and M Auckland

Road Trip Diary – Day 3 Taupo

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Rotorua Travel Blog Taupo Hotel
View from our garden at Comfort Inn Cascades, Taupo

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!  Catch up on Day 1 here and Day 2 here!

We awoke on Sunday to the most beautiful, blue sky day in Rotorua and decided we had to spend a little more time exploring before we hit the road.  We had, after all, slept in the BEST beds known to man at Econo Lodge Cleveland so we were feeling ready to tackle THREE tourist hotspots in one day.  We have kids remember?  This is the parenting equivalent of climbing Mt Everest – no joke!

First up was a visit to The Redwoods where we smashed out a quick 2km trail through these vast, silent giants.  Well, they were silent until my family arrived!  The kids had a blast hooting and hollering through the trees, it was beautiful!  So different to walking through the dense native bush that we’re used to.  Dave and I can’t wait to make it back to the Redwoods, we both want to run those trails or compete in a race down there.

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Rotorua Travel Blog Redwoods
Redwood Forest, Rotorua

Ethan is wearing Macpac Halo Down Jacket, Nixon wears Macpac Mini Pulsar Hoody

Our awesome hostess at Econo Lodge Cleveland recommended we head to Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland to finish off our Rotorua experience and I’m SO glad we did.  Halfway between Rotorua and Taupo, we spent 2 hours wandering the trails here and I can’t get the amazing colours out of my head!  There is so much to learn and see here, from bubbling mud pools to crazy mineral craters and landscapes.  We didn’t have the Mountain buggy with us so Nix walked most of the way, hopping in the umbrella stroller when he needed a rest every now and then.  The paths are great, really smooth so there was only one section where we left the stroller off the path and continued on foot.  This place is gorgeous, this IS the Rotorua experience I wanted to have and to give the kids so it was worth it to splash out a little and add it to our itinerary.

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Rotorua Travel Blog Geothermal
Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland, Rotorua

Dave is wearing Macpac Ribbonwood 280 Pullover Hoody , Ethan is wearing Macpac Halo Down Jacket, Nixon wears Macpac Mini Pulsar Hoody

Onwards to Taupo and the final destination on our road trip.  Our lake cruise on board the Ernest Kemp was to depart at 2pm and we made it with enough time to grab a pie for lunch – we are sahhhhh kiwi guys, it’s not even funny lol.

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Rotorua Travel Blog Taupo CruiseThe Ernest Kemp is a beautiful replica steamship that sails a 2 hour course from Taupo Marina out to the ridiculously amazing Maori rock carvings that are only accessible from the water.  Our boys were so excited to get aboard, which to be honest, worried me a little, but they both settled in and really chilled out and enjoyed the experience.  EVEN NIXON!  Wonders will never cease.  We were thoroughly looked after by our Captain and his crew, as were all of the 20+ passengers onboard on Sunday.  It wasn’t the smoothest sailing as the wind had come up on the lake and we could definitely feel it on the way out, but the Captain kept checking on his passengers  and kept us informed throughout the entire journey – it was lovely and smooth on the way back and everyone was smiling!

I loved this experience for three reasons;

  1.  It was so personal.  Even with a large group on board, I’m fairly certain that every passenger was spoken to, offered refreshments, a chocolate fish, a coloring page and crayons, or even a beer!
  2. Being out on the lake gives you a totally different perspective of how HUGE it actually is.
  3. It was real.  There was rain on our faces, wind in our hair and we all felt alive.

Get out on that big old lake guys!  Preferably with the team at Ernest Kemp cruises ;  )

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Rotorua Travel Blog Taupo Cruise

A massive day exploring meant we were all ready for our hotel beds and some dinner.  We spent the night at the lovely Comfort Inn Cascades on the lakefront and couldn’t have asked for a better spot to wind down with the kids.  Our unit was perfectly suited to our family – large, airy, mezzanine style accommodation with three singles and a toilet upstairs for the kids.  It was freezing cold in Taupo on Sunday but the kids soon found (separate! yay!) comfy spots to play and relax in our super cozy unit – it was sooo warm!  The layers came off, Dave and I enjoyed a peaceful afternoon cocktail and I set off to explore the property.

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Rotorua Travel Blog Taupo Cruise

Lake Taupo is literally at the bottom of the garden!  Our unit’s patio bordered the walkway so it was steps to the beach and the water.  This is another property we are definitely bringing the kids back to over the summer.  Heated pool, spa, trampoline and of course the lake right THERE – I can see this being a favourite family spot for years to come.  I took a peek inside the unit on the end in the image above – the lake view from the bed through those red patio doors is unbelieveable, you would want to stay there all day!

One more thing – full sized Whirlpool bathtubs.  So RARE in a hotel!  We have two full bathrooms at home but no bath so this was a little luxury enjoyed by all – as was the free wifi, blogger essential right there!  Our hosts were lovely, our breakfast was delivered to our room on time and we were a little sad to leave to be honest!

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Rotorua Travel Blog Taupo Cruise

Dinner at Plateau Bar + Eatery

We finished off our family road trip with dinner at award winning restaurant Plateau Bar + Eatery.  I was slightly nervous about taking my two tired boys out for dinner at 6pm with no visible kid’s menu on the website, but, we were seated, kids menu’s were there (hooray!) and the wonderfully attentive staff did their thing.  My kids eat anything, both boys have adventurous palettes and great taste in food, the kids menu for me isn’t about food selection, it’s merely a cue for me that a restaurant is kid friendly and able to cope with Nixon lol.

Dave, Ethan and I all ordered off the $55 Set Menu and enjoyed three stunning courses.  Our favourites were the Prosciutto Wrapped Poached Pear, the Confit Duck Leg and the Citrus Iced Nougat, though every dish was incredible!  We really enjoyed trying each others choices throughout the evening.  Nixon was well looked after with a delicious chicken and cheese taco dish, perfect for little hands to hold on to.

We had a fabulous night at a very special restaurant, the perfect finish to a trip the kids, Dave and I absolutely loved.

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Rotorua Travel Blog Taupo Restaurant

Dave is wearing Macpac Ribbonwood 280 Pullover Hoody New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Rotorua Travel Blog Taupo Restaurant

Thanks so much Choice Hotels Asia-Pac, Hamilton Waikato Tourism, Destination Rotorua and Destination Great Lake Taupo for hosting us and showing us your wonderful regions and Macpac for equipping us.

 

 

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

 

 

Road Trip Diary – Day 1 Hamilton Zoo

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Hamilton Zoo TRavel BlogWe 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 Hamilton Zoo TRavel BlogWe have been looking forward to this family getaway for a long time!  There is nothing Dave and I enjoy more than exploring New Zealand and neither of us have spent any time in the Hamilton, Rotorua or Taupo regions which are all easy driving distances from Auckland, and just perfect for a long, family weekend away.

We left our house at 8.20am, had a surprisingly good run along both the North Western and the Southern Motorway and arrived at The Hamilton Zoo at around 10.30 after a stop in Bombay for a really, really good coffee at the BP Wild Bean.

Let’s just say, the entrance to the zoo is a bit of an illusion.  The sign says ZOO, the buildings look quite zoo-ish, but Hamilton Zoo is like no other I have ever visited before.

The animal residents are what you’d expect from a zoo, the staff are just as informative and knowledgable as you’d hope them to be, but the environment is what sets the zoo apart from others.  Rather than the purpose built, rather sterile, urban, concrete environment of other zoos we have visited in Auckland, San Diego and Florida, visiting Hamilton Zoo feels like you’re just on a bush walk in any New Zealand national park when you happen to stumble upon a Red Panda or FIVE Sumatran Tigers!New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Hamilton Zoo TRavel Blog

The size and scale of the zoo are mind blowing in comparison to Auckland Zoo.  The animals reap the benefit of the 25 hectare facility, as do visitors!  I racked up over 8,000 steps throughout the day as did little Nixie and Ethan!  Legends.

We were treated to a Face2Face encounter with the Ringtail Lemurs and Ruffed Lemurs and it was seriously one of those very special moments that you didn’t see coming and didn’t anticipate how wonderful it would be.  And guys, it costs $15 per person!!!  It’s first come first served on the day but it’s mind-blowingly lovely.  

Zoo Highlights
  • Red pandas, not sleeping in trees but frolicking!  Like a good panda should!
  • Lemurs, cuddly, cuddly lemurs around my neck
  • Most massive aviary you can even imagine, Kaka dive bombing us and witnessing the super stealth HUGE Bittern bird.
  • 5 gorgeous Sumatran Tigers frisking around, not yawning!
  • A baby chimp seen at feeding time
  • Getting to experience the Zoo classroom one-on-one with amazing guide Ken! Thank you!

The latest addition to the zoo’s gorgeous family is a 3 month old female chimp, whose name has been decided via a public competition and was announced today!

Meet beautiful baby Chiku!  Thanks so much Tara for allowing me to use this image, check out her work here
New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Hamilton Zoo Chimp
Photo Credit: Tara Sutherland www.tarasutherland.net

We loved this zoo so much I can see us making the drive to Hamilton every time the kids need a wild animal fix.  No parking problems, no crowds, a bigger zoo with world class facilities – Hamilton Zoo you have won us over.

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

When the kids were about to fall over from exhaustion we made the 10 minute drive to our final destination for the day, Quality Hotel Ambassador in Hamilton.  This is a truly unique hotel, offering three varying accommodation options (hotel, motel, corporate suites), with rooms to suit every conceivable need.  We are staying in a 2 room suite in the Quality Hotel which is perfect for our family of four.  We’re on the ground floor which is so considerate when you have kids and a shit-tonne of stuff and there is a king and a single in each room so we are comfy with plenty of space to relax.  Which is totally what we needed after our awesome day.

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Hamilton Zoo Travel Blog New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Hamilton Zoo TRavel Blog

Though there is every amenity and restaurant (including Pak ‘n Save across the street!) in walking distance from the hotel, we kept things convenient and ate at the Retrospect Cafe, Bar & Grill  on site.  Def stick with the mains guys as the meals are huge!  And awesome.  We ordered the Kids Cheeseburger meal, the T2 burger, Chicken Carbonara and Aged Scotch Fillet and every bite was amazing.  Served on vintage Crown Lynn serveware, the food and relaxed, friendly atmosphere was a perfect match for our family group.

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

We’ve just finished watching the Crusaders smash the Warratahs live on Sky and now it’s time for sleep.  

You can follow our adventures tomorrow as we head to Rotorua!  Check us out on Snapchat @thebestnestnz + @djack456 and on Instagram @thebestnest + @djack.

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Hamilton Zoo Travel Blog Macpac

It’s COLD here in the North Island this weekend so we are pretty much living in our Macpac gear!  Dave is wearing the Meteor Jacket which is an amazing hybrid of a jacket and a shirt!  Nix is wearing the Kids Astro Hooded Down Vest and LFOH Pick Pocket Long Sleeve and the Bubbles Merino Fleece Pant, Ethan is wearing a Pack-It-Jacket (don’t think we’ll ever leave home without these again!) and I’m snuggly in the Uber Light Long Down Jacket.

Auckland City Limits – The Main Event

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Auckland City Limits Review
Ladyhawke – new material on point. Killer live set

The first Auckland City Limits Festival has been and gone and dealt an undisputed smackdown to the New Zealand festival scene.

Organiser Campbell Smith successfully pulled off an event that was everything Big Day Out could only dream about.  The Western Springs location was central and easily accessible, parking was non-existent but those I spoke to who had been using the festival transport reported it being easy, quick and totally do-able.  Dave and I have friends living within walking distance of the stadium so we used and abused them for their marvellous parking on the day (taking Nixon to Auckland Kiddie Limits earlier in the day would have been much more difficult without this little perk truth be told).

This was a very Grown-Up, well behaved festival.  

There was plenty of;

  • Green space
  • Amazing acts
  • Seating
  • Bras with too many straps
  • Open air
  • Curious corners to explore and enjoy.
  • Top notch eateries
  • Ass cheeks hanging out of short shorts
  • Lines for dinner
  • Lines for drinks
  • Lines to make cash upon returning festival Globelets
  • Boring people in the VIP area

There was a distinct lack of;

  • Wasted teens (YUS!)
  • Wasted old people – I tried but the lines were too long
  • Rubbish, there were people cleaning up all day, plus I think the punters were generally tidy kiwis

There was such a friendly, mellow feeling that the queues for beer and food were totally forgiven.  We were somewhat lucky in that if things got desperate we were able to moonlight in the VIP area where the drinks were full strength and you didn’t have to wait to be served.  But this area was so far removed from the action it was positively painful.  Set beautifully in the grounds of MOTAT it was picturesque but when we were there we just wanted to finish our drinks quick-smart so we could get back to the action.  Being able to see at least one stage or any  part of the festival would be a vast improvement for the special people with cash to burn.

Obviously it wasn’t humanly possible to catch all of the acts but as soon as the lineup was announced, Dave and I had a pretty decent idea of what was non-negotiable for us. 

Who we saw and what we honestly thought of them;

  • Ladyhawke – Obviously a crowd fave and rightfully so.  She killed it with a pumping set, no BS and zero pretentiousness.  Loved it.
  • Broods –  Yawn yawn yawn.  I love their music (I have 2 songs on my running playlist even) but gawd they are boring live.  Totally misplaced on the large Spark 2 stage.  Bad scheduling here.
  • Action Bronson – Holy shit.  Wasn’t expecting to LOVE this set!  He finished 10 minutes early (maybe he needed a nap after smoking that huge blunt?) but all is forgiven as he totally brought rap back to me in spades.  Seriously brilliant performance.
  • The Naked & Famous – Cute and kiwi.  That’s all I have to say really.  Should have been on the smaller V Energy stage.
  • The Phoenix Foundation – Brilliant.  Profesh but totally unassuming and endearing.  Perfect sound, stayed and enjoyed the whole set.  Rocked it, should have been in the big arena instead of boring Broods or NAF.
  • Cold War Kids – Holy Shit #2.  So much energy, amazing, rocked-out set and catalogue.  These guys have been around forever (we were listening to them when I was preggo with E 11 years ago) and it shows.  Total professionals but still indie enough to be cool.  Big mistake to not stay for the whole set.
  • Girl Talk – We caught the end of this set, drawn in by the WTF nature of the mash-ups we were hearing.  The most nutty stage set of the day with huge inflatable props, a massive on-stage crew and seriously good jams.  We were most intrigued!
  • The National – Another band I really love but just felt they were soooo staid and low-key on stage.  Couldn’t get into it at all, but should have stayed longer to avoid the cacophony of Shapeshifter.
  • Shapeshifter – Can we be done with these guys yet?  Too loud, every song sounds the same and lasts for 10 minutes.  Couldn’t wait for it to be over.
  • Modest Mouse – This was who we came to see tbh.  It was our third time seeing them play in concert but we were no less stoked then if it was our first.  I may even have blinked back tears of joy at being in the pit, able to take photos of the band that has played such a massive role in our lives over the years.  The sound was pretty bad, there were obv some issues but I blame that entirely on everyone being deafened by Shapeshifter who played right before.  It was a surprising set with the full band (or the fullest I’ve ever seen) playing and a great mix of their newer material and old stunners.  No Kendrick Lamar for us, I’m sure there are 1709 other reviews you can read about his performance.

10/10 day.  Loved it. Will be back at Auckland City Limits next year no question.  The systems in place such as the cashless wristbands worked perfectly, the recyclable Globelets are a stroke of eco-friendly genius, however the returns tent needed to be placed far away from main thoroughfares to avoid congestion.  Such a coup for Aucks, Smith has curated a world class festival with rock solid experience and some thinking out of the box.  Everything was geared towards maximum punter comfort and experience.

Bravo Auckland City Limits, we love you!

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Auckland City Limits Review
Georgia from Broods……..zzzzzzzzzzzz
New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Auckland City Limits Review
Action Bronson – fucking genius
New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Auckland City Limits Review
Phoenix Foundation – 1st time seeing them live, loved them
New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Auckland City Limits Review
Cold War Kids – One of the stand-outs
New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Auckland City Limits Review
Modest Mouse. The End.

On the Water with Jetstar & Avonside Girls High School Dragon Boat team

New Zealand's Top Mummy Mommy Blogger Blog Travel

It’s that time again!  The latest recipients of Jetstar’s Flying Start grant were announced yesterday in the New Zealand Herald as the Avonside Girls High School Dragon Boat team.  The girls have held the competition at bay for the past two years, holding on to their national title despite the obvious hardships and handicaps that come with living in quake damaged Christchurch.

The girls are hitting the road – or more accurately, the skies – in April, heading to Adelaide to compete in the Club Crew World Dragon Boating Championships.  The logistics and financial commitment required to transport and accomodate the 26 girls from Year 12 and 13 are immense.  The team had raised about 20k of the $50,000 needed for the trip and now, with the help of the Flying Start grant ($15,000 cash and $15,000 worth of flights) they are able to focus on their prep and do what they do best – win!

I chatted with two members of the girl’s support team, Coach Evan Roper and the fab mum who nominated the team for the grant, Nikki, about what this opportunity means to the team and wider community.

New Zealand's Top Mummy Mommy Blogger Blog Travel

1. How did you announce the news to everyone? I imagine it was VERY loud with lots of #SQUEE!

Nikki – Yes, I let Grant (Head of NZ Jetstar) do the honors.  After gathering the girls around, I admitted to them that we had lied to them and that they were not there for a photo shoot for a ‘small local rag’ – which is what we had told them. I then introduced Grant and Phil. Grant told the girls about what the grant was and that they had made the short list. He then paused and said “sorry, I’ve lied to you too – you have actually won”. The girls squealed, screamed, cried, high fived and hugged each other – as did the other coach and some of the parents that were there (who of course did not know either). Grant was then treated to some dragon chanting – very loud – and even a wee trip in the boat, where they introduced him to their “side to side” chant (that includes tipping the boat from side to side).

2. What does the Jetstar Flying Start Grant mean for the team?

Evan – The cost to send the team of 28 to Adelaide is close to $50,000. Breaking that down to an individual cost of around $2,200 per student. The families of the girls who attend Avonside would generally not have a spare $2,000 to pay for their daughters trip. The only way this venture was going to be possible was with a tremendous amount of fundraising. The parents of the girls in the team have been tremendously supportive and inventive with fundraising ideas. They have sold wine, pies, frozen fish fillets. There have been sausage sizzles at Bunnings, car washes, quiz nights, stock taking nights for the Warehouse and raffles. The parents are manning food stalls at the 5 regattas that are held locally and at the finish line of the Coast to Coast event. One parent, Rhys Pocklington, who has twin daughters in the team, (Emma and Shannon) owns a car yard. He has generously offered some sponsorship for the team. The photo of the team shows them wearing the travelling tops that have his motor vehicle company name on the back of the top. (Black and White Motor vehicle Company). He has also bought a tent for the team to use at local regattas, again with his signage on it, and is paying the girls to clean the cars in the car yard twice a week. The girls have divided themselves into groups and undertake this work on a rostered basis.

Winning the Jetstar Flying Start Grant has been of HUGE benefit to our fundraising efforts. The amount of the grant, coupled with the fundraising efforts undertaken so far, will mean that the families of the daughters will not have to pay out much money at all from their own bank accounts when we head away to Adelaide.

The pressure of needing to raise $2,000 per week has been a constant worry for most of the parents of the team members and this grant has alleviated much of that pressure and stress.

3. How are you preparing for the Aussie trip? Is training mental right now?

Evan – We started training on the water in September of 2015. On water trainings have been twice a week until the end of January. We are now training 3 times per week on a Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Before school works better than after school so that means a very early start to the day 3 times per week. We meet at 0600 at the boat yard. On the water between 0615 and 0715 and then the girls head to school at 0730. Getting to training for 0600 means they are probably getting up at 0500. That’s real dedication for you and a testament to the desire within this team.

4. How has being a part of this team helped with life post-quake in Christchurch?

Nikki – Obviously the pride in the community for a start – there’s so much negativity here (insurance issues, problems with EQC, large parts of unwelcoming bare land, etc) that it is nice that the girls have something positive to focus on and work towards.

5. Do you feel like this particular squad will be leaving a legacy for students to come as they progress though their years at Avonside?
Nikki – Absolutely – some of the past Avonside girls still support the current team – and there’s nothing like knowing going into a new year that there are big shoes to fill. Most of the girls welcome that kind of pressure.

Evan – The answer to that is unreservedly – YES. It seems that with the passing of each season, the team performance has improved. 2011 saw the team win it’s first medal at a major regatta – 3rd place in the 200m at the South Island Championships)
2012 saw the team medal again at South Islands (2nd place in the 200m) and our first medals at Nationals. (2nd in the 200m and 3rd in the 500m).  
2013 saw more medals at South Islands (2nd place in each of the three distances we race over. 200m, 500m and 2,000m) Results at the National Championships replicated the previous season with a 2nd in the 200m and 3rd in the 500m.
2014 was a stellar year. Christchurch Girls High School had held the mantle of top girls team for many years and any victory over them was hard to achieve. This season saw us build a formidable team that won every race against every other school girls team in every regatta with one exception. The only loss the Avonside team suffered that year was in the very last race of the Nationals Championships where they finished a close 3rd in the 2,000m race, only 5 seconds off first place. Trophies won that year included the Akaroa Super 12 regatta, Aoraki Open (Canterbury Champs), the Johnson Cup, awarded at South Islands to the winner of the 500m race and the Grand Champion Trophy for the winner of the 500m race at
Nationals.  2015 saw the team struggle to repeat the dominance of the previous season but still saw the team win gold medals at South Islands (200m and 2,000m races) and the Nationals (retaining the much sort after Grand Champion trophy for winning the 500m distance.)
This years team is living up to the high standards set by the teams that have gone before them. They are forming into a close knit team with exceptional leaders and the motivation and desire to win is very high indeed. The profile of the team has risen within the school and Dragon Boating is now viewed as being one of the premier sports that the school excels at. I have no doubts that this season is going to provide many highlights and will further enhance the standing of the team within the school.

6. (Silly question) I entered one Dragon Boating regatta in my years at high School……and my arm got really, really tired. I’ve always wanted to know if you switch sides when training/competing or are you a leftie or rightie every time?

Evan – Most of the girls try both sides when they are new to the team. A few are truly ambidextrous but most find that the paddling action feels more natural on one side so they tend to become much better on either the left or the right side of the boat. I don’t think that is the best practice. Most articles I read on the subject suggest that paddlers should alternate sides to prevent their body from putting too much strain on a particular shoulder or muscle group. When I get the girls to try paddling on their unnatural side they look completely uncoordinated and quickly want to swap back to their natural side. I don’t force the issue. :-

 Good luck Avonside girls, can’t wait to hear how you take on the world in April!