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 could also explore the Goat Island walkway.

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

Citrus Slice

My brownie used to be the crowd favourite but now it’s the citrus slice.

This recipe is also fun at Xmas time and with a few little additions makes a fun addition to a Xmas sweets platter but more on that closer to Xmas.

Citrus Slice Recipe

INGREDIENTS

Base

200g butter

395g sweetened condensed milk

2 x 250g round wine biscuits, finely crushed

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 )

Icing

50g cream cheese ( not light )

50g butter

1 lemon, finely grated

1½ cups icing sugar

METHOD

Grease and line the base of a 30cm x 25cms lice 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 and icing sugar to get the desired consistency. Spread over the base and refrigerate.

Pasta for every meal

A couple of years ago my children started getting cold after cold ( and they are usually very healthy ). I decided they needed more vegetables and started adding broccoli to everything including adding pureed broccoli stalk to meat patties.

The illnesses passed and so did the obsession with pureed broccoli stalks but one of the meals I made at the time has become a family favourite or it might be more accurate to say its become an every day ( sometimes every meal staple for my son ).

It’s super easy to make, can be made in bulk and stored in the fridge and you can add different ingredients although my son just sticks with this basic recipe for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Pasta with broccoli (of course)  cream cheese, pesto (and anything else you feel like adding) recipe

Ingredients

1 packet of pasta ( penne, spirals )

1 x 250g light cream cheese

5 tablespoons pesto ( you can leave out if your kids don’t like it )

1 or 2 heads of broccoli cut up ( depending on how many veges you want to pump into your kids)

A little diced ham on the top when served

Method

Cook pasta according to instructions on the packet.

I add the broccoli cut into flowerets into the pot when the pasta has 4 minutes left to cook.

When pasta and broccoli is cooked I remove the broccoli from the pot and cut into smaller pieces so it almost disappears into the pesto. Of course you could leave as smaller flowerets.

Add cream cheese and pesto (if using).

Serve into bowls.

At this point you can customise each person’s pasta if you so desire. E.g.I add chorizo to the adults.

And of course I also have a stock of this made up in the fridge : )

How we like to camp

Our family loves camping and has many happy memories spent in campgrounds all around New Zealand. We recently started looking at upgrading our camper trailer and it got me to thinking that the camper trailer ( if you aren’t familiar with the term it’s the featured image for this post ) is probably the easiest and possibly cheapest ways to get into camping.

My husband and I both spent out childhoods camping with our families. My husband spent the summers in a borrowed canvas tent ( borrowed from the local scouts where my father-in-law was Scout leader ) with no floor and wasn’t very waterproof.  I on the other hand spent the winters ( yes the winters, we kayaked and there was more water in the river in winter ) in a camper trailer or VW combi van with the kids ( and one of those kids was me ) in a tent. My husband and I both camped in Department of Conservation campgrounds as children, where the biggest luxury is a long drop toilet.

Unfortunately I didn’t initially embrace camping as an adult as I thought I had an allergy to the grass and camping was quite annoying as my feet would end up lumpy and painful. Turns out that my feet are very sensitive to the sun and my feet issues were resolved with some spray on sunscreen so thankfully we could happily buy our first tent and embrace camping as adults.

We had many happy years in our tiny dome tent that we couldn’t stand up in, and packing everything in to the car at night as there was no room in the tent to store it. After a fabulous road trip around the Taranaki region, we decided to upgrade to a tent that we could stand up in with a vestibule. I am not really sure what a vestibule is but I do love the sound of the word. Of course with our bigger tent we had more space for things so bought a wee table and camping pantry.

No sooner had we taken the tent for its maiden journey than we discovered we were having our first child …hmm might need to add a room onto that tent. When we were a family of three we enjoyed many camping weekends away. And at this point I might lose my adventure mumma street cred when I say that two kids made me less so inclined to pack up the tent and head away camping. Not to mention we would have needed camping bunks to fit into our tent.

And so I have to hand it to my awesome bunch of friends who got us back into camping when our kids were a little older.

And time for another tent ( yes that’s our third tent )….a 3 room one this time. Very luxurious. And with all that space we bought another table and a comfier airbed.

And yes at this point we had such a big tent and so much stuff to put in the tent ( I might camp but I don’t like to lower my standards ) that we had to hire a trailer to get everything in. Packing was quite an undertaking and we found we weren’t going away camping as much we would have liked.

Enter the camper trailer…beds, bedding, table, seating, cooker, plates, gin glasses  ( enough for the whole campground if you are like me ) all packed up and ready to go. We love our camper, its so much easier to pack ( all we need to pack is clothes and food ), easy to set up, robust canvas that has never leaked in the rain, doesn’t get blown around in the wind and the canvas is so dark that the kids even sleep in when we are camping.

We recently spent 3 weeks travelling around the South Island in our camper trailer and thoroughly enjoyed it.

When I look at all the camping gear we have bought over the years I think the best place to start would have been a camper trailer.

Top tip:

If you want ease of packing and setting up look into getting a camper trailer. You can spend $30,000 on a new flash one but we got ours second hand for $2,500 which we estimate would have been about the same amount as the camping equipment we have bought over the years. The time saving on packing is priceless and because its easier to pack we go camping a lot more and even go away for one night, which we wouldn’t have done with the tent.

Tongariro Crossing with kids

It was hard to know what was keeping me awake the most the night before the Tongariro Crossing with the kids; my concern over whether we were prepared enough or the fact I was sleeping in a tiny room with 3 over excited children ( my two and our 14 year old homestay ). I’m not great at sleep at the best of times ( you can follow my journey on that in future blogs ) so after quite a few hours of tossing and turning I was awake before the alarm.

 

As I like to be as prepared as possible we had made the sandwiches and snacks the night before. So all that was left to do was convince the children that it was cold outside and yes they should put on that extra layer, fit in as much breakfast as possible and finishing packing enough food, water, warm clothes, sun hats for 3 children and 2 adults for a 20km hike (I still wish we had taken our luggage scales to see how heavy our packs were)

Out the door to catch the bus and yes children it really is cold outside. Nothing like the nervous energy of 30 people at 7.30 in the morning in the confined space of the bus and then I realised we had the youngest children on the bus by a good 5 years with my son of 7…hmm I really hope we did enough training.

 

After a safety briefing from the driver (was he looking at the parents of the 7 year old ) and a team photo of our group ( 11 adults and 7 children ) we set off. I always find it hard to pace myself when I first set off on a big event and was a little worried my children had the same problem when they set off at what can really only be described as an excited jog.

One of our friends later said when he heard we were going to do the walk with our kids he thought we were mad, in fact he thought we were crazy doing it with kids, but quickly changed his mind when my son ran passed him on the uphill.

The Crossing starts off over a boardwalk for a few kilometres and is a nice warm up to the climb up the hill. The first time we did the Crossing about 15 years ago going up the hill involved clambering up boulders but has now been upgraded to steeps and a winding up hill track and stunning views of Mt Ngauruhoe. There was a definite chocolate break at the top of that hill.

From there we crossed the crater which is kind like being on the moon. We walked in October and there was still snow on the mountains and some of the lower laying spots. Kids young and old had snow balls fight adding a few extra kilometres to the walk zig zaggin backwards and forwards to pick up more snow.

From there it was a climb up out of the crater including the bit where you hold on to a chain as you shimmy along an icy ledge and realise your 7 year old went through this bit by himself.

Time for a quick lunch break. No-one wants to linger too long for fear of not wanting to move again.

And then its time for the fun bit, down the scree hill to the Emerald Lakes. At this point I am pleased I was lucky enough to borrow a friends hiking boots that stopped the gravel getting in. Gee I do love scree hills – just cant figure out how the scree hill doesnt end up in a mound at the bottom.

Some of our group went around the Emerald Lake where there is thermal activity but I conserved my energy.

And then passed the Blue Lakes and we start down the hill. At first the down hill is a welcome relief but its a lot of downhill, in fact it was all downhill from there.

And so it was that we did the Tongariro Crossing. It’s hard to know if I can describe it as a family outing when I barely saw my son as he raced to keep up with the big kids. Thank goodness for the uphill that slowed my daughter down so I could share most of the experience with her.

On the upside I never heard one complaint from my son which is not to say he didn’t complain it’s just that he was so far ahead of me I never heard him.

Someone suggested I get my children’s thoughts to add to this but for all I think my children are amazing at what they achieved, I have realised that children take it all in their stride (and that stride may be a jog) when the next day as my son got out of bed he asked incredulously ‘why would my legs be sore?’

Nevertheless I am proud of what my family has achieved. Turns out with some commitment to training and lot of belief in your children, they believe in themselves. I thoroughly enjoyed sharing my love of a shared goal (see first blog) with the children even if they have yet to realise just how amazing their achievement is!

For more on the training we did read Yes you can enjoy exercising with your kids.

Things you might want to know

We started walking about 8.30am and finished about 2.30pm. We walked at a comfortable pace with a 7 and 12 year old and had stops for photos & fuelling although the 7 year old didn’t exactly walk with us .. he ran with other younger members of our group.

My husband and I carried everything for the children, and that was 3 children’s gear as we had a 14 year old home stay. In hindsight I maybe would have had the kids carrying some of the gear.

My kids walked in normal running shoes. I did wear boots that I borrowed off a girlfriend but the trail can be walked in normal running or walking shoes, you might just end up with some rocks in them after the scree hill but you can always empty them out.

The Mountain Safety Council also has some great tips on staying safe on day walks

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