Piece Together a Picture of Paradise


Every December I have the same problem. Christmas Cards. I really want to send them, and I really, really want to include a letter as well.  After all, for some of my friends, this is the only time of year we’re in touch.

But, here’s the thing. The end of the school year is taken up with one thing, and one thing only. The School Production.  It consumes every waking moment (and sometimes sleeping moments too) as we work to get the big show ready. So, no time for letter writing there.  

And of course when it’s all done and dusted, so are my energy levels. Now I have the time, but my brain has shut down. Inevitably what happens is, the packet of cards sits on the shelf and stares accusingly at me, never to be sent.

So this year I did something a little different. Instead of cards I sent some postcard puzzles. Intrigued? I hope so. Here’s the article I wrote on my daughter Jenny, and her clever idea.

Piece together a slice of New Zealand

Young and carefree, Jenny McNamee loved to travel, working where she could and exploring the wonders of the world.  And even when she touched base back home in New Zealand, as a tourism expert she helped  travellers from all over the globe to experience the beauties of her own, lovely country.

But whether overseas or in New Zealand, the same problem always presented itself: Where to find that unique, small, lightweight, easy to pack or post, perfect souvenir?

Fast forward to 2017, and the arrival of baby Harvey presented Jenny with the perfect time to focus on solving the problem.

A search through her diverse collection of stunning photographs… the giant jigsaw on the dining room table… an exploratory click on the internet and “Postcard Puzzles” was born.

A jigsaw and a postcard in one, Postcard Puzzles solve the souvenir dilemma in a unique and playful manner.

You can break it up and do the puzzle yourself, or write on the back and mail it to family and friends.

All the photos are from Jenny’s own South Island collection. With four iconic images to choose from and more in the pipeline, postcard puzzles are available at selected outlets in Oamaru, Garston and Te Anau, or contact Jenny online through her Facebook page


“Give Me Today My Daily Walk”

When I say “I go for a walk every morning,” I’m positive the picture that pops into your mind, is not the reality that is my daily walk.

This is the best way to begin my day. Body and brain, heart and mind — all are refreshed and kick-started into action. It’s the fitness routine that I simply can’t do without

Such a beautiful route

Every day is different as I start walking up the grassy paddock that constitutes my backyard. In December the light will already be well advanced, but now that it’s nearer February, the 6 a.m. daylight is pale. Sunrise over the mountains is still more than an hour away. The dawn chorus is over by now, but the ducklings in their pen by the pond can be heard cheeping long before I see them. They know I’m bringing food and fresh water. The older ducks waddle up, ever-hopeful, but they’re always disappointed. Terry will feed them this evening.

Past the duck pond and into the second paddock. This one is steeper, leading up to the hills which form the rugged boundary of our farm.  Once upon a time, I toiled up this hill, but now I speed up to get my heart-rate going. This familiar walk is no longer the challenge it once was.  At the top, I’m relieved to see water cascading out of the water tank.  The overflow means that all is well with the farm water supply.

Up I go

Climbing through the wire fence, there are many possible routes to take,  but my favourite at the moment is scrambling up the creek. This is the lovely spring that feeds our house and much of the farm. Sometimes it’s a torrent that I wouldn’t go near, but today it’s a trickle. We are so close to drought — but so far this little spring has not let us down.

Where the creek meets the water race I pause to gaze at the panorama spread out before me. It’s a familiar, ever-changing, spectacular view of the valley I call home.

The water race is filled in now —  a winding path that takes me across the mountainside. But it was designed to be a deep ditch, full of rushing water, for use at the goldmine in the next-door Nokomai Valley. There’s no hint of this today.  Now the path is filled with tussock and rocks. The cows and sheep have their own tracks meandering along, showing the easiest route to take through the dips and hollows of the seven little streams and marshes that cross the race.

Heading home

The homeward walk is all downhill. It gives me time to reflect on the day to come and give thanks for the wonder that is my daily walk.

Do you have a favourite walk or an unmissable start to your day?  Do, please,  make a comment about it.  

I’d love to hear about your routine.

A Few More Farm Stories On TOML

Making Hay While The Sun Shines

Gathering In The Grain

Oh! Those Gum Trees On The Farm

Is This Your First Visit To TOML?

Discover the Who, What and Why of Time of my Life 


3 Lists to Sort Out Your Day

Lists on notice board

You absolutely need a list.

Do you find it difficult to get things done? Do you end each day wondering what you achieved? Frustrated by the never-ending chores still looming? If this is you, the solution is clear: you need to make a list.

Why make a list?

Lists are an invaluable tool for creating order in your day and in your life. Your list lets you see the tasks to be done and set priorities so you don’t get overwhelmed.

When you follow a list you can master your day. You won’t find yourself spending hours on social media or mind-numbing TV. Your tasks are done,  and believe me, there’s nothing like the satisfaction of a crossed out list. If you’re a champion procrastinator, an over-worked parent or simply overwhelmed by life, a list could be the tool that saves the day.

Here are my top three essential lists.

The Daily Task list

This list organises your day-to-day life. Simply write down the tasks that you want to achieve during your day. I include everything – work, study, food, leisure, gardening, housework, walking the dog, visiting a friend, reading a book, checking Facebook. That way I get a balance in my day and don’t feel overwhelmed with hated tasks (housework!).     

Cross off each task as it is completed: there’s nothing like the satisfaction of a crossed-out list. What a lot you accomplished today!

Break it down

Break large tasks into specific jobs. Take a moment to think about a good order to tackle them and which ones could be multi-tasked. Maybe laundry is on your list,? Just put the washing machine on and then move onto another task. You can cross them both off together – two for the price of one, hooray!

If something unexpected comes up don’t stress. If friends call in, or your husband suggests “let’s go out for the day” say “sure!” and add it to your list. It might bump the housework down the pecking order, but that’s okay. Your list is a tool to help your life, not to stop you from having fun.

Finally – don’t beat yourself up if a few tasks are still undone that night. Smile and reschedule them for another time.

Weekly menu plan

At the end of a busy day, the last thing I want to do is decide what to have for dinner.

What’s in the cupboard? What did we have yesterday? Can I be bothered? It’s much easier to reach for the phone and order take-out.

But take-out every night is bad for your wallet, and terrible for your waistline.

What’s the solution? Make another list.

It takes a bit of practice to decide on your meals for a whole week in advance, but the savings in time and money make this list a no-brainer.

Think about your needs first

Start by writing down any activities or commitments that will happen on a particular day for you and for your family. That will help you decide what sort of meal to cook.

Will you get home late on Wednesday? Plan on a slow-cooker meal: you can start it in the morning and come home to a delicious meal at night.

Rushing off to a class after tea, or taking the kids to sports practice?  Plan for cold meat and salad with a bread roll – easy to put out and even easier to pack away afterwards.

Maybe Thursdays are your quiet days: that’s the time to be adventurous and plan for a meal that will take more time to prepare and cook.

Decide on the menu

Once you’ve sorted your activities, choose your meals and write them next to each day.

Make it as simple or detailed as you want.

Doing a little thinking and planning once a week will save you the stress of having to make decisions when you’re tired and hungry. It will save you time and money when you shop because you’ll know exactly what you need to buy. And it allows you to eat healthy, budget-friendly meals every day of the week.

Once you’ve got a few menus prepared you can simply rotate them, with a few tweaks for changing activities. So three or four plans could last you an entire season before you feel the need to change. What a bonus!

The S.M.A.R.T.  List.

Most people have a dream they’d love to achieve. But often it’s so big and vague that it’s impossible to succeed. But your plans CAN be realised: with the help of a third list.

S.M.A.R.T stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Results-Orientation and  Time-bound, offering the perfect framework for reaching your goals.

To create a SMART list, think about steps you need to take to achieve your dream goal. You might need to break each step down into even smaller goals. For each goal, set a time limit by which you will get it done, and write down the results you want to see at the end.

You can do it!

You can use SMART lists for any goal, be it personal or professional. I was overweight and unfit after years of working too hard and neglecting my health. But when I finally decided to stop moaning and actually do something about it, I made my goal specific – to lose 10 kg in 3 months. This was specific, measurable results-oriented and achievable and making it time-bound helped me to focus on achieving milestones at regular intervals. It was amazing to see those pounds disappearing and my SMART list kept me motivated.

The Power of a List

Don’t underestimate the power of these lists. By using them you can free up your mind and your time. You can make room in your life for yourself, your family and your friends. Your goals can be achieved; Tasks will be done: Meals will be a breeze!

So my new year’s resolution (made at the end of  January) is simple:

Keep on making lists.

If I don’t have a list, it won’t get done.

So what am I  waiting for? What are you waiting for?

Start enjoying life again. Get things done. and feel that sense of accomplishment.

Make that list today.

Writing a list.

Travelling With Toddlers

Lizette O. has never been a boy scout, but when it comes to travelling with toddlers she swears by their motto: Be Prepared.


South African born Lizette and her Kiwi husband, James  were London-based globetrotters for 10 years before settling in New Zealand to raise their boys. But work and family commitments have meant that Owen (4) and baby James (18 months) have already flown to South Africa, Australia and around New Zealand many times in their short lives. Lizette says with careful planning and by putting their needs first, her children are generally happy and settled wherever they go in the world.

Lizette’s Top Tips for Travel:

  • Start preparing two weeks in advance ― pack away some favourite books and toys. That way when you bring them out on the trip they will be something familiar, but at the same time new and exciting.
  • Talk with your children about where you are going, who you will see, how you will travel and what it will be like there.
  • Pack a “24-hour kit”. Lizette’s travel bag includes nutritious snacks, 3 outfits of clothing per child, 10 nappies, milk powder for 6 bottles, baby wipes, plastic bags for rubbish and her trusty medicine bag (teething gel, nappy cream, Pamol and a syringe.)
  • Join Koru Club. The lounge away from the general bustle is a welcome stress-saver, but the real boon is in the food. “There is always food at Koru Club; even if you are in a hurry you can grab fresh food and feed the whole family without having to think. It’s a life saver!”
  • Time your flights with the children in mind. If possible, base your flights around the children’s routines, so you are not getting them up too early, nor disrupting sleep patterns with late-night arrivals.
  • Take something to suck when the plane is going down. Time the baby’s bottle so that he is hungry and wants to suck at that time.

Have a plan for when you arrive…

When travelling with small children, the journey is only half the picture. Lizette and James always have a plan for arrival at a new destination too. Experience has shown them that the children will settle quickly if they feel their new place is home. “When we get to the hotel, James will take the children and walk them around. [He says] This is our kitchen; this is your room – and our room – see how close we are? We will be here when you wake up…”


Another helpful strategy – ensure they have pyjamas or a cuddly washed in your usual washing powder. “That way it smells like home,” explains Lizette.

If you bottle feed, and will be travelling a lot, start your babies on S26 milk powder, available everywhere in the world. “Also our babies always drink it cold” says Lizette, “so we never have to worry about heating milk.”

Happy child – Happy travel

So there it is; a settled child is a happy child. Be prepared. Build your travel around routines wherever possible and try not to stress. That way you’ll all have a pleasant trip. Bon voyage!

Do you have travel tips to share?  I’d love you to leave a comment.

6 Queenstown Adventure Thrills

“Wiped out big time yesterday,” the boy next to me remarked, displaying an impressive graze. “Yeah – took a corner too fast.” he grinned. “Won’t happen today.”

I’m not into extreme bike trails so I left him and his mates hitching a gondola ride to the top of the Ben Lomond track and cycled off to tackle the lake path instead.

I’m lucky to live in Queenstown.

Nestled beside Lake Wakatipu in the heart of the southern mountains, Queenstown is aptly styled ‘Adventure Capital of New Zealand’. Whether you’re a first-time jelly-legs or serious adrenaline addict, there’s an adventure to challenge you here. And over the years, my family’s tackled quite a few.

Here are six of our favourites…


NZSki.com gets you to the top of two of NZ’s premier downhill ski areas (Coronet Peak and The Remarkables) within half an hour, not to mention the slightly further away Nordic Skiing option of The Snow Park. Also within easy reach are two other premier ski fields at nearby Wanaka: Cardrona and Treble Cone. 

Skipper’s Canyon:

Just beyond the shopping, restaurants, bars and hotels of downtown Queenstown, the rugged outback awaits. This is four-wheel-drive country and if you don’t have your own there are plenty of companies to take you there in whatever degree of comfort (or not) you desire. We went in an SUV, but you can try motorbike and quad bike options, or there are plenty of tracks only accessible by foot.

Bungy Jump:

Jenny did the four-jump combo in ONE day. The historic Kawerau Bridge bungy: “Awesome!” The Nevis Bungy and Swing: “Lost my stomach!” The Ledge: “Did a somersault off that one. Wicked!”

Jet Boats:  

So many to choose from:

The Shotover Jet is half an hour of thrills; spins and speed through the white-water canyons of the Shotover River.

The Kawarau River jet gives you a long journey over the lake before zooming up the Kawarau.

The Dart River Wilderness Jet – This jet adventure out of Glenorchy takes you into the wilderness of the Mt Aspiring National Park. I’ve done all three of these over the years but this one’s my favourite.


A 16th birthday present for Chris and Renato, flying high behind the roaring jet boat as it zoomed around the lake – lucky parents got to watch.

If you hanker for heights, Queenstown’s got plenty. Tandem paragliding and hang-gliding companies regularly leap off the mountain tops, or you can go all the way up and try ballooning or, skydiving. Or why not head out from the airport in an L29 fighter jet for a spot of aerobatics?

Zip Line:

Ziptrek Ecotours offers six zip-lines to whizz you through the forest canopy, giving spectacular views on an exhilarating ride. The eco-information offered at each stop is short and sweet – just right to take in while waiting for your turn to “fly”.

Wherever you go in New Zealand, you can find an adventure. The rugged mountains, myriad lakes and rivers and spectacular coastline offer endless possibilities for tramping, climbing, fishing, cycling and more. But if you want it all on your doorstep, then come to Queenstown. You won’t be disappointed.

(Visit The Official Queenstown Website to discover more.)

Queenstown Posts On The Blog

Bridging the Kawarau Falls

Altitude Brewing: The Great Adventure

Buzzstop Honey Centre: Loving Our Bees