Drinks with the girls

Last Friday night I met up with two girlfriends from work for drinks and a catch-up. Of course (as with most of my expeditions) there was some minor drama beforehand to add to the excitement.  I won’t go into detail but suffice to say that due to circumstances out of my control, I had 20 minutes to get dressed, prettified, say goodbye to the baby (oh … and NIH), drive, find a parking spot and walk the 5 minutes to the bar.

Challenge not only accepted but achieved. What can I say? It’s a gift … and there was the promise of wine and gossip at the finish line!

For two hours we shared a bottle of wine, some hot nibbly food and chatter. It was such a treat for various reasons:

  1. I was out in clothes that I hadn’t fit into for some time – and not to boast but I think I looked pretty fine for someone who, up until 7 weeks ago, looked like Moby Dick’s twin sister
  2. The clothes were not chosen according to how discretely I could pop a boob out (although some may argue that’s precisely how you should dress for a Friday night out on the town)
  3. I got to spend time with two lovely women who make me laugh, keep me grounded and fill me in on happenings outside my temporary but very narrow world
  4. Hot food that I could eat without interruption
  5. Wine. Enough said.

My life at the moment revolves around a small, squinty-eyed dictator who calls the shots … and I’m ok with that. It’s all part of motherhood.

However, for a brief two hours I was just Me. And that’s something we mothers tend to put on the backburner – sometimes for so long we forget where we left it. Having a baby can be a very isolating experience if you let it so as a “Do-Over” mum who’s been through this before, I’d like to say “Don’t”.

Don’t forget who you are.

Don’t put off catching up with the outside world from time to time. It would have been far easier for me to just cancel, considering what was going on that afternoon but I had made plans and by golly I was going out, even if it meant I was late and it was only for a little while. Once you start down the road of opting out if it gets too tricky, it gets harder and harder to turn back. It’s ALWAYS going to be tricky with a baby. Work around it.

Don’t ditch your mates from BB (Before Baby). You need those girlfriends without kids just as much as you need girlfriends in the same boat as you. They not only remind you of who you were before but also give you a chance to talk about something other than sleeping, pooping or feeding. Make the effort. They are totally worth your time.

Take a step out of your routine of feeding, changing nappies and coaxing the little darling to go to sleep and do something for yourself.  It refreshes your batteries and makes you appreciate motherhood all the more.


Row, row, row your boat

riverWe have had two excursions up the Waikato River this month and both times it’s been a delightful day, but for different reasons. The first trip was the happy result of a totally spontaneous brainwave courtesy of NIH one Sunday morning. He remembered that Vilagrad Winery does a Sunday Lunch – better yet, you could catch the Waikato River Explorer from Hamilton Gardens and get a wine tasting thrown in for good measure! This effectively killed two birds with one stone so we rang at 9am and found they could fit us in that day. Winning!

river2The Waikato Explorer has been cruising the river since 2012 and is such a great way to check out this fabulous waterway. Coming from outback Queensland, we are blown away by not only the clarity of the water but its incredible speed. It takes the boat 60 minutes to travel up the river to Mystery Creek and only 30 minutes to come back down!

Watching it turn around and shoot off back the way it came after dropping us at the wharf really showed the power of the water and explains just one of the reasons why the river is a great source of hydroelectric power, having eight dams located along its length.

Explorer taking off

Thar she blows!

While beautiful, it had been quite cold on the river so we were grateful to get into the minibus waiting to take us to Vilagrad and were looking forward to lunch – and wine.

vilagrad overall

The winery is a family owned and run business that’s been in the area since 1906 and has enjoyed five generations putting their two bobs’ worth into the mix. It was obvious from the moment we walked in that this place is a permanent fixture for families and large gatherings, with long tables set out with gorgeous yet simple decorations and reservation cards.

outdoor seatingThe main eating area is a temporary marquee, as the winery suffered a devastating fire in June 2015 – although as newbies to the area, we had no idea until told! They have done an amazing job of making the temporary seem part of the place but have plans to rebuild in years to come. They lost 50% of their wine stock and the 100 year old cask room in the fire but have done an amazing job of getting back up on their feet again, hosting Sunday lunches and special functions such as weddings and managing to win awards for the wines they did save!

oh wine my best friendNew Zealand is predominantly a white wine producer so perhaps I shall have to adapt my red wine tastebuds. However, Vilagrad produce three red wine versions and I tried two, which were both tasty with the lamb roast we had for lunch.  We had a tour afterwards and a tasting of some more product. Their Tawny Port was so amazing we bought a bottle (I see it’s sold out on their website – wish we’d bought more!) and the Vintage Port was nice as well. After lunch, it was back on the minibus and a quick 20 min trip back to town to the carpark. Fantastic day!

indexOur second trip on the river was for Fieldays 2016 (the Waikato region version of Emerald AgGrow). The annual event is absolutely massive, with preparations starting at the beginning of June for the opening days of 15-18 June.  Because of its popularity and resultant headaches with traffic getting into and out of the Mystery Creek Event Centre, we opted to pay $30 return each to take the Waikato Explorer. Less drama and much better scenery.

people everywhereWe knew it was big – but had no idea it would take us four hours to walk up and down each ‘street’ to make sure we covered it all! The exercise app on my phone was very pleased with me for hitting over 12,000 steps for the day. After a late night the night before, we were totally stuffed by the early afternoon.

demos everywhere

Test track – people were lining up for a ride!

Heaps of food stalls, great demonstrations happening and lots of taste testing to be had.  The crowd was pretty intense as well with what seemed to be everyone in the region out to check out all the goods and services on display.  The weather even behaved itself and didn’t rain, even though the clouds hung around most of the day.

By far, the most exciting event of the afternoon was watching the Tractor Pulls – and I’m not being sarcastic here. I was totally enthralled!Tractor pulls

There’s so many events and things to do within close proximity to where we live. It gives you a much clearer perspective on the great vastness of Australia and especially where we lived before. We’d laugh and shrug nonchalantly when travellers commented on how far it is between places. We were used to it – it was nothing to travel six hours return just to go shopping for the day. I think I’m getting a clearer picture of just how unusual that is to most people!





Is New Zealand where Aussie shopping trolleys come to die?

Poor thing, just lying there.

Poor thing, just lying there.

This is the question I asked myself the other day as I struggled yet again with a trolley (a.k.a “trundler”) whilst doing the shopping at Countdown (a.k.a “Woolworths”). It’s been years since I’ve had to suffer a truly dodgy shopping trolley but it seems to be commonplace here. In fact, since we’ve arrived I can’t recall getting a single one that doesn’t have at least one wheel that a) wants to go in a different direction from the other three or b) doesn’t want to go at all. They look new which begs the question of why they’re so shite? Are they shipped here from Oz once they become troublesome?

However, that’s probably the worst of the adjustments to make when grocery shopping here. As I’ve said before, there’s many similarities between Australia and New Zealand, which makes it much easier for Aussies to acclimatise, especially with the mundane-everyday-routine stuff. Most of the brands are familiar and the layout of shops are pretty much the same.  It’s almost like being home.

Countdown is the NZ version of Woolies, complete with same logo, Select brand items and jingles playing over the sound system as you shop. New World is similar to Coles and Pak’n’Save is very much the old Franklins, which I don’t think I’ve seen in about 20 years – huge no-frills warehouse style shopping but still good quality stuff.

Fruit and vege is pretty good – much better quality and reasonable prices but I may be unduly biased due to living in a rural area in Australia where our fruit and vege was trucked to us over great distance after spending time in a warehouse in Brisbane.

And oh my gosh BACON. Holy Dooley. There’s a huge supply of Streaky Bacon and done the old fashioned manuka smoked way without the nitrites in it. Absolutely bloody delicious, without a word of a lie. The bacon here is one of the reasons why I started doing lots of walking. Besides passing the time and becoming familiar with the city, it lets me justify eating so much.

To be honest I haven’t noticed much difference in our grocery bill but like I said we’ve come from a rural area with slightly inflated prices. And it’s just the two of us now. This was really highlighted to me when I realised that a block of cheese lasts weeks instead of merely days in our fridge. Not mentioning any names, boys.

The deli section prices their wares slightly differently. For example, rather than a label saying “$18.49 per kg”, it’s “$1.85 per 100g”. The first time I saw a label like that, I did a double-take because I only registered the price and not the amount. I worked in a deli for a few years and can honestly say I’ve never seen items labelled this way, but I do acknowledge that maths-impaired people like myself would appreciate not having to do complex calculations in our head. Or in my case, saying ‘bugger it, I’ll just have it and won’t worry about the cost”.

Organic stuff is a lot easier to get too. For the past few years I’ve bought organic, non-homogenised milk for a few reasons. One is that the amount of fat in milk is really quite low percentage-wise and the processes it goes through to homogenise and remove the fat render the milk not only inedible (in my opinion) but also not entirely good for your body. Another reason is that it’s usually supplied by a small independent company and I like to support the little guy. If I’m honest though, it’s really just because it tastes so nice in my tea. The last few years have been easier to source it in Australia, but here in NZ I’m spoilt for choice.

The second best thing about grocery shopping here is that you can buy beer, cider and wine in the store alongside your groceries. They police it by having to get staff override when you scan it, giving staff the opportunity to scan you to make sure you’re over 18. Funnily enough, I never get asked for ID anymore. Possibly the grey hairs give it away.

The best thing of all  is how cheap the alcohol is. The same brand of wine I would regularly purchase in Australia is half the price here.  I’m not sure why that is but there’s some things in life I don’t like to question and how much I’m spending on alcohol is one of them.

It’s the same with beer prices. NIH is becoming quite the beer connoisseur – he blames me for this development. Before we lived together he never drank on weeknights at home. I call it ‘mature behaviour’. He calls it ‘bad  influence’. Whatever.  And even though you’re buying it in a grocery store, there are all kinds of boutique beers and regular specials. It’s a veritable smorgasbord. Of course we only have a wee tipple at night because it’s so cold. So, really, it’s like, ‘medicinal’ and stuff …