Tag Archives: Christchurch

Saturday morning at the Farmers’ Market


It was SUCH a grey morning, and is now a grey day.  The sort we lived with for six winters in London, I’ll never forget them.  Grey that is impenetrable and lowers the sky so you feel you could touch it.  I learnt in London not to let this spoil my day.  So with various options put forward to the boys, they picked to scooter to the Farmers’ Market, choose a favourite lollipop, walk through the native bush, and home again past the playground.  I hoped the market would bring a little colour to our day and the scoot a hit of endorphins for my screen obsessed sons.

Through the park
Through the park
Riccarton House and the Farmers Market
Riccarton House and the Farmers’ Market
Riccarton House and the Farmers Market
Riccarton House and the Farmers’ Market

Through the park, over the stream and wind through a few quiet streets and we emerge into the grounds of Riccarton House which is home to the Christchurch Farmers’ Market on Saturday mornings.  It’s also one of the original farms of the early settlers, the Scottish Deans brothers, who built their original cottage here in 1843 using wood from the surrounding bush.  Their original cottage is still here, it’s now the oldest building on the Canterbury Plains.  The Deans brothers kept their little cottage, and built the Victorian and Edwardian mansion (it survived the earthquakes, though still undergoing repairs) Riccarton House in 1856 with subsequent significant additions.

The farmers market has started with a mere handful of stalls, which was a great disappointment when we first visited as we’d been used to the thriving Borough Market in London.  But over the years it’s grown to a bustling hive of producers with their wares.  There are strict rules surrounding who can have a stall and where their produce can come from.  Personally I’d love to see more stalls with food you can eat as you browse, and a few more seats would be good too as the riverbank can get a little damp…

At markets my preference is to slowly browse the different stalls and taste as I go.  The boys however (no longer restrained to prams) prefer to head straight for the lolly stall, taste one, choose one and head away to eat.  I managed withstand the grumbling to buy eggs and apples from my favourite stalls, but couldn’t stand it much after that.  I love that the eggs are free range, the apples are organic, both are local and both are cheaper than the supermarket!  We also adore the pastry perfections that come from Bellbird Foods, and the Pain au Chocolat is our favourite – pronounced correctly of course not with a kiwi twang.

We’ve been walking round the loop track in Riccarton Bush since the boys were little as it’s a totally different environment for them, in the middle of our city.  In 2004 it was fenced to keep out predators and now has a thriving native bird population.  The boys take their binoculars to keep an eye out for them.  There’s a caged door entry which intrigues the boys, and then they follow the little path round.


We headed home to stop for a play in the playground and a ride on the leaf sculpture in the park.  It’s called ‘Serenade’ which is appropriate as the leaves look as if they’re dancing, with a bit of effort you can push it round. After all that we hadn’t even noticed that it was a very grey day.


The beach in autumn

Solo sandcastle
Solo sandcastle

I don’t know about you but I find the beach in summer is often hot, and sticky, sandy (of course), FULL of people and the last straw is often trying to find a car park.  We tend to surf in summer and walk in winter and in autumn we play.

Hanging houses and arty shipping containers
Hanging houses and arty shipping containers

We’ve had a stunning run of autumn weather these last couple of weeks with chilly mornings and sunny days and marvellous afternoons.  So on Sunday we headed to our favourite playing beach, Sumner.  Sumner has been hit pretty hard by the earthquakes and the raw damage is still evident to some beautiful homes once perched on the edge of the cliffs, now literally hanging off them.  Lines of shipping containers have been brought in to protect the main road to Sumner, and these are now the site for an art exhibition in the form of canvases stretched over a container.  Clever, as they’re pretty ugly.

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The boys and I took their best buddy and headed across town.  The aim of the afternoon was to make sandcastles, well that’s what I wanted to do, but boys being boys, were keener to dig holes and ‘quarry’.  The littlest one and I made a small sandcastle, then I left them to it, digging happily away.

The littlest one and the ball
The littlest one and the ball

Being autumn the wind soon became chilly so after a while we headed back for ice creams – there’s always such a good selection with cones, and licked away watching the kite surfers.

Next time you’re wondering what to do on an autumn afternoon try the beach – it’s often better than the height of summer.

Seashore treasures
Seashore treasures
Three friends
Three friends

Hunting for…The Big Egg Hunt NZ

Have chocolate and bikes - will hunt!
Have chocolate and bikes – will hunt!


The Big Egg Hunt NZ is fun event is being held down under for the first time, here in New Zealand.  100 eggs have been hidden in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch and on Saturday the boys and I set out to find a fair few of them, and consume some chocolatey goodness at the same time.

The Big Egg Hunt was first held in London in 2010 and combined fun and fundraising for charity.  Next year hunts will take place in London, Dublin, New York and New Zealand.  The Big Egg Hunt NZ is to raise funds for Starship Foundation (a charity which supports our national children’s hospital here in NZ).  Each egg has been designed by top NZ artists and at the end of the hunt they will be auctioned off on Trade Me (our version of E-Bay), with 20 of them being auctioned at a gala evening.

With a host of sponsors, the principal one being Whittaker’s Chocolate, the aim is to find as many eggs as you can and enter the competition.  Prizes range from peanut slabs through to a gold slab (rumoured to be worth in the region of $300K).  You can do this by either texting in the unique code found on the plinth of each egg, downloading an app (this is what we did) or follow the directions on specially marked blocks of Whittaker’s chocolate.

The boys and I decided this was the perfect activity for a gloriously sunny autumn afternoon and set off on our bikes from the Botanical Gardens, in the centre of town.  To make it even more fun, we took along a specially marked block of Whittaker’s chocolate, and for every egg we found, we ate a square.

The first eggs we found were handily in the Botanical Gardens and I think Egg #82, Insecta Egg, with the butterflies and insects has to be my favourite.  I would happily have that sitting on a plinth in my garden.  Each egg is mounted on a plinth which has a biography of the artist and some talk about the inspiration for their egg design.

The app turned out to be a little temperamental, so at our next stop at the Museum, the helpful guide offered us a good old-fashioned paper map for the egg hunt which turned out to be much more reliable, but she wouldn’t give any clues as to the locations of the two eggs hidden in the museum!  We hunted, and found them.  Despite being large, they were surprisingly easy to miss amongst all the other exhibits.

The next eggs were at Cathedral Square which was the heart of our city, but is now dominated by the ruins of our now fought over Cathedral.  My eldest son struggles to see the remains of the earthquake destruction and didn’t enjoy the cycle through the empty streets, but the youngest one didn’t mind a bit, and in fact enjoyed the traffic-free streets.  Cathedral Square turned out to be quite lucrative as there were four eggs there, therefore four pieces of chocolate!  We followed the map and found the eggs and stopped and played and looked inside buildings.  The new Transitional Cathedral, commonly known as the Cardboard Cathedral provided a warm welcome and another egg.

Our last stop found that two of the eggs had been thoughtlessly damaged and were being removed as we tried to check in with our app.  Despicable damage to such a fun event for a worthy cause.

All chocolate consumed and happily tired boys we cycled back to the car.  They boys reckon it was loads of fun and are keen to do it again next year.

The Big Egg Hunt will run 21 March until 22 April in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.  Until the app is reliable, I recommend using the paper map (available online) and texting in your entry.

Foodie Heaven – International Cooking Classes

I’ve never been to a cooking class, but I’ve always wanted to.  The Argentian aka Carolina, is world famous in our neighbourhood for her fabulous cooking and passion for food.  Now she’s taking her passion to the wider community of Christchurch with her friend and fellow Argentinian, Andrea.  Andrea and her husband have recently moved into a house perched on the hill above Taylors Mistake from Barcelona where they’ve lived for the past ten years.  Having been to and loved Barcelona, I can tell  you this is quite a contrast.  But, their new abode makes the PERFECT location for a cooking class with dinner or lunch.  Andrea and Carolina are charming and delightful hosts and their passion for cooking is catching.  Their chosen recipes for the evening were not only genuinely delicious, but very easy and easy to accomplish for any home cook.

Two neighbours (also fans of Carolina’s) and I headed over the hill and joined Carolina and Andrea for the launch of their International Cooking Classes last week.  This particular night was making Italian Sorrentinos – filled homemade pasta.  The first thing that hits you, is the incredible view from Andrea’s home.  And whilst on the deck admiring it, a friendly paraglider flew past on his way down to the beach.

The friendly paraglider
The friendly paraglider

The cooks started with pasta, making sorrentino’s for us – very similar to ravioli, or tortellini.  They showed us how to make the pasta dough, sharing their tips and tricks along the way.  We all had a turn with the pasta machine and turning the handle, making it thiner with each of the six runs through.  I’ve always thought it looked time consuming, but surprisingly it wasn’t, more therapeutic.  Andrea and Carolina demonstrated how to make two fillings for the sorrentinos – salmon and homemade ricotta with dill, and pumpkin and mozzarella with basil.  We all followed along on our recipe sheet, making extra notes here and there. Each filling was served with a different sauce, cream sauce for the delicate salmon and ricotta, and an earthy puttanesca sauce for the more hearty pumpkin and mozzarella.  Both were beautiful and worthy of any restaurant.  The thing about cooking classes is not only do you get the smell (or should I say aroma), rather than the picture, but you can interact with the cooks, and in fact it’s encouraged.

We sat round the table and ate in the fading sunset and enjoyed both the food and company of others whom we didn’t know but, joined together with a common interest, food, we had a really good night.

After the main course Andrea and Carolina showed us how to make their version of Tiramasu.  Now, I should confess here to never having tried Tiramasu, always being put off at the end of a meal by layers of cream and sponge and topped off with coffee, seemed sickly to me.  But this Tiramasu was amazing – light, delicate and left me wanting more.  Super easy to prepare, we were all delighted to have this gem of a recipe in our repertoire.  Next dinner party, that’s what I’m serving.

Three hours later, happily full and armed with tips, tricks, new tastes and inspired to make sorrentinos myself, we headed back over the hill to home.  We all agreed we’d had a great night, having thoroughly enjoyed learning something new, the location, the food and the company.  We’ll be back for another class.

International Cooking Classes cost $50 which included the three hour class with dinner and dessert.  Carolina and Adrea hold classes each month with different themes.  To book: Email: cookingfoodclasses@gmail.com, Facebook: here , Mobile: Carolina 0210783841 or Andrea 0211735514.

PS.  Here’s Carolina’s recipe for Palmeritas from a previous blog post.


Art: Burster, Flipper, Wobbler, Dripper, Spinner, Stacker, Shaker, Maker

Burster, Flipper, Wobbler, Dripper, Spinner, Stacker, Shaker, Maker is a colour explosion of an exhibition aimed at families that’s just opened at the Christchurch Art Gallery’s new temporary site at Art Box.  I do wonder how they came up with that name…

Art Box is a developing art precinct in the centre of town.  The venture is run by CPIT (Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology) and most of it has been gifted or donated.  Currently there is the art gallery’s exhibition, a private gallery and still coming are music and artist studios.  It’s reminiscent of a mini arts centre in the middle of the empty building sites.

Christchurch has been without an art gallery for a number of years since the earthquakes, and this is the first time my family has ventured inside a building, albeit shipping containers, to experience art, and it was soooo good.  The space itself works perfectly for a small exhibition with light wood floors, white walls and natural indirect light flooding the space.  There was enough but not too much so the boys weren’t overwhelmed by the art, but the adults had plenty to keep us visually stimulated with the number and variety of the artworks.

Having been so long without viewing art in a building, I went to touch it, but then remembered, that of course, being art, I really mustn’t.  I’m told that the artists are very keen for their work to be handled and stroked, but the art gallery, in the interests of preserving it for future generations, are understandably not so keen.  The artwork that drew me in the most were the morphing pencil sculpture, the paint skins suspended like tubes from the ceiling, and the slow-motion video of the exploding paint-filled balloon.  All the pieces were visually stimulating with huge impact, especially for younger people who can recognise objects being used in very different ways.  It challenged their view of art beautifully.  Simple name plates next to each piece and longer interview sheets were nearby for adults.  I personally much prefer this leaner yet more in-depth way of providing information.


We went to the Family Day in mid-February to mark the opening of the exhibition, and for my easily excitable boys, this was just the right amount of stimulation.  Both went straight for the imagination playground – imagine foam duplo crossed with mobilo.  This will be a permanent feature of the learning space when the gallery re-opens.

My youngest spied the paintings some of the kids were making using a humble salad spinner.  Squirt blobs of colour onto a round piece of card inside a salad spinner, spin hard, add more, spin again, dry with a hair dyer and ta da!  Instant art.

Back to the imagination playground, then they discovered there were FREE iced lollies, so they stopped long enough to sit and listen to the band and suck their ices.  There were colourful chinese lanterns to decorate with stamps and then gently blow up, and then the littlest one found the face painting lady…

Happily occupied all afternoon, we were now the last ones left with the gallery staff, so the biggest one and granddad helped to put away the imagination playground whilst the littlest one had his face painting finished.

Burster, Flipper, Wobbler, Dripper, Spinner, Stacker, Shaker, Maker runs from now until September, so in the upcoming chilly months, venture into town with the kids and have a look.

All exhibition photos courtesy of Christchurch Art Gallery.

Tidying up
Tidying up

photo 4-65

Chinese Lantern Festival


I’ve heard about the Chinese Lantern Festival, but never been.  Tonight Dad and I took the two boys along to Hagley Park to see for ourselves.  We must be some of the last to go to the lantern festival as clearly most of Christchurch knew all about it and it was PACKED.  We went at 7pm but it would have been better to go at 8pm.

The Chinese Lantern Festival is organised by the Asia New Zealand Foundation and there are lots of stalls showcasing Chinese culture from acupuncture to the Confucius Institute, and a fair few food stalls which had huge queues.  There is a main stage with an entertainment programme running from 5pm-10pm tonight and tomorrow (Sunday 23 Feb).  We saw the cutest kids performing some impressive martial arts, a drumming group, a lion dance and a dragon dance.  The two dances were traditional Chinese dances with costumes and we thoroughly enjoyed watching them.  The lanterns are lit (hence why it’s better to go later) and are hung in the branches of the trees, as well as on the ground, and some in the water.

If you’re in Christchurch or Auckland and fancy going along on Sunday here’s a link to Asia New Zealand Foundation which has all the info you need.

Here are some images of our night…

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Passengers and Co – Breakfast with someone else’s husband

photo 4-42

This morning I had breakfast with someone else’s husband.  I should explain – he’s a very old friend who moved to the other side of the world 15 years ago but has been in town for the summer.  I’ve been wanting to review Passengers and Co for a few weeks now and in need of a companion, he fitted the bill nicely.

Passengers and Co opened in May 2013 at the rather unassuming location of the airport business park, and in less than a year they have made quite a name for themselves.  This has probably got a fair bit to do with the two owners who are something of the dynamic duo –  chefs Jamie Bennett and Sam Marchant.  Both in their mid-30s and with a small tribe of children between them, they are old school friends who own and operate the Christchurch Farmers Market, as well as Riccarton House Bistro and Taste Events company.  The Riccarton House Bistro is due to re-open within the next two months having been closed since the earthquakes, and their new venture ‘The Town Tonic’ a coffee house and wine bar in Addington, is scheduled to open at the end of March.  I pity their wives…

Old Friend and I arrived after the school run when Passengers and Co was pleasantly quiet.  I met chef Jamie who was late for a site meeting, but he introduced me to his chef Aliesha McGilligan who was a delight.  Aliesha is PASSIONATE about Passengers and Co food, which they call ‘soul food’ as it’s made from the heart with ingredients they love.  There’s a whole ethos about the place, not only Passengers and Co, but also the Christchurch Farmers Market and the Riccarton House Bistro that focuses on the local, the ethical, the seasonal, looking to serve the best everyday.  We chatted for ages about food, ingredients, inspiration, their Food Nights, and places we’ve eaten at (or want to eat at), but then Aliesha had to dash – a big table came in for breakfast and she was needed.  Old Friend and I sat and commented on how Passengers and Co is so much more than a cafe, it’s an instigator and a community hub for foodies (or architects of taste as Old Friend suggested) in Canterbury.

I liked the interior of Passengers and Co which has a muted colour palette of black and white, accented by punches of green and something of a Moroccan influence in their tiling and wooden screens.  There are good seating options which is always a bug bear of mine – two huge tables, an intimate booth, and a variety of other smaller tables.

Back to task – choosing from the menu.  Aliesha recommended their Turkish Baked Eggs with roasted peppers, tomato sauce, toast, labne, and dukkah for $16 and I chose the Brioche French Toast with poached fruit, real maple syrup, house-made marscarpone for $16.50.  Both were great, and I mean REALLY great.  I’ve had french toast a lot, but this is different.  The poached fruit, brioche and marscapone take it to a whole new level.  Bacon and banana would seem tame in comparison.  Aliesha popped back checking on our meals and we raved about them.  Old Friend enjoyed the Turkish Baked Eggs but was particularly taken with the bread that came with them.  The seeds were incredible.  Two happy diners.

Our take on Passengers and Co: Excellent.  Delicious breakfasts with a different take on the usuals and a few surprises thrown in too.  Good sized portions and a great price.  I’ll definitely be back.  Old Friend (also coffee expert) informs me that their coffee filter needs changing, but I can inform you that their hot chocolates are spot on, and you know how fussy I can be…