Exploring the Hahei Coastline

A weekend on the Coromandel Peninsula, New Zealand
Labour Weekend 2016

We decided to be tourist’s today and headed up the coast to Hahei – home of Cathedral Cove, Hot Water Beach and the Hahei Marine Reserve.

From Tirau it was a short drive of 20 minutes along a slightly windy road – we did make one stop on the way at the Colenso Café which was a recommendation from my friend Michelle.

Definitely worth a stop with good quality seasonal food, freshly made with ingredients from local growers; Colenso is one of the Coromandel Peninsula’s best known establishments with its shop, garden and mandarin orchard. Take a wander around the grounds and you will not only see that pigs do fly! But the fresh garnishes on the delicious food served comes from the café’s own gardens.

Colenso Cafe.png

Colenso Cafe

Hahei is known for the many fun activities you can do that are water-based like scenic adventure boats trips, sea kayaking, scuba diving and snorkelling. The beaches are just gorgeous with soft white sand and clear clean water – you could be forgiven for thinking you were on an island from some Hollywood movie scene!

We had picked up a brochure about the ‘Hahei Explorer’ at our rented holiday house – you can find more information on this at the website: Hahei Explorer

The tour is an hour-long and takes you along the volcanic coastline including the world-famous Cathedral Cove; having never done something like this before we decided it looked like fun! The ‘chief tester’ has missed his JetSki which was stolen a couple of summers ago and not replaced. This boat trip was a real treat for him and he only mentioned how great it would be to do this if he had his JetSki maybe 3 or 4 times?

Anyway we met the boat at the south end of Hahei Beach and boarded the flexi-haul vessel which could take up to 10 people. We were given life-jackets and introduced to the skipper as we climbed aboard. Today was our lucky day as there was just the two of us with the skipper!

Within minutes we came across a little blue penguin and were able to get quite close to it before we headed around the coast to Champagne Bay which was just stunning. We ventured through a sea cave underground into a huge rock cylinder 80 feet highorua-seacave – an amazing blowhole!

The skipper had a great knowledge of the local area and its history of Maori encampments and sacred burial grounds of the chiefs of the Iwi. He chatted throughout the trip pointing out areas of interest and explaining the volcanic nature of the coast.

Across the bay to Whale Cave and then to Cathedral Cove which despite it being week day was populated with holiday-makers taking in the beautiful scenery – some even swimming!

The trip took an hour and was just great. At different times of the year you would see whales and dolphins – today we took in schools of snapper swimming around the boat – tempting for any fisherman 🙂 Labour Weekend is the beginning of the summer weather and not as busy as later in the year; even so we did have to book ahead so if you are keen on a boat tour make sure you call up and book early.

The ‘chief tester’ and I headed back to Tairua a little windswept and slightly sun-kissed – and reflected on how fortunate we are to live in such a beautiful country.

Life Lesson from today? – take the time to visit your own backyard before heading off overseas – there is much to see and do in New Zealand!
Happy travels xx

Cathedral Cove.jpeg


Book Review -The Memory Keeper’s Daughter

Book Review: The Memory Keepers Daughter – Kim Edwards

The ‘chief tester’ and I have snuck away for a few days R & R to a rented beach house on the Coromandel. When you can not remember the last time you took a long weekend away from the office, home and your busy everyday life; you must know it is time to take a break!

Labour Weekend is traditionally not the best of weather anywhere in New Zealand however I don’t really mind if it is raining where we are; it’s not home where there is a multitude of jobs that could be done. A house that could do with spring cleaning, to lawns that need edging and dogs that could do with a bath; you can probably tell that escaping to the beach even if the weather is not the best is very attractive!

We are in Tairua; about 2hours drive from our home on the North Shore of Auckland. Tairua is a destination town with lovely beaches to enjoy and at this time of the yea, it is still relatively quiet with the holiday houses sitting empty waiting for the summer holidays to fill up.

One of the things I like about renting a holiday house other than the obvious escape from the big smoke is that there is usually a stack of well-read books and magazines left by previous holiday-makers. And this little house was no different –and to my delight reading the blurb on the back cover immediately drew me to turning the book over and finding the beginning of the story.

I settled into the comfy sofa with a cup of green tea and the ‘chief tester’ soon realised that I was lost to his conversation and engrossed in a novel that began on a winter night in 1964.

Norah & her husband David are expecting twins – labour starts early, and with a blizzard preventing Norah’s doctor from making the delivery; David, an orthopaedic doctor at the local hospital is forced to deliver his own babies. A little boy comes first, and then a girl; when David looks at the baby girl he sees she has Downs Syndrome and makes a decision that will have an impact on his life and his families for years to come.

He asks the nurse to take the baby away to an institution but instead she disappears to another city with the baby girl where she raises her as her own.

The novel takes you on a journey that spans 25 years – David develops a passion for photography and over the years seeks solace in his camera as he tries to make sense of his life through the images he captures. Norah who never forgets her daughter, and carries the burden of her ‘death’ for years and the little boy, Paul who grows up feeling not good enough for his father.

You will journey the life of the little girl and the nurse who raises her – and her struggle with the secret that changed her life too.

‘The Memory Keeper’s Daughter’ is a poignant family story that centres on one individual’s startling decision that affects the people he loves the most. I read it from cover to cover, not wanting to put it down so intrigued was I to read what happens to the two families.

As Jodi Picoult (a favourite author of mine) says: “crafted with language so lovely you have to reread the passages just to be captivated all over again….this is simply a beautiful book…”

Lessons from this novel?: I thought how far society has come with our attitudes towards people with Downs Syndrome since the 60’s. Could you imagine giving your child up to an institution because of this today? The progress is thanks to the parents of children with Downs Syndrome who refused to accept their child had any limitations to living a full life.

I’m sure we have some way to go to fully integrate into our communities those individuals who have a disability – however we are still light years ahead of the 1960’s when this novel was written. And thank goodness for that!
Day One of our holiday break complete and one novel read from cover to cover! I can see two dogs and the ‘chief tester’ looking at me as if to say ‘are you done yet’ – a walk on the beach is the next order of the afternoon those 6-eyes are telling me so I had better get up and find my sneakers!

Happy reading xx


Ps…my 2016 Reading Challengehas been a struggle but this novel has inspired me to find another book from the list – and with 4 more days of this holiday left time is on my side for a change 🙂


Bali – this time last year!

Bali – has it really been a year since we were there?

Facebook kindly reminded me of what I was doing this time last year – tripping off to Bali.

My eldest son and his partner decided after 11 years, 3 children, a mortgage and emigrating to Australia; it was time to tie the knot. Since they had always wanted to go to Bali themselves and were keen to ensure there ‘big day’ was memorable for everyone – to Bali we all travelled for their wedding.

The chief tester and I travelled from Auckland, our daughter and her husband from Wellington – and the best man flew in from Germany. And the bride & groom from Melbourne. It was going to be a small family wedding and we were all excited to be travelling to a place none of us had been too.

Bali is an Indonesian island known for its forested volcanic mountains, iconic rice paddies, beaches and coral reefs. The island is home to religious sites such as cliffside Uluwatu Temple. To the south, the beachside city of Kuta has lively bars, while Seminyak, Sanur and Nusa Dua are popular resort towns. The island is also known for its yoga and meditation retreats.

We had expected it to be hot and crowded – and it was! From the moment you leave the confines of the airport you are confronted with a humid 30°c – do yourself a favour and dress in cotton, and as little as is decent 🙂 The city was dry & dusty, crowded and noisey – so alive with activity.

We stayed in Seminyak because it was not too far from the wedding venue. There are absolutely dozens of options for accommodation; and a budget to suit most. The hotel cost us about $300.00 for 7-nights; it was spacious, air-conditioned and clean.

Bali Safari & Marine Park was a great adventure for the whole family. You want to get there in the morning and plan to spend most of the day there – there is lots to see and experience. We were impressed with the educational aspect of the park with a conservation & education show on the elephants; and the Animal Educational Show which is at 11am every day.

The Waterpark was great and the children had a ball splashing about & cooling off!

It is not until you get out into the countryside that you really see the lush green rice fields and this requires you to have transport. We used the same driver for most of the time; he was great with the children & like most of the drivers pretty negotiable! We did use Uber too; and like at home this was an especially cheap option.

Wherever we went in Bali we were impressed with the people; friendly, happy to interact and obliging.

Monkey Forest is a visit worth making – it was a lovely walk through the forest;  out of the heat & under the cover of the forest trees. From here we went to Uluwatu; an amazing temple built on the top of a cliff beside the Indian ocean. The guide ensures you arrive there ahead of sunset which is quite spectacular.

I wish I could show you how beautiful it was; however I was recovering from a very nasty bout of ‘Bali belly’. It was not my finest moment to be taken to the emergency GP severely dehydrated & very nearly missing the main event of this trip; the wedding!

A day in Ubud is a must; it is a craft village and a centre for painting & wood carving as well as jewellery. The rice terrace and neighbouring villages were full of life and loads of tourists!

If you are looking for a romantic evening activity; try Jimbaran for a BBQ Seafood dinner. The chief tester enjoyed choosing his squid from the live fish tank; and having it prepared for him; delivered to a table set on the beach. Still in recovery mode; I nibbled plain white rice 😦 and watched with food envy as he had a delicious meal!

We spent a week in Bali; and if we venture there again would probably do the trip a little differently. We would head to Nusa & stay in a resort rather than in the middle of the city. The city life is great for the younger crowd; but for us a more relaxed holiday is wanted now.

Drink plenty of bottled water, dress in loosely fitting clothing, and take something from home for tummies – just in case! I certainly learnt a valuable lesson on this front.

Oh…and the main event? The reason we all travelled to Bali. It was just beautiful 🙂


All of us!


The happy couple!

Happy holidays xx

Feeling housebound? Visit the Ponsonby Central Markets

Feeling a little house-bound? Need to get out and about for a change of environment? A quick trip to Ponsonby Central this afternoon where everything is under cover did the trick for us today – it was cosy warm with gas heaters firing, humming with people shopping   and stopping to eat at any number of interesting and delicious smelling eateries.

Ponsonby Central is situated at No 4 Brown Street in Ponsonby. It has a great range of places to eat including the popular ‘Burger Burger’, and ‘Fish Fish’. ‘El Sizzling Chorizo’ looked really appealing with the flames licking the Argentinian BBQ grill….crêpes, noodles, organic chicken, pizza and much more. We will definitely head back for a meal another time.

The produce market was well stocked with fresh vegetables, meats and fish ( and Buffalo Milk?). I picked up some Wagyu Meat Patties to make burgers with one night this week, and boned chicken legs stuffed with chorizo, ricotta and fresh herbs and wrapped in bacon…..mmmm. I will probably serve these with a confetti couscous and fresh salad? I’ll check out the pantry and see what’s there soon.

In amongst the great eateries are a selection of retail shops including a linen store, shoes, clothing and several pop-up shops which I guess change out. Get your man groomed at the Boar & Blade while you have a tarot reading if that is your thing!

I took some pics to share with you – worth a visit on an afternoon when you are at a loose end, or like us, just wanted to get out of the house on a wet day!

Happy Sunday Driving…next week! xx


Dinner in Rotorua :)

We headed to Rotorua this past weekend to meet my daughter and her husband for dinner! Yes, that’s right…for dinner 🙂 My daughter is a Theatre Nurse living and working in Wellington. We agreed that this year we would see each other more regularly – time slips by so quickly doesn’t it?

Hubby and I left Auckland later than we intended (animals to get sorted) and enjoyed a lovely drive with the roof down on my little car, and the radio up loud!IMG_0893 We stopped in Tirau for a quick pit stop (boy this place has sure developed withholds of places to eat and shop at), and then at Mamaku Blue for a freshly made blueberry ice-cream. What a treat that was! It is about 2kms off the main road into Rotorua so watch out for it…worth a stop 🙂
We drove around the North End of Lake Rotorua to reach our destination of VR Rotorua , Mourea. (We got a great deal through an online booking site.) Situated on the waters edge of Lake Rotiti, we had a room with a lake view and the most comfy bed ever!

My daughter and her husband arrived from Wellington about the same time as us – their drive about 5 ½ hours. We caught up on all the news and then headed into the city to find a restaurant for dinner. Getting consensus can be tricky when you all have different tastes until we came across the new Eat Street, I have attached the link http://www.rotoruanz.com/eatstreat/

All weather, outdoor, alfresco dining – so many places to eat to choose from. I recommend if in Rotorua you check this place out! We opted for CBK Merchant and Pro where they said they were famous for their stone grilled steak! The meal did not disappoint, nor do the service which was super attentive without being annoying if you know what I mean?


On Sunday we played tourist  with a visit to the a Rotorua Museum. The museum is housed in a building with a romantic past. The Bath House building was opened in 1908 & designed along the lines of European spas of the time. We enjoyed the visit with it’s history lessons, galleries and view from the roof over Government Gardens. It was $20 for an adult but that did you give the opportunity to come back any time over the weekend. And when you see what has been restored with the entry fee it seemed worth it. IMG_0896

Rotorua has loads of activities to do and things to see. Gondola rides, luging down the mountain, wildlife parks, thermal hot pools and lots more. We haven’t been for years to be honest – and it was chosen for our dinner catch-up because of the easy distance for both of us to travel. If you are looking for a weekend retreat, then Rotorua is a great destination.

For my daughter and I the opportunity to get together and chat face-to-face instead of on the phone 🙂 was great. We are planning our next weekend already with husband’s in tow – but are aiming for a girls only day in Wellington first. Let’s face it there are some activities husbands are not keen on that we girl’s enjoy…and the shops are great in Wellington!

Til next time





2016 Reading Challenge – 1st Book Review.

Picnic in Provence by Elizabeth Bard

Whoop whoop!  I have finished my first book of my  2016 Reading Challenge 🙂  I really had to push through on this one to be honest as I found it a little lightweight for me and sitting down for long periods was a challenge for this ‘active relaxer’. 🙂  That said I did pick up a couple of pearls both in the cooking realm and life and can honestly say I enjoyed the book.

The book is actually based ten years on from the authors first book ‘Lunch in Paris’.  We meet up with Elizabeth Bard who is now expecting a baby on the way with her handsome French husband – they take a holiday – the last before the baby is born and come across a wartime home of a famous poet. The heirloom roses in the garden, the history,  not to mention the blue skies and lavender fields, entice the couple to move from their city apartment to Provence!

‘Picnic in Provence’ is the story of everything from an American learning the tricks of French motherhood,  to a cook’s initiation into classic Provencal cuisine.

The author blends her recipes in amongst the background of her new lifeline with ease and pearls of wisdom scattered throughout.

An example of this is when Thanksgiving rolls up and our author wonders if anyone in the small village even knows it is a holiday? As a self-professed perfectionist Elizabeth is hard on herself but she realises this day that she is too hard on herself and others and perhaps not grateful enough for what she has – she makes the decision to take the day off! No pressure on herself for a fancy dinner, no worry about whether she is a great wife or mum. “I’ll be thinking and thanking-instead of fretting and fixing”.

I drew some parallels with myself here.  I stopped reading on my own and read a couple of paragraphs out loud to my husband. He listened quietly and then said ‘  insightful self-awareness we could all take a lesson from’ – I know he really meant me! And that was okay. He was right.

So many wonderful recipes to try – Fresh Fig and Almond Tart, to Carrot-Saffron Cupcakes and a Butternut, Roasted Red Onions, Walnuts & Fresh Goats Cheese Rocket Salad! Months of new recipes to try ahead of us.

This book has plenty of humour, honesty and love that is entangled with recipes that tempt the tastebuds and encourage the reader to head to the kitchen!

As the first book for my 2016 Reading Challenge – A Book Set in Another Country – I am pleased to get one  ‘under my belt’.

I did start my review by saying the story was a little lightweight – but upon reflection it was the perfect book to pick up after a few hours and take up where the story left off without having to backtrack to remind myself of the plot! Over the next few months I will cover some of the delicious recipes with photos..and excerpts from the book to give them some context.

Now, onto my next book. I have my ‘Mindfulness Colouring Book’ on the go but need one to read. Does anyone have any suggestions?

Chat soon xx

Lasting memories for some of us anyway!

We headed further North on our last full day of this long weekend to visit my Great Aunt Mavis – she lives in Kaitaia. ‘Aunty Mae-Mae’ as we affectionately named her was a big support person for me when I had my first child. She took care of my young son when I needed to go back to work part-time (sanity or bust pretty much!). And that young boy  turned 29 today by the by.

She will turn 90 years old this year and I haven’t seen her for some time now & and my hubby said to me – Kaitaia is too close not to visit 🙂

It was another glorious day in the sunny north so with the roof down on my little Z3 & my daggy hat on we were off!  We stopped briefly to check out ‘The Jandal Fence’. IMG_8254

And passed quite a few old abandoned houses along the way….

After an 1 1/2 hours we hit Kaitaia and went straight to the rest home where were found Aunty Mae-Mae snoozing. Once awake she was enjoyed seeing the photos of the family all grown up, and the children’s wedding pics from last year. She remembered my eldest with a smile and the little song she used to sing to Jonathan  “I love you a bushell and a peck and a hug around the neck”.  We both smiled with that memory. (It was a Doris Day single from 1950.)

We happily ate her favourite Jelly Tip ice-creams we had snuck in with us and reminisced together. We were so impressed with the staff who were genuinely caring & interested in Aunty Mae-Mae – they talked about her wonderful sense of  humour, and knew all about her children, grandchildren & great-grandchild.


Mavis Gillard  born 19/6/1926

I was more than a little more than sad to say goodbye.  I may not get to see her again but I will treasure the memory of the time we got to spend together.  We are all going to grow old – none of us can avoid it; and I was acutely reminded of that today.

We headed back South stopping to say hello to Mark – Aunty Mavis’s son who lives on the Karikari Peninsula. My hubby had not met Mark before, and I had not seen him for many years. Not since I was a kid actually – and he seemed so old too me then! Fact is we are only about 10 years apart 🙂
Mark took us on a short road trip to see his part of the world – WOW – we were both blown with the stunning coastline beaches and clear blue seas. We whistled through the Karikari Estate Winery where the grapes were being grown for as far as the eye could see. Matai Bay was amazing, and we thought it couldn’t get better until we sat up on Puheke Hill or ‘Puwheki’ meaning ‘Octopus Head’ in Maori.

Puheke Beach is a surf beach so inviting even I wanted to dive in! If you want to get away from the crowds this is the place to go. The coast sweeps around the ocean with clean white sand . It looked a tropical island 🙂 See for yourself although my photos may not have done it justice.

The rain was starting to fall as we continued our trip back to Paihia.  Just a couple more must-do/see stops before ending the day.

The first of these was Mangonui for a late lunch of ‘World Famous Fish & Chips’ – the place was busy and busier still as a tour bus pulled in with 50 young people! We ordered ‘Blue Nose’  & chunky chips and they did not disappoint 🙂

Tummies full we continued south stopping in Kerikeri for a quick visit to the ‘Kerikeri Mission Station – The Stone Store & Kemp House.’ By now the rain was quite heavy so I ventured out of the car for a quick photo – at least I could say I had been there, seen that!

These buildings are two of the country’s oldest surviving buildings -established in 1819, the Kerikeri Mission Station is one of New Zealand’s first places where Māori invited visitors to live among them. It is still open for business now and touted as a great shopping experience! – hubby was not unhappy it was closed 🙂

What a day we had. Tinged with sadness but also a happy heart. For two hours we made an old lady happy as we chatted away.  She may have forgotten our visit by the time we got down the road but it was still worth every minute.

Great Aunty Mae-Mae used to quote ‘three score and ten’ – it is from the Bible and refers to the span of our lives. It was considered that seventy years was the ‘normal’ lifespan when it was written. I wonder what she is thinking now she has reached nearly 90?

Who knows? But I can tell you she did think taking a’selfie’ on my iPad was a very odd concept 🙂


Russell – ‘The Hell-hole of the Pacific’?

An afternoon in Russell, which is a short ferry ride from Paihia is worth the time.  The town’s original street plan & names from 1843 are still intact and feature some of New Zealand’s oldest and most significant historic buildings. A street re-enactment played out by locals told the story of the 30 or so pubs that lined the beach & enticed the sailors ashore – “Save our Men from Grog & Wenches”. It was said that Russell was the most sinful site of the southern seas! Crikey….one of the ‘wenches’ took a shine to hubby as you can see below!

You can only imagine how busy the missionaries were! the Christ Church was built in 1835-36 and is the oldest working Church  in New Zealand today 🙂 The French arrived in 1839 and built a mission and printery in 1841. The Catholic brothers translated religious texts into Maori, printed them & bound them into beautiful books. You can see the printing in action with a guided tour –

There was so many beautiful places to have lunch in Russell – you really are spoilt for choice however a friend of mine, Kate, had recommended the ‘Duke of Marlborough’. Right on the waterfront with The Duke which proudly says it has been ‘Refreshing Rascals & Reprobates since 1827′ with the proud honour? of holding New Zealand’s first liquor licence 🙂 And with this as the view, it was a perfect stop for us!


After a fab lunch of fresh snapper we took a stroll down the front street of Russell admiring the buildings and enjoying the sea view and breeze.  We hopped aboard a quick ferry back to Paihia after a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon.


Check out our next day trip –  to Karikari Peninsula!





Paihia – Bay of Islands, so stunning!

They say a picture paints a 1000 words – our day on the ocean is best described by my photos! It was a wonderful morning. We went with Fullers GreatSightsand did the Dolphin Cruise to Hole in the Rock. As luck would have it, I had purchased an ‘Entertainment’ book off a friend who was fundraising last year and it had a ‘buy one get one free offer’ voucher for a cruise!

We had a lazy afternoon, and ended the day with a swim at 8pm! It was still so lovely and warm, followed by a pizza & a cold cider. xx