Naps are the BEST. Seriously, there is nothing better than a happily napping child. Who knew that you could accomplish so much in such a short period? The benefits of naps are almost endless. My favourites include:
You can check your email.
You can update your Facebook.
You can make breakfast/lunch/dinner.
You can catch up on The Bachelor.
You can take a nap too.
You can make that urgent phone call you’ve needed to make all morning.
You can do 30 mins of home yoga.
You can read a book.
You can vacuum or clean up the house.
You can fold that giant pile of laundry.
You can write a blog post (like this one!).
You can download the photos from your phone and back them up.
You can give yourself a mani/pedi.
You can bake cookies for afternoon tea.
You can clean out your wardrobe.
You can drink your coffee while it’s hot.
You can take a long shower.
You can use the bathroom uninterrupted.
You can Skype a friend.
You can do your hair and make up.
You can shop online.
You can eat a cupcake without sharing it.
You can share a photo of them asleep on Instagram.
You can play Candy Crush on your phone.
You can unpack the dishwasher.
You can meditate.
You can clean all the crap you don’t need out of your handbag.
Ahhh it’s Easter Sunday, one of the best days of the year. I managed to turn it into a week-long chocolate fest this year by eating a chocolate bunny a day. There is something about Easter chocolate – it just tastes BETTER than regular chocolate, even if it’s a plain milk chocolate bunny by Cadbury.
This year was our first back in Australia with Cheese, and I wanted to make it a lot of fun. After opening her Easter basket in her jammies in the morning, she then dressed in her Elsa costume to enjoy her chocolate spoils before we head out to our friends’ house to enjoy Easter brunch and an Easter egg hunt.
At my friends’ house, the girls decorated cupcakes with chocolate shavings and mini chocolate birds’ eggs. They made the cutest little nests.
We indulged in a”brown feast” of hot cross buns, pancakes and French toast (don’t worry, there was some fruit in there too), before it was time to release the girls on the Easter egg hunt. We used a mix of tiny and small chocolate eggs, plus plastic ones filled with fluffy toy chicks, tiny chocolate eggs and some Easter gummy lollies.
The kids all crashed out and opened their spoils. The plastic eggs were a great hit – they gave an extra fun element to the hunt, as opening them afterwards prolonged the anticipation.
It was a day for family, not just friends. My parents joined us, as did my friend’s. We’ve been close friends since we were 12, so we’re all basically family at this stage.
With my girlfriend who hosted us – I can’t believe we’ve been friends for over 20 years.
With the sugar high still going strong, the girls bounced it out on the trampoline. Haven’t things changed since we were kids? I remember placing a trampoline next to a swimming pool and using it to springboard into the deep end.
It’s always hard to head home after such a wonderful day with loved ones.
Last Easter gifts for the day from Nana and Pop, and a big hug, and then it was all over for another year.
Do you celebrate Easter? if so, how did you spend the holiday?
While Cheese and I often see shows together, it’s rare that Alec comes along too. He’s just not usually interested in princess shows (what a surprise) or shows based on cartoons. But when I mentioned the new show at the Sydney Opera House, Dinosaur Zoo, he was in. Finally a show he could enjoy as well as Cheese and I.
Because, who doesn’t love dinosaurs? Dinos are fascinating for people of all ages and gender. They make a great subject for this new show playing at the Sydney Opera House April 4 – 19, 2015.
Dinosaur Zoo is a fun blend of beautiful puppetry, impressive sound effects and comic humans driving the storyline.
The narrator, Graham, takes the audience on a an educational and fun journey where we learned about several dinosaurs that were discovered in Australia. None of the generic T-Rexes here. Only Aussie dinos, thank you very much. I found it refreshing to learn about these dinosaurs, none of whom I’d heard of before, and to see puppet replicas of them come to life before our eyes.
The show could very easily have been too scary for little kids had a different approach been taken. However, with the high level of interaction and frequent humour, the show was never going to freak out the littlies.
Graham introduced each dinosaur to the audience using the correct scientific terms the entire time. This is not a show that dumbs down science for kids. I was interested to see how the kids would respond to this, as there were a lot of younger kids in the audience, like Cheese. The kids, however, were rapped by the dinosaurs and there was very little fuss during the show that would indicate loss of interest. In fact it was the opposite, The kids were all hanging off Graham’s every word, desperate to be called down to the stage for their chance to pat a dinosaur.
The lesson here: never talk down to kids. Use big words. Kids will absorb them like the little sponges they are.
I was impressed by the quality of the puppets. They were incredibly done, and I found them to be very lifelike. I also liked the variety of dinosaurs used in the show. Babies, insects, carnivores and a big herbivore gave the show a good coverage of dinosaurs in general.
Cheese wasn’t selected to go up on stage, no matter how straight she stuck up her arm, but it didn’t matter as after the show two of the handlers brought out the babies to meet the audience in the foyer.
If you arrive early, kids can enjoy the free creative play set up by the Sydney Opera House in the foyer, called “Echo Table”. By waving their arms over tables, kids can control the emerging patterns and reveal large pictures, like the Mona Lisa, hiding underneath.
For a pre or post-show meal, if you’re after an option out of the theatre, downstairs is the newly-refurbished Opera Kitchen. The food is pricey ($17.50 for a small piece of quiche and fries, $22 for Alec’s OK burger and fries), and the choices for kids aren’t very healthy ($15.50 for a kids’ meal, all of which contain a small soft drink, chips and an ice cream).
While the food was okay, it wasn’t spectacular, so unless you really want to sit and admire the view, I would suggest getting cheaper sandwiches (and a much healthier kids’ pack) from the theatre bar next to the drama studio in the Opera House instead. They offer a $7 Kids’ Box including: White bread cheese sandwich, brown bread vegemite sandwich, a banana or apple, Uncle Toby’s mango & passion fruit yoghurt bar, cheese stick, juice, and a party blower. Check out all the kids’ meal options at the Opera House here.
Dinosaur Zoo is playing at the Sydney Opera House April 4 – 19, 2015.
Suitable for children 5+
Tickets: $39 – $55
Run time: 50 minutes
Parking: If it’s a wet day and you need to drive, use the code “Opera” for discounted parking. Ours cost $9 instead of $15 on a Saturday.
Thank you to the Sydney Opera House for hosting us for this performance and for use of some of these images. All opinions are, as always, my own.
Our first Easter back in Sydney we have been enjoying everything Easter-y possible. It’s no secret that the chocolate holiday is one of my favourite times of the year, and I like to indulge in it – not just eating too many chocolate bunnies, but also enjoying Easter egg hunts, craft days and whatever activities I can find.
I found out The Grounds of Alexandria were hosting an Easter Fair and put it straight on our calendar. Even the prospect of an 8am start didn’t deter me. Nor did the weather when we woke up and it was pouring rain. It didn’t deter many people, it turned out, as the Grounds was packed with many other soggy families determined not to let the rain ruin their Easter.
The wonderful folks at The Grounds had gone to a lot of effort to make the place special for Easter. We visited a few weeks ago on a sunny day and took some photos of their new bunny, “Kate Moss” and the other decorations. I’m using them here because it was way too wet this morning to post for photos.
This morning, however, looked a bit different. The Grounds staff had hidden 5,000 Easter eggs all over their backyard, including one special golden egg that I don’t think anyone had found when we left later in the morning.
They had also created Australia’s biggest chocolate Easter egg, which will be cracked open and shared tomorrow afternoon.
After a bit of waiting around (it turned out Channel 9 were there to film the hunt, so everything was a bit delayed), the Easter egg hunt began, and, despite the rain, it was a really fun morning for all of the families who made the effort to go.
The eggs were liberally spread everywhere, including all over the ground. Pro: everyone went home with plenty of eggs. Con: people were treading on the eggs. I didn’t pity the guy who had to clean up the squashed remnants of chocolate on the round at the end of the day!
While the Grounds folks had the most adorable little pails for kids to use, Cheese brought her old favourite from home.
After the egg hunt was over (it was over when Cheese decided she had enough eggs – there were still eggs strewn around everywhere!), it was time for face painting and crafts. Channel 9 were there to film the festivities too.
And then it was time to take our sodden selves home!
Happy Easter Saturday to you and yours! What are you getting up to for Easter this year?
When I think about how to sum up what motherhood means to me, I keep coming back to “it’s a love affair”. Not the same kind that I have with by husband, but a relationship of the heart nonetheless. Let me explain.
It all started when I was trying to get pregnant. The hope of a new person to love and be loved by was an ache in my heart that I didn’t know how badly I wanted until it seemed like I couldn’t have it. The idea of a brand new love that I could nurture and grow was a dream that just wouldn’t go away.
Dearest child, I loved you before you even existed.
And then, I was pregnant. The anticipation of starting our lives together as a family of three was too exciting to have to wait those nine months to begin.
When you were born, we started what felt like dating. Getting to know each other slowly, through good times and bad. Through sleepless nights and gurgley smiles. There were days when you felt like a stranger who had been left on my doorstep, and I wasn’t sure that this motherhood thing was going to work out. There were absolutely days when I wanted us to break up so I could go back to just being me. But we didn’t break up. I didn’t give up.
You were getting to know me too. Seeing if I would care for you and love you no matter what. As a baby, you were up all night long for many months, giving me such sleep deprivation that I’m pretty sure I was hallucinating half the time.
As a toddler you pushed my buttons to see how I’d respond. Testing my parenting skills and commitment to being as good a mum as I badly wanted to be. Through tantrums and food throwing and hitting-in-the-face, I stuck it out, knowing that being your mum was worth it. I think I passed the test because here we are today, seriously in love.
Our days are filled with comfortable companionship – the kind that comes with knowing the other person’s heart as well as your own. We hold hands and walk together, picking flowers, singing songs and fluttering our pretend wings. I paint your toenails blue and braid your hair like Elsa. You tell me I’m your best friend and that you love me. The feeling’s mutual, kid.
Darling girl, you’ll always be, along with your dad, the loves of my life. The best, biggest, most amazing love that a woman could hope for.
MOTHER’S DAY GIVEAWAY WITH UBERKATE
With Mother’s Day just a few weeks away, I’ve teamed up with the wonderful Uberkate to give one lucky reader the chance to celebrate their own family love affair with a piece of Uberkate custom jewellery. I absolutely love my own Uberkate Expression Pendant because it lets me keep my family close to my heart.
One reader will win their own bespoke Uberkate Expression Pendant piece worth $255, customisable with names of their choosing. The Expression Pendant is a flat, embossed solid sterling silver pendant 3.3cm long x 2.2cm wide and 1.5mm thick. Includes 45cm sterling silver curb chain. Below you can see my customised piece with our names on it, written in my husband Alec’s handwriting. For the chance to win your own Uberkate Expression Pendant, enter via the form below.
Entry open to Australian residents only. The most creative answer will win. This is not a game of chance. Competition is open Wednesday April 8th 2015 to 11:59pm Tues April 21st 2015.
Thanks to Uberkate for my beautiful Expression Pendant. All opinions are, as always, my own.
Some days it seems like you’re just holding everything together. Rushing to get the kids to school on time, rushing to get to work. Rushing home and hurriedly cooking dinner, then rushing through the bath and bed routine. That’s just the way life goes sometimes. If you’re time poor like most of us are, and want to show your child how much you love them, here are 30 little ways that can be incorporated into your day with almost zero effort.
Give your child kisses when they wake up.
Read an extra book before bedtime.
If you get home at night too late for books, read a book at breakfast instead.
If your child can read, put a note in their lunch box, that says, “Have fun today! Love you!”
Give big hugs and kisses before you leave.
Ask what their favourite part of the day was.
Ask what the hardest part of the day was, too.
When your child is desperate for your attention, drop what you’re doing and give it to them.
Look them in the eyes.
Stay in their room just a few minutes longer than usual at bedtime.
Notice something they’ve done right: “Thank you for putting your toys away, I really appreciate it.”
Cook together – let your child help you make dinner if you’re not the baking kind.
No matter how bad your day was, or how annoyed you are at your child, never go to bed angry, or let your child go to bed feeling that you’re angry with them.
Compliment your child on something they do: “I really love listening to you sing. You sing so beautifully”.
Try to get ready ahead of your schedule so you can cut out the “hurry ups” and let the child take their own time walking down the street, getting in the car, picking a few flowers along the way.
Really listen to what your child is saying, without interrupting.
Make your child feel like their opinion matters by asking what they think.
Proudly display their artwork at home.
Don’t talk about them, especially their flaws, in front of them.
After you have an argument, give them a big hug and tell them it’s ok.
Follow through on any promises you make.
Play with your child, even if it’s just for a few minutes.
Say “yes” instead of no.
Give your child your full attention when you’re together.
Think of a fun activity to do together on the weekend, even if it’s something as simple as going to a new playground together.
A few weeks ago Cheese and I attended a special screening of Disney’s Tinker Bell and the Legend of the NeverBeast.
Cheese loves the Tinker Bell movies (and so do I!), so it was a lovely way to spend the morning together. The movie was really sweet, focusing on the fairy Faun rather than Tinker Bell and a creature she finds in the wild (the “NeverBeast” from the title). The Tinker Bell movies are so cleverly made. They appeal to kids with their bright, sassy characters and beautiful animation, and also to adults with their well-written female characters and heart-warming morals that underpin the stories.
The moral of Tinker Bell and the legend of the NeverBeast is you can’t judge a book by its cover. Faun has to decide if she can to trust her own instincts and to go against all of her fairy friends to do what she believes is right. The message to be brave and follow your heart is a lovely lesson for little people to learn (and for big people to be reminded of). The movie was a touch scary for Cheese, but she still told me afterwards that she really enjoyed it.
After the movie, we were interviewed on camera to give our opinions. It was both of our first time being interviewed on camera (she was fine, I was nervous). What do you think of Cheese and my film debut?
Ever on the hunt for Sydney’s best high tea, this time I tried the Swissotel’s buffet high tea. For $69 (Sat & Sun) or $59 (Mon-Fri), you get to eat your fill of finger sandwiches, scones, savoury delicacies and delightful desserts. It sounded like a great idea for this little piggy, so off I went with a dear friend to see how much sweet stuff I could eat.
I scored a Groupon voucher in advance which gave us the high tea experience at a 2-for-the-price-of-one deal. Seriously, a bargain. Keep your eyes peeled for more of these deals as they are run regularly.
I was a little unsure about how this high tea would measure up from the outset, as I didn’t have much luck with their customer service team. I emailed them to confirm our booking, and to make sure that they received my note that one of us was vegetarian, and the other gluten-intolerant. I received a curt reply that it wad been noted in the reservation request and that was it. I was unsure if this meant that they were able to cater for dietary requirements or not, so email back asking this. The reply was again curt and vague. The staff would show us what food was vegetarian or gluten-free. Um. Ok ….
So I have to say that when we arrived we were a little worried about what we would be eating. The staff in on the day were also a bit confusing. We were each given a plate of sandwiches that suited our dietary requirements. The gluten-free one had three selections, but my vegetarian one was only one type: six small summer vegetable sandwiches. It was way too much of one sandwich. A plus: because the sandwiches had been made and delivered they were super fresh.
On our arrival we were offered our choice of a special mocktail or cocktail of the day. I accepted the cocktail which sounded fruity, and then realised afterwards that I was supposed to have the option of a glass of sparkling, which I wasn’t offered by the waitstaff. Very confusing. I would have preferred he glass of sparkling, as even though the cocktail was delicious, it was about 70% crushed ice. It was also removed from the table half finished, when I went up to get my first plate from the buffet.
We asked about the savoury items on the buffet, and if they could show me which ones were vegetarian (there were no labels on any of the dishes), and I received a vague, “yes, there are vegetarian dishes”, but it was up to me to work it out for myself. Through guess work I discovered that there was in fact a vegetarian quiche.
My gluten-free dining companion fared better than I did. The staff very thoughtfully provided her with a special plate of gluten-free desserts, even though over half of the desserts on the buffet had no gluten in them. She received two little cakes and a pot of some kind of fruits. Again, we weren’t told what they were, so your guess is as good as ours. The cakes were really delicious, and the fruit proved to be nicely poached in a sweet juice.
It was just as well that the food was pretty solid after the pretty meh service we received. There wasn’t anything that particularly stood out as being amazing or innovative, but everything was decent quality, fresh, well-made.
I found a menu that listed the buffet dishes but couldn’t locate some items on the menu and vice versa, so I’m not exactly sure what everything was.
Savoury dishes: roasted chicken, cucumber, cream cheese on quinoa soy bread, slow roasted NSW Angus beef, semi dried tomato, rocket, pesto aioli, grilled summer vegetables on dark rye with lemon mayonnaise, Gold Coast prawns and corn salad on mini brioche, smoked salmon, cream cheese and wild rocket on sourdough, goat cheese and pine nut quiche, chicken and leak pies.
Sweet: roasted Forbes peach and pistachio tart, berry white mousse cake, stone fruit macarons, chocolate cherry with coconut (couldn’t find these), pistachio white chocolate slices (couldn’t find these), chocolate macadamia brownies, creme caramel, pavlova, salted caramel lamingtons (couldn’t find these), watermelon panna cotta with salted caramel (don’t think we saw this either), dark chocolate profiteroles filled with plum pastry cream.
We had several items that weren’t on the sweets menu: a creme brûlée, a mango pudding, a strawberry pudding and a chocolate mousse or pudding. The puddings were a disappointing substitution for the items that were missing from the menu.
Other food options include “freshly baked” scones with jam and double cream (the apricot jam was fantastic), and a variety of fruit ready to be dipped in the chocolate fountain.
The scones on the menu are listed as quinoa, but ours were chocolate chip. They had definitely been sitting there for a while as they were dense and hard.
My favourite food was the cheese and pine nut quiche (it was so delish – flaky, fresh, cheesy), the pavlova (something about the cream! it was the perfect ratio of cream, fruit and meringue) and the roasted Forbes peach and pistachio tart (the fruit was flavoursome, and it had the perfect shortbread crust).
The high tea also comes with your choice of T2 loose leaf tea or coffee. When we were about half way through our meal I had to get up and ask for our tea, as it was never offered. I ordered a berry tea that was really delicious. The service continued to be lax, however. Our water glasses were filled on arrival, and then not filled again until just before we left.
We had an extremely mixed time at the Swissotel high tea. The food was pretty good, but a long way from the best high tea’s I’ve had, and with the Groupon voucher it was a decent price. The service and communication was a let down.
68 Market Street,
Sydney NSW 2000
Phone: (02) 9238 8888
Hours: Sat & Sun, call for their seating times. Mon-Fri 2pm – 4pm. Reservations advised. Get directions.
I’m a long-time lover of the Sydney Royal Easter Show. I’ve been going since I was a kid myself, so have been so looking forward to taking Cheese for the first time this year.
We tackled the day with one objective – to go at Cheese’s pace and let her enjoy it, however she wanted to. This meant we ditched all the things that we usually like to check out, and focussed on a small number of areas that we thought were do-able (and enjoyable!) for a 3.5 year old.
We had such a wonderful day out, particularly teaching our city kid about the animals and country life.
Top picks for little kids: Here are my recommendations on ways to spend an enjoyable day with toddlers and preschoolers. The Animal Walk: This is fun for all ages, and is particularly awesome for kids. Follow the giant paw prints around all of the animal pavilions. Pick up a “passport” and collect a stamp from each station. The pavilions are a lot more interactive now than when I was a kid. There are now colouring in stations, and areas where you can watch chickens hatching, “pat a chick”, and watch wool being spun. Pat A Pig: Kids can give cute little piglets a tickle, and check out newborn piggies in the stall adjacent. Sheep Shearing: After watching the demonstration, kids can assist the shearers in shearing a sheep. Farmyard Nursery: A classic favourite. Get up close with goats, chickens and other barnyard favourites. As you exit, you can have you photograph taken with the cutest lamb you’ve ever seen. $15 for one large, high quality image, or $25 for a pack. Food Farm: Technically this is on the animal walk, but there are no live animals here. Instead, you’ll find a lot of interactive stations for kids to play as they learn about where our food comes from. Cheese’s favourite was the play chicken laying shed, where she placed eggs under hens and then collected the eggs over and over and over. The tractor that kids could climb into and pretend to drive was another hit. The Dairy Farmers Milking Shed: Here’s your kid’s chance to try their hand at milking one of the more gentle cows. Live Shows: Cheese highly enjoyed the My Little Pony and Giggle And Hoot live shows. Both had live singing and the characters dancing, and ran for 25 minutes each under the shady Big Top Amphitheatre. A great way to take a rest break and keep the kids entertained at the same time.
Circus Workshops: Kids can try their hand at circus arts under the guidance of Ashton Entertainment Circus professionals.
Character Meet And Greets: Say hello to “Oh” from the movie “Home” (have you seen it yet? It’s adorable!) and Transformers. Ferris Wheel: The rides are expensive. For three of us to do the ferris wheel it was $23. It was worth it though, to take Cheese on her first ferris wheel and see her face light up with joy as we flew through the air. We also had a fabulous view of the show and surrounds up there, making it a nice change of pace when you need a break from the crowds. Showbags: A visit to the show ins’t complete without a showbag. The little kiddie ones are at the entrance, making it a stress-free experience to drop by with a little kid and not get stuck roaming around the pavilion with a kid who wants everything. The showbags that Cheese wanted were all the licensed character types, which were around $26 each. Cheese picked out the Disney Princess and Dance bags, both of which I was happy to see were excellent value. Each had a lot of items that Cheese will get a lot of use out of (like dress up items, hair bands, play jewellery and wands), and were of good quality. She was thrilled.
Tips for making the day a success Start early: Get there when it opens as the showground is very quiet for the first few hours. Crowds start picking up around midday. Set a budget: Decide before you go how many rides/showbags/toys the kids can have and stick to it. Pack food and your own water bottle to help keep the costs down. Schedule wisely: With little kids, you’re not going to see everything in one day, so pick a handful of experiences to enjoy, and leave the rest for next year. Keep kids close: With so many distractions it’s easy to lose your kids. Write your phone number on their arm or on a band around their wrist (I think they hand these out at the main entrance as I saw a lot of kids with them).
A big thank you to the Sydney Royal Easter Show for providing me with tickets to write this blog post. Head to the Sydney Royal Easter Show for your own magical day out. The Easter Show runs from Thursday 26 March to Wednesday 8 April, 2015, at Sydney Olympic Park.
On our recent Blue Mountains drive we stopped off at The Gingerbread House for afternoon tea after several recommendations from friends. It’s the sweetest cafe, housed in a beautifully restored 100-year-old church. As you can guess from the name, The Gingerbread House is all about sweet things – milkshakes, Serendipty ice-cream, cakes, cookies & gingerbread. They do have light savoury food, by the way, but it’s the sweet things they’re well known for.
The Gingerbread House is owned by the creators of Josophan’s Fine Chocolates, so they obviously know a thing or two about the sweet things people go crazy for.
Inside the church is an adorably styled gingerbread house containing a sweet shop filled with lollies, and a mix of small and large communal tables. You can also sit outside and soak up the sun while the kids play in the gingerbread cubby house.
On our visit, we enjoyed a chocolate gingerbread man, a vanilla malt milkshake, a slice of chocolate cake with salted caramel frosting, an affogato with Serendipity caramel ice cream, and a scoop of Serendipity ‘Death by Chocolate’ ice-cream (which has just been awarded Champion Premium Ice-cream at the Sydney Royal Cheese & Dairy show).
The cake was mine, and I found it to be just the right mix of dense, moist chocolate cake, with thick caramel frosting for my taste. I loved the milkshake (nice and malty), as did Cheese, who stole mine off me. Alec enjoyed his affogato (said the ice cream was great) and Cheese devoured her ice cream (as the official “eat the rest of the cone when the kid is done” person, I can confirm that the chocolate ice cream was really, really good, too!).
The Gingerbread House is delightful and delicious – the perfect stop for a treat on your next drive to Katoomba.