I’m such a big kid, I just love Christmas. Not that I have a child of my own, it’s like I have permission to go all out for the season again. When we moved back to Australia last year we started a new tradition of kicking off the holiday season at the QVB. We have just returned for our 2015 visit and it was so much fun for all of us that I think if you live in Sydney, you should include the QVB in your Christmas plans.
The fun begins on the ground floor with the crystal part of their Swarovski Christmas tree. This magnificent tree is three stories tall, so you need to work your way up to the top floor to see the entire free in all it’s magnificence.
The Swarovski tree is a thing of wonder to behold for adults and kids alike. The tree has 82,000 crystals and 65,150 lights twinkling on it. Start at the bottom and slowly work your way up to the top level, where Santa’s Enchanted Garden lives.
I am a huge fan of the QVB Santa set up, despite it being a bit of wait to get photos done. Each year they create a different, unique display for the Santa experience. This year is the Enchanted Garden, complete with flowers, woodland creatures and fairies. It’s whimsical, adorable, and completely enchanting. The wait can get quite long, so I suggest using their SMS service that keeps your place in the queue virtually so you can browse the shops and be alerted on your phone when it’s time for your photo to be taken.
While you’re waiting, kids can also write a letter to Santa and post it in Santa’s special post box.
On weekends the Santa experience gets extremely busy, so visit before 11am if you intend on going.
Before you go, be sure to get a photo in front of the tree. The sparkling lights make for a magical photo opportunity.
It’s that time of year again! Christmas always seems to sneak up on me, does it feel the same to you? To help you find some fun gifts for your little jetsetter, I’ve rounded up the super cute gifts below. I’ve focussed on something a bit different this year instead of just toys. Instead you’ll find ideas for something to play, explore, read, share and wear.
1. Play: Bratz Study Abroad Dolls
Bratz dolls have been re-imagined with this new “Study Abroad” range. The dolls explore countries around the world by adopting the culture’s traditional fashion and styles and incorporates them into their own wardrobe. Example countries include Mexico, China, Brazil and Russia. I do like this new remake of the Bratz dolls as they focus on teaching kids about other cultures and encourages that “need to travel” urge from a young age.
2. Explore: Little Passports
The perfect way to encourage a love of travel in little ones as well as enjoying the excitement of a monthly package full of fun, engaging travel-themed products. Choose the adventures and subscription plan that’s right for your child – Early Explorers (ages 3-5), World Edition (ages 6-10), USA Edition (ages 7-12) – and your child’s destination-specific kit will arrive in the mail each month filled with letters, souvenirs, activities and more.
3. Read: Lonely Planet Books
Little explorers will love planning their next adventure with these new Lonely Planet books designed to bring the world to life for junior jetsetters. I particularly like the Lonely Planet Kids’ special edition atlas, Adventures Around the Globe, which is full of activities and stickers (for kids three years-plus). Kids aged eight and over can journey through every country in the world via The Lonely Planet Kids Travel Book.
4. Wear: Peter Alexander PJs
I love Peter Alexander PJs because they’re so soft and comfortable, plus their wash and wear extremely well. Their new Paris range is perfect for little travellers to fill their heads with big dreams about their next adventures.
5. Share: Card games
Spot It! Is a popular travel card game that now has a Spot It Jr! line especially for ages 4 to 7 – this animals one is particularly cute. Spot it! is a travel-friendly matching game can be played five different ways. Each card is decorated with 6 different animals of varying sizes. Here’s the amazing part: there is one, and only one, matching animal between any 2 cards.
Ahhh parenting, it’s one of those amazing experiences where the highs are euphoric and the lows make you want to cry in a corner and hope it was all a bad dream. Let’s take a few moments today to celebrate all the victorious moments that can only be appreciated if you’re parent to a small human or two.
When the furby’s batteries run out.
When the kids are finally asleep …
And there’s wine in the fridge.
When the babysitter puts the kids to bed instead of you.
When you have a night with friends and it’s like the kids don’t exist (except for when you pull out your phone and scroll through the pics of them looking insanely cute that day).
When you have an hour to watch TV and there’s a new episode of Nashville on Hulu.
When you’re out the door early!
When you arrive anywhere on time and not disheveled.
When you go out minus the kids and your handbag is miniscule.
When you’re having a night with the ladies and can wear white pants.
When you land a morning spot for your kid in nursery school.
When you push the stroller to a train station and find there’s an elevator.
When the kid eats their entire meal without a “That’s yucky!”
When you pick up your kid from school and their lunchbox is empty.
When it’s Mother’s Day or Father’s Day and the kid brings home handprint artworks from school.
When you wake up the next morning and everyone is in the same bed they started the night in.
When you wake up and it’s 8am, not 2am, or 4am or 6am, but 8am!
Every time you drink coffee or strong black tea and the instant rush that results.
When you get a pedicure and no one screams at you for an entire hour, plus you can look at your phone guilt-free the entire time.
The rare times when you get something right and your kid beams at you instead of scowling. Bought the right sugar-free-but-still-tasty breakfast cereal today, yay!
When your kid says “Thank you” and “Your welcome” in public and you feel like your job is done.
The one night when your kid says they’ll put themselves to bed and you can go eat your dinner.
When you take your kid to see a show and they stay in their seat the entire time.
When you get off a long haul flight and the people in front turn around to say they didn’t even know there was a kid sitting there.
When your kid’s teacher says they’ve had a great day and you feel like everything’s going to be A-okay.
When your kid stands up for another at the playground, and you think your heart is going to burst with pride.
When you can say without a doubt that you’re done with toilet training for good.
When you celebrate your birthday doing something you want to do, like getting that pedicure.
When your kid says they love you and you melt into a puddle.
When your kid outs your favourite beverage and you laugh your ass off because your kid is so awesome you just can’t stand it. “I like milk, Daddy drinks coffee and Mommy likes wine!”
I don’t know about you, but I take the great sanitary conditions we have in Australia for granted. When I was at school I never had to miss a day because I had my period or had come down with a disease caused by unsanitary toilets – can you imagine?
Right now, in the developing world, there are 950 million people with no access to sanitation facilities. 443 million school days are missed every year by children because of sickness caused by unsanitary toilets. That’s the same as every school in Australia being empty for six months.
World Toilet Day is on Thursday 19th November and to mark that day Domestos aims to raise awareness of the importance of clean and safe toilets that change lives. In polite society we don’t like to talk about toilets much, but it’s time to speak up about this somewhat unsavoury topic to help make changes that will improve the lives of millions.
Research has shown that access to a safe toilet can…
Help prevent dangerous diseases such as diarrhoea, which kills a child every 2 minutes¹.
Protect women and girls from the risk of shame, harassment and even attack because they have nowhere safe to go to the toilet.
Help children grow up healthy, prevent growth stunting and help them stay in school.
As part of the campaign, Domestos is on a mission to help provide 25 million people with improved access to a toilet by 2020.
How can you help on World Toilet Day?
Every specially marked bottle of Domestos sold contributes directly to UNICEF’s global sanitation programmes. Buy a bottle, help change a life today.
You can share this World Toilet Day video to spread the word about the importance of toilets for children’s health, safety and education.
Read about out how Domestos are working to keep kids in the classroom.
With our help, people in developing nations will benefit from:
Better education Access to a safe, clean loo keeps children healthier so that fewer school days are missed as a result of illnesses due to poor sanitation.
Better health Access to safe, clean, toilets can help make a whole community, especially its children healthy.
Better safety Access to a safe, secure toilet means people, especially women, become confident and secure in the knowledge they are avoiding the risk of harassment, rape or animal attacks when they go to the toilet in the open.
More time Access to a safe, secure loo means people won’t have to spend hours walking to find a safe and private place to go to the toilet.
More confidence When girls get access to safe, clean, toilets it gives them confidence at school and opportunities for better access to education. Many girls without access to a toilet risk embarrassment, harassment and even attack when they have nowhere safe to go to the toilet, not to mention missing days off school when they are having their period due to lack of sanitation facilities.
Community pride Having a safe, healthy village where everyone has access to toilets instils a sense of pride in the community.
Improved hygiene Safe, clean toilets in a community mean human waste doesn’t contaminate the environment, the home, and the food or water sources. As well as educating people on the importance of clean, safe toilets, they also learn about hygienic habits such as hand washing, which is also crucial for combating diseases like diarrhea.
Increased happiness All of this contributes to happier, healthier and safer communities.This is all achieved because of access to a clean, safe, loo.
Thanks to the global partnership between Unilever and UNICEF, 1,320,000 people have been reached with behaviour change programmes, helping to ensure improved health, safety, and dignity. 69,000 school children have benefited from sanitation and hygiene education programmes in 260 schools.
Access to a safe toilet allows children to have a brighter future. Celebrate how life is improved with a loo on the 15th annual World Toilet Day, 19th November.
Photography Credit: Shravan Vidyarthi
(*Figures are based on actual reported beneficiaries reached to-date in conjunction with funds dispersed in 2012 -2014)
When bedtime rolls around each night, my husband and I draw straws to see whose turn it is to battle our biggest war of the day – the epic fight to get our preschooler to sleep. The losing party quietly celebrates by cooking dinner in peace, while the winner uses all their patience to weather the next 30 steps without losing their mind.
Bath time! The only part of the night that doesn’t come with a battle. It is not, as described by many an article a “relaxing, winding down part of the evening” however, as it actually amps our child up even more. At least she plays happily with her toys in the bath, and washes without a fuss.
Dry down. The child gets that bit more hyper and runs around the house naked, begging not to have her hair combed.
Child is subdued/bribed and taken back to her room, dripping wet where she may or may not agree to her hair being brushed.
Last potty before bed. “I DON’T NEED TO GO POTTY!”
Time for books. “It’s super late, please choose short books.”
The most peaceful part of the night commences. Book time is glorious.
Books away, chaos ensues. And by chaos, I mean trampolining off the bed and out the door.
Time for a last drink of milk and brushing of teeth. “I need to brush my teeth so germs don’t make them fall out.” There, she does listen!
We pretend it’s going to be easy for her to fall asleep. I tuck her in, kiss her cute cheeks and whisper “I love you!”. Perching on the bottom of the bed, this is the pivotal moment where most nights start to go downhill.
“Mama, I’m not tired. I want to play.” Yep, it’s going to be one of those nights.
The legs start vibrating under the doona and her eyes are wide open.
“More COLD milk.” GEEEEEZ.
“Sing a song for me, Mama!” A hundred rounds of Goodnight, Sweetheart later and the only result is I’ve got a sore throat.
“I need to go potty!” What a surprise.
“I need a Daddy hug!”
“I can’t find Dolly!”
“My tummy’s rumbly!” “Here, have a banana.”
“What are we doing tomorrow, Mommy?” “School!” “NOOOOOOOOOOO!”
“I’m cold, can you pull up my covers?”
“I’m HOT, so HOT!” Air conditioner, on.
“I don’t need Dolly.”
“I do need Dolly!”
“I want Daddy, not Mommy!” A well-known play, the last minute switch. The last line of defense.
Legs stop vibrating and kicking, and the head finally rests on the pillow. The battle is slowly coming to a close.
A little voice softly sings to herself. “Baby you’re a firework, come on show them what you’re worth!”
The tiny voice gets quieter and the words become mumbled. The eyes slowly droop and her breathing gets heavy. Breathe a sigh of relief, the bedtime battle is over for another night.
Yay, Halloween! I didn’t get into it until we moved to the US, and now we’re all hooked, little Cheese in particular.
This year, we were invited to spend Halloween afternoon with our dear Canadian friends who also love the day. They went all out as you can see from the photos below.
After the wonderful party, we head on our for trick or treating. This year, Cheese decided she wanted to go as Elsa, and wanted me to be Ana, so I obliged. We tried to find a Kristoff costume for Alec, but sadly we couldn’t get one.
Halloween didn’t used to be a big deal at all in Australia until a few years ago, I believe. I’ve really enjoyed the past two years now, heading out in different neighborhoods to trick or treat and seeing the houses all decorated and the locals really getting into the spirit of the day.
Something I did definitely notice was that most people were dressed goulishly. It makes total sense, but I was a bit surprised to see even little kids dressed as vampires and ghosts, with living dead-style make up. I remember out Halloweens in the US with the kids as being a bit more cutesy, like animals suits and creative costumes like a family dressed as the Impossibles rather than just witches etc. Cheese was the only Elsa that we saw – and one of only two princesses (the other was a toddler Aurora). So princesses were definitely not in style! That said, Cheese brought a smile to many a face in her cute dress – and my Ana dress was a hit with the preschool set too.
We visited a neighbourhood in Sydney called Bronte, where the locals are known to go all out. A few houses made a “tunnel of terror” like a haunted house-type thing, or filled their front or back yards with gory things. A few families set up barbecues on the street and had a party for themselves and their friends.
This entertaining house had a DJ spinning some creepy tunes out the front.
Barbecue in progress!
Halloween in Sydney was awesome! Can’t wait till next year to do it all again. Now to get rid of all that candy the Cheese collected …
I’m going to say it—age four has been the most fun age my daughter has turned thus far. Sure, I think the same thing every year (I was convinced three was the best!), but for the first time, I kind of wish I could freeze her at this amazingly beautiful age. It’s okay to want to treasure the wonder of four just a little bit more, right? Here are six of the highlights of having a four-year-old in the house:
1. All drama, all the time While some of the drama is a bit much (like those even bigger tantrums now that are thrown), most of it is pretty entertaining. Everything is a big event to a four-year-old—a new toy, a surprise visit from the grandparents or a birthday party. I mean, is there anything else in life that can create such excitement in a small child like the prospect of games, cake and presents?
2. Singing and dancing I can’t believe that the power of Frozen has lasted so long. This kid has been a devoted Elsa fan for almost two years now, and has perfected her “Let It Go” routine, complete with hand movements and dramatic exit. Our home is filled with songs, sung in the sweetest high pitched voice with just a touch of a lisp, and our guests are treated to impromptu musical performances and dance routines.
3. Imaginary play Often she pretends to be Elsa (and I’m Anna), but her imagination takes her far from Disney stories as she creates amazing worlds with her dolls. The conversations she has with her dolls replicate those she hears around her—never have I been more aware that everything I say is falling onto very receptive ears.
4. Conversations had Suddenly, there are actual conversations being had. Hilarious ones, such as “Who’s the boss of the family?” and “Mommy’s the boss!” to questions I don’t quite know how to answer (“Why do people eat animals?” and “What does dead mean?”).
5. Lack of self consciousness Is there anything cuter than a naked little bottom dashing around the house? I absolutely love that at age four she is still happy to be a “nudie bum” and perform little butt wiggling dances with reckless abandon. While, of course, I know that time is coming to an end, if nothing else, I wish I could preserve her self confidence the way it is right now—before she starts to worry about how she looks and her body shape.
6. Joie de vivre The simple joy of being alive is really what a four-year-old is about. Every single thing my daughter experiences is cause for amazement—whether it’s collecting sticks from the sidewalk or watching a caterpillar inch its way along a tree branch. Every day, I think to myself, “Wow, we could all learn a lot from a four-year-old’s sense of fun.” She’s entertained for hours by a cardboard box—it becomes a plane, a home and a rocket ship. There’s nothing like a four-year-old to teach you that you that “less is often more.”
Having a preschooler is like living with a tornado in human form. A non-stop whirlwind of enthusiasm, defiance and, let’s be honest, complete and utter craziness, getting out the door with your preschooler can be the second toughest part of the day (let’s not talk about bedtime just yet!). Here are 36 of the thoughts that run through my head when I’m trying to leave the house with my four-year-old. (*All names have been changed to protect late running parties!)
1. Where’s the child?
2. Where are her shoes?
3. Did I really dress her in that outfit? Oh wait, no, she did that herself.
4. Is it really important that I brush her hair?
5. I’m sure just shoving it in a ponytail will be fine. Voila! Messy chic!
6. Where’s a wipe, there’s breakfast on her chin.
7. How did cereal get so crusty in such a short time?
8. How on Earth can she still be hungry?
9. Fine, have a yogurt pouch. What do I care if your teeth rot.
10. I do care if your teeth rot. Here’s your toothbrush, now brush your teeth.
11. Still no shoes—can you go pick a pair?
12. No, sandals are not appropriate when it’s looking like snow.
13. You want to change your outfit again? No you can’t wear the Elsa costume.
14. Fine you can wear the Elsa crown and take the Elsa doll with you instead.
15. What about Anna? Why does Anna always get left out?
16. Personally, Anna is my favorite.
17. Crap, where has the child gone again?
18. Why is it when I need to make a phone call or go to the bathroom she refuses to play by herself, and yet when it’s time to leave the house, I find her playing quietly in her room?
19. Argh. I’m going to have to clean up all these toys again.
20. Or am I? Surely four is old enough to put away her own toys?
21. I really need a coffee.
22. Where’s my bag?
23. No snacks in the bag—rookie mistake. Where are the rice crackers, Goldfish and popcorn packets?
24. And the water bottle—better refill it quickly.
25. Do I have enough spare clothes and a pack of baby wipes?
26. When can I stop carrying snacks, water bottles and baby wipes with me everywhere I go?
I love taking my little family on adventures. What I don’t love is cleaning up afterwards. Particularly the car! Cleaning the car out after a day at the beach is a particularly painful prospect. No matter how much we try to leave the sand at the beach, a huge amount always ends up in our car and then ingrained in the carpet back home.
I’m very thankful right now to Dyson for their new V6 Absolute cordless vacuum, which is taking the pain out of cleaning up after our little adventures. The Dyson lives in our apartment but, as it’s cordless, it’s able to be taken easily outside to clean up the mess our adventure has left behind.
The Dyson V6 Absolute comes with an array of heads to cleaning various surfaces. It’s called the “Absolute” because it contains all the attachments and all the extra features. For the car, I use the long pointed nozzle attached directly to the base, which lets me get into all the nooks that Cheese drops food into, as well as suctioning up big piles of sand.
Inside the home, the Dyson has a long stick attachment which makes vacuuming the floor less of a backache than using a regular handheld (in a tiny apartment like ours, we are all about the handheld vacuum cleaners!).
Additional heads for hard floors and carpets ensures that dirt is being effectively removed. The soft roller cleaner head removes large debris and fine dust, particularly good for hard surfaces, while the direct drive cleaner head is perfect for carpets – it has 75% more brush bar power than the popular Dyson v6 Animal vacuum.
I was amazed by the amount of dirt that the vacuum sucked up off carpet that looked like it was clean. The motor is seriously impressive. It was also so light and easy to use that Cheese, who just turned four, was able to operate it. Win! The kid can finally vacuum!
What I liked about the vacuum:
Lightweight, easy to assemble
Low power consumption means the battery lasts about 20 minutes. In “boost” mode (extra power) it last for 6 minutes.
Charges fully in about four hours.
It’s compact – perfect for apartments. The wall-mounted docking station means it can be stored in small spaces.
Anyone can use the vacuum – even kids! It’s so easy and light, so no excuses to get out of cleaning.
Cleans hard surfaces as well as carpets.
Dust bin is easy to empty without getting dirt all over you and the floor. Simple “push-the-button” system.
Powerful suction – really gets all the dirt and dust out.
The V Ball Technology – The heads have swivel steering.
The post-motor filter expels exceptionally clean air.
Cleans from the floor to the ceiling.
Converts to a handheld.
The Dyson docking station stores and charges the machine.
2 year warranty.
Easy to use trigger grip that releases instantly, so battery power is only used for cleaning.
There was very little I did not like about it. It’s a really fantastic vacuum.
No “low power” warning before the vacuum shuts down.
The dust bin is a bit on the small side at 0.105 gallons.
What you get in the box:
2 vacuum heads (the direct-drive head and the soft roller)
A fun giveaway for you this week! If you are looking for some holiday fun in Sydney, the Monkey Baa Theatre Company will be presenting The Secret Life of Suitcasesfrom September 28 to October 2 at the Lend Lease Theatre, in the Darling Quarter.
A little bit about the show:
Larry works in an office and he likes it very much. But one day, a suitcase suddenly appears at his door. A suitcase with a tiny label with Larry’s name on it. And this suitcase has a mission…
Join Larry as his world gets turned upside down by a fantastical flying suitcase taking him further than he ever thought possible. Follow Larry’s journey as he discovers the thrill of adventure and the joy of coming home again.
Check out the trailer below:
I’m so happy to offer one reader a family pass (4 tickets) to the Friday October 2nd 1pm session of The Secret Life of Suitcases at the Lend Lease Theatre Darling Quarter (right across from the children’s playground).
All you need to do to enter is comment below with who you would take and why they’d enjoy it. Easy peasy!
Please read the dates and location carefully. There is no exchange or refund and you must find your own way to the theatre. The giveaway is open Friday August 28 9am to Friday Sept 4th 11:59pm.