B&B  Blossom Cottage - Rotorua New Zealand 

sunny weather  and even a few days of pouring rain. Luckily our guests managed to arrive before and after the bad weather and were able to get out and about to see all the attractions without being washed away. We also managed to visit a few attractions recently. Rotorua has an array of places for so many different interests and ages, so there is no chance of anyone getting bored in our vibrant city. As Rotorua is also very central, other exciting attractions outside the city are easily reached within a couple of hours.

The Big Splash recently opened at Rainbow Springs and we decided to go early to avoid the crowds. Rainbow Springs is wonderful with its breathtaking bush walks, Kiwi Encounter, native birds, tuataras, rainbow trout, a great cafe and of course the Big Splash. It is a boat ride through NZ history and it ends in a plunge down a waterfall; not recommended for the faint-hearted! Old scaredy-cat (yes, me!) did give it a go though, and I appeared at the bottom of the waterfall unscathed, slightly damp, but still alive and kicking! (The photos taken of me, terrified and grimacing, by the Big Splash photographer, were not a thing of beauty, my children laughingly informed me!)

Much to the joy of our children, we also visited the Hobbiton Movie Set in Matamata, which is only 45 minutes from Blossom Cottage.  You can make a day trip to Matamata and be back at the cottage in time for dinner. Peter Jackson discovered the Alexander Farm in 1998 during a search for a suitable film site for Lord of the Rings, as it had rolling hills, ponds, trees and fantastic views that closely resembled that of Middle-earth as described by Tolkien. Ben, our fantastic guide, had many interesting tales to tell of what went on behind the scenes and took us to see the Party Field, Party Tree, mill, the bridge, pub, stable, market and Bag End, Bilbo and Frodo Baggins' home. We even met Pickles, the inquisitive farm cat, who managed to star in most of the scenes until he appeared too often and had to be locked up in the shed! We thoroughly enjoyed Ben's sense of humour and the tour is highly recommended.

Another superb attraction, less than half an hour from Blossom Cottage, on the way to Tauranga, is the High Ropes Adrenalin Park at TECT on Pyes Pa Road. As this was just a tad TOO adventurous for me, Rene, Kallista and Nando decided to give it a go. Three hours later, after climbing, crawling and wobbling their way through an aerial obstacle course of up to 18 metres high, they arrived back enthusiastic and with a real sense of achievement. You are required to be at least 1.3m tall to participate.

As for our menagerie of animals, they have been up to their usual mischief and have kept us on our toes. I was out one morning feeding our lop-eared bunnies their pellets and had walked off to fill their containers with fresh water when I heard a lip-smacking sound coming from behind me. To my amazement, our cat, Teddy, was helping himself to the bunny pellets with a cheeky grin on his face! I reprimanded him and sent him off to his own bowl of food, but when I returned with the water, to my surprise, I saw our 16 hens helping themselves to the bunnies' food as well! I also pointed them in the right direction and returned to the house. Teddy's bowl is always in the laundry and the door to the garden is open so that he can help himself at any time of the day. Anyway, all of a sudden I heard an unfamiliar sound coming from the laundry. Yes, there was another thief, this time stealing TEDDY'S food! An escapee chicken had found a hole in the fence, made her way into our garden for a gourmet lunch and was happily pecking away at the cat food! Frankly, by the end of the day I had had enough of all these burglars wasting my precious time!! 

That's all my news, but before I go here is a recipe for a savoury pastry that I made for lunch yesterday.

Cut 2 large tomatoes in half, sprinkle salt, pepper and a little sugar on top, drizzle on some oil and roast slowly in the oven for about 1-2 hours at 120 degrees. Take out of the oven and put aside.

While the tomatoes are roasting, slice 4 large onions and caramelize in a pan on low heat with a little malt vinegar, brown sugar, pepper and salt for 1-2 hours. Set aside.

Reduce 3 cups of basalmic vinegar to a syrup and let it cool. Set aside.

Take 1 sheet of flaky pastry and cut into 4 pieces. Brush with a little beaten egg and put in the oven at 200 degrees for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, place some baking paper on the pastry and an oven tray on top and bake for another 10 minutes.

Take the pastry out of the oven and put the caramelized onions on the pastry with some soft feta, your favourite olives, some anchovies and some fresh thyme.

Put one roast tomato half on each pastry and heat in the oven at about 150 degrees for about 15 minutes. Reduce the temperature if it turns too dark.

Put the pastry on a warm plate, serve with the basalmic reduction and a crisp salad with toasted pumpkin seeds. Help yourself to a cool glass of Chardonnay or your favourite drink.

Talk to you soon!

Marianne