September was a busy month filled with lots of little things (and a few more exciting activities too). Dog walks: Bailey swims year-round because we live so close to the beach and that's our favourite place to walk - so come rain or shine she's in that ...

 

September Little Things and more...




September Little Things

 September was a busy month filled with lots of little things (and a few more exciting activities too).


Dog walks: Bailey swims year-round because we live so close to the beach and that's our favourite place to walk - so come rain or shine she's in that water. Crazy Loon. I shared this photo on my Instagram back in September because it made me laugh so hard. Just look at this funny action shot - and those ears! My baby. I love her.


We really are lucky to live in this beautiful corner of the world.


Whatever the season, this little pocket of the world shines.


I popped into Luke's art class one day in September - you can read about that over here.


I love Spring (despite it being a very wet season here in Auckland) because these blossoms are everywhere.


We celebrated Father's Day last month (how cute are these cupcakes - and they're truly delicious too):


We also had a quick sprinkling of hail one day back in September (what the):


And then did an ice-cream run on another afternoon (when the weather was slightly better):


Sarah's friend, Nicole, works at our local Ben and Jerry's so we went to say hi (we love that cute girl):


We do lots of beach walks - and we've got to enjoy being able to walk Bailey any time of the day at the moment because the time restrictions for walking dogs on the beach will kick in soon. Boo. (Summer restrictions mean that dogs have to be off the beach by 10am and can come back on at around 5pm - roughly.)


Spring in September (I can't pass one of these trees without taking a photo, it would seem).


We did a weekend in Waitomo back in September - more on that over here.


We drove back from that weekend, via Raglan, a cute little town known for its good surf:




Luke participated in the Dragon's Den competition at his school during the third term. This programme involves the kids getting into groups, coming up with a novel business idea and plan, which they then thoroughly research, after which these potential entrepreneurs get to pitch their business idea to a panel of judges in order to entice them to invest in their business (or in this case, win the competition). They look at product development, finances and branding and advertising. Luke's group got to the finals which were held in their school hall last month and I was so nervous for my kid! But his group did so well and had such a clever idea - and later that day they found out that they had won the competition which was super exciting! I'm very proud of Luke for all of his hard work and the way in which he managed to stand up in front of so many people and present his part of their business plan. This programme was such a practical and beneficial exercise for these boys and such a great learning opportunity for life. I'm so grateful that he got to experience this.



 There have been some beautiful sunrises here in the bays lately - just look at these gorgeous colours!


Also in September, Luke's school had their swimming sports one afternoon at their pool. Luke swam in as many races as he could and it was great fun watching him compete. (Luke is in the green cap.)



One evening in September there was a Street Food Festival in a neighbouring suburb so we headed off there for dinner. The queues were loooong, but it was fun to get out during the week (and not have to cook dinner) - to enjoy our local community, with live music and some interesting food.


 



And that was September. 

Are you guys enjoying the last few months of this year? Making plans for the end of the year? I'm starting to see mentions of the countdown to Christmas (and a few Christmas items in the shops) and I'm holding off as best I can at the moment. Before too long we'll be in the thick of exams and the busy fourth term of school before the end of year celebrations kick in. Unbelievable how quickly this year has gone. Enjoy the calm before the storm. xx


 

4 Fabulous accounts to follow on Instagram

My favourite phone app is definitely Instagram (you can follow me here) and I'm always on the lookout for interesting people to add to my follow list over there because that's what makes or breaks your experience on that app.



So today I thought I'd share four fabulous accounts that I love, in case you're also looking for some new accounts to follow:

1. sadanimalfacts -  This account appeals to my sense of humour. And the illustrations are awesome.

2. thiswildidea - The photos on this account (taken by Theron Humphrey) are so crisp and clear, and the way Maddie (his dog) lounges on things - is totally fascinating. She has the cutest facial expressions.

3. handluggageonly - Yaya and Lloyd travel the world and take the most beautiful photos on their travels. Love these guys.

4. goldiehawn_ - Not the actress Goldie Hawn, this is Katie Goldie - a photographer who travels to some breathtaking places and takes equally breathtaking photos when she's there.

Do you follow anyone amazing, awe-inspiring, funny or just different enough to be brilliant? If so, please comment below and let me know! As I said, I'm always looking for new accounts to follow, to make my Instagram experience an even better one.

xx
 

More photos from our Wonderful Weekend to Waitomo

En route to Waitomo a couple of weekends ago, we were treated to hundreds and hundreds of these gorgeous pink blossom trees - it was a feast for the eyes! 


I think these might be my absolute favourite trees of all time.

I took these photos from the window of our car while driving along those country roads:



And after a couple of hours in the car, we arrived in the village of Waitomo and went straight to check in at our accommodation.

We stayed at Woodlyn Park, conveniently situated only a short walk to 'town'.

Woodlyn Park is the most interesting motel I've ever stayed at on all of my travels. It consists of an old plane, boat and train that are used as accommodation, and there is also a hobbit house for those who want to have a true 'New Zealand movie' experience.

We stayed in the boat:


Please note: If you're after upmarket and smart, this isn't the place for you. This accommodation is definitely rustic and quirky. It is kept in the best shape possible, to be fair, and is great fun for a couple of nights. The beds are comfortable, there are heaters and the water is hot - definitely adequate. Our cabin included two bedrooms, a bathroom and a kitchen/lounge/dining room with a balcony. And the best part? I now get to say that I've slept in a land boat!


These blossom trees were everywhere:



Our boys spent an afternoon roaming the hills surrounding the motel, following the resident sheep around. There were also a few very large, very chatty turkeys out in those fields.


Nickie and I also took a little walk around the motel property:


Spring is a great time to be out in the New Zealand countryside because there are lots and lots of the cutest lambs out there:



Here's the Hobbit habitat:



An 'artsy' shot of our cabin porthole:


And a troll bridge, perhaps? I spotted this on our walk around the motel property:


And here are a few last close-ups of the boat:



And a snippet of the plane:



Eating out options: We enjoyed dinner at Huhu Cafe on Saturday night and I would highly recommend going there for dinner should you find yourself in Waitomo - the food is good. Be sure to make a booking, though - as Huhu is popular with both locals and tourists alike.

And that's it on our weekend in Waitomo.


 

I abseiled in Waitomo last Weekend. And survived.

Last weekend we drove down to Waitomo in King Country to do some caving. Waitomo is a village on the North Island of New Zealand, known for its extensive underground cave systems where thousands of glow worms light up the caves.

And all these years I thought that the Waitomo Caves was one big cave with a few tunnels! Turns out there are quite a few caves in the Waitomo area and several tour companies that offer a variety of activities in the different caves. (Some examples of experiences you can opt for - black water rafting, eco-tours, dry caving, abseiling and tubing.)



We chose to do the Lost World 4 hour tour - and what an awesome experience we had! 
(A 100m abseil and caving adventure in the 'Lost World' cave.) That's me up there.


Before we set off, we were kitted out in all the gear! Paris, here we come! Not. 

However, safety first...


Here's a photo of my boys, before we got going:


Nickie and me, looking the part:


Our mates, Paul and Nickie:


And Luke with their son:


Then it was time to start our adventure...

Walking onto that platform after our very thorough safety practice was quite daunting, I have to admit. 100 metres is a not a short distance! And my preservation gene is strong. So, I got a little quiet up there and was concentrating big-time on my breathing at this point. Haha. (Needless to say, I didn't take the photo below.)


Here we are listening to our awesome guide who was giving us the rundown (note Grant checking out the backup system and just exactly how that platform was being held up there):


A few of us took some nervous looks down (not for the faint-hearted):


And then it was time to take the plunge.


And smile for the camera, while trying to look calm! (Don't we look gorgeous?! Haha.)




And wow, when we lowered ourselves off that platform and started abseiling down that 100 metres into the cave, we marvelled at all that wonder and beauty. It was amazing! (These photos don't do it justice.) It was sensational! It felt like we were 'floating' down the ropes into the cave, surrounded by all the green vegetation growing on the sides of the cave walls, with pretty much only the sound of the Mangapu river flowing down below. Truly spectacular.





It was seriously so surreal down there that I felt like I was on the set of a dinosaur movie and I was half expecting a dinosaur to come rushing out at us! (Okay, I might need help.)


Moving on...

The next part of our caving adventure was pretty strenuous for little unfit me, I have to admit. We walked through the kind of terrain seen above and also had to clamour over lots of big rocks which was pretty difficult at times. (Probably just for me, but I did feel a bit like a big Tellytubby in the overalls, boots and ropes which were restricting my mobility a little.) But it was totally worth the effort because it was such a novel experience to be down at the bottom of that cave, looking up. We also got to see a whole bunch of glow worms.

Then, right towards the end, we had to climb 33 metres up a vertical ladder! And that's when I realised just how unfit I really am! It was a killer. I had to stop a couple of times and just hang on until I got my breath back. 108 wet and muddy rungs to get to the top of that torturous climb. And scary too. You do not want to look down, or up for that matter. But after finishing I must say that I felt rather proud of myself for getting to the top. Geez. Huge achievement right there. (Haha, I sound like quite the wuss because, really, I was all roped up and totally safe the entire time. It's just that being that far up scared me a bit.)

Here we are at the end of the tour - walking out of the cave. 


C-h-e-e-s-e!



Big smiles from these boys, after finishing this wonderful adventure:



Such a stunning experience. I would highly recommend doing this tour, but I would suggest being relatively fit before attempting it. (Having said that, I did finish and thoroughly enjoy it despite being very unfit - so it is possible even if you aren't.)

This truly was such a fun and exhilarating experience - one that I will never forget.

Have you ever done something like this? 




 

My top 10 restaurants in Auckland right now




We don't go out to eat very often, so when we do, we choose to go somewhere that is a huge treat for all the senses. Beautiful restaurants that serve food that you dream about forever after - that's what we look for. I find the enjoyment of food is something that is such an immediate joy and a real living-in-the-moment kind of experience that it's sometimes worth splurging a bit to make some great life memories. 

So on that note, here's a list of my 10 favourite Auckland restaurants - should you be looking for a recommendation for a lunch with friends or a special night out with your partner. These probably aren't kiddie kinds of restaurants, however, we have taken our kids to a few of these. (Having said that, my daughter and her boyfriend recently went to Ebisu on a date night!)

In no particular order:

1. Tok Tok is probably our favourite restaurant on the North Shore, at the moment. This popular Asian fusion restaurant lives on the corner of two well-known streets in Takapuna and serves delicious food that never disappoints. 

Some of our favourite small meals there are the popping prawns, the fresh catch tacos and the venison dumplings. These small meals are perfect for a light lunch and we always order a few options and share - so that everyone gets to experience all the different tastes on offer.

Two weekends ago we went with another couple and shared four main meals - the pork, prawn, squid pad thai; the pork cheek red curry; the crispy Hapuka (a fish) dry red curry and the crispy half duck - and all of those flavours complimented each other so well. We ended the evening sharing a 5 spice pannacotta and rolled out of there very satisfied. Yum.

Tip: I always ask for a glass instead of the tin cups they have on the tables for water because those tin cups remind me too much of camping!

They also do some crazy delicious cocktails:


2. Another old favourite is Jervois Steak House which, in our opinion, has THE BEST steaks in Auckland, and very attentive, knowledgeable wait staff. Situated on Jervois Road in Ponsonby (hence the name), the restaurant is housed in a cosy double story villa with a great bar downstairs. Any meal here is fabulous (especially the Wagyu cuts), but Grant favours the rib eye on the bone and always looks very happy with himself when his meal arrives! Don't miss out on any of the sides either - they're all good. We have had desserts here (see below), but most of the time we're too full to contemplate that final sweet dish.


3. Grant introduced me to Beirut restaurant in the city and I've been smitten ever since. This unassuming, slightly obscure, Middle Eastern restaurant has some spectacularly tasty meals on their menu. We took Jess there on her 18th birthday and really had to assure her that she would enjoy the food there (she wasn't convinced initially) - and I'm pleased to say that she did enjoy most of it. Kids!

I remember loving the Afghan bread (with burnt butter, pistachio and rose petal jam), the slow braised goat, the Fattoush (melon, beetroot, cucumber, orange blossom, parsley - I mean, how is that combination?!) and the Arabic doughnuts (with black cumin syrup and fennel ice-cream). Mmmmm. All so good.

4. Then there's Depot - an unpretentious, excellent, little restaurant very close to Sky Tower in Auckland City. This is the chef, Al Brown's restaurant and he serves up fresh, fun and flavorful food in this casual environment in the city. Ordering small meals is what I like to do here. My favourite meal: Turbot sliders, oysters and a glass of Chardonnay. Absolute perfection.

5. Oh my goodness, Ebisu. This place! The people-watching is so good here. So stylish. But besides checking out the hip-and-happening patrons who eat here, the food is sensational. We always start with the edamame while sipping a glass of crisp white wine and contemplate the menu.

More often than not, we have the Rainbow Rolls, sashimi and dumplings, but their menu is extensive and impressive. A very pleasant evening down on the waterfront in the city.

6. I've only ever been to the Japanese restaurant, Masu, once, but it was so good that it's left a lasting impression. A chap was chiselling away at a large block of ice (and I mean large) behind a bar when we were there and that was all kinds of fascinating to watch (shaved ice for presenting fresh sushi, obvi). Anyway, I don't remember what we ate there, except that it was a-m-a-zing. I do remember that we tried a variety of dishes that night, one of which was from the Robata grill (a method of cooking similar to barbecue). The sushi and sashimi were still my favourites, though. This restaurant is a few up from Depot, near to Sky Tower in the city.

7. You don't get too many good Italian restaurants here in Auckland (my opinion), but, damn, Baduzzi is so good. Bellissima. (Sorry.) You have to try their Polpette - handcrafted meatballs. Yes, so good.

8. And then there's Cibo (Italian sounding, but not strictly an Italian restaurant). We've been to two birthday functions here (and dinner) and the food was phenomenal every time. Always a good time. Recommend.

9. Azabu is a fabulous restaurant in Ponsonby Road, in Grey Lynn. And hey, I now realise just how much we love our Japanese/Asian fusion type of food! Haha. We went here for the first time, right before going to a Coldplay concert and that night now ranks as one of my best all-around experiences. Good food and good music - a match made in heaven. Order any of the sushi/sashimi dishes - such great taste combinations.

And 10. Okay, The French Cafe is a real spoil. And I've only been once - with Grant's company. But, wow, that was a total treat. Seriously. Special occasion stuff. Do it at least once, I reckon.

And then I've got one last special mention/added extra: Cassia - a modern Indian restaurant that my husband has been to and rates highly. I have yet to go (that's why it didn't make my top 10), but I reckon it's on my list of restaurants I want to try. 

So those are my faves. As I said, mostly Japanese and Asian fusion, but there's also something on that list for the meat lover, curry connoisseur, Italian enthusiast and seafood fanatic. Light, small meals or big, main meals - there's something for everyone. Auckland has some world-class restaurants and I love going out in this friendly city, to sample all it has to offer.

Got any others to add to my list? Leave me a comment, I'd love to discover more treasures.






 
 
   
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