Friday 12 July 2024

Our hedgehogs are back!

A couple of years ago we bought a hedgehog house which we placed in our back garden. We were thrilled when the hedgehogs started visiting, and loved watching them on our cameras. But then they suddenly deserted us! We stopped putting out food, and forgot to keep the house clean over the winter.

We have some garden work planned in the next few weeks in the area of the house, and which will also remove one of the entrances to our back garden which we know that hedgehogs sometimes use. So I took the house and gave it a good clean out, filled it with clean straw, and we relocated it to our front garden, tucked away close to our large hedge.

We bought more hedgehog food, set it out along with some water, and to our delight that very same evening we had a hedgehog visitor! I think that they can access our front garden more easily, and it's a very quiet road with minimal traffic at night so they should be quite safe. 

Hedgehog house in the garden by the hedge

I learned early on that I needed to wait until it was dark before I put the food out. One evening around 7pm I put out some food, and the moment that I shut the door the seagull swooped down and gobbled the lot - it must have been watching me! Then every morning a hopeful magpie appears to eat up any food that has been left. I've been putting the food out about 9.30pm, and the hedgehog is currently arriving at almost exactly the same time each night - just before 10pm.

I'm not a hedgehog expert but it looks like the same hedgehog that is our most frequent visitor. It has stayed overnight in the house once, but usually it just wanders about, coming back to the food bowl multiple times until about 3am. One night we even had two hedgehogs which was exciting.

Two hedgehogs in the garden on camera

Most evenings I check in just before I go to bed and there is usually a hedgehog snuffling about that I can watch on the live camera view. We can't see them from the windows because it's so dark, so it's really nice to have the camera to know that they've been there. I'm so glad that we've enticed them back!

Finally I can't resist sharing this photo of the pot by our front door, I think it's lovely! It's just some bedding plants that I bought a few weeks ago, and they have come out in such lovely colours.

Flowers in a pot by the front door

Thursday 11 July 2024

The ultimate Nelson to Queenstown road trip to do before you die

If you ever visit the South Island of New Zealand, one road trip you simply MUST do is the drive between Nelson and Queenstown. Taking you from the very northern part of Te Waipounamu, along much of its spectacular west coast, you’ll eventually land at the island's star attraction, within the guts of its lower section. The drive covers over 800 km and will take you about 10.5 hours to complete nonstop. But there is no fun in that! Instead, we recommend taking your time and savouring the journey for at least six days. In fact, the more time you can spare, the better!

Car Hire

To make this trip, you’ll obviously need a car, and if you have travelled from overseas or the North Island without one, you will have to hire a vehicle. Luckily there are plenty of operators in Nelson (or Queenstown, if you want to do the journey backwards) that offer one way car hire New Zealand rentals.

It’s a good idea to hire a 4WD vehicle, especially if you are attempting a road trip. This will enable you to navigate roads that might be affected by snow more easily.

6-Day Itinerary

If you have six days to spare and want to drive from Nelson to Queenstown, here is a terrific itinerary.

Road towards Queenstown, New Zealand
Photo credit Patrick McGregor via Unsplash

Day 1 - Nelson to Marahau (59 km distance - 1 hour driving time)

Once you’ve got your car, you should leave Nelson and head to the lovely town of Marahau.

Meaning ‘windy garden’ in the Māori language, crops were believed to have been grown here well before the European settlers arrived.

Today, it is best known for its lovely beach and for being the gateway to the wonderful Abel Tasman National Park, where you should spend the rest of the day exploring.

When you get hungry, head on over to Mapua for a meal at The Boat Shed Café. You can enjoy delicious seafood while taking in superb views of the Waimea Estuary. 

Day 2 - From Marahau to Westport (240 km distance, 3.5 hours driving time)

You might want to spend a bit of time on the morning of day two hiking and kayaking through the national park or relaxing on one of its golden beaches.

However, when the mood takes you to move on, you should make your way down the scenic West Coast towards Westport.

If you have a penchant for thrill-seeking, stop off at the Buller Gorge Swingbridge to enjoy a goosebump-inducing jet boat ride along Buller Canyon. Additionally, you might also want to traverse the swing bridge over the Buller River, which just happens to be the longest in Aotearoa. 

Westport is the oldest European settlement on the West Coast and boasts a rich coal mining history, which you can discover more about at its Coaltown Museum.

Day 3 - Westport to Hokitika (139 km distance, 2 hours driving time)

On leaving Westport, your next overnight stop should be in Hokitika. However, before you get there, make sure you check out Punakaiki, where you can witness the iconic Pancake Rocks and the incredible blowholes.

A little further down the road, you might also want to see the fur seals at Cape Foulwind, which you can do by strolling along a scenic coastal pathway. Have your cameras at the ready!

Day 4 - Hokitika to Franz Josef (134 km distance, 1¾ hours driving time)

If you arrived too late to do so the previous day, you should visit the Hokitika Gorge. There, you will be able to walk through a bosky forest to a scenic viewing platform that showcases stunning views of the turquoise waters.

Having seen that, carry on south towards Lake Matheson, which is situated near the Franz Josef township.

If it's a calm day, you’ll be able to see the Southern Alps reflecting magnificently on the water, which creates a breath taking image that will bring a lump to your throat. 

Day 5 - Franz Josef to Wanaka (284 km distance, 4 hours driving time)

You should explore the magnificent Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers either via a scenic flight or by hiking your way through them. Try to start early to see them at first light.

As you continue along the West Coast, be sure to detour over Haast Pass. Here, you can enjoy the sight of the fabulous Blue Pools, known for their pristine landscape and translucent waters.

Finish your day by arriving in Wanaka in time for dinner at Big Fig, which offers a delectable menu of Middle-Eastern-inspired dishes. 

Queenstown, New Zealand
Photo credit Omer Faruk Bekdemir via Unsplash

Day 6 - Wanaka to Queenstown (68.5 km, 1¼ hours driving time)

It is worth waking up early in Wanaka to hike up Mount Iron, which will reward your efforts with superb views of the surrounding landscape.

If you don’t fancy doing that, you can always indulge in some water sports at Lake Wanaka.

When you are ready to leave, go over the Crown Range to historic Arrowtown, where you can try to uncover a nugget while gold panning.

Once you get to Queenstown, here are some of the main things to do there.

Wednesday 3 July 2024

The usual end of term anxiety

It's the last week of term, and I'm really looking forward to the summer holidays. But I always find the countdown stressful, even though now that the children are older there are fewer things to worry about (no more sports day! not quite so much new uniform to buy!) But the children are on edge, with worries about new classes for next year and keeping in touch with friends over the summer, and my husband is away for a little longer than usual this week which sometimes leaves me unsettled. I'm finding myself constantly repeating 'we just need to get these last few days over with'!

I'm clinging on to the last few days of my routine before everything changes for a couple of months. I always find it harder to get out for an early run when I'm not forced out of bed to get everyone ready for school. I know that the housework will fall by the wayside, and it will feel as though I'm spending most of my time preparing food and clearing up afterwards. I'm hoping to sneak out for a couple of hours every week to continue my volunteering work - I'm really enjoying being part of a team of local people that get out and about making the flowerbeds around the village look lovely. I'm learning a lot, and it's given me some confidence to make more of my own garden.

Communal flower bed planted by volunteers

I'm really hoping that the weather improves a little over the holidays. I've been working on making my secluded vegetable patch into a little sanctuary, and yesterday I installed one of our garden chairs so that I can sit and hide around the corner and listen to the bees buzzing. But it just hasn't been warm enough to sit outside!

Secluded vegetable patch with lavender bush

We don't have very much planned over the summer holidays but we always seem to keep busy. There are people to keep in touch with, and the children enjoy peaceful time at home to work on their own projects without the pressure of homework and early starts. I'm intending to have a clear out in the kids rooms - we have lots of books that have been outgrown and toys that are no longer played with. I love a break from the school run and the packed lunches, and the long evenings are perfect for a walk around the village or sitting out in the garden.

If you have little ones in school I hope that the countdown to the summer holidays goes well!

Tuesday 2 July 2024

Vintage San Francisco: Retro Shops and Experiences in the City

This is a collaborative post

As the saying goes, ‘Old is gold.’ If you are the type of person who loves vintage items, this collated list of retro shops and vintage experiences in San Francisco is a treat for you. This is one remarkable way of uncovering the city’s culture and hidden gems. If you are coming from San Francisco airport, take your rental car from SFO to some of these vintage spots and travel back in time. You can choose to visit some antique shops, vintage diners, historic theatres, or flea markets selling some of the most unique and classic items you’ll ever find on your trip. 

Decades of Fashion

This shop is located at 1653 Haight Street. The place is about 13-15 miles from San Francisco airport and it will take you at least 20-30 minutes to reach this vintage spot. From the name of the store itself, you would already have an idea that it is a vintage clothing store. Do you wish to experience some dress dating back to the Victorian era? If so, this is the right place to go. In addition, you can also find accessories to go along with the dress. Vintage aficionados would visit this shop to look for rare collectible items from the 1920s up to the 1980s. Stepping into this store is like travelling back in time.

Haight - Ashbury  

If you went to the Decades of Fashion store, you might as well take time to discover the Haight-Ashbury neighbourhood. This is where you can find some historic lovers roaming around the area. There are plenty of bookstores, clothing and tattoo shops, eclectic bars, and restaurants around Upper Haight Street. There are also Victorian homes that were preserved over time around the neighbourhood bordering Golden Gate Park. History shows that this area is famous for revolutionary movements, especially during the 1960s. Haight-Ashbury made its name as the centre of the hippies movement back in the day. It’s a place of diverse culture, flamboyant vibe, and modern classics. 

The Alemany Flea Market

Take your Avis Car Rental and head to the Alemany Flea Market. This spot is a short drive from the airport. In less than 15 minutes, you’ll reach this place. If you are looking for some one-of-a-kind items to add to your home decorations, then this market should be on your checklist. This place is located around the Bernal Heights neighbourhood. There are plenty of items you can choose from such as vintage jewellery, home décor, or even furniture. There is a certain upbeat vibe in the place and it's great to spend a few hours visiting in between shops. 


This is another store you can check out for retro furniture, clothes, artwork, and home décor. It’s located at 1545 Pacific Avenue and about a 30 minute drive from the airport. Are you collecting vinyl records? Check out the collection of records they have at this shop. It supports 60+ shops so there’s always something to offer for everyone looking for unique things.

There are several other antique shops you can visit such as S16 Home and the Gaslight and Shadows Antique which is located at 2335 Clement Street, Past Perfect located at 6101Geary Boulevard. The Antique and Art Exchange is also a must-visit. It is located at 151 Vermont Street Suite 4. Some other shops are Golden Age Vintage, De Angelis, Grand Central Station Antiques, Brand X Antiques, Reperch, and No Shop. 

Vintage vinyl for sale
Photo credit Oleg Ivanov via Unsplash

Lori’s Diner  

Visiting these shops could be trying, and if you are looking for a restaurant with a quintessential vibe, make your way to Lori’s Diner. It will take you back to the 1950s and you can order their famous burgers and milkshakes. Enjoy the vintage vibe while you immerse yourself in unique memorabilia decorated around the diner. Lori’s Diner is just 20 minutes drive away from the airport. 

Red Java House 

This is another spot with a vintage vibe where you can eat. This place is located at Pier 30. It will take you about 10-15 minutes from San Francisco airport to get to this place. This is where you can also enjoy delicious burgers, hotdogs, and fries while looking at the view of the Bay Bridge. They have been serving their customers since the 1950s. 

Castro Theater

If you wish to visit historic theatres, the Castro Theater is a must. This place has been well-preserved since its creation in 1922. It has been the venue for many different events over time. Various film festivals and film screenings were held at this place. It’s 14 miles from the airport and would take you at least 20 minutes to reach the theatre. 

These are just a few of the places you can visit for a vintage experience in San Francisco city. It’s a truly unique trip worth sharing with your friends once you’re back home. This is your chance to travel back in time.