A Scrumptious Hibernation in Nelson, New Zealand Education / Family / Food / Music / New Zealand / Personal / Travel

Believe it or not, we’re homebodies. It may seem paradoxical that we’re also long-term traveling, worldschooling adventurers. Those things don’t typically go together, do they? But for us, they seem to work out quite magically. I’m reminded of the hobbits in Lord of the Rings. They aren’t necessarily wired for adventures, but some find travel to be invaluably “precious” in their journey through life.

We see worldschooling as a family and community affair — in essence, life learning at its finest. As parents, we learn along with the kids, sometimes the same things and sometimes different; it’s all about following wherever the interests lead. So, as you might expect, it’s a whole lot of fun!

We tend to get inspired in new places, learning things we knew relatively nothing about before we arrived. The homebody component is that we also like a lot of time-in to create, work on projects, and integrate our experiences. Both are equally important to us.

Beyond what we did during our time out-and-about, which I detail on the previous articles in this New Zealand series, this post takes you deeply into the heart of our hibernation “time-in” — the other half of the story.

Here’s an overview of how each of us spent our time at home during our three month stay in Nelson, including a few favorite foods and recipes we enjoyed, of course.



If I could be any animal, I’d probably want to be a sloth, partly because they are so cute and cuddly, but also because, like them, I do most things very slowly and deliberately, always taking my time and savoring each moment. What can I say, it just comes naturally!

Speaking of sloths...remember my cute little tea infuser?

Speaking of sloths…remember my cute little tea infuser?

I spent lots of time practicing the harp in Nelson. It doesn’t come quite so quickly to me as it does to Brandon and Emily, but I still really enjoyed it.

I could write all day long, and often do. I love writing about relationships, emotions, mindfulness, intuition, gratitude, presence, and embracing being. I love reading and listening to other people talk about those same things.

For example, during our time in Nelson, I finished up participating in an online workshop in mindfulness training called The Power of Awareness, which was given by Jack Kornfield and Tara Brach. In addition, I worked quite a bit on preparing a relationship workshop I’ll be giving at the LWI Unschooling Conference on Staten Island in September. And of course, I also love to write about our family adventures on this blog.


Other ways I enjoyed spending my time?

  • I love singing jazz and blues…and taking voice lessons. I could sing all day long, but I don’t…usually…only quite frequently. Once I get going, it’s not easy to stop. I also really love listening to other people sing, and play music, including my daughter Emily.
  • I love listening to really creative people talk.
  • I love listening to really funny people talk, like my daughter Marie. Have I ever mentioned that my girls are hilarious? Here’s some proof, a blog post and video they made together during our time in Nelson, starring Marie wearing a dress with a kitten print. Seriously funny stuff!
  • I love to dance by making it up as I go along, mostly in the free flowing ways that just feel absolutely blissfully in tune with how my body wants to move in any given moment. I love watching skilled body movements too, like Marie’s gymnastics, and Brandon’s Qigong.
  • I love storytelling, like when I read books to my daughter Aysia.
  • I love to love and be loved. I’m reminded of when Aysia frequently comes to each member of our family throughout the day and tells us she loves us, which she usually accompanies with a sweet hug.
  • I love spending special time with my favorite people, including Brandon, my sweet girls, beloved extended family members, and dear friends.
  • I love that you’re still here reading about what I love.
  • I love a nice comforting pot of herbal tea.
  • I love experimenting with making and eating delicious food.

Breakfast Casseroles

Speaking of food, I also love using small amounts of leftovers in strategic ways, especially by transforming them into a breakfast casserole the next morning, with varying degrees of success. Here’s an example of one of our favorite egg casserole creations from our time in Nelson.

Leftover pasta with tomato sauce, colby cheese, cherry tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, spinach, and mushrooms. I mixed the ingredients together in a bowl with about 4-5 eggs, poured the mixture into a casserole dish, and sprinkled on some parmesan cheese before baking.

Here’s another one we enjoyed.

Leftover tamarind-pork-vegetable soup, couscous, spinach, colby cheese, and chopped baked kumara (New Zealand sweet potato). I mixed the ingredients in a bowl with eggs and salt, poured it into a casserole dish, and sprinkled some creamy feta cheese on top before baking. By the way, New Zealand has some phenomenally delicious creamy feta varieties. Crumbly would work too, but creamy is divine.

Basically, I just toss in whatever complementary ingredients I have on hand. I start with any leftover cooked pasta, rice, quinoa, meat, vegetables, sauce, soup, etc. Then I mix in eggs and other things as desired, such as tomatoes, spinach, mushrooms, green onions, cheese, seasonings, fresh herbs, etc. When I’m using small amounts of leftover soup, I sometimes use couscous to absorb the excess liquid.



While in Nelson, Brandon spent time on several projects he’s excited about. He began writing a book on family travel, including the tips and tricks we’ve learned on the road, different ways to fund a travel lifestyle, how to save money when traveling, deal with safety, family relations, where to start traveling, and how we’ve made it all a meaningful experience for our family. He enjoys how the writing process helps him integrate his own experiences and become more clear on why he continues to travel. 

He also worked on preparing a keynote speech and other presentations for the Savvy Musician in Action Conference at Columbia University. 

After realizing he wanted to improve his speaking skills, Brandon started recording weekly videos for the blog, on different topics related to travel and things he’s learned. It’s been a fun and challenging project for him!


Brandon was also interviewed by several people during our time in New Zealand, including Hugh Sung from A Musical Life, and the Tim Topham podcast. I really enjoyed listening to both of these fantastic interviews!

Brandon’s passion for photography continued to increase through studying and practicing the art in such incredible New Zealand settings. He also picked up some new photography gadgets including a lightweight Sirui T025X tripod and a remote shutter allowing long-exposure photography. Here is one of his favorite shots just 5 minutes from the home where we stayed in Nelson.


Brandon also spent a lot of time planning our travels around New Zealand, figuring out our options of where we wanted to go and when. 

His Music Teacher’s Helper business is going through an exciting time where the new specifications he started drafting 18 months ago are now in the design and development phases, and getting released – a major improvement to the program which should make his customers very happy.

Brandon spent a lot of time introspecting and writing about topics that are important to him, such as the balance between appreciating the present moment as it is vs. seeking to improve the world or a situation. He’s experimenting with ways to do both as he shares his wisdom through the coaching, speaking, and writing he’s doing this year. Getting clearer on his story and message has brought much insight. Through more fully embracing and appreciating his own amazing life and sharing it, including his struggles, he’s inspired and humbled by the lives he’s seen change.


And finally, Brandon finished several books in New Zealand, including:

  • Doing Good Better by William MacAskill. It’s a great book about ways to measure the effectiveness of our charitable efforts. Since reading it, he’s changed some of his giving habits and has set up recurring donations to a few organizations that appear more cost effective at improving quality of life – more than just those that are cost-efficient at running low admin overhead.
  • Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. Brandon’s take-aways were: following curiosity rather than passion, separating creative projects from your own identity/ego, and taking it all much less seriously. 
  • Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert, a fascinating read about the psychology of happiness.

Valentine’s Day

We also spent Valentine’s Day at home in Nelson by baking chocolate cupcakes and mixing up two types of frosting, chocolate and pink strawberry. I was pleased to find that New Zealand grocery stores have quite an extensive array of supplies for baking, decorating, and flavoring cakes and cookies. We adorned our cupcakes with an artful arrangement of cute sprinkles, royal icing roses, and decorative icing in three colors, which also included some fancy shaped tips.


After that decadent indulgence, we decided to watch the Truman Show together. We all came away feeling a bit suspicious that perhaps we could also be living in a fake situation, of sorts, but we were happy for Truman that he found his way into a deeper reality.

Comfort Food

A hibernation wouldn’t be nearly complete without a healthy dose of homemade deliciousness, right? For example, chicken pillows were one of our favorite menu items during this time. Would you like to see my recipe? It makes a large amount, so I always save the excess dough and use it to make more with the other leftover ingredients on subsequent nights; each “pillow” actually bakes up to be quite large. We also like to serve ours with steamed broccoli on the side, and rice would also be a nice addition. If you’d like a glass of wine with this meal, I would highly recommend a pairing of Stoneleigh, Sauvignon blanc, a delicious New Zealand white wine with hints of grapefruit, passion fruit, and citrus.



Emily really loves her alone time, and she makes great use of it. At home in Nelson, she could usually be found singing, playing guitar, writing music, making music videos for her own songs, and recording song cover videos.


Here are a couple of the song videos she published:

She also published two music videos of her songs:

Here are the cover videos she did in Nelson:

One day, Emily surprised Brandon and I with a new song she’s been working on about her sister, Marie. Of course I laughed so hard I cried, and then I cried so hard I laughed. I was quite amusing to watch, I’m sure. It’s such a beautiful song about the paradox of the seemingly negative and positive in our close relationships, and especially in regard to sister relationships. It’s so amazing what she creates and all the emotions it brings bubbling up to the surface. I hope you’ll get a chance to hear the song for yourself soon.


Emily also spent time preparing a songwriting workshop which she’ll be giving at the LWI Unschooling Conference on Staten Island in September. I’m certainly very excited to be in attendance for that!


Beyond music, she began learning French on an app called Duolingo. She thinks it’s a difficult language to learn, but also fun, and since visiting France she’s been even more excited about it. She changed Siri on her iPod to be in French so she could have conversations in that language. She says she can write in French better than she can speak it, but with Siri, she feels like she can also get better at the accent.


Emily also spent time making up her own language. She’s developing an alphabet, sounds, and grammar, and making a big dictionary of all the words. She even made an alphabet song for it, which sounds exquisitely beautiful.

Skyping with her friends around the world, usually late at night, also took up quite a chunk of her time. This girl saves all her sleep for the morning hours.

As if that weren’t enough to keep any ordinary person plenty busy, Emily also spent time working on her Irish dance lessons online, practicing harp lessons, programming a new website, exercising, drawing, and occasionally writing on her blog.



In other news, we experienced some severe weather in Nelson mid-February with a mighty thunderstorm and gale-force winds. We were still being homebodies at this time, but we couldn’t really do anything outside in that kind of weather anyway, even if we wanted to. So, we simply continued on with our hibernation and hoped the windows wouldn’t blow in on us. Cyclone Winston was showing up as a category 3 not too far away at the time. So that may have had something to do with it.

Food Experiments

On one of those dark, stormy nights I experimented with a new recipe concoction using kumara. What is that, you might ask? Lo and behold, another New Zealand delight. It’s a type of sweet potato which comes in three main varieties, red, gold, and orange. The red has a white flesh inside and is the least sweet, with the orange being the sweetest. We liked all three.

I baked the kumara, then cut them in half, and worked in some butter. I arranged a layer of baby spinach on top of each half, then a layer of lentils (cooked with garlic and onion, and seasoned with cumin, lemon juice, and salt, to taste), then a generous sprinkle of the creamy and flavorful New Zealand feta cheese to finish. It’s very easy and oh-so-delicious! Just cook the lentils while the kumara is baking. Of course, if kumara isn’t available, you can substitute any yams or sweet potatoes you have on hand.

If you also happen to have some Stone Bay, Pinot noir 2014, with flavor notes of raspberry, red cherry, and plum, you may find yourself, as I was, especially pleased with the result!


Okay, time for something sweet again, while the storm is still raging. How’s this for a homemade hot chocolate recipe?

One saucepan filled with fresh (preferably raw) New Zealand milk, the remainder of a quality chocolate bar from your pantry, cocoa powder and powdered sugar to taste, a smidgen of coconut oil, and a splash of cream. Heat it all together, pour it into mugs, and there you have it — sippable chocolatey goodness right at your fingertips! Please add a drop of doTerra peppermint essential oil to the pan before serving, if you’re tastebuds are craving it. Wild orange, ginger, or cinnamon would also be nice.



Marie is our resident expert at having fun and inspiring others to join in. She’s definitely challenged at times with her seriously-minded-by-default family, but she tirelessly encourages our efforts to embrace goofiness, which we all very much appreciate! She is excellent at beaming her love, appreciation, and affection in the form of the biggest smiles I’ve ever seen, accompanied by her long, gentle, warm hugs.


She is our most extroverted family member, and really likes being with people, but she enjoys her own company as well.


We actually enrolled Marie in a gymnastics class while we were in Nelson, and she spent an amazing amount of her time and energy practicing and making impressive progress. This girl certainly has a lot of drive and ambition for things she enjoys. She prepared and performed many gymnastics shows for us to watch at home (complete with music and her own choreography!), which were really fun and entertaining. She posted some of her skills on her youtube channel if you’d like to check them out:

gymnastics-08462 marie-08703

Marie spent quite a bit of time with Aysia in imaginary play and she’s also an excellent teacher, so she enjoyed helping her sister practice letters and counting and such. She even helped Aysia learn a bit of gymnastics!

During our time in Nelson, Marie took quite a liking to the Warriors book series on the Epic app, spending hours at a time reading on her own, which was a first for her.


She spent time practicing her music note flashcards and harp lessons admirably well. She even found a great note learning game online to help hone her skills.


Marie likes math, so she loves playing number games. She even wrote five math problems for herself to play around with every day, for about a week or so, working through multiplication, division, addition, and subtraction.


Marie also spent quite a bit of time missing her best friend Ayisha, who lives in Bali. However, they did spend many hours playing Animal Jam together while chatting on Skype at the same time. They even had a dance party online once! Although, it truly isn’t quite the same as being together in person.


Nelson is also where Marie began taking some digital art classes through Skype with her teacher Soenke, who lives in Germany. We met him years ago during our time in Japan, as we were staying at the same airbnb together, and we admired the amazing artwork he was doing for some video games at the time. You can see some of Marie’s creations on her blog. She likes drawing with pencil and paper too, and I love the uniquely stylized forms and designs of her images.




Aysia is such a refreshingly present and tuned-in little being. She is all there, all the time.

She’s our inspiration for communicating in a connecting, genuine, and compassionate way. She even has some kind of internal clock that keeps track of when it’s time to give someone their next sweet hug and “I love you,” which happens multiple times every day.

She helps us all remember to take time out, slow down, play, and pay attention to our senses. For example, whenever there’s a rainstorm, Aysia gets kind of a wild, dreamy look in her eyes as she imagines herself running out to play in it, and then she just goes and does it!


How did this delightful girl spend her time?

  • Aysia spent a lot of time eating. She doesn’t usually eat a whole lot during any one sitting; she just nibbles small bites every hour or so throughout the day — hold the vegetables though, unless they happen to be sweet corn or raw “bunny” carrots.
  • She asks for what she wants in such endearing, thoughtful, and articulate ways, whether it be a request to spend time together playing or reading a book — or perhaps she just wants help getting food because, you know, her constant grazing habits.
  • She loves to practice being brave.
  • She loves creating through drawing, painting, and coloring.
  • She likes to organize and decorate things into pretty designs, and makes gifts of her beautiful artwork.
  • She loves to sing and dance.
  • She loved playing around on the harp, while we had it in Nelson.
  • She loves to be in the company of those she loves, both individually and as a group.
  • She loves to help others in whatever way she can, unless her arms are too tired, or her legs, which usually only happens on days when we’re packing to go to the airport – no biggie.
  • She loves looking at picture books and being read to.
  • She loves playing all sorts of games on her ipad and watching occasional videos as well.
  • She loves learning from her family members through her keen questions and observation skills, and we all love helping her understand new things.
  • She likes learning Spanish and French.
  • Aysia enjoys playing with her toys such as My Little Ponies, Littlest Pet Shop, play dough, and playing imagination games.


Family Time-In

During our family time at home in Nelson, we frequently enjoyed watching shows together, including the Planet Earth documentary series. It was so inspiring to learn more about our world through their incredible video coverage and fascinating information. My favorite was the shallow seas episode, about the rich maritime life, from the plankton and coral to the birds and countless species of fish.

Some memorable information we learned from other episodes in the series?

  • Some ants and moths can become infected by parasitic fungus, and end up with mushrooms growing out of their bodies.
  • There are spiders who take advantage of the water in pitcher plants, in order to fish for the insects that get caught and drown inside. They even dive with their own self-made air bubble to catch things like mosquito larvae at the bottom of the pitchers.
  • The jungle canopy is so dense and blocks out so much light, that some plants adapt by growing really large leaves, to help increase their surface area to catch the sunlight. It’s certainly true that some of those leaves are enormous, and it’s great now to understand why!
  • The adorable curly stems/tendrils of climbing plants serve the purpose of helping them to not break, when the plants they are attached to move.
  • Also, did you know? The Atacama desert has an area that only receives rain maybe once every 50 years, but it receives moisture from the ocean mist instead.
  • The Sahara desert is the size of the United States.
  • The Gobi Dessert gets snow, and the camels eat it for water.
  • And, many other interesting things!

Waitangi Day happened during our visit as well, so we watched a movie recommended by a friend, about the Treaty of Waitangi which was first signed on February 6, 1840, making New Zealand a British colony.

We also watched a TED talk, given by Wade Davis, about indigenous cultures around the world. He speaks about the importance of cultural diversity and its impact on the ethnosphere of our planet from the perspective of anthropology.

We read Man’s Search for Meaning, by Victor Frankl, both at home and also during some of our drives. Also during our drives we listened to different podcasts such as:

On a slightly different note, have you ever tried light painting with a camera? We have! We needed to get out of the house just a little bit, after all. Try this, go hang out after dark in a park with your family and swirl a flashlight around while you do some long exposures with your camera. You never know what you might get! Just be sure to also watch out for the drunk man making his way through the park at night, whose words seem a bit loud and incoherent.


Traveling Homebodies

Again, why would homebodies like us ever choose this life of travel? Because traveling is an excellent catalyst for us to learn, create, and grow. It introduces us to new perspectives, ideas, people, and environments in engaging and stimulating ways.

Worldschooling is a natural companion of this lifestyle. To us, it’s the interplay between the familiar and the foreign. As we integrate deeper understandings, we find new ways to connect and share in the world.

We hope you enjoyed this behind-the-scenes glimpse into a small season of our lives, regarding what travel has inspired us to do and to create, beyond the actual act of travel itself.

I think this is the real reason why many people find travel so addicting. What matters are the experiences we have as a result, and how they help shape us into ever unfolding versions of ourselves, which we have learned to absolutely cherish.

Well, I don’t know about you, but I think it’s time to get out adventuring again. Would you like to come along? Please join us next as we check out Sydney, Australia on the way back to our home in Bali!

Special note: If you ever want to know how we’re currently spending our time, please check out the regularly updated now page on our blog.

Also, if you’d like to share, what are some of your favorite homebody things to do? We’d love to hear about them in the comments.

Jennifer loves to breathe, read, write, travel, learn, sing, dance, eat, and practice mindfulness. She is currently residing in Ubud, Bali, and loves exploring new places with her family.


  1. I absolutely loved reading this Jen, thank you for sharing your daily lives, thoughts and creations – as ever truly inspirational, Mo xx

  2. It’s fun to be reminded all in one place of the types of things we tend to do when we’re at “home”. It’s great having so any fun projects to work on and to be passionate about the things we’re learning and doing. Thanks for putting this post together.

    • I agree, it’s fun to see it all in one post together. I’m glad we have so many things to enjoy during our time-in! Seems like we could always use more of it, but I also like the balance. Sometimes we don’t realize how much we could use a bit of fresh air until we go out and get it. :)

  3. Sarina Barron Says: February 5, 2017 at 6:28 am

    Great to read – I’m originally from Nelson and am currently travelling with my husband and 3 young kids (we’re in Costa Rica at the moment). The recipes left me drooling for some home comfort food.

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