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•®


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.



Our Lifesaving Winter Essentials -Essentials In-A-Box Ultrasonic Vaporiser

For the last few days we have all been a bit under the weather, I took one for the team it seems and have had it way worse than the kids though, Alex had already had a cold and Frankie seemed to scrape through fairly unscathed, where I had to have a whole day in bed yesterday, thank goodness hubby was back from his hunting holiday and was able to stay home and hang out with the kids.

There was a good side to being sick, positive thinking is everything over here.  I was able to spend a whole day sleeping and lazing about but more importantly, I have been using our new Essentials In-A-Box Ultrasonic Vaporiser I was given to try out and review from ANZ Pharma Wholesalers Ltd.

I had never used a vaporiser before and that was because I didn’t like the fact that there was heated water and steam in my child’s room at night, perfect damp conditions to breed more bugs, in my opinion, not to mention all that condensation up the walls etc. But the Essentials In-A-Box Ultrasonic Vaporiser has changed my view on vaporisers and it’s one of those items I wish I had years ago when Alex was little.

When the package arrived, I was pleasantly surprised that it was so small, I was imaging a big cumbersome thing that was going to take over the bedroom.  As I investigated more on how it works, I found that the water is vibrated to create a cool mist, so there is no heating and no condensation.  The unit acts as a vaporiser, diffuser and air purifier all in one.

The unit has two modes of use – continuous mode or an intermittent mode (30 seconds on and 30 seconds off). ¬†We used the intermittent mode so that the system stayed on for about 8 hours. ¬†If it is in the continuous mode it will stay on for half the time. ¬†You don’t have to worry about switching it off¬†because it does that automatically.

The unit also has a night light option, with continuously changing colours or you can set it to the desired colour, or have it off which is what we did.

We have used the vaporiser for a number of nights over the last few days with positive results.  I was sleeping in the same room as Frankie and noticed that after 20 minutes or so of being in the room my throat was not dry and sore and I was able to have a great night sleep even though I was full of cold.  Frankie has also been sleeping well with her cold, which is normally not the case when she is unwell.

The unit is very quiet, all you hear is the water droplets moving to create the vapour fog, which I found quite relaxing.  The Vaporiser comes in three colours, blue, pink and white and you can order from ANZ Pharma Wholesalers Ltd. here.

ANZ Pharma Wholesalers Ltd. has a range of essential oils that you can buy, we were given a lovely calming blend with Ylang Ylang, Orange and Petitgrain. They have a Sniffles oil of Tea Tree, Eucalyptus and Lavender which is what you would use in the vaporiser when your child has a cold.  This blend is anti-viral, anti-Bacterial, a decongestant and relaxant all in one.

Also to support our systems while in the cold season I have listed below a couple of other products which use in our household.

KiwiHerb De-Stuff for Kids – Ear, Nose and Sinus Support. ¬† I was introduced to the KiwiHerb Range last winter, and it was a lifesaver – this blend was amazing and I found within a few minutes of giving this to Frankie her nose would clear and she would be able to breastfeed again. They have also changed their dispensers, the new one is a lot more user-friendly. KiwiHerb is organic and made here in New Zealand. ¬† ¬†I highly recommend if you haven’t checked out the KiwiHerb Range that you do so.


Harkers Herbals Children’s Chest Soothe Night – Eases the chest and supports a restful night sleep. ¬†I bought this in the weekend as KiwiHerb wasn’t available to purchase at the time so the kids haven’t tried this yet as there has been no need but I woke up one night with a sore chest and throat and had a 5mls of this syrup and was amazed that half an hour later my sore throat and chest had disappeared and stayed away, my barking cough relaxed and broke quickly. ¬† Although I found this quite a thick and strong syrup, which some children may have an aversion to, I definitely rate it and I think older children would be fine with it. If you have younger children, you can always mix with water, natural juice before bedtime. ¬†Harker Herbals are made right here in Hawkes Bay!


Lotus Oils РSynergy Blend -I bought this from Food for Thought in Waipukurau, you can also buy this online here.  This blend called Colds Away is Tea Tree, Eucalyptus and Lavender.    When buying essential oils for your vaporiser, make sure you are buying good quality 100% essential oil.


These are just a few things that have made our lives a little less congested this Winter. I would love to know what you use or recommend.











Aquamamma – Hydration for Bumps and Beyond

Keeping well hydrated while breastfeeding has always been one of the hardest parts of breastfeeding for me personally.   Although I am fairly good at drinking water the longer Frankie has been breastfeeding, the slacker I have become at keeping myself well hydrated and like other mums, I probably drink a little too much coffee.

If I think back to those early days when you spend most of your day and night breastfeeding, it is easier to remember to have a glass of water, or I would carry a water bottle with me so I was sipping all the time. ¬† ¬†I do remember having that overwhelming¬†urge as I sat down to feed Alex or Frankie that I needed a drink right that minute. ¬†The same went for eating, if I needed a snack, I needed it right that minute otherwise I felt like I would fall over and die. ¬† ¬†My advice to new mums since has been ‘make sure you have water and snacks where ever you go’!

This week I was lucky enough to receive a three pack of Aquamamma hydration drinks from Kidspot Mums Say to review. ¬† Firstly I just have to say I was blown away by their overnight delivery, and looking at their Facebook page and reviews this isn’t a one-off¬†either. ¬†Excellent service, right from the start!

We all know what sports drinks taste like, I won’t name brands, but when I opened a bottle of Aquamamma I was expecting that sickly sweet taste that is all too common with the usual brands. ¬† ¬†My first sip of Aquamamma and it just tasted like I was drinking a glass of water, it wasn’t until I had swallowed that the subtle hints of fruits came through. ¬†The flavour is natural tasting, my favourite was the orange and least favourite was the lemon flavour which I did think tasted slightly artificial. ¬†I could drink this every day and not feel overpowered by it. ¬† Although I have only had three of these drinks over the last few days I do feel more hydrated, it’s easy to drink and when I have been thirsty I have¬†reached for one of these instead of water and it’s quenched my thirst with a few mouthfuls. ¬† I think Aquamamma would have been great for my early stages in pregnancy when I had all day nausea and sickness due to the fact it isn’t too sweet and overpowering.

Some Interesting Aquamamma Facts:  

  • Is formulated to help meet hydrated and electrolyte needs of pregnan18871039_10154357656721599_308834203_nt and breastfeeding women
  • Is great for all stages pregnancy, labour and breastfeeding. ¬†This would definitely be packed in my hospital bag if we were to have another.
  • Easy to drink – Yes, I would have found this great when I was¬†suffering all day nausea at the start of my pregnancies.
  • Contains small amounts of folic acid, essential in those first 12 weeks.
  • Low in sugar, calories and sodium.
  • Free from artificial sweeteners, colours and comes in a BPA-free bottle.

Even though this drink has been made for pregnant and breastfeeding women, it’s a drink that anyone wanting quick hydration with vitamins and electrolytes can drink.

Aquamamma is available from for purchase in 450ml and 1-litre bottles.  Aquamamma comes in three different flavours, Orange, Mixed Berry and Lemon.  There are different packages you can get and currently there is 30% off until the 31st August 2017 for New Zealand customers.

Thanks, Aquamamamma, I wish I had known about you 4.5 years ago with my first baby but I will be back on your website for future purchases.







Bubble, Bubble, toil and trouble

Last week we were lucky to be selected by Kidspot and Ecostore to review the new Ecostore for kids  Double Trouble Bubble Maker Bubble Bath and Foam to the Max 3 in 1 Conditioning Shampoo and Body Wash

I had been hoping I would be selected to try these out because Alex hates his hair being washed. ¬† ¬†Pretty much his hair is rinsed, and on the odd time when he may have got filthy from mud and sand and it needs a good wash, it’s all hands on deck to try and get it done without too many tears or shampoo going in his eyes.

So on Saturday morning when the postman turned up, we were all very excited to open our package. ¬† As soon as you open the bottle the smell of sweet juicy pear greats you, it’s divine. ¬† Not that I don’t love Ecostore’s Lavender Baby/kids products, I love lavender, but I think the pear is more child-friendly. ¬† It also smells natural unlike other branded bath products for babies and children, yes even ones that claim they are natural and safe usually smell like chemicals.

First off we tried the Double Trouble Bubble Maker.¬† ¬†I popped a few squirts in under the tap and let it do its thing. ¬†It definitely lives up to its name, there are lots of bubbles, Alex walked into the bathroom and said “Wow look at all those bubbles” ¬† I would say it’s one of the bubbliest bubble baths we have had in a while. ¬†The bubbles also lasted the whole time the kids were in the bath, which ended up being a good 20-30 minutes.

Midway through having a bath, Alex suggested that he should wash his hair (this kid never says that) so taking his lead I suggested that we use his new Foam to the Max¬†3 in 1. ¬†He was a bit hesitant but I said “let’s just give it a go” ¬†As soon as he realised when he pushed the pump bottle and out came foaming shampoo he was sold, “I love this mum” ¬† he happily shampooed his hair, styled it into the obligatory mohawk and then lay back in the bath and washed it out. ¬†He was so excited that he wanted to wash his hair again and he is very excited to show his dad how he can wash his hair by himself now.

I love how the pump bottle is easy for kids to pump out themselves and it has a locking device on it so if you take it away on holiday it won’t leak out. ¬† Also the fact it is a 3 in 1. ¬†You don’t have to have a separate body wash and shampoo/conditioner. ¬† ¬†Ecostore products are made from plant and mineral based ingredients so there are no nasties. Their products are Cruelty and GE free and also use a renewable sugarcane plastic¬†for their bottles which is a¬†whole lot more sustainable than your¬†petroleum-based plastic. I read Malcolm Rands book a few years ago, where they have come from, to now is impressive. They really do walk the talk and it is a great kiwi company to support, check out the website below if you want to know more about them.

Thanks again Kidspot and Ecostore.