We left Kerikeri, stopping at the supermarket for picnic lunch food, heading up to our accommodation in Pukenui. We stopped briefly at Cable Bay to stretch our legs. I would have been happy to sit all day at this beach with it’s beautiful golden sand and rockpools to explore.
We continued on our way turning right onto the Karikari Peninsula, driving all the way to the end of the peninsula arriving at Matai Bay. This is a lovely calm beach with very gentle waves and beautiful crystal clear water, just perfect for swimming . There are rock pools to explore too. You will need to bring your own food as there’s nowhere to purchase anything. We took a picnic lunch.
There are public toilets and showers to rinse off the salt water next to the DoC camping ground.
We arrived at our motel in Pukenui (Pukenui Lodge Motel) around 5pm and made use of the lovely pool before popping across the road to the well stocked 4 Square supermarket to buy ingredients for dinner (steak and salad making use of the impeccably clean bbq available at the motel). The motel is basic but had everything we needed and was very clean. The rates are very reasonable and the hosts are friendly and helpful. The motel has a fabulous view over the Houhora Harbour.
Day 2. Matauri Bay, Paihia, Waitangi Treaty Grounds
Read Day 1 of our Northland and Bay of Islands Roadtrip here.
On Day 2 we drove around 30 minutes through remote farmland from Kerikeri to Matauri Bay for the morning. The main road up North heads through the middle of the Island and to get to the beaches you need to take winding roads through farmland which finally turn to gravel roads through bush which open out to the most stunning beaches.
Matauri Bay has great surf for body surfing and boogie boarding and we kept our eyes pealed for dolphins as some had been spotted there the day before but didn’t see any. Our kids had hours of fun boogie boarding and splashing in the waves.
The climb to the Rainbow Warrior memorial on top of one of the headland hills by the bay (camping ground end) is well worth it for stunning views of beautiful bays, beaches and islands in every direction.
Later in the afternoon we drove the 20 minutes from Kerikeri to Paihia in the Bay of Islands where we visited the Waitangi Treaty Grounds. Entry costs $25 per adult and kids under 18 are free. The entry cost includes a guided tour, entrance to the museum and a cultural performance.
We really enjoyed the guided tour but unfortunately arrived too late in the day to take both the tour and view the cultural performance. We had just enough time to go through the museum and take the tour before closing time at 6pm.
On our way back to Kerikeri we stopped in Paihia for Movenpick icecream and sushi.
Many New Zealanders take their summer vacation (or holiday as we say in New Zealand) over the Christmas and New Year period and start back at work in the second week of January. This is the peak holiday time in New Zealand so travelling later in January will avoid this peak holiday rush.
School doesn’t go back until the end of January or early February so a lot of families will still be away on holiday throughout the month of January. The weather remains warm throughout February and into March.
Our family (my husband Kris and I with four of our children aged 7, 10, 13 and 14) decided we’d take a Road Trip around Northland and the Bay of Islands, a region only Kris has been to before (many years ago), together with Kris’s sister and her family in the second week of January.
Day 1: We began our road trip to Northland and the Bay of Islands in Auckland.
We flew into Auckland airport around 3pm and Kris’s sister and her family were there to meet us (with a vehicle for us) so we loaded up the car and set off by 3.30pm.
The drive to Kerikeri from Auckland airport takes around 3 hours.
There are several small towns you can stop at along the way but as with the rest of Northland I was surprised at how sparsely populated the area is so the majority of time is spent driving through farmland (once you leave Auckland city that is).
We stopped in Waipu for dinner. The restaurant my sister-in-law wanted to take us to was absolutely packed (on a Monday night!) so we ended up getting Fish and Chips for everyone except me. I popped across the road and ordered a yummy Indian Biryani since I am gluten free.
We pulled in for another brief stop in Kawakawa to have a look at the famous Hundertwasser public toilets. It is hard to see but there is actually a tree growing up through the roof (notice the tree trunk in the photo below?) so you can see the top of the tree over the roof which is planted in grasses.
There were some neat mosaic murals and art works along the street including this neat New Zealand native birds couch in Kawakawa.
In Kerikeri we stayed with my Brother-in-law’s family. All the kids slept in tents while the adults slept in the house. It was so hot and humid at night, I think the kids may have slept better outside since it was a bit cooler than inside!
Kerikeri has a very sub-tropical feel to it, both in temperature, humidity and the variety of plants growing such as banana palms! Everything was so lush and green. This was my first time north of Auckland so it was a real eye-opener to see how tropical it is.
Our trip took place during the second week of January so was mid-summer and temperatures were around 29 degrees celcius each day, dropping to around 19 degrees overnight.
It’s so funny that even though we have talked about so many things, we’ve never talked about our planners. What’s funnier is that we both love Kikki.K and didn’t know that too. Goes to show how you can know a person for a long time but still get to learn something new about them.
Now that I have seen your planner and love it, I thought I’ll go ahead and show you my journal and planner that I got this year as you are enjoying your summer holidays in Gisborne with family, and won’t be back for another couple of weeks.
Every year, a couple of months before the end of the year, my big search for the New Year’s journal starts.
I have always been a journal writer. Not a regular day to day journaling type but simply one to put in writing, of what I’m thinking, feeling , things that interest me, concerns me and special things that need to be safely tucked away in memory.
I also used it as my planner.
In 2015, my husband got me my first Kikki. K planner.
From then on I’ve had a separate journal and a planner.
This year my journal is from K mart and I love it. Hard bound , without dates , I write when I want to without worrying about empty pages on days I don’t write.
The two things that drew me to this journal, were the colour and the quote on top of it.
The Kikki .K planner I got also has a quote. ‘Today is the day’. Appropriate for the eternal procrastinator in me.
With the lilac, pink ,grey and white colour scheme , stripes and polka dots, what’s not to love?
After using different Kikki.K planners before, I have finally figured out that I prefer the medium leather bound planner, with a stud button closure, elastic pen holder, 6-ring binder with refillable sections
(I’ve added my pouch to hold pens and extra pages and stickers from my previous planner into it.)
Two card holders 1 open pocket and two note pad slots
‘Enjoy Today’ quote on the notepad reminds me , to take small steps and not be overly worried about the mile long things to do on my list.
7 tab dividers with 3 customisable blank tabs. Plus 2 pre-labelled and customisable sticker sheets
stickers with cute reminders, my love for stickers and tapes haven’t left me at all!
Other features I love are the flexibility of perpetual calendar with the Monthly vertical view birthday page, monthly columns in the front of the page and weekly horizontal view page with enough space to write down the agenda/thoughts etc for the day.
Bullet point todo lis pages with space for top priorities.
The option of customising the planner to suit my lifestyle plus their motto
“inspire and empower people to live their best life everyday. “ has my vote every time.
They do have an option to monogram the planner . I didn’t use it this time. I do miss the personal information page and the extra motivational/inspiration sheets they usually have in this journal. I can’t complain though, as you see, this year I was really lucky to get a great deal in store and paid only $27 for my planner. (With such a wonderful score, I may give into impulse and get a couple of their inspirational sticker sheets. They have some great sale going on in store right now.)
I am aware that I may not get lucky like this every time and since I’ve now found the size and type I find most practical for me, I’ve already created a little saving account for my planner Next Year! If that is not pre – planning, I don’t know what is . 😀
I love the fresh beginning of a new year, making plans for the year to come and reminiscing over the year that has passed.
One of the joys in the new year for me is a new diary. I don’t keep a diary as a journal but as a place to try and keep order in my chaotic life! It’s not easy keeping on top of things when you have a large family so a diary is a must for me.
My gorgeous new Inspiration Diary from Kikki-K, “Every Day is a New Beginning.”
I’m definitely more a Paper than a digital list-maker too. There is something so satisfying in putting pen to paper, creating a list and then crossing items off the list.
By the end of each week my diary is a filled-in scribbled on mess. Everything is jotted down from appointment times, menu plans, phone messages and to-do lists. Each Monday I love turning over to a fresh page for the week.
Two years ago I received a Kikki K diary from my family for Christmas and loved it so much I decided I would purchase from Kikki K the next year. Prior to this I would grab any old cheap diary on sale as long as it had a week over two pages.
Last year I saw a diary I loved and wanted, at Kikki K but I wasn’t willing to pay full price so waited hoping it would go on sale but it sold out before then. I ended up purchasing the cheapest diary on offer and regretted it all year. It wasn’t the style or ‘look’ I was after and I took great pleasure throwing it in the recycling bin before we went away on holiday for Christmas.
This year I saw the diary I wanted in October and my Mum offered to buy it for me for my birthday (23 December). I was thrilled and delighted to open it up once we arrived in Gisborne on my birthday and decided I’ll never again wait for a sale if I see the diary I’d like. It is a book I look at and write in daily, I carry it with me in my bag and plan each week in it. If I take pleasure simply from using it I’d say it’s well worth paying full price (or requesting it as a gift – thank you Mum) and if it’s on sale – even better! Now I just need to get the matching pen!
Yearly reflection including top 10 highlights of last year, 5 things I achieved, 5 good things I did for others, 5 things I’m grateful for and 5 things I learnt last year.
Yearly goals and planning.
Weekly planning pages including priority list, weekly goals, to do list, daily gratitude, dinner plan and habits. I love these weekly lists and especially the reminder to be grateful for something every day.
Monthly reflection page. I appreciate the inspirational quotes on each page. “There is always something to be thankful for.”
This is not a sponsored post, I just love my new diary and want to share the love! I filled in the reflection and yearly goals pages last night and I’m ready for the New Year (and I love that it starts on a Monday)!
This salad is so delicious. The bright colours and flavours of tart and sweet cranberries, crunchy carrots, tangy red onion and spring onion, fresh parsley, nutty roasted almonds and creamy curry dressing marry together to create a salad that is sure to invite compliments whenever it is served.
It can be made the day before and keeps well in the fridge for several days.
1 cup uncooked rice (or couscous or quinoa)
1/2 cup carrots, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup parsley finely chopped
1/2 cup dried cranberries (or currants)
1/4 cup roasted slivered almonds
2 spring onions finely sliced
1/4 cup finely diced red onion
1/4 cup plain yoghurt
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp curry powder
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp each salt and pepper (or to taste)
1. Cook rice (or couscous or quinoa, I’ve used both successfully) as per instructions. Let cool and then chill in the fridge.
2. Combine chilled rice with carrots, parsley, cranberries, almonds, spring onions and red onion.
3. Combine dressing ingredients and pour over salad.
4. Stir gently to combine dressing with salad. Chill before serving.
This recipe is easy to double or triple and keeps well in the fridge for several days.
It is also an easy recipe to adjust according to your own taste and preference.
As the recipe states, you can use rice, quinoa or couscous (couscous is not gluten free) and it works well with any of these. I sometimes like to add extra dressing.
Recently my Mum, daughter, a friend with her daughter and I visited The Mona Vale Pantry for brunch before my daughter went off to a year 12 exam.
The beautiful historic Mona Vale Homestead houses the cafe with views out toward the Avon River. On a sunny day there is outdoor seating available.
The Full Breakfast was my choice. I asked for the gluten free option so was given GF toast in place of the regular toast and was interested to see that the black pudding croquette was simply omitted and not replaced with another item ( I asked for the GF option and was not told which items in the dish would need to be replaced or omitted). I was looking forward to trying the black pudding croquette as it sounds like something so out of the ordinary but was still very happy with this dish. The scrambled eggs on toast, bacon, sausage, mushroom and tomato really hit the spot.
My Mum chose the Brioche Waffle with caramelised banana, bacon and rose yoghurt and said it was absolutely delicious. The presentation was beautiful and it tasted as good as it looked.
Confit Duck Omelet was my daughter’s choice and she thought it was absolutely delicious. She wanted to try something different to the eggs benedict she’d usually choose for breakfast and she was so glad she tried this. The Confit Duck Omelet came with pickled cucumber, hot and sour salad and XO sauce and is also gluten free and dairy free.
The beautiful fire place in the entrance foyer of the Homestead.
Looking through a door into one section of the dining area. We loved the archway nook and the rich furnishings and decorating which gave the place a comfortable and homey feel as well as lending an air of luxury.
Another dining room with access to the outdoor seating area. You may just be able to see the tiered plates with delectable high tea indulgences on that centre table. The High Tea looked amazing.
Looking happy with our brunch. My friend and her daughter chose the Devonshire Tea (two scones with jam and clotted cream with your choice of hot drink) as they’d already eaten breakfast. My friend said the scone was the best she’d ever had!
The Mona Vale Pantry has an all day breakfast with caters for breakfast, brunch and lunch, morning and afternoon teas and the boutique high teas.
With lots of gluten free options (including a gluten free high tea) we will definitely be back.
The Mona Vale gardens and historic homestead are a beautiful place to visit for tourists visiting Christchurch and local Cantabrians alike.
Accessed by foot from Fendalton Rd, or by car from Mona Vale Avenue (free carparking on site), these stunning gardens are situated on the banks of the Avon River near Hagley Park.
The gardens comprise of Rose Gardens, an historic Fernery dating from 1907, Lily Pond, Iris Gardens and significant plantings of European and English trees with well established woodland style plantings. The daffodil gardens are a must-see in spring.
The historical Mona Vale Homestead was built in 1899-1900 and has been restored following the Christchurch Earthquakes in 2011. Other historical buildings on the site include the Gate House and Bath House.
Prior to the earthquakes the Homestead was a popular wedding venue and cafe. Following repairs after damage sustained in the earthquakes, the cafe has reopened as The Homestead Pantry and I would highly recommend a visit. We recently enjoyed a lovely brunch but they also serve breakfast, lunch, morning and afternoon tea and indulgent Boutique High Teas (including gluten free).
We have been visiting Mona Vale Gardens since we moved to Christchurch in 2002 and have many happy memories wandering through the gardens with our children and in fact our eldest daughter who was married this year had her wedding photos taken at Mona Vale!
All wedding photos taken at Mona Vale in the gardens and in the Homestead are by the very talented Agnes, of Agnes Grace Photography
The land on which Mona Vale Homestead stands was once owned by the Deans brothers whose own homestead was Riccarton House. Frederick and Alice Waymouth purchased 4 acres of land and commissioned architect Joseph Clarkson Maddison to design their homestead now known as Mona Vale which was originally named Karewa by Waymouth.
In summer there are often Shakespeare plays held on the lawn which forms a perfect outdoor theatre with performers on one gently sloped lawn and the audience reclining on fold-up chairs and picnic blankets on the other side.
Take your time wandering through the gardens, following pathways and exploring this gorgeous historic homestead. The weir built in the Avon river in the 19th century, which became the Mona Vale Mill Pond still exists today. This was built by William Derisley Wood and the Riccarton Flour Mill was situation on the site that is now Christchurch Girls’ High School.
Looking through and archway to the Rose Gardens with the Fernery in the background.
Lush green Rose Garden in spring with peonies in the foreground.
Looking through the open gates to the historic Fernery which was reassembled on this site following it’s display at the New Zealand International Exhibition held in Hagley Park in 1907. The owner of Mona Vale at that time, Annie Quayle Townend, purchased the Fernery complete with it’s plants and had it reassembled here. Annie renamed the homestead Mona Vale, after her mother’s house in Tasmania, when she purchased it in 1905.
A towering fern inside the Fernery which also has a pond with stepping stones.
Cool and shaded, the Fernery is like a secret garden, begging to be explored. I love these cast iron window grates through which you can look out into the Rose Garden.
The underside of a silver fern in the Fernery.
If you’ve never been to Mona Vale I would highly recommend you pack a picnic and spend an afternoon relaxing on the lawn and exploring the grounds. A visit to the cafe The Mona Vale Pantry is also highly recommended (review post coming soon!)
This is a season of parties. Christmas party, Year End party, New Year party, BBQ party and one dish that will be a hit as a party appetiser, I promise, is the Meat Croquettes (or Meat Cutlets).
Although these are called Croquettes here and the rest of the world, growing up in South India, we have only known these as cutlets. They make a great tea time snack and my early memory of having these croquettes was at a beach. Cool sea breeze, soft swash of the waves and the scent of the sea in the air, chomping away on hot cutlets, playing catch and digging our feet into the grainy sand vividly stands out in my memory. Food always takes me down memory lane.
My kids love these meat croquettes. I make them in a batches and freeze them to use when they ask for it. The meat croquettes are easy like that. It can be made ahead, frozen and fried just before the party. Its just so crunchy to bite into, so lip smacking good, that they will disappear in no time! Ask my family and they will tell you. These are a huge hit every time I’ve made them!!
I had been making meat croquettes a different way for a long time. Then, by chance I happened to make croquettes with meat left over from Mutton curry I had made earlier…. and everything changed!!
I really liked the texture of the meat I got as a result and haven’t gone back to the old one.
I have made this on several occasions . For parties, picnics, travel, camping. I serve it as a snack or as a side dish. I also use it as a burger and make sandwiches too.
500 gms Lean Meat ( we get stew meat here, which is very handy)
3 medium potatoes
1 large onion (chopped finely)
2 green chillies ( chopped finely)
1” piece ginger (chopped finely)
a little coriander leaves (optional)
To Marinate: 1tbsp ginger garlic paste
1/4 tsp turmeric
1 tsp coriander powder*
1 tsp chilli powder (mild)*
1 tsp Garam Masala powder (you can buy Garam Masala from the Indian store to save time. I prefer Eastern Royal Garam Masala)
Curry leaves, a few (optional)
1 1/2 -2 cups bread crumbs
Oil to shallow fry, saute
Salt and Pepper to taste.
Marinate the meat with the chilli powder, coriander powder, ginger garlic paste, salt and pepper, keep aside for half an hour.
**Then pressure cook for 20 mins with no water or very little water.
When done and cooled put it in a mixie (food processor) and pulse it , coarsely This is the texture you are going for.Boil the potatoes, remove the skin and mash it well with a potato masher.Beat the eggs lightly , mix with salt and pepper to taste and keep aside
Mix the meat and mashed potato well together.Keep aside.
Pour oil in a skillet and saute the finely chopped onion, when they turn limp add the finely chopped ginger and chopped chilli.Saute for a couple more minutes till the onions turn pink. Switch off stove. Allow to cool for a few minutes.Mix the sauteed onion mixture with the mashed potato meat mixture.Roll into balls.Flatten them to your desired shapeDip in the Egg mixtureRoll out in bread crumbsDeep fry in oil. When they turn golden brown, drain and remove on to paper towels.
Cook Book Scribbles :
Make sure the meat/ potato mixture is dry and not too loose.
The Oil needs to be almost smoking hot to prevent the croquettes from breaking
Also make sure the oil covers the croquettes completely, again to prevent the cutlets from breaking.
If you want to make it Gluten Free, you can dip the croquettes only in the egg mixture, skip dipping in the bread crumbs. You will not have a crispy outer cover but the taste does not differ much. OR use Gluten Free Bread Crumbs.
I use the term Meat Croquette because you can either use beef , mutton, or chicken
*The spice levels with the chilli powder, coriander powder and the pepper powder can be reduced to half (or increased) according to taste
** If you do not have a pressure cooker, use a thick bottomed pan, keep the heat on medium to medium high. Close and let it cook without adding any water for 20- 25 mins. The Meat will cook in its own juices.
The croquettes freeze really well,so you can make a big batch of the bread crumb coated croquettes , days before a party or dinner or just so you have them handy for hungry kids and fry them straight out of the fridge without thawing…. in that case, take care not to burn the croquettes.
Having witnessed this restaurant being built from scratch, we have wanted to try this restaurant for a while now. Situated in the Landing area of Wigram Suburb, in Christchurch,the Good Home , Wigram restaurant has a spacious outdoor seating area . One is greeted by a warm, relaxed atmosphere as one walks in. The large open space with comfortable sofas for seating, dark modern art deco floral wallpaper ceiling, the wooden bead board on the side of the wall,the display cabinets with little knick knacks and books, the large TV above an artificial fireplace, not to mention the white piano ,all create a homely, relaxed and very pleasing ambiance.The friendly and attentive staff in their checkered blue, red and white shirt and jeans uniforms (which was a welcome change from the drab black and white one usually sees in restaurants) added on to the cheery and easy vibe that the restaurant exuded. We ordered the Summer Salad, and requested the Gluten free version for the toasts and Mussels steamed in thai green curry. The service time was good as we had enough time to catch up on all the weekly news,but did not have to wait too long.
The flavours of the salad with Gluten free toast, goat cheese, salad greens, toasted walnuts, pear and beetroot with lemon vinaigrette all worked very well together . It was a fresh and refreshing side to have with the other dish we ordered .The other dish we ordered was the Mussels steamed in Thai green curry. This Mussels dish came with toast and fries. Again we requested Gluten free toast which the staff accommodated for us.Speaking of the Mussels dish, the Thai green curry was so flavourful and yummy, that we wiped the plate clean! The mussels themselves were seasoned just right, juicy , tender and cooked just right. The Good Home Wigram offers great value for money as the portions are quite large. Plus they offer a good selection on the menu to cater to all the ages, with a kids menu and pizza too on their Menu.
The Good Home Wigram is definitely a great place to visit for lunch or dinner with friends or family.
This delicious broccoli cauliflower salad has been a family favourite for years now. This is the only way my boys will eat broccoli and cauliflower . Its so tasty, so simple, does not take too much time to make , makes my family eat their veggies and is a great potluck/ BBQ side to have. Above all else, this salad can be made ahead of time for fuss free entertaining.
2 cups each broccoli and cauliflower florets ( blanched)
1 red pepper, cut into strips
1-1/2 cups chopped cooked boneless skinless chicken breasts ( I cooked the chicken with salt and pepper to taste and then chopped them)
1/2 cup Light Ranch Dressing ( I used fat free ranch)
1 cup Natural Colby& light cheddar (grated)
4 slices Bacon, cooked, crumbled .
Salt and pepper to taste
a pinch of sugar.
Combine vegetables and chicken in large bowl. Add dressing; toss to coat.
Choosing gifts for toddlers and preschoolers is so much fun but can lead to a full toy box which hardly gets looked at. My advice is try to stick with classic toys or sets which can be added to over time. Quality toys, designed for little hands, will be returned to again and again so choose timeless classics rather than branded toys which children tend to lose interest in.
Duplo building blocks are a classic toy which will last many years. I prefer the classic Duplo, simple coloured building blocks, rather than the themed sets.
Duplo building plates or base plates are a great starting block for a Duplo creation and a great addition to a Duplo set.
Play food, pots and pans
Little ones can spend hours playing with play cooking sets and wooden play food. I love the Green Toys brand tea set and cooking set. They’re chunky, sturdy enough to cope with preschool play and look gorgeous, plus they’re made from 100% recycled plastic and are BPA and phthalate free and dishwasher safe!
Wooden table and chairs
A child-size wooden table and chair set is a classic item which will get many years use in your home. Keep it in the living area so small ones can sit at the table and play with playdough or play food and pots as you are cooking dinner.
As they get older it will make a great art and craft table.
A train set is a classic toy set which can be added to each year at birthdays and Christmas and will bring joy to a wide age range. Take time to set up the tracks with your children. You will find they love complicated track setups.
You can choose from wooden or plastic tracks and push-along or battery driven trains. Accessories like tunnels and bridges are fun additions to a track setup.
A baby doll or if you already have one, accessories like a doll stroller, sling or wooden doll cot are items little children love to play with. Blankets and easy to remove clothing and nappies/diapers (fitted cloth nappies/diapers with velcro or snaps) for dolls will also be firm favorites.
Balance bikes are a fantastic gift for preschoolers as they are usually keen to ride for much longer than they’re happy to walk. Paired with a quality helmet this would make a great present. Be aware that kids can take off on their bikes and get a decent way ahead of a walking parent so it is wise to keep young ones close and not be given free rein unless you’re walking along a safe path. Check out this article on how to choose a balance bike for your child.
Children love being read to so you can never go wrong with books.
Board books with sturdy pages are great for little ones. Some of our favourites have been Hairy Maclary by Lynley Dodd, The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle, The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister, Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes by Mem Fox, Peepo by Janet and Allen Ahlberg, The Little Yellow Digger by Betty and Allan Gilderdale, I will Never Not Ever Eat a Tomato by Lauren Child, Guess How Much I love You by Sam McBratney and Alfie books by Shirley Hughes.
Farm animals or in fact any set of animal figurines, whether farm or wild animals make a great gift for preschoolers. Schleich make true-to-life miniature animals which make a great collectible toy set that can be added to each year.
Cars and vehicles
Tough and chunky toy vehicles are a great choice. Fisher Price Little People have some fun vehicle sets. Green Toys also have a range of toy vehicles.
If you prefer wooden vehicles check out the range at Kilmarnock Enterprises.
Older preschoolers love HotWheels or Matchbox cars as they’re small enough to carry one in each hand when out and about.
A photo book
Create a photo book online or simply put together a photo album of your family. Children love to have a book all about themselves and their family members. This might be as simple as a photo of each member of the family including pets, with their names, or elaborate as a story all about your child’s first day at kindy or a holiday or even a scrapbook of events through the year.
Teenage boys are not the easiest people to shop any time of the year. With Christmas just around the corner,I wrote down a few things that although stereotypical , have been requested and has been a hit with them before when received ,not just for the festive season but also for birthdays
Cash money. (This is a top requested thing. However, I prefer gift cards because I know it will be spent where it is intended to be spent.)
Gift cards. (Almost all the major stores have Gift cards available from $10 and upwards. )
Tickets to a movie or an entertainment park
wireless ear plugs
Art for their rooms
Comfortable lounge wear
Point and Shoot Camera
Book ( depending on their area of interest..Guinness book of records for example)
I like to shop for men’s line in Body Shop. They have some unisex products and some yummy smelling body products for Men .
This Kale Salad is so delicious. My Dad brought the recipe back from friends in Canada and I have tweaked the recipe to make it my own.
If you haven’t tried Kale before, or if you’ve tried Kale but haven’t enjoyed it, I would urge you to give this recipe a try.
The Kale leaves go from being tough and fibrous, to tender and delicious once the olive oil is added. In fact this Salad is better made the day before to allow the flavours to develop and the Kale to soften beautifully. I like to make this Kale Salad the night before, usually late in the evening as the house begins to quieten down but it can be made in the morning or even just several hours before serving. Since we discovered how yummy the leftovers are the day after, I’ve been making this salad the day before.
Remove the leaves from the tough fibrous stems. Discard the stems.
Chop the leaves in slices. I like to slice them about 5mm-10mm wide. It does not need to be finely shredded.
Pour the olive oil over the sliced Kale. The amount of olive oil you need with depend on the type of Kale used.
Gently mix until all the leaves are coated with all and look shiny and glossy. If you need to add more oil go ahead. The leave should be fully coated but there should not be oil pooling at the bottom of the bowl. Squeeze the lemon over the leaves and mix again. There is no need to massage the Kale to soften it as it will begin to soften on it’s own.
In a food processor place the parmesan cheese, roasted almonds, lemon rind, garlic cloves and salt.
Pulse until the mixture looks like coarse breadcrumbs (or see recipe below for Thermomix instructions).
Sprinkle the crumb mixture over the salad and toss gently to combine. Place olives over the salad. Refrigerate for several hours or overnight before serving.
I love leftovers for lunch so usually make extra salad to ensure we have lunches sorted for a few days. It’s delicious served with grilled cajun chicken or any grilled meat.
1 large bunch of Kale
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 whole lemon
4 cloves garlic
100g Parmesan cheese
100g roasted almonds
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup Kalamata Olives
Wash Kale and remove the fibrous stems.
Slice the leaves. I slice mine about 5-10mm wide. You don’t want to slice too finely, it should look rustic.
In a food processor (I use a Thermomix) place the Parmesan cheese (chopped in 1.5cm chunks), the roasted almonds, the 4 cloves of garlic (adjust to taste, sometimes I use more garlic), the lemon zest (I simply peel the rind using a peeler) and the salt.
Pulse until the mixture looks like coarse breadcrumbs.
In the Thermomix I mill for 5 seconds on speed 9, give the bowl a good shake around and then mill for a further 2 seconds on speed 9.
Pour olive oil over the sliced Kale. Gently toss the Kale until each slice is coated with oil. You may need to add more olive oil, it depends on how large your bunch of Kale is. You want the leaves to be coated with oil so they become shiny and glossy. There should not be any oil pooling in the bottom of the bowl.
Squeeze over the lemon juice and mix gently.
Sprinkle the processed mixture over the Kale and gently mix until the Kale is coated.
Place olives over the salad.
Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. This salad will keep in the fridge for several days.
Nut free: to make this salad nut free simply replace the almonds with toasted breadcrumbs. The original recipe uses toasted breadcrumbs but I swapped these out in favour of toasted almonds to make the recipe gluten free and low carb.
In the nut free version I would simply sprinkle 1/2 cup – 1 cup of toasted almonds over the salad along with grated parmesan, salt, lemon zest and crushed garlic. Toss gently to combine. The breadcrumbs will sort of melt into the olive oil.
Especially delicious served with grilled meats and other salads, this Kale Salad is the perfect dish to serve at a BBQ or any shared meal over summer.
I usually buy curly Kale but I couldn’t find any at my local supermarket so we harvested our own Kale which is Russian Red Kale, a variety I haven’t grown or eaten before! It was much softer than the curly Kale.
Baby Kale leaves can also be used, just strip the leaves from the stems and slice or tear into small pieces.
Coconuts are abundant in my hometown , so it is widely used in our cuisine. Making coconut milk at home for using in Stew and some of the traditional dessert is very common, instead of using tinned coconut milk or powder.
Coconut milk is made in three stages. This first one being the thickest, the second one a little thinner and the third one is very light. The third milk is usually used for cooking the vegetables or meat for the gravy . Personally I prefer to cook them in the third milk as it enhances the taste of the gravy.
(This is a recipe that can be tailored as per need)
To make one cup of thick coconut milk.
2 cups of grated fresh coconut
3/4 th + 1 tbsp cup of warm water
First, pulse the freshly grated coconut for a second.Then add the warm water and blend till the coconut is all ground and appears milky.
Squeeze out the milk by wringing or pressing the blended coconut really well with your hands through a sieve or cheese cloth.
The FIRST blend of fresh coconut milk that is the thickest is the first milk.
Add water again to the the left over squeezed out coconut pulp and blend again , the consistency of the coconut milk gets thinner and this is the second milk.
Repeat the process and the third and Last blend is the thinnest coconut milk.
Cook Book Scribbles:
The most important thing to keep in mind when using the thick first coconut milk is to never let it boil (in the curry or stew etc) as it will curdle and spoil the taste.
If fresh coconut is not available, frozen fresh coconut can also be used . It is available at Yogiji Christchurch.
Dry desiccated coconut however, has not worked for me and Louise.
Today’s review is of the Curator’s House restaurant, set on the corner of the Botanic Gardens and the Avon River, near the Antigua Boat Sheds and the Hospital.
We wandered through the Botanic Gardens from Riccarton Ave to get to the Curator’s House, however, it is located on the edge of the city centre, on Rolleston Ave at the main entrance to the Christchurch Botanic Gardens.
The quaint Old English Tudor style building in which the restaurant is housed is surrounded by cottage style fruit and vegetable gardens. This heritage building was the original 1920’s residence of the curator of the Gardens.
Prior to this there was a Head Gardener’s cottage located within the footprint of the present day building built in 1872 and before this a small Government Gardener’s cottage existed on the same site.
Wandering down the garden path…..
There is plenty of outdoor seating with large sun umbrellas to provide shade. We chose to sit outside as it was a very warm sunny day and it was just lovely sitting outside enjoying our surroundings.
My eldest daughter and my Mum (whose birthday we were celebrating over lunch).
The staff were friendly but rushed and barely had time to stop and we had to ask for them to explain what tapas are and how to order from the tapas menu.
To start we ordered bread with a selection of dips and a tapas platter so we could taste a variety of tapas dishes. I was pleased that a lot of these dishes were gluten free so I was able to try most of them.
The calamari was the stand out tapas dish, the patatas bravas with aioli a close second along with the yummy dips with bread.
We could have chosen more from the tapas menu and shared several tapas for lunch but we were so tempted by the a la carte menu we decided to choose a main dish each.
My husband chose the venison with vinaigrette, cherry tomatoes, mushroom and potatoes. He enjoyed this dish, the venison was cooked to perfection and the crunchy vege crisps were delicious, but he didn’t find the meal amazing (and he tells me for this price he expects to be really ‘wowed’).
My Mum and I both ordered the slow cooked lamb shoulder which was melt-in-your-mouth delicious. Falling off the bone, this lamb shoulder was slow-cooked to perfection. The portion of lamb is huge! I would have loved a few more spring greens with this dish.
Mum loved the wine she bought to accompany her main so much that she ordered a second glass!
This delicious flavourful and fresh salad was the dish my daughter chose. I nibbled on her salad and really enjoyed the strong Mediterranean flavours. The price was reasonable too.
None of us thought we’d be able to fit in dessert but when we looked at the dessert menu we changed our minds and decided to splurge! We all ordered the Pannacotta de Chocolate – a silky chocolate pannacotta with morello cherries, candied almonds and espresso syrup, this really was the cherry on top!
Overall we thoroughly enjoyed our meal but due to the prices it isn’t a restaurant we can visit often.
Christchurch Botanic Gardens, located in Hagley Park in the heart of the city, are one of the most beautiful gardens I’ve visited.
This week I took a walk with my Mum and eldest daughter. We started at the West Bridge next to the carpark off Riccarton Ave (free parking) and walked along the river until we reached Rolleston Ave (where we had an amazing lunch at The Curator’s House).
This pathway takes you along the Avon river,
Past Water Gardens,
Through the New Zealand Gardens,
Beautiful shaded native bush pathways,
With stunning displays of native NZ trees like this Kakabeak in flower,
Tall stands of NZ native trees on the edge of the river,
Gently shaded pathways and gardens,
Opening out to beautiful green spaces.
Arching bridges over the clear Avon River.
Wide pathways with lush green lawns.
Dappled light under tall trees.
At this time of year you will be certain to spot ducklings. We were delighted to spot several groups of ducklings, especially these silver and brown Paradise ducklings with both their parents nearby.
Their parents marched them across the path and down the the river just before us, their Father in the front and the Mother duck following closely behind, quacking as she walked.
Into the clear water they went and delighted us with their diving antics. We also spotted several trout in the river.
A very common scene on the Avon river is Punting,
A leisurely boat ride up the river, pushed by a friendly guide’s long pole.
Making soy candles is simple and does not take long. Once finished you have gorgeous, professional looking candles to use and give away as gifts.
If you are a beginner I would recommend purchasing a soy candle making kit to get you started. I purchased a candle making kit which came with soy wax, wicks, fragrance oils and glass candle jars.
Other equipment you will need:
A clean pot to melt the wax
A jug for pouring
A hot glue gun to glue the wick tabs in to the jars (or you can buy stickers for this purpose or use a drop of wax)
Wick holders (I used a knife to keep the wick centred)
Scales to weigh the wax and fragrance oil
To begin measure your wax into the pot and set to a low heat to melt the wax.Stir wax as it melts to break up clumps.
Using a hot glue gun, apply a drop of glue on wick tab (or use a small piece of double sided tape or wick stickers).Position wick in the centre of the jar and press onto glass. Be careful not to have any glue (or tape) showing as it may be a fire risk. If you have tall glass jars you may need to use a knife or screwdriver to press down on the wick tab to stick it down.Pour melted wax into a jug to cool.
Once the wax is 40 degrees or less, the fragrance oil can be added. I used a ratio of 10-15% fragrance oil, to wax. Mix well.
Place your jars into a position where you can leave them to set. Pour melted wax carefully into jars until half full. Adjust wicks to stand in the centre (I used knives to help position the wicks) then pour in the rest of the wax.
Leave wax to cool. Ideally candles should not be moved until the wax is completely set (about 3-6 hours).
Excess soy wax can be poured into silicone mounds and made into soy wax melts.
Once your candles have set (after about 6 hours) it is time to trim the wicks with sharp scissors to 1 – 1.5cm above the level of soy wax. Leave candles to settle for a day before using (or packaging up to give away).
Label your candles. I used cute gift tags with gold thread. I popped the soy melts into a cellophane bag. When you burn your candle for the first time, allow the entire surface of the candle to melt right out to the edges of the glass. This will ensure you get an even melt pool.
Idiyappam or string hoppers is a very common and a very traditional breakfast dish in my part of South India. It is a very simple dish to make. Made with roasted rice flour , water and salt,and steamed in pressure cooker or a steamer , it is a dish that is well loved by adults and kids alike. It is also often prescribed by doctors as part of a soft meal diet for patients.
Idiyappam is one of those dishes that I never tried to make before I got married. Jacob however loved Idiyappams and that meant I had to learn how to make it , you know, the way to a man’s heart and all that, so I called my mom straight away to get the recipe . As it turned out, making the dough was a much easier task compared to coaxing the dough out of the Idiyappam press.
However hard I tried, I could not manage to get the dough out through the press. Jacob ever willing to help around the kitchen,offered to help me . But only ended up breaking the Idiyappam press one too many and left me flabbergasted how someone could break something that I couldn’t even get move an inch !
Then my mom discovered a ‘magic press “as she called it and Idiyappam making has been a breeze ever since.
As much as I enjoy cooking for my friends and family , if there is a easy way to do something, then thats what I go for.
One can never get enough of the beauty ,South Otago region offers. When my cousin visited New Zealand with his friends, we decided to tag along on their two day trip .
First stop was Lake Tekapo. About three hours drive from Christchurch, the deep turquoise waters against the backdrop of the rugged brown Southern Alps is just breathtaking.On the banks of the lake adding charm to the scenery ,stands the Church of the Good Shepherd .Apparently a favourite spot for wedding photographers.Enroute to Queenstown, stopping at various Scenic Outlooks to admire the magnificent beauty of the landscapes meant our supposedly six hour drive from Christchurch to Queenstown ,was stretched by a couple more hours. Hence we reached Queenstown late at night .
Ready to crash ,The Scenic Suites hotel where we stayed, with its spacious bed and clean self contained utilities ,offered just the cozy comfort we needed. The stunning views of the lake and town were an added bonus.Oh ,the breakfast of eggs benedict with english muffins and bacon we had at the hotel restaurant was large , filling and scrumptious.
Of all the adventure sports that Queenstown offers,
my favourite past time at Queenstown is people watching , having a juicy burger at Fergburger ,
(one of the best tip we received and found immensely helpful to avoid the serpentine queue ,was to order beforehand on phone and then go get the burger . )
Or grab an ice cream at Patagonia. Not only do they have a wider variety to choose from but you can also create your own cone , add things you like . So fun and so so yummy !
or walk on the side path gawking at all the sights and sounds enjoying the touristy vibe of the town.
Looking at the pictures just makes me want to go back there.
Holding a cup of chai, watching the steam come up in curls, inhaling the aroma of ginger and tea leaves, just enjoying the quiet hours of dawn, is my little morning ritual. Even my dog Amber, knows to remain still, and let me savour my cup of chai, sip by sip. It does not last long, but those few moments to myself, help me anchor myself and gear up to face the rest of the day.
In a home dominated by staunch coffee drinkers, I cannot remember where my love for a good cup of chai came from. I did not fancy the karupatti kappi ( coffee made with palm sugar) that was offered at evening snack time, so skipped drinking coffee altogether. J is not a coffee or tea drinker either and so I did not have the need to make ritualistic early morning coffee in our home.
It was in Pondichery that I was introduced to masala chai along with a spicy plate of kothu parrota. ( minced flat bread with eggs, meat and a spicy curry) Still there was never the ritualistic chai making in our home until we came to NZ!
A couple of years back, when we were in India, my aunt introduced me to Red Label Nature Care tea powder and it turned out to be my go to drink during the really cold first winter in Christchurch. My comfort for soul drink (as I like to call it) for homesickness and warmth !
When I had finished the tea stash I brought with me from India, my search for Nature Care Tea all over Christchurch came to nothing. I was relieved I found the Red Label tea here in Yogiji Indian Supermarket. I just add ginger or cardamon and I’m good to go!
Whenever I need a pick me up, I just make myself a good cup of ginger chai. And I love making ginger chai for my friends too.
I thought I will share it on the blog for our readers to make at home as its pretty easy and quick.
Ingredients to serve 2
Water : 11/2 cup
Milk : 11/2 cup
Fresh Ginger : 2″ piece
Tea Powder :2 tsps
Sugar to taste
Crush the ginger. Add it to the water in a saucepan and allow to boil till you can smell the aroma of the ginger come through.Add the tea powder and allow to simmer for a couple of minutes. Add in the milk .Switch off the flame. Let it sit for a minute. Strain into a cup with a tea strainer.Add sugar as required. Serve piping hot!
Cook Book Scribbles :
5 slightly crushed cardamom pods can also be added for a spicy aromatic chai. ( tea)
We enjoyed a nice family dinner with our family and another family at Thai Orchid recently. The owner is a very friendly guy who came and explained the menu to us and suggested dishes and drinks to order.
Our younger kids all wanted Chicken Green Curry and Pad Thai but our older ones ordered from the ‘Stir Fried’ section and their dishes looked really yummy!
I ordered Beef Massaman Curry (pictured above) which was nice but could have done with a bit more spice. The Green curry was also very mild but the kids really enjoyed it.
We didn’t have to wait long for our meals to arrive and the staff were very friendly and attentive despite being short on two staff members that night.
All curries are gluten free and many of their other dishes are able to be made gluten free. I ordered curry for myself but forgot to ask for the other dishes to be made gluten free so I could try them, as we planned to all share so we could taste a bit of everything, so I was a bit disappointed as the other dishes all looked so delicious!
Growing up in the southern most part of India, I had only heard of edible mushrooms in storybooks and seen them in picture books. The ones that appeared out of nowhere during rainy season in my hometown were usually very tiny. We were warned not to touch them as they were poisonous and so we never did .
By the time I was in college, my family had moved to a town that was dry for the major part of the year and mushrooms were rarely seen around.
The University Of Agriculture which was situated in a village nearby was conducting an one day training course for growing Oyster Mushroom in homes. They were promoting it as a small business idea for small scale farmers.
My mom’s friend and our neighbor (whom we lovingly called Lawyer aunty because her husband was a Lawyer), is a science teacher and she wanted to go and learn the process of growing mushrooms for profit at home. She wanted company and asked me if I wanted to go, when my mom couldn’t get leave from work. I tagged along with her because I could skip college .
I must confess that although I went there without expecting much, I came away very fascinated by what we learnt there.
Along with the training on how to grow mushrooms at home, each participant was given a little booklet with detailed instructions of all that we learnt there and some recipes plus a bottle of spawn.
I promptly got to work. All the stars aligned. Amma let me use the little shed outside our home. Since it was harvest season, there was plenty of hay from our paddy fields which I used to sow the sample spawn I got at the University, to grow my very first batch of mushrooms .
I was so thrilled when those pristine white oyster mushrooms appeared on the little hay bundles I had prepared for the mushrooms to grow! For you see, the green thumb thing completely skipped me even though I was born into a family of agriculturists.
After a bountiful harvest we didn’t know how to cook the mushrooms so we gave some to friends and neighbours and Amma added them to the curries she made.
One day, I decided to try a recipe from the little booklet we got at the University. The recipe was rather simple but quite tasty! And quickly became a regular in our home. Later, I found out that our farm help on my dad’s farm also used this same recipe to cook wild mushrooms. The only spices used here in this recipe are pepper and cumin.
The original recipe used Oyster Mushrooms, but I’ve substituted button mushrooms and the taste does not differ much
I had a delicious dinner out with some girlfriends at Costas Greek Taverna Restaurant earlier this week. Two of us had been before several times but our other friend had never been so was very keen to try it out.
We were not going to have starters but one friend wanted to order the Moussaka for her main and we were told it would take 30 minutes to cook, so we decided to get a starter to nibble on while we waited.
I recommended the Dolmades which are little parcels of rice risotto wrapped in grape leaves and served with salad and the most delicious tzatziki.
It worked out perfectly to share this dish between the three of us, giving us two Dolmades each. My friends both loved the dish and would order it again in future.
It was relatively quiet that night but every other time I’ve been it’s been absolutely packed! The atmosphere is fun with music playing, blue lights on one wall and red lights at the bar, with a greek-looking wall with round latticed window at the back of the restaurant. The staff are very attentive and friendly.
Peeking through the wall to the bar.
This photo does not do the dish justice at all. Mamma’s Moussaka was served as a tall stack of piping hot moussaka with a gorgeous fresh greek salad and tzatziki on the side.
The Falafel Souvlaki Platter came with two vegetarian falafel patties, two pita bread, salad, four sauces and chips. There was an option for a Grande size platter with three falafels for those who are feeling extra hungry.
The Lamb Shanks with fire roasted vegetables and fragrant rice. It’s a dish I’ve had before and I keep going back to it! You can choose one or two shanks (this was two). I found I kept glancing over at my friends’ salads and tzatziki so next time I might order these on the side (and only one shank).
After such large main dishes we opted for desserts from the ‘Mini’ range of options. These little chocolate mousse cups were the perfect end to our delicious dinner at Costas.
Costas has multiple gluten free and vegetarian options and the portion sizes are very generous with options on some dishes to ‘upsize’ to a ‘grande’, while the mini desserts are perfectly bite size after such large mains. Absolutely delicious, if you haven’t been to Costas before, you definitely should!
Pearlin went to Costas on her birthday as they sent her a free birthday dinner voucher and they gave her a dessert for free too, candle and all!
They also send out free $20 vouchers from time to time so it’s well worth signing up on their website!
Akaroa, which means Long harbour, is an hour and a half drive from Christchurch. We might have taken a little longer than that as we stopped in a couple of places.
A little stop at the picnic area on the way at Lake Ellesmere to admire the Swans glide gracefully on the lake…
the next stop was at Little River where a for a little dose of history awaits at the railway station now converted into a little craft store
with all the antique memorabilia on display…Lanterns,ticket collecting booth are a sure attraction for adults and children alike There is also a cafe to get coffee or grab an ice-cream at the diary nearby.
With stunning scenic views to greet you on the hilltop , it is a delightful drive up to Akaroa
This picturesque town is the perfect place for a leisurely stroll around , stopping by the Museum to get an understanding of the historical heritage of the erstwhile French ColonyThe French street names and the antique buildings bear witness to the bygone era A French bakery, Cooking school and loads of souvenir stores in the town centre are a sure giveaway for the French flavour that is still very much prevalent in the town.
Other than the idyllic old world charm of the town, a walk down the beachfront lounging and eating fish and chips while sitting on the pier, listening to the sound of the water and the sea gulls is extremely relaxing.Then a visit to the spectacular Giant’s House, another heritage house, is a must do. The Mosaic art and original art work vibrant and amazing, are truly a treat to the eyes, that need to be experienced first handThe drive to the lighthouse also offers magnificent views of the peninsula and the boats docked in the harbour.
As a mother of 6 children, aged 7-19 years, I have thrown quite a number of birthday parties over the years! I am not the most creative or organised person and I like to keep things simple so I don’t spend a lot of time preparing for parties in advance but I can throw a party together pretty quickly!
Here are my 10 tips for throwing a very simple kids party:
Host at Home
We nearly always have parties at home because they are cheaper and are more personal. Invest in some reusable plates, cups and platters suitable for parties. These can be used time and time again. I have a range of plastic plates and cups for younger kids and for older ones I use mini glass milk bottles, a drinks dispenser and our regular plates (or paper plates). These have had years of use!
Drinks dispenser and mini milk bottles with paper straws – a great investment
Drinks dispenser, mini milk bottles with paper straws and tiered stands (with our regular dinner plates) get used at many of our parties
There is no need to decorate your whole house with a particular theme but by decorating the table with a colour or theme you will set the theme of the party. This can be done cheaply by buying paper plates, cups, napkins and straws at the $2 shop. Additional items like a table cloth, balloons, bunting and streamers further enhance the look. A photo frame with a photo of the birthday child or a cute poem or verse is another simple way of decorating the table.
Blue themed party for teen girl (Breakfast at Tiffany’s) using our regular side plates, a light up star decoration which has been used for all sorts of table displays and tiered stands using our regular dinner plates. Table cloth is plastic from the $2 shop.
Girls’ birthday party – pink and white plates and straws in mini milk bottles with thank you gift (or party favor) on each plate (packaged in $2 shop pillow boxes)
Cake Centre Piece
I don’t do fancy cakes. I stick with my favourite chocolate cake recipe and decorate simply, many times using lollies as decorations. Often people bring out the cake just before serving it but I like to put it at the centre of the table as part of the decoration.
Black, red and white Minnie Mouse themed party with the cake as the centre piece
I serve juice and water to drink and a range of sweet and savoury food to eat. I generally stick with popcorn, chips, vegetables with dip, sausage rolls, mini pies, fruit, jelly, cupcakes or cake, marshmallows, crackers etc. These items need little to no preparation, with only the cake, cupcakes and jelly requiring some forward planning and the sausage rolls and pies needing to be warmed in the oven. I like to platter up the food and let the children choose what they’d like.
Healthy party food – veggies and dips, marshmallow and fruit skewers
Simply decorated cake, reusable plastic plates and cups and easy party food on the table – popcorn, mandarins, applies, golden kiwifruit, grapes, potato balls and sausage rolls
Easy party food for younger children – popcorn, wafter cookies, crackers, marshmallows, fruit (I also served cheerio sausages hot at this party)
It is a good idea to have a brief plan for the party and some games planned for younger childrens parties. I stick with Pass the Parcel and Treasure Hunt type games (which may be as simple as hiding 20 chocolate coins in the lounge and getting the kids to find and count them all in a pile in the middle of the room).
A pinata can also be a fun (time consuming game).
Pirate Treasure Chest Pinata (The Warehouse) with prizes (Tissue packs, mini chocolates, lollipops). It took about 15 minutes to break open this pinata so the children got to have multiple turns hitting it and had great fun
Depending on the games we play and the take home party bag I have planned, prizes are kept simple like a mini chocolate bar, a lollipop, stickers, pencil and eraser. Sometimes I will purchase quality items which become both prize and take home gift, for example small boxes of lego can be prizes in the pass the parcel, can be played with as a game (who can create the piece the fastest using only one hand) and then become the take home gift. Although a more expensive item at $7 per box (on sale down from $10) there are no additional costs for little bits and pieces to fill up a party bag.
Prizes at a pirate party – pirate hooks and ‘treasure’ candy bracelets
Treasure hunt prizes for pirate party containing chocolate coins and stickers
Prizes for a girls’ party – rings, sticker earrings, candy bracelets and mini mentos, ready to wrap in the Pass-the-parcel
Crafts or activities
Including a craft or other activity can help keep the guests occupied. Crafts need not be intricate. For younger children a pot of sidewalk chalk to decorate the driveway can capture their attention for quite some time. For older ones crafts like decorating cards, colouring in sheets, decorating cookies or cupcakes and even decorating their party bags with stickers keep them happily occupied.
Other activities may include walking to the park, going to a swimming pool, going to a scooter park, playing basketball, playing table tennis, watching a movie, playing playstation and making your own pizzas.
Decorating cookies with icing and lollies – I made the cookies the day before
Opening the presents
Having the birthday child open their presents with their guests watching is something I include in the programme for the party as it takes up a bit of time, plus it is always one of my favourite parts of parties. I love to watch children opening their presents (and teach mine to always read each card and say thank you). Reading a card before opening the present
Leave some free time at the end of the party
Although planning a programme for the party is a good idea so you know how much time you have and what you’re doing next, it is often a good idea to leave a period of free time at the end of the party. Kids love to play and enjoy playing together at parties so let them have some time to run around, jump on the trampoline, play with balloons or toys (if you don’t want kids playing with the presents it’s best to pack these into a bag and pop out of reach).
Enjoying running around and playing games outside
Simple party bags
I like to keep party bags very simple but would rather spend slightly more on a quality item, than send kids home with a bag of junk.
Sometimes if we’ve had several games with prizes at the party, we hand out items as simple as a bag of chippies and piece of cake. If kids have decorated cupcakes or cookies these are set aside for them to take home.
Other times we have very simple prizes, or if we’ve done an activity such as swimming and no games/prizes, I like to make up party bags like the ones below with items such a a notebook and pen (50% off at Kikki K), party blower ($2 Shop), hair tie ($2 Shop), mini chocolate bar and lollipop. Bags are also from the $2 Shop.
If you haven’t had time to bake a cake the easiest option I’ve found is to buy a sponge cake from the supermarket, spread jam and whipped cream on the first layer (as a filling) then top with the second layer of cake. Spread a thick layer of whipped cream over the top of the cake then decorate with sprinkles. Voila!
Add candles and you’ve got a great birthday cake everyone will love.
You can also ice the cake as I did with the cake below. Fun candles and fresh strawberries really make this cake look special.
To whip the cream for a round sponge I use 250ml of cream, 1-2 Tbsp icing sugar and 1 tsp vanilla essence.
Beetroot Hummus is one dish that brings with it memories of eating at our favourite Turkish restaurant, giving us a chance to have a taste of the beautiful flavours of middle eastern street food of Kuwait right here at home in Christchurch.
Stored in an airtight container, it stays fresh for several days in the fridge. Beetroot hummus tastes great with fresh cut cucumbers, carrots or crackers, pita bread or pita chips making it the perfect mid morning to late evening snack. What’s more, its so easy to make. The only timetaking process is the roasting of the beets.
Roasted Beet Hummus
Ingredients to serve 4
3 large cloves of garlic
2 x 400g tins of chickpeas
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 1/2 tbsp tahini (sesame paste , available in supermarkets)
salt to taste
fresh black pepper to taste.
½ tsp ground cumin powder
1 medium beetroot.
1 small green chilli
4 tablespoons of olive oil
Peel the skin of the beetroot, chop into big chunks . Preheat oven to 200 degrees C
Wrap the beetroot chunks in aluminum foil and roast them until soft and tender, takes about half an hour to an hour in my oven. When done, remove and let it cool.
Drain chick peas and rinse well. Keep aside. Peel garlic.
In a blender, add the cooled down beet, chickpeas, and garlic. Blend into a paste.
Add tahini, cumin powder, lemon juice and salt to taste. Blend till hummus is smooth and creamy like a dip. Add pepper and drizzle olive oil over it. Serve with pita, or with veggies.
Cookbook Scribbles :
Add water only if necessary.
Taste and adjust the seasonings as you like.
In a pinch I have also used precooked beets.
If its too much work roasting the beets, skip and just blend the other ingredients and you still have a yummy hummus dip😉
MLLA is an ongoing, monthly event since 2008, in which, bloggers from any country or cuisine can take part in this event by presenting their vegetarian legume recipes. This event was created and started by Susan of The well seasoned Cook in 2008 and has been hosted by Lisa of Lisa’s kitchen since February 2013.
The Diamond Harbour is only a 10 minute ferry ride from Lyttelton. We went on a grey day and it was lovely even without the sun shining so would be absolutely perfect on a sunny day.
As soon as you arrive you notice how peaceful it is. All you hear are the birds singing.
A short walk up the hill takes you to the Diamond Harbour Village where you will find two cafes, a real estate office, a library, a medical centre and an arts and crafts shop as well as the historic Stoddart Cottage.
We enjoyed a walk around the village then had a leisurely lunch at Preserved Cafe and Eatery before making our way back to the ferry for the return trip.
The ferry departs Lyttelton approximately every hour. You will need to find a park somewhere in Lyttelton as there is no parking specifically for the ferry. We managed to find a park along the main road.
From there you walk over the footbridge and through quite a bit of contruction before you get to the wharf.
We managed our day trip within school hours so were home in time to pick our children up from school but felt like we’d had a real break away since the location was so peaceful.
Located in Hagley Park, the Botanic Gardens have plenty to keep kids occupied. Walk, scooter or bike around the perimeter of the park, walk through and picnic in the gardens, play on the playground and in summer splash in the paddling pools.
Located on the edge of the Botanic Gardens, the Museum is housed in a beautiful stone building dating from 1870. The museum has natural history and human collections on display as well as a programme of changing exhibits and events. There is a cafe upstairs as well as further exhibits so do explore all levels.
Margaret Mahy Playground
This playground has proved to be a big hit in Christchurch. Kids of all ages will enjoy exploring the playground and water play area. There are picnic tables in the shade next to the river where you can spot eels and fish!
Kids will love the cave under Cave Rock and the little pools created around the rocks when it’s low tide. Walk along the wide promenade to Scarborough Park at the cliff end where there is a playgound with a paddling pool and toilets.
Putaringamotu is the sole remnant of ancient native forest on the Canterbury plains. The Kahikatea trees here are up to 600 years old. The loop track in Riccarton Bush only takes 10-15 minutes to complete and there is the historic Dean’s cottage and Riccarton House to look at as well as the river with ducks and plenty of grass area to picnic and play on.
Wigram Airforce Museum
Discover New Zealand’s military aviation history at the Wigram Air Force Museum.
Kids will enjoy the exhibits and interactive displays.
New Brighton Pier
Take a walk down the New Brighton Pier, watch surfers and people fishing then wander along the beach below the big pillars. The new playground is great with splash and paddling pools, a water play area and playgrounds.
Bottle Lake Forest or Macleans Island offer gentle mountain biking trails or for little ones Westburn Bike Park offers hour of fun on bikes or scooters with it’s mini road layouts and Kendal School Bike Track is great for kids to develop their cycling skills. Many parks have skateboard and bmx tracks.
Christchurch city libaries
Check out the Christchurch city libraries website to see what is on offer at your local library. You might be surprised at the different classes offered.
Find a park
Christchurch has so many great parks. Pack a picnic and a soccer ball and head out to discover some new parks and playgrounds.
Looking for a place to cool off on these hot Christchurch summer days?
Try Lake Roto Kohatu. This lake is situated in North West Christchurch in the Sawyers Arms Reserve and is a popular recreational area for water sports.
Roto Kohatu is made up of two lakes, Tahi and Rua. Tahi is the western lake and is leased to the Jetski club for their sole use. Rua is the eastern lake and is often used for dragon boating, sailing, fishing and swimming.
The Roto Kohatu Reserve is accessed off the end of Sawyers Arms Road. There is a carparking area but if the gate is open you can also continue driving up the gravel road, over a hill and then down to the lakes. It is about one kilometer to the lake (past the first Jetski lake). You are not able to drive in a complete circle around the lake as there is a barrier at the main swimming area at the very end of the road but you can access this main swimming area from either side of the lake.
It doesn’t have typical sandy lake shores but does have multiple little ‘bays’ where you can find some shallow areas for kids to splash around in, and some little wooden jetties which you can jump off into deeper water. There is a rope swing for the adventurous and for the athletic it seems a popular place to swim ‘laps’ across the lake.
Roto Kohatu is a man-made lake. It was once a quarry and was filled in and repurposed as a recreational reserve. Roto Kohatu meets water quality standards and is tested regularly over the summer months.
We took Fish and Chips for dinner and walked alongside the lake until we found a quieter spot to eat our dinner and dip our feet in the water.
We went on a very hot Friday night and found there were a lot of boy racers hooning around the lake roads kicking up a lot of dust. There were also several groups of young adults playing loud music and drinking and we noticed a lot of rubbish scattered about. I didn’t see any rubbish bins around.
There were several young families with little children enjoying splashing and swimming in the lake so we didn’t feel entirely out of place!
I also noticed the noise from Jetskis on the other lake and a few planes flying overhead so between them and the boy racers it wasn’t exactly peaceful but that could have been mainly due to the fact we went on a Friday evening.
Don’t make the mistake we did while exploring the area; we took a road going along the back side of lake Tahi and reached a locked gate. There was no way to turn around so we had to reverse all the way back to the fork in the road taking care not to reverse into a ditch on one side or the lake on the other!
It was pleasant although not peaceful and nice if you’d prefer a fresh-water dip to an ocean splash!