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Country Profiles: New Zealand

Photo credit: 2il org/Flickr

Glow worms!


The How-to-Dad guy!

Suffice to say, we are VERY excited about travelling to New Zealand. It is our second most anticipated place, after Japan. Unfortunately, like Japan, it is also a very expensive place to visit. We will try to do our best to plan well and to have a great time without breaking our budget.

We will be arriving after Mexico City. Most likely flying from LA, unless the situation in Chile improves we switch back to our original route. We have gone back and forth many, many, MANY, times with how to get to New Zealand. We even considered a re-positioning cruise ship! The Pacific Ocean is just too dang big and there is just no easy and quick way to get across.

The number one goal for our trip to NZ is to celebrate our son’s birthday. As per his request, we will be visiting the Hobbiton movie set. It looks really cool!

Travel Advisories: Canada, United States

Visa: Not required

Vaccines: Yellow Fever

Currency: NZD (0.88 CDN) as of 2019 07 02

Other Requirements: Onward ticket with visa. NZ$1,000/month



  • Rattle ya dags! | Hurry up!
  • Just popping to the dairy. | I’m going to the convenience store.
  • I’m knackered. | I’m tired.
  • Wop-wops. | Middle of nowhere.
  • Get your A into G! | Rattle ya dags! (Get your arse into gear)
  • Pakeha | Fair-skinned.
  • It was choice, bro! | It was good.
  • Kia ora | Be well.
  • Yeah-nah | No thank you.





  • Auckland Museum, Auckland Art Gallery
  • Hiking (Mt. Eden, tallest volcano, or Cornwall Park/One Tree Hill, large Maori settlement)
  • Beaches (Muriwai Beach)
  • Ferry to Devenport, explore North Head (1800s fort)
  • Ferry to Rangitoto Island, climb the summit (1 hour)
  • Goat Island & Ambury Regional Park (day trip, glass bottom boat/kayaks or snorkelling)
  • Manukau Heads Lighthouse (free, donation accepted)


Why is our daughter so excited about Mexico?

It could be the Mexican wrestling.

It could be tacos.

But, no. Its Los Espookys.

JBot read the subtitles out loud to her for the WHOLE SHOW (he glazed over the few swear words). It is funny and cute and cool. Check it out!

Rainy Days / Hot Days: NFB Films

After a month (more?) long drought in the Niagara region we are finally having a proper rainy weekend! Like many afternoons so far this summer spent escaping the heat and humidity, we are finding ourselves turning to indoor projects. Lego is always a big hit, of course, and we had a brief success with one of the Green Kid Crafts project boxes. JBot found some super-on-sale dance games for the Kinect which has been a great way to stay active, and we still spend lots of time with our week’s supply of library books. Then there is the never-ending home-repair projects, the forgotten stack of board games, and other toys waiting to rediscovered…

Sometimes it is fun to try something new however and one of our favourite discoveries this week has been the kids cartoons on the NFB website. T-Rex hadn’t seen many of these yet and really enjoyed them! The Log Driver’s Waltz and Blackfly get sung a lot around here, and the kids have watched The Cat Came Back at school. T-Rex really liked:

Peep & The Big Wide World:

Peep and the Big Wide World, Kaj Pindal, National Film Board of Canada

How Dinosaurs Learned to Fly:

How Dinosaurs Learned to Fly, Munro Ferguson, National Film Board of Canada

The Dingles:

The Dingles, Les Drew, National Film Board of Canada

The Girl Who Hated Books:

The Girl Who Hated Books, Jo Meuris, National Film Board of Canada

(There are a lot of great films for adults as well. My own nostalgia leans towards Waterwalker, Paddle-to-the-Sea, and The Man Who Planted Trees. Have fun exploring!)


Disney Parks

Check out this great Disney mash-up made by Lindsay McCutcheon!

We have a family vacation to Disney World coming up soon and I wanted to blog about some the helpful hints for planning for trips like this:

  • During Disney World’s slow season they offer special incentives to attract people to the parks. For example, with the package that we bought, we have 7-Day “Park Hopper” tickets, our hotel room, and FREE “Quick Service” Dining Plans to use the week that we are there. G-Man is turning 10 a few days before we go and qualifies for the adult meal plan which will work out great. His tastes have moved beyond the “hot dogs, chicken nuggets, and pizza” that seems to fill most of the kid’s menu options at the majority of the restaurants.
  • We had a lot of success booking with a travel agent rather than through Disney Park itself. Once those annual free dining plans vacations are available,  travel agencies buy a large number of rooms during that season. Trying to book directly through Disney didn’t work for us but going through Small World Vacations worked great!
  • Finding your way around Disneyland in California or Paris is relatively easy. These parks are a reasonable size to get a grip on. However, Disney World in Florida is massive and you really need to do some homework before you go. It feels sort of counter-intuitive to have so much research to do before a relaxing family vacation but, if you are like us, being prepared and feeling like you are making educated decisions really helps with our family’s economy and enjoyment.
  • Disney’s website is a good start for reading about attractions, special occasions, hotels, and dining. It is also where you will make all of your reservations for Fast Passes (basically a reservation for major rides), dining, and buying any of the other extra bells and whistles you want. Example – Disney has a photo service, they deliver special presents to your room or dining table, etc.
  • There are many excellent resources to help you wrap your head around Fast Passes, dining plans, restaurants, whether to stay on-site or not, which hotel to chose, how early you need to make all of the all-important reservations. My favourites are Touring Plans, Disney Food Blog, and Mouse Savers. Touring Plans publishes guidebooks of course but one of their major assets is their planning software on their website that helps you to create itineraries that minimize your wait times. If you are thinking about taking a trip to Disney World, try planning at least a 6 months (or more) in advance so that you can pick the best time period for you. Restaurant reservations begin 180 days before your date and they fill up VERY QUICKLY. There are different levels of dining plans. If you chose the “Quick Service” option like us there is only ONE “table service” restaurant that you can make a reservation at – “Be Our Guest” it takes a dedicated plan of attack to score those seats.
  • We chose to take advantage of the sale on dining plans but we are also super excited to go during Disney’s Halloween season so that we can go to the “Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party.” This is the only time that you can enter the park in costume. Plus, Halloween is awesome. And trick-or-treating at Disney sounds super awesome!

It’s Breakfast Time!

“The Present”

The Present from Jacob Frey on Vimeo.


We found this great video on how Laika makes their amazing stop-motion puppets via The Kid Should See This:

Can’t wait for Kubo and the Two Strings!!

A Quick Revisit to Horror Themes

As JBot has proven in his Horror Film Series that he posted last October, he is the horror movie expert in this house. Personally, I absolutely love watching movies with JBot but am… well… an easy target for jump scares. And I am a proud feminist. And I am absolutely terrified of clowns and possessed dolls.

So, when JBot wants to watch The Conjuring I quickly find something else to do.

Far, far away.

I’ve paid my dues in the early years of our relationship, JBot caught me up on many classic 80’s slasher movies and foreign cult classics. However, if the kids are asleep and we feel like watching a flick, I will happily watch a horror movie if it is funny — TUCKER & DALE VS. EVIL!! CABIN IN THE WOODS!! or its representation of women is somewhere in the twenty-first century. Hush was a sweet scary movie to watch. I’m not sure if it fits the trope of The Final Girl but it was definitely suspenseful and intelligent.

Traveller’s Tales

I came across this travel series on Reddit yesterday (got as far as when he stores the diamond under his skin – *cringe*) and was reminded of some of the other travel series that I have seen.

I am a big fan of the Long Way Round series by Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman, as well as their second one when they go the Long Way Down instead. If you don’t know, this is a TV series made with a bit of McGregor’s Star Wars money in which he and his mate travel the world by motorcycle. Very cool stuff. I learned about Russia’s Road of Bones through these shows and also came to really appreciate the diversity and beauty of Africa.

I’ve also seen a few episodes of Michael Palin’s travel shows on PBS (of which there are many). I remember really enjoying the one where he travels in Russia (or Turkey maybe?) and visits a barber. They light his ear hair on fire! On purpose! Oh my goodness.  I also like the romantic one where he crosses the channel on a fancy steamer and mails back his tux when they land. Won’t be needing to dress for dinner anymore!

Searching for those episodes, I came across this lovely little clip by Palin on the Independent where he gives some solid travel advice.

I also thoroughly enjoyed the book Eighty Days about Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland’s race around the world. This was purely a stunt to sell newspapers, both women racing to beat the fictional Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne.

For our family, the idea of taking THE TRIP is really just a response to having the opportunity to complete a perfect Venn Diagram. JBot really enjoyed talking a year off from work when TRex was born; we really enjoying spending time together as a family; and we really enjoy travelling together. For us it isn’t about capital A adventure, instigating the need to stash diamonds under our skin in case we get into danger, but rather a sort of more mellow, enjoyable experience.

I do rather like Nellie Bly’s advice on packing though (via brain pickings).

Hallowe’en Media for Kids


I meant to post this sooner but was feeling like I needed to take care of my school responsibilities first. So, to essentially bookmark some of our family favourites to revisit again in the Hallowe’ens to come, here are some of our favourites of the season:

“The Riboflavin song” a.k.a. “Monster Jerk” by Don Hinson & the Rigamorticians

We first heard this song ages ago on some corny Hallowe’en music compilation that we downloaded. Now it just ain’t Hallowe’en unless we all dance dorkily to it!

“The Tailypo: A Ghost Story,”  told by Joanna Galdone


JBot is ever-so-good at reading this old folktale in a super creepy way. It is now family tradition to whisper “taaaaaailypo” in a menacing way to each other.


Thanks a lot, JBot.

The Stop-motion films of Henry Selick & Laika

Nightmare Before Christmas (1993), Coraline (2009), ParaNorman (2012).

When quizzed about what he thought was the scariest movie he had seen, G-Man said without hesitation “Coraline.” Man, TRex was really into it when she was, like, three. It was rather creepy to say the least when she would quote “ba ba buttons” and then giggle manically…

Again, it just ain’t Hallowe’en unless we hear this music:

Yo Gabba Gabba, The Shiny Toy Guns sing “Halloween at the House of Spooks”

Trex was way into this one this year.

Young Frankenstein (1974)

We showed this to G-Man last year. HUGE HIT.

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