No matter how many times you visit Coromandel, you just don’t get tired of this place! the beaches, look-out points are just breathtaking.

So the other weekend we headed off to Coromandel and the neighbouring places.

Cathedral Cove – although (to put it simply) its just another beach, it is arguably one of the most picturesque spots and ‘must visit’ top attractions on The Coromandel. it is accessible only by foot, boat or kayak. Include this in your next holiday!

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Hot Water Beach – just 10 mins drive from the Cathedral Cove is the famous Hot Water Beach. within two hours either side of low tide you find hot water bubbling through the golden sand. All you have to do is dig your own spa pool in the sand and relax in the natural springs. often rated as one of the world’s most renowned beaches – this is one experience that should be on your bucket list. A truly unique Kiwi experience that is not to be missed!

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Mt Maunganui – second day morning we headed to Mt Maunganui. its a coastal resort town, known for its surf and safe swimming beaches. you can also climb to the top of the Mt Maunganui summit for some breathtaking views. and don’t forget to have a burger from Pronto. Their gourmet burgers are the best and so are their generous servings. And guess who we spotted there?? one of the Block NZ couples, Jo and Damo!

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Kaiate Falls – ranked No. 4 on TripAdvisor among 52 other attractions in Tauranga, this is a complex of 2 waterfalls, the highlight of a forest reserve in Tauranga. the walking track is quite narrow and also a bit overgrown. there a quite a few steps leading to the base of the waterfall. make sure to go there in daylight and on a dry day. its definitely worth it. really beautiful and quiet.

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Papamoa Beach – our last stop for the day. it is a huge stretch of beach parallel to the road. there are loads of small walks leading to the beach along this road. we unfortunately kept driving straight on the road assuming there is a proper road leading to the beach (which there is non). so just park your car on the road, walk through the sand and bushes and enjoy this beach, which is famous for fishing and surfing.

 

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OMG how many of you have already tried this app over the weekend??! i heard about it this morning on the radio and made a mental note that i have to try it out the minute i reach home. so here i am using it, laughing at it and well as a tad bit annoyed/disappointed.

for those who don’t know about this app, Microsoft has released this new app called how-old.net. all you do is upload your pic/selfie and it analyzes faces and detects the gender and age.

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so i am having my own little half-hearted laugh as i have uploaded almost 6-7 pics and it just cant detect my face! and when it does, i am a 41 year old male!! wow talk about some major flaws in the app. i am not too surprised about B’s result as it says hes a 2 year old GIRL. i mean i am so used to him being called a girl since birth that this seems the norm now…sigh. as for M’s result, lets just say i am big time J since his is the only near-accurate result (guys usually don’t mind a few years added to their age).

IMG_7324and now for some reel life fun.

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if you still haven’t tried this app, do it now. it will surely brighten up your day with a few laughs at your own expense. but you know what they say; in the end its not your age that matters, but how well you are enjoying and living your years! so go check out this app now. and as for me, i am going to check out some gym memberships, and maybe some yoga classes, and maybe some…

 

So this Easter holiday we flew to Wellington. Thank god I had packed well for B, because its crazy windy there! but its a good weekend escape to unwind. and M really needed one (i think!).

Untitled-25Day 1

We took the 7.00am flight from Auckland to Wellington on Friday. surprisingly B was all fresh and energetic at 6.30am, posing for selfies at the airport and basking in all the attention. our one hour flight seemed like a 3 hr flight with a super-excited B’s ‘what’s this?’ & ‘i want this’! i blame it on the easter egg given to him at the airport at 6am!

after a quick breakfast at Wellington airport, we went to collect our car we had rented for Wellington. and then we headed up to Cape Palliser Lighthouse, approx 2.5hr drive from the airport. its a beautiful coast drive to Cape Palliser and a 250 step climb up to the Lighthouse. this is as far south as you can get in the North Island. you get some amazing non-stop views of the sea from the top. there’s also a seal colony at a 5 min drive from the lighthouse. its the largest colony in the North Island. you can go amazingly close to the wild seals. Just sit on the rocks, relax, throw stones in the water (seeing B enjoy doing it, we joined in the fun too!) and enjoy the unstoppable view of the bay.

Untitled-26we returned back to Wellington in the evening and checked in at our hotel Ibis. located right in the centre of the city, easy walking access to all the city’s attractions and lookout points. our room too was quite spacious and comfortable. after a quick freshen-up, we headed to the city in search for dinner. it was our first proper meal for that day. we went to an Indian place called Great India (M had read a lot about it on TripAdvisor) and was really impressed by their food, generous serving, service and overall ambience. except for one thing – isn’t the initial table accompaniments like the poppadoms with the chutneys and pickles always on the house??

Day 2

started the day with a lavish buffet breakfast in the hotel. selection of croissants, breads, cheeses, fruits, yoghurts, hash brown, pancakes, sausages, assorted scrambled eggs, beans, slow roasted tomatoes, upto 10 different varieties of cereals, juices and ofcourse the different spreads. we had an hour long breakfast to say the least (and that includes feeding a toddler too, we try not to hog much in public!).

Untitled-27today was for city attractions. so first we walked to the Cable Car Lane (a five mins walk from our Ibis Hotel) and took the cable car to see the Botanic Garden, Carter’s Planetarium and Observatory, Kelburn lookout and Cable Car Museum. the Botanic Garden has some interesting downhill walks like the Australian Garden, Treehouse and the huge Playground your kid can enjoy! it also takes you back to the city centre in 40 minutes.

next we headed to the Parliament House. they have one hour guided tours starting on the hour so make sure to reach there 15 minutes before the hour to get a place in the tour group. it is a very informative tour showing the key parts of the Parliament’s buildings and insights on the parliamentary processes. our last stop for the evening was the Museum of Wellington City and Sail, Te Papa. with 4 floors of exhibitions, events (the Meccano event was impressive!) and virtual experiences, its a super fun world of science and nature out there!

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Untitled-31Day 3

we drove to Porirua, approx 30 mins drive from Wellington. since it was Easter Sunday, everything was closed so we had a little picnic at the Aotea Lagoon. a large pond surrounded by a play area for kids, a picturesque smaller pond with ducks lazying around and an over-water bridge, train rides every 30 mins and an exercise square. lets just say it was a relaxing afternoon for us and a super fun one for B! we drove back to Wellington by evening just in time to have a last peaceful walk at the Waterfront, admire the sunset and finally head to the hotel for some pizzas and noodles!

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Its time for us to board a flight! Yippiee.. But its never so easy with a toddler is it?! with all the excitement in the air, there is one imp factor which I MUST look into..yes my toddler ofcourse. packing for him alone is a whole new story. although i have taken an international flight (alone!!) with B, everytime it is a different story.

ok so how do you go about it? i mean packing for the toddler.. so here’s my tips on travelling (by experience ofcourse!) and what i am doing for my travel on fri.

  1. first and the most obvious is check if your travel destination is baby friendly and to what extent (NZ is totally baby friendly and since my travel now is local i am relaxed!)
  2. depending on the length of the flight, you might want to book a seat in front with enough leg room for yourself. Toddlers will definitely not fit in the bassinet provided but your baby can rest there peacefully.
  3. i had taken a night time flight with B for his first travel and i would highly recommend it.  i would recommend taking a flight during their nap or sleep time so they remain sleeping throughout the journey and don’t have to go through the ear pains caused by change in pressure. if for some reason they are awake during take off and landing (B was so excited for his first travel that he fought his sleep at 12.30am to experience the take off!), make them munch on food or drink water or milk.
  4. stroller? yes i think you should if your holiday is a travel and you will be out the whole day.
  5. food? not all destinations have kids meal and even if they do, who’s to tell what your toddler’s mood is going to be like? so its best to think ahead and carry your toddler’s fav snacks along for the long drives (remember hungry toddler/baby is super cranky).
  6. always (and i repeat again), always have a separate bag for your baby/toddler. its just so easy this way. DO NOT mix your clothes with your little one’s. you will never be able to find their XS size socks amongst your L size jackets! trust me.
  7. diaper bag is a must! try not to have a carry-on or cabin luggage for yourself as you already have a toddler and 10 other stuff of his to carry along.

and so now that this is clear, its time to start packing. check the weather of your holiday destination in advance so you know what you are packing for. our holiday is for 3 nights 4 days, hotel accommodation, and destination is windy with a few showers so i am going to pack accordingly.

Untitled-22Diaper Bag/Hand bag

  1. Diapers, wet wipes, nappy rash cream – atleast 3 diapers, you know all about this!
  2. Ipad – it has all of B’s fav games and books to read! I cant go without this and you cant really rely on in-flight entertainment for toddlers. they need their stuff they are comfortable with.  keep it fully charged. if not for the flight (its just max an hour long flight), i will need it for the drives during the holiday.
  3. Formula and milk bottle – if its a long flight, its good to have your formula dispenser full to make atleast 3 bottles of milk. for my last trip, i carried the 250ml milk packets for B (he has on cow milk then). either empty them in their milk bottle or let them sip it with the straw.
  4. water – to keep the little ones hydrated if they are not eating enough during the flight.
  5. Books – since B loves his books, i will be keeping his fav in my diaper bag and a few more in his checked-in baggage.
  6. A change of clothing – atleast 1 set of clothing for spills.
  7. Hand sanitizer – i cant really trust B’s inquisitive mind and hands anymore!
  8. A few snacks – B’s fruit sticks, multigrain Cheerios, crackers, biscuits to keep them busy during take offs and landing.
  9. Packet of tissues – for any clean ups.
  10. Wash cloth or hand towel – for accidental spills.
  11. Bib – atleast 2 bibs for under 2s.
  12. Jacket – airports and planes can get a bit cold for the little ones.
  13. Blanket – if B decides to sleep in the flight, or in his stroller or car.
  14. And lastly his Teddy! after all his teddy needs a holiday more than B!

Untitled-23Checked-in luggage

  1. Clothes – pack atleast 3 pairs for each day for your baby and 2 pairs for each day for toddler. since we are staying in a hotel and laundry may not be an option, i will keep an extra pair as well. so i have socks, tees, jeans, caps, hooded puffer jacket, hooded jackets, hooded sweatshirt (yes my destination is quite windy), vests, shoes, belts. add in sleepwear as well. depending on your destination, you can also pack in swimwear/beachwear.
  2. Toiletries – no hotel will ever provide baby shampoo and i just cant risk using them on B. so i am packing B’s face towel, bathrobe, his shampoo, ‘Mr. Frog’ loofah, body cream, sunblock.
  3. Wipes, diapers – if its a short holiday, carry extra with you since some destinations wont have the same brand or for the same price.
  4. First aid – anti repellent roll-on, an anti bacterial cream, nasal spray (B catches a cold with the slightest change in weather), paracetamol, baby balm, measuring spoon, digital thermometer and other basics.
  5. Water bottle – one more..
  6. milk bottle – one more. don’t forget the brush and other accessories to clean the bottles.
  7. Lunch bag – to carry B’s snacks for each day. he’s super excited to carry his bags.
  8. Blanket – carry an extra one which is more warmer for the night sleep (if your baby/toddler is going to sleep in the cot provided by the hotel) or you can use the hotel blanket if your little one is going to sleep on your bed.
  9. Books/Toys – you wont need many if you are going to be out whole day. but i will need a few books for B’s bedtime! and maybe his few fav cars and puzzles for the long car rides. basically you need small flat toys that don’t occupy space.
  10. Snacks – a few extra for each day since i am not sure i will get them at my destination.

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i have heard so much about these cookie dough cupcakes that i just had to try them out. so for M’s bday, this was his treat.

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i am totally addicted to this cookie dough. for all the cookie and chocolate lovers, this is THE recipe!

there is also an absolutely delicious cookie dough frosting recipe which i did not use, but will surely share it here. you will then need some chocolate chips to garnish over the frosting. you can also use a mini cookie on each cupcake for decoration.

Ingredients

COOKIE DOUGH FILLING
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons granulated white sugar
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup miniature chocolate chips

CUPCAKES
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup granulated white sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup hot water
1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil
1 large egg
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

COOKIE DOUGH FROSTING
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) salted butter
1 3/4 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

GARNISH
additional mini chocolate chips
12 mini Chips Ahoy cookies

Method

Untitled-211. Prepare the cookie dough filling (see *Notes below): In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt. In a medium bowl, use an electric mixer to stir together the butter, sugars, milk and vanilla. Stir in the dry ingredients and the chocolate chips. Refrigerate for 15 to 30 minutes, or until the cookie dough is firm. Scoop out dough in 2 tablespoon scoops and place it on a cookie sheet. Freeze until firm, at least 30 minutes.

Untitled-162. Prepare the cupcakes: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line a cupcake pan with 12 liners. Place the flour, cocoa, sugar, baking soda and salt in a blender. Blend to combine. Add the water, oil, egg and vanilla. Blend to combine, scraping down the sides as needed a couple of times until all is well mixed. Divide the batter between the 12 cupcake liners. Drop a ball of frozen chocolate chip cookie dough into the center of each cupcake. If you would like the cookie dough to bake up slightly, keep the top visible as pictured. If you’d like to keep the cookie dough somewhat raw, push it to the bottom of the cupcake wrapper, making sure that the batter comes up and over the dough.

Untitled-193. Bake the cupcakes for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the cupcake portion of the cupcake (not tested through the center where the dough is), comes out fairly clean. Cool the cupcakes completely before adding the frosting.

Untitled-184. Prepare the frosting: In a medium bowl, use an electric mixer to combine the butter and sugars until smooth and creamy. Mix in the flour, milk and vanilla and continue to mix until all is well combined. Frost cupcakes with a knife or scoop the frosting into a piping bag and pipe it on decoratively. Sprinkle mini chips on top and garnish with a small chocolate chip cookie. OR you can simply decorate it as pictured in this post below.

Untitled-20Notes:

1. You don’t necessarily have to melt the butter and refrigerate the dough before scooping. The melted butter just helps the sugar dissolve a bit more so you don’t have that grainy texture in the cookie dough. It is necessary to freeze it though.