Every year since Cheese was born, I’ve printed photo Christmas cards for our friends and relatives. I love receiving gorgeous photo cards from our friends, and hope that they, similarly, enjoy receiving our holiday wishes for them in the mail.
This year, I designed our cards with Minted, a US company specialising in gorgeous stationary.
Minted has some excellent features that I really like and wanted to share.
1. A large variety of cards to choose from
There are hundreds of cards to make a selection from. Literally too many to look through!
2. A personalised card preview tool
You can easily upload your own images to see what the cards will look like with your favourite shots in them.
3. Photo manipulation
It’s super easy to zoom in and out and crop the images to suit the cards, and there’s an option for “auto enhance” too.
3. Customisation options
Add foil, change the colours, change the text from “holiday” to “Christmas” greetings. There are so many options for each card.
4. Save and review later
One of my fave features, you can save all your designs and then view them all at once so it’s easy to compare them and choose your favourite.
5. Free recipient addressing
It’s really easy to upload a spreadsheet with your family and friends’ addresses in them, and they are printed on the envelopes FOR FREE! My handwriting is appalling, so I really appreciate this.
6. Digital proofing service
This is great for the nervous orderers among us – when you’re printing a lot of expensive cards, it’s reassuring to know there is someone looking over them and checking you haven’t made a silly mistake. If you choose not to use the proofing service you get a $10 discount and get your order 2 days faster.
7. Frequent discount offers
When I ordered mine they had a 20% off sale, with the code in a banner across the top of the site.
8. The quality is gorgeous
I’ve ordered from Minted before and the quality is just stunning. When you compare them to much cheaper places you can get cards from, there is no quality comparison at all. You get what you pay for – which is, in this case, gorgeous cards your family and friends will keep long after the holidays are over.
9. International shipping
I was stoked to see they shipped to Australia! It costs $20 for their standard international mail, but that’s pretty regular for getting something shipped all the way Down Under.
I can’t wait to get my cards! I will show them off on social media when they arrive.
Wanting to order your own gorgeous holiday cards? Make sure you do so while there is still time at Minted.com.
Thanks to Minted.com for the complimentary voucher to try their card ordering service. I’ve ordered from Minted in the past and have always been extremely happy with their quality and service so was more than happy to share my experience with others.
Luna Park Sydney might just be the most gorgeously positioned amusement park in the world. Perched on the shorefront of Milson’s Point, the juxtapositioning of the old-world carnival colours against the stunning blue of Sydney Harbour makes it an incredible spot to visit, even if you’re not planning on actually riding anything.
While children and adults flock to the park to enjoy hair-raising rides, Luna Park is also an historical icon in Sydney, being listed on the State Heritage Register in 2010.
Whether rides are or aren’t your thing, Luna Park is a fascinating piece of Australian history. The fist Luna Park opened in St Kilda, Melbourne, in December 1912, with a second opening in Glenelg, South Australia, in 1930. The later, however, encountered push back from the locals, who thought the park was a haven for unsavoury types – as a result, the park was packed up and shipped to Sydney.
Sydney’s Luna Park was constructed at the foot of the Sydney Harbour Bridge in 1935, and, once open, ran for nine-month seasons until 1972, when it was opened year-round. The park closed in mid-1979 following the infamous Ghost train fire, which killed six children and one adult.
The park has been partially demolished, renovated, re-opened and closed again several times since due to various problems – the most recent being the noise pollution complaints from locals surrounding the Big Dipper rollercoaster that caused the ride to be heavily restricted and, as a result, saw a drop in attendance that lead to the park’s closure in 1996.
After further redevelopment, the park re-opened in 2004 and has been open ever since.
In 2010 the Luna Park Face was listed as an item of national heritage by the National Trust of Australia, making it one two amusement parks in the world that are protected by government legislation; several of the buildings on the site are also listed on the Register of the National Estate and the NSW State Heritage Register: most notably Luna Park’s Coney Island Funnyland, which is the only operating example of a 1930s funhouse left in the world.
Coney Island was built in 1935, and although there have been some changes made over the years, the layout is almost identical to when it opened, including the rotating barrels, moving platforms, long slides and arcade games that line the walls.
I recently took the little Cheese to experience Luna Park for the first time and have some tips if you’re intending to go:
Luna Park Tips
Buy your tickets online
They are cheaper to buy from the Luna park website than in person at the park. You will also avoid the queues this way.
Look for special deals
Take a look for even better deals before you buy them directly from the park. For example, try Groupon, or Telstra and Optus perks. I received the best deal through Optus.
Adult accompanying rider tickets cost some serious money
If you’re not planning to buy an adult ticket for yourself but your child isn’t tall enough to ride everything on their own, you will need to buy an accompanying adult ticket. These are not available for discount purchase online at all – they must be bough at the park, full price, and they are EXPENSIVE! They are also only valid for rides where accompanying the riders who are too short to ride by themselves – so you can’t ride without them, either.
Pack your own food
There is basic food available at the park, like hot dogs, burgers and chips kinda stuff, and they are expensive. I suggest packing healthier food for lunch and bringing it with you to save money.
Prepare for the weather
There is very little shade in much of the park, particularly in the little kids’ area out the back. Pack wide brimmed hats and plenty of sunscreen.
This is my mantra for theme parks in general. Go as early as possible when the queues are shorter and the sun isn’t as hot.
Be aware of height restrictions
Make sure your kid is big enough to get the most out of the cost of park entry. You can find a list of the height requirements for each ride here
Know how much money it’s going to cost if you buy tickets at the park
Unlimited Rides Pass – Yellow (130cm+) $52 (vs $48 online)
Unlimited Rides Pass – Green (106-129cm) $42 (vs $38 online)
Unlimited Rides Pass – Red (85-105cm) $22 (vs $22 online)
Accompanying Adult – Green $42
Accompanying Adult – Red $22
The cheapest day to go is Mondays
During the school holidays this is an excellent deal for school kids
Mini Money Mondays – Yellow (130cm+) $40
Mini Money Mondays – Green (106-129cm) $30
Mini Money Mondays – Red (85-105cm) $16
Other ticket options A Coney Island Pass ($12) lets you access just Coney Island all day. Coney Island was our kids’ favourite of the whole day, and is blissfully indoors!
How to get there
Luna park is so easy to reach by public transport. Catch the ferry or train directly to the park, or, if you have to drive, park in their car park. Either way, there is very little walking involved, so great for little ones.
Luna Park 1 Olympic Dr, Milsons Point NSW 2061 Hours: The days and hours Luna Park opens varies. Please check the website before going. lunaparksydney.com
Sculpture By The Sea is the largest free public sculpture exhibition in the world, and in 2016 celebrated its 20th anniversary. The exhibition runs for two weeks every year in October/November, along the cliff top walk from Tamarama Beach to Bondi Beach.
While the majority of the sculptures are not able to be touches, each year there are several that are designed to be interacted with by visitors, be it walking through them, on them or climbing over them – the placards in front of the sculptures lets people know which ones are able to be touched and which ones are too fragile.
A big hit this year was the ship with wooden blocks that were able to be manipulated, so visitors were able to change the shape of parts of the ship.
Please enjoy the photos of this spectacular exhibition, and scroll down to the bottom for tips on attending.
Tips for attending Sculpture By The Sea
Go early, like 6am early. We arrived at 7am and it was already really busy. If you arrive at midday, forget about being able to get near a sculpture without 20 people right on top of you.
Parking is a nightmare. Go early and look for a spot around Tamarama or Bronte.
Bring lots of water, sunscreen and a hat. The sun is brutal on the walk and there is no shade.
Bathrooms are located at Tamarama Beach, Mark’s Place and Bondi Beach.
Food is also located at Tamarama, Bondi and Mark’s Place. In 2015 and 2016 The Grounds of Alexandria had a pop-up cafe at Mark’s Place.
The walk is not stroller friendly at all. If you cannot bring your child in a baby carrier, walk/drive to Mark’s Place – it’s the only stroller accessible point of the walk.
Try for dawn or sunset for pictures with truly stunning light and less people around.
There are two kids’ playgrounds on the walk – one at Tamarama Beach and one at Mark’s Place.
Week days are much less busy than weekends.
Keep an eye on small children. Not only is the walk crowded, it runs along the cliff tops where there are no guard rails or barriers to stop children from falling over the edge.
Not all scuptures are designed to be touched. Please respect the signs and only touch those that are designated for interaction.
Photography tip: It might look like we were pretty much by ourselves on the walk but this was thanks to careful shooting and editing. For pics like these, be extremely patient and wait until other people leave the frame, or step around them and find an angle with no-one in it. If you can’t do either, then crop in close.
The Parramatta CBD River Foreshore Park is a great spot to run off steam with kids if you’re taking in a show at the nearby Riverside Theatre or grabbing lunch at one of the restaurants on Church street.
Built into the slope of the hill on the river’s foreshore, it’s got some really cool features like a 4 metre slide and rock climbing. In summer, water features are turned on near the sand play area.
Be aware that the playground is not fenced, not does it have any shade cover or bathrooms.
Parramatta CBD River Foreshore Park
Elizabeth St Footbridge Parramatta NSW
Halloween has been taking off slowly over the years in Sydney, with more and more families like ours wanting to mark the occassion with fun activities. This year Cheese was finally old enough to try the Swamp Monsters program at Centennial Park.
Swamp Monsters is a Halloween trail through Centennial Park, starting at the Eduation Centre. The event often sells out far in advance so buying tickets before the event is highly recommended. The day is broken up into time slots to start the activities. Arrive any time during your time slot, sign in at the desk and pick up your trail map, then take as long as you like.
The trail has five activity stations for kids to complete, with each spot spookyily themed and requiring kids to complete a task. The kids loved the (fake) spiders and cobwebs, and screamed with delighted terror at the “zombies” as they darted through a course that included navigating their way thorough a giant spider web, feeding a giant venus fly trap, guessing the ghoulish item in the mystery boxes, shooting zombies with nerf guns and bolting through a swamp infested with creatures from the dead.
After completing the five activities, the last stop is the completion tent where kids get their maps stamped and can choose a treat. While that marks the end of the trail, they are welcome to repeat any part of the course that they like.
At the start and end of the trail, back at the education centre, a pumpkin patch is set up for kids to make their own scarecrows. Our kids didn’t care so much about making the scarecrows – they were more enthused about pretending they were ponies munching on the hay. Great imaginations.
We chose the 11:30 time slot and found a tree to sit under for a picnic lunch at 12:30, thinking we would take a break and then do one of the activities after our lunch break, not realising that the whole course stopped for a lunch break between 12:30 and 2pm. I would highly recommend if you’re planning to do the activities again that you choose an earilier time slow or the one after lunch break.
While the day is recommended for kids aged 5-12 there were definintely some younger kids there. The littlies enjoyed several of the stations but were also scared of a few, so it all depends on the kid.
Age: 5-12 years
Times: Start times are available every 15 minutes between 10am to 12pm and 2pm to 4:30pm
Meeting Point/Venue: Start at The Learning Centre in the Education Precinct, off Dickens Drive, Centennial Park
Price: $17 per child Online
Show your online ticket on the day to receive your Trail Map. Tickets can be shown on mobile devices or printed out.
Event will go ahead in all weather. No refunds will be given.
Children must be accompanied by an adult. Adults do not require a ticket
One Trail Map per ticket and all participating children require their own trail map.
Coffee, ice cream and small snacks will be available for purchase from food vans.There is plenty of free parking usually available in Centennial Park, or you can take public transport.
“We’re going to the circus!” I announce to my five-year-old daughter, wanting to surprise her with a special treat. “Not with animals?” she looks at me somewhat confused. “No, with people!” I explain. “Ahhh, acrobats!” she crows, delighted at her good fortune of being taken on a special date, just the two of us.
“Will there be tightrope walkers? And jugglers?” she asks, her only point of reference for a circus a traditional one from well before the time she was born. “Ummmm,” I reply, not sure how to answer. When you’re going to watch Cirque Du Soleil, all expectations on what you’re actually going to see on stage go out the window. It could be literally any physical feat, and usually more bizarre than your imagination can dream up. “I guess we’ll see,” I finally say, and off we go to the big top in Sydney’s Moore Park, and excitedly take our seats.
Cirque Du Soleil has been wowing audiences with electrifying shows since their humble beginnings as a group of 20 street performers in Baie-Saint-Paul, a small town near Quebec City, in Canada. The band of colourful characters entertained people on the streets with stilt-walking, juggling, dancing, breathing fire, and playing live music. Old-school circus acts, performed with what would become their trademark drama and flair.
The company is still based in Quebec, and now has close to 4,000 employees, including 1,300 performing artists from around 50 countries around the world. They’re performed in over 300 cities in over 40 countries on six continents – and tonight, they’re in Sydney, Australia.
Much to my delight, Kooza pays homage to Cirque Du Soleil’s traditional circus roots with a combination of acrobatic performance and the art of clowning. The acts my daughter mentioned? They’re all there and she is thrilled. Stilt-walkers, jugglers, dancers, contortionists and tight-rope walkers. Every single circus act we could have possible hoped for was entwined in Kooza’s thrilling story of an Innocent’s discovery of light and dark magic.
Kooza cleverly weaves a tale about discovery, fear and power through a jam-packed show filled with acrobatic acts and tension-breaking light humour. The central character, The Innocent, is our guide on a journey of thrills, suspense and moments where our hearts almost stop watching the death-defying feats in front of our eyes.
While the adult in me sees the occasional safety gear go up for some of the more terrifying acts, my daughter is focussed only on the action and is genuinely worried about the well-being of the acrobats. “That doesn’t look very safe,” she whispers in my ear as a man dressed as the devil jumps on top of a spinning “wheel of death” that soars right to the top of the tent roof and proceeds to flip into the air.
She’s right – it’s part of the show’s illusion to make every act look effortless, while tapping into our sub conscious desire to see how far a human body can be pushed before it breaks. Will they fall? In a few spots, they almost do, and a collective gasp goes up in the audience to see a wobble or slight slip. They are fragile human beings and this is real life, not a movie with trick photography at work. If they fall it’s a long way down.
I point out the safety net that springs up when the tightrope walkers get particularly daring, and the hook that is attached to the man who balances with one hand on top 10 chairs to show her there is nothing to fear. “Even if they fall, they’ll be ok,” I whisper back, and she lets out the biggest sigh of relief I’ve heard from her, and spends the rest of the show pointing out the safety equipment to me, so I won’t be scared either.
The show draws to its close and I realise I’ve been holding my breath for much of it, perched on the edge of my seat. For two hours, we’ve been thoroughly immersed in a fantastical dreamscape world where acrobats are able to do the impossible – perform tricks that my mind can’t comprehend as possible for a human body to be able to do.
My daughter, after her first circus experience ever, is forever changed. Her world has expanded and her imagination unlocked. She’s seen with her own eyes the heights and athletic ability that a human body can reach, and the daring that some souls possess to push themselves past limits the rest of us would quite frankly baulk at. She is among many children in the tent, the next generation who are growing up with Cirque Du Soleil being the the only circus they’re likely to experience.
The audience leaves the tent uplifted and with stars in their eyes. We’ve seen great things today and will tell our friends about that time we saw a man leap aboard a spinning wheel of death and survive what looks impossible, or about the lady who spun from a hoop high in the air, saved from plummeting to the ground only by her neck. It’s the kind of stuff you never forget that you’ve seen.
My five-year-old wants to run away and join the circus. Come to think of it, so do I. We’d better start working on our acts.
Tips for seeing Kooza by Cirque Du Soleil
Parking at the Entertainment Quarter is actually quite reasonable. 3-4 hours is only $10.
If you’re taking kids, ask for a booster seat when you enter the seating pavilion.
Bathrooms are outside the pavilion so go beforehand.
Find your seats at least 10 minutes before the show starts so you don’t miss the pre-show entertainment.
The best place to see the show is smack bang right in the middle of the front section as this is where much of the action faces. Don’t fret if you’ve already bought tickets on the side though as the whole show is still visible from the entire ring.
The show is quite long for littles to sit through – an hour and a bit for the first half, followed by a 30 minute interval and then 45 minutes for the 2nd half.
If you are considering taking little ones, be aware that there are loud noises at times and a few scary themes like skeletons.
Water is provided for free near the bar areas so you can take your own water bottle as long as it’s not glass, and refill it.
Snacks and drinks are permitted into the pavilion.
Catch KOOZA by Cirque du Soleil in a city near you:
Sydney – Now playing until November 13 2016, Entertainment Quarter, Moore Park
Brisbane – From November 24 2016, Skygate Brisbane Airport (near DFO)
Melbourne – From January 20 2017, Flemington Racecourse
Perth – From April 13 2017, Belmont Park Racecourse, Victoria Park Drive (off Farmer Freeway), Burswood
Tickets at http://www.cirquedusoleil.com/kooza
Thank you Cirque Du Soleil for tickets to see the show. All opinions are my own.
With hundreds of stunning beaches running up and down the NSW coast, it’s hard to choose which one to visit.
On a sparkling Sunday we chose Palm beach, the northernmost suburb of Sydney, for a day trip. It’s an hour’s drive from the Sydney CBD, making it the perfect spot to get away from the hustle of the city without an epic drive to get there.
Palm Beach is often called the “jewel” of the Northern Beaches. Situated on a peninsula it has a gorgeous combination of lush evergreen bushland, beaches with soft golden sand and surrounded by the bright blue Pacific Ocean on one side, and calm Pittwater waterway on the other.
The beach might look very familiar if you watch a lot of soap TV – in particular Home & Away. The show has been filmed on location here since its beginnings in 1988. As a result the beach has been a popular tourist attraction, particular for Brits.
There’s plenty to do at Palm Beach to spend a gorgeous day outside. The main beach is soft and inviting – be sure to swim between the flags, or take kids to the south end to paddle where the water is most shallow.
If swimming in the waves isn’t your cup of tea, try a dip in the 35m ocean pool. It’s perfectly designed for both lap swimmers and also paddling with children in the shallow end.
For more exploring, follow the path around the pool where there are rock pools to be found. Be careful with the timing of your rock pool walk, however, as it can be unsafe when the tide comes back in.
When it’s time for lunch there are a few cafes to try. We enjoyed a late breakfast at 2108 Espresso, with an Aussie standard dish of toasted sourdough, avocado, fresh tomato and feta for $14 (eggs an additional $3). For the kids there is a grilled cheese toastie and babyccino with a cute blue marshmallow.
For dessert, we decided to give the cafe next door that serves scooped ice cream a miss and go old school with Gaytimes.
To walk off the ice cream there are a few options for the afternoon. Nearby is a large grassy park with a sprawling playground. While there were picnic tables in the park we didn’t spot any bathroom amenities, and the playground equipment didn’t have much shade.
The more athletic option for the whole family is to take the scenic 1.2km walk from the beach to Barrenjoey Head to visit the historic lighthouse that sits on Sydney’s most northerly point. It’s a 25 minute walk each way so take water and go to the bathroom before hand (no bathrooms at the top!). From the top you’ll have a great view of Broken Bay, the Central Coast and the Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park.
Have you ever wondered where the famous caldron from the 2000 Sydney Olympics ended up once the games were over? The answer is it didn’t go very far at all.
After the magical opening and closing ceremonies (who can forget Cathy Freeman lighting the cauldron and it rising through the air simultaneously dripping with fire and water?) the cauldron was taken down and moved just a few hundred metres to its permanent home – in the appropriately named Cathy Freeman Park.
Located very conveniently next to the Allphones Arena, Cathy Freeman Park has 2 playgrounds – one for young kids and one for older – huge shady trees and easy access to bathrooms and cafes.
We often end up in the park when attending a show at the Allphones Arena – it’s great to burn off energy after a long drive before needing to sit still for a long time while watching a show.
The cauldron is a popular feature for tourists and kids, who particularly love running underneath it in the puddles, and trying to judge when the fountain is about to turn on. There’s always one kid who times it poorly and gets absolutely soaked. Bring extra clothes in case this is your kid!
We were very fortunate to receive tickets to see The Very Hungry Caterpillar at the Sydney Opera House.
We arrived with time to spare and given that the Opera House is such a special venue, my kids had a little treat before the show. Some Very Hungry Caterpillar Cupcakes. A little steep at $5 each however both kids devoured the whole cupcake (they normally just eat the top!) and sadly, I did not get a chance for a pic or a taste. For the sugar conscious there was not too much icing on the top.
I really had no expectations for the show and did not get a chance to watch the promo video. The book by Eric Carle is a favourite at home and we have read it many times over the years. I was also a bit apprehensive to attend the show on my own with Miss 5 and Mr 2.8 year old. However, the moment the show started my kids along with everyone else were captivated. They enjoyed every part, interacting and participating with the actors and the charming puppets.
The Very Hungry Caterpillar was an amazing production where everything was created with kids in mind. The stories were beautifully presented through the stage, the music and the puppets. It exceeded my expectations as I had no idea that the production would cover three more of Eric Carles’ books: ‘The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse’, ‘Mister Seahorse’ and ‘The Very Lonely Firefly’. The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse and Mister Seahorse were my little man’s favourite in terms of the puppets and stage props. He kept pointing out and repeating the names of all the animals and the fish. Clapping with excitement after each one left the stage.
And of course the final story ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’ had most of the kids and adults reciting the lines from the book with the actors. Naturally, the ending was Miss 5’s favourite part.
My only very minor negative was with my 2.8 year old getting restless in the last 10 minutes of the show. However, the puppets and I managed to contain him.
Overall, I highly recommend anyone with children aged 2 to 5 years to go and see this wonderful production. It is my favourite kids show so far and I would take my youngest to see it when it comes back again.
The Very Hungry Caterpillar is playing at the Sydney Opera House until October 9, 2016.
Thank you so much to the Sydney Opera House for tickets for reviewing purposes. The show is absolutely magical and all opinions are the writer’s own. Additional show images courtesy of the Sydney Opera House.
Take a walk on the wild side with a show 65 million years in the making. Dinosaurs once again roam the world thanks to the magic that is Erth’s Dinosaur Zoo.
During this educational and entertaining show, kids have the opportunity to get up close to prehistoric creatures that have been discovered in Australia such as the Australovenator, AKA the cute baby dinos that make the crowd go “Awwwww” and the Meganeura, an insect from the Carboniferous period (approximately 300 million years ago), which looked like a mammoth dragonfly.
Scientific facts fly hard and fast during the show, and the audience has to think fast to keep up. Dinosaur devotees will be thrilled to learn about these lesser-known Aussie dinos, in the most entertaining way possible – through first-hand experience.
The real genius of Erth’s Dinosaur is creative way in which they blend fun and fact. Give a kid a lecture on dinosaur history and they’ll probably doze off. Give them a dinosaur to pat on the head, and they’ll be entranced for hours.
And it’s not just the kids who can’t take their eyes off the dinosaurs. Watching these incredibly realistic creatures walk around the stage is an entertaining experience for the adults, too.
With its mix of kid jokes and adult humour, audience participation and a deliciously scary moment or two, it’s hard to tell who enjoyed the show more – the kids or their parents. It’s easy to see why Erth’s Dinosaur Zoo is a hit of sauropod proportions.
Erth’s Dinosaur Zoo is recommend for ages 5 and up. I would heartily agree with this recommendation due to language (lots of big words that littlies won’t understand) and also a truly terrifying carnivore.
Stick around after the show to enjoy the free activities for kids offered by The Seymour Centre, including The Owls Apprentice by Little Wings Puppets, a beautiful show combining shadow puppetry, hand puppetry and storytelling, Polyglot Theatre’s Forest Feast, where children will create a feast of food from craft items, and Ants, an interactive roving performance where human-sized ants and children work together in a gentle and unusual landscaping project.
Catch Erth’s Dinosaur Zoo at the Seymour Centre Dates: 27, 28, 29, 30 Sept and 1 Oct, two shows a day: 10.30am and 12.30pm Prices: All tickets $22 available via Box Office (02) 9351 7940 or http://www.seymourcentre.com Address: The Seymour Centre – Corner of City Rd and Cleveland St, Chippendale
Full School Holidays Program: http://www.seymourcentre.com.au
I received tickets to Erth’s Dinosaur Zoo for reviewing purposes. I absolutely loved the show and all opinions written here are my honest feedback.