Thursday, October 29, 2009

Waiwera Thermal Resort

Husband was away, so the kids and I decided to play during a recent long weekend, when I took them to Waiwera Infinity Thermal Spa Resort.
Kind of like a Wet and Wild, the difference is that the water is thermally heated, with several natural mineral hot pools, of varying temperatures and depths, to relax in.
There are also loads of water slides for the kids (and the young at heart).
One of the most popular spots was the movie pool – where movies are screened twice-daily, and video clips run in-between.
What I love about Waiwera – and I have to say most attractions in New Zealand are the same – is that not only is it family friendly, but visitors are allowed to bring in their own food and drink.
I’ve had it with stingy Australia tourism operators, who not only have the audacity to charge inflated entry fees, but then force punters to pay more inflated prices for mostly unhealthy and cardboard-tasting food and drink.
In New Zealand, zoos, museums, rollerskating centres, indoor climbing venues and more, are all relaxed about allowing visitors to bring picnics and snacks. Places like MOTAT, Waiwera, and the Auckland Zoo, provide glorious grounds for picnicking, with loads of shady trees, gazebos, and picnic tables. At one rollerskating centre, people even had pizza delivered!
I was out of bread (Mother FAIL), so didn’t pack a proper picnic, but we did take a cooler with cold drinks, snacks, and fruit to save money.
At lunch time, we shared a delicious seafood basket. (C. of course, needed more and had a hot dog on a stick as well).
The biggest surprise? The café made a really lovely coffee. And there were healthy options, like salad panini and pasta dishes as well.
It goes without saying that the kids had an awesome day. And I enjoyed it as well, especially when they graciously granted me time to soak in the Sapphire Pool. Heated to 40 degrees, I stationed myself where the aptly-named Lava Pool (48 degrees) waters ran into the pool – mmm, deliciously hot. It was like honey for my poor, arthritic bones.
Best of all, because the waters are natural and full of life-giving minerals, eczema-prone Mr 8 could enjoy to his heart’s content. The day at the resort actually improved his eczema rather than inflaming it, like normal pools do.
So a bit more about Waiwera:

  • It’s New Zealand’s most popular thermal resort and was the Southern Hemisphere’s first spa
  • There are 22 pools to choose from, and 8 slides
  • There is a day spa there as well, which I didn’t get to enjoy because I had kids to wrangle. Maybe another time?
  • The healing waters have been famous since the 1840s, when people came from far and away to take the waters
  • Waiwera’s natural mineral water was originally called Te Rata. Translated from Maori, this means ‘The Doctor”. It is sourced from a geothermal aquifer located 1500 metres below the resort, meaning every pool is 100% naturally hot!
  • Independent carbon dating by the Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences estimates Waiwera water to be between 10,000 and 15,600 years old, making it the oldest water in the world
  • Waiwera Artesian Water is still bottled at the source over 140 years later! And I can vouch that it’s delicious.
  • It's affordable. NZ$60 for a family pass (two adults and two kids, with a current special allowing another two kids as well). Given the resort is open from 9 am-9pm each day - and you can get pass-outs - that's incredible!

    A couple of thermal slides

    Missy in the sapphire pool (lava pool in the background)


    C's favourite slide, the Squeeze. He even convinced his sister to try it!

    Delicious, health-giving water

    Lunch time. Okay, it's not healthy, but look at how skinny he is! Wish I had his metabolism.

    Miss 6 on one of the slides

    She started on this one before working up the courage to become more adventurous

    More slides

    The movie pool. Kids are in there somewhere ...

    Oh look, I found one!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

He's baaack ...

This week, Husband returns to guest blog due to popular demand ...

So it is time that I do another guest blog for Bron.
The last few weeks and the next eight weeks are going to keep me extremely busy with travel (surprise surprise), with having just been through five time zones (some flying over of course).
I arrived home Monday morning about 2am from the airport to find that Bron is still sick, that both the kids had taken possession of my bed, and that I was missed but only a little. (Bron: Hey, not true!)
It was good to arrive back in Auckland after a week of travel, and it was great to see a few people I had not seen in a while. Paul in Perth, Rowan and Linda in Brisbane as well as Crickie, and of course Mum.
It's amazing though when I go back to Australia or visit family something always happens. When we last went to Oz ,we put our house in Brisbane on the market, and when I went back this time we sold it! (Of course subject to this and that).
Ok as to the trips coming up - I have Adelaide, Sydney, Sydney, and the ACT. In the middle of it, we're going on our family holiday to Samoa. Hopefully that will be about it. Oh and probably a few site inspections here in NZ, though I hope I wont have to fly!
As to other things happening around in Auckland, we have my mum arriving on Friday.
The kids are jumping out of their skins for her to turn up. H. keeps yelling 'Nana Nana only two more sleeps! WOOHOO'. And the little man C. just smiles and does a quiet yay!
Talking about the kids, they are both in trouble at the moment. C. decides every trip I go away on to play up and do things he knows I wouldn’t approve of, and then I get home and get placed in to a situation that I need to lose my cool. Grrrrrr.
As for H., the little minx will dob her brother in for anything, including things she has done.
As you can see, because I have had quiet nights away and busy days working, I came home to a not so stress-free environment. Little buggers!
As for Bron, since she has been sick, I thought I'd do the blog in my lunch hour for her! Hooray for Nana, only one more sleep! (And maybe some assistance with the kids for a week!)
Monkey kids ...

Friday, October 23, 2009

Diwali henna tattoos

A few of you were interested in seeing the henna tattoos which were done at the kids' school in honour of the Diwali Festival of the Lights.
So, courtesy of their school, enjoy! Above is one of the tattoos being done.
The festival itself is a five-day celebration by the Indian community, which involves fireworks, lights, flowers, sharing of sweets, special meals, dancing, new clothes, togetherness, and worship.
It celebrates the inner lightness in all of us, the triumph of good over evil, of light over darkness.
Generally women and girl get henna tattoos as part of the celebration, and some wonderful Indian women came to the school to show us how it was done. They collected gold coin donations in return, and gave the lot to the Samoan Tsunami appeal, which I thought was lovely.
Many of the boys lined up for tattoos too. This is actually C's paw being painted.

And this is a typical tattoo for girls.
After a while the hand/arms are washed and a red/orange outline remains. It usually lasts for at least a few days, about a week.
There's a big Indian community in Auckland, and it was wonderful to get an insight into their rich culture.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Awake in Auckland (with apologies to Sleepless In Seattle...)

What a week to leave my camera at home!
I took a walk up to SkyCity the other day to meet some peeps from twitter. It was great to meet people I’ve been tweeting with on and off since we moved here.
So there we were enjoying a fairly uninspired coffee, when the fire alarm went off. Everyone ignored it for a while, as you do, but the alarm continued followed by a disembodied voice announcing something indecipherable.
The unconcerned wait staff continued to serve meals and drinks, as the convenience store closed and the entire kitchen staff assembled outside - chef hats and all.
Five fire engines arrived, followed by burly firemen carrying hoses and other gear (give me a minute here ...sigh!)
Finally, we called a waitress over and asked if we were being evacuated.
“No not yet,” she said, before handing us the bill and suggesting we might like to pay it now, just in case we did have to make a run for it.
Er, yes, there might be a fire or bomb in the building; your kitchen staff have been told to leave; but yes, let's just make sure the punters pay for their coffees before they all DIE or something. Service FAIL!
Stupidly, I didn't have my camera, so I missed capturing the whole debacle for your pleasure.
We paid up anyway (humph), and left, and then @wendywings introduced me to another reason to visit Auckland, Giapo.
Giapo is the founder of Giapo Gelati, the yummiest icy treat in Auckland. He’s also a keen twitterer and uses social media in his marketing. You can even twitter in his shop, and of course, wi fi is de rigueur.
Anyway, the occasion was World Chocolate Day with every flavour of gelato involving chocolate of some kind. There was white chocolate and raspberry, strawberry chocolate, orange chocolate, black forest and more.
For $10 one could enjoy as many cups as one’s stomach could handle.I tried the giapo rocher and moccacino before giving up in a nod to my waistline. Mmmm, it was delicious though.
Finally, the kids and I arrived home from school this afternoon, to find a commercial being shot right outside our townhouse. In fact, the model was posing on the window sill outside our home office!
The kids hung around upstairs peering over the balcony with interest and watching the scene unfold, and occasionally calling out to the crew below. The crew were lovely and I even managed to get a quick snap before they left:

In other news, Husband has been away for work again.

I've managed to cope quite well, despite having two little bodies in bed with me most nights. Sadly, C. takes after his Mum, and is a very noisy sleeper, talking, moaning, sighing and generally throwing himself around the bed half the night. The second child spends the night at the bottom of the bed, cuddling ... my foot! (I know...)

For his part, Husband hasn't been sleeping well either, having to cope with a four-hour time difference as well as steamy weather and long hours. Then there was a red-eye flight, crammed into an economy Qantas seat next to a snoring guy who was twice the size of him.

I can't wait until he gets home - Husband, not the snoring guy - and things return to normal. And then maybe, we'll all get some sleep!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

A little light in a dark world

The kids looked cute this morning as they set off for school. Students and teachers dressed up in holiday gear, as a fundraiser for the victims of the tsunami in Samoa.
What a great cause!
There were jandals (thongs), lava lavas (colourful sarong-like cloth), swimmers, flowers, and leis all round.
Of course, all this had a serious side too, and the kids all donated towards the cause of helping Samoans rebuild and recover from their tragedy.
Speaking of which, we’ve decided to take our holiday next month. The Samoan tourism people have asked travellers to keep their holiday plans, with tourism tipped to play a big part of the country’s recovery.
Yes, there may be some inconvenience, and we will probably see some terrible sights and hear horrific stories. People have pointed out that the holiday may not be as ‘good’ as before, with grieving locals too busy or sad to pamper visitors, or some areas off-limits or destroyed. But that’s nothing at all compared to what these people have gone through. If we can help in some small way by keeping our plans, and getting some of our meagre funds flowing into the community, we’re happy to. In fact, we are looking forward to visiting Samoa more than ever.
To be honest, I think it will be a good education for the kids, and a reminder to all of us to be thankful for our good fortune, and sympathetic and empathetic to those in need.
On a happier note, a few lovely Indian Mums visited school this week, to talk about Diwali, the Festival of the Lights.
After eating and drinking their way around Auckland Viaduct’s version of the festival on the weekend, the kids couldn’t wait to get their hands decorated with henna tattoos.
According to Diwali tradition, the tattoos symbolise blessings that light up the soul. They are traditionally for females, but quite a few of the boys, including Mr 8, clamoured to have their hands decorated too!
I wish I could post a photo, but I’m still waiting for a cable to upload photos from my camera to my computer. Dang technology!
Instead, let me leave you with a bit of fun from the Tourism Paeora people. Kiwis have a great sense of humour, and I’m often left chortling at advertising campaigns.
This one, like L & P softdrink (diet of course), hits the spot!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Spring shivers, and the Fiasco of the Week!

It is with cold fingers that I type that there has been a return to frosty mornings, dark skies, and icy rain in Auckland recently. In fact, so far, spring has been more like winter than, er, winter.
In spite of that, we’ve managed to make the best of it.
Last weekend, Missy and I braved the elements to walk up the hill and into central Auckland for the annual Blessing Of The Animals.
Held in a gorgeous old church, St Mattthew’s In The City, the event raises funds and awareness of the work of the SPCA (New Zealand’s Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals).
It’s a cliché, but all creatures great and small converged on the cathedral – dogs, cats, goats, rabbits, mice, rats, donkeys and even a bull!
We were warmly welcomed, and the presence of the animals gave the service a festive feel.
I’ve never had my butt sniffed at church before, but there’s a first time for everything! And Missy fell in love with a fluffy Samoyed, who kept howling along with the hymns. By the time we left, Miss 6 had a blotchy red face and streaming eyes and noses, thanks to an allergy to the friendly pup – but she still couldn’t resist bringing home a fist of his fur. (Which I later vacuumed up, accidentally on purpose. Shhh! Don’t tell!)
Then this weekend, we went to the Diwali Festival, the annual Festival of the Lights. The Auckland Viaduct was like a little slice of India with colourful stalls, delicious food and drinks, and loads of entertainment.
The kids had a few days at vacation care each week, while I caught up on work, but we also had lots of fun swimming, rollerskating and rock climbing. (Well the kids did the last two. Husband banned me from anything too physical, due to my predilection for falling over and breaking and/or dislocating things).
I can’t post photos, because I’m waiting for a new thingamajig to put in the wotsit on the computer, but I’ll upload them as soon as I can.
Meanwhile, in a return to the Wine of the Week, let me present Fiasco Wine’s Gee-Whizz Gewurztraminer 2008.
I was lucky enough to win a bottle recently, and wasted no time cracking it open. (My infamous Fall Up The Stairs which ended up in wedding and engagement rings being cut off was judged ‘The Fiasco Of The Week’ in a recent competition. Glad my clumsiness was good for something!)
The company describes their wine better than I ever could:
“Our Gee-Whizz was harvested with soft hands, then gently squeezed like a lover, and fermented slowly to retain the intense Fiasco flavour. We’ve had a ball getting it from vine to bottle and now it’s your turn to enjoy our wine, the one that can only be pronounced after a few glasses!”
It was delicious, cool, light and tasting just slightly of ginger, flowers and lemon. Cheers!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Beware the salami ...

The first week of the school holidays is almost over, and the kids have been having a ball.
So far, they’ve been swimming, dancing, and roller-skating (you should see the bruises). They also went ‘indoor camping’ at vacation care. Oh, and they’ve had a quiet day at home after C. was violently ill one night – from both ends. Poor kid. And poor me who had to clean up all the mess. I kept them both inside and quiet the next day as a precaution.
It’s been a sad week too, with all the natural disasters occurring around the world. The Samoan earthquake and Tsunami, in particular, hit home. As some readers know, we’ve booked a family holiday there in November. But it’s not just that. Many Samoans live in New Zealand, and have family there. And its proximity to NZ means its not just a popular holiday destination, but that Samoans are like family to this country. Quite a few Samoan kids attend our school, and I can’t help wondering what all this means for them and their families. It is unimaginable what they must be going through.
Friends have asked if we’ll still be taking our holiday, and I guess, we’ll have to wait and see. If, like the Thai people after the Boxing Day tsunami, the Samoans want foreigners to visit and help them rebuild after this tragedy, we’ll be happy to go. I just feel so sad for those who have lost family, homes, income and even the clothes on their backs, that it would be silly to worry about a holiday.
I feel doubly blessed because we had wanted to be in Samoa this week! We’d tried to book for the school holidays, but it was way too expensive, being peak period. So we waited for a better deal, even though it meant we'd have to take the kids out of school for a week. I don’t even want to imagine what would have happened if we had been there as we’d hoped.
On a lighter note, there have been some funny things to happen this week.
One morning, H. asked me if we were going to get salami. Yes, I told her, we’ll get one when we go shopping. “No a BIG salami,” she said. Okay, I said. We can probably get a big one. “No, a really big salami that will wash over us and take us away!” she said, all wide-eyed and concerned.
Of course, she meant tsunami, and was worried about what she’d been hearing on the news. Bless.
What was really funny, was, when the whole of New Zealand was on a tsunami alert, and some areas were being evacuated, a percentage of the Kiwi population decided to go down to the beaches and wait for it. And they say Aussies are mad! Click to see the NZ Herald's gallery of the Kiwi Tsunami-watchers ...

Fire and ice ...

You can take the Brissie girl out of New Zealand, but you can't take NZ out of the girl. Or something like that. What I mean is that al...