Water cooler: The Girl on the Train and a girl’s crafty secret

This week in the water cooler: we review The Girl on the Train, we discover a girl’s crafty secret store and have birds on the brain.


A visiting swallow,

A visiting swallow.

My house does (desperately) needs a good wash down with a water blaster, but this little mess (see below) has been made – appropriately – by a pair of welcome swallows right outside my front door.
These are industrious birds and their work would pass any building consent process. They spent a few days building a base of sticky mud, splattering it up onto the eaves above as they carefully moulded it over the rounded downpipe. Then came the walls, a traditional cob mix of mud and grass. Today I can see it is now carefully lined with soft layers of feathers.


Swallow nest.

NZ Birds Online tells me I can look forward to them laying 3-5 pinkish, brown speckled eggs which will take 15 days to hatch, and that this pair may use their nest a couple of times this spring.
The water blaster was sitting at the base of this pipe, waiting for use on a fine day. That day is now at least a couple of weeks in the future.

– Nadene Hall
Editor, NZ Lifestyle Block


I always feel sorry for filmmakers attempting to adapt a book for the big screen. Movie versions are a bit of a hospital pass, as book lovers are bound to be disappointed. How can you possibly recreate the connection you have with book characters in two and a half hours on screen? The new film version of Paula Hawkins’ best-seller The Girl on the Train achieves the seemingly impossible, creating a movie that’s actually better than the paperback.

The film follows Rachel (Emily Blunt) a troubled woman who escapes from her problems through alcohol and by living vicariously through Megan (Haley Bennett) and Scott (Luke Evans), a couple she watches through the window on her train. One day she witnesses Megan kissing another man from the train. Days later Megan is missing and Rachel feels somehow connected to her disappearance.


Emily Blunt in The Girl on the Train.

The book of The Girl on the Train was immensely popular, but listeners of our Off-Topic Book Club podcast will know that I wasn’t a fan – I found the storytelling methods of the author manipulative and the plot tedious. But in the hands of director Tate Taylor (The Help) the story is transformed from a tired and slow steam engine to a speedy bullet train. On the pages, the Rachel character and her alcoholism felt overdrawn, however Emily Blunt’s performance brings subtlety to the character that helps the audience empathise with her heartbreak over her marriage breakup. This is not a movie where you need to read the book first to enjoy it, in fact, you are better off if you haven’t.

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– Emma Rawson
thisNZlife Editor



Imagine a library where you check out pizzas instead of books; where librarians are replaced with waiters in top hats, old coach booths and cinema seats instead of couches, and a piano doubles as a front counter. Sounds like something out of a Tim Burton movie. But a pizza library really exists in Tauranga.
The Pizza Library combines ginormous gourmet pizzas with classic book titles . Whether you go for a James and the Giant Peach, a pizza with chicken breast, caramelised onions, apricot sauce, and cream cheese, or the Three Blind Mice, a three cheese trio of feta, cream cheese, and mozzarella, it’s a true page-turner.
The theatricality of the restaurant enhances the pizza flavour, and if you’re after an extra slice of action there’s live music to enjoy every Friday night. A must-see if you are visiting The Mount over Labour Weekend –  and if it’s too busy (there’s also a branch in Bethlehem).

-Rhianna Osborne
thisNZlife intern




I love giving presents. There’s nothing better than that excited heart flutter feeling when you stumble upon the perfect gift for someone. My only problem is I then can’t help myself from giving it to them then and there, which is why my husband’s wedding anniversary present is being stored at work for the next three weeks. I don’t know how many people I’ve told about Etsy in the past year or so – it’s my go-to online shopping destination for all gifts. Even some for myself… it’s only fair.

Etsy  is an online marketplace, a one-stop shop for anything and everything homemade, vintage or custom designed. It’s like walking into the world’s largest craft market, where the only thing holding you back is imagination and credit card limits are the only… limit.

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When it came to planning our wedding, Etsy was a godsend. I ordered handmade earrings for my bridesmaids from Michigan, personalised bottle openers from Tennessee, wine cork cufflinks for my wine-obsessed husband from New Jersey, and our custom greyhound cake topper from California. I’ve just commissioned a picture from an artist in Klaipeda, Lithuania, and I’ve got my eye on handmade greyhound pajamas (for the dog, not me, and yes, I know I have a problem) from Scotland.

It’s easy to support local too, you can search for sellers based in your area. In a nutshell, it’s the perfect place for gifts or just a browse, a way to support local and international artists and creators. Delivery is quick and easy, and the site stores your credit card details so you don’t have to sneak out of bed to find them at 2am when you can’t sleep.

A perfect example of a local Etsy success story? Needle & Nail recently won the 2016 Etsy Community Choice award. It’s not bad for a business run out of a Whatawhata garage. Shop their store here.

– Cheree Morrison
Staff Writer, NZ Life & Leisure



It’s 10 years to the month since I walked into a newly set-up craft brewery north-west of Auckland and had a taste of Stephen Plowman’s first four creations in testing glasses lined up along a short bar. His work as a geologist had got boring – “I got sick of hitting rocks with a hammer” – and he had started making beer as a hobby. It was more fun and after working in a craft brewery in Perth, he came home with an idea, to brew his own creations, even grow some hop plants – a challenge this far north – and to start a premium beer and food destination, Hallertau.
All I remember of the small bar itself was that it was in the middle of what felt like nowhere, surrounded by farmland, and that Stephen and his wife Hayley were very inspiring. This is Stephen talking about his role as brewer back in 2006..
“Basically any new beer I brew, I’ve got a notebook and I analyse it. You look at it, you smell it, the aromas, then taste it on the palate, it’s the same process as wine tasting. The major difference with beer is bitterness is perceived down the back of the throat, so you have to swallow it. It’s dreadful! Seriously, you just drink very small amounts.”
This week, NZ Lifestyle Block‘s designer Rebecca celebrated her birthday. The day after, we went on a photo shoot in Helensville, so as a birthday treat we went to Hallertau.
Things have changed. The beer is still the same, but there are a lot more flavours to try. In 2006, I taste-tested Stephen’s four babies: Luxe, Statesman, Copper Tart and Schwarzbier. Those beers have stood the test of time, leading the Hallertau menu, but today there are 11 more flavours in the family.
On this (working) day we didn’t partake in the beer, future bottles brewing in huge vats behind us in a new, amazing building. It’s surrounded by thousands of houses now. I may be old.
Instead we ate a delicious lunch. Pictured above is half of my triple-smoked pancetta, pear, rocket and pecorino pizza, crisped to perfection in a blazing hot pizza oven. Not pictured but just as divine was Rebecca’s pulled barbecue chicken with charred broccoli, hazelnuts, dates, onion jam and smoked brinza cheese. This cheese was a punch to the taste buds, very smoky, then fading to the most delightful creamy mouth feel.
The whole time we were eating, tourists were taking picture after picture of the beautiful dining room, the enormous silver vats, and even the playground of climbing walls.
I don’t drink beer, but I had fun in this brewery.

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Nadene Hall
NZ Lifestyle Block Editor

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