30 April 2014

A walk around Lake Mangamahoe {An MNM's family adventure}

A weekend away in Taranaki wouldn't be complete without a family adventure. After all it's what we MNM's love doing most.

I've been coming to Taranaki for weekends and holidays my whole life, so I'm not sure how it's possible I'd never done the walk around Lake Mangamahoe until now. Although let's face it, with little four and a half year old legs along for the journey, that'll at least explain why we hadn't attempted it for the past few years.

And knowing what these little legs are now capable of (like a nearly 10km walk to the Blue Spring at Christmas time and a good hour's walk on the Routeburn track north of Queenstown) the time was certainly right to try!

We'd looked up the walk information on the NPDC website and saw that the track was graded a 2-hour medium/hard walk so we were reserving judgement about whether we'd actually make it right around the lake. But again, little legs surprised us, and it helped that we had lots of stops for water and crackers along the way.

The lake is situated 10km south of New Plymouth on SH3, the road to Inglewood. There are two different car parks from which to start the walk - we chose the first car park and walked anti-clockwise around the lake. This worked well as it meant we got the steepest part of the walk out of the way first before little legs got too tired!

The walk starts in the bush and you have to cross two of the most rickety swing bridges I've seen in a while. Not to mention the fact that it was only AFTER we'd all walked across the first one at the same time and been silly bouncing around on it (as you do with a swing bridge!) that we saw the sign that said 'maximum 2 persons at one time'. Whoops - oh well we are still here to tell the tale so all's well that ends well.

There's a significant uphill slog till you reach a gorgeous viewpoint looking north over the lake in the pine forest, and not long after that you come to the redwood plantation that was planted in 1931 - Californian redwoods are the tallest species of trees in the world and it certainly felt that way looking up up and away into the canopy.

After this, you have a choice to take the high route or the low route down to the lake so we chose the latter and meandered along beside the lake until another big uphill took us out onto the top of the ridge amongst juvenile pine trees where we could look back on Mt Taranaki in all its glory - very barren at this time of year as it awaits its first cloaking of snow and reminiscent of the time of the year when we climbed it some nine years ago pre-children.

From here, the path winds back down to the dam, also constructed in 1931 to form the lake which, fed from the Waiwakaiho River and Mangamahoe streams, forms part of the Trustpower power scheme in the area. The lake also provides drinking water for the New Plymouth district so no swimming or boating is allowed in the lake.

On a good day (like we had) the views back towards the mountain are pretty special.

Now that little (and big) legs were getting a little weary, it was a very welcome relief to meander along the lake on a nice flat road all the way back down to the lower car park. Although the walk states 2 hours, we completed the walk in 1 hour 40 and we weren't going particularly fast, stopping several times for snacks and to admire the views.

If you still want to visit the lake but don't fancy doing the whole walk, just drive to the upper car park and take a walk to the dam (in less than five minutes) for the best views of the mountain, or pack a picnic lunch and enjoy it at one of the many picnic areas along the lake side amongst an abundance of birdlife.

28 April 2014


A portrait of my children once a week, every week in 2014

Mylo: this time a week ago you couldn't ride a bike and now you can. And that's just how you roll my friend.

It took a significant amount of persuasion those first ten or so minutes down at the local school that you could indeed do this. We thought we were going to have World War III on our hands. But we very quickly progressed from holding your back and handlebars, to just holding your back, to just starting you off to not being needed at all. And you zoomed around the school tennis court faster and faster with each and every lap. Every time we thought you would stop, you would say 'I can do more' and off you would go.

We built on that confidence by taking you down to Karori Park the same afternoon where you biked 2.5 laps (which is 2.5km!).

And only 5 days later, here you are zooming up and down the coastal walkway in New Plymouth where even biking a zig zag course between the big wooden block seats has become child's play to you.

On the way home from Taranaki, you cracked us all up in the car when you quite accidentally said 'corn turner' instead of 'turn corner'.  You never fail to bring us a smile my boy.

Noah: you amaze us with your stamina. It's very rare, if not impossible to wear you out. You are always willing to go one more lap, one more mile, have one more turn, or go for one more minute. Even a 6km walk around a lake on what was a medium/hard graded track was no problem and there were absolutely no complaints from you. You were too busy enjoying the moment to even think about being tired.

On your ride down the coastal walkway, your eagle eyes spotted a whole bunch of crabs a long way down on the rocks. They were very hard to spot, camouflaged as they were so it was a great find and you were so excited to be able to show them to me. You quite fancy yourself as a mini Bear Grylls these days, but I'm still not sure you'd be that quick to pick these guys up, they were rather large as crabs go!

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.


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