10 June 2016

A relaxing dip with SandDollar Swim at the Polynesian Spa

We recently spent a family weekend in Rotorua - the adventure capital of the north. Having now had the opportunity to explore the area in more detail we reckon it's as epic as Queenstown is - just without all the snow capped mountains around.

There's so much to see and do here that it's definitely hard to only spend the weekend here. I took advantage of the great weather to get out for sunrise and sunset every day but wow it was cold. Each morning the temperatures were hovering around zero and it was either frosty, foggy or both.

After one particularly epic morning out snapping shots I came home frozen to the bone but knew I had a relaxing and warming session at the Polynesian Spa to warm up with the family.


Earlier in the week, we'd received a new pair of swim shorts for the boys from Sanddollar Swim and they were eager to get them on and get going in the pool - no matter that it was only about 5 degrees outside, the 3 family pools were heated to 33, 37 and 40 degrees so there was no risk of getting chilled. I'm sure you can guess which pool I spent the most time in!


The boys on the other hand spent most of their time in and out of the cooler pool just because it had a mini slide...boys will be boys!



What I love about putting my boys in Sanddollar swimwear is that every item in their range has sun protection to UPF50 which complies with our stringent NZ and Australian standards - not that we needed it in mid winter in a thermal pool but we definitely will appreciate it when our harsh NZ summers roll around.


I also liked that the shorts have a liner inside - I can't tell you how many board and swim shorts are out there that just don't come with them? I've found out that hard way the importance of a good lined pair of swim shorts -  my older boy has a tendency to get chafe from running around on the beach all day in wet swim shorts and a liner definitely prevents this from happening.

As cool as the boys shorts look and the rest of the boys Sanddollar Swim range online, for a little moment I half wished I had girls in the house too because their girls range of swimsuits are so fashionable - and for that matter I found myself wishing they came in adult sizes too.


I was in no hurry to get out of this rather relaxing and warm sojourn and I think the boys would happily have stayed all day but we were turning wrinklier than prunes and other adventures were calling us as they do!

01 June 2016

Cruising the Coromandel {309 road and Driving Creek Railway}

After three lovely days in Waihi, it was reluctantly time to head north to Whitianga for the next part of our Coromandel adventure.

There's two routes to travel between Whitianga and Coromandel township and they are both scenic. But the inland 309 road probably takes the cake in terms of scenery. You have to be prepared to go pretty slowly as a good section of the road is gravel.

But that only adds to the appeal - the slower you go the more you take in along the way.

Like stopping to take in the Waiau Kauri Grove - these monstrous trees tower several heads above the rest of the forest canopy - they are so impressive.



You can get a small idea of their size by seeing how small the boys looked by comparison. We all tried to join hands to see if we could get right round it but even all four of us couldn't quite do it!





And how about this double trunk kauri? Weird and wonderful all at the same time.


From the kauri grove we headed further down to Waiau Falls - it's a lovely wee specimen that drops into a nice pool - it was hard to get a good shot at this time of day but 





Just a few minutes further along the road is this lovely run-down house where Stu's pigs roam free on both sides of the road - so cute seeing all the little piggies running happily alongside the car.




After a spot of lunch in Coromandel township, we headed up into the hills for a ride on the famous Driving Creek Railway 


The narrow gauge railway was a labour of love built by Barry Brickell over a 20 year period, initially to help carry his pottery clay down from the hills but eventually turning it into a very famous tourist destination for the Coromandel.


It's unique as a railway, especially as the hour return journey winds so steeply uphill with lots of reversing points to allow the trains to make their way all the way to the Eye-full Tower for the stunning view over the whole Firth of Thames.












What a sight! After winding our way high into the hills - we were rewarded with views as far as the eye could see into the Firth of Thames towards the Hauraki Gulf.





Sadly, Barry Brickell died only a few weeks before we visited the railway and it was so wonderful to hear how the team from the railway had carried him for one final journey on the train all the way to the top to the Eyefull Tower and then halfway back down where his last place of rest can be seen marked with a simple cross to mark the spot. It was quite emotional knowing he would be there forever watching over those who enjoy his life's greatest achievement.


From the railway we ventured further up the western side of the Coromandel peninsula ducking into a few sheltered bays before heading back over the hills towards the east.





We decided to stop in at Matarangi on the way back - little did we know that this amazing spot was to become our firm favourite location of the whole trip - so much so that we booked another trip back here again over Anzac weekend!!!


With a beautiful long north facing beach (there aren't that many in NZ) that was pretty much deserted for every one of the four days we visited, and with the most perfect rolling breakers that made body boarding a dream Matarangi stole our hearts from the minute we arrived - so much so that we visited here every day for the next four days we had left - despite it being a half hour drive from Whitianga!



30 May 2016

When good intentions get taken over by grand adventures

I had all kinds of good intentions to carry on blogging as I'd managed to get two posts out in quick succession. Then life just kept on happening and getting in the way.

So for the sake of sounding like a broken down record, I'm embarrassed to say that despite having great expectations that I'd right back into regular blogging - it just hasn't panned out that way at all so far!

If you follow my photography on Instagram or Facebook you'll know I've been taking a lot more photos lately. I'm actually so thrilled to have found the passion for my landscape photography again, it had been so difficult to find the time or inclination to get out regularly over the time we moved and built our house. And then I also had to invest a lot of time in completing my cousin's wedding photography assignment. I'm finally through the other end of that job, so have freed up some time for the kind of photography I really love.  And having also discovered a whole lot of new and fascinating spots in the local area for photos I feel like I've had a bit of a re-birth and there are now so many places on my list to visit that I'll have plenty of options for a variety of shots for some time to come.

One of the things I'm most excited about is that I FINALLY got to do some astrophotography - that is taking photos of the Milky Way. I had wanted to for ages but hadn't quite figured out the right time or even where to begin with it. Then I found a fantastic app that takes most of the guesswork out of the equation called Photo Pills. I had to pay for the privilege but it's well worth it. The morning I chose to go out it was super foggy and I had to drive for an hour heading halfway up the Kaimais just to get about the fog. But it was worth the drive to get my first every astro shoot under my belt. And for a first outing I was pretty pleased with the result.



The weekend I went there was a pretty big meteor shower on and I saw at least 6 shooting stars with the naked eye and a whole lot more were visible once I processed the shots too!

There's also a really cool app called Skyview Free which little people in your house would LOVE. Hold it up outside and line it up with the stars you see - you'll soon know exactly which star or planet you are looking at - such a great idea!


But with the taking of said photos, there also comes the need to edit and post them - all of which take time away from any blogging time I might have been able to carve out. I'm also in the process of overhauling my whole photography website so I'm working on that feverishly in the background as well.... hopefully I'll actually get that finished this side of Christmas ha ha!

We've also been away SO many weekends already this year that we've hardly had time to sit and scratch our you know whats! Between 2 weekends away in Taranaki, a week in the Coromandel, a secret birthday weekend away in Taupo, and a long weekend away in Matarangi and that's just where we were at by the end of April.

My birthday this year (whilst not being a 'big' number - that's next year...eek!) was a big deal. Mark decided to surprise me with a mystery birthday weekend away starting with dinner in Gothenburg restaurant in Hamilton. The great thing about having the exact same birthday is that he got to enjoy the benefits of all he organised as part of his birthday too!!!! Win win!

The beautiful tapas selection we enjoyed at Gothenburg - I can't wait to go back here again! 


There he revealed I had to choose between 3 sealed envelopes what we would be doing for the weekend.

What's a girl to do?!!!! How to choose?!

When I did finally choose I discovered we had an awesome weekend away in Taupo planned with as much photography as I could fit in..... what a babe my hubby is - most perfect present ever!!!!


In need of breakfast after our 4.44am start - we missed out on good sunrise shots due to the fog but got some funky fog shots at the Mangakino jetty so all was not lost!


Mark admiring the view from our Hilton Lake Taupo room - hanging out to try out the pool and spa at this point!

Selfie shot - I took him by surprise and nearly knocked him completely off balance!

After another early start for sunrise finding this amazing Paleo breakfast salad was a wicked pick-me-up!


So many cool spots to discover along the Old Taupo Road - including the awesome Arapuni suspension bridge - not for the faint of heart!

When we got home at 2pm, I walked into the last surprise of our shared birthday weekend - 3 of my best friends and families all at our house for a birthday BBQ - I got quite the shock to walk in and see everyone waiting for me..... in a nice way of course!!


The first time we had all been together since my wedding 12 years ago!!!


Two weeks later we headed back to Matarangi for the weekend with Tracey & Dayne and family. We'd loved our time there swimming so much in early March that we booked to go back again for the long Anzac weekend.


lush to be sitting out in summer temperatures in mid autumn - ah Matarangi you're the best!

what a dream of a beach Matarangi is - what is not to love!

Post-swim warm up in onesies!

A rather competitive game of Trivial Pursuit - family edition

hours of fun on the tennis court

despite feeling rather seasick Noah can now officially say he's a fisherman

We had a blast - the kids are all similar ages and get along well - between swimming in the sea (unheard of in late April), playing tennis, a fishing trip out into the firth of Thames with 15 fresh fish the bounty haul, an early morning sunrise at Cathedral Cove and a walk over to New Chums beach we sure made the most of our time there. And the accommodation was so ridiculously cheap - $100 a night for all 8 of us!

The following weekend we spent a day over at Omokoroa visiting our dear friends Shannon and Guy in their new life there. They recently moved up from Wellington and it's so cool knowing they're just over the hill not a 7 hour drive away! It's a really beautiful spot and we can see the appeal - I know there will be more happy days spent over the hill hanging out with them now we know it's an easy day trip!

checking out the views from Shannon and Guy's new neighbourhood - the Mount visible in the far background

hanging with this chick is always so lovely - I had missed her so much since we left Welly so I'm pretty happy to have her just down the road again!

another autumn swim - last day of April!!!!

ahhhh - friends reunited


The following weekend our dear friends Jackie and Heidi came to stay from Wellington on the first weekend of winter football - it was great timing and they were able to watch both boys games as they were playing at home.




At the last minute we decided to put Mylo up a grade into 8th grade so he could get some better competition as he really was a bit bored in the 6th grade last year being one of the best in the grade and playing little mini games on small fields with some kids who'd never kicked a ball before. Also Mark is the coach of his 8th grade team and so far with two games under their belts they've had a 4-4 draw and a 7-3 win and Mylo has scored both weeks so it was definitely a good decision to push him that little bit harder this year.

We were all so thrilled for Noah that he made it into the top 10th grade team this year - he was equally excited that his best buddy (who moved schools this year so he they don't see each other as often) is also in the same team along with a few other kids he knows from his school. And his coach is a really awesome guy with lots of passion for the game so we are looking forward to seeing how his year pans out. In the first two games, they've had a close win and a close loss but it's grading games only so still early days of the season. In addition the boys are both doing the Star Soccer academy on a Tuesday to help their footy skills develop - it makes for a very busy week having soccer on Tuesdays and Thursdays as well as games on Saturday but we figure it's all positive for improving their overall performance and we decided to skip swimming lessons over the winter to free up the time to do extra football - they definitely don't mind!

Add to this there's two games of football every Saturday morning and with both boys playing in travelling leagues this inevitably means we are pulled in different directions across the Waikato - like last week when Mylo played in Te Aroha at 9.30am and Noah played in west Hamilton at 11.15am - it's a good thing we are two parents with two cars in this case!!

But back to our weekend with the girls - we showed them the sights and sounds of the local area - like the lovely views at Lake Karapiro and a walk between Arapuni and Jones Landing on Mothers Day morning.


 We also snuck in a couple of games of Monopoly Game of Thrones - very apt since it was their Christmas prezzy to us and our first chance to play it. OK so playing it very nearly made them miss their flight home but phew all was well that ends well in the end!



We're looking forward to seeing these two lovely gals again when we stay with them in Wellington for the weekend in July!

My Mothers Day card from Mylo made me smile - apparently he came up with these ideas all by himself. Where he got the unicorn from I'll never know but I love it!



Last weekend Mark and I headed down to Taranaki to hand over my cousin's wedding album to them - I took the opportunity to get out for sunrise shots at Cape Egmont lighthouse and the Weld Road shipwreck with my cousin Charlotte - we will be sad to see her and Gwyl returning back to the UK to live in August so it was awesome to spend this time with them. Charlotte got to see what it was like to have a 'hallelujah' moment during a photo shoot. The skies, the shipwreck, the bird - well you'll just have to wait for those photos - believe me they were amazing!

Then Mark and I headed far into hobbit country to find Waitanguru Falls on the way home. It was well worth the hour's extra drive on the journey - it really is the most stunning scenic and remote countryside through there. And with all the rain we'd had the falls were an impressive sight!


it was lovely to be able to spend a few hours with Gee Gee - still doing so well at 90

breakfast hangs after our 5.30am start for sunrise shots

adventures in the heart of hobbit country - at Waitanguru Falls

We've also had a total of 4 teeth lost in the past month (2 each) with 2 more not far away - Mylo's top teeth have been wiggly for ages. I can't say I'm looking forward to him losing them though - I love his little gappy smile and I know it will change when he gets big adult teeth filling up the gaps!

the tooth fairy had a busy night - 2 teeth fell out in one day at school for Mylo!

So if you've been wondering what we've been off doing instead of blogging  - that's just a short whistle stop tour through our life lately.

I won't even begin to promise I'll be more regular in my posting....we all know what happened last time I did that...ha ha!

I'll just say I'll see ya again soon (ish.....!) and leave you with some cute pictures of these two - in between the busyness of life there's still plenty of time to reflect and enjoy them and their achievements and to enjoy doing life with them - they are such awesome kids!


this is what I find when I ask them to help make their beds - curled up on the floor together under a duvet - how could I be mad looking at these faces though?!

I love that they were so utterly enthralled with the latest series of Britain's Got Talent they didn't even know I was taking this shot - to be fair we've all been glued to the screen all week waiting to see who is going to win!


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