The great school-term debate, gandering at the moon and Gandalf’s beautiful New Zealand

Paddleboarding in the Bay of Islands

This week in the water cooler: we discuss the great school-term debate, gander at the moon, explore Gandalf’s beautiful New Zealand and take a walk on the wildside.


“Can I help you get dinner?” The question came from one of the youngest of the four generations of our family holidaying together in the Bay of Islands in early February.
“Yes, please. Why don’t you grate the cauliflower?”
“Cauliflower?” he asked suspiciously. “What’s that for?” He was probably more interested in helping grill the snapper Tony had earlier caught and just brought, gutted and cleaned, into the kitchen.
However, he stuck with the cauliflower. This lovely 12-year-old came to sit beside me at an outside table on the deck enjoying a mellow summer evening and chopping preserved lemons, red onion, green olives and coriander. We tasted the cauliflower couscous, adjusting its saltiness and dousing it in lemon juice, wanting it to be an equal partner to the magnificent fish dish. His suggestion of adding toasted and chopped almonds was genius.

It was Day Five of our holiday and Day Five of glorious summer weather. His mum had thought long and hard about taking him and his younger sister out of school for a few days to join the clan holiday. She undoubtedly made the right decision – in my way of seeing the world. That relentlessly superb weather (seldom a feature of January) allowed the children to live outdoors every minute of the day; they paddle boarded, kayaked, swam, fished, went on long rides in big and little boats, they cooked, they sat at the dinner table each night hearing the “grown-ups” debating everything from the environment to that “awful plonker” in the U.S. They heard the 20-something-year-olds talk about their careers, they heard an 87-year-old’s view on the world and they shared their thoughts too.
All this could have happened at another time but it happens so much more easily and pleasurably in good summer weather. I’m a great fan of making the school terms fit the weather patterns and it seems many of you are too. Thanks for your responses to our newsletter poll. (Sign up for the newsletter here). Let the debate continue, so have your say  by emailing
Rread a selection of responses here 
Kate Coughlan
NZ LIFE & Leisure

Here’s the recipe for our final couscous dish, and yes, we thought it held its own against the beautiful crispy skin snapper.

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Recipe: Lucian and Kate’s Cauliflower Couscous

½ large, raw cauliflower, coarsely grated or finely chopped
½ cup preserved lemon finely chopped (or more for a more lemony taste)
½ cup coriander finely chopped, keep a few stalks whole to fling over the final dish
½ fresh red or orange pepper, seeds and fibres removed and finely chopped
½ red onion chopped very finely, soaked in lemon juice or white vinegar for 10 minutes, drain
½ cup pitted green olives, finely sliced (or Kalamata if preferred)
½ cup fresh pitted dates, finely chopped
½ red chilli, finely chopped (optional)
½ cup of toasted almonds, slivered
1-2 fresh lemons squeezed for juice
Maldon sea salt and cracked pepper
2 T good olive oil



Grate the cauliflower, or chop finely to approximately couscous size. Place in a large bowl. Add finely chopped preserved lemon, coriander, pepper, onion, olives and dates. Chop toasted almonds into slivers (if using raw almonds, toast them in a pan for a few minutes until lightly browned before slivering) and add.

Mix and taste before adding salt as the preserved lemons and olives are already salty. Add chilli gradually until required hotness – don’t kill the flavour with too much chilli (Lucian’s advice). Add cracked pepper (about 1 teaspoon), toss with lemon juice and let stand for at least 10 minutes to develop flavours.

Fork over with a couple of tablespoons of quality olive oil, toss whole coriander leaves over the top and serve.


If I ever misplace my iPhone, my photo stream would reveal only two things to the finder – firstly that I have a LOT of photos of my beloved greyhound (he’s just so photogenic) and secondly, that the remainder of my photos are almost entirely made up of New Zealand landscapes.

As editor of the Insider’s Guide to NZ, I feel safe in saying that having a healthy obsession with this beautiful country is all just part of the job, which is why this Gandalf themed photo series by Auckland photographer Akhil Suhas makes my heart soar. Find the photos here.

Last Friday, as photographer Jane Ussher and I were caught up in the Farewell Spit whale stranding, I spent a brief amount of time in the water trying to turn the pilot whales upright. I never gave a thought to taking off my shoes before wading in. It wasn’t until I removed my soggy Allbirds an hour or so later that I wondered if I’d destroyed them. Ah well – there were bigger mammals in the sea to worry about. However, here I am today sitting at my desk wearing my favourite sneakers. A brief wash in the shower or pop them in the washing machine, a day of drying and they are as good as new. I’m a little too cynical to believe all marketing hype but these shoes, the idea of the former All White Tim Brown, are the real deal.

Sam Mathers’ art works

One of my first interviews for NZ Life & Leisure was with artist Sam Mathers (May/June 2014). I’ve been following his work ever since, and when he posted a photo of his ‘Red Red Wine’ print, I knew it had to be mine. Dogs and wine? Two of my most beloved things! It’s currently sitting on my mantelpiece in a temporary frame, waiting for the day when it can be properly displayed in our own home. Rental properties aren’t the best place to curate an art collection, but my little stash of New Zealand art is slowly growing one impulse purchase at a time. At least this was easier than the time I purchased an enormous pottery bowl from Blenheim artist Fran Maguire during an Insider’s Guide trip, and never considered how to get it home on the plane…

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Sometimes a swipe of red lippy is all I need to face the day. This week I’m wearing Antipodes Moisture-Boost Natural Lipstick in Forest Berry Red. Even today with jeans and sneakers, because why not? We have two sets of three lipsticks to give away, valued at $102. Enter here
Cheree Morrison
Staff Writer
NZ Life & Leisure


The  Tangatapu Wetlands

Only in New Zealand is it possible to walk on a beautiful track through native wetlands and forest and arrive in a postcard-perfect bay without seeing a SINGLE soul. My partner Andrew and I were staying in the Bay of Islands recently and discovered a great little day-walk.

Native bush

The one-hour long Whangamumu Track (5600 steps each way) starts at the Tangatapu wetlands, 25 km east of Russell. The kahikatea wetlands have been painstakingly cleared of kikuyu grass over the past few years by the voluntary organisation Living Waters Bay of Islands and are gradually being restored into a kahikatea swamp forest and sanctuary for native birds such pateke (brown teal duck).

The walk leads to a gloriously quiet swimming bay at the site of the historic Whangamumu whaling station. The whaling operation lasted from 1844 to 1940 and was the only whaling site in the world to use nets to catch the mammals. The remains of the old station machinery and jetty are still visible.

I found it particularly poignant to visit this site given the recent whale stranding in Farewell Spit witnessed by our own Cheree Morrison and photographed in its tragic beauty by Jane Ussher. These days it’s only sailing boats dropping anchor in Whangamumu Bay and sunbathers beaching on its shores. Whalers were among the first Europeans to settle in New Zealanders and the industry played an important role in our history. But it’s heartening that these days, as a nation, we band together to protect these majestic animals.

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Emma Rawson


This was such a beautiful way to start the day.
At 6.59am the geese form a line and march across the orchard to wait at the gate for their kibbled maize breakfast. I’m not sure why they do this because as soon as I get within 2 metres of that gate, they waddle off at high speed, wings thrown up in horror.
My iphone tells me this photo was taken at 7am on the dot, and what you can’t hear is the annoyed honking as they impatiently wait for me to shoot the moon.
One of my favourite pieces of useless trivia is knowing why we can still see the moon during the day: the moon’s face is only ever half illuminated by the sun (the other half is facing away from it) and we only see certain angles of that half as the moon rotates around us. When the moon’s illuminated half isn’t facing us, the moon seems to disappear. Then as it rotates around over the next 29.5 days, we see more of it, until it is ‘full’, meaning it is fully facing us.
The tree just behind the geese is one of my four peach trees, and when I headed out to feed the geese this morning, the first peach had fallen. Delicious, and bonus protein if I’d chosen to eat the bug that just did not want to remove itself from the fluff (I declined).
Nadene Hall
NZ Lifestyle Block


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