Category Archives: Did It

Gastropubbing in Temecula

PUBlic House TemeculaPUBlic House
41971 Main Street, Temecula, California 92590

“A table for four, please?” I hungrily inquired. We were lead to a high bench table on the patio, complete with tall stools and right next to an indoor water feature. Dining with three year old twins in such an environment, what could possibly go wrong?

We were in Old Town Temecula, California and on a Scavenger Hunt (you can read about our Urban Adventure Quest here). Our tummies started to grumble half way through our Quest, so it was time to find somewhere scrumptious to fill our bellies.

There were plenty of dining options in the township to choose from. The PUBlic House, on Main Street, looked enticing (plus had kid’s food and vegetarian options). So, in we ventured.

PUBlic House is a gastropub, located within a 1950’s restored home in the middle of Old Town. It’s pretty funky, with wooden pallets adorning the walls sprouting greenery, and pages of a novel providing wallpaper on the bathroom walls.Public House Wallpaper Temecula

Public House TemeculaWith the kids perched precariously on high stools, fortunately with backs on the seats, and one tornado insisting he had to climb up and down and up and down and up and down (you get the picture) by himself, I was braced for the worst. But no one fell too hard. To be fair, putting us as close to the exit as possible, was probably a smart move on their part.

The water feature provided ample temptation, but after the same tornado put his hand under the deluge once, it was forgotten.

After three and a half years of twins, hubby and I are now experts at ordering the kid’s food ASAP, before we even attempt to contemplate what we’d like to eat ourselves, the twin tornados were happily munching on their grilled cheese (a cheese toasty for my Kiwi readers) in no time.

Grilled Cheese Public House TemeculaUnfortunately they tried to serve a green salad with the grilled cheese, ARE THEY CRAZY? They had mistakenly pushed a ‘greens’ button, instead of a fries button (if only I could get my three year olds munching spinach and lettuce leaves), but the fries were on the table in no time. We save the use of tablets for such as occasion as this, which then provides 15 mins of peace and quiet for the adults to consume their meals. Yep, that’s great parenting 101 right there!

The beer was large, and cold, which was perfect after running around the town solving clues on a hot day. My beer was even a little fruity, since I ordered the Refuge Grapefruit IPA (I like to mix it up a bit). A nice tall refreshing ale! Beer Public House Temecula

The food tasted as fantastic as it looked. I devoured my crispy roasted squash and potato gnocchi with gusto, savouring the sage brown butter sauce. I’m sure there was a hint of citrus in there too, but it could have been the beer.Public House Temecula Gnocchi

Hubby embarked on a journey of pork loin stuffed with roast duck, or Duck Stuffed Pork. He was a happy Hubby at the end of it. Yes, I am the only vegetarian in this family.Public House Temecula Duck stuffed Pork

Both the beer and the food impressed, as did the behaviour of our children. A winning trifecta, and very rare occurrence.

As we say in our household when something goes well – High Five!


Coming To You From SoCal

This blog has been a little quiet, so I thought I’d explain.

We’ve moved…

Being an ‘all or nothing’ kind of family we didn’t just move house, or to a different neighbourhood or town. Three months ago, my little New Zealand family (Hubby, the twin tornados and myself) packed up our Kiwi life and moved halfway across the world to Southern California. We don’t do things by halves – we have twins, remember!

Now that the kids are getting a little older (they are four this year), I’m hoping we’ll get out a little more and I can kick start this blog again. Although, we are suffering from a lack of babysitters here, but I’m sure that will change.

If you’d like to follow our American journey, you can read all about our move and what we’re up to in SoCal on my other blog, Jandals and Jet Planes.

I’ll try and keep this blog for reviews of restaurants and attractions, but there is bound to be a little cross over from time to time.

We’ve already:

But it wasn’t until I wrote a post about a wonderful lunch experience that I had last week, that I realised that I should resurrect CelesteReviews properly.

Plus, the good folks at Zomato invited me to be one of their NZ bloggers when they first bought out Menu Mania, so I kind of feel a little bad that I haven’t been writing for a while.

So here I am. Stay tuned.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


It’s A Jungle Out There…

TWO TURN TWO

CelesteReviews Jungle Safari Photobooth

Jungle/Safari Photobooth

My twins are winter babies, so our household is in full party season, with all their twin friends turning two. BC (before children), I was a busy marketing professional and event organiser, so it gives me great delight to have an excuse to plan a party. Here’s what we created for their birthday party this year…

THEME

The key to any party planning is the THEME. I have boy/girl twins (the best of both worlds), but this can be a challenging problem when deciding on a unisex birthday idea. At the moment, they are really into animals and love to visit the zoo, so this year we chose a jungle/safari theme to celebrate their 2nd birthday.

To narrow the theme down even further, I decided to give each child an animal. Mr E a tiger and Miss H a zebra. Both were similar patterns (orange and black stripes versus white and black stripes), so this would be easy to bring a design together.

INVITE

Usually I’d create a pdf invite, but this year I was pressed for time and found a great graphic designer who was willing to create what I wanted at a reasonable price (cheaper than buying or printing and posting them myself). I sent the invites out via email.

DECORATIONS

BUNTING

Home made bunting (or a string of flags) is an easy, cost effective way to decorate a large space. I painted three separate A4 pages with different animal prints (giraffe, tiger and zebra), took them to Warehouse Stationery and printed them on coloured paper. The tiger print onto orange, the zebra print onto white, and the giraffe onto grey. In hindsight, I should have used yellow for the giraffe, but I was still happy with the outcome. To these three prints, I also added a plain green paper, which I had left over from a previous project.

CelesteReviews Jungle Bunting

You can get 3 triangle flags from a sheet of A4. Each A4 sheet is approx 30cm long. Make a pencil mark along one side at 15cm, and mark the other side at 7.5cm and 22.5cm. Draw a line between each mark and the corners of the page, and that is your cutting line. When you are done cutting, use a hole punch to place two holes evenly along the base of each triangle. Then thread string or ribbon through the holes.

It took the hubby and I one evening in front of the TV to measure and cut, and another to thread.

CelesteReviews Jungle table

Paper grass and plastic wild animals for the table

TABLE DECORATIONS

I have no idea what Mine Craft is, but when looking for ‘fake grass’ to use as a table cloth, I found someone selling Mine Craft paper grass sheets on Trade Me. They arrived flat packed and you pull them into a spiky square shape. They looked awesome, and with a cheap green table cloth underneath and some wild plastic animals placed strategically in the ‘grass’, we had a great base to add the food to.

PHOTO BOOTH

I love the idea of capturing guests in costume at a party. I wasn’t sure how successful we’d be working with two year olds, so I looked for something that would be low to the ground. I found this awesome safari jeep cut out at www.partyparty.co.nz, and created a back drop using a green table cloth, extra bunting and a few animal cut outs. The adults didn’t mind getting down to kiddie level to capture the moment. I also sent some of these images out with my thank you emails, and the guests loved them.

COSTUMES

CelesteReviews Face Painting

Facepainting by Rainbow Rascals

We love any excuse for a dress up party, and a kids party is no exception. To ensure no one had an excuse not to come in theme, I downloaded some printable jungle masks from Etsy and sent them (via email) with the party invitation.

The twins, their grandmother, their oddmother (we don’t have god parents, we have odd parents, but that’s a whole other blog), and myself headed to the talented Jane, from Rainbow Rascals, to be turned into wild creatures for the party. Considering it was the first time either child had been face painted, Jane did a remarkable job creating my little tiger and zebra. I’m pretty sure it was my first face painting too, as I was transformed into a fierce lion. Although the twins’ faces were a bit smeared by cake cutting and presents time (main photo moments), the adults’ lasted until bed time. Note to self: It’s perhaps not the best idea to answer the door to two year old guests by roaring at them while painted as a lion. I did have fun getting into character!

We had lions, tigers, zebras, leopards, a giraffe, chipmunk, panther, safari suits, and where the wild things are as characters.

FOOD

As a helpful gesture to those with allergies, and to keep in theme, I created themed food signs using PicMonkey.com. Food included;

  • Banana, mandarin, kiwifruit slices on a platter, displayed as a tree – Jungle Fruit
  • Chips, carrot sticks and dip – Hungry Hippo Dip
  • Pretzels – Tarzan Twigs
  • Peanuts – Elephant snacks
  • Sausages in pastry (pigs in a blanket) – Wild Boars
  • Ham and egg sandwiches – Safari Sammies

I also made signs saying ‘Don’t Feed the Animals’ and ‘Watering Hole’ for added aesthetics.

CelesteReviews Jungle Food

Jungle Fruit


CAKE

Last year I paid someone else to take care of the cake, but we really wanted to give it a go this year. The hubby did the baking – one round chocolate mud cake and one round banana cake. Keeping with the twins’ characters, I kept the cake design simple – Mr E’s was orange with black stripes and a plastic tiger on top, while Miss H was white with black strips and a plastic zebra on top. I used a bit of green butter icing and green coconut to create ‘grass’ to tidy up the bottom of the cakes. Thank you YouTube for the tutorials on how to put fondant (including zebra stripes) onto a cake.CelesteReviews Jungle Cakes

MUSIC

My husband loves the challenge of creating a playlist for every party we hold, and this was no exception (although I’m not sure if many people even noticed all the wild/jungle music over the noise of 20 toddlers). The rules for our selection were that they had to be wild animals/jungle lyrics or titles, and he had to like the songs. Not sure how I managed to sneak Katie Perry in the list, but most were of the rock genre and included:

  • Welcome to the Jungle – Guns N Roses
  • Monkey Wrench – Foo Fighters
  • Eye of the Tiger – Survivor
  • Wild Thing – The Troggs
  • Run through the Jungle – Creedence Clearwater Revival
  • Roar – Katie Perry
  • Born to be Wild
  • Bare Necessities – from the Jungle Book
  • Baby Elephant Walk

OTHER IDEAS

PHOTO DISPLAY

Like most living rooms, the TV is a focal point in the room. So, to take advantage of that, we put together a slide show of photos of the twins from the past year (including as many of the guests as we could) and had that on a continuous loop.

THANK YOUS

Call me old fashioned, but I think every present giver should be thanked. It was a big day for the kids and they were slightly overwhelmed with the task of present opening, so over the next week, as they played with new toys or we read new books together, I tried to take a quick photo of them enjoying their gifts, so I could email the images with a thank you note.

A roaring good time was had by all. Now, only 11 months to plan their 3rd Birthday. Any ideas for a unisex twin theme?


Sculpture in the Gardens 2013

Auckland Botanic Gardens
9 November 2013 – 16 February 2014

The beautiful flowers and nicely trimmed trees have been taken over by horses, rabbits, crabs, giant ants and a magpie. Nope, I’m not having bizarre dreams. The weird and wonderful world of art has appeared in the Auckland Botanic Gardens, with twenty nine sculptures installed for the Summer. These sculptures are set upon a two kilometre trail that meanders through the picturesque gardens.

They’ve even gone ‘techie’ this year. QR codes are available at each installation for you to scan and view videos on the art work, creative process or artist.

Opening day was bustling, with many families and groups of friends packing a picnic and making a day of it. Our group of four adults and four children had a blast, enjoying a gentle stroll in the sun.

Here is a run down of some of our favourite sculptures on display this year;

I believe that you should be able to touch and feel art. None of this admire from afar business. And, the kids in our group agree. So, they absolutely loved Oliver Stretton-Pow’s ‘Rooks‘. They could chase each other around the sculpture and pop their heads (and bodies) inside the pieces. Loads of fun! The big shady trees make this the perfect place to stop for a picnic lunch and a spot of people watching.

CelesteReviews Rooks Oliver Stretton-Pow

Rooks by Oliver Stretton-Pow

Nearby, just waiting for the knight in shining armour to jump atop, is ‘The White Horse’ by Ben Foster. An angular creation of aluminium and epoxy automotive spray, I loved it’s stark contrast to the greenery surrounding the sculpture. I also love the intrigue this piece causes, as you can glimpse it in the distance from the main entrance of the Gardens and you catch moments of white between the trees as you walk the trail towards it.

CelesteReviews The White Horse by Ben Foster

The White Horse by Ben Foster

According to Bryan Verey, Magpies say “Quardle Oodle Ardle Wardle Doodle”. The beady eyed magpie sitting atop a rustic farm gate in ‘Over the Farm Gate’ brought back a lot of childhood rural memories. I was careful with my glittery jewellery as I passed!

CelesteReveiws Bryan Verey

Over the Farm Gate by Bryan Verey

A picnic in the park isn’t complete without some ants. Three giant bronze ants happily march along the patio of the Visitor’s Centre towards Jim Wheeler’s two ‘Regeneration’ installations.
CelesteReviews Samantha Lissette Sculpture

Part of “Atta Mediae” by Samantha Lissette

CelesteReviews Jim Wheeler Sculpture in the Gardens

Regenration: Oak Garden Fork & Regeneration: Oak Garden Spade by Jim Wheeler

The talented Llew Summers was invited to exhibit his work again this year, developing ‘Ariel’ from his fascination with wings. Be sure you also view his gorgeous ‘Butterfly’ bronze situated on the lawn in front of the cafe. It’s one of my favourites and is a permanent sculpture at the Gardens.

CelesteReviews Ariel Llew Summers

Ariel by Llew Summers

Croc Dundee would be proud of size of the knife served up by Michael Klaja and Gordon Smith. The hubby particularly liked this piece of art, aptly named ‘Carving up the Land’. (Image to follow – sorry, my photo was blurry).

My nieces (aged 4 and 6) thought the ‘rabbit and the crab’ were fun, but the crab was a little scary. Rabbit and Crabby have a great position, looking out over the rose gardens.

CelesteReviews Jamie Pickernell

Oh Crabby I do believe we’re rather last! by Jamie Pickernall

Clever use of woven corrugated iron and timber create ‘Home Sweet Home’ by Jeff Thomson. This fun installation is vibrant among the trees.

CelesteReviews Jeff Thomson

Home Sweet Home by Jeff Thomson

I would have loved to have been able to get up closer to ‘Flotilla’. I enjoyed Lucy Bucknall’s Otter piece on the Brick Bay Sculpture Trail in Snells Beach, so I was really interested to see this installation. However, set in the upper lake, you couldn’t quite make out all the animals and facial expressions that I’m sure make this sculpture delightful.

CelesteReviews Flotilla by Lucky Bucknall and Andy MacVicar

Flotilla by Lucky Bucknall and Andy MacVicar

Spring is a magical time of the year to visit the Gardens.  The smells and colour on show are a feast for the senses. Don’t forget to also take a peek at the permanent art works that are also on display around the property.

Top Tip: It’s FREE to visit the Auckland Botanic Gardens, so pack a picnic and make a day of it.

In a Nutshell: A wonderful way to spend a Summer’s Day.


Hello Hamilton

24 Hours in Hamilton

Hamilton, you’ve changed! The hubby and I have just spent 24 childless hours in Hamilton over the long weekend and were pleasantly surprised.

Things have come a long way since my university days in the ‘Tron’. There is a strong cafe culture, loads of dining options, and a bar on every corner (oh, hang on, that last one is still the same).

So, what impressed us the most?

The Food
The food was outstanding. We had three fantastic meals during our trip; lunch at Foundation Bar, dinner at Palate and brunch at Joe’s Garage (blog posts to follow). Perhaps we struck it lucky, but three out of three is a good average.

The Music
Hamilton is a live music Mecca. By 10pm on Saturday night, the choices for watching a band play on Victoria and Hood Street were endless.

CelesteReviews Ibis Hamilton

Happy Hour overlooking the Waikato River

The Accommodation
We discovered a brilliant online deal for the Ibis. Centrally located and clean, it had all we needed to lay our weary heads. Plus $5 Happy Hour between 5pm-6pm. $20 valet parking or $15 a night self parking nearby.

The Shopping
The fact that we had no children in tow, did make traipsing around the shopping precincts a lot easier, not to mention a whole heap faster. Nevertheless, The Base or Te Awa or Dressmart, or whatever the proper name is, provides fantastic shopping. There is loads of parking, plenty of eating establishments, and a great playground (if you do have the kids). Centre Place, located in the heart of Hamilton, also had plenty of retail therapy on offer. Part of the mall has recently been redeveloped, and is looking very flash.

So, they were the positives of our stay, and although there were no real negatives during our fleeting visit, here are a couple of issues that I noted.

The Homeless
Call me naive, but when did Hamilton get homeless people? I’d never seen a single homeless person in the city before, either in the four years that I lived in Hamilton East, or during my infrequent visits since then. I was shocked to see so many elderly vagrants lounging about outside Starbucks in the middle of the day or picking through rubbish and gutters for cigarette butts. Not to mention those busking in the early hours of the morning. It was an eye opener.

The Short Skirts
I think I’m just getting old, but I really don’t get the fashion currently donned by the young adults of today. Let’s face it, Hamilton isn’t known for warm weather, so what possesses these girls to choose not much more than a fabric belt to wander around the night spots in? No matter what their size or shape. Yep – I’m definitely getting old.

Stay tuned for a few updates on Hamilton, coming to a blog near you, soon.


Lost in Time…

Metro Centre, Sublevel 3
291-297 Queen Street, Auckland

Firstly, I’d just like to announce that “I am the current Twinnies Mini Golf Champion“. Those of you who know me will understand that it’s not often that I can claim a sporting title. Even if it was only against a few other twin mums from my coffee group. However, you have to make the most of these situations when they arise, so excuse me while I sing it from the rafters.

The last time I played mini golf was under a black light at Transylvania in West Auckland. So, it was time to dust off the putter and have another laugh at the poor golf ball’s expense and check out the new course in town.

Lost in Time opened in July 2013, and is located in the basement of the old Queen Street Borders Bookshop. The 18 hole course takes you on a journey through kiwi history.

CelesteReviews Lost in Time

No pressure!

CelesteReviews Lost in Time

The first few holes are set in the middle of a WWI battlefield. I mean, as if the pressure of sinking the ball wasn’t enough, add troops with machine guns and rifles pointed at you during the process!

Stepping through the doors to the Gold Mine, the next two holes are located in a dark narrow corridor under black light. Luckily the golf balls are painted in day-glow colours.

Based on Waihi’s Martha Mine, thankfully they’ve themed it from a historic mining angle, complete with glow worms in the tunnel/mine shaft, rather than making you play in the depths of the huge hole that the open cast mine resembles today.

CelesteReviews Lost in Time Marae

Next up is a natural setting with native New Zealand bush and imagery, with a soundtrack of bird calls and running water. Look out for the automated kiwis rummaging around near the Marae.

One hole is shaped like a koru (tricky spiral course) and another depicts a kiwi with an egg.

Finally, we enter the piece de resistance of this course – the Dinosaurs. The automated creations are very cool – you can even see their stomachs move as they breathe. Is it wrong (or a bit sad) for a mid thirties woman to get excited about dinosaurs?

CelesteReviews Lost in Time Triceratops

Triceratops

Four dinosaurs are present in this section of the course, including everyone’s favourite vegetarian historic creatures; Stegosaurus and Triceratops.

CelesteReviews Lost in Time T-Rex

Although, the T-Rex is probably the most popular critter on the course, I was introduced to a dinosaur that I didn’t even know existed. Who’s heard of an Ankylosaurus?

CelesteReviews Lost in Time

Ankylosaurus – apparently roamed New Zealand

According to the fossils found in New Zealand and Antartica, the Ankylosaurus would have been milling around our country about 65 million years ago. These dinosaurs were herbivore, and the special fermentation compartment in their stomachs aided digestion, but unfortunately made them produced large amounts of gas!

And you thought this blog was boring … I’ve just introduced you to a local farting prehistoric beast. The things you learn while mini-golfing.

So, as well as putting my way to a victorious six shot lead, and managing a hole in one, I also increased my knowledge with a few facts from the informative plaques as I putted my way around the course. A humorous and fun filled evening.

Open 10am-10pm, 7 days a week.

In a Nutshell: Loads of good old fashion family fun.


Rumour Has It

Rumours Waterfall SpaCelesteReviews Rarotonga Rumours
Rarotonga

I’m not what what you would call a ‘girly-girl’. I’m a busy mum of twins, which doesn’t leave a lot of time (ie, absolutely no time) for hair, nails, make up or any such pampering. So, it was a little out of character to indulge myself in two and a half hours of luxurious ‘me’ time while holidaying in Rarotonga. I think the hubby was feeling guilty for all the diving he was doing, and he all but rang and made the appointment for me.

The award winning Rumours Waterfall Spa offers a Half Day Escape Package ($250), which includes a Polynesian Dead Sea mineral mask, coupled with a 60 minute aromatherapy massage.

The treatment room for the mineral mask was beautiful. One entire wall was rocks, with cascading water. The sound alone was enough to lull you into a zen like trance. Part of the roof was a panel of windows, allowing you to gaze up into the sky.

CelesteReviews Rumour Vichy Shower

Lying completely starkers under a bright printed cotton sheet, I experienced my first Vichy Shower. Seven jets of relaxing warm water spray over your entire body. It’s a magic trick how they subtly move the sheet revealing sections of your body, without ever losing your modesty, but they managed to coat the entire back of my body in a mud mask, leaving me to the sounds of the waterfall for 15 minutes, and then repeating the process on my front.

After a rinse and moisturise, I was directed to shower, put on a fluffy robe and slippers, and trudge next door to the massage room.

Sixty minutes of firm, yet relaxing, massage was heavenly. Who knew my body had so many knots that required detangling?

The time seemed to slip away too fast, or maybe I fell asleep for a bit, who knows? But, all too soon my time at Rumours was over. So I sipped my glass of bubbles and floated out the door, back to reality…

In a Nutshell: Expensive, but very relaxing.