17 January 2016

Big Weekend Away (Number 3!)

After watching my husband take both of our boys on their big weekends away over the past few years (here and here), finally it was my turn!  My eldest daughter and I have just arrived back from the best couple of days away together, and it was a time that I think we will both cherish forever.

The Weekend Away (or in our case, the 'mid-week' weekend away) is a tradition that our family has adopted from other awesome families we know, and a great idea from The Parenting Place. It's a time set aside for a parent and their tween to talk about the exciting and sometimes daunting things coming up ahead as teens, but also spend some one-on-one time together having fun, making memories, and creating a space for any questions.

The best resource we have found for this is The Big Weekend CD (via The Parenting Place). John Cowan (along with Jenny Hale) covers all the basics from 'the birds and the bees' to self-confidence, hygiene, peer pressure and adds a tonne of humour and stories along the way.  The CD is just under 2 hours (we skipped the boy section) and was the perfect length for us to listen to while driving down to our destination (Whangarei to Auckland!) and leave a bit of room for questions.

Another awesome book I love is "The Body Book" which is part of the Lily Series.  My daughter has loved this series over the years, and it covers so many good practical topics for girls (aimed for ages 7-11).

We began our journey with treats in the car and listened to The Big Weekend CD on our drive down (pausing to chat during some parts). After that, our first stop was New Zealand's first cat café, called The Cat Lounge!  Apart from an awesome café (that is open to everyone) you can book some time with their many cats - take your coffee in, sit on the couch and hang with the gorgeous cats & kittens. We had heaps of fun getting to know the cats, reading their stories and playing with them.

After that we headed off into central Auckland to our hotel (I found a great deal online for this special treat).  After we had settled in we explored Queen Street, did some shopping (hello donuts, bubble tea & macarons!) and watched a movie together (my girl is Star Wars obsessed, so we saw the latest movie for the second time).

The next day we did some more exploring, including a special surprise - my daughter got her ears pierced.  She has been wanting to do this for a while, but was slightly nervous about the experience. We had talked about it being a birthday present later in the year, but I decided this special time away would be the perfect time to do it.

I'm so glad I took the time to have a weekend away with my girl, and would highly recommend it to all parents as a great way to make memories and get the discussion going regarding the special years ahead. I love that a time that can potentially be awkward (for both parties) has been turned into a memorable event that is looked forward to (my 8 year old is already begging me to take her away for her special weekend) and also remembered for years to come.

It doesn't have to be an expensive event - most of our fun was had while exploring Auckland and looking around.

I'd highly recommend a weekend away with your tween - feel free to email me if you have any questions!

14 January 2016

Easy Salsa

I love salsa, and thought I'd share my quick and easy salsa recipe with you!  Perfect to go with corn chips, or as a side to your meal (perfect with mince dishes, BBQ's etc).

5 medium sized Tomatoes
6 or so Pickles
Half red onion (or brown)
1 Spring Onion
½ lemon
Chilli Sauce
Salt & Pepper

This recipe is very flexible, so make to your own taste and use more or less ingredients than suggested if you prefer!  

Slice the tomatoes in half and remove the pulp (discard or reuse for something else) before chopping the remaining tomato.  Add to a bowl with the chopped pickles, half a red onion (finely chopped) and the chopped spring onion.

Squeeze in the juice of half a lemon, and 4 or more generous tablespoons of chilli sauce (I use mild sweet chilli sauce).  Season salt and pepper and mix together.

Serve immediately with corn chips or as a side to your meal.  Delicious!

For more delicious recipes visit here.

12 January 2016


We are enjoying a long holiday round these parts!  There has been a lot of relaxing, a bit of renovating, lots of creating, games & puzzles, hanging with friends and family, delicious food and a few road trips.  There hasn't been too much sun during this New Zealand summer, but the rain has been great for the farmers around these parts, and our vegetable garden.  Here's to some more beach trips in the near future.

Lately I've been loving...

Seeing the New Year in with lovely friends.  The kids all thought it was pretty exciting getting to stay up late to see the New Year in.  Fabulous company, food, a poor attempt at playing pool on my part, and some awesome classic fireworks at midnight!

Loving exploring our local waterhole.  When you walk along a track further into the bush it leads you to a couple of waterfalls, one perfect for jumping off.  I love New Zealand so much!!

Loving doing a puzzle just for fun.  After this one Symon went and bought a 2700 piece puzzle at the local thrift shop... let's just say after a few attempts we decided the puzzle phase had passed.

So enjoying this awesome frog enclosure Symon made for our daughter's 4 frogs she was given for Christmas.  The photo (taken on my phone) just doesn't do it justice... it is amazing, and created from scratch (an empty glass tank)!  Symon has uploaded a little video tour of it here.

Loving delicious snacks like home made Salsa (recipe to come), salted caramel macaroons, and home made Iced Tea!

I'm enjoying getting a few more squares done on this Granny Square blanket I started last year.  I had intended to edge it with white or cream, but now I'm not so sure!?

Loving road trips with the family.  Yesterday we headed up to Paihia after an orthodontist appointment in Kerikeri.  Such a beautiful day, and to top it off someone had given us a restaurant voucher to spend as a family.  It was such a blessing being able to spoil everyone with a night out to dinner in a nice restaurant (a real novelty for this family of 6!).  We dined at °South, Aquarium Restaurant and Bar - lovely food and the girls just loved checking out the large aquarium inside the restaurant!

For part of our journey we stopped off at Rainbow Falls in Kerikeri, a place we've been two a couple of times before.  Just for fun, Symon and the oldest 3 kids posed like an old pic we had from around 10 years ago when we were there.

Haven't changed much have they...


Have an amazing week!!

For more Loving/Lately posts, click here.

08 January 2016

Teen Bedroom Makeover

We've just finished our second bedroom makeover in our new (giant) home.  It feels so good to have another room done, but we still have another 14 spaces to go, and that's not counting the outside!

This room belongs to our eldest 16 year old son.  It's a large room, with a tonne of windows and an external door.  The piles severely needed doing in this room, with the corner base nearly rotten right through.  Once this part had been lifted and repaired, there were quite a few cracks in the walls and shifting around the edges of the floor and door.  At times like this I'm so thankful that we did wait to start renovating, rather than start early and have to make repairs later.
When we first looked at the house before buying it, the room looked like this...

When we first moved in...

It was a light room with heaps of space, but the condition of the walls were very rough.  This room had been added on to the original Bungalow (built 1915-1920's) years later. Our main aim once the piles were repaired were to repair and paint the walls, repair and paint the trims, ceiling, skirting etc and give the room some character.

Our son had always dreamed of having one wall completely covered in posters/pictures, and on finding that one wall was completely covered in a Hessian type board he and we were pretty happy to keep it that way.

Our boy is an avid Sci-fi lover, so if you aren't a fan of this genre, you may not appreciate the décor, be prepared for all things X-Files, Lost, Godzilla and Star Wars related.

After a week of renovations (on and off) here is the new room (which he loves)...

Massive thanks to this guy below (Symon) who has done an amazing job creating this space with a bit of help from me!

Room Details:

Walls = Dulux Half Haast with Okarito ceiling and trims.
Accessories = Posters from Allposters.com, poster frames from Kmart, shelving from Bunnings, sofa bed from Furniture City, other accessories from EB Games, The Warehouse, NZ Gameshop, Lost Crossstitch, Space Invader Cushion and Skunk Ape Softie made by me!

Next room on our renovation list is our laundry!

To see all renovation posts, click here.

03 January 2016

Let's Do This!

A brand new year is before us - hello 2016!

Some of us have started the year with hopes of a fresh start, a clean slate, and new hope. Some of us have started with a list of goals and plans, while some of us may be too cynical to even attempt to set any. The failings of the past seem to be like a shadow continually following us, even into a new year, a seemingly new start.

Maybe you want to be a better parent, or work harder on your marriage. Maybe you really want to get out of debt, or finally start to walk towards that dream you have that always seems to get squashed into the background of your busy life. Maybe you just want to be kinder, or stop being such a pushover and start to stand up for what you believe in. Maybe you realise you need to believe in something - you realise that your faith needs to grow, and you really want to live for something real.

Whatever your situation, I really wanted to encourage you today!

So often people struggle, they miss chances, they muck up great opportunities, or they fall victim to failure and don't get up again. Many people lose motivation once the months start to go by, or they stumble into one of the worst traps that always seems to capture your vision and motivation - comparison.

Comparison is such a killer of dreams and giving things a go - it says, "don't even bother, you'll never be as good as them/as good as that". Comparison tells you that you needent bother, as you have problems and issues, unlike the others around you.

This is why I love the Truth of the Bible so much - God seemed to always use failures to do great things. He often used people who made massive mistakes to do amazing miracles, He used nobodies to tell His story, He used the unknowns to make Him known. That means He can certainly use you and me.

Whenever I start to focus on my failings and weaknesses, I find such hope in the fact that I don't need to be or do anything to be acceptable and great in His eyes - as I am He loves me, in my weaknesses He sees hope, in my failings and mistakes He can bring good things, stories of hope and strength.

"But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me." 2 Corinthians 2:12

So wherever you are in life right now, whatever your plans are, your hopes are, your dreams are... Whatever happens this year, there is hope. You can do it - let's do this!

You are chosen to live right now in this time, you have been given amazing gifts and talents, you have so much to offer... Start with a smile, a simple word of encouragement to that person at work or that child that is causing you to want to tear your hair out. Don't just start this year out with fresh vision and hope, but start each day this way.

This is how you will have an amazing 2016, one day at a time, a fresh slate each morning, the mistakes and sorrows of yesterday gone.

May you find hope in the grace Jesus offers fresh each day.

My prayer for 2016 is this:

In 2016 may I forgive quickly and often.  May I only take on the burdens of today (for grace for tomorrow's burdens will be available then). May I love & appreciate those around me, making the most of each moment.  May I keep my eyes on God (no matter what), and bring life, hope & love to the table each and every day.

Go and make this year count people - speak words of hope into the lives around you, enjoy life, create things, bless others, speak change into situations where there seems to be no hope, get vision when all seems hopeless, and most importantly get your joy and strength from the only One who supplies it - Jesus ❤

Let's do this!

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