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What's in your Xmas Stocking?

Well here we are again at the end of the year with Christmas just a few short weeks away. And as Auckland is still in some sort of lockdown, I have been completing projects and planning new projects. This blog/newsletter I was excited to interview Fiona & Al from Essential Gardens in Puhoi, and Renée from Spik & Span. I have also given an update of the lovely locals I have interviewed over the last year.

I know with last month's newsletter I shared with you the Christmas hanger I embroidered for my sister Rachael for her pressie, I ended up loving it so much so, that I have just this evening completed making myself one, and have after stretching it, framed it in an old frame I had lying around the house. I am really happy with the result, what do you think? I am glad that my embroidery for the year is done and dusted now! ......

I also had my sewing machine out again, and decided to make up a Christmas Advent Calendar kit I had, it was a fun little project, making 25 little bags, and a fabric Christmas tree to hang them on, as the kit did not have the bags dated, I decided to buy little wooden beads and number each bag. All the Calendar needs are the 25 little treats, that I am sure my son Wiremu will enjoy as this year his 3 other siblings are not living at home in Kaukapakapa, and as today is dated December 1st, I had better hurry up and hang it!

I also made many years ago a felt Christmas Advent Calendar, I love the thought of each day hanging up a little felt surprise.

In 2009, I framed the kids Santa photo's from 1990 (when my eldest son was a little baby), however we still had photos each year taken after 2009. When Lachlan my eldest boy shifted to Japan, we photoshopped him in. Taking a Santa photo for me, has always been a bit of a family ritual, I am blessed that my late Mum kept these photos, so this year, I decided to do another framed compilation of our family photos, not only my Mum with Santa, my siblings with Santa, and my children with Santa, I absolutely love all the precious memories.....what do you reckon? Has Santa hit our house?. ..(press right hand arrow to view slideshow)

I bought a few years ago from the hospice shop in Takapuna a gorgeous little cardboard haberdashery box that was full of lots of sewing treasures from days gone by, lace trims, pearl beading, and other precious notions, inside was also a beautiful silk embroidery, that I estimate to be over 100 years old, a little frayed, but so lovingly made, I thought it was too special to leave sitting in the beautiful box, so I carefully fixed the damage, stitched a silk fabric binding and edged it with lace, hand tatted by my great Granny! I stretched it, and then framed it in one of my vintage frames. The embroidery will take pride of place hanging inside our home, I would love to know more about its history.

Now as today is the 1st day of December, I have finished my indoor projects for the year, and continuing cleaning up outside, spending time in the garden, sweeping up leaves, pruning roses, cleaning the pool in order to welcome guests back to A Deer Cottage. We have plans to construct an outdoor hand rail for a set of railway sleeper steps with a fairly steep incline, and getting rid of a paddock of gorse to end the year in a bang!

If you wish to find out about our boutique bed & breakfast set up in the sunny hills of Kaukapakapa, North Auckland, or to subscribe to our monthly newsletter click here

However, now I would like to introduce to you Fiona and Al from the Essential Garden, where they offer Soft Stone Sculpture workshops. I was so excited to be asked by my girlfriend Niki if I would like to attend a Sculpture workshop with a group of her friends, set within the gorgeous Puhoi Valley, a 30 minute drive from A Deer Cottage. Al who hosted the workshop was friendly, very helpful and very knowledgeable in how to make and sculpt your very own masterpiece. Due to the weather conditions Al had to pour and make the moulds that we were to sculpt in the early hours of the morning, all the bits and bobs, sculpture tools and accessories are provided, photos and creative ideas are shared, and a magnificent lunch is given. The company was outstanding, the fun and laughter was contagious, and I walked away with a sculpture I was really happy with! I have plans to go back one day to make another sculpture.

Al mentioned during the course of the day, that he and his wife Fiona also host at the Essential Garden, Herbal Skincare workshops, and this really excited me, and had plans booking in to do one of these workshops. Al also mentioned they have on their property a "Book a Bach" accommodation option, set amongst their beautiful lush property, if you wish to find out more about this and their workshops you can get in touch with them on Facebook:, Instagram @essentialgardennz, Email: or Telephone: 09 421 0730

As Auckland struggled with getting Covid under control we ended up in another lockdown, so I had to put the Essential Garden workshop on hold, however, as soon as I was able to get back to Puhoi safely, I organised to catch up with Al and Fiona, to at least find out more about their workshops, that will take place in the near future with fully vaccinated guests.

The Essential Garden Herbal Skincare workshops, comprise of learning how to make lovely skin creams and mosquito/insect repellent or room spray's using infused herbs and essential oils. Once you have arrived and met everyone, and after a little chat about what you are going to do, you take a wander through their gorgeous herb garden, you are able to pick, touch and smell and discuss what herbs you require for your creams/spray. Al & Fiona have been involved in this venture which has continued to evolve for approximately 10 years, they are extremely knowledgeable and informative and nothing is too much trouble to answer your questions.

The creams you make are so natural you can almost eat them, they feel spectacular on your skin, they contain little preservatives and last well if kept in the fridge. The creams have gorgeous base creams using options of kawakawa or calendula, the moisturising body butters are made to suit your skin type and have wonderful healing properties. You can have a choice of a carrier oil with a selection of 6 or so different oils ranging from hemp, apricot, aloe vera and are infused with plantain or calendula. Fiona and Al explain what essential oils and herbs are good for what, they discuss the different notes ie bergamot is harsh, to balance out and make the mix sweeter you can use neroli, plantain is great for anti-itch. Essential Garden Herbal Skincare workshops have a choice of 18 essential oils for you to choose from.

The process of making the creams, room or mosquito spray is a procedure and either Fiona or Al, explain simply how to choose your ingredients, what works together, how to measure, heat to the required temperature the water/oil base and emulsifier, how to cool etc, all this in a lovely, relaxed atmosphere with great company. As with the Soft Stone Sculpture workshops, "Essential Garden" provides a wonderful lunch with something lovely to drink. You also make your own labels for what you make and take home with you.

Both workshops are great value for money, a day filled with fun, great company, you learn something new, and get to take something home with you. If you wish to find out more or to book please contact Al or Fiona on Facebook:, Instagram: @essentialgardennz, Email: or Telephone: 09 421 0730, or their accommodation under B & B accommodation via Book a Bach. .

My other special interview for this very full December Blog/Newsletter is with Renée from the Company "Spik & Span" that she had her husband Brendan recently became new owners. I met Renée and Brendan and their two adorable girls when they were our neighbours in Kaukapakapa, such a wonderful family, always willing to give a helping hand, always kind and extremely dedicated, hardworking but seems to have that family/work life balance all sorted. When they left Kaukapakapa I was thrilled to know they did not shift far away. Anyway, on to their Company "Spik & Span", if you have moss, mould, algae or lichen on the exterior of your home & property - look no further that Spik & Span, using the same active ingredients as other leading brands means we know it works.

What Renée & Brendan of Spik & Span endeavour to wow you with is great customer service (this follows on from the same values that they show towards their friendships), and easy application instructions. Have you ever gotten a bottle of cleaning product and been a bit befuddled by the instructions and dilution rates? And how many mls or litres of product do I use if the ratio is 5:1??? Without needing a degree in mathematics (or Google), Spik & Span has a handy dilution table on the back of every bottle.

They also have a money back guarantee, it is a non-bleach product with the active ingredient being a type of salt that will not damage your exterior surfaces.

Renée and Brendan Harris run Spik & Span from their home in the sunny hills of Helensville. The business started as a small-scale operation out of their garage, and has now grown to be able to distribute from a large warehouse in East Tamaki. Renée still manages all the other facets of the business, from social media to website, and every order coming through. She is your point of contact for any query, question or feedback. They started investing in Spik & Span when Brendan was made redundant from working on super yachts in 2020, and thought they could make a go of it. The first lockdown made it clear they needed to look into businesses that were somewhat Covid-proof, so they could continue to support their young family. With the recent lockdown - Spik & Span is what got them through, as they were still able to run the business and deliver nationwide, thanks to the help of the local couriers. It seemed a lot of people were stuck at home suddenly noticing the moss, mould, algae and lichen around their home!

Renée's background is in social media and website management and has always loved art and design. With Spik & Span rebranding, she took on the new label design and marketing, incorporating the handy dilution table on the back. "I found the ratio system very confusing, and as it turns out, when I talked to other people about it, they confessed they did too. So it made sense to put a guide on the back of our bottles. It gives the best results when the recommendations are followed correctly!".

They"ve just released their new Spik & Span CONCENTRATE which is 5 times the strength of the original. It has kicked off to a great start, and has been very popular with lawn and property management companies because they can store more product taking up less room, and dilute as they wish. It is by far and away the best value option too.

You can find Spik & Span through their website:

Telephone: 0800 88 11 23,



Order your Spik & Span ORIGINAL or CONCENTRATE online and have it delivered to your door anywhere in New Zealand.

As promised, our December Newsletter/Blog has a brief blurb about interviews I have done throughout 2021. I hope you all have a happy and festive Christmas period, we wish at A Deer Cottage that you travel safely and have a great time. Over the last year, I have made many projects, which you can find out all about on the website under "blog", I wonder what 2022 will bring? If you wish to book at A Deer Cottage, subscribe or receive 10% discount for two or more nights accommodation click here.

Farmfolly - Beautiful eco conscious, plastic free soap products, made by Lauren. click here for website

Waterfall Farm - Magnificent Wedding Venue hosted by Ashley to visit click here

UpFitnz - Fitness & Mindfulness classes, with Lilach Cohen to see website click here

Littlehelpersnz - Charitable venture making gorgeous wee handmade dresses made by Bev click here

Have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, may all your dreams come true in 2022 🦌❤️🦌

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