Saturday, October 3, 2015

6 Reasons to Stay at Holiday Inn Auckland Airport

If you follow me on Instagram, you'll know that we are currently enjoying a family holiday in QLD, yaaaaaay! It's been a while since we've taken the kids on a plane, so we did some pretty thorough planning beforehand.  Maybe/probably over-planning, but hey, it helps keep travel anxiety in check :-).

Something that made the trip feel less overwhelming was a Park, Stay & Go booking with Holiday Inn Auckland Airport.  We are already big fans of the Holiday Inn brand - they are super reliable, comfortable and cater well to families - and this particular deal is practically essential for traveling families, leaving you to focus on final packing decisions and last minute travel details.

1.  Secure car parking while you are away.  Park your car, and leave it!  This is a pretty big deal.  Arriving at the hotel and knowing that all you need to worry about is ensuring your alarm goes off in the morning - definite tension releaser!  Cars are secure in the parking lot, and simple enough to collect once you return from your holiday, with no extra fees associated (if you collect within a 21 day period).

Holiday Inn is situated very close to the airport, and is part of the Yellow Bus shuttle circuit.  Tickets can be purchased from a ticketing machine in the hotel lobby, and the bus picks you up just outside the main entrance.  At $6 per adult, and with children riding free, this is the perfect option for getting you to your flight on time.  Upon return, the Yellow Bus will bring you back to the Holiday Inn to collect your car.  So easy!

2.  Great food.  Another thing you won't have to worry about is figuring out dinner and breakfast, and if you have an early flight, you can have breakfast sent to your room before the restaurant opens.  We skipped breakfast (we had a super, super early start), but really enjoyed our dinner!  Seafood heaven! Seriously ace oysters and that baked fish was so. good.

If you prefer, they also have an a la cart menu too, with pasta dishes and other options.

3. Super comfortable rooms.  These felt quite roomy and led out into a very pretty courtyard, the perfect spot to stretch legs after a long car journey.  The rooms were well equipped, and each had fresh fruit and water waiting for us.  This was such a nice touch, and well appreciated.  There are different options for pillow softness, and as ever, the beds were amazeballs.

If you feel like having a dip there is a lovely looking pool (we were too chilly this time, maybe next!), and a fitness centre for a quick pre-flight work out.  We did neither, but soaked in hot bubble baths, watched a bit of sky, and pretended we were getting enough sleep for the crazy busy day ahead.

4.   Kids stay and eat free.  We enjoyed adjoining rooms this time but we've never had trouble staying in a double room either, so if you want to save some money for the rest of your trip, this is a good option.  There is plenty of outdoor space for kids to burn off some energy before crashing out, and a Disney channel when they're ready to settle down. 

Naturally buffet dining is every kind of ideal for fussy kids, and you'll be glad kids eat free when your really fussy/tired kid declines everything.  Eleanor impressed the staff with her selection of seafood (Northland kid right there!) and was pretty much in holiday heaven before we'd even set foot on a plane.  

5.  The staff are gorgeous.  Both times that we've stayed at a Holiday Inn, we've found the staff exceptionally friendly and helpful.  I'm not sure if this is part of their training, or whether they just hire the nicest people, ever!  Perhaps both.  Either way, they made us feel completely relaxed and at home.

6.  Free wifi (with IHG membership - which is also free!).  Nothing annoys me more than having to pay for internet, knowing full well I have unlimited data at home :-P  Okay, some things do annoy me more, but still...  I love knowing that anytime I stay at an IHG hotel I can connect for free, for the duration of my visit.  Boom!  Especially handy when you want to do web check-in or any last minute planning/communicating.  And of course, instagram to your heart's content!

Friends of ours leaving for their holiday a day or two after us, ended up in a dive of a hotel not far from here.  We compared notes and conclusively agree that Holiday Inn Auckland Airport has all of our future bookings for overseas trips. 

Our rooms were complimentary in return for this review.  All opinions expressed are entirely my own.  Thank you IHG and Holiday Inn for starting our holiday off on the perfect note.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

OHbaby! feature + free printables!

If you follow me on Facebook or Instagram, you will already know that the Spring issue of OHbaby! magazine is out, and The Golden Adventures has a party feature within its pages!  Once again I teamed up with my baker buddy, Alice, and we put together a fun and nostalgic 'Little Explorer Party', perfect for nature-loving kiddos.

Party planning never gets boring for me, and this one was a pure joy to work on.  One of my favourite projects to date, definitely!  I had a lot of fun designing printables, two designs of which are currently available for (free) download via the OHbaby! website (food and drink labels - see below), and the rest of the collection available right here in this post!

You really don't need to save these printables for a party - I'm sure you could find some pretty creative uses for the food labels, and you could make summer camping fun by customising your drinks with cute stickers!  Head over to the OHbaby! website to collect both designs :-)

Today I'm also sharing a couple of other printables, including one of my favourite elements from the party, the Field Notes journal (click on the link for the free download).  We trimmed ours down to cover small journals found in a dollar store, but you could print them big enough to fit a larger journal too.  With a pencil, a compass and a magnifying glass (both found in a dollar store), your little explorers will have a collection of party favours that will extend into hours of future play.

For more details on what we filled our ration packs with, check out the full article in OHbaby! (article also available via their website, for a small fee).

Our invites were sadly never photographed, but if you would like to download them, follow this link.  I made them up by cutting out the centre of each magnifying glass and replacing it with clear cellophane (you'll want to print this sheet onto a thicker cardstock).  We used the other little images to create a simple garland that decorated our table.  


This little scout badge (click and download from the image below) can be glued to cardboard and attached to a safety pin.  We left these on the ration packs for kids to wear on the day of the party, and take home afterwards.
I've also included a downloadable file for our illustrated scavenger hunt, perfect as a lead-in activity for younger guests (for older kids, a written list with more challenging items might work better).  We found this to be an excellent warm-up activity as our guests arrived, encouraging them to work together as they explored the environs, and taking the edge off any lingering shyness.

I hope you get a chance to check out the full article via OHbaby!  I was pretty pleased with the Cookie Butterfly Collection - a genius merging of ideas between Alice and myself.  I'm currently sketching ideas for a (low-key) birthday party for Eleanor, and looking at these pics makes me want to scrap everything and have another go at this one...

Sunday, September 6, 2015

'Stray' by Rachael Craw - Blog Tour & Author Interview!!! (Yeooowwwww!!)

So ya'll know that I'm a big fan of 'Spark', debut novel of kiwi writer Rachael Craw (reviewed here - MAD PROPS to Miriam of Create Hope Inspire for recommending this series!).  Well I have the total honour of joining the blog tour launch the sequel title, 'Stray', and I'm pleased as punch.

"It’s hard to remember hating anything as much as I hate Affinity; a bone-deep loathing for the faceless unknown and the concrete walls of my own DNA." 

Evie is a Shield: designed to kill in order to protect, and the Affinity Project have finally come for her. But Evie isn’t ready for the sinister organisation to take control of her life, her body, her mind. She isn’t ready to follow their rules about who may live and who must die – not when it condemns the innocent. She has one option: risk losing everything and everyone – including Jamie – and run.

As far as sequels go, 'Stray' is at the top of the pile.  It expanded the world of 'Spark' beautifully, with heightened tension, a ton of character development, and some truly lovely writing.  The humour got me, and I read most of the book while sitting at the hosp. bed of a loved one, so I needed a bit of that.  The book itself was a bit of a lifeline, actually.  #grateful.

'Stray' starts in on the action asap - you'll find yourself hooked from the opening pages and then you'll read a teeny few pages more and then you'll look up and it's 10pm and you've forgotten to feed and bathe your children.

I loved getting to know the characters better, and especially enjoyed the dynamic between Evie and Kitty, which has markedly changed since book one (in the BEST way).  Evie and Jamie have some really tender moments too, as well as some pretty painful ones.  In fact there are a few gut-punches in 'Stray', character-wise, but I'll have to leave ya'll to find those out for yo'selves.

Okay, that's a pretty short review but I really don't want to spoil ANY of it!  'Spark' and 'Stray' are such FUN YA/Sci-fi/Mystery/Thriller/Romance crossovers!  I just want you to hurry out and read them both asap, and THEN we can talk about what happens at the end of book two.  Trust me, you'll need to talk about it with someone...

I was pretty excited to ask Rachael all my burning questions, but then of course I totally blanked and couldn't think of much beyond 'what t.v. shows do you watch?'  Yar, I'm totes awesome.  Go on, TRUST me with your interviewee!  Gracious Rachael went ahead and answered them anyway, which only made me like her more :-D

(I've peppered her interview with some top quality cartooning *wink* - I'm ready to quit my day job, everybody!) 

Hi Rachael!  I'm so psyched to have you here at The Golden Adventures!  'Spark' fans are in for such a treat with 'Stray' (I know that my 15 year old niece is going to FLIP OUT!), what a perfect sequel! 

Thank you so much! I’m thrilled you enjoyed it and delighted to be visiting your blog! Look I’ve already started on the exclamation marks!!!

I never felt like you took the obvious plot route in either 'Spark' or 'Stray'. This was super exciting as a reader, there was no way I would've guessed where things were gonna end up, in either book.  Did this come down to meticulous planning, or did you find yourself surprised along the way, too? 

I am a pantser by nature while doing my best to learn to plot (I’m not very good at it) it’s more like external processing – I don’t know if I want to go a certain way until I write it. It’s long winded and painful but currently that is my way of doing things. It may change. However, yes, I was constantly surprised by things happening, characters suddenly doing or saying things I hadn’t expected, characters appearing out of nowhere – the whole bit. I wrote the very first draft of Stray in the same year I wrote the first draft of Spark so it sat there for nearly 6 years before it got it’s re-write. I found it immensely challenging and constraining and many times wanted to can it and start fresh but I was too chicken and bound to a very firm deadline. However, I fought my way through it and I’m pleased and proud of the outcome.

How long did this series sit in your head before you started writing? 

Not long at all. I woke up from a dream and started working on it that day but getting it to a readable standard to a loooong time as I had to learn how to write. I am still learning.

Which is your favourite step in the 'from-idea-to-published-text' process?

Hmmm, such a good question and I would struggle to choose. There is something incredibly thrilling about first draft writing, the unknown, the rush of something appearing on the page that you didn’t expect. I find it very addictive. However, I deeply love the crafting process, my obsessive personality gets to wallow in a sentence and agonise over making it perfect. I crave perfection, I’m parched for it. I never reach it but it is a deeply driving motivation. A gorgeous sentence releases some kind of chemical joy in my brain. Word lust or something.

Do you ever find Evie (or any of the other characters) strongly reflecting aspects of yourself, or do they feel quite separate from you?

I feel intimately bound to all of my characters. Sometimes I feel like they are all me but in fragments. Miriam is probably my closest reflection, except for my total lack of ninja moves and being a complete wuss. I have Kitty’s temperament and sense of humour, Evie has my pride – my loathing for being made a spectacle of and the echo of my teen-angst. Though, I wasn’t as together as Evie at 17. She knows her own mind. I love that about her.

If you were casting director for a film adaptation of 'Stray', who would you cast as the main players?

Evie and Jamie are up for grabs – I feel like they would need to be up and comers. I would love Jamie to be properly English. Miriam I have always fantasized as being played by Jennifer Connelly. I adore her. In Stray there is a character named Ethan Tesla and I picture him as someone with the look of Eric Bana or Henry Cavill. I did a post for Jeann at Happy Indulgence with character profiles for the main characters and fan-casting/photos to show the look.

I don't get the feeling Evie is really the telly watching type, but if she had a favourite TV guilty pleasure, what would it be?

Ha! Poor Evie, not much time for telly. If she did, I think she would watch the Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad. You know, stuff with happy endings. ;-)

And finally, what are your TV/book/music guilty pleasures?

I don’t have guilty pleasures, mostly because I am utterly shameless. I super LOVED The 100! I can’t wait for that to come back on! I ship Bellarke hard! (Clarke & Bellamy). Most people know I am a ginormous Buffy the Vampire Slayer fangirl. This year I have just started watching Supernatural. HOLY MOLY, I am beside myself addicted to that show. I cannot even believe what I have been missing out on!!! I am so profoundly in love with Dean Winchester I don’t even know what to do with myself … and Castiel. I cannot take how much I love Cass. I binge watch on Netflix at least 2 episodes a night before I fall asleep. I watch it in the dark on my laptop with my earphones in and I drive my husband mental by laughing so hard I wake him up. They do the BEST ever meta-stories where they go into parallel dimensions where they find themselves as actors in a show called Supernatural, or stuck in a sitcom, or stuck at a Supernatural convention where everybody is dressed like them and larping a hunt (Live Action Role Play). It kills me. I love it so much I just downloaded ‘Carry On My Waywards Son’ as my text alert and my ringtone is Sam and Dean yelling things like, ‘Answer the freaking phone’. I’m up to season 7 and season 11 was just released in the states! So much to look forward to.

In terms of books I have been trying to broaden my reading in YA fantasy and I am excited for Sarah J Maas next book, Queen of Shadows. Currently I am reading Garth Nix’s Lirael and really enjoying it.

Awwww, thanks Rachael!  And thank you so much for the opportunity to be part of this tour!  Can't WAIT for 'Sheild'!  Check out the other interviews and guest posts below x

Stray Blog Tour

September 1
September 2
September 3
September 4
September 5
September 6
September 7

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Just Now

I'm embracing the crazy of Term Three (I mean, what choice do I have..?), but it has definitely reflected in the quiet posting around here.   We are down to the last three weeks (whaaaaat?!), so I thought it was high time I caught up with y'all...

Watching: 'Girls'.  I've actually finished, but I liked it so much I'm watching it again!
Listening to: Miguel's 'Simple Things'
Recovering: From a ridiculously long-lasting cold

Drinking: My fave Goodbuzz flavour ^ Lemon Ginger Kombucha. #amazeballs.  Also, daily vege smoothies.  I should be in perfect health right now!
Missing: Good weather
Reading: Nothing! But I just finished 'Stray' (by Rachael Craw - review coming) and it was excellent

Planning: Our trip to Queensland - eeeeeee!
Dreaming: Of a future trip to Europe...
Attempting: To transfer all my photos from a dying phone

 Organising: A hamper draw fundraiser for our class camp
Working on: Editing a new manuscript
Ignoring: Piles of washing

August is done with, and now it's Spring, I guess.  And in a few weeks it's the holidays, and then it's the home stretch till Summer!  Hot-diggity-dang!