“Hey Mum, they thought I was the Big Bad Wolf”

A little while ago Alex and I were at a local bike track, this track is near the river, overgrown and wild.   There are two bike tracks next to each other, and this day Alex had decided to ride on the overgrown one.     I was sitting on one of the jumps so I could see him but also relax in the sun.     I watched a group of children and adults walking along the track above us and then turn and head down to towards the adjacent bike track.   It’s not often that we would encounter others at this track during the week.

After a while, I heard giggling and screaming and two girls, sticks in hand lept over the large bank at the end of the track and skidded down our side sending out a huge puff of dirt, they were barefoot and completely oblivious to us. It was quite out of the norm so I sat there watching them.    As they reached the bottom they saw Alex riding his bike, he had also noticed the girls and had come to a stop and stood there staring at them.   The girls had then tucked themselves inside the wall of another dirt bank and sat there for a while peeking out and talking.   Within minutes, they jumped up and ran back up the bank, looking back at Alex and glaring at him like he was a monster.

Alex peddled over to me and said he had heard their conversation. “Mum, they said I was the Big Bad Wolf”!

It then struck me as to what I had just witnessed, and that these two girls, were completely absorbed in their imaginative play and game.

I have often pondered that encounter, it made me so incredibly happy that I was able to experience it in all its beauty, but it also made me very sad because it’s not often that you see children so immersed in their imaginative play while outdoors.   When our children are out at parks they are often there for a specific task, be that a walk, a bike ride, to play on the equipment or with toys. These days our parks are not designed for children to go into their own world and imagination.

When you are able to watch children fully immersed in their imaginative play like the girls above, you start to wonder why we as adults are so quick to entertain our children with fun parks, movies, toys, lessons and STUFF.  As adults we seek things that have a learning outcome, falling to the pressures to extend our children’s worlds every second of the day. Do Children have time to play these days?

Going back to sitting on that jump within the dirt bike track, I ask myself some questions.  How many times have we overlooked the two girls running up and down the bank?  How many times have we made a move and interfered with the situation, by talking or telling the story before it unfolded?

In that single moment,  all three children were learning valuable life skills such as problem-solving, coordinating themselves, cooperating and thinking flexibly?  How many times would’ve we just waved it by as “children just playing?”

“Children learn as they play. Most importantly, in play, children learn how to learn”        –  O Fred Donaldson


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Going Against the Grain

Over the past few weeks, my newsfeed on Facebook and Instagram has been flooded with photos of five-year-olds in their slightly too big school uniforms, smiling for the camera as their parents eagerly celebrate their child’s first day of school.

Before I had children I heard a colleague speaking about a friend who was sending their son to a Kindergarten that children ‘Just Played At’.  I remember quite vividly scoffing at the idea and thinking to myself, well I would never do that, why would you disadvantage a child like that.   It’s interesting how much our thinking changes when we have children and what comes naturally to us as parents changes our thoughts and views of the world around us.  However, I do know that many people think exactly like my pre-children thinking.  My hope and dream is that one day that will change.

I’m not going to lie, it’s not been an easy decision to make, even though I am comfortable with our decision that Alex will not start school at five, I am still human and it can be very hard to just switch off from what is “normal”.    Along with the various children on my Facebook feed, it’s been harder to see a number of Alex’s friends heading off to school, although I do have to remember that these children are in fact 6-12 months older than Alex, so we are very lucky that starting school later is quite normal in our lives.

I have been asked many times over if I will change my mind and send Alex to school when he turns five.   I think the hardest part of this is actually explaining myself over and over.  The other difficulty is having to listen to people justify their own choices to send their children to school at five when I think they would have preferred to keep them in Kindergarten.   I actually wonder if many people would choose to wait if there were more Kindergartens that were open and supportive of having children stay on past their fifth birthday.   Although many places say they do allow children to stay on, this is only lip service.    To really be supportive of children staying on after they turn five, there needs to be a culture within the kindergarten that needs to be nurtured, not just some words on a sign or the enrolment booklet.

Thankfully for us, Alex started at a Kindergarten that was fully supportive of children staying until they were six years of age and they encourage this.  At the time he started I wasn’t quite aware that we would go down that road, all I knew is that I wanted Alex to be able to Play in a beautiful and rich natural environment.    I think when people hear about a Kindergarten where children ‘play all day’, they think that the children run ruckus and the teachers sit back in a chair talking and drinking coffee.   This is far from what it is like.

Alex’s teachers are present all the time, they just aren’t crowding the children, commentating on their play, fixing their problems or putting in them up in the tree when they can’t climb it but are desperate to be up there with their friends.

The teachers work at a respectful distance, not too far and are available whenever a child needs support.   They talk to the children like they are real people, not with funny voices and childish words.    Instead of strict routines or low and behold no routines, they have beautiful rituals around morning tea, exercise, and stories at the end of the day.  Birthdays are celebrated with love and care, not fast food and mums trying to outdo each other with cakes and treats.  When the time comes for them to go to school, they don’t graduate in some fake celebration intended for university and training institutes.  The child is celebrated in a way that they know they are ready to fly into life having had these special years of childhood to grow their roots.

Many people will ask “but won’t Alex be disadvantaged with his school learning, how will he learn to count, read and write”.    For us these things are done in our daily lives already.   Alex learns his colours and numbers from play, from spending time with us in the kitchen, in his dad’s shed, with his grandparents, his teachers, his aunt, and uncle, his cousin, and friends.     Through play, building huts, climbing trees, making swords and creations he learns mathematical concepts and physical laws.  Every day he learns information that will be used in school and throughout his life.

He also learns many skills through play that you don’t learn by reading a book or by sitting still on the mat.   Through free play with other children he learns how to communicate, he learns empathy for others, for animals, insects, and plants.    He learns how to self-regulate, he learns about grit and resilence when things don’t always go his way.   He learns that adults in his world can’t and won’t always sweep in and make it better when he is sad or fix it when it is broken and give in when he is angry.

Having an extra year learning all these skills through play and nurturing the roots to make solid foundations is important.  In my opinion at the age of five children are only just starting to secure those roots, why would you stop this and put them in an environment which they are generally just not quite ready for.

Below I have listed some links to articles and further reading in regards to the importance of Play in the early years.  These articles along with many conversations with teachers, fellow parents, professionals and watching my children I was able to make a very informed decision about keeping Alex in Kindergarten.     In this day and age it is to easy to go with the flow of societal norms, sometimes we don’t question something until it’s too late.   By sharing my experiences I hope that I can reach many parents who might be questioning the current schooling systems here in New Zealand and across the world.

Feel free to make contact if you have any questions or feedback.


Further reading and Podcasts:


Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood. Fred Rodgers

Free to Learn – Peter Gray

The Sacred Urge to Play – Pennie Brownlee and Kimberley Crisp.


“Research shows that the majority of children are disadvantaged by starting school at age 5 and the children’s brains need them to be physically active as the neuro science shows that movement and learning go together.” – Nathan Mikaere-Wallis



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Make your own Driftwood Christmas Decorations


This year we are spending our Christmas at the beach, it inspired me to make some beach themed Christmas decorations.  I have always loved how people create beautiful decorations out of driftwood and this year since Alex is a bit older and likes to do crafty things as well I thought we would give it a go.

So today I will show you how to go about making a driftwood Christmas Tree and a Twig Star.  But before we head into that I would just like to say a big thank you to the Kiwi Mummy Bloggers Group which I have joined up with to bring you 12 Days of Christmas – A Blog Collaboration by Kiwi Mummy Bloggers. More info at the bottom of this post.

On Tuesday morning after dropping Frankie at care Alex and I headed off the beach to find driftwood. When looking for driftwood for your Christmas tree, try finding flatter pieces that are going to join snugly into each other and also of similar thickness.  It may even be good to set the tree out on the sand once you have gathered your pieces so you know you have enough of the right shape and length.  You will also need to find a piece that will be the backboard or the trunk of your tree.

Driftwood Tree


There are many ways to make a driftwood tree, but this way you don’t have to use a drill.   You will need to purchase a good quality super glue or Epoxy glue from the likes of Mitre 10 Mega or a hardware store.

To make the Tree:

  • Place the piece of driftwood you will be using for the trunk of the tree.
  • Next place each piece of driftwood on the trunk from the longest at the bottom of the smallest at the top.   Try and fit the pieces into each other.
  • Once you are happy with how the pieces join together, slowly remove each piece starting from the bottom and glue the back to the trunk, making sure they fit together snugly.



  • Leave to dry as per glue instructions
  • Decorate with natural treasure such as mini seed pods and pinecones, natural buttons, shells or you may like to add mini lights and sparkly decorations.

You can tie the top of the driftwood if you are going to hang or place in a small container to have a standing tree.



Twig Star


For this star I used some branches from a tree I had pruned back and left to dry in the woodshed.   It’s important that whatever wood or branches you decide to use that they are as straight as possible and all the same length.  You will also need natural twine, bakers twine or Washi tape.


To make the Star:

  • Set the star out on a flat surface.
  • Once positioned, carefully glue each piece at the point
  • Leave to dry as per instructions
  • At each point, wind twine around the ends or use Washi tape.
  • Tie twine to a point on the star and hang.

These stars look great on the Christmas Tree or hung around the house.

While I was making my decorations, Alex also made some decorations, using the driftwood, I just helped him with the glue as Epoxy glue isn’t forgiving.


I hope you have fun creating some driftwood and twig decorations and if you need more inspiration head over to Pinterest.

12 days of christmas 2017 logo (1)1513332077..png

Have you been following the Kiwi Mummy Bloggers 12 Days of Christmas? Yesterday  Caroline from Caroline Larnach Handmade blogged about making handmade Christmas stockings and decorations for Baby’s First Christmas and tomorrow we have a post on Christmas on the road from Julia over at @Parentalmisadventures.

Be sure to check them out.

Happy Christmas Everyone

Becks 🌲🌲🎅




Christmas Family Traditions and Rituals

I love this time of year, Christmas is coming and the excitement is brewing with all the decorations, lights, talk about Father Christmas and summer holidays.

In the past, I have always found the month of November stressful. Before Frankie was born I worked in a role where I had a very large scale event on at the end of every November, so I never thought about Christmas until December. Then the three weeks of lead up just seemed to go in the blink of an eye. It always made me feel sad, because I wanted to feel Christmas, feel the excitement, the celebrations but it all went so fast and then boxing day was here with hangovers from indulging in too much sugar, food and alcohol.

Since having children I knew something needed to change, to make the lead up to Christmas a special time. It’s meant to be a time of fun and happiness, not a time of stress and hurriedness. In this day an age where seasonal celebrations are easily lost to material consumerism, I think it’s important to let my children feel what Christmas is all about, just like the memories that connect me with this time of year (fluffy pudding, pinetrees, my cousins visiting, the beach, Griffins sampler boxes with pink waffer biscuits, my nana cooking a ham in the old copper, eating raw pavlova mixture, and retro Christmas decorations) These things all fill my soul up with happiness whenever I think about them or see them. I hope to help my children create their own memories that will last for years to come and they to can connect the smells, the food, family time, the beach and everything else that Christmas is about for our family and feel that same sort of happiness.

When creating rituals/traditions you do each year, I think it’s important to make sure they work for your family. Don’t try and do everything that is fashionable at the time, because it just leads to more stress and consumerism. Take your time and enjoy the weeks leading up to Christmas. Below is what we do in the lead up to our Christmas. It’s simple rituals that create warmth and comfort for our family.

Christmas Advent House

Before I had children I found a beautiful Christmas advent house in a local store. My husband and I have used it every year since, and before children, we gave each other random little tidbits throughout December. Once Alex turned two we started the traditional countdown with him and this year Frankie will also be old enough to follow along.

Christmas Advent House

The little doors of the house are opened up each morning and there is a little gold chocolate coin waiting behind the door. The house plays a Christmas carol and the little characters move while the lights in the snowy street glimmer. It really is a pretty sight and why I instantly fell in love with it.

There are so many different advent calendars our there, especially ones that can be used each year which in my opinion is part of creating the memory. Check Pinterest for inspiration for making a homemade calendar.

The Christmas Tree

When we were children, getting the Christmas Tree was probably the highlight of the whole lead up to Christmas ( apart from eating raw pavlova mixture when my nana made the pavs). Dad, my brother and I would jump into the farm truck and drive down the road to go ‘Christmas Tree Hunting’. This was back in the 1980’s and I am sure most people back then flogged a small Pinetree off the side of the road. I do have funny memories of dad telling us to lie down or he would be hiding behind a small tree as a random car drove past. I also have the funniest memory of going ‘Christmas Tree Hunting’ with my friends to find a tree in their van, the tree ended up standing up with the top outside the sunroof and we drove down the road singing Christmas Carols at the top of our voices alongside the tree (heads popped outside the sunroof). We had a few interesting looks from a couple of the neighbours. Those were the days when you could do that sort of thing.

However, you decide to find, or buy your Christmas tree, make it into an adventure. The adventure is all part of creating a lasting memory.

Alex loves decorating, he has already decorated part of his bedroom with some Christmas decorations. This year we have also made a number of decorations and I try and buy a new decoration for the kids each year. This year they each have a cute mini knitted Christmas cracker that I purchased at our Kindy Mums Christmas market.

Our handmade driftwood decorations.

Christmas Candles

This is something I started last year, it’s a take on a Rudolf Steiner and Christian tradition of lighting a candle for the four Sundays before Christmas. We have actually started this tradition early this year as I bought some beautiful candlesticks at a market and as soon as Frankie and Alex saw them, they thought we should light them at dinner time. So each evening meal we light the candles and have them sitting at the dinner table with us. Candles just make dinner times extra special, and it’s a nice way to shift from the busyness of the year to slow down to the lead up to summer and our holidays.

Our Christmas Candles

Along with these special traditions for our family, we will go for a drive to see the local Christmas lights and we have a lovely Christmas grotto that I have taken Alex and Frankie to see Father Christmas. Our Christmas Day’s are rotated each year between our families so that we don’t have to rush from one place to another on Christmas Day and can enjoy feasting, drinks, way to much sugar and watching the kids have fun.

I would love to know what some of your family traditions are or memories that stand out from your own childhood or maybe something that you are going to start doing this year.

Have a fun filled and magical December.

Becks 🎄🎄

Elderflower Cordial – Essential Summertime Drink

Mid to late spring is Elderflower season.   These beautiful flowers make the most amazing cordial and it is very simple to make.  Elderflowers are everywhere, once you know what you are looking for, you will spot the trees all the time.  Usually growing along the roadside, near rivers and parks.


Foraged Elderflower


Before you head off to find Elderflowers it’s important to know that the Elderberry plant is poisonous.  I don’t want to scare anyone away from making your own cordial but it’s something you should know, and something I wasn’t aware of until I had made my first ever batch last year and had to throw it out.

The leaves, stems and unripe berries of both red and black elderberry species contain cyanide-inducing glycosides which can cause a toxic buildup of cyanide in the body. When using elderflowers, be sure to remove them from all but that smallest stem attachments to keep these toxins out of your food.

When collecting Elderflower, collect the bright white and open flowers.  If they are turning yellow or cream leave them on the tree as they are past their best and not something you want in your cordial.


The flowers on this flower head a nice and white.  However, they still have unopened flowers.  I would leave this flowerhead on the tree.


Once you have gathered your Elderflowers for your cordial you will need to take the flowers off the stems.   the easiest way to do this is using your fingers or a fork and gently push the flowerhead into the bowl. See below.


Using a fork to remove the flowers from the stalks.


To make your cordial, you will need:

  • 1k  sugar
  •  6 cups boiling water
  • 3 medium lemons, washed
  • 30 large Elderflower heads
  • 55g citric acid
  • one large glass or ceramic bowl or jar
  • sterilised bottles

Preparing your cordial:

  1. Place the sugar into a large bowl or jar ( I have used a very large pickle jar).     Pour the boiling water over the sugar and stir until all the sugar has dissolved, leave to cool.
  2. Peel the rind of the lemons with a peeler and add to the sugar water.
  3. Slice the lemons into thick slices and add to the sugar water. Add the citric acid and stir, then finally add the flower heads to the sugar water and stir again.
  4. Cover with a clean cloth and leave to steep for 48 hours. I usually give it a gentle stir after 24 hours and have a taste.

After 48 hours you are ready to bottle your cordial.

  1. Sterilise bottles in the oven or in a pot of boiling water
  2. Remove lemons from the cordial, strain the cordial through a clean fine muslin cloth into a clean bowl.
  3. Using a funnel, fill sterilized bottles, seal and store in a cool, dark place.   Once opened keep in the refrigerator.

This cordial is delicious diluted with still or fizzy water.


The finished product, ready to drink or give away as a gift.



I hope you enjoy making your own Elderflower cordial.

Becks 🍹🍹

Kidsplaynz’s Top FIVE recipe book recommendations

It’s nearly that time of year again, officially 97 sleeps till Christmas, well there may be less depending on when you read this blog. But it’s that time of year when we need to organise ourselves to buy presents or hand over our Christmas wish list.

One of the things that is always on my Christmas wish list is recipes books, I love them! The only thing though is when you buy or request a recipe book you want to know that you are actually going to use it and it’s not going to sit on your bookshelf collecting dust. The best recipe books are the ones that are dog-eared, have some writing in them, flour dust and a bit of chocolate cake mix staining the pages. If your recipe book looks like that, then you know it’s a good one.

I post a few pictures of food and cooking on my social media sites and I often get asked to share recipes, obviously, I can’t share a recipe if it’s from a cookbook but I can share with you which recipe books are my go-to books that I use on a weekly or monthly basis. You can then confidently add them to your Christmas Wish List or buy them for family and friends and then ask to borrow the book back. Cheeky Yes!

I love cooking with ingredients that won’t break the bank and that I can find in the supermarket or by just going down to Vetro in Ahuriri which stocks most speciality items. Also, my family needs to like what I make. No point making something for dinner with a bunch of funny ingredients when no one else in the house is going to eat it, including me. I made buckwheat pizza bases once, juso you know, I gave the packet of buckwheat flour away and we didn’t have pizza for tea that night!

So here we go, in no particular order, my top FIVE cookbooks that I use on a regular basis – husband and child-friendly.

Chelsea Winter – At My Table

This was Chelsea’s first ever book she put out after winning Master Chief and even though her books are more sophisticated now this one is still a gem. It’s full of family recipes with a Dutch influence, think Olie Bollen and Dutch Apple Tart from Chelsea’s Oma. I often refer to this book to make biscuits, quick dinner recipes to the crowd-pleasing Lemonade Scone which whenever I make them I always get compliments on how delicious they are. The Pork with Raisins, Fennel and Pancetta has me drooling, it is a winner! Ekk I think I am going to have to add that to next weeks menu planning.


Chelsea Winter – Homemade Happiness

Another book by Chelsea Winter. I think this one is actually my favourite book by far and I think it comes down to the Custard Square recipe! Who would have thought that Custard Squares would be so easy to make, and if you use the Lewis Road Caramel Milk instead of regular milk it takes it to the next level. Again this book has easy family dinners, more biscuits and cakes and lunch items for the kids. Our favourites in this house are the Mince and Cheese Pie, Chicken Fettuccine, Chelsea’s Apple Pie oh and the Giner Kisses, taste even better the next day, if they last that long!

Unna Birch, The Forest Cantina – Home

I bought this book recently and wow I have not been disappointed. Again this is one of those books that takes easy meals to the next level. I also love the fact that Unna self-published this book. You will want to leave Home out on your coffee table, it is so beautiful, the layout, the styling and you want to feature a grazing table at your next Party. Also included at the back of the book is a guide for growing your own vegetables, looking after chickens and your own beehive.

My favourite go-to recipes in here are the Banana Bread, this is delicious and so simple to whip up. Other favourites include the Homemade Falafels with Homemade Picked Onions and the Lemon Pie is my Alex’s favourite, I have lost count on how many times he has asked me to make him Lemon Pie in the last three months.


Essential Volume One – Annabel Langbein

Earlier this year I was given Essential by Annabel Langbein for my birthday. This is a volume of all Annabel’s best savoury recipes from over the years plus new recipes as well, everything is in one place. It’s a huge book and I don’t think I have actually looked at all the pages yet. I made dumplings for the first time the other week and it has loads of my favourite throughout. If you know Annabel’s books this volume also includes her popular fridge fixings which is perfect for the upcoming summer months. My personal favourite to have in the fridge and stored away is plenty of Tomato Kasandi.


A Free Range Life Annabel Langbein Issue Four

This isn’t so much a book but a large style magazine. This is definitely the best foodie magazine/annual I have ever bought. It focuses on using Autumn and early Winter vegetables and fruits to make snacks and light lunches followed by hearty mains and comforting desserts. My favourite section is the Sunday Sauce – make up a large tomato base, portion it and freeze and then use later by adding a few different flavours to make Mexican, Chinese or Greek. There are ten different ways to use the base sauce. Another favourite and something I make quite a bit is the leek and ham tart.

This is my line up of favourite recipes books. Do you have any favourites to share, let me know in the comments or on our facebook page.

Becks 🥣🥗🥨

Daffodils at Taniwha – A ‘Must Do’ this September.

It’s crazy isn’t it, that we often miss visiting interesting places in the area that we grew up in for various reasons. We may have driven past such places and thought, I must stop in there one day, and it just never happens. Or sometimes you don’t even know something exists until you have children and you see your home area with fresh new eyes. This is something I am finding out with Central Hawkes Bay. I grew up there, but there are so many places I have never visited until now.

For the first time this past Sunday, I visited the Taniwha Daffodils and what a beautiful place it is. Yes, I have driven past many times and thought to myself I must visit, but it wasn’t until last Spring when some friends posted pictures online that I really thought I should visit and I wasn’t disappointed even on a cold cloudy spring day this place is stunning.

Looking from the car park back towards the front gates.

We arrived early hoping to avoid the crowds, but once we arrived we saw that the place was so big that there is space for everyone. Alex and Frankie immediately headed for the courtyard where there are seats, gravel and Tonka toys. We decided to sit and have a coffee while the kids were quite contented played in this area and the fact we were the only ones using it at the time. There is a cute little coffee counter serving Hawthorne Coffee, Tea, Barkers Juices, Rush Munro’s Ice Cream and a few sweet treats. If you are coming along for the day, make sure you pack a picnic lunch and snacks for the kids though.

Court yard and seating area.

Once we had finished our coffee we grabbed our buckets and headed off to pick daffodils. There are paths that wind around the park, over bridges, past lakes, swings and tree houses. Make sure you do venture right around because there are so many beautiful hidden spots that you will find.

Sign posts pointing the way to a Crocodile Infested Lake

There are over a hundred different varieties of daffodils to pick, my favourite being the one pictured below. If anyone knows the actual name of it please let me know, because I would like to plant some bulbs of this variety in my garden. They are so sunny and happy looking.

My favourite!

Highlights for Alex and Frankie were the beautiful White Swans (feature photo) and the Crocodile infested lake, (we will keep that as a surprise).

Once you have wandered through the park and picked enough daffodils, head back to the administration area where your Daffodils are wrapped in cellophane. 30 flowers for $5.00. Proceeds from these go to the chosen charity – Plunket.

Wandering through the Daffodils

If you have not ventured down to the Taniwha Daffodils in Central Hawkes Bay, this is a definite must do this September and if you have missed out, write it in your diary for next year or follow Taniwha Daffodils on Facebook to get updates for their 2018 season.

A couple of things to remember if you are heading down to CHB.

  • Pack warm clothing, the Takapau plains can get quite cold with spring winds whistling down from the snow capped Ruahines.
  • Gumboots will make your walk more fun.
  • Take a picnic lunch or snacks
  • Cash is best but they do have EFTPOS available.
  • A camera, I sadly only had my phone camera and very much regret not having my camera.

Check out all other details on Facebook or their Website.

Directions as per link. Taniwha Daffodils

Becks 🌼🌼