Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The End of Winter - A road trip to Hamilton and a good cuppa!

Well here we are again, now almost at the end of winter. Things have naturally been a little quiet around here so my good friend, Pam and I decided that a road trip was in order!

We set off on a grey day that promised rain and headed down the southern motorway for Hamilton. The journey there and back is easily completed in a day now the roads have been improved. We arrived in Hamilton around 11am and spent a couple of hours visiting with Pam's Dad, catching him up with all the family news. About 1pm we set off for the Zealong Tea Plantation, just on the outskirts of the city, set in lovely countryside.

The grounds of the Plantation are dotted with statues and figurines depicting different aspects of the tea trade (and on a warmer, sunnier day we will return to have a proper look).

For now though this photo indicates the type of things you can see. These teapots at the carpark were quite amusing, they form a dragon shape, which you really can't appreciate from this photo, but you get the drift!

All around the Tea House are row upon row of clipped camellia bushes - they stretch forever!

I believe the picking of the new leaves begins in October. Zealong are 100% organic and produce four flavours of pure tea. There is also a tour of the grounds and production plant if you wish to know more about how the leaves are processed. Something for our next visit in the springtime. 

On entering the tea house we were greeted by a very friendly maitre d and shown to our table. It seems to be a popular place and reservations would be recommended.

The dining room was a delight - beautifully upholstered furnishings created a feeling of luxury and despite being busy it was very quiet and serene. Beside each table is a wooden box upon which a tea kettle sits to keep the water for your tea at the correct temperature. Within minutes of us settling in a young lady came with a selection of the teas on offer and she very clearly explained how to pick your tea, how long it infuses for and how many times it could be infused. At each place there was a porcelain cup with a strainer and a lid for our use. Pam chose the pure oolong and I chose the black - both so yummy and fresh. The black was mellow and had hints of honey - and no milk was involved!!! Our orders for our lunch were taken and before long we were tucking into the most beautifully presented meals we have had for quite a while.

tea kettle keeping warm

Pam's Chicken Hotpot

Pam's fruit platter with chocolate ganache

We couldn't fault the meals or the way they were presented to us. We spent over two hours there and can honestly say it was one of the most unique dining experiences either of us have had in New Zealand. We would really recommend it!

We came away feeling pampered, spoiled and really well cared for and will be back very soon...............

Friday, May 3, 2013

Friday Frolicks - Hidden Treasures - Beachhaven

Aimee & Ivy

Last weekend my lovely husband was out on the sparkling Waitemata catching us some dinner, so I decided to go and do something "girly". I set out to visit a vintage fair being held at our local events centre. Whilst it was a small affair - not too much to spend my money on - I did find the wonderful Aimee&Ivy their selling their beautiful and, most importantly, reasonably priced china and collectibles.

After purchasing a few items I had a chat with the owner of Aimee&Ivy, Michelle, who it turned out has her little shop situated in our own neighbourhood. So off a popped today, camera in hand to have a chat to Michelle and to take some photos so you can see too.


Glassware and china

Michelle started collecting at an early age and certainly has an eye for quality. Her bright and colourful little shop is full to bursting with high quality items all at a very reasonable price. Michelle has no intention of ripping her loyal customers off that'
s for sure!

In addition to glass, china and clothes, Michelle also hires out vases of every size imaginable and is also starting to make her own soft furnishing using vintage and quirky fabrics. This place is certainly a find and an asset to our area.

During winter she is open on Friday 10am-3pm and Saturday and Sunday 11am-3pm, and can be found on Facebook too! The shop can be found at 149a Birkdale Road. Do go and have a look, you are sure to come away with something beautiful!

vintage clothes

Little secret treasures abound in our area and I will be taking the time over the next few months to seek them out and bring you the details, after all its these small things that make Beachhaven such an interesting place to visit and, perhaps, stay awhile....... Till next time when I may have something we all love to eat to tell you about.......ta taaaa!

Monday, April 29, 2013

Families, food and traditions

What a lovely week we have just had - a week on the Gold Coast to attend the wedding of our nephew Ben and his lovely Australian girlfriend Michelle.

In the days before the wedding we spent time with Michelle's family, having a lovely BBQ by the river on the family farm, where we hear Michelle spent idyllic summers swimming after school. It was a great time for us all to get to know one another and they made us very welcome. 

The weather on the day of the wedding was perfect, not too warm, and the wedding a coming together of two families from different parts of the world. The ceremony that Ben & Michelle arranged was one that made much of the joining together of the two families and included the two mothers lighting a candle each, followed by them both lighting a family candle together. It was quite a poignant and beautiful moment!

Following the fabulous wedding breakfast and dance the newly weds are now on honeymoon.

A wedding such as theirs with such an emphasis on family got me thinking about all our family traditions. Our girls are very keen on our traditions and still like their Christmas stocking, Easter eggs and special cake for their birthdays, especially if made from the much battered AWW Cake book. The pages now are falling out and the recipe for the vienna cream is virtually unreadable!

Just three of the many!

There is a new copy of the book in the stores now, maybe I will buy the girls their own copies to save a dispute as to who gets mine!

Traditions are a wonderful way of keeping a family close and connected and very important in this day and age when we live in a "throw away" society.

I sure that Ben and Michelle will create many lovely traditions for their new family, maybe I will send them a copy of the "cake" book.............

 Vienna Cream

125gms (4oz) butter
11/2 cups icing sugar
2 tbspns milk

Have butter and milk at room temperature. Beat butter with electric mixer till it is as white as possible. Gradually add about half of the sifted icing sugar. Keep beating adding milk gradually. Then beat in the rest of the icing sugar. It should be smooth and easy to spread with a spatula. Colour using food colouring. Dip a skewer into colouring and tint slowly and gradually. Keep covered during use as a crust will develop.

adapted from AWW Children's birthday cake book

Friday, March 22, 2013

Friday Frolicks-In the Kitchen

Toasted Museli

One of the many things guests love about staying at Haven Homestay is the toasted museli for breakfast. As so many happy people leave with a copy of the recipe, I thought I would do a short blog on how its put together.

As my family can testify I am not much of a photographer, so I do hope the following pictures make some sort of sense.

The main ingredient!

Wholegrain oats are the main ingredient, which are pretty easy to come by, just don't use normal rolled oats because the finished product will be like sawdust!


The museli is made in the microwave so its important to use a flat, wide dish so the mixture cooks evenly. I use a flan dish. Add to the oats the wheatgerm, oatbran, chopped nuts and coconut and mix up thoroughly.

The next step is to heat till bubbling the oil, sugar, vanilla, honey, salt and cinnamon, about 1 minute or so in the microwave, I use a pyrex jug because it gets pretty hot so be careful!

Add the hot mixture to the dry mixture and stir thoroughly, this takes a bit of work, especially if you are a bit impatient - I usually end up with a mess on the bench. Never mind, just be thorough!

Now you bung it in the microwave for 4 minutes on high - then give it a good stir - put it back in for another 2 minutes - give it another good stir and break up any lumps - at this stage it should be starting to smell AMAZING! Give it another minute and it should be a nice golden colour.

As much as you will want to eat it at this stage, please leave it to go cold. When its cold break up any lumps that may have formed and add a handful of chopped dried fruit, whatever you have, I use cranberries, sultanas and apricots.

So there you go Haven Homestay's famous museli..........a list of the ingredients follows! I do hope it makes sense if not you can always ask a question in the comments. Mmmmmmmm - now I am quite hungry - pity its not breakfast time.......


1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 flavourless oil 
1tsp cinnamon
1tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
3 cups wholegrain oats
1/2 cup oatbran
1/2 cup coconut
1/2 cup wheatgerm
1/2 cup chopped nuts
1/2 cup dried fruit

Mix the first six ingredients together in a pyrex jug and microwave for about a minute till it bubbles. Add to the combined dry ingredients and microwave on high for 4 minutes-stir-microwave for another 2 minutes-stir-microwave for another minute, then leave to cool. Add dried fruit if you wish and store in airtight container.

Adapted from Alison Holst Museli recipe

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Auckland......So much more than the Sky Tower

Hello again from sunny and dry Auckland! Yes its been a fantastic summer so far for people who love the beach, not so for the farmers - everything is quite dry due to the acute lack of rain. 

Today I thought I would highlight the fact that Auckland has THE most beautiful beaches, a fact not really advertised by our tourist information providers, due to the fact going to the beach doesn't earn much revenue for the city, whereas going to the "sights" e.g. the Sky Tower, to name one, does. That is because going to the beach is free to do! I'm not saying that going to the Sky Tower is not something to do - it is - and you get some lovely views up there and can jump off if you are that way inclined, and please by all means put it on your list of things to do whilst here.

But the beaches here are really some of the best in the country. If you don't like one or there are too many people you can just travel a short distance to another. All our beaches are clean and tidy, usually with a playground for the kiddies and toilets and change rooms.

This week I am going to highlight four beaches in our neck of the woods that don't take long to travel to if your are staying at Haven Homestay.

Cheltenham Beach

Narrow Neck Beach

Cheltenham Beach is a long, sandy, family friendly beach situated in the suburb of Devonport. The beach is quite sheltered and is shallow at high tide making it safe for the littlies. Anchored a little way out is a floating pontoon for the "big" kids to play on and if its a windy day you can watch the kite surfers playing. There is a grassy area too with trees if you require shelter from the sun. Parking in nearby streets doesn't seem to be a problem. Just a little further North is Narrow Neck beach, with much the same facilities but with the addition of a sailing club makes it a little busier, a lot more to watch!

Travelling North again, about 10 minutes at the most, you arrive at Takapuna Beach. This is a much larger beach than the two previous with a multitude of things happening on any given day.
Boat ramp at Takapuna

Go down any day of the week to Takapuna Beach and you can see, boats being launched, jet skiers, paddleboarders, yachting and surf lifesaving training - gee it is a busy place, but as its such a big beach there is plenty of space for all this activity and certainly makes interesting viewing if you are a "people" watcher.

At the top end of Takapuna Beach is the amazingly popular Takapuna Beach Cafe. Yesterday I was down at the beach at 10am and the place was full!  I believe their food is just splendid and their award winning ice cream is to die for.

Yummies on offer!
many varieties of ice cream!

Finally a short walk along the coastal pathway (which is a blog all of its own) you arrive at the secluded Thorne Bay, surrounded by luxury properties it is a little gem of a place.

Thorne Bay

Thorne Bay is a safe, quiet beach, almost private. As there is no vehicle access close by I think its much more of a "locals" beach but very lovely just the same. Its a good place to stop for a rest and paddle if you are out on the Milford-Takapuna coastal walk.

Well as you can see I have covered just a handful of our local beaches. Beach lovers could in fact go to a different beach every day without having to travel long distances, and see a diverse range of activities each day.

I have many more to write about as the beaches just keep on going all the way up the East Coast of the North Shore and all within easy driving distance of Haven Homestay-we can even loan you beach towels!

I'd better get the battery charged up for the next big day of photographing our lovely beaches.......... which one to pick next!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Bohemian Rhapsody-Puhoi

Mural inside the ladies restroom!

Hello again, this week my lovely husband and I set off up the Northern motorway to visit the lovely settlement of Puhoi-just a 30 minute drive.

Puhoi is the place to go to get away from it all for a short while, it is situated off the main highway north in a secluded valley that runs along side the Puhoi River. In 1863 a group of settlers came from Bohemia, which is an area of the Czech republic near Prague. After an arduous journey they arrived at Puhoi and began settling onto their allotted land. There is a lovely museum to visit that details all their trials and tribulations at the entrance to the village.

The Puhoi Pub!
Puhoi is famous for three things - the cheese - the canoeing - and most importantly the 
PUB! The Puhoi pub is well over a hundred years old and is a popular attraction for locals and visitors alike. Most weekends groups of motorcyclists venture out for a days driving and usually end up here at the pub, they create a great atmosphere and there is much admiration of their bikes by all around. You can get a good pub meal here at lunch and dinner time.

Inside the pub the walls are completely covered with memorabilia from around the world.  You can spend quite a long time browsing through the notes and articles while having a refreshing drink, its all very interesting. In the winter time they also have a cosy fire to sit beside, if you can get close enough!

 Puhoi Valley Cheese Cafe

Well enough of drinking, what about the cheese you say. Just a little further up the road is the home of the Puhoi Valley cheese factory. Recent refurbishments means you can now watch the cheese being made whilst sampling their very tasty cheeses. You can also buy the cheese at a good price.
Outside are lovely grounds to stroll around or just sit and enjoy the view while enjoying lunch.

 On to the canoeing for those who are more energetic or just want to work off all that cheese and beer! At Puhoi River Canoe Hire www.puhoirivercanoes.co.nz you can hire a canoe or kayak for a leisurely 8km paddle to Wenderholm Regional Park. Don't worry about having to paddle back though as their service includes a courtesy coach return to the village. It looks like a fun thing to do, maybe we should have a go lovely husband!!!!

Also worthy of a mention are a couple of gift shops, a mustard makers, a ceramic gallery and a lovely cafe that reputedly sells the best scones in the district (according to my sister-in-law). There is also a good 3 hour bush walk and a beautiful wooden church, that is well worth a view.

On your way back to Auckland a side trip to the Waiwera Hot pools is quite the experience. There you can have a relax in hot, mineral pools and have a spa treatment if you so choose, or even go down the water slide! So make sure you pack your swimsuit and a towel.

Well what a day that was. We are informed, fed, watered, exercised and also relaxed after a full day out to Puhoi Valley. 

Now to think about next weeks trip.............

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Friday Frolicks-Devonport

Hi again!  Our blog adviser (daughter Amy), suggested that we start a weekly series of visits to places around Auckland that our guests might be interested in visiting - good idea!

So we start with the lovely, historic suburb of Devonport. Home of the NZ Navy!

Devonport is easily reached by car from Haven Homestay or from Auckland City , by ferry, and once here there are a variety of activities to occupy you all day.

You might like to start with a trip up North Head to inspect the beautifully maintained guns from WW2 and explore the tunnels that were used for storage or armaments www.planmyplay.co.nz/play/free-things-to-do-devonport-north-head-tunnels-ww2-military-site. The views over the harbour to the city are one of the most photographed scenes in Auckland.

From the far side of North Head are views of Rangitoto Island and Cheltenham Beach. The beach is a lovely place to take a picnic. You can pick up your picnic supplies from the many food stores in Devonport should you wish to have a relax and a swim or maybe just a lovely walk.

If picnicing is not your thing Devonport has a lovely array of cafes and restaurants, the only problem being which one to eat in! If shopping is your thing then you will be very happy! Do call in to Devonport Chocolates and have a look at their beautiful shop and admire the lovely hand crafted choccies, perhaps spoil yourself too! The art galleries are well worth a look with a faboulous selection on NZ and local art and crafts for sale.

After a relaxing lunch you might like to explore more fully the surrounding area. Devonport has many beautifully renovated old buildings and gardens. The surrounding streets are all fairly flat so if cycling is your thing you can hire a cycle from inside the Devonport Ferry Terminal,www.cylex.co.nz. Walking is very easy though and a walk along the waterfront will bring you to the NZ Naval Museum. This is worth a look if you are a history buff, they also have a very nice cafe for that cuppa you might need after your walk. I  might mention admission is by donation!

Well after all that walking and shopping you might like a liquid refreshment and the place to go and watch the world go by is the grand Esplanade Hotel, right on the corner. Its a lovely building, recently renovated and looks like a splendid place for a relaxing drink.

There is so much more to do for a day out in Devonport, go and have a look for yourself, you will have a wonderful day.

I wonder where I will go next week.................

Monday, January 21, 2013

Where have all the snapper gone??

Hello again from Haven Homestay! My lovely husband is despondent at the moment......awwww!
This past year we bought a newer boat so fishing could be accomplished without the drama of damaged shoulders and sore backs, but the fish have all disappeared. This little fellow (quite the legal length I might add) is the only fellow to be eaten so far this year.

We have been fishing a number of times in different harbours to no avail....but he is not on his own as after questioning a number of fellow anglers they are not catching any also. One fellow was reported to have gone five miles out to sea only to catch a couple of fish... now that's what I call expensive eating!

Enough of the fish.... We have a lovely guest Steve, from Colorado staying at the moment. He is busy visiting as many sights as he can before he goes South tomorrow. As I mentioned in my previous blog you can read of his adventures here..www.aroundtheworldwithblade.wordpress.com. His blog is very entertaining and full of photos of his adventures. The latest blog even has a photo of my kitchen, would you believe!

He has been an interesting guest, full of knowledge gained from his extensive travels around the world. We will continue to follow him long after he has left us.............
Happy travels Steve and drive safely!

Friday, January 11, 2013

A brand new year

My goodness how time flies- its been a long time since my last post as you can see!

Last year was a difficult one, with members of the family having health problems. Happily they are mostly resolved now, so we can get back to the job of being B&B hosts here in the lovely Auckland region.

The year has started off in a splendid fashion, with a flurry of bookings and enquiries here at Haven Homestay. We are looking forward to meeting all who are booked and excited at the prospect of being able to help them with their trip in and around Auckland. With new guests in mind, I have been thinking of new breakfast goodies to offer. "Santa" was kind this year and gave me a yogurt maker - so along with homemade museli, preserves and breads, I will now have homemade yogurt to offer guests at breakfast time and I can assure you its yummy!

In the next week or so we are expecting a guest who is on a world trip. He is blogging about his adventures along the way - you can read about them here:www.aroundtheworldwithblade.wordpress.com - we are looking forward to meeting him and hearing of his plans for his trip.

On a sad note we have recently said goodbye to our lovely cat Louie, who sadly passed away just before Christmas. He was a lovely fellow and is missed by us all. No plans for a replacement yet though!

Well that's all for now - I have some bread ready for the oven hmmmmmm...... till the next time.