What do you do all day?

Plans Change

When we first thought through our trip here, to New Zealand, we knew Joel would be able to continue his work, and I had done some research and brought along all I would need to apply for certification to teach in the country- or so I thought.

I think Joel and I also were prepared for the fact that it might not be as easy for me to find work, and ultimately if I didn’t- we would be ok.

We moved, we journeyed and eventually Joel adjusted to what was once normal for us- work, structured schedules and deadlines. It’s weird to be in another country, though. While trying to find the mental capacity and structure to upkeep the normal aspects of life- the things that make it possible for you to be adventuring- you still need to watch your bank account knowing there is a price to pay to cross items off your bucket list.

You work hard in order to travel and live days spattered with dreams come true, but you don’t expect that to be much of an adjustment. That’s been our experience anyway.

Part of the adjustment has been me not being able to be the financial contributor I like to be and want to be. I am a perpetual little sister- I want to keep up with everyone else, I strive to be independent, I’m just a little too stubborn for my own good- and that means I have a tendency to get a bit squirrelly when I’m out of my element.

A few days after we’d gotten ourselves sorted in Papamoa, I sat down to revisit the necessary documentation and process required for me to get my teaching qualifications in New Zealand, and discovered a few unexpected elements I was missing for my application.

The more I thought through logistics and timelines, I realized I would just rather put my efforts into different pursuits. SO that’s what I did…or am doing.

The Day to Day

In our house, I am the resident with the most free time.


Brandon and Stacey are able to do a lot of really amazing design work and their office is generally set up and buzzing around the kitchen table. Joel has a little corner office in the back of our house where he’s able to type away with few distractions and a decent enough wifi connection (as long as no one is using the microwave) to take calls and whatever he needs, really is back there.

I generally strive for a positive attitude as I try to busy myself with tasks that seem useful (this is just a me thing- I’m sure most of the Klettke-Nickerson crew would be totally fine if I just sat around eating ice cream on the couch as a full time job).

I have kept our part of the house (bathroom and bedroom) as consistently clean as I ever have kept things. At first I made sure things were off the floor and our bed was made so we weren’t surprised by cockroaches or something finding a safe haven in and amongst all those cozy nooks of cloth, but it’s evolved from there. It seems to help my mental health to have a clean space knowing I have so much extra time.

This ‘see the clean, feel the happy’ thing extends to other everyday tasks, too. There was mice week (or weeks, really) that kept us all busy, and I was happy to run errands to find different pest control options. A week of weed-control, too- doing a little upkeep on the rock garden around the property as well as a little trash pick up around the yard (Stacey was great with this, too).

One of my favourite ordinary things to do here is hanging our clothes to dry on the line. I love hearing the oceans rhythm and knowing we’ll soon have sun-warmed, wind-ironed, happy clothes.

I have really enjoyed cooking lots-meals, cookies, muffins, desserts, big breakfasts… This is something I’d like to continue and expand on. I’m eager to learn new and different recipes, and it’s been fun experimenting with new meals as a group.


To Do Lists

With so much extra time I’ve tried being productive with the things that kinda tend to creep up on me.

I’ve tried writing a blog post once a week or once every other week. My favourite way of completing blog posts is to pack up my laptop bag and walk to Henry & Ted to grab a cappuccino before opening up the ol’ Macbook and typing until my eyes, brain and fingers have had enough.


The whole house has now gotten into hitting the gym a few times a week. This is new and necessary because we all love Hokey Pokey ice cream…maybe a little too much.

Stacey and I have pulled up YouTube yoga videos a few times as well, just to try and keep ourselves active and stretched out- it’s especially great doing this after road trips and things where our backs are all outta whack. We roll out our matching yoga mats and giggle as we heckle our virtual instructors (usually after they want us to do something we don’t wanna do).

Another time-consuming task I’ve been able to tackle while being here and unemployed are photos! I was able to take advantage of a Shutterfly deal and get our wedding photos set in a big book that’ll be waiting when we get home.

I was even able to organize photos for the books our amazing wedding photographer will put together for us and I’ve sorted through our photos and FINALLY posted a good selection to my Facebook page 🙂


Having time off has given me a chance to invest in things I love- but often push aside with the everyday.

I am a slow reader, but have read more books since being in New Zealand than I have probably in the last year or more. I feel a difference in my memory, my grammar (which is usually terrible) and my vocabulary when I read- so I’ve appreciated this time to stretch my brain a bit.

I’ve been challenging myself to journal-often journalling through my thoughts on sermons I’ve been listening, things I’ve been reading and some of my thoughts as I process through my massive amounts of quiet time.


I love to research. I like to make sure if I need a jacket, I buy the one that’ll last me a while and that most purchaser seem to like. I also really like to support local products when I can and I think it’s cool how local shops and products often reflect the values of an area.

SO since being here I’ve spent some time researching different local shops, cafes and products. This has been really fun- I have learned lots already, and know that will only grow.

I’ve had a great time finding companies that make kids clothes just 20 mins away, or toys that are made in Tauranga and products that have been based in New Zealand for nearly 100 years. That stuff is just cool & I’ve been having fun discovering these spots.

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My research has even reached into entertainment- we’ve had fun watching kiwi movies, and reading books written by New Zealand authors. It’s also lead to further entertainment as we practice our kiwi accents and as we butcher the Maori language and laugh at our attempts to properly pronounce things.


Finally, researching has brought me lots of joys as I’ve had time to book flights, day trips, hikes, Airbnbs, treks and different activities to be sure we take advantage of our time here. It’s been great to have time to plan trips for our visitors, too- trying to find new things for us to see and do while customizing activities (or at least attempting to) for specific friends/family members.

The Bucket List

I have a physical bucket list written out a home- things I don’t want to forget about. Things I want to try while I have time. I have a satisfying box to place a check in when I’ve completed a task, along with space for a brief description of how the task was completed.

The list is mostly made of silly, little things that are easily accomplished peppered amongst bigger tickets items.

I’ve thought of my list a few times since being here, and have tried to work towards some checks when we get back home.

Things like: read a certain number of books in a month, sketch every day for a month, snowboard somewhere outside North America, plant an edible garden and make latte art while learning to make some great coffee are all on the list and easily accomplishable here. SO that’s my goal.

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I’ve contacted some different places that offer adult art classes to expand my skills, I’ve signed up for a barista class, I use my sketchbook more than I have since University, we are going to the South Island to board Mt. Hutt at the end of August and I’m in process of volunteering at a primary school not far from our house.

Loads of things to chip away at during this season of life.

Just Being Here

Even though I’ve had a chance to do a lot of activities since arriving, some days my job becomes keeping positive and reminding myself I’m here.

One of my bucket list items was to live abroad. I’m living the life I’ve dreamt of living, and doing something I’ve always wanted to do.

Sometimes I have to remind myself that we live by the Ocean, and it’s time to unplug and see this place. Live the life I’ve been blessed to lead.

Little things like teaching Stacey how to crochet and making a 100% New Zealand wool tuque in the process, or sketching (even though portraits aren’t my strength- now’s the time to practice), or just enjoying the rainbows we seem to get daily and our beach.

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I always want to see and be thankful for this life, and our life lived abundantly.

Northern Visitors (part 2)

Northland Trek with Northerners

In my unemployment, I’ve taken up a bit of travel agentry. I’ve been doing research and customizing travels for friends who are coming through. I, obviously, want people to have a great time with us, but I’ve also been planning things that will allow us to see new things in the country, too.

I had read that there was some winter fishing up in Northland (the region that lays North of Auckland and consists of a large peninsula), as well as a few cute towns- which were supposed to hold a couple yarn treasures. These things along with other reasons drove me to plan that exploration with Jamie and Michelle.

Ironically, we didn’t get up to much fishing or yarning while we travelled, but the Kotlewski’s have been kind in their comments about the trip- so I’m still gonna call it a win! We also got to see a lot of the country as our intended route reveals:

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The Big City

Our first day of driving was the longest. We packed Crumpy up on a frosty Sunday morning and organized ourselves to head toward Auckland for a lunchtime stop before heading further North and into new territory.


Espresso workshop was our first stop for our coffee-loving Canadian pals who enjoyed their first pour-over here- which isn’t too common in the land of kiwis. New Zealand coffee is good and well-crafted, but outside urban centres coffee is mainly made using an espresso machine. Drip coffee and pour overs are tough to find in our area. While we were at Espresso workshop, we also grabbed a bag of beans to enjoy with a ‘plunger’ (or french press) while we travelled.

Our lunch choice was a little spot that reminded me a bit of Five Guys at home, a burger joint with a minimalist menu called Better Burger. We were pleasantly surprised by the food quality as well as the price tag for grilled patties, homemade shakes and hand-cut fries.

After a little walk through the CBD we landed at Giapo to indulge for the second time since starting our New Zealand adventure.  It’s yet to disappoint! I ordered Hokey Pokey ice cream this time which came with hokey pokey (sponge toffee) spears and dipped in rich chocolate. Yum! Our smiles say it all:

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Soon after that little selfie was taken, we had an interesting encounter with a homeless fella who seemed quite taken with Brandon and we decided that was our cue to move on.

We piled into Crumpy and headed off towards Ngunguru (Nung-ga-roo) for our first Airbnb.

Hello Northland

Our first Airbnb experience was just a great introduction to a lot of fabulous accommodations. Our host was extremely attentive and thoughtful- being sure to provide us with all we could need on the stay and more, starting the wood-burning fireplace and setting out nibbles (snacks) for us so the house was as cozy as could be when we arrived. A welcomed treat after 5.5 hours of travel!

We arrived in the evening, explored the games room after we’d unloaded the car and decided who would have what bedroom. Then we settled in for a dinner of homemade pizzas (thank-you boys for kicking the ladies out of the kitchen at spoiling us with that act of service) and a couple episodes of Idiot Abroad (which has been a custom for us, as well as a friendly reminder to not be ignorant as we travel, haha).

A few rounds of Trivial Pursuit and warming by the fire rounded off our evening and we were all eager to turn in a bit early for further trekking the next morning.

In the light of day, we were again treated with the unexpected pleasantries of our Airbnb. We hadn’t realized in the evening that the property stretched far beyond our original understanding. There was a huge stretch of land out back that hosted edible gardens, fruit trees, and loads of animals: turkeys, peacocks, ducks, pigs and a bunch of other random creatures.

While Joel and I were checking out the back yard, we met our host who was out checking on the animals and were able to thank here in person for her special touches and thoughtfulness. We also had a chance to ask her how to pronounce the town nearby as we are still learning lots of Maori names.

Another Airbnb win!


As we continued up the peninsula, we were hoping to take in all we could. From Ngunguru to Ahipara we decided to take a bit of a detour to Abbey Caves. The caves were described as a great attraction to take in the glowworms (only found in NZ as far as I know, these worms live in caves and their poop glows in the dark- which is pretty cool) in an undeveloped atmosphere. You’re able to see the caves a few places in the country, but most popularly is at Waitomo caves which are far more tourist-friendly.

We parked along a secondary highway in the ‘car park’-which consisted of a roadside pullout with room for 3-4 cars, and headed down the muddy steps to a hiking trail that resembled a farmers field more than an established path. The trail loop was just over a kilometre long and had 3 large caves which you’re free to explore (at your own risk).

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I am a bit claustrophobic and have a vivid, visual imagination that allows me to worry or analyse myself out of things sometimes.  It’s a bit of a shame that the dark of the cave, “127 Hours” and the slippery rocks leading into the deep made me shy away from the first cave, but being a compulsive little-sister really challenged me to venture into the next 2 caves. I’m so. glad. I did!

The caves were mostly dark and wet with underground rivers/creeks running through, but when you venture far enough in to escape the daylight you’re rewarded with the view of the warms that (when your headlamp is off) resembles the Milky Way. Lots of glowing specks clustered together on the cave ceiling. Breathtaking.

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After getting completely covered in mud and using up all the energy our breakfasts could give, we headed into Whangarei (Fung-gar-ray) for a highly satisfying Vietnamese feast.

We were able to take in one more attraction before finding our house for the next couple nights. I had visited years ago, and was surprised to discover a couple year back while working at the arts studio, that the same artist had designed an apartment building I saw in Germany when I was travelling after Capernwray.

Friedensreich Hundertwasser is a Austrian artist who experimented lots with collage and mosaic techniques in his work. He did some work in Europe before falling in love with New Zealand and being a citizen in his later years. He resided in the Bay of Islands region and designed a public bathroom here. Now known as the Hundertwasser toilets in a tiny town in Northland, it’s a fun little spot that was just off our route, so it worked well for a pitstop.

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The Tippy-Top

Ahipara was our next stop and the first place we were staying for two nights. Our neighbour at this Airbnb said we shouldn’t tell other Kiwis about their little slice of heaven and boasted about Ahipara being New Zealand’s hidden gem. We’d have to agree. This place had a lot to offer from shipwrecks to the most splendid sunsets.

We arrived as the sun was setting and drank in the beauty as we drove. The property manager was a wealth of information and too kind to us as she toured us through the house.

Our first full day was used up travelling to the furthest North you can drive yourself in New Zealand. Cape Reinga is essentially the end of the road, and it took us to a beautiful lookout and lighthouse. That day we were as close to home as we will be on this trip!

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We had lots of fun taking all the pictures and soaking up the sun and view. In Maori history, the cape marks the place where souls would go into the afterlife. What a beautiful launching point!

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Oh the things we would see if we had all the time in the world! Just behind us in the next picture you can see part of some massive dunes that are enjoyed in the area. You’re able to sand board and do all kinds of cool activities there. We’ll have to do that another time- or discover some of the dunes closer to us.

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We had hoped to enjoy a picnic at the cape, but read that traditionally you’re discouraged to eat or drink on the land. We respected the request and found an alternative picnic spot for lunch.


It ended up being a great idea to move on, as it gave Jamie the chance to swim in the ocean. The rest of us were still happy to watch as the weather wasn’t quite warm enough to enjoy fully, but Jamie picked a great day- our warmest so far. Sunny and probably close to 20 degrees!

Sunsets and Shipwrecks

After our Northernmost excursion we headed back to the house to catch the sunset. I had read that at lowtide you’re able to see some leftover bits of ships that have crashed on the rocky coast near our Airbnb, which is true… just wasn’t quite what we had all envisioned.


There were a couple big pieces of rusty metal we checked out at Shipwreck beach, but the coolest part of our visit ended up being able to drive out onto the sand!


We drove the couple minutes back to our house on the beach and headed across the road to rock-jump and catch the sunset. The tide was way out which allowed us to explore some tide-pools on the black, volcanic rocks along the coast.

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It had been another fun and very full day, we were all happy to retire for the evening. I was able to open the sliding doors wide and plopped myself on a beanbag chair to catch the last moments of light before the sun sunk beyond the horizonline.


The guys gifted us with another amazing meal that night. We were happy to have a BBQ and they guys made a delicious meal of grilled lamb, veggies and potatoes. Delicious!

Heading West

After our time in the far North, we started to head back down the coast. We were hoping to take advantage of the daylight and decided to head pretty much straight for our third Airbnb just 10 minutes outside Dargaville.

This last house I was pretty excited about it, it’s a riverside getaway that’s both rustic and homey. We all really thought this house was special.

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The house was made over several years, lovingly crafted by one builder. The house is almost completely wooden and the inside highlighted the skill and passion of the woodworker along with his wife’s beautiful stained glass work. The house is heated solely by wood-burning stoves- even the water heater depends on a little stove to warm.

I don’t know how we could have planned our time any better, as we were settling into this cozy spot the grey set in and gave us a couple days of rain. The first day there, most members of our crew went to explore and ended up doing a little peak hike and checked out a local beach.

Michelle and I were feeling a bit tired out and done with the car (particularly after a spell of carsickness for Michelle), so we ended up organizing ourselves at the house. We checked out the local attraction- which, according to Google maps, was a church up the road and walked the property a bit before reading for me a yarn-crafting for Michelle by the fire.

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The next day was especially rainy, so we all decided we would enjoy the downtime instead of pushing ourselves outside. That suited us quite well. The guys got some work done while the girls enjoyed a movie in the afternoon and some quite time by the fire (again- which I was more than happy with).


Another fabulous meal and dessert enjoyed while watching “Red” finished up our visit at the river house. With several chores the next day to be sure to leave the house safe and secure, we headed back towards the big city!

Auckland, Round 2

On our second trip into Auckland on this trip, we decided to sneak a few more things into the schedule, starting with coffee.

We stopped at Coffee General Origin and we all enjoyed some more locally roasted coffee. This cafe serves a handful of roasteries coffees, which is pretty neat. We all chose our desired caffeine boost from pour overs to Jamie’s first siphon coffee and some milk-based espresso drinks. Good stop.

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We arrived at our Victorian-style home for the night and gave ourselves a bit of a break before hopping on the train to take in the Blues vs. Brumbies Rugby game.

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It was really fun watching the game- the stands in the picture look very bare, but this is a pre-game junior game we caught part of. The stands filled a bit more, but nowhere near our All Blacks experience. It was great to hear more of the rules from our in-house Rugby expert, Jamie. Brandon and Joel both clustered around their pal to ask questions and learn more about the game.

Blues won and we had a great time- Joel loved being reunited with Fritz’s Weiners, a german sausage stand that we’ve seen at stadiums and markets throughout the country.

We were thoroughly frozen by the end of the game and happily scooted on home for some hot chocolate and to watch a documentary before bed. Auckland had shown up some more fun and we were grateful. We had an early departure, though, in order to connect with our pal, Jason for some luging in Rotorua.

Homeward Bound

(That subtitle is for all your kids who grew up in the 90s)

We woke up and got ourselves going early Saturday morning because we had a three hour drive ahead of us. Our friend, Jason, from church had invited us to go luging together in Rotorua. We all thought it would be a good time, but few expected it to be as fun as it was.

Luging is now available at COP at home, I believe. You ride these little plastic carts down a hill- which isn’t as exciting as it ended up being. Jamie and Jason became fast friends and quickly formed ‘The Chaos Club” whose main goal was to whip past as many lugers as possible while causing a whirlwind of trouble!

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I loved watching our friends laugh like kids as they zoomed past one another and shared stories of crashing into crazy tourist who didn’t seem to understand the categories of track- scenic, intermediate and advanced. We had lots of fun, and would definitely trek back to Rotorua for some more fun luging… although, if it’s sooner rather than later we need all the warm clothes including tuques and gloves!

Us six popsicles walked ourselves into a great Thai restaurant for dinner and headed back to Papamoa to start the unpacking (and re-packing for the K’s) process.

We were gone so long the snails feasted on our mail!


Sunday was full of lunch, last minute souvenir shopping and some recovery before taking Jamie and Michelle to the bus that evening.

We had the best time all together, and are so grateful to our friends for travelling so far for a visit. Thanks for coming, Kotlewski’s!! You’re now part way home, and we hope you have the best summer 🙂

Much love!


Northern Visitors (part 1)

Frienz from Home

A couple Mondays ago we were preparing to depart our coastal abode to venture Auckland-way to pick up our first wave of Canadian visitors. Then we realized… they actually arrive on the Tuesday. We laughed it off and enjoyed our day free from visitor-preparation!

When the day actually arrived, Joel and I took Crumpy for a drive just shy of 3 hours- armed with the (now traditional greeting) gift of L&P and pineapple lumps.

It was really great to see Jamie and Michelle at the arrival gate and we were grateful for the drive time home to catch up and share news. Good friends are such a rich blessing, aren’t they?!

We dropped off bags and picked up Brandon and Stacey before heading to The Mount for the burger deal at Astrolabe (which was a hit for $10- burger, fries and a drink).


Relax and Recover?

We hadn’t planned much for our first few days as a group of six, as we’d expected our friends would need some time to recover a bit after their flight. It had also been a busy few weeks leading up to their departure- with weddings, school ending and out-of-town work filling Jamie and Michelle’s days.

To everyone’s surprise the new Canadian additions fell right into kiwi time, and it didn’t take much to start our planning. We had expected to stay close to home for a good few days, but all it took was a lazy day in Papamoa and one exceedingly rainy one to get us all motivated to be on the move.

Plenty of BOP

We were eager to show the Kotlewski’s the Bay of Plenty area, starting with a clear morning on our beach.



As we walked, the clouds cleared and opened to allow the sun to warm us.

We’ve learned New Zealand winters are about half and half rainy days to warm ones, often raining for a few days and then a swapping for a few of sun. Jamie and Michelle really got some fantastic weather on their trip, though- more sun than rain, and we took advantage of that!

After one day of a full-on downpour, we were ready to wander once more. Our wandering took us to the imagination of Peter Jackson…but more on that shortly.

Our adventures close to home included a trip to Pak n Save for all the kiwi favourites (resulting in Jamie purchasing and consumption of a frightening amount of heavy, full-fat dairy products), an introduction to Henry & Ted as well as a stop at the Bayfair mall.

Tauranga Thursday was a chance for Stacey and I to show Jamie and Michelle the ‘big city’ nearby while Joel and Brandon had a quiet afternoon to catchup on some work. We sought out some fishing and camping stores for Jamie and a (unimpressive) yarn shop for Michelle.

Michelle, Stacey and I had high tea at a hotel that overlooks the water, while Jamie walked around the strand in Tauranga’s CBD. He was able to get a coffee and chat with some fisherman for the down-low in the area. We really enjoyed our quiet visit with delightful treats (thanks, Stace for the photos :).




Once Brandon and Joel had finished some of their work, they hopped on the bus and met us for some fun. With the weather still a bit irritable, we decided indoor activities were our friends. We hit the bowling alley for a bumpin’ evening. We also ran into our pastor friend who let us know we had arrived just too early to get the evening bowling deals- bummer! We will be sure to catch the deal another night soon, though (never fear, bargain-hunters).


After two games and an awkward encounter with a group of kiwi bowlers, we were off for an Indian feast for dinner. Despite our underwhelmed waiter, we thoroughly enjoyed the meal, sharing some old favourites as well as a few new-to-us menu items.


Happy Hobbits

Friday was our Hobbiton adventure! We live just an hour from the start-point of the Hobbit hole tour, we hadn’t yet been and had saved it for visitors (knowing we’ll likely end up visiting a couple times in our eight months stretch).

Admittedly, I’ve seen all the Lord of the Rings movies as well as the Hobbit films, but it just didn’t really stick with me. Fantasy stuff, for some reason just doesn’t really make sense to me. The Hobbit movies I was into a bit more…but anyways. I didn’t know how I would feel about visiting this grand New Zealand attraction, but figured a day outside in the sun with friends, learning about movie magic would be pretty fun. I wasn’t disappointed!

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We were toured through the New Zealand countryside along with hundreds of other Hobbit-fans. Our tour-guide was knowledgable and fun. Our guide shared lots of interesting facts about production and kept us all tied to what she had to say.




loved hearing little movie tidbits like: the one fake tree on set was put up above Bilbo’s house because it was set so many years before LOTR and needed to be smaller than the tree seen in those movies. Its leaves were also re-coloured to suit Peter Jackson’s vision for the film.

I also would have been after the job that required the employee to walk from one hobbit clothesline to the next during the two weeks of filming to make believably trodden trails on the hillside. Also, this movie set is just plain impressive.

I especially enjoyed seeing all my travel-mates come alive with child-like joy as we wandered through this fairytale land come-to-life.

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We even found Bilbo’s truck!! It was out of service during filming, but it was nice to know it’s functional once more 😛 (picture 2 also shows the fake tree- the sun is shining through it’s branches).

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We enjoyed some beverages offered on the tour at the Green Dragon, and only available in Hobbiton (special, secret recipes and all that).

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We had a lovely time in the land of lovely little people and ended up rounding off our day with lunch in Rotorua and Jamie’s first fly fishing experience on Lake Rotorua.

Saturday Saunters

The day before our road trip up and around Northland was spent highlighting Mount Maunganui. We had another beautiful sunny day to enjoy together. First step to enjoying the day is fighting hanger! Breakfast of champions: streaky bacon (kiwi for the bacon we have in Canada), apple pancakes and an egg scramble. Delicious!


Joel was working on a deadline, so we left him to finish up while the rest of us headed to Little Big Market at The Mount. Our one free Saturday was the one Saturday this month when the Market is on, so that was a treat.

We wandered the stalls, had some coffee and the Kotlewski’s had their first taste of Johney’s Dumpling House (a favourite of ours). Stacey has caught some great moments for us, and I’m so glad for all the photos I’ve been able to share of hers on this post!


Once we were done at the market we headed to the Mount itself for a little hike. We tried a new route to the summit and spent the extra time walking around the base as well. We were able to help Michelle get her 15000 fitbit steps 🙂 What a perfectly beautiful day, too.

It’s been fun having the Mount so close by. We’ve hike up and around it in a few ways already, and have more yet to explore. Hiking with friends on that Saturday even allowed us to see a helicopter running some sort of drills from one side of the slops to the other. Kind of a cool thing to take in!


After our hike, Joel joined us via bus and we all had a nice pub supper before resting up for our Sunday road trip departure…that adventure is another post, though.