2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,700 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 45 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Top USA destination for Kiwi Kids other than Disneyland.


The Southern Style


Atlanta in Georgia state has so much to offer for a family vacation. My grandchildren 8, 6 and 4, live there so I know what fun there is in the ‘Peach‘ state! I think it’s worth the additional  flight from California, and my UK rellies agree with me, they have 7 year old twins and loved their time in Georgia.

So here is my suggested itinerary depending on your time away from home and the ages of your children..  Remember when planning your trip the height of summer (July – August) is very hot and oppressive and the winters (Dec. January February) are very cold with possible snow in the mountains. So I’m suggesting April school holidays. The benefits are that you expose your family to a culturally different experience while still speaking English.  In the  south, as Atlanta is known, the food  varies: for example  shrimp and grits, waffles, hot dogs, smoked and pulled meats, the best steaks and check out the Red Velvet Cup Cakes if you have a sweet tooth.

Here is my suggested educational and FUN filled USA holiday for the pre teen family.

Of course there is much more to do than my suggestions,  but this will keep you busy for two weeks. You could also  add in Savannah out on the coast if time allows. Personally I wouldn’t take small children there, great for parents though. Cape Canaveral in Northern Florida!

And Disney World in Orlando instead of Los Angeles. It just takes some planning and lateral thinking.

Day 1

Fly to Los Angeles and

Day 2 and 3 stay two nights at Disneyland…  Or save this for another trip! 

Day 4

Fly to ATLANTA, Georgia just 41/2 hours direct flight on Delta. Flying via San Francisco gives different time options to hop across to Atlanta, which may be easier for you. Arrive Atlanta , the busiest airport in the USA so take it easy and don’t rush. Most flights require a train ride to baggage collection.

Rent a car at the airport or use taxis and rent a car the day you head out-of-town. Suggest you stay in a mid city hotel such as The Marriott in Buckhead. The Ritz Carlton has good deals on weekends too.

Maybe get a baby sitter and dine at one of Americas’ finest restaurants – Bacchanalia 4.1/2 stars.1198 Howell Mill Road Northwest, Atlanta, GA 30318 – but difficult I know when travelling with children.

Day 5

Today visit the Home of Coca Cola in the morning. Or head to Stone Mountain. We visited pre-Christmas and they had a snow tobogganing run, the entertainment changes with the seasons. It is not a mountain by NZ standards but it is fun. Two photos below  from my trip to Stone Mountain.




After lunch take in a pre booked show at the Atlanta Puppetry Theatre or at night-time. I love this small theatre. The Center for Puppetry Arts is a unique cultural treasure – a magical place where children and adults are entranced. Early Bookings essential tickets@puppet.org … After the show they provide a “hands on” make your own puppet session. Great fun.

Day 6

Today is a treat – visit the famous Georgia Aquarium. This is the world’s most inspiring aquarium with over 8 million gallons of water the top Atlanta attraction, right in the heart of downtown, don’t miss the Beluga Whales. This venue opened debt free thanks to one families generosity! Georgia Aquarium’s new Beluga & Friends Interactive Program is a never-before-offered opportunity for an exclusive animal encounter with Georgia Aquarium’s beloved beluga whales! This inspirational, educational program allows guests to don Aquarium wetsuits and wade into the water to interact with the animals alongside Aquarium beluga whale trainers. Guests will also get a chance to meet some of the other animals that live in the Georgia-Pacific Cold Water Quest gallery. With only eight slots per session, it’s an intimate experience you and your family will never forget but you must pre book!


Then maybe a visit to the biggest fishing shop I’ve ever seen “Bass Pro“.

LMC-8749-EditInside the Bass Pro store

One has to keep the Dad’s happy too – There is a shooting arcade in this store and a climbing wall plus a few tanks of live fish. Features fishing tackle and equipment, hunting, camping, marine, and outdoors supplies, plus clothing, it’s crazy…

‎Day 7

Maybe visit the Giant Pandas  at the Atlanta Zoo or pack up and head out-of-town.  The zoo is one of four zoos in the U.S. currently housing giant pandas.

 The Tellus Museum delights most youngsters as they gaze in awe  at life-size dinosaurs. Again this place was  created by the generosity of one wealthy family. There is a planetarium there too.  Tellus Museum in Cartersville …** Tellus Science Museum.


see the mouth of a Tyrannosaurus Rex, catch a glimpse of a saber-tooth cat and discover how life on Earth began in the Tellus Fossil Gallery. Parked outside are some big Euclids and other pieces of machinery. Also try your luck  searching for fossils in the big sandpit!

If you have daughters The American Girl Doll shop is a must see. If you own a doll they will give it a hair do in their special Salon but be warned this is credit card territory! It is 45 minutes approx from downtown Atlanta.slide1-121514

Other places  if time allows are The Children’s Museum of Atlanta especially for pre-schoolers.

And the Atlanta Botanical Garden, at certain times of the year they run special exhibits and events.

SHOPPING – Atlanta has the best shopping in the USA some would say. So while Dad is at Bass Pro eyeing up a new boat or fishing Rod I suggest 2-3 hours at Lennox Mall for the shoppers in the family. Don’t miss Anthropologie a superb homeware and clothing store. Another personal favourite is Kate Spade.  Close by is an excellent eatery  with tables outside (opposite Anthropologie. )   Lennox Square.  Since 1959, Lenox Square® has been the premier shopping destination. Macy’s and nearly 250 specialty stores like FENDI, Burberry, Cartier,

Day 8

Out of Town so perhaps stay somewhere north of The Tellus Museum.**Decisions and choices are numerous. Time is the enemy. Google the links and make your decisions, impossible to everything  especially if anyone needs an afternoon nap! Probably the parents

More options:

The Biltmore Estate


America’s largest home-built by George Vanderbilt. Stay and explore the 8000-acre beautiful and grand estate in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Biltmore Estate is a large private estate and tourist attraction in Asheville, North Carolina. Biltmore House, the main house on the estate, is a Châteauesque-styled mansion built by George Washington. It is a beautiful stately home worth a visit if time allows. If not head for a couple of days in the foothills of the The Appalachian Trail is a 2,185 mile long public footpath that traverses the scenic, …  pastoral, wild, and culturally resonant lands of the Appalachian Mountains.IMG_4746

I like Lake Burton too, it is  not touristy at all. Stay 2-3 nights and relax. Maybe do a spot of fishing.  remember too it is cooler in the mountains than back in Atlanta.






While at Lake Burton area don’t miss Sliding Rock at Lake Burton, a swimming hole with hours of child entertainment. My grandson aged 8 loves this place! https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=PYYDhYdbi7w

Day 9

Return to Atlanta via  Goats on the Roof a great fun place for children. The children  get to pan for gold and keep their findings. The goats are crazy! Children love it. You buy goat food but worth it really! I suggest a night in a hotel in Atlanta  to catch your breath before the flight home.

Maybe visit the  Marietta Square for great boutique shops and restaurants. A top Restaurant with wonderful southern food is The Butcher The Baker More an adult restaurant but soooo good.  23 North Park Square, Marietta.


Also nearby is the historic Civil War Battleground. Good eateries like Willie Raes  for Southern foods, colouring pencils etc for small people. Or the Marietta Pizza Company,or any one of the local pizza places. and a historic old Tram Ride if you want to sit and watch historic old homes and relax a while. It isn’t a priority but it is enjoyable.

Then fly directly to LAX and onto Auckland that night…you’ll all sleep well on the plane after all that excitement and Georgia hospitality. Any other ideas please comment below and where ever you take your children  enjoy the journey.

Civic And Fox Theatres opened in 1929




imageThe Civic and The Fox opened the same year… one in Auckland, New Zealand and one *7587.56 miles away in Atlanta, Georgia.  So what you say!! Read on , I was surprised and you might be too.  Both have starry blue night skies and other similarities. Similar but different 🙂

*(12210.67 Kilometers)


imageThe Civicimage

Recently  I visited Atlanta, Georgia and we attended The Nut Cracker Suite by The Atlanta Ballet Company at the FOX  Theatre. I was in for a big surprise to see a theatre very similar in style to the CIVIC Theatre in Auckland. The ballet performance was also outstanding.

As soon as I could I Googled these two Theatres and was amazed to discover they both opened in 1929

The Civic

Architectural style  – Moorish revival
Architect: Charles Bohringer and William T. Leighton

The Fox

imageThe Fox

Architectural Style -Mohammedan

Architect:  Marye, Alger and Vinour

The similarities are I discovered part of a world trend to build beautiful theatres mostly throughout the USA and  two in New Zealand (the Rialto Theatre in Dunedin is the other) These were called atmospheric theatres.


An atmospheric theatre is a type of movie palace that was popular in the 1920s in America. “Rather than seating the theatre patrons in a boxlike formal setting as passive observers of stage entertainment, the atmospheric design transported them to an exotic European courtyard or garden. A plain cerulean sky replaced the ornate dome of traditional theatre design. Wispy floating clouds produced by a projector replaced crystal chandeliers and gilt. Trees, plants, vines and taxidermy birds replaced gold leaf. Arches, trellises, balconies and plaster statuary replaced marble, painted wood panels and crystal chandeliers. As the entertainment was about to begin, lighting effects created the illusion of a setting sun, as colors changed from yellow to red to mauve. Small lights, arranged in the ceiling in constellation patterns, twinkled to create a sense of infinite space. The atmospheric theatre design made the theatre patron an active, comfortable resident of an imaginary time and place, not a passive, aloof occupant of an oppressive formal space.

imageABOVE: This Wurlitzer piano rises out of the floor and is played at intermission at The Fox

The style caught on quickly in the US and around the world, as it promised an escape from the often economically difficult times of the 1930s into a type of fantasy world, where not only the movie but also the building aided the transfer. The setting helped people forget reality for a time.

The FOX was originally built as a Shriners Temple but soon after William Fox bailed them out and so The Fox was born.

Like  the Civic Theatre in Auckland The Fox was restored in more recent times to the elegance of their earlier days.
imageThe Civic

The following are atmospheric theatres located outside of the United States:

Auckland Civic Theatre (Auckland, New Zealand).
The Auckland Civic Theatre is the largest surviving atmospheric cinema in Australasia, built in 1929 and featuring an India-inspired motif. Seating 2,750 viewers, in 2000 it was restored to near-original condition.[6] Peter Jackson used the Civic in his remake of the film King Kong.

Rialto Cinema (Dunedin, New Zealand).
The Rialto Cinema originally seated 2,000. The cinema has been converted into a six-theater multiplex. Renovations in 1998 restored its Moorish-themed features and night sky.

Le Grand Rex (Paris, France)
Le Grand Rex is the largest cinema, theater and music venue in Paris, with 2,800 seats. Opened in 1932, the cinema features a starred “sky” overhead, as well as interior fountains, and resembles a Mediterranean courtyard at night. The cinema features one of the largest screen in Europe.

This is a list of atmospheric theatres in the USA.

Avalon (Chicago)
Moorish Revival

Akron Civic Theatre (Akron, Ohio)
The theater was built in 1929 by Marcus Loew and designed by theater architect John Eberson. It opened as Loew’s Theatre and seats 5,000 people. The auditorium is designed to resemble a night in a Moorish garden. Twinkling stars and drifting clouds travel across the domed ceiling. Located on Akron’s South Main Street, the theater’s entrance lobby extends over the Ohio and Erie Canal. The theater has a small multicolored terra cotta façade dominated by a large marquee. The interior of the entrance and lobby is designed to resemble a Moorish castle with Mediterranean decor, complete with medieval style carvings, authentic European antiques and Italian alabaster sculptures. A grand full-sized organ hidden beneath the stage rises to the stage level on a special elevator.[2] The theater closed for comprehensive restoration and expansion in 2001 and reopened in 2002.

Indiana Theatre (Terre Haute, Indiana)
The Indiana Theatre has a Spanish courtyard design.

Majestic (Dallas, TX)
Renaissance Revival

Majestic (San Antonio, TX)
Spanish courtyard

Olympia (Miami, FL)
Moorish Revival

Orpheum (Wichita, KS)
Spanish courtyard

Palace (Canton, OH)
Spanish courtyard

Palace (Marion, Ohio)
A John Eberson-designed theater built in 1928 and renovated in 1976. With a Spanish Revival courtyard design, the theatre features low voltage lighting in the ceiling to mimic stars and the original reconditioned cloud machine to simulate moving clouds. Alcoves in the theatre contain stuffed birds, including Eberson’s signature parrot, and the original Pietro Capronistatues.

Palace (Louisville, KY)
Spanish Baroque

Palace (Carpenter) (Richmond, VA)

Paramount (Anderson, IN)
Spanish Courtyard

Riviera (Rose Blumkin) (Omaha, NE)

State (Kalamazoo, MI)
Spanish courtyard

Tampa Theatre (Tampa, Florida).
The Tampa Theatre was built in 1926. Designed by John Eberson, the Tampa is a superior example of the atmospheric style featuring an auditorium that resembles a Mediterranean courtyard under a nighttime sky. Featured on the theater’s opening night was the silent film The Ace of Cads starring Adolph Menjou.

Uptown Theater (Kansas City, Missouri).
This John Eberson-designed Italian Renaissance atmospheric theater opened in 1928 and features an outdoor Mediterranean courtyard motif. It was built to seat 2,300, but the current configuration allows for 1,700.

7th Street Theatre (Hoquiam, Washington).
The 7th Street Theatre was built in 1928, seats over 950 people, and features an outdoor Spanish garden motif.

Fox Theatre (Atlanta, Georgia)
The Fox Theatre was built in 1929 and is the city’s only surviving movie palace. The original architecture and décor can be roughly divided into two architectural styles: Islamic architecture (building exterior, auditorium, Grand Salon, mezzanine Gentlemen’s Lounge and lower Ladies Lounge) and Egyptian architecture (Egyptian Ballroom, mezzanine Ladies Lounge and lower Gentlemen’s Lounge). The 4,678-seat auditorium replicates an Arabian courtyard complete with a night sky of 96 embedded crystal “stars” (a third of which flicker) and a projection of clouds that slowly drift across the “sky.”

Fox Theatre(Visalia, California)
The Fox Theatre was built 1929-30. It was designed to evoke the garden of a South Asian temple.[4]

Gateway Theatre (Chicago, Illinois)
The Gateway Theatre was built in Chicago’s Jefferson Park neighborhood, the Gateway Theatre is an atmospheric theater designed by architect Mason Rapp of the prestigious firm of Rapp & Rapp in 1930. It was the city’s first movie theater built exclusively for the talkies.

Lido Theatre (The Pas, Manitoba, CAN).
The Lido Theatre was built in 1930 and designed by Max Blankstein. The Lido is the world’s longest continuously operating atmospheric theatre (82 years straight as of 2012). The interior features an outdoor Mediterranean courtyard motif. It was built to seat 600 people but the current configuration allows for 350. The Lido has avoided major renovations, remaining close to its original design. A rare survivor in its class, one of the few cinemas to stay in the same family for four generations; It remains owned by the Rivalin family.[5] Other atmospheric theaters in Canada include the Roxy Theatre in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan and the Capitol Theatre in Port Hope, Ontario.

Midwest Theatre (Oklahoma City, Oklahoma)
(1931). John Eberson’s last atmospheric design, 17 N. Harvey Ave., Oklahoma City.

Paradise Center for the Arts (Faribault, Minnesota).
The Paradise Center for the Arts was Built in 1929 on the site of the former Faribault Opera House, the Paradise was recently renovated. The motif is one of a Moorish courtyard with Turkish caps over the doors, turrets and ‘stonework’ walls. Originally built to seat 915, the Paradise has been altered to seat 300.

Saenger Theatre (New Orleans, Louisiana)
The Saenger Theatre (New Orleans, Louisiana) was built in 1927 for the Saenger Theatres chain by architect Emile Weil, Its interior evokes a baroque Florentine courtyard. Originally seating approximately 4,000, in 1980 its seating was reduced to approximately 2,736 and it began to function as a performing arts center with occasional film screenings.

I  hope you enjoy this little introduction to the Theatres of the Great Depression, feel welcome to share with other theatre friends.

Christmas shopping ideas –

Christmas shopping demands some lateral thinking these days. I have drawn a short list of ideas for those who are struggling to decide what to buy.  Let’s face it soxs don’t cut it anymore!! Many of these products are sold everywhere in NZ but not all. (Blue word are links)

So in no particular order a few fun and funky ideas.

Some for men, some for “me” and some for children!

Cute video –   click on this  link to give yourself the warm fuzzies … 🙂


The Apple TV BOX /device that’s currently available is a small black box (measuring 0.9 inches high by 3.9 inches wide and 3.9 inches deep) that connects to your HD television set or home theatre system using an HDMI cable. (cable extra) It will not work with older television sets that lack an HDMI port. At the same time, the Apple TV device is connected to your television or home theatre system (including your stereo surround sound speakers), and it must also be connected to the Internet. Great for viewing your photographs too.

Your son will love you for this.$149.00 at Dick Smith’s or less if you get there quickly.

apple-tvFrom Alfresco in Parnell, genuine Panama Hats and these sell out every summer.


ICEBREAKER is a favourite store, probably because my rellies grow merino sheep and sell it to Icebreaker. I’ve owned Icebreaker for 15 years and it never wears out!! large (3)



This store is a treasure trove 🙂 :):)




IMG_2066Another cool Newmarket store Isabel Harris catering for the man in your life.





The Laguiole knife is a high-quality traditional  item originally produced in the town of Laguiole in the Aveyron region of southern France.

The word laguiole is a generic term, not legally restricted to any one company or place of manufacture. Such knives are produced by a number of unrelated companies in southern France, with some 70% of production coming from Thiers, a long-established centre of the cutlery industry. Briscoes have a great selection as do many other stores.



Sometimes this is better than a heap of short lived  toys-

These sort of presents create memories that are long lasting – I saw this show last year and it was inspirational and brilliant. Give a family ticket for the 2015 show. Adults $38  Under 14 $12 Call Ticketek.

Group F from France at the Auckland Domain part of the Auckland Arts Festival.

IMG_2080A Wow show for your entire family 


Soda Stream  – Shop around prices vary-IMG_2078

These new machines make wonderful sparking water, how cool is that? I recently gave one to my daughter in law  and they use it every day ! You can even make Tonic water for the G & T brigade.


Family Photographs – give a voucher. 

w LMC-7574-Edit-Edit

4 Generations by Lynn Clayton Photography

I know many great photographers and cannot possible list them all here. The gift of a family photograph lasts for generations. An Auckland friend specialising in new baby and beautiful natural child photography is Moira Blincoe Photography, contact to purchase a voucher or call your favourite photographer.
“ME” presents  for people like ‘me’.

SAISON: A Year at The French Cafe 


The second cookbook –
by Simon Wright 

Featuring 320 pages of the restaurant and our cuisine throughout the seasons, the cookbook features beautiful photography andmore than 80 of their very own unique  recipes. Few if any NZ restaurants can boast these sort of ratings. I’ve dined here twice now in their Private Dining Room and it is an absolute treat.This book is an art book, a coffee table book, a book to be valued and read over and over.


#1 in New Zealand  #1 in the South Pacific #4 in the World



ELEPHANT table mats made by Jasons. (from Briscoes and many stores) I bought these for me!

$39.99  set of 6 and 2x large centre mats $24.99


Another little item from Icebreaker for the young fitness guru.

large (1)


Jewellery –



This pendant with a Kina flavour appealed. They do rings and earings too from Carats.



for the small lady on your list – boyswear too from Icebreaker.Tough all year round clothing.largeMore For Little People

I love the Janod brand – wooden toys, wall decals, cute puzzles &educational toys. One of my favourite stores sells Janod, HYPHEN on Broadway, plus cute cute children wear 🙂 Grandparents this is a fun little store.


wall decal by JANOD





Wooden bikes by Janod





Trunki is another cool item for small people with mobile parents.