Category Archives: Activities

What to Do on a Rainy Day in Auckland

It wasn’t as pretty as usual in Auckland today, so we headed below the deck to the fabulous and interactive Kelly Tarlton’s Sea Life Aquarium. 


Identifying all the different fish was fun, but making them come to life was the highlight of the day. 


First, you color a sea creature. 


Then you scan them and they come to life in the digital aquarium. There are about four coloring stations, each with its own aquarium. 


Then your sea creature joins the rest of the fish in an aquarium of all of the digitized drawings. Kids catch on quickly and make sure to put their names on each creature so they can track their progress on the screen. 

This was truly an ingenious idea and fun for all ages. There were definitely a few grownup fish swimming around in there. 

Making Black Bean Tamales

One of my favorite activities on my recent trip to Veracruz, Mexico, was learning to make and wrap black bean tamales. Our experience, orchestrated by tour operator Yambigapan, started at a local farm where we picked the banana leaves that would wrap our tamales for cooking.

We chose the leaves we wanted to wrap our tamales in. // (c) Janeen Christoff
We chose the leaves we wanted to wrap our tamales in. // (c) Janeen Christoff

After a light hike nearby, we headed to Yambigapan’s rural home-stay facility, located on a bluff over looking a small valley.

We hiked through an abandoned textile factory and along a river. // (c) 2013 Janeen Christoff
We hiked through an abandoned textile factory and along a river. // (c) 2013 Janeen Christoff

From the home, you can walk to the Laguna Encantada for boat rides or hike to a variety of destinations including the Volcan San Martin. Our group was their to experience local culinary traditions – specifically tamale-making.

Tamales are made in a traditional kitchen. // (c) 2013 Janeen Christoff
Tamales are made in a traditional kitchen. // (c) 2013 Janeen Christoff

We started by chopping chepil, a Mexican herb that is somewhat similar to coriander.

Chepil // (c) 2013 Janeen Christoff
Chepil // (c) 2013 Janeen Christoff

Then we kneeded the masa (tamale dough). You are gonna need a lot of muscle for this.

Kneeding the masa // (c) 2013 Janeen Christoff
Kneeding the masa // (c) 2013 Janeen Christoff

Then came the hard part, folding the tamales in the leaves. It’s actually not that hard. You just plop a blob of masa onto the leaf and then fold the tamale like an American flag.

Tamale folding demonstration // (c) 2013 Janeen Christoff
Tamale folding demonstration // (c) 2013 Janeen Christoff

Pop ‘em in the oven for a while, launch some globos (paper lanterns, which we also learned how to make), listen to some jarocho son music and voila, you have dinner.

The finished product: yummy black bean tamales // (c) 2013 Janeen Christoff
The finished product: yummy black bean tamales // (c) 2013 Janeen Christoff

http://www.yambigapan.com