Time saving tip #1

Let’s talk socks, yes socks, not adventuring, not baking…socks, because while I would rather be adventuring or baking or doing anything else other than domestic duties sometimes you just have to sort socks!

My husband and I exercise quite a lot and that involves socks, and don’t even get me started on the number of socks the kids seem to have in the wash.  I won’t even consider buying kids school socks unless they have the size printed on the bottom to make matching pairs quicker.

And if I ended up in the garage putting my running shoes on with my husband’s running socks one more time I think I was going to scream, wait… I think I did scream. My solution to that problem was to sew coloured thread on the toe of the sock. OK I’ll be honest I got my Mum to sew the thread on, but even if you have to do it yourself I think it would be worth getting out the needle and thread.

Of course if you can’t bring yourself to break out the sewing kit, coloured sports socks could change your world. How did I not know these existed…it makes perfect sense…of course all sports socks don’t have to be white and now mine are pink. It’s so easy to match up the socks, and I never end up with the wrong socks as I am rushing out of the house for a walk.

And one final note on socks and all things laundry related…don’t forget the smallest resource in your family – your kids! Yes they might moan and complain but sorting socks is a great job for kids.

Now back to adventuring and baking!

Karangahake Gorge Walks

I have always enjoyed the drive through the Karangahake Gorge. It’s a stunning landscape with a gorgeous river and majestic mountains. And it always looks like it has stories/secrets to be told. When we were planning a family holiday to Waihi Beach I was excited that the Karangahake Gorge Walks were going to be one of the first walks we did as a two child family.

There are two main walks in the Gorge; the Windows Walk and Rail Tunnel Loop. We started off on the Windows walk as it isn’t pushchair friendly and we thought we would do the walk that our 4 year old could do while she still had lots of energy. She has always enjoyed walking and in fact when she was young if you asked her what she wanted to do she would say ‘go for walk’. The trail is a good level for a young child to achieve and is interesting with the old mining tunnels and railway. Our son had only just started walking ( that day in fact ) so he was in the backpack.

The first time we walked the Windows Walk it was a loop and we got right around without having to carry the 4 year old.

The name of the Windows Walk comes from the holes that were cut in the sides of the tunnels to shovel out rock into the river in the gold mining days. In parts you are walking on the old railway used to move the rock/gold around and there are lots of interesting ruins to see along the way. As well as marvel about how hard the mining work must have been so long ago.

We have subsequently done this walk 3 more times with friends and homestays and everyone loves this walk. The last time we walked it we went further down one of the side tunnels and one of the kids asked what the ‘bits of fluff’ hanging from the top of the tunnel were. We wondered if they were glow worms so turned off our torches (or torch apps on our phones) and to our delight discovered that they were in fact glow worms. I had always thought you had to be quiet to see glow worms but there is nothing quiet about my son so they must be tough glow worms.

Unfortunately the last 2 times we have done this walk, we haven’t been able to do the full loop as there has been a slip on the track after you cross the bridge over the main river. The Department of Conservation has closed the track so you have to return the same way you came.  It’s a shame as this was a lovely part of the walk. You can also no longer explore further on the right hand side of the river where there was a side track to a powerstation cavern excavated out of the mountain and DOC have also closed this track so it must be unsafe.

After returning to the carpark and getting out the pushchair for the 4 year old we set out to do the Rail Tunnel Loop. This walk is quite different to the Windows Walk as you follow quite close to the main river in the gorge on the opposite side to the road. I always love the sound of running water, if I can hear it over the sound of my son chattering, and love walking so close to the river.

The next part of the walk goes through a 1km long tunnel. Its interesting being able to see a tiny dot of light at the end of the tunnel and walking slowly towards it. And its also surprising how long it takes to walk 1km in the relative dark.

This tunnel section of the trail has since been opened up to cyclists as part of the Thames to Waihi ride and it’s even more interesting to be walking in the relative dark with cyclists going past.

You then cross over the highway via an overbridge and walk back along the river to the carpark. This walk is very achievable with a pushchair and a great day out with the kids. The cafe at the carpark is also a nice treat for all once finished.

Other things to do in the area:

Visit the Waiha Museum

Visit the Martha Mine in Waihia

Take a trip on the Goldfields Historic railway

Cycle the Hauraki Rail Trail


Xmas slice

When I discovered these super cute Xmas holly baking decorations20161123_101317 a couple of years ago I thought they would look adorable on the cream cheese icing of my Citrus Slice. I also changed the recipe a bit to make it more Xmasy. It’s great to have on hand to take to Xmas functions and looks cute in a Xmas box with some fudge as a gift.



200g butter

395g sweetened condensed milk

2 packets of 250g round wine biscuits, finely crushed

1 1/2 cups desiccated coconut

1 packet mixed peel

1 lemon, finely grated zest

1 orange, finely grated zest

( I don’t always use the lemon and/or orange as I think the mixed peel gives enough flavour )

1/2 cup chopped cranberries

1/2 cup toasted chopped pistachios


50g cream cheese ( not light )

50g butter

1 lemon, finely grated. Optional: to make it a little more Xmasy I leave out the lemon and add Wilton brandy flavour.

1½ cups icing sugar


Grease and line the base of a 30cm x 25cm slice tin

Melt butter and add the sweetened condensed milk stirring to combine.

Add the remaining ingredients for the base and mix to combine.

Press the base into the slice tin.

To make the icing, soften the cream cheese a little and then add butter and continue to soften. Beat together. Add the lemon zest ( or brandy flavour ) and icing sugar to get the desired consistency. Spread over the base and refrigerate.

I cut into 3cm x 3cm pieces (and yes I use a ruler to measure it! ) and then put the holly on.


Top tip

In NZ, I got my Wilton Xmas Holly from Milly’s Kitchen. They do online sales but I can’t see these listed so if you can’t make it to Milly’s you could try ringing and see if they can do phone sales.

Look Sharp also stock Wilton cake decorating goods so you could have a look there.

Bridge to Nowhere Mountain Bike Ride

It was exactly one year after we rode the Timber Trail the first time that we set off to ride the Bridge to Nowhere ride with a much smaller group, maybe they knew something about the ride I didn’t.

The ride is close to Raetahi which is about 15 minutes away from Ohakune. We love the small town vibe so decided to stay in Raetahi in a holiday house. As the Bridge ride was ‘only’ 35km long, staying in Raetahi also meant we could ride from the house to the start of the trail, ‘only’ adding another 20km to the ride…are alarm bells starting to ring for anyone else because they weren’t for me !

My husband bought the weather station away with us so I can confidently say it was 4 degrees when we set off from Raetihi on the mid-April Saturday morning. It wasn’t long before it started drizzling…..cold and wet, great start. We were well prepared for the cold, wearing polyprops and carrying extra wet weather gear, including my husbands old swandri which was  actually needed quite early on.

Luckily the 20km to the start of the trail was downhill….mostly. Even so, it was about 1 and ½ hours and one flat tyre before we hit the start of the ride. At least it had stopped raining, now it was just cold, in fact I rode the whole ride in more layers than I have ever ridden in before including an alpaca scarf that I bought back from South American and have never worn in NZ before as it makes me too hot.

I loved the general history of the ride and after seeing the terrain close up it was easy to imagine how hard it would have been for the returned servicemen trying to make a go of it on the land. It is also easy to see why the area was abandoned and the bridge ended up going nowhere. Funnily enough the bridge was finally completed after most of the farmers had already walked away from the  land. Personally, I would have been interested in the personal stories of the families and would have liked some information boards along the way like on the Timber Trail or Old Coach Rd. There were sign posts with original family names showing where their plots/farms were.

Unfortunately it had rained a lot the week before we rode so there were a lot of mud and puddles, although my husband reckons it would always be wet here. Unfortunately these weren’t just any puddles, they were Taranaki mud puddles, big sucking puddles of grey mud that you felt like you were working twice as hard to peddle through.

Its incredibly rugged land – don’t be fooled like us and think that’s it is ‘only’ a 35km ride. The average riding pace is way slower than usual. The mud combined with the numerous narrow suspension bridges near the end that meant we had to get off our bikes and wheel them on the back wheel to get across, made it really slow going. We also had to stop and clear mud out of our bike deraliers and gears too, poor bike. This meant we were racing to get to the jet boat pick up on time. And we had been worrying about getting cold waiting for the pick up.

I have to admit near the end of the ride the only thing keeping me going was seeing the Bridge and when we got to there it was a quick read of the information boards and some photos before we were on our bikes again as our jet boat was waiting for us.

The 20 minutes jet boat ride out was awesome, if a little chilly and we were pleased that we had packed the hip flask. On essentials list.


Top tips

We rode in Autumn and it was cold, wet and muddy ( and this isn’t any ordinary mud, its Taranaki Mud and that mud sticks like glue) so not sure about doing this ride in winter.

Allow more time than you think you would need on an average trail or you could be rushing for the jet boat like we were. Alternatively, get dropped off by the jet boat and ride back. I would not recommend riding back to Ratehi from the end of the track as it would be a solid 15 km up hill.

Goat Island Marine Reserve Discovery Centre

I don’t think children need paid activities to keep them entertained but sometimes I come across something that I think is worth the ‘investment’ and the Goat Island Marine Discovery Centre was one of those activities.

We were staying in Leigh ( a delightful seaside town , about 1 and a half hours north of Auckland ) and decided to visit Goat Island, a marine reserve about 15 minutes away to see if we could see any fish from the rocks as it’s a little cold to snorkel in September.

The swell was a little big for the fish to comfortably navigate the inner rock crevices but we still had lots of fun rock hopping and watching the waves crashing on to the rocks as well with the added bonus of a blow hole.

The area has changed a lot since we were last there and the Marine Discovery Centre cleverly enticed us up the hill with a lovely path and questions along the way. When we got to the Centre we discovered they had a school holiday programme that was running the next day. Angela at the front desk was super helpful and was involved in the activity the next day. Knowing that the weather forecast wasn’t too promising and that the kids were going to learn heaps about marine life we booked in.

The next day it turned out my two were the only kids doing the activity and there were two instructors ( added bonus of one-on-one attention ) The kids got to identify 20 different types of sea life in the touch softly tank and both instructors were a wealth of knowledge and even able to keep up with all of my 8 year olds questions…no mean feat!!!

Then it was on to dissecting a mussel and learning how to do a scientific analysis. From there they got to use a giant microscope and feed the dissected mussel to the octopus.

All in all the kids had a great time and learnt heaps from Angela and Maree.

As we walked back to the car there was the added bonus of the eels in the stream on the beach at Goat Island where they played for another hour – proving my theory that you don’t need to pay for activities!

You may like my blog on other things to do in Auckland or close to Auckland.

Sharing family fun & adventures from the kitchen to the great outdoors