Happy Half-birthday: 30 before 30

Half-birthday

Today marks my half-birthday and the six month countdown to the big 30! While my goal for this year has been simplicity, I don’t want to mistake this for complacency – there’s still room to grow! So here is my list of 30 things I’d like to do before 30:

  1. Work a polling booth for Election Day – this goal has already required some preplanning (applying for and accepting position) but I’m pleased to tick it off my nerdy bucket list
  2. Wean CJ out of a swaddle – I know, funny goal, but it seems like a mountain of a challenge at the moment!
  3. Guest-post on 10 different blogs.
  4. Find two new networking groups.
  5. Give cloth diapering a good try – summer will probably be ideal for this given it will increase our washing load!
  6. Support NZ businesses (where possible) for upcoming gift occasions
  7. Declutter and sell a whole bunch of items – our house is very little and a lot of stuff lives in the garage that we never use. Flick it on, I say!
  8. Plan a family tropical holiday for August 2015 (we’re thinking Rarotonga!)
  9. Meet with a mortgage broker – we keep putting this off but we really need to find out where we need to be so that we have a goal to work towards
  10. Find an AWESOME at-home child care person for CJ to start with in February next year (eeee!)
  11. Get our wills sorted – how boring and adult, but necessary
  12. Take a dance class – not fussed as to what, just need to get my body moving
  13. Find six new recipes to add to the usual menu of meals in this house
  14. Find a swim outfit that makes me feel confident at the pool/beach/wherever. I don’t need to have a son growing up with a mum constantly trying to hide her body
  15. On this note – get to the beach this summer! I was so sore and whale-like last summer, I did not enjoy myself at all. I want a real summer this time, with my big and little adventure buddies.
  16. Own a pair of Toms
  17. Get a proper pair of cross-trainers after getting a stride analysis.
  18. Eat waffles at Ben Gusto Howick
  19. Eat everything (haha) at Masu
  20. Take Papa M to Tanuki’s Cave 
  21. Have Giapo ice-cream again – it’s been FAR too long
  22. Take CJ to the zoo for the first time
  23. Have a family day-trip to Waiheke Island
  24. Get down to my wedding weight – this is still a good 15 kg above my goal weight but a realistic goal in the next six months.
  25. Have a 24-hour girlie getaway as a trial run before my trip to Perth – more a trial run for Papa M
  26. Have family portrait taken in the weeks leading up to CJ’s first birthday
  27. Finish writing my novel and grow the metaphorical testes to try and get it published
  28. Try a flotation tank – hoping to lock this in during my Perth trip
  29. Throw a kick-ass first birthday for CJ
  30. Book a delicious weekend getaway at The Langham for my 30th!

I look forward to updating this over the next six months – will I be able to do it all?

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Loving It: Our Baby Show Haul

For other Baby Show posts, click here

Last year we attended the Auckland Baby Show as relatively newbies to the parenting game. We literally announced that morning (to Facebook at least) that we were expecting; just as well we did as we saw people we knew there and might have been hard-pushed to convince them it was purely a “research trip”! We spent a leisurely few hours strolling the show and spending up large, pausing every once in a while to drink and rest at one of the handy rest-areas. Very clever having free water coolers actually, I was SO thirsty when pregnant and get dehydrated so easily while I’m still feeding. Anyway, clearly this year was going to be a little different. We were constrained this year by the fact that we are now a one-income income family and the fact that we have the little dude, but it was handy to use the show itinerary planner tool offered on the Baby Show website to plan out our “must-sees”. It meant we got to every stand we needed to visit, but we got to take in some fabulous unexpected surprises along the way.

We did buy some big-ticket items that are in the delivery process and we’ll show those on the blog or the Facebook page in due course. Here are some purchases (and freebies, that anyone at the show could get) that make up part of our haul:

Freebies and GWPs at BabyShow

Upon arrival, everyone was able to get a little freebie bag of Huggies nappies and wipes. Huggies is a major sponsor of our national baby health service Plunket and was also one of the major partners of the show. Always handy to have these little sealed packs to throw in the car for emergencies.

Other freebies we picked up were:

The goodie bag to end ALL goodie bags at the show, however, was the The Warehouse Seminar Room goodie bag. We arrived just before the seminar started to see the helpful staff placing bags on each chair. After our seminar (and CJ’s bounce time in the activity centre down the back), we took our bag but didn’t actually get a chance to look in it until we got home. They really outdid themselves!

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In the bag:

  • Two samples of Palmers Lotion for Stretch Marks
  • Blue & Pink 3-packs of wooly socks (can’t decide whether to give the pink away or just have CJ wear them around home!)
  • Medium, Large & Extra-Large 2-packs of Babywise Nappy Pants
  • Babywise Baby Wipes
  • My personal favorite: The Nuby Hot Safe Spoon – BPA free and changes color when the food temperature gets too hot!

Very generous, considering that you need do nothing more than listen to the helpful advice of the seminar hosts – our particular seminar was run by John of The Parenting Place and focused on how to survive and thrive as a parent.

Finally, here’s (most) of our little purchases. Some of the more “grocery”-type items are already in use!

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  • Mumi & Bubi Solid Starter Kit: While I don’t make all of CJ’s food, I find that freezing portions of store-bought food enables us to reduce food wastage. Now Papa M can have his ice trays back and I can actually store the cubes in the trays!
  • Brontosaurus Anamalz: My little dino-lover chose this one himself, a boy after his own mum’s heart. Plus I think he just likes to stick the brontosaurus head in his mouth
  • Xma-Ease by Mum’s Secret: CJ currently gets heat-related eczema and this is a wonderful natural product to use on him. I’ve recently had a random patch of dermatitis pop up and it works wonders on me too
  • Seven-pack of Only Organic baby food: This is our current go-to range for store-bought food, CJ loves the wide range of flavors.

I have to reiterate that this was only a tiny portion of what was available at the show, and the stuff that was most relevant to us. You can check out who exhibited this year on their website, and follow the Baby Show (NZ) on Facebook or Twitter in order to be in the know for next year.

If you went this year, I’d love to know some of what you got in your haul!

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Wishful Thinking: Springtime Getaway

New Zealand Destinations

Papa M and I like to travel – in fact, prior to CJ coming along we did it A LOT. We had big trips to both Melbourne and Samoa, but also made the most of long weekends and cheap domestic airfares, having local holidays. I think that’s one of the benefits of living in a small country like New Zealand – it’s not too far to reach most places in NZ, whether it is by plane, boat, train or car. New Zealanders may be able to pick some of our destinations from the pictures above!

Some of our favorite destinations have been:

Christchurch: True story; Papa M had never flown before following me on an already-planned vacation to Christchurch in 2009. We had a fantastic four days before he had to fly back to work. We followed that up with a trip the following year, tackling a bit more of the South Island by journeying up to Hanmer Springs and down to Lake Tekapo. I’ve been back on a flying visit post-earthquake but Papa M hasn’t and I think it will be at least the end of 2015 before there will be a possibility of us going again. Christchurch is doing an amazing job of rebuilding and it will be interesting to see how it develops.

The Coromandel: Widely renowned as one of THE summer destinations in New Zealand, it’s also not too shabby as an off-peak choice. We’ve stayed in almost every major town (not Pauanui… yet) and we really love it there. We quite often play the “When we win the lottery, we’ll buy a holiday home here” game, although we hum and ha about whether it would be at Cooks’ Beach or Whangamata.

Wellington: New Zealand’s capital city. We took the Overlander train down which worked out fantastically; we did all our winding down on the train and hit the streets in Wellington raring to go. We indulged our inner nerds with museum visits and a tour of Parliament. We also had the opportunity to meet up with some great people and eat some fantastic food – Wellington has a very vibrant food scene.

Seriously, the list could go on and on with something amazing to share about each place. Each destination we visit holds a special home in our hearts. Five and a half years together means so many trips and so many fabulous memories. But here’s the kicker – we haven’t been away in almost a year! Our baby-moon last October (Whitianga that time) was the last time that we managed to go away. No wonder we’ve both been longing for a change of scenery. We moved house and had a baby and Papa M’s work has been really crazy and somehow we have a six-month-old with a portacot that is yet to be used outside of the house! How did this happen?

Despite dentist bills and car services, we definitely want to move this from the “Wishful Thinking” to the “Making Plans” column and we’re starting to figure out how we can make this work. We definitely need to get CJ used to being an adventure-seeker like his mum and dad!

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Did you guess, Kiwis? R to L, Top to Bottom: Wellington, Mt Maunganui, Paihia, Lake Tekapo, Cape Reinga, Whangamata, Hot Water Beach, Christchurch, Rotorua.

Out & About: Auckland Botanic Gardens, Manurewa

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While the weather can be frightful at this time of year, we do have some stellar winter days. Cabin fever can so quickly set in when you are a parent to little ones and it feels great to get out in the air and sunshine! We have a few good walks around our local area and we’re very lucky to live in a small town that abides by the “old-school” manners that we were raised with as kids – I know, I know, I’m turning thirty, not eighty! Still, sometimes it can be nice to go further afield and one of our favorites is The Auckland Botanic Gardens. The on-site cafe Cafe Miko can get very busy during peak hours, so bear that in mind if you have hungry little people or if you are in desperate need of caffeine!

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There are two major bathroom facilities at the Gardens, one in the main foyer and a secondary facility in the cottage building over by the Rose Garden. The foyer has a parent room with unisex bathroom, fold-out change table and a feeding seat. The unfortunate thing about this set up is that there is absolutely no privacy between the change table and the seat. The property management may be laboring under the misconception that only women change diapers – certainly not the case with us. On one occasion the carpark was packed and I dropped Papa M and CJ in front of the building while I used my knowledge of the side streets to find a better park. Papa M had to deal with a rather suspicious smelling nappy in my absence and a woman actually waited for him to finish the nappy change before feeding in the seat. Not ideal. There is no indoor feeding area in the Rose Garden facility and there is only a nappy change table in the women’s bathrooms.

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Don’t let this put you off – just plan accordingly. The Auckland Botanic Gardens have amazing opportunities for fun and education. I have very early memories of feeding the ducks (a bit of a no-no now) at the jetty there but they are only one of the great attractions there. One of the most kiddy-friendly areas is The Potter Children’s Garden. There are a range of activities in here, suiting infants right through to school age. There are paths that take you through the tree canopies, through mazes and down little tracks. There’s a human-sized sun dial. There is a giant egg-shell that sees many a cute photo opportunity – I’m waiting until CJ grows a little more for that one! The area has also recently been extended to create gardens representative of different climatic and geographic conditions – my favorites being the jungle (that periodically mists as you walk through) and the meadow. Plenty of learning opportunities and the perfect safe place to let your active little ones expend that energy.

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Kids are never too young to learn about sustainable gardening and the origins of their food. Tucked away in a sheltered corner by the  main foyer is the edible garden section, with two courtyard gardens as well as raised beds and a teeny orchard section. This would be great for those families whose current living situations don’t allow them to grow their own produce. It can also open up conversations about some of the plants in there – that as well as looking pretty, you can eat nasturtiums. I’m definitely looking forward to having those conversations with CJ as he grows older. There are also a number of themed gardens that can expose your child to many different plants and eco-systems, bush walks, an off-leash dog area and a sculpture exhibition every summer.

Our active little bean is going to need lots of outdoor time as he grows and the Auckland Botanic Gardens will continue to be a place that we visit as we raise the next generation of Ms. While a few minor tweaks (change tables in bathrooms of both genders, more breastfeeding privacy, faster service in the cafe) would make it a stellar destination, it is still well worth the journey.

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Out & About: The Baby Show, Auckland

Enjoy our series, Out & About, focusing on accessibility and suitability of various public places in Auckland for babies and small children.

Well, obviously the Baby Show is going to be an ideal place to take children – that’s a given! I know, however, that a few of our readers out there have been a little on-the-fence about attending and so the M household headed along today to check it out and report back.

Parent Room at Auckland Baby Show

Plunket and Huggies have worked together to create a very decent family room. There are change tables a-plenty with hand sanitizer at each station and discreet holes through which to dispose of your dirty diapers. There’s lovely comfortable couches (not pictured to protect privacy of breastfeeding mothers) and microwaves available to heat food and beverages. Plunket nurses are also available to advise on breast-feeding and child wellness issues.

Lego/Duplo Brick Pit at the Auckland Baby Show

Older children might love getting balloons and a cuddle and a photo with the big blue Plunket bear – we figured CJ was bug-eyed enough already and gave it a miss. I definitely think that Papa M is hoping to head back in following years to play (with CJ, ahem) in the Lego/Duplo brick pit. The helpers there were so lovely and we got a little starter kit of Duplo bricks! CJ also got to cuddle into a ginormous toy tiger at the Auckland Zoo stand and I’m a bit gutted that we didn’t get the opportunity to go back and take them up on their special offer of two months extra on an annual pass!

Baby cuddling up to large tiger toy

Clothing & accessory companies Dimples, Mum 2 Mum, The Sleep Store and Tiny Turtles all have absolutely amazing show specials on clothing and sleepwear. Nappies Direct have an exceptionally good deal on diapers and wipes that is also available to those who are unable to make the show. There was a veritable traffic jam around Ecostore (check out why with their show specials here) and an absolute stroller snarl-up around Only Organics. CJ got to trial their Pear, Purple Carrot, Blueberry and Quinoa flavour and it was like all his Christmases had come at once! They have great show specials too.

Baby in exersaucer

With so much going on, we detoured into the seminar room (sponsored by The Warehouse) to grab a seat. CJ was delighted to see that they had an exersaucer free for him to play in – our active boy loves to bounce around and be free! Papa M and I got to listen to a seminar on “Surviving and Thriving as a Parent” by John Cowan of the Parenting Place. It was great to have an opportunity to just sit and listen, and the supplied goodie bags for each seminar attendee are insanely good value.

There are SO many different exhibitors that it would be impossible to create a blog post that did justice to every single one. In the next week or so, we’ll be bringing you a couple of posts that dive more into depth about what we bought, but in the meantime (and if you are still on the fence – but why would you be?) you can check out individual exhibitors and their show specials on the Baby Show website. While there are a whole load of beloved and renowned New Zealand brands there, there’s also a few hidden gems there that we’d love to bring to your attention:

Love Loops

Love Loops: a New Zealand owned-and-operated company that creates beautiful jewelry to represent the special people and events in your life. I love that you can add loops for additional family members; I’d get one loop engraved with my husband and I and our wedding date, one that had CJ’s name and date of birth and leave room for one more… eventually. The hard part would be choosing what style to purchase – there are so many! Silver, gold; there’s even cufflink options for dads and charm bracelet options for those who prefer their hearts on their wrists! They’re currently running a show special of 15% off which you can also find on their Facebook page if you are unable to attend.

Mum’s Secret: Another little Kiwi gem, we’re big fans in this house of both the Mum’s Secret Soothe & Repair cream and the XmaEase cream; CJ gets a little heat-related eczema and Mum’s Secret is perfect for that summer chafing that us ample-thighed women can get. They have massive discounts across the entire range and is definitely worth a visit.

Pixie Party Supplies

Pixie Party Supplies: OK, CJ is only six months and I’m already avidly planning his first birthday party! Pixie Party Supplies have a huge range of party supplies and their stall is super-colourful – truly something for every little lad and lass here and their website has a whole range of decorating supplies for grown-up occasions too!

Paul And Stella bottles: We’re blessed (although sometimes we wonder!) with a particularly hungry boy who isn’t fussy about food as long as it is in his mouth. I know many mums who aren’t as lucky, with babies that will only take warm bottles; not always easy when you are out and about. The Paul & Stella bottles have a reusable heating module that has no electricity or batteries (it’s powered by the reaction of a food-grade salt) – just click and go and the bottle is at body temperature in a few minutes, staying within the ideal drinking temperature for more than an hour!

Kiinde System

Kiinde Twist & Foodi Systems: I’d seen this on an Australian parenting blog and was keen to see it in person. It’s an innovative system that allows you to directly pump (using an adaptor with your current breast pump) into breast milk storage bags, store in a lay-flat system in the freezer then warm and feed all from the same bag – no bottles required! The team here were kind enough to offer me a few odds and ends to try out for myself, so watch out for a Mama M Tries post soon! They also are selling the PumpEase hands-free pumping bra and I think that the combo of these two would be amazing for mums heading back to work who are still wanting to feed their infants breast milk!

LouLaMere: I don’t know about you all, but the transition from worker to stay-at-home-mum was huge! Half the time (OK, most…) you have no idea what you are doing and what works for other mums won’t necessarily work in your situation. For example, your partner can’t take baby for a walk while you make dinner if they doesn’t arrive home until late, work shift-work or their work takes them away for days at a time. Likewise, the transition back to employment can be equally daunting. LouLaMere works with mothers to transition back into the work force with as little stress as possible. They recognize that many of us want to be both successful mums and fulfilled in the work we do and work with each individual to craft a plan that works best for them. They can help identify which child-care option is best for you, suggest products that might assist you in transition and literally provide you with a manual of top tips to help you out. They’re also in the process of creating a mentor programme – there really is nothing like it that I’ve seen. So worth checking out if you are thinking of returning to work.

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Anamalz: Absolutely adorable animal toys made out of eco materials and soft plushy fabric. Papa M and I love wooden toys and CJ was absolutely taken by them too! He’d been such a tough little cookie, making it through the show with minimal fuss while cutting his very first tooth and so we let him choose his very own. He chose the brontosaurus – just like me when I was growing up! He loves the smoothness of the wood and the fuzzy flexible neck and tail. They have almost every animal you can think of and are continuously adding to the range. I can see us getting quite a few more over the years!

If you are a parent of little ones or a parent-to-be, I definitely recommend checking the Baby Show out – you will not be sad you went. The team have made every effort to make such a massive expo as comfortable as possible (with little rest and water areas as well!) and everyone is positively charming!

 

CJ @ 6 months

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This little dude has been in our lives for six months – how blessed are we? He is such a wee little character and he really does make our days brighter. We spent his birthday out at Mitre 10 Mega and the supermarket (he loves looking at everything) and playing peekaboo with the blanket at home! We celebrated by having only fruit instead of fruit and veges for lunch!

  • He’s sitting! He’s still fairly unstable – the moment he sees anything more interesting he leans to get it and over he goes. He always looks so surprised that he’s balancing upright too, cracks me up.
  • He eats ANYTHING. I accidentally mixed in a chicken and sweetcorn puree ice cube with two of his apple and kumara cubes and he hoovered the lot down. He’s not so much a fan of pear or guava but we can only really measure that by the fact he doesn’t eat them quite as quickly. There’s never any leftovers!
  • He wipes his own nose after he sneezes! Unfortunately I think he takes after me in terms of allergies – on a day where I sneeze a lot, he seems to sneeze a lot too. The upside is that after seeing me wipe my nose after sneezing, he does it too. Pop a little cloth in his hand and he’ll wipe his own nose! I hope he keeps it up as a toddler!
  • He’s waking up much happier – instead of waking up in the morning to his wailing, we hear him burbling away in the cot to his teddy. It really is too cute for words.
  • He moved into his “big boy” carseat and it’s been well-used already. In the first week he went over the Auckland Harbour Bridge for the first time and to the Sylvia Park Shopping Mall as well as around our local area. He doesn’t settle as well in it (for naps) as he did in the capsule but I think that is because he can see so much more.
  • We went to our first Wriggle and Rhyme session and he totally lost his s#!* at how exciting everything was. There was music and bubbles, scarves and dancing and little CJ, squawking along, cracking everyone up…
  • He had his five month vaccinations and started complaining as soon as he saw the needles, like he knew what was coming. Heaven help us when he has his fifteen month shots and can crawl/toddle/run away!
  • He had his first “proper” cold. Until now it’s just been persistent snuffles and that random high temperature virus. This was a proper little cold with coughs and sneezes and appallingly sleepless nights for all concerned. I have to admit that I was worried that it was the four month sleep regression arriving a little late but we seem to escaped that for the most part. I don’t know how some mummies do it!
  • We went for a bit of a nature walk at Papa M’s parents – walking out into the paddock and having a look at the glasshouses; detouring through the garden and smelling all the herbs and fruits. Sensory overload!
  • We are SO close to getting that first tooth – it’s just starting to cut through the gum. I’d be very surprised if we didn’t have it completely through within a week.

Motherhood can be so challenging but I wouldn’t miss those giggling, smiling moments for anything. So lucky.

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Wines & Dines: Clevedon Cafe, Clevedon

With my cousin kindly offering to baby-sit we were initially planning to tick off one of the restaurants on our “must-try” list. Friday found Papa M coming down with the cold CJ and I had earlier in the week so we decided to head somewhere a little closer to home for our lunch date. We tootled off to the Clevedon Cafe, a wee treasure tucked away from the hustle and bustle of East and South Auckland. Based right in the centre of Clevedon Village (you should be able to see it as you head through the only roundabout), they do brunch, lunch and dinner and on a winter’s day the place can be surprisingly cosy.

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Our drink orders were taken promptly, something I’m always grateful for when out for brunch. The restaurant has a really broad wine list but beer and cider availability is not as extensive. This isn’t necessarily an negative, just depends on what you are looking for. Due to the chilly day, sickness (him) and a full-on week (me), coffee was the order of the day and both arrived relatively quickly and were completely satisfactory, albeit nothing to write home about.

Papa M was looking for something to clear his nose so went for the spicy breakfast quesadilla, topped with grilled haloumi and a fried egg. Had he not been trying to decongest himself, he would have gone for the roast pumpkin pearl barley risotto with spinach, goats’ cheese and red pepper and raisin relish. It was a hard choice for me between the cafe smoked salmon and potato salad or the indian spiced lamb wrap but the wrap won out in the end. I was also giving the berry and chocolate brioche fingers the glad eye and would have definitely have picked this if I’d been in the mood for something sweet.

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Papa M found the quesadilla quite good – he thought the mince was delicious, with a bit of a tang but not quite as much kick as he had hoped.  He found the egg was fried quite well and felt the haloumi was a really nice touch. The serving of lamb in my wrap was quite generous and the whole thing was fairly substantial – I actually did not quite finish! The inclusion of chickpeas definitely help with that satiety factor and the cucumber raita really added to the dish.

Service was attentive and quick without being “in your face”. The restaurant wasn’t overly busy but one would hope that they would manage to maintain that level of service even during peak periods. The price was right too, with two meals and two coffees providing a little change out of $50. While we went without CJ, there were a couple of families also dining in at that time and the layout is relatively family-friendly, with a ramp entrance suitable for strollers and wheelchairs. The Clevedon Cafe gets a thumbs up from the M-team.

Want to make a day of it? Beachlands, Maraetai and Kawakawa Bay beaches are within a twenty minute drive. Wine tasting is available at both John Hill Estate and Vin Alto. The area has a thriving market scene with both farmers’ and craft markets happening every Sunday. For something a little bit different, you can also check out McNicol Homestead Museum: the home of the first settlers in the area, open weekends 1-4pm.

The Clevedon Cafe | 1 North Rd, Clevedon

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I Read A Lot: Tales of the East

I’m renowned as a book nerd by those that know me best. I Read A Lot is a semi-regular feature on the blog in which I share with you what I currently have my nose buried in.

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Recently I have been having a bit of a love affair with Asian-inspired novels and memoirs. Maybe it is some stifled wanderlust – it’s been almost a year since we went on holiday anywhere, let alone overseas – or maybe it is the need to send my mind beyond the walls of my current experience. I’m not sure. What I do know is that the immersion of myself in these beautiful worlds is making my evenings and nap-times bright. I love that they cover such a broad range of settings and perspectives, respecting the beauty of each individual culture and showing a breadth of experiences. Here’s some of my favorites:

The Valley of Amazement by Amy Tan

I’ve been a fan of Amy Tan for a while now but I think this has to be my favorite book so far. It is an interesting look at the experiences of both courtesans and mixed-race children in early 20th century China. Young Violet (of Chinese and American descent) finds herself separated from her mother when the revolution occurs and is forced to become a ‘virgin courtesan’. I found the descriptions of Shanghai in this novel incredibly vivid and the twists and turns of the plot can be both heartbreaking and uplifting.

The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng

Set in the highlands of Malaya, it follows a woman’s desire to build a garden in memory of her sister, brutally killed in the Japanese occupation. She becomes the apprentice of Aritomo, assisting him with his masterpiece, The Garden of Evening Mists, and secrets long hidden are revealed through vivid flashback sequences. I found the description of zen garden philosophy absolutely fascinating – the author really has a way of making the reader understand its simplistic beauty.

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

From the sombre to the tongue-firmly-in-cheek, I loved this debut novel by Kevin Kwan. Based largely in the small Asian country of Singapore, this follows the adventures of Rachel Chu (an American-born Chinese) as she agrees to visit her boyfriend’s home country. She doesn’t know his family is – as the title suggests – crazy rich… and more than just a little plain crazy. Will the relationship last?

A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

A tale with a difference; this story follows the story of Nao, a Japanese teen whose life is falling apart, and  Ruth, the woman who finds her diary on the other side of the Pacific. It cleverly weaves in hints of mystery and fantasy into an otherwise contemporary story, pulling you in. Ms. Ozeki writes a very compelling story; I won’t deny that there were a couple of times that my heart was firmly in my throat!

China Dolls by Lisa See

Lisa See is another author on my “Get every book!” list and China Dolls is no disappointment. It juxtaposes the expectations of traditional Asian families against the bright lights of Californian fame with unexpected results. The “dolls” – Grace, Helen and Ruby are each hiding dark secrets; against the historical backdrop of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour, the secrets don’t stay that way for long.

On the Noodle Road by Jen Lin-Liu

We round off this list with a non-fiction selection. On the Noodle Road is a fascinating memoir about the author’s search for the origin of noodles. Starting in her then-current home of Beijing, Jen Lin-Liu takes a cross-continental journey throughout China and Central Asia, heading through Iran and Turkey before ending up in Italy. I found the section of the book on Iran particularly fascinating as it is a country I know very little about. If you are a foodie like me, you will love this book!

I hope that you find something that you love in this list! If you have any recommendations for me, I’d love to hear them.

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Loving It 11.8.14

I may be sleep-deprived but this video cracks me up! A husband animates a joke told by his drunk wife:

“Two Chips” / An Animated Short from Adam Patch on Vimeo.

God/The Universe/Karma giving me a break – after a much-delayed dentist check up I found out that I’m going to need a fair amount of work done on my teeth. We all know that dental work means $$ and so it was pretty gosh-darn depressing. I continued to run the rest of my errands and decided I would do without the coffee in order to “save money” – latte factor and all that. I dropped some clothes off to be altered (cheaper than buying new) and they gave me a voucher for a free coffee! Thank you God! I enjoyed every bit of that sweet, sweet caffeine.

Quit pointing your avocado at me! – a great reminder that people aren’t usually doing things AT you. They’re just going about their everyday lives and you can choose your perspective.

CJ’s new carseat arrived at the end of last week – man, is that luxurious! We hired a capsule for the first few months of his life but have become increasingly frustrated with it over the last few weeks. The new seat is like upgrading from a Nissan Sunny to a Rolls Royce – lucky boy!

I appreciate that I have a hubby who is keen to be an equal parent on the “graveyard shift” – even if that means that we are both equally sleep-deprived and equally grumpy! I’m a bit envious of his ability to just fall back asleep once he’s settled CJ though. I’m up for a good quarter of an hour before I can drop back off.

I loved this review of the Pakuranga Night Market by Move Love Eat. A night market is definitely on our list of things to do, but it’s a bit too chilly at night to have CJ outdoors (especially when the little dude has a cold) and we’re so booked up with events for the next few weekends that I think we’ve used up all our free baby-sitting cred! Soon, my pretties.

I’m excited about the week of plans that we have ahead, visiting lovely friends and seeing neat and exciting things. Follow us on Instagram to see some of our adventures!

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Out & About: Pukekohe Plaza, Pukekohe

Enjoy our new series, Out & About, focusing on accessibility and suitability of various public places in Auckland for babies and small children.

One of the most steadily growing cities of South Auckland (yes, since the supercity merger, the Franklin district has become the southern-most district in the Auckland region) is the former town of Pukekohe. Once a sleepy little rural centre, Pukekohe has recently seen a boom in restaurants, chain stores and sweet boutiques to become a hive of activity. One of the most recent developments has been that of Pukekohe Plaza, a multi-level building containing Farmers, Stevens, ASB, Muffin Break, Pita Pit & Trade Aid as major tenants, in conjunction with a local chartered accountancy firm.

Other than the stores, one of the Plaza’s key attractions for out-&-about mummies is the undercover parking. Am I right, mums? There is nothing worse than having to wrangle a stroller, storm cover and squirmy baby in a tight carpark. Bonus points if you have more than one child! So with the wet miserable days of winter, a place with undercover parking is ideal and multiple layers of undercover parking is a total win. Entering off Devon Lane or Wesley St, you want to shoot up to the first level, where the parent & child parking is situated just outside the top Farmers’ entrance. These parks have huge space at the front of the park. I like to set the stroller up there, out of the way of other traffic, and then move CJ from the seat into the stroller. One downside of the parking building is the split level parking – if you don’t get a park on the entrance level, there may be some ramp negotiation in a stroller which I am not the biggest fan of. I recommend you park next to the lifts if you need to go up a level or two. These are well sign-posted.

The parents’ room is located on the ground floor, down the same corridor as the toilet facilities. One of the things that I liked about the location is that it is set back from the bathrooms down the same corridor so you aren’t subjected to the less-than-savoury smells that can emanate from public facilities. The parents’ room is actually more of an alcove. As you enter the corridor, there is a parents’ toilet to the right, large enough to fit parent and stroller in (because lord knows, mums and dads need to go to the bathroom too!) and then down the end of the corridor is an alcove with sink and changing table, plus additional feeding cubicle. I was surprised at how quiet this area was and suspect that some clever design has gone into making this area feel closed off without the use of a door. However, the lack of door means this may not be an ideal feeding area for those with a baby and toddler with escape artist tendencies.

PukekohePlaza

The facilities are relatively spartan but clean and I am a big fan of having the sink next to the changing area, ideal if you are dealing with a Number 3 situation. I do wish they had more than one change table – at peak hours there can be a little queue – but in order to achieve this the alcove size would need to be increased. I am a huge fan of the fact that the feeding chair is in a cubicle – so often smaller parent rooms lump everything in together and this is a massive assumption that mothers are always the ones changing their child’s diapers. A separate feeding cubicle – even if inelegantly screened off with a shower style curtain, as in this case – means that dads like Papa M are a lot happier changing a child, knowing that they are not intruding on any breast-feeding mother’s privacy.

Small but convenient, the Pukekohe Plaza parents’ room is ideal for parents with just one child (or one child per adult) due to the inability to “fence” additional children in and entertain them. If you are a parent of two or more out and about in this area, the Plunket Rooms on Wesley Street offer a private room where you can breast-feed in privacy while your children play with the supplied toys. Most cafes in Pukekohe are also breast-feeding friendly, for those with less feeding troubles.

UPDATED: An employee of Farmers has recently advised us that there is also a breastfeeding area in the nursery section of their store, located on the first floor at the opposite end of the store to the car park. This might be ideal for nursing mothers who need a little quiet but also a bit more room for their brood :)

Head on out South and check out what Pukekohe has to offer for families – you might be surprised!

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