Reading Eggs Online learning in lockdown

90+ Days in Lockdown Auckland: How’s your homeschooling going?

Does parenting through a lockdown get any easier? Have you adjusted to the ‘new normal’ or has your adjustment just felt like a slippery slide into a very average, daily grind like mine?
Stepping outside of my own feelings and frustrations during Auckland’s extended lockdown and I can see 8yo Nixon experiencing the same emotions and lack of motivation that has been hitting me in waves.
Nixie’s 12pm online learning each day brings the social interaction, routine and structure that he desperately needs right now as well as the basic reading, writing and maths tuition that has all but disappeared while school has been closed.
90+ days into lockdown, the association between these regular online touch-points with his peers and teachers and ongoing digital learning (complete with those feel-good success vibes) is only getting stronger.
Recognising this, it’s definitely time to get proactive around successfully wrapping up the school year for Nix and what that looks like. With return to school days set at a grand total of 8 (omg) before the summer holidays begin, I’ve realised that perhaps the best strategy in our home is to capitalise on the digital learning routines that are already in place – and that means fleshing out our digital tool-kit.

The price of 1-on-1 online tutoring quickly ruled that out as an option, plus, I wanted something more flexible that Nix could sit down and get into whenever the mood struck him – strike when the iron is hot right?!
That’s exactly what Reading Eggs has given us.
We used Reading Eggs years ago when getting Nix ready for school and I had entirely forgotten about this awesome programme until now, a time when if I think too much about Nixon’s schooling this year (or lack thereof) I can get whipped into an anxiety attack pretty swiftly!

Reading Eggs Online learning in lockdown
Nix can work through his Reading Eggs lessons at his own pace, completely self-directed.

Like most kids, he has his favourite subject (maths), and as a result, leans towards the maths work offered via his school’s online platform. My problem until now has been trying to ensure that reading and writing are not entirely cast aside as we navigate the rest of the school year in a format that is different each day.
I’m all about POSITIVE screen time and Reading Eggs delivers that for our family. Nix is engaged at a level that is perfect for him, he is willing and even, eager (!) to spend time working on his reading and motivation hasn’t waned as this child is all about rewards and certificates and I can print those out for him and celebrate his successes.

I have been increasingly nervous about how Nixon’s learning has suffered through this lockdown and Reading Eggs has done a great job of bringing a realistic, practical and ongoing reading curriculum into our home, just when we needed it.

The results and change in Nixon’s attitude to his literacy work have been so great to see and I’m so happy to share a 30-day FREE trial with you guys!

The trial includes access to Reading Eggs 2–13 yrs, Mathseeds 3-9yrs, Reading Eggs Junior 2-4yrs, Reading Eggs 3-7yrs and Reading Eggspress 7-13yrs.

Tap into this award-winning resource, with the free trial perfectly timed to finish our school year here in New Zealand on a positive note.

Boy using online learning platform Reading Eggs
Instant Pot Jerk Chicken Recipe

Easy Instant Pot Jerk Chicken Breast Recipe

Oh mates. Dave and I LOVE kitchen small appliances and we’ve tried many over the years, but there has not been one that we have adopted so quickly and used as frequently as our Instant Pot, which was kindly gifted for review.

A new arrival in New Zealand in 2020, the Instant Pot proved instantly popular, selling out quickly and leaving aspiring home chefs waiting (impatiently!) for the next shipment.

Dave has fully embraced this fab slow-cooker-sized appliance, which totally suits our F45 diet (our family eats at least 6kg of chicken breast a week lol) and often rushed, harried lifestyle. The absolute convenience of being able to quickly cook healthy protein from frozen is something that has made a huge difference to our household at busy mealtimes.

In our experience, the secret to getting the most from your Instant Pot is nailing a method of cooking that you will use all the time and then expanding on that and getting more inventive. This recipe is the perfect example. We need to cook a kg of chicken breast every 2 days, so being able to do so quickly, from frozen if necessary and with endless flavour options is a big win.

Basic Method for Cooking Chicken Breast in the Instant Pot

  • Fill the bottom of the Instant Pot with enough stock (we used chicken stock in this recipe, but vege would work fine) to sit just below the top of the trivet insert.
  • Liberally season the chicken breast (frozen or fresh) with Jerk It rub from Pepper & Me
  • Place chicken on top of trivet
  • Close lid
  • Set pressure level to high and timer at 20 minutes for fresh chicken, let pressure release naturally for 5-10 minutes and 25 minutes under high pressue if cooking from frozen with 5-10 minutes pressure release.
  • Please note, cooking times can vary depending upon the thickness of the breast etc. The beauty of the Instant Pot is that because you’re cooking with steam the chicken stays moist and tender, so feel free to adjust cooking timings once you have got a few cooks under your belt.

This chicken is super moist and SO tasty. We shred it right away and refrigerate to use in lunch and dinner wraps and salads.

Other easy flavours that we have tried and loved are; Taco mix dry rub, Italian seasoning dry rub, lemon pepper dry rub. Get creative with whatever you have on hand.

At time of writing, Harvey Norman NZ has Instant Pot in stock and ready to ship.

Cricut Maker Vinyl Labels

Back-to-school labels with Cricut Maker + Premium Vinyl

Here in New Zealand, our kids are heading back to school tomorrow after seven weeks of online schooling during Level 4 & 3 Lockdown. SEVEN WEEKS!

I’m happy for the boys as I know they have missed their friends, but, I’m a little bit (ok, a LOT!) nervous about the whole post-lockdown environment. We haven’t rushed back into pre-covid life at all, and there is much that we will leave back in March, as we are all about that slower, simpler life after so much time at home as a family.

As we prepped school uniforms, books and bags today, I was thinking about sanitiser and general hygiene at the boy’s schools and realised I had not labelled Nixon’s lunchbox or drink bottle at the beginning of the school year. 6-year-olds are going to need all the help they can get to keep safe and maintain appropriate social distancing, not just from each other but also from each other’s belongings. So, I sat down on Sunday afternoon and put my Cricut Maker to work.

I’m still quite a Cricut Newbie so kept this project simple as I didn’t want to spend hours labelling a lunchbox and drink bottle! I browsed the Cricut Design Space app first – beware of falling down the rabbit-hole guys, there are over 3000+ ready-to-make projects on the app so getting distracted by ALL the pretty craft ideas is a def. possibility! I could have used my own design software on the Mac and uploaded it to the app, but Design Space is super easy to learn so I just picked a font and a couple of images from the library and dove right in.


Step 1

Measure the application areas on the lunchbox and drink bottle so you can create your labels to the correct scale.

Step 2

Click New Project in the Cricut Design Space App, click on Canvas then Text. Type the text for the label, drag the handles on the text box to resize, click Image to search the Cricut library and add cute icons like the lightening bolt and skull I added to Nixie’s labels.

Step 3

Tap the green Cricut Make It icon to send your design to Maker. You will be guided to choose your material – vinyl for this project but you can use over 100 different materials when crafting with your Cricut Maker! Cut vinyl to size according to your design, position on the Light Grip Cutting Mat, load the Maker and hit the GO button!

Step 4

Cricut Maker Vinyl Labels

Once the vinyl has been cut it’s time to weed! Take your time, use a light touch and you should have no problems.

Cricut Maker Vinyl Labels

Step 5

Cut a piece of Vinyl Transfer Tape to the same size as your label. Peel the Transfer Tape liner and apply the tape adhesive side down onto your label. I then used the Scraper tool to adhere the tape to the vinyl. Peel the tape and vinyl away from the liner and apply to lunchbox or drink bottle. Before peeling the transfer tape off the vinyl label I used the Scraper tool again to ensure a good, bubble free application.

I’m so stoked with this wee Sunday afternoon project! The vinyl decals look so great, serve a very important purpose and were super easy, even for a Cricut novice like me! Link me to your vinyl Cricut creations in the comments below, I’d love to check them out.

Cricut Maker Vinyl Labels

Cricut sent me their amazing Maker Machine for review purposes and with full freedom to create my own projects. All opinions expressed are my own.


F45 Challenge 26: How to stay on track with the fail-safe F45 Meal Plan

Challenge 26 kicks off today and though it looks vastly different to what we have seen before (hello home workouts!) the cornerstone meal plan remains the same.

In 2019, Dave and I ‘participated’ in two challenges at our studio, F45 Massey. We basically signed up for the scans to establish benchmarks against which to measure our progress through exercise/class attendance alone. Those who know me will already be aware of how life-changing joining F45 Massey has been for me, so my final scans after each of last years 8-week challenges were always positive and moving in the right direction.

After seeing the epic results my training buddies had achieved by following the F45 Meal Plan, I swore to go all-in during Challenge 25 and combine my regular classes with the nutrition programme developed by F45.

Though we have been unable to complete our final scans at this point (NZ is on Level 4 lockdown due to Covid-19) Dave and I completed the 8 Week challenge and were able to commit 100% to the F45 Meal Plan – something I never expected us to be able to maintain. Our results, though unofficial, are bloody amazing! I had exceeded my body fat loss goal by the halfway mark and smashed my weight loss goal soon after. Dave didn’t do a half-way scan but he is coming up to 10kg lost and who knows what his body fat loss will end up at. We both feel amazing and LOVE this way of eating.

So, we’ve definitely learnt a thing or two over the past 3 months about how to make the F45 Meal Plan work for us, and we’ve done it together every step of the way. Something that has definitely helped on those tough days when motivation has been lagging!

F45 Meal Plan: How to Stay on Track

  1. Print out the weekly Meal Calendar and stick it on your fridge.
    But don’t stop there! Actually look at it, check out the proteins you need each day and get prepared. Does it make sense to switch some lunches around so your chicken meals are grouped together meaning you can cook in bulk? Dave and I like to bbq a bunch of chicken breast so it’s cooked and ready to use across a couple of meals.
  2. Do your shopping.
    Not going to lie. This takes a while. As the male/female dietary requirements are slightly different, I print a shopping list for each of us, then jot down the total amount required on one of the lists. Then I sit down and do an online shop, adding in extras for the kids. For example, if Dave and I need 1.7kg of chicken breast for the week, I’ll round this up to 2.5kg then the kids can eat the same protein we are having for dinner each night.
    Obviously, due to Coronavirus, online shopping is not an option for many of us so, mates, you’re going to have to suck it up and hit the aisles. If you’re having trouble finding any slightly obscure items, keep it simple. Can’t find freekeh, switch it to brown rice or quinoa etc. If you are having trouble sourcing ingredients go straight to The Source who are cleared for online shopping!
  3. Make it work for you.
    Go back to point #1. LOOK at the meal calendar and adjust if necessary. I don’t like pork so I’m not going to eat it simply because that’s what’s scheduled for Thursday night. I’ll generally cook the recommended meal but switch out the pork for chicken. This comes back to being prepared. Surprises will throw you, so preempt what you are going to need the day before.
  4. Portion your meat for the week.
    It’s much easier and less admin if you divide up your protein when you get home from the store into meals for the week. Even if you don’t cook ahead, it saves on waste and time to have pre-portioned and labelled containers or sandwich bags in the fridge or freezer. Just defrost and pop them out when you are ready to cook.
  5. Make your snacks FIRST!
    Snacking is a mental game guys. You’ve got to have your ammo ready. The snack recipes in the F45 Challenge Meal Plan are bloody delicious so get into them! Don’t be afraid to keep whipping up your faves either. You’ll find the meals and snacks are formulated with roughly the same calories each day, so if you’re a creature of habit like me, keep rolling out those bliss balls each week if that’s what works for you!
  6. Find an easy, emergency meal that can be your go-to.
    Some days just don’t go to plan but that doesn’t mean you have to cheat. There are heaps of recipes, particularly lunches, which don’t require a lot of cooking, or any! Our fave is the Tuna and Beetroot Bowl. 5 minutes to throw together, it’s HUGE and basically comes out of cans! Don’t give yourself an excuse to fall off the wagon.
  7. Drink your water!
    If you’re thirsty drink. If you’re hungry drink. Get your 2l in per day and you’re going to get through the first 2 weeks feeling good. I’m not a sipper so it’s easier for me to keep a 500ml glass on the bench and simply scull a glass four times a day. Figure out what works for you and stick to it.
  8. Ditch the wine and high-calorie beer.
    This challenge is all about making better choices, so if you like to enjoy a drink, do some research. Maybe try a low alcohol wine, or switch to an RTD such as Pals or Sero which contain natural ingredients and are very low calorie. Dave has ditched the craft beers for Pure Blonde which has a massive impact on those calories going in.
  9. Enjoy the process.
    I’ve found that being so hands-on in the preparation of every meal has meant that I’m massively invested in both the process and the challenge. This is a whole-food based diet. It’s fresh, delicious, nutritious and filling and it’s really satisfying sticking to the process when it’s SO bloody good for you!
  10. Expect to spend more time in the kitchen.
    Abs actually ARE made in the kitchen. I have learnt this to be true over the past 3 months lol. You are going to be spending more time than ever cooking and washing dishes. Factor this into your day or week and roll with it. The results will be worth it!

Leave a comment below if you have any questions, I’m always happy to help with the organisation side of meal-planning if I can. I’m no nutritionist obviously – that’s why I need a meal plan that works!

The best advice I can give is to stay the course and COMMIT to the meal plan. It’s a no-brainer, everything is figured out for you and it will work alongside your F45 classes to absolutely smash your challenge goals.

Good luck Challengers!


Book Club 2020: Adults, Emma Jane Unsworth

I’m not sure there could be a more perfect, ultimately modern-day novel than Adults.

I’ve worked in social media for well over a decade, and what Unsworth has done by bringing Instagram out of the closet and into the light as the ultimate narcissist starter-kit is both clever and, quite uncomfortable, if only because it’s so very familiar and recognisable.

It’s all here – I recognise and acknowledge Jenny’s mid-30’s angst and entitlement, the increasing volume of her biological clock, the association between self-worth and social media success – whatever that looks like?!

What I think resonated most was the complete fallacy between Jenny’s obsessive online presence and the shit-show that was going down IRL (in real life fyi lol). Fertility, break-ups, Mum issues, professional confidence ft job loss, that violent transition between ‘I’ve got nothing else to do so let’s get fucked up, and, I’m over 35 and get quite tired if I’m out after 10.30pm……’

God it was painful.

Not the book! I mean, that stage of life. Although to be perfectly honest I had 2 kids by 35, but, it was painful watching others navigate those hungover waters.

I Loved Adults. Fastest book I have read this year, I could disappear into it easily and with pleasure but it’s also one of those rare gems you can put down and come back to with ease. Which helps when your digital ADD kicks in and you are picking up your phone every 1.5 minutes! j/k.


Available now, published by HarperCollins Publishers New Zealand.

Vegetable Frittata Bake Recipe NZ

Cook, Eat – Vegetable Frittata Bake

Lockdown times are HEAVY am I right?

I hate food waste on any normal day but, when it’s literally dangerous to go to the store and a massive time suck (hello queuing for the supermarket) my food-waste policy kicks into overdrive.

We had a few courgettes (zucchini) that we needed to use asap and there was a Zucchini Slice recipe on our F45 maintenance menu for the week so, I decided to zhuzh it up and see what happened.

What happened was GOOD and it ticked the boxes for a good fridge clear out which makes me SO happy! So here’s the recipe, give it a go and mod as much as you want as I think it’s pretty forgiving.

Vegetable Frittata Bake Recipe

  • 1 onion, diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 medium grated courgette
  • 2 medium capsicum, red and green, diced
  • 60g broccoli/cauliflower, broken up into small florets
  • 50g mushrooms diced
  • 100g shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 6 eggs
  • 250ml liquid egg whites (or add 4 more eggs)
  • 50g flour
  • 50g alternative four, I used rice flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. Himalayan salt
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius and line a baking dish with baking paper.
  2. Add all of the ingredients to a large bowl and mix until well-combined.
  3. Pour into the baking dish and bake for 45-50 minutes, or until cooked through.
  4. Serves four as a standalone dish or divide into smaller portions if serving with a salad and sides.
Covid-19 Stay Home NZ

Corona Diaries – Lockdown #4, #5 and #6

Things are starting to blur.

Sunday, Monday, Tuesday who knows. Morning active-wear, afternoon jammies, let’s go for another walk/ride/, do another online exercise class, cook some more food…..

Sunday was really flat, Nixon had a bad day yesterday but today we got back on track. I’ve stopped watching the news so much, turned notifications off on my phone, decided that checking the NZ Herald app 773 times per day was not helping anything, and I’m literally solely focussed on the day ahead and making it as smooth as possible for our family.

Like any other day, there are the arguments about brushing teeth, showering (gross boys!), who said what, or who gets to choose which Hello Fresh meal will be cooked for dinner, but the fundamental urgency of how we move through our days has shifted. I wonder just how this will adjust when the lockdown is over. How will it be possible to revert to a world without social distancing, without paranoia around our 6-year-olds rubbing their hands all over every surface in the public realm, without those whiplash-inducing head spins to identify from exactly which direction ‘that’ cough came?

Will we be the generation that forever stockpiles hand sanitizer? After we are able to buy it again of course!

For those overseas, we are on Stage Four Lockdown here in New Zealand. Our borders are completely closed, each family must self-isolate at home, only leaving for essential supplies or services such as groceries or medical attention. All non-essential businesses are closed and non-essential travel is limited to exercise withing our immediate neighbourhood. People are working only from home if they are able, otherwise, the mandatory business shutdown is in force for 4 weeks.

Meanwhile, we have been watching Australia and the USA fail to act with such urgency and force, as people keep dying.

It feels like we fell asleep one night and the world changed in a matter of hours.

Dave has worked from home for years so compared to many families, we are finding the lockdown not quite so jarring in its totality. Nixon is probably struggling the most. He is an incredibly busy, social little boy who has been relishing the freedom of cycling around our neighbourhood over the past few months, constantly exploring and playing with his friends – our parent network of Mums and Dad’s keeps everyone up-to-date with the location of the Boy-Gang at any given time. Now he must stay home with only his family for face-to-face company and attention.

Our days now start a bit later, we are all sleeping a touch longer without Ethan’s 7 am departure for school. I plan our F45 workouts the night before and Dave and I slowly head for the garage whenever the coffee kicks in. Ethan and Nixon play basketball in the driveway every morning and a family walk is mandatory for everyone. The boys complete their school work, we cook, bake and catch-up with our friends via ZOOM workouts, HouseParty, Facetime or Skype. Nixon and his pals have slowly adapted to online communicating after first attempts saw he and his friend yelling back and forth for an hour “CAN YOU SEE ME?!”. We have been bike-riding in the early evening, though to be honest I find this quite stressful as the sheer number of people and kids out and about can make social-distancing quite hard on the footpaths.

I was fully prepared so food and entertainment and exercise equipment are a-plenty, however, the daydreams about what we will do/eat/visit when the lockdown is over have begun.

I haven’t laid down any grand goals to aspire to over the isolation period. I literally just want my little family to be as happy as possible, for Dave to be able to keep working without any huge increase in stress due to the boys being home, to somehow maintain motivation to keep working out
(it feels like it gets harder every day tbh) and perhaps to read some more books.

That’s all I want aside from health for my family.

Skipping stones in the Riverhead River
Our stunning neighbourhood lifting our spirits on our daily family walks.

Book Review NZ Shakti

Book Club 2020: Shakti, Rajorshi Chakraborti

Shakti Novel by Rajorshi Chakraborti

Oh my lord, where to start with this one.

It took me ages to finish, and I really wanted to finish this book sooner rather than later.

Shakti, by the author’s own admission, is a weird book. Its rambling narrative covers merely days but stretches on for e v e r . And ever.

Here’s what I enjoyed about this book;

  • India! I wish more local flavour had been included in the storyline.
  • The modern, feminist heroine Jaya. Her internal monologues are humorous, insightful and provide (rare) historical context into her current situation.
  • The ending! The final, very dramatic introduction of even more characters (there are SO many in this novel which I think is one of its downfalls) is as black and white as it gets throughout the story. And it works. The book finishes well, albeit taking a long time to get there.
  • The politics. Again, I wish there had been a little more time spent on this aspect of Indian life, fleshing out the motives and means of those in charge would have added more depth to the mystical powers bestowed upon selected women.

I felt like I was lost the entire time I was reading Shakti. Not entirely unenjoyable but definitely confounding, fast-paced and I wasn’t sure if half of what I was reading was relevant as it seemed to disappear from the storyline as soon as I turned a page.

In short (from the publicist), if ‘psychic warfare, nefarious deities, right-wing regimes, internecine attacks and the vicissitudes of life in a hectic city’ are your jam, then give Shakti a whirl. Chakraborti is a great writer and I’m keen to read more from this Indian-born novelist who now lives in Wellington, New Zealand.

Published by Penguin Random House, February 2020

Purchase online now from Mighty Ape using my affiliate code > TAKE ME SHOPPING!

Covid-19 Stay Home NZ

Corona Diaries – Lockdown #3

It’s Saturday here in New Zealand, our first Lockdown Weekend with a few more to come.

It’s very typical late March weather, gorgeous blue skies, cooler temps throughout the day, I’m actually wearing sweatshirts here and there!

That’s one of the nerve-wracking things I worry about, how bad is Coronavirsu going to be as we head into Winter? Imagine the paranoia of getting ‘regular’ sick and stressing that is Covid-19? Worries like these feel like a pot of popcorn on the stove, jostling and bumping each other, trying to smash the lid off so they can see the light of day and really kick the anxiety up a notch!

The boys haven’t lost their shit yet (neither have I!) so I’m very proud of all of us. Dave and I are keeping our daily routines going as much as we can. It’s super important I reckon. I was vacuuming yesterday (I do this every day) and Ethan asked why I was worried about the house being tidy, “Noone is going to judge us, Mum!”. I replied that I try to tidy up every day so why would I stop now? Keeping expectations familiar and structured works in our house and both the boys rely on these behavioural cues to navigate their days.

So, as usual, we did F45 in the morning, Nix, Dave and I went for a walk, the boys played basketball then went for another walk……..we grabbed the kids ice creams from the dairy…..

Yeah normal as lol.

I’m trying to do one *extra* little housework job each day so our house may be in a better state at the end of lockdown then it was at the beginning. And I do mean LITTLE job – there’s definitely no need to rush! So today I cleaned all the mirrors and the plan for tomorrow is to wipe down and disinfect all of the windowsills.

Sunday is sounding epic!

Covid-19 Stay Home NZ

Corona Diaries – Lockdown #2

I placed what will probably be my last click ‘n’ collect grocery order 8 days ago with today being the first available time slot. Dave is our designated Grocery Shopper (only 1 per household) so he ventured out into the wild to pick up the goods.

The queue was uniformly spaced 2 metres apart, snaking the length of the carpark as people waited to be let into the store, one-in-one-out. I asked if it felt good to be out there, doing something quite normal? His reply was that it was the most abnormal experience ever. The shoppers were all pleasant and calm, lots of face masks, but so subdued and quiet. He said you felt stupid if you had to back-track through the store having forgotten something as you knew so many people were waiting outside and the pressure to hurry felt immense. The shelves were mostly well-stocked, with limitations on obvious things – luckily Dave and I haven’t eaten bread in months (years for me) so what I have purchased is lasting well for the boys.

Though it was great to see the checkout staff protected behind perspex screens, it was yet another, very visible reminder that something is terribly amiss both here and all over the world.

Today I worry about the paranoia that is quietly peeking through the curtains now and then. Dave carried some groceries inside in a banana box and set them on the kitchen bench and I felt my stomach do a nasty flip-flop. Who knew what germs and viruses were crawling all over that box which had flown around the world from who knew where? I broke it down as quickly as possible and disinfected the bench.

How do we come back from that aspect of a lockdown and virus that has brought the world to its knees? How do we return to normal after we have been walking past our friends in the street, giving them a 2m wide berth whilst simultaneously desperately wanting their familiar companionship?

The boys once again had a really good day, they seem to be coping well so far – ON DAY TWO lol. They both did some schooling, played basketball, jumped on the tramp together, we went for a walk, Nixon once each with Dave and I. The marvels of technology are definitely helping, I did a Gravity class with my friends from F45 via ZOOM. Workouts on your own are self-flagellation at it’s finest but seeing everyone suffer together via a live feed somehow helps. And we’ve had coffee chats and Houseparty Friday drinks with our local friends………………..

We’re trying.

But it’s all just like living in a sci-fi novel that you can’t quite believe you are reading.