25 April 2014

Things I'm Loving: The Awesomeness of LEGO, A Dog's Show Memories, and Stunning Sand Art

I wholeheartedly believe that no matter what is happening in your life, there is always something you can be thankful for..no matter how simple it is.

Feel good inside 
With so much icky stuff that goes on out there in the big wide world, scenes like this do a lot to restore my faith in humanity. I know it's only an advert but even so.....I dare ya not to feel a few tears lurking after watching!

Sand like you've never seen it
I couldn't believe the amazing performance of this artist - her incredible and unique talent won Ukraine's Got Talent a few years back. This is her interpretation of World War II. Mesmerising. And talented with a capital T. Wow.

Things you didn't know about NZ
Loved this interesting set of facts about NZ - some things I knew but some I definitely didn't!

Love ya royals
I don't know about you but I thought Wills and Kate were just top notch. They didn't put a foot wrong, they were elegant, enthusiastic, good sports, embraced our Kiwi culture and were all class. It was a shame about the weather, with them encountering rain on just about every outing they had but they took it all in their stride. I hightailed it down to Civic Square for their walkabout and got a very quick shot of them with the Mayor near the Town Hall. I would be very proud to have them as my King and Queen one day. Republic - schmapublic!

The Lego Movie
'Everything was awesome' about this movie. You'll get that in joke if you've seen it. It was SO funny, SO clever, SO cool. And it had a lovely underlying human story as well. We'd been looking forward to seeing the movie for close to a year from when we saw the first trailer for it and it totally lived up to expectations.

A Dog's Show
Who watched and remembered the classic dog show trials on TV growing up? This was classic Sunday night TV right there. We would watch it while eating dinner before going out to church in the evening. When I was explaining to the boys about it, I found myself humming the theme tune pretty well. Here's a peek:

Hope you and yours are enjoying what is yet ANOTHER long weekend here in NZ.....whoop whoop!

Here's how you can join in this week:

Link up below with your blog post telling us what you're loving, and grab the Things I'm Loving button below for your post too. Don't forget to share the love by visiting all the other lovelies who have joined in - the linky is open till same time next week!

23 April 2014

15/52 and 16/52

Project 52: a portrait of my children once a week, every week in 2014.

Noah: I love your sense of adventure and your willingness to give things a go even when they are might seem a bit scary beforehand. Despite your nerves, you rode up the gondola in total awe of the views. You didn't hesitate to grab a helmet and jump on the even scarier chairlift and tackle your first ever luge experience.

You are our questioner. Every day a million different kind of questions. What's your favourite animal Mum? Who's your favourite Pirates of the Caribbean character? Would you eat a weta Mum like Bear Grylls? I love how interested you are in the world around you even if  on the odd occasion I might half secretly wish for a moment's respite from the mental gymnastics you constantly engage me in.

Mylo: the boy who knows his own mind. You whom we could not convince to get on that open-air chairlift for love nor money which meant you nearly missed the opportunity to ride on the luge altogether. Who emphatically now explains this as 'because I don't like heights Mum'. We didn't have any issues getting you behind the wheel of a 90 km/hr jet boat just a few hours later though!

You are the very same kid who rocked up to a game of Quiddler we were all in the middle of playing and sat down at the table picking up Daddy's cards that were laid down on the table saying 'well well what do we have here?'

The things you come out with kiddo, you really are the funny bone in our family.

And I loved the opportunity to photograph you both in one of the most scenic places in the world. It made for an amazing backdrop to bring the beauty I see in you to light for others to see also.

22 April 2014

Chocolate Orange Cake {Gluten-Free and Dairy-Free}

Who ever heard of putting a whole orange, peel and all in a cake? Well this recipe does just that and it WORKS. Lordy, does it work. This has got to be the closest thing to heaven that a chocolate orange lover could possibly ask for. I kid you not.

You'd expect a cake that looks and tastes so good to be difficult and take a long time to make. Nothing could be further from the truth. So here's how it's done:


1 whole orange
250ml water
125g caster sugar
100g ground almonds (almond flour)
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 eggs (separated)
200g dark chocolate (I use 72% Whittakers Dark Ghana)

1. Put the whole orange and 250ml water in a microwave-proof bowl with a lid (or cover with cling film) and microwave on high for 20 minutes (turn the orange over halfway through).

2. While this is cooking, melt the 200g of dark chocolate on the stove top.

3. Once the orange is cooked and cooled, carefully remove any pips, cut into quarters and then pulse in a food processor until a smooth puree.

4. Add the ground almonds, sugar, melted chocolate, baking powder and egg yolks into the food processor and blend until mixed.

5. Beat the egg whites in a separate bowl until stiff (but not dry) and then fold into the mixture.

6. Grease/line a cake tin and bake at 180 degrees for an hour. Cover with tin foil for half the time to prevent the cake from burning on top.

You can also make this into mini cakes/muffins by using muffin trays and cooking for approximately 20 minutes.

For other delicious recipes, visit here.

21 April 2014

How to have a cheap family holiday in Queenstown

You would expect that travelling to NZ's premier tourist attraction which attracts 2.7 million visitors every year would end up being a major outlay, but that was not the case. Here's how we had a cheap family holiday in Queenstown on a budget:


We were fortunate to have enough airpoints from our trip to England last year to be able to get flights Wellington-Christchurch and Queenstown-Wellington for four of us for FREE. However, if you are searching for flights, you can get them as little as $59 one way from Auckland on Jetstar, or $89 from Wellington on Air NZ without luggage.

Rental car 

This is where it came in VERY handy for us having a hubby who works for a rental car company. We were able to get a Kia Carnival 8-seater for FREE, and so only had to pay for petrol which from Christchurch - Queenstown plus all our day-tripping around whilst down there was under $200. However, you can get good deals by booking online with rental car companies well in advance or by using Flybuys or Entertainment book deals.


Finding nice accommodation for six people in a popular tourist destination could have proved a big challenge. However, we trawled through both the bookabach and holidayhouses websites and eventually found a fantastic option with this 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom property in Fernhill, a suburb up on the hill just out of the town centre with amazing views, and linen provided as well - which was essential when you're flying in and out with limited baggage. And at only $570 for 6 people for 3 nights - it was incredible value at $32 pp per night.


It's pretty much mandatory to do at least one adrenalin-type activity while in the adventure capital of NZ, so we cashed in 510 Flybuys and got return tickets to the Skyline gondola plus ten luge rides effectively for FREE. Nana and Poppa's 2 x adult tickets were $56 return just for the gondola.

At the last minute, after both being given some birthday money, we also decided to take advantage of the Shotover Jet family deal which was $299 for 2 adults and up to 2 children. We were so glad we did, it was so exhilarating!

We also let the kids pan for gold in Arrowtown at Dudley's Cottage ($20 - $10 each for the kids) and visited the fascinating and informative Lakes District Museum whilst there too - $32 for all six of us ($16 for the family plus two adults at $8).


The first night we were still driving en-route to Queenstown so had fish n chips in Cromwell, then the second night we made the most of the facilities at the house and had a home-cooked meal of meat, potatoes and salad, treating ourselves to a famous Queenstown institutuion - a Fergburger - on the last night - $60 for all 6 of us.

We also ate cafe lunches at Glenorchy Lodge one day, and Provisions Cafe in Arrowtown another day - their sticky buns are world famous! Approximate cost of food all up: $400.

So a cheap family holiday to Queenstown can certainly be done with a bit of planning and ingenuity.

Cost to us for 6 people to Queenstown for 3 nights: less than $2,000 or around $300 per person.

Memories made: priceless.

18 April 2014

Autumn is amazing in Arrowtown

One of the things I had most been looking forward to on our trip to Queenstown was the opportunity to capture the vibrant autumn colours. Living in Wellington, we have so many native trees that autumn colours are few and far between. And I knew we were going early in the season but I was just hoping and praying and willing there to be a glorious array of russet browns, canary yellows, ochre oranges and burgundy reds on display.

We'd been so favoured with the weather the previous day - a T-shirt and shorts kind of day, that it was quite the shock to the system to wake to a dull, gloomy and chilly day - it didn't get above 10 degrees all day.

Still, this didn't put a dampener on our plans at all. If anything the grey day added to the mood making it seem much more autumnal, and it made us really appreciate the warmth of the times we stepped indoors during the day.

Arrowtown is very famous for its autumn colours. So much so that every year the town hosts an Autumn festival in late April to celebrate their special place amongst the colours of the countryside.

The first thing we did on arriving was take a wander down the main street getting as close to the hillsides ablaze in glory as we could.

This guy came dressed for the occasion.

These boys, this place. Wowed me.

I also loved how the houses here have been kept as they were, so in style with their historic roots.

The leaves in the guttering adding to the character of these quaint wee cottages.

Then the warmth of a cafe and lunch called. We settled on Provisions - which is world famous in NZ for its sticky buns - there are foodie people all over the walls like Peta Mathias and Al Brown who have attested to that fact.

There are a wide selection of homemade jams and relishes on display to taste.

And a range of freshly baked bread that would rival most bakeries.

And the famous sticky buns. We couldn't NOT give them a whirl - and they were pretty out of this world.

Mark and Poppa declared the coffees to be superb. They may or may not have responsible for the caffeine surge that inspired the next photo.

The boys were dead keen to have a go at the gold panning at Dudley's Cottage.

With a little bit of expert tuition and patience....

....some crafty techniques...sloshing the water and rocks here and there at certain angles.....

.....and eventually........gold!

OK so just a few tiny skerricks but gold that they could keep forever in a little vial nonetheless.

They were chuffed to bits.

After this we walked along the river learning about the Chinese settlers who came and worked on the goldfields. What a hard life they must have had. This is Mark inside one of their huts. 

It's hard to imagine someone living in such primitive conditions, especially through the harsh southern winters. It was cold enough here today in early autumn, I hate to think how cold it would have been in the depths of winter with snow on the ground.

These men had often come on their own leaving their families behind in China seeking to earn enough money to send back home to improve their lives. They were often the subject of discrimination here too, it must have been such a hard life. Census records show up to 5,000 Chinese were living in the region during the 1870's, only nine of these women.

Our last stop of the day was the Lakes District Museum. It's a fairly unassuming building from the outside but very worth the visit. The bottom level has a full re-creation of a number of different livelihoods - carpenters, printers, bakers - there's even a school complete with old school desks, inkwells and an abacus. Poppa enjoyed telling us about what school was like in his day.

The boys were also merrily amused by the old sign saying 'lavatory' and when you pulled open the swing door there was a man (not real of course) sitting there on the loo saying 'oi you, can't you see I'm busy'. It gave me quite the fright when I opened the door the first time, so I then had to show the boys who opened the door multiple times giggling away at the rudeness of it.

Then the pull of the colours awaiting pulled us outdoors once more. 

Gelatos at Patagonia Chocolates followed for our brave kiddos who didn't seemed to mind eating cold on a cold day.

And just as quickly as we had come, it was time to leave.

To leave behind memories of golden light, and of the fifteen years of love that led us to this very moment.

These two were a mere twinkle in our eyes the last time we were in this part of the world..

I could never have imagined how much richer, broader and deeper our lives would be for sharing experiences like this with them.

Who knows what their future holds? At this point in their lives, the world is theirs for the choosing.

We hope that experiences like this serve to broaden their horizons and instill in them the same love of life, travel and adventure that has inspired so many of our wonderful wanderlust moments over the years.

It's our legacy to share. 

And theirs to carry on.


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