Thoughts: Whoa! Studios – Henderson, Auckland

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This is new to Auckland. Very new.

We visited Whoa! Studios to celebrate the birthday of a Mum as it promised good food, wine and lots of great distractions for the kids.

This place is fantastic. Seriously great.

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It was heaving with families despite the weather being a tad unhelpful. Our first distraction was the urban playground – fabulously thought out and executed. The centerpiece being this phenomenal Whoa!Web crochet construction which took two years to create.

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The Grounds:

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We were put up in a private room which had great ambience – perfect for our family group.

The service was superb (they were able to adjust for our needs – i.e. feed the kids first so there is more room for the adults once they vanish) and the kitchen catered for a variety of dietary requirements easily.

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The food was outstanding. We were served Asian-fusion Tapas – from kimchi to kingfish to steak. Absolutely perfectly cooked and the flavours were perfect. My understanding is that there is a strong focus on seasonal ingredients, and as close to local as possible. Apparently the tomatoes we ate were from the garden of an elderly local woman. This is just awesome in my book.

I loved the decor. It’s a beautiful room.

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Then there’s the whole theatre and show experience for the kids. Probably aimed at the under-10’s but Miss 13 enjoyed it. There were layers of humor that would fly over the understanding of children but would entertain the parents.

The lobby and entry to the show is great. It really sets the scene.

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Everything about Whoa! Studios has been thought through and executed to a really high standard. I’m super-impressed.

I have no hesitation in recommending this for a fun family experience. I will definitely return.

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Thoughts: Camping 2017

For the last five or so years, I have instituted a bit of a ritual: taking my kids away to a campsite somewhere in New Zealand for a week. The idea is simply to get closer to them and to expose them to what this country has to offer outside of hotel rooms and big cities.

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They do look forward to it and we have successfully found that necessary balance between device-time and interacting with each other and the surroundings we find ourselves in.

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This year was a bit different. I decided to book a site at the Waitomo Top 10. The idea was to explore the glow worm caves and several others. I’m a bit mean actually: my daughter (11) hasn’t ever been all that comfortable in underground tunnels (for example, those found on North Head in Auckland) so I thought this might be a good way to encourage her to deal with her fears.

 

What I hadn’t considered is that her fears weren’t limited to tunnels. It turns out that her list includes tunnels, caves, dark, bugs, wetas, sounds of water, drips… and we managed to find all those things in one tidy package.

 

So when one of our guides told us that he did things that no other guide did, such as turning off all the lights, the look of betrayal my daughter gave me was quite special. I laughed.

 

She coped admirably and grudgingly admits that there were aspects of the adventuring she enjoyed. Stalactites and stalagmites made the list.

 

Katherine and her daughter joined us for two nights which was fun. It created a change in our usual dynamic which isn’t a bad thing. Change is good as they say.

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Waitomo. What can I say? Majestic natural wonderlands underground. And more to to point, the organisations overseeing these treasures have created something great. I have harboured a default position where I suspect New Zealand tourism businesses do things a bit on the cheap and end up with an overpriced experience for tourists that ultimately is a bit shit. I’m happy to say that in the case of Waitomo, this perception is dead wrong. I felt pride in what we (Kiwis) are showing people here.

 

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I also love getting off the beaten track a bit. We went to Marokopa on the West coast (47kms West of Waitomo) to see what was there. Not that much in truth, but there is a seaside community, great fishing off the bar, coffees available en route and some beautiful scenery. I loved it. The kids… well, not so much.

 

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That being said, I love seeing how my kids are growing and maturing. Each year they’re a little bit less useless and more autonomous. They’re not requiring my help with keeping them entertained quite as much. They’re able to (and actually take personal responsibility for) their showers, doing dishes, hanging togs and towels etc.

 
The Waitomo Top 10 is also pretty cool. It’s not as big as other campsites we’ve visited, and the population is more transient. There’s not much to do beyond visiting the caves. In hindsight I think perhaps 2 nights there and then somewhere else may have been a better option.

 
It was so good seeing close up how important tourism is to our country. In the course of the week I’ve had decent conversations with people from France, Germany, Australia, the US and more. All are here with a sense of wonderment. All are here to experience something quite unique in the world, and they were getting it.

 
An aside: I note that Mercedes pretty much owns the campervan market. They’re doing something right!

 

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All up, a very good week. A chance to reconnect with my kids and spend time with them outside of routine. It’s valuable. And there is nothing better than getting just a little bit feral before addressing the new work year.

 

That being said, I am ready for it now!

Thoughts: A Quick Return Home

In January I headed to Palmerston North for a family wedding. 
Palmerston North is my home town. I haven’t actually been there for about six years, and before that there was at least a ten year gap between visits. 

It was interesting to see my childhood home. The schools I attended. Driving around my old paper route and noting little change in the houses I used to deliver to. Seeing the lawns I used to mow relatively unscathed by the passage of time.


I was struck by a sense of malaise. 

There’s a gradual deterioration that those living day to day in this place don’t seem to notice, as it happens under their noses. It seems that house owners are neglecting their assets. Homes that I remember being quite lovely in my youth are now run down. This may be the curse of absentee landlords taking advantage of student rents? 


Perhaps arriving in to town on a rainy, bleak day coloured my perception. Palmy is quite lovely on a good day. 

In January there is also an absence of students, which would account for a lack of vibe and the low energy ebb.

I also do not understand the non-sensical paid carparking at the Plaza. It serves little purpose and it’s badly organised.

There are some good things to note. I was impressed with a bar called Brewers Apprentice (their playlist included Wang Chung). I loved the short travel times between destinations. I love that it’s really, really flat (perfect for running and cycling) and I love that there is a low cost of entry to home ownership. I found that people were friendly and conversational.

The wedding service was in Feilding. I was impressed with that town. It seems to be starting to get ‘gentrified’. Wide streets, nice shops and eateries and still only minutes from Palmerston North airport. 

Feilding triggered a fun memory. I remember riding my bike from PN to Feilding to see a girl I liked. She worked in a dairy. I bought a milkshake. I was too shy to say anything about that, so I rode home. 

I really didn’t do my teenage years right in retrospect.

It was nice to get back there, on balance. I don’t think I’m going to rush back anytime soon though. I think the myopic optimistic memories of youth are best left intact.

Thoughts: 2016 

Well, I survived 2016. 

Of course, my measures or KPI’s around how 2016 worked out may be different from yours, but I’ll give it a solid pass.

For me, the year started on the back foot. It involved really hard calls and compromise. It involved a lifestyle upheaval and I’ve been closely monitoring the impact on my kids. (So far, so good and they don’t seem to realise I’m keeping an eye on them).

I have fought battles to the point where I had to make the decision to risk all or walk away.

I have learned that there are people in the world who will impact your life negatively and that there is absolutely nothing you can do about it.

I have learned that I should focus on things that I can actually control or at the best, influence. I have learned that things not in my control aren’t actually worth expending my energy on.

I have found friendship and support in unexpected places. I have learned that by being open and vulnerable, good people will come to your side. I am grateful to those that kept an eye on me (especially Katherine). Supported. An encouraging word here and there. 

God I hate being vulnerable.

2017 brings change. And I’m actually looking forward to it. 

Thoughts: Personal Grooming and Domestic Bliss

Ok ok. You all know that guys are gross, right? They move in and your clinically clean and tidy world is utterly disrupted. But you put up with it, because for some reason, you quite like having their stupid faces around.

But here’s the big un-asked, non-discussed question which every guy needs to know the answer to, but is afraid to ask:

Nail clipping. What’s the deal? Surely EVERYONE does it, but why is it a problem when us guys say that we are going to do it?

We get complaints when our nails are long and unkempt. We get complaints when they’re looking a bit rough. So when we actually want to do something about it, it’s gross and disgusting? Really?

So, to help the cause of partner harmony, please advise me (us) on the following:

– when should we clip (and under what circumstances)

– where should we clip (and under what circumstances)

– when do you clip (and under what circumstances)

– where do you clip (and under what circumstances)

And why is it gross to talk about it? 

Diary of a Shore Thing #5

I’ve reached the age where I have started to obsess about power tools and have a desire to do creative things with wood. I think it’s the need to be able to just switch off a little bit.

Anyway, I’ve made a start with my Ryobi collection, but it has occurred to me that I don’t have the space for some of the tools that i would quite like.

Enter a manly conversation with my neighbour. He’s quite handy, an architect I believe, and he’s been busy building stuff around his house. He has all the tools. 

He mentioned a place, the Devonport Community Workshop, secreted away off Lake Rd. It’s been around for over 20 years, has many of the ‘big’ tools (table saws, drop saws, bandsaws, jigsaws, lathes, routers, sanders etc.) that we all want but can’t really justify purchasing ourselves, and is run by a team of volunteers. 

I popped in for a look-see on this bleak stormy Saturday morning.


It’s open Monday-Saturday, 9am-12 noon and is funded by donations received for use.

I think I may have found a gem.

Thoughts: Local Government Elections

It’s all over bar the shouting. I’ve found this election interesting and not for the usual reasons.

Firstly, I’d like to acknowledge the passion and desire of those who stood for office. Secondly, it was nice seeing friends of my youth get a Mayoralty, achieve Council and Board positions. (There’s something special seeing people get ahead when you feel like you’re standing still, eh?).

I didn’t get to vote. (And yes, I could have made a supreme effort to cast a special vote, but I wanted to see how this played out). 

Let me explain. I registered online with my address details at both the Elections website and also updated my RealMe profile. I received acknowledgements that all was good in the world. Did my voting papers arrive? They did not. I checked my details a week out from deadline, they were all correct. Days passed. Still no papers. 

Saturday came and went.

At 9:30am on Sunday (today) we received a knock on the door by a guy from the Electoral Commission to tell us that there were no registered voters at this address… A little too late one would think.

Given my experience, and indeed the experience of the residents of Crummer Road, Grey Lynn, I suspect that the organisation of this Electoral cycle was FUBAR.

Aside from the technical difficulties experienced, I was also interested in the people standing, and how they presented themselves. I’m usually a Centre-Right voter, and I have to say that the options I had to choose from were poor. I can’t believe how badly organised the ‘Right’ was. Labour was organised at the grass roots and succeeded, but National clearly took their eyes off the ball. 

I heard several of the Candidates speak. And I wasn’t impressed. Yes, they were keen on being elected. And yes, they were putting themselves out there. But there was a lack of depth to their thinking (in my opinion of course) and they were really talking in soundbytes, making unaffordable promises, and in some cases bagging people who worked hard to deliver on the promises of the preceding Leaders. 

Still, Auckland now has a Mayor that I probably would have voted for, given that he at least understands bureaucracy and political BS. The others simply weren’t ready.