Chocolate Date Balls

Thanks for this great recipe! really affordable version 🙂

Amanda Harris - Chef and Nutrition Consultant

~ Chocolate Date Balls ~
No added sugar, Dairy-free, easily made Gluten-free, Affordable, Easy and Delicious!


This is a recipe I came up with to make for snacks at preschool, and I have made them a few times for myself at home as well. They are super easy and freeze really well, in fact you can eat the straight from the freezer. They would be a fun thing to make with kids to use as lunch box fillers, also they are nice for a cheeky snack after dinner with a cup of tea or coffee ☕. I could go on, but you get it 🙂

400g Dates – soak in boiling water for at least half and hour
1 cup coconut
1 TBSP cocoa powder
1 tsp natural vanilla essence
1 cups seeds ( I use pumpkin and sunflower seeds)
1 cup rolled oats

After the dates have soaked for…

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Propagate (Grow Cuttings) Black Current Canes

I’m coming into my fourth year of really poor fruit bearing from our black current canes, they were planted spring 2011 in a spot that used to get all day sun, we have since moved our makeshift glass-house in-front of them which I figured with all the glass it wouldn’t block sun, but – how we’ve positioned it, does block lots of sun.

I’ve got out in the garden this morning just before a pour down of spring rain and dug the black current canes all up, trenched the sunniest available spot, filled with potting mix then planted the canes.  By then my back was on fire and the rain had stopped!

After lunch, a great youtube tutorial and the beckoning of the sunny spring afternoon I head back outside to try work out which canes to secateur off.  I go with instinct and look for “dead” looking ones… snipping a little by little on an angle and check the inside for any signs of green “life”.  A good pruning later, 99% instinct technique working with just a couple that were green on the inside, and a couple that had worms!! in them… the bushes are looking really much better, now with only around four canes per plant all with new green shoots showing.

I watch a propagating video on youtube on roses and figure that black currents are hard-wood so may work the same?

Off to Mitre10 Mega to get some root hormone powder and I get to work with high hopes these become fresh new plants for next year… especially with new plants ranging from $16-25 per cane!!

I’ve done a couple photos so one day when Ella is out in the garden she has a reference 🙂  My mum was an amazing gardener but sadly I didn’t take her skills in enough to remember….

I remember mum was great! at doing strawberry runner plants…. and this will be my fifth or sixth year of trying to get them to work for me 🙂

Keep trying 🙂

Here’s my wee photo tutorial of the propagating of the black current cuttings:

Get some root hormone powder, this cost me $7


Take some nice cuttings from your plants, preferably the canes that fruited last year 🙂

Which I only in the last two years was told by dear Grandad Harrison

So… have no idea if these are last years or older…

  1. Make sure to cut on an angle to expose as much as possible for the new roots.
  2. Soak the cuttings in water for say half an hour to an hour
  3. Dip the cut end into the powder and tap off the excess
  4. Push the cut end of the cane into your potting mix
  5. Give each potted cane a little water, and keep moist but not wet daily
  6. I’m not sure how long this will take to grow roots so will report back.

Much love, fingers crossed and good-luck!!

Vee xx






Southwest Orzo Pasta SALAD

1 cup orzo pasta

2 cups frozen Corn Kernels

½ small red onion,finely chopped

1 red capsicum deseeded and chopped

1 green capsicum,deseeded and chopped

1-2 chorizo or spicy sausage(s),

190ml DIY Southwest Chipotle Flavoured Dressing

50g feta, crumbled

handful fresh parsley leaves, chopped

1. Cook orzo pasta in plenty of boiling lightly salted water until just cooked. Drain and refresh in cold water. Place into a bowl. 2. Put Wattie’s frozen Supersweet Corn Kernels into a microwave proof bowl. Cover and cook on high for 3 minutes, or until hot. Cool. Add to the cooked orzo.

3. Add red onion, red and green capsicums and chorizo.

4. Stir through Eta Southwest Chipotle Flavoured Dressing until well mixed. Serve garnished with crumbled feta and chopped parsley

Southwest Orzo Pasta Salad SAUCE

original recipe found here

This is one of our favorite family recipes 🙂

After spending $4.99 on a bottle of the dressing that goes into this, I’ve found a couple of online recipes to try out instead for our next batch of this salad:

This one:

1/2 cup plain mayonnaise (weighed this out on my scales at 140g)

2 tsp lime juice

1 tsp sugar

1 tsp cilantro

1/2 tsp paprika

1/2 tsp white vinegar

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp crushed garlic

1/8 – 1/4 tsp chile (1/4 was too hot for us)

pinch dried thyme

pinch ground cumin

Method: Combine ingredeitns in a small bowl, cover and chill for at least 1hr before using.  Makes 1/2 cup

and this recipe:

1 chipotle chile in adobo sauce plus 1 tsp sauce (no idea what that is???)

1/2 c mayo

1/3 cup greek yoghurt

1/4 cup chopped cilantro

1/4 tsp ground cumin

1/4 tsp dried dill

salt to taste

Method: place all ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth for 2-3 mins. Store in the fridge for up to 4 wks.

Visiting Dunedin, NZ Spring Break – Day 4

Monday 5 October 2015

Last-night was SO windy!! the roof and all the vents from the bathrooms and kitchen were flapping and banging through the night.  I think around midnight or later we managed to fall asleep.

We’re up at a reasonable hour this morning and straight onto showers and packing the car.

Marks cleaned the kitchen and is vacuuming the carpet.

I noticed mold on the ceiling of one of the bathrooms when we arrived so hope I get time to climb up on a chair and bleach it, it’s been there for a while so if someone doesn’t do it I guess people will keep thinking “why should I?”

In the kitchen we’ve got jif, dishwash, dishpowder, handy andy; the jif and handy andy do their best but it still needs to be taken care of so I write it down in the faults notebook along with that the en-suite shower drain is blocked making the shower flood.  We had to just use the main bathroom – which was fine.

The house is all tidy and we can leave with a clear conscience.

This is a poem that really did inspire/motivate us to leave the place lovely for the next visitors:


Here’s the holiday house tour:

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single beds room:


bunk beds room:


main bathroom:


master bedroom:

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master bedroom’s ensuite bathroom:

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We stayed in Victoria park 🙂


nice big garage!


little outdoor area that we didn’t use at all, we were hardly here 🙂


Before we head home we’re off to visit the Cadbury Factory, we’ve paid for the proper tour and we’re hoping it isn’t the one some former holiday home visitors have written a poor review of!

We arrive at Cadbury and walk through their Musem of where the cacao bean was discovered, thrown overboard then used as currency!! aphrodisiac and even to buy slaves.

The retro packaging is all on display, unfortunately we were given strict, no photography rules 😦

As we walk through we enter a room that apparently promotes smoocho mucho (romance) and Mark quickly reads a few quotes and leaves while I read a bit longer and oooh, awww, and nawww.

Our tour guide arrives and gives us precise instructions from start to finish.

Please smile as I hand you a goodie bag.

Please walk into this room, sniff the pipes to have your aroma experience.

Taste each of a raw cacao nib and one once mixed into a solid version of condensed milk.

Please hold the LEFT rail as you use the stairs.

I learned the cacao is brought in from indonesia, it comes here and is turned into cocoa mass (cocoa butter) then sent back to Australia then sent back to the factory here to be made into chocolate.

We’re walking up the inside of what resembles a large silo, in pure darkness other than the little hallogen lights shining across the top of each stair.  As we reach a platform a light on a timer turns on and we watch a ton (literal) of chocolate drop from the ceiling (twice) then we take the stairs back down.

Unfortunately we don’t see any of the factory, in stead we’re placed infront of a LCD screen to watch how jaffa’s are made (which we saw in the Museum anyway) while she counts and hands out pinky bars and aeroplane sized packs of jaffas.

It’s now the end of our 1hr tour, the first twenty minutes of which were just introductory instructions and listening to her talk about their statistics of chocolate made in a day, milk used, and their heritage vehicles.

I felt that was ok value of money for the four of us for $50 🙂

It’s time to go home, kids are bickering something wicked in the back seat at the moment…


then all of a sudden it’s quiet… really really quiet

“sugar crash ha!!” Mark says to me.

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I rest back and snooze on and off for the journey home.  We stop at a restroom and quickly at couplands for the boys pies, us girls have a salad sandwhich from our cooler ecobag then we continue the journey home,

kids once again bickering and fighting the worst of the whole trip!

one kid gets squirt with a water bottle and told to break it up!!! and the car becomes silent again in shock of mum’s crazy methods of peace-making.  I can see Mark smirking and enjoying his driving in peace and bloody quiet.

Home finally to kelly and the cousins 🙂

Bella’s only dug two holes in the lawn which is pretty good for four days since she’s been run, apart from that we hope you’ll house/dog sit again for us Kelly, Thank you so much!! it was such a nice holiday and really nice not having to kennel dogs or have the house empty for burglars.

I’ve got holiday envy after seeing a friend Angela post photos of a house up in Nelson so checked availability and they’re SO booked up!! if we get booked asap we may be able to ballot the house for this time next year 🙂

So that’s our Dunedin holiday, and we’re now saving up to stay in Nelson next Spring School Holidays.

Hope you enjoyed the read and am sure the kids will love reading about their Dunedin adventure when they’re all old sleep-deprived with their own kids one day.

Vee x

Visiting Dunedin, NZ Spring Break – Day 3

Sunday 4 October 2015

We get a much more relaxed start to the day and head off to visit our once Christchurch residing friends 🙂

They’ve settled – what looks like, seamlessly into Dunedin, they really do look at home here.

I met Sarah as a Manicure client through our mutual friend Selena, Sarah turned up with her children to an appointment with me one day and ever since Brook and their son Alex have been great friends! We’ll have to keep them in touch via skype and pen palling (is that cool these days?)

After our catch up we head off to the Early Settlers Museum, we’re on a one-way street and we parallel park between one rental car facing the wrong way and one facing the same direction as the flow of traffic, the rental car must have had to drive up the one way street the wrong way towards oncoming traffic to park like this. *eyeroll* tourists!

In the museum we split up all being drawn to our own interests, I head off to the clothes and fashion garments and fossil discovered trinkets while Mark looks at vehicles and technology, the kids are drawn to anything that has a touch screen near it.  The coins/currency section is interesting, and the christian/religious area has some interesting info and furniture.


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I’m limping like a fool that walked a steep street and it’s making me cranky being in public looking so invalid.


We finish up at the Museum and just a few sections further down the road we’re at the Chinese Botanical Gardens.

Second favorite thing on my list that we did while in Dunedin and bonus=fixed my cranky mood.

We enter the office area to pay and I’m honestly disappointed to see a non-Chinese person in lycra pants with a Chinese style tunic thrown over top.

Weird.  It was just weird.  I was expecting a zenned out Chinese lady.

Other than the office person – I’m in LOVE with this place.

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Immediately cleansed of my crankiness, soothed and calmed into a state of peace.

We need to add a waterfall and more blossom-like trees to our garden…. the Chinese are really onto it when it comes to mental and physical health.

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Climbing up onto the ledge of the stairs railing – made of wide pavers, wide enough for sitting on and resting against a pillar that holds the gorgeous carved roofing above,

with tight cranky legs stretched out in-front seated in a V shape, feet above me – this has to be the best leg stretch ever!


Just a few minutes or so – time really stops in a place like this.  Mark looks up from below and says “you’re in your element eh”.


The stretch does the trick for the sore calf muscles and off I go to help the kids find all the hidden bunny rabbits.


The kids are racing around jumping and running, missing many of the hidden soft toys, after many loops of areas they know the’re missing finding things,

They slow down and take their time to look properly, up and down and all the nooks and crannies of the rocks and trees.


Mark LOVES the gardens too and wants us to visit China on our OE

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Mark tells me their gardens have yin yang – so hard straight things like concrete and soft curved things like trees and the sound of water.

Based on that as explanation… we’re definitely each others Yin Yang 😉

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The lanterns were really pretty

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Photos of all the different things used for paving and ground cover

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Couldn’t work these out, can you?

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Not sure what this pretty flower is but it’s interesting how the petals and flower head all cup kind of like a small petall’d tulip.


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The kids find all the bunnys and are rewarded with a mini-version of a fifty cent mixture.  Mark and I pinch a lolly from each of the kids prize bags.  Ella has a meltdown; with Mark taking the ONE lolly she really wanted, he eats it without guilt and tries his powers of distraction on her without luck.  She decidedly want’s a drink and she bloody well want’s it now.

Time to go.  We head to the car and get groceries for dinner as well as the consumables to replace at the holiday home.

Tomorrow morning will be an early start as we have to clean the house before we leave, lucky for the next holidayers – both Mark and I are clean freaks.

We have a really nice meal of baked salmon, fresh salad and then kick back to watch another DVD provided by the holiday home.

The Great Gatsby.  Its an era I would typically enjoy watching, and has some truth to the story but we fade in and out of actually watching it,

the story-line is simple and just drags on and on so we head off to bed for a decent sleep.

Cadbury factory tomorrow!! Woo! Excited.

Visiting Dunedin, NZ Spring Break School Holidays – Day 2

Saturday 3 October 2015

Not much sleep last night, but finally with threats of separation and one missing out on sleeping in the bunks, Ella and Brook settled off to sleep.  Mark and I tossed and turned, a muggy sleepless night.

Everyone is up before me! I wonder if I can go back to sleep and catch up but hear the front door as they all head out without me! Yikes!! Get up time.  I quickly get the coffee and cereal down while sending off a text to locate them.

I can hear them.  Odd. Can’t see them.

Oh wow.  Our holiday home backs onto a beach with an amazing playground!

A very road alike area for the kids to scoota around and play.  Very cool.  Mark snapped these on his cell for us 🙂


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Just behind that hill there… that’s where our holiday home was and why I could still hear but not see the kids.

They’re home and ready to get to work on our itinery!

Off to Baldwin Street we go, the steepest residential street in the world, famous for the Cadbury Jaffa Race, and apparently a 1 meter incline for every 2.89 meters distance up it.

Bless my husband for this flattering shot of me holding me thumping and racing heart with a worried Brook beside me as I crawl, feeling sick and feint repeatedly to “just do it” this tourist heavy street.


I decided with just three meters left to go – bugger it… I don’t care about finishing! I’m totally a quitter! in fact I’ll proudly quit! this is ridiculous! but as always Mark pushed and cheered my lazy arse on.  Thanks Mark.

I heavily do NOT recommend doing this street if you don’t have anti-flamme packed in your holiday items.

A lady couple drive right up beside us and step out of their car.  Oh how I wish I’d have done that too.

They take a family photo for us, and turns out one of them works for MOE and is intrigued but not surprised to hear what we have to say about our former attended primary school.


We head back down this vertical nightmare and set off to the Dunedin Botanic Gardens.

A quick picnic lunch then into this hilly version of our own city’s gardens we find several large aviary’s, I give a poor indian accented hello to the bird and am given a gentle and shy “hel-low” back from the bird!! “Mark!! this one talks!!”

The kids come over and repeatedly say “hello… hullo… hella-ow” and the bird doesn’t do it.

He must like my fake indian accent.

I try again and wait quietly for him to speak back.

“Hel-low” the bird says.

That is very cool!!

We try again with all the other birds and one that looks like a completely black parrot also talks back.  We find one really acting and showing off… what a cheeky bird.  I want one!




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This cheeky orange bird with a long tail is circling around this little grey bird intimidating and bullying it….

Or maybe its getting it away from it’s nest… I”m not sure.


Mark snaps some photos of the oriental looking garden, he loves this style of garden and wants for us to visit there some day when on our OE, maybe we can incorporate it into our garden at home, we’re not finished landscaping so now would be the time to do it.  A waterfall would be really relaxing.  Hmmm

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We fueled up with an ice-block/ice-cream each,

and set the tomtom to the Otago Musem to visit their Butterfly Conservatory.

Before we make it inside we see some kids screaming and laughing… what on earth?

Brook and Ella are naturally drawn to the children’s joyous chaos,

and we’re left with no option but to follow our curious kids.


Mark whispers…. so quiet – even I standing next to him can’t even make out what he’s saying…

Ella yells “YEP!! I HEAR YA!!” from the other end several meters away.

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Finally we head inside and before even getting to the butterflies we’re absorbed by the technology in the museum.

Mark and Ella beat Brook and myself several times over, at Mind Ball, a head-band is wrapped around your forehead that measures your brain activity, the person with the most relaxed mind makes the ball travel into the opponents end of the table.  Very frustrating to watch as you both try to relax, and watch a ball you don’t want….head towards you!!  You also have a LCD screen of your brains activity as you participate, and that is interesting to read too 🙂


Finally we head off to the next floor up some beautiful marble/stone stairs.

 This is my FAVORITE part of our holiday.  It was just amazing and spellbinding to be so still while butterfly’s land and rest on your bare skin.

We were warned that the heat was a minimum of 28 degrees in there, so stripped off, and got water so the low-blood-pressured wifey didn’t pass out, especially after the Baldwin Street episode.

You go through a wide corridor, place your belongings into cubby holes, and enter a doorway of hanging metal chains, much like those doors with the plastic strips hung from the door frame to keep flies out in summer,

What are those door things called? Very 1980’s

Once through those chains you’re in pitch black darkness!! Ella’s aztec style dress went full fluro! that was quite neat.

You walk through the short length of darkness and open a heavy mirrored door into daylight, heavy humidity, and the tranquil sound of water falls.

I just want to sit and stay here for the rest of the day! such a bliss inducing environment.  I’m not sure where Mark or the kids are as I’m wandering bare foot up some steps, stopping as the heat hits me… I decide I must see what’s up there! and slowly climb the last few steps to reach the top of this three? four? leveled wonderland.

The stairs wrap around the outer walls of the encounter so as you look down over the rails you can see amazing foliage and so many! butter flies!! Gosh it’s hot up here…. I descend down just one flight of steps where it’s a little cooler, a breeze coming from the water falls I think, resting at a rail with my arm out – a butterfly lands. Whoa! forcing extra gentle breaths I try to not disturb the beautiful little thing… it walks up my arm and tickles so much I have to grit my teeth to stop from twitching!! Brook joins me to the left and one lands on him too! His face is like mine… whoa?!!

Mark snapped this photo of us with our arms out wanting more to land 🙂

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The butterflies are fed a nectar rich diet


We thought this one of the rail was dead, but the dead butterfly collecting staff member touched it and it flew away!



Sadly this one was dead.



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This one here was Bright BLUE when it opened it’s wings!!


On our way out we found a little glass fenced enclosure with turtles


We head back down to the Museum where Brook and Ella have a fierce stand off at the Mind Ball table.  The ball right in the middle refusing to roll to either end of the table! Such competitive kids 🙂

We have a quick dinner at the holiday home then are off to see the movie PIXELS at Dunedin Reading Cinema.

A very different experience to Reading Cinema’s in Christchurch.

We walk in, get some snacks then just go straight up some flights of stairs and into our cinema, no usher before heading up stairs and no usher anywhere outside or inside the cinema.  Once inside we see our tickets have no numbers.

I guess people in Dunners are more lax than other cities.  It’s a strange thing to be used to rules, and black and white, to then be somewhere where it’s so lax.

The plus side is – we’re early, so we got the BEST seats!

The movie gets a five out of five from Mark and the Kids, I myself dozed off at one point, understandably with the last few nights of minimal sleep.

We head back to the holiday home where the kids are SO chaotic in their bunk beds, both excited, over-tired and about to get at each others throats with bickering.

We threaten separation and sadly have to follow through.  Brook gets put in the non-bunk bed room, and Ella gets his place the following night.

Mark and I both have the best night sleep! Hurrar! and thank goodness… another big day ahead tomorrow.

Will blog Day 3 & 4 ASAP!

Hope you’re enjoying reading about our adventures in Dunedin!

Visiting Dunedin, NZ – Spring Break School Holidays

Dunedin Holiday – Spring School Break 2015

Friday 2 October:

Both Mark and I slept terribly, the list of to do’s and don’t forgets, added to soon being domestically off-duty has kept us tossing and turning.  Deciding sleeps over-rated we’re both up early and onto the breakfast routine and loading the wagon with all the last-to-pack stuff.

Marks sister Kelly arrives and I’m delighted! to see both Marley (but especially) Bella take command from her during their morning feed, they sit, then they wait both full attention looking at her face waiting for their name before they can have their morning kibble.  Kelly will be fine. Phew.

The cousins along with Brook and Ella are all inside excited and jumping all over the furniture bomb-diving the bean bags and cackling laughter; while Mark runs through his “typed” list of passwords, how-to-operates, and reminders.

Into the car we get – and on the road we go! The trip should be around four hours according to the tomtom.  Stopping at Rolleston to give the tyres a check a damsel in distress can’t work the air hose machine… I sit in the car rolling my eyes at her heavily applied blush and bronze, perfect, haven’t-had-kids-yet body, and still gorgeous – even though she just got out of bed hair – while my constable does what he does best.  Helps.

Something’s wrong with the air machine, its deflating!! Her tyre…

Yes… I did sit there and laugh…. on the inside… then I offered her to maybe just put her spare wheel on.  She moved on to chatting with the petrol station attendant while the machine without-a-hitch inflated our tyres.  Random.

Off we go again and are amazed at the fuel economy of the Atenza so are talking about upgrading Marks bogan-mobile for another one.  Fingers Crossed!

Stopping at Ashburton Burger King, we endure the longest wait ever for fast-food.  They must be chopping up the spuds and baking the bread fresh I reckon.  We wait parked up around 10 minutes for two nugget burgers for the kids and Marks BK Rodeo Stunner Meal.

Remembering hot pasties at Ashburton Intermediate we stop again quickly at the clock tower bakery, I am told that we’re not allowed to call them Cornish pasties anymore since we’re kiwi.  Ok then.  The dutch lady then upsells (not really) me into buying custard squares and a chocolate torte’

On return to the car Mark tells me that there’s a knocking sound when turning corners and he’s deciding whether to have it looked at before leaving Ashburton, it appears to be wear and tear and will be fine for our journey.

We lose radio reception along the way and plug in my Samsung playing Spotify Family Road Trip.  Good beats!

Arriving at Moeraki Boulders and I’m curious to see why Mark’s so amped up about beach rocks.

We get free entry since my coffee addiction counts as a sale and they do the hummingbird coffee beans justice! Perfect extraction, perfect temperature, perfect ratio of milk : foam, and… the sugar is dissolved with having been stirred in.  High Five Moeraki Barista!

Down a short sandy ramp and a few timber stairs we’re on the beach and the sun’s out.  Really bi-polar weather today so will enjoy this sun while we can.  Mark and I take a quick selfie or two.


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We get LOTS of photos of these massive boulders; some of them have been cracked open and look like asteroids,


We dare the kids to put their fingers in there… and then spook them.




The kids run off ahead of us several times besides us saying stay close.  They run back up the timber steps and ramp to the cafe and we quickly hide behind some foliage to teach them a lesson.

Mark and I wait… giggling and smirking… ready to jump out and scare them well and good.

They don’t come.

We run back up to the cafe and they’re not even bothered, they’re studying the ice-blocks!!

Darn. Will have to re-think/replace that trick.

We make our way begrudgingly from the sunshine back to the car and continue on the road.

I get an answer machine when calling in our dinner reservations but an hour later get a call back to confirm a table for four at Robbies. Great! that’s dinner sorted.

Arriving at Dunedin we pop into Countdown.  Mark does a flash-shop while I send a multi text to all the loved ones announcing we’ve made it! close to six hours in all… but we’re at our holiday destination finally!

We put the holiday home address into the tomtom and head over to unpack and relax before dinner.

We’re really impressed with the house! it’s so well kitted out with all the home comforts, even DVD’s!! and the people who left the house this morning have left us their home made garlic butter. YUM!

The kids race around room by room and both yell out:


There’s two sets of bunks, so they BOTH get to sleep on top 🙂

We find a DVD called Big Hero 6 in the stash and kickback with afternoon tea.

Dinner at Robbies then home for an early night.

Or so we think.

The kids are SO EXCITED!!! lol

There won’t be much sleep this holiday I guess.