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 ūü•£ūü•óūü•®


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 ūüĆľūüĆľ

Crate Wonder Review – Watch your child’s imagination come to life.

This week we have been lucky enough to review a loose part crate from Crate Wonder.   I found Crate Wonder on Facebook, I loved the crates they sell and their philosophies are in line with my own philosophies of play.  Owners Kelly and Bianca work in childcare and are passionate about heuristic and open ended play and it shows through the items that they have selected for their loose part boxes.

‘Architect Simon Nicholson used the term ‚Äúloose parts‚ÄĚ to describe materials with varied properties that can be moved and manipulated in many ways. He theorized that the richness of an environment depends on the opportunity it allows for people to interact with it and make connections. Early childhood educators have found this to be true and have documented the vast learning that can occur when children are able to invent, create, explore, and rearrange loose parts’

Many people still think that open ended play, loose parts play is only intended for times when children are in Kindergarten or at Daycare, but the fact is loose parts can be found and used anywhere. ¬† I find that my children play with loose parts for longer and over more days than they would just a regular fast food style toy, that usually ends up dumped in a toy box that is usually tipped out on the floor of my child’s bedroom when they rummage through to find something and it’s never, ever used.

Our Crate Wonder consisted of a number of wooden,¬†metal, plastic and natural items. ¬† When I first introduced the kit to Frankie (as Alex was at Kindergarten) I only set out a few items. ¬† I didn’t want her to feel overwhelmed by having everything out at once. ¬†I had the wooden cup holder set up and the wooden and metal rings placed to the side, along with the napkin rings. ¬† ¬†Interestingly I thought she would have made a bee line for the rings and place them on the cup holder, however she didn’t, She lined up the napkin rings and then placed the wooden rings over top. ¬† This has been a reoccurring theme when she uses the loose parts. Lining up and stacking.




Over time she has decided to hang items on the cup holder.  Firstly she will place the metal rings, then the wooden rings and then she hung the plastic chains.  She did try and place the chain loops onto the cup pegs but they did not fit.  This could have become frustrating for her, but she found other ways to hang them on the pegs and display them on the bottom of the cup holder.

Frankie and Alex decorating the Cup Holder


Alex has spent a lot of the time incorporating the parts into his pretend play.   He is at a very creative stage and builds items he needs from all sort of loose parts.   The chains were used to make foot ascenders that arborist would use to climb trees.   They were also incorporated into games where they could be used as handcuffs.   He would also use the items with many of our own loose parts including selotape and string.

For Fathers Day the whole loose parts set was used to create decorations for dads present.   This was an ongoing decoration that has stayed together and been dismantled and remade over two days.

Although an adult may think this is just a pile of items, so much care and though has gone into the making of this Father’s Day decoration for their Dad.

Crate Wonder¬†has a number of kits and individual items ranging from $3.00 items through to resource kits at $120.00, which I think is very reasonable. ¬†I love that it is a one stop shop for busy working parents or childcare centres who don’t have time to hunt out indivual items in shops or online.

What I love so much about Crate Wonder is that the sets are so well thought out. ¬†Having used a number of bought Heuristic Play sets with my children, I found that this set could easily grow with my children’s development and imagination. ¬† Both Alex and Frankie have had a lot of fun using the set over the past week, both using the items but exploring and building in their own way.

The most used item in our home would be the wooden cup holder, which has been used as a decoration tree and included in all constructions and play.

For further information please check out the Crate Wonder Website and Facebook Page.   We will also have a giveaway on our Facebook page in the next few days, so please keep an eye out for that.





Happy Building and Creating.


Logic will get you from A to B.   Imagination will take you everywhere.   Albert Einstein.



How to make: Simple DIY Eye Spy Jar

We all have that container of interesting objects, screws, ties, metal things, we can’t throw because one day we may just remember what they are off, ¬†and everyone has a jar of Kinder Suprise Toys or something collected from the supermarket or gas station that the kids play with for all of five minutes before tossing aside but will dearly love the moment it is seen to be heading to the rubbish bin.

So instead of throwing these little items away, I made up an Eye Spy jar for Frankie, which Alex also enjoys playing with.   Eye Spy jars are so simple to make, and you should have everything you need in the cupboard.

I also find it quite therapeutic moving the jar around to see what toys I can bring up to the side of the glass. For older children, you can take a photo of the items that you pop into your jar.  Print the photo and see if they can find each item in the photo.  Below I will take you through a few steps to make a very simple eye spy jar.

What you need:

  • A Jar or bottle, glass or plastic.
  • Rice, if you don’t want to use rice, ¬†dry sand also works well.
  • A collection of small toys and things such as safety pins, bread bag ties, screws, buttons, small colourful toys, bouncy balls or coins are just some ideas.
  • Clear Packaging Tape
  • Scissors
  • Paper and Pen

Find a suitable jar, I have used a The Collective Pot Set Yogurt Plastic Jar, which is perfect as they are large and plastic so it won’t break if accidentally dropped and you can also squish them, which is perfect for moving the little toys around. ¬†¬†21121953_10154596110426599_445225108_n

Remove the labels from the jar, and easy way to do this is using equals parts oil and baking soda mixed together to make a paste and then use this to remove the film left by those hard to scrub stickers.

Collect your selection of little toys and bits and bobs.   Take a photo of the items if you are making this for older children so they know what they are looking for.  You can also write down what is in the jar and use it in the same way.


1/4 fill the jar with rice or sand. ¬† I did this over another container so it didn’t go everywhere or you could you a funnel if you have one.

Place a few toys into the rice, pushing some down into the rice.


Continue to layer the rice and toys until you reach the top of the jar.

Leaving a small area at the top so that the rice and toys can easily move around when the jar is sealed.

Secure the lid well.   If you are using a jar similar jar to the one we used you will need to secure it with clear packaging tape or glue.  The last thing you want is busy fingers removing the lid spilling rice or popping small objects into their mouths.

And there you have it, one very easy to make Eye Spy Jar.  You can refresh the jar with different toys over time as well.

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Loose Parts Play in the Backyard

Over the past week, I have posted a number of photos of Alex and Frankie playing with loose parts on our social media pages.   The weather is starting to warm up, so I wanted to have a few new items in the back yard that the kids could play with.   I always find that if our backyard has places to explore, things to jump on and climb over, items that are movable then both our kids are really happy to be out there playing, some days they just spend all day outside in their imagination.

I love loose parts, probably as much or even more than the kids and over the past year, our small collection has grown in size. ¬† It’s exciting to stand back and see how they¬†interact with them and what they create. ¬†I love seeing how determined they can be to learn how to physically do something such as balancing and climbing.

Alex spent a good length of time working out how to balance the wheel.


Once you start your loose part collection it can get quite addictive, everywhere you go you will be on the lookout for open-ended items that your children can create with. ¬† If you are an actively creative person, it’s a little bit like collecting supplies for your creative kit. ¬† You can never have enough pretty papers, stamps, art pens, pencils, fabric etc. ¬† Most artists and creative people have cupboards and drawers and even rooms dedicated to their supplies.

What is a Loose Part?

Loose Parts are everyday objects that can be found at home, the end product of something such as a wooden cord reel, natural items, boxes and containers that something was packed in. ¬†It’s really just using your imagination and seeing beyond what the item is. ¬† Sometimes just giving your children something that you are about to throw away or recycle can be a good way to see what works and what doesn’t.

Our small backyard collection


Why have loose parts?

Loose parts don’t have a set of instructions, loose parts don’t just do one thing, they can be connected¬†or combined with something else to create something new. ¬†For example a toy Paw Patrol vehicle is always just that I toy Paw Patrol vehicle, however a block or a stick can be a Paw Patrol vehicle or it can be a Car or a Boat, it then can be connected to another stick to make a fishing rod or a sword, or could be connected to a dozen sticks to make a fort or a hut.

In this post, I will list a few items that we use at home in our own backyard. ¬†The bonus of these is items is they don’t cost anything and most can be recycled or reused.

Wooden Cord Reel: Last week we were given a large wooden reel. ¬†If you can get your hands on one of these I personally think they are a must have for any outside loose part collection. I am sure everyone has memories of using these when they were a kid. ¬† Alex was super excited when he saw it. ¬†I could see his brain ticking over with all the ideas that this cord reel was going to be used for. ¬†Since these reels are made from untreated wood they do need to be painted or stained so they don’t rot.

These loose parts were made into a pirate ship.

Cardboard Tubes and Plastic Pipes:    We have had a number of cardboard tubes over the past year, we collected ours from a Curtain shop, but anywhere that uses and sells fabric will have these and most places are happy to give them away.   The great thing with cardboard is that once they are past their use by date you can pop them out to be recycled.   I would love to get ahold of some old plastic tubes or down pipes, I think these would be great to create water runs in the summer, to float home made boats or plastic balls.

The reel and tube were made into a tank.

Wood Rounds and Stumps:¬† Alex loves wooden stumps at the moment, we have ones that he can easily move around. ¬† Alex loves to jump from one to another and we have played games where there is hot lava and we can’t fall off otherwise we will be burnt to a crisp. ¬†We move the distance between the stumps to make it a bit more challenging each time we go around the circuit.

Frankie gaining confidence  walking across the platform

Wooden Off Cuts and Planks:  We seem to always have odd pieces of wood in the garage from my husband building something, we pulled them out, check for nails and then the kids would use them for ramps and building.

Other items you could add to your collection:

  • Old tyres
  • Kindling sticks
  • Driftwood in different sizes from large pieces to sticks
  • Large rocks and stones
  • Fabric (for making huts and secret hideouts)
  • Containers
  • Natural items, leaves, and flowers,
  • Wooden saw horses
  • Crates

These are just some ideas that you can use at home, you are only limited by your imagination.

Do you have loose parts at home or at your Kindergarten or Daycare?  I would love to know what items you use.



Exploring the Historic Lindsay Limestone Water Race

Exploring in the dark is super exciting for children, and not only is it super exciting it’s also really good for their sensory development. ¬†So be open to adventures which take children into the dark or outside at night time.

Alex and his cousin Meeka were so excited when we told them we were going to be visiting a cave this past weekend.  They quickly rushed off to find their headlamps they were given for Christmas and proceeded to explain to each other what they were going to be doing.    The cave is a historic 200-metre limestone tunnel that was used as a water race for Mt Vernon station near Waipukurau.   The race starts near the river and has been dug right through the hill, where it then would have connected with water channels. There was a number of these across Central Hawkes Bay, with a larger more well known one near Onga Onga which my great, great grandfather helped build.  You can still see these raceways next to the country roads around Onga Onga.

Growing up in Central Hawkes Bay and attending the local high school I can’t ever remember hearing about the Lindsay Tunnel, so this weekend was my first time visiting.


Getting there can be a bit confusing, so please bear with me while I write the instructions.

Lindsay Road is off State Highway 2 just before Waipukurau (north of the bridge). Drive along Lindsay road and then turn into Scenic road which takes you to Lindsay Bush. Instead of going into the bush car park continue driving along the stopbank until you get to the end.   We parked on the stopbank, but you can drive down into the small turn around area at the bottom of the stopbank.

From here walk along the river heading west, there is a bit of a track, you will need to go around a makeshift fence and then keep walking until you see a gap between the blackberry.  Walk up the hill to you reach the track then continue on walking West along the track until you find the tunnel.   We found this the easiest way to get through without having to climb fences or scramble through Blackberry.


The height of the tunnel would be roughly 1.5 metres at the entrance gradually getting smaller and the far end would be roughly 1 metre.   Because we had not been there before we were not sure how small the entrance way at the other side would be, we had been told that we would need to scramble out the other side.

The thought of this, mixed with me talking about previous caving experiences brought on a bit of a panic attack and I freaked out 3/4 of the way through when the tunnel started to enclose.  Thankfully Grandma and Aunty Jeanie continued on with the kids telling them a story that I was too tall and kept hitting my head, while I practically ran all the way back to the entrance, gasping for air in a dramatic fashion as I found the outside.

(I have been caving in the past, through something they referred to as the birth canal and there was no way I was ever going to be doing something like that again). ¬†As you can see from the photos below it isn’t as bad as that. ¬†I most likely could have gone right through the tunnel, maybe next time.


Everyone else made it safely to the other side.  The kids all wanted to come back through the tunnel, so safe to say it must not have been too scary for them and they enjoyed using their head torches.

Next time you are in Central Hawkes Bay this is a really cool off the track place to visit, and if you want a longer walk the Lindsay Bush is just down the road and has a 45-minute loop track.  Next time we are down we hope to have time to walk around this track and I can let you know more about it.

Happy Exploring.


** Photos by Jeanie Butler **


Celebrating World Breastfeeding Week

This week is World Breastfeeding Week. ¬† Two years ago when I was pregnant I would not have even begun to imagine that I would be celebrating World Breastfeeding Week in 2017 while still breastfeeding Frankie. ¬†What an amazing feat! Breastfeeding for nearly two years! ¬†I am celebrating because breastfeeding isn’t an easy journey, and these two years haven’t always been picture perfect. ¬† It can be tough, challenging and very tiring but those are all things worth celebrating when you know you have supported a little person through the most important growing years.

(The feature photo is of me with Alex when he would have been roughly eight weeks old.  This is while staying at the beach, Summer 2013, I look very tired!). 

Throughout these two years I have definitely become more pro breastfeeding, but more than that I have become pro breastfeeding education and support. ¬† Sadly there is so much inaccurate information out there, whether is from old school doctors and nurses, outdated Plunket advice or just regurgitated information from other mothers it really needs to stop. Oh, the stories and old wives tales I have heard, it’s not helpful and it is not supportive of mothers and their babies.

Breastfeeding can be hard in this day and age of ‘INSTANT’. ¬†Babies don’t always do instant, they work on their own time and it doesn’t often align with adults schedules. ¬† But in saying that breastfeeding can also be very, very easy and incredibly enjoyable given you have the right support. ¬† Both my children have been different to breastfeed. ¬†Alex was so hungry that he cluster fed for hours in the first weeks, this is one of the things I found very difficult. However we made it through, but I know it would have been easier if I was aware of the support that was out there, and if advice and information given to me before having a baby was more realistic.


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Celebrating World Breastfeeding Week 2016.  Frankie at 10 months.


Frankie had a tongue tie that was thankfully noticed while I was in the maternity ward but because it was not suggested that we follow this up and I was not aware of what else I should do, we had some ongoing issues that may have been sorted sooner than the nine months later when we self-referred ourselves to a chiropractor that specialised in newborns and infants.

Over past few years, I have found many online support groups and lactation advice. These groups have been my saviour many times over and I know that they have helped so many other mums out there throughout the western world.  I have also read a number of books that have also helped me understand what is perfectly normal for newborns and young babies and children. (Note that these are not your usual mainstream parenting books)!

So my advice for anyone mum who wants a positive and supportive breastfeeding journey. ¬† Seek the right support. ¬†Don’t read old school or mainstream parenting books, they are not helpful. ¬† Seek out support groups either local or online. ¬†Online groups can be especially good for late at night and when your family may be busy working. ¬†Always follow your gut feelings, if something doesn’t seem right ask for help.

Below are my go to online support pages.

The Milk Meg РMeg is a lactation consultant who blogs about breastfeeding.  She is also the author of the best selling book  Boobin all day Boobin all night.   She has a Facebook page and website site with loads of information.

Pinky McKay –¬†Pinky specializes in gentle parenting styles that honour mothers‚Äô natural instincts to respond to their babies and empower a positive response from infants and toddlers without what Pinky terms ‚Äėnormalised abuse‚Äô. She says, ‚Äúbabies and toddlers are people too and they deserve empathy and respect, not ‚Äėtraining‚Äô through techniques such as rigid routines, controlled crying or spanking. This allows children to respond positively to their environment and to develop appropriate boundaries through mutual respect and strong family relationships.‚ÄĚ

Grubby Mummy and the Grubby Bubbies – This is a supportive blog and facebook page for breastfeeding and gentle parenting. ¬†Carley also runs a group that is supportive of normalising baby and infant sleep. ¬†This is a safe place for mums who don’t want to sleep train.

The Natural Parenting Magazine – This magazine is the only baby/parenting magazine your will ever need to read.

Breastfeeding Support РLa Leche League New Zealand РNew Zealand support page.  You will be able to find local groups via this page in your own region.

Breastfeeding Support – La Leche League Hawke’s Bay – La Leche League support group for Hawkes Bay. ¬†This is an active and supportive group and will direct you to the right information.

Happy World Breastfeeding week mums, whether you have breastfed in the past or a still breastfeeding now, let show some support, normalise breastfeeding and keep on Boobin.

To celebrate World Breastfeeding week on Friday and Saturday there will be events across the country for The Big Latch On.   Please check the poster below if you are in Hawkes Bay and Check out your local La Leche League pages for events in your area The Big Latch On.


Might see you there!

Becks xx