Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Kidaddle for Christmas

One doesn't need to be the original earth mother to feel like one's made an effort for Christmas. A few gestures have set the tone for me, and made me satisfied that I am putting the spirit back into the occasion:

Make simple things like rum balls and cheese biscuits with the kids.

Let the kids decorate the Christmas tree, and only fiddle with it after they've gone to bed.

Hand make the gift tags (this year: paper patchwork and they look beautiful).

Wrap the presents in brown paper and let the kids decorate the packages.

Take the mother-in-law and kids for a drive around the Clem Hill Christmas lights.

Talk husband into putting up a few token lights on the front verandah.

Organise home Carols by Candlelight - a few candles in paper cups, a song sheet of the kids' favourite songs and get the kids to dress up and act out the Nativity (easy plays for kids downloadable off the internet ... and one feels so pure for teaching them the story of Christmas).

Purchase of a Nativity set for the lounge room coffee table (last time I looked, all was in place in the barn, except for the animals who had migrated to a nearby coffee table and were standing one on top of each other in a circus formation!).

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Kidaddle to Wee Jasper

Eye Like Carrots has drawn my attention to Wee Jasper ...

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Kidaddle to Narooma

OK so it might involve driving a bit further along the coast from Bateman's Bay, but my summation is that it is worth it. It was late November, just before the surprise cold snap, and we were staggered to find ourselves the only people on the beach at 10 o'clock in the morning.

Narooma seemed to me to satisfy all tastes:

interesting board walk, "Australia" rock, spotting a seal lolling beside the breakwater,
helping Dad scrape oysters off the rocks, really good fish and chips, playgrounds ...

Dad: eating oysters straight off the rocks, great fish and chips, the steak at the aptly-named Steak & Oyster Bar at the top of the hill on the main street, bracing surf.

Mum: fresh air, sand-between-the-toes, oysters, oysters, oysters, interesting shops.

We stayed at the Island View Resort (Big Four Caravan Park) and we wanted for nothing - which at $208 for four people in a cabin for two nights was pretty impressive. Do it - but take our advice - go in February-March or October-November if you want to avoid crowds and high season pricing.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Kidaddle to an Upper Murray farm

And it doesn't have to be very sophisticated - a shed, a woodstove, a couple of gas burners, a gas lamp and a couple of old beds and we find ourselves in the envious position of having a holiday home.

The Upper Murray - beautiful one day, perfect the next. We meandered through Cooma and Adaminaby (yes, home of the Big Trout, very good bacon and egg rolls and smoked trout pate) and landed in Corryong where we found a farmer's market in full swing. We ate snags, played on the equipment, bought Snowy River olive oil and Batlow apples. Then we had a coffee and wandered up and down the main street, checking out the farm machinery and local crafts. We poked around The Attic and thought seriously about buying a church pew and a couple of wine barrels.

While duty called - 35 Angus to find and count - it was quickly followed by the taste of a perfect steak, followed by this:

Topped off with a wash under the sun-warmed tank and a million stars. Doesn't get much better than that.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Gold Coast or Numpty Land?

Our lovely neighbours have just returned from a week on the Gold Coast. Cliched or proven? Here are the pros and cons from their perspective:
  • Sea World Resort - worth staying there, but insist on a toaster in your room before arriving ... or there's no way to cook your toast ... (whoever heard of a kitchenette without a toaster???)
  • Be prepared to spend a lot of money. You may be staying at the Sea World resort, but expect to pay for Sea World regardless. Ice cream sellers had fists full of $50 notes.
  • But at least when you spend a lot of it at Sea World, you know that they are using some of the money for animal rescue activities.
  • Be prepared to queue a lot.
  • You can't take your own food into the parks. This feels like a basic human rights infringement to me ... but is apparently true. Once you enter a park, you are sentenced to a day without food fit for human beings. (Although our neighbours did find healthy options in all parks visited.)
  • If you take a teenager and a preschooler, you can expect to have to split up to service their different expectations.
I'm personally thinking that camping in the Deua is looking pretty attractive!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

October Holidays: Jack and Ella's Top 5

1. A day on the farm and horse riding at Poplar Corner - even if it was snowing!
2. Up!
3. Zoocation - especially feeding the lions with tongs!
4. The man with the snake, lizards, but best of all CROCODILE at Jenny Wren Child Care.
5. Cockington Green

Yes, it's true, they were spoilt these holidays. I'm normally a big believer in kids needing to spend a lot of time bored and learning to entertain themselves ... but, with father away and mother having to work, a lot was turned on for them this time. At least they were heard to say things like "can't believe how many lovely things we're doing these holidays" ... which suggests they appreciated it all.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Kidaddle Camping to Deua

We are planning our first real family camping trip and we know where we're going: Deua National Park but specifically the Berlang campground. If memory serves me correctly, and it's been 13 years since I've been there, the campground is pleasant - two skips from a creek worth paddling in, and an easy walk away from "The Big Hole" where one might see a lyrebird at play. I've not visited Marble Arch so we might even take on the longer stroll.

The kids are thrilled at the thought and have two demands: that we sleep in real tents and have a real fire. Well the first is a dead cert with no more sophisticated equipment to our credit and for the second, if we go now - in Spring - we hopefully won't face a fire ban.

Kidaddle to Floriade and the Tulip Farm

Floriade is a more a fixture than an event in Canberra now and it is a thoroughly enjoyable kid-friendly outing but I did regret the absence this year of the sandcastle sculptures featured last year.

(The flowers are lovely but I have a secret confession: the shops are great too. )

Next year I am definitely going to check out the night markets. Too small children (for staying up late) and husband's absence have prevented enjoyment of this element of the festival up until now, but I am determined to get to it soon.

The fabulously complimentary Tulip Tops farm just North of Eaglehawk on the Federal Highway is a must for anyone who likes Floriade. One of the great things about Tulip Tops is the way you can view the flowers from above and better take in the vista. Floriade would also benefit from viewing platforms. I have puzzled over Floriade themes that would be more obvious if the viewer were able to look down or even across the beds.
Completely incidentally, Tulip Tops does Dutch pancakes, good cake and free sausage sandwiches in the tent at the bottom of the garden.
Both sites are worth the visit and we go to both year after year. (Oh and by the way - it's not compulsory to wear a floral dress and have your picture taken. It's enough to wander aimlessly.)

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Kidaddle to Sydney

Tania's again got it covered - this time Sydney with a special focus on lollies.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Kidaddling about in Melbourne in October

The Planning Queen has very helpfully summarised all that's good with kids in Melbourne this October. And there's more than a few things to learn from her about marshalling a decent family life too!

Kidaddle like Tania

Worth checking out the travel with kids section of author Tania McCartney's blog. Her Tasmania Adventure series is a great read with lots of pictures for those of us wanting plenty of ideas, but she also covers Sydney, the Great Ocean Road, beautiful Bungendore, Japan and China and profiles things to do with the kids to get the most out of the experience (her blog/s on Memory Books).

Friday, September 25, 2009

Kidaddling to Gosford

We go to visit Granny, and mobility issues mean we don't get out much ... and there's plenty of crocheting ... but we would note two particular points of interest to people going there with kids:

What great places for kids do you know about in and around Gosford?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Kidaddle to New Caledonia

A family holiday to New Caledonia could be a great option if you're looking for a combination of French and Melanesian experiences in a warmer climate ... but be warned the cost of living is extreme, and exorbitant medical costs make travel insurance a must.

That out of the way, what are the highlights of a visit to New Caledonia with kids? Well, in no particular order ...
  • More playgrounds per head of population in Noumea than in any other town we've ever visited.

  • The amazing Tjibaou Centre - the architecture and grounds very nice to look at, but the story to discover, and the events hosted, make it a must.
  • Place des Cocotiers - particularly on a Jeudi Soir from about 5pm.

  • The Markets - for bowls of coffee while the kids sit up on stools and eat croques monsieurs (my goodness, I hope that's the plural) and drop coins in the Polynesian musicians' bucket, and meanwhile Mum and Dad buy fresh fruit and veggies and Vietnamese smallgoods for later, and check out the art and craft ... and don't leave without buying some homemade chocolates by the second or third generation Belgian chocolatier.

  • The zoological gardens ... where you can see the cagou ... and enjoy a child-friendly BBQ, cooked for you.
  • The South - camping at Netcha - in Parc de la Riviere Bleue.

  • Casa Italia - where the pizzas are the best, particularly the prosciutto e carcioffi (!) and where the kids are always welcome and, if you get the right seat, they can press their noses to the glass and watch pizzas being made ...
  • Dinner at Lycee Escoffier or lunch at the Airport Motel - where the staff are hardworking trainees and the food is delicious.

  • The funny little place next to the tennis courts and behind the soccer fields in Vallee des Colons where kids are so very very welcome, the food is good and the afternoon can be very pleasantly spent.
  • L'eau vive - known as the Nuns' restaurant - where the nuns sing between entree and main.

  • The Rhumerie at Dumbea.

  • Canoeing on the Dumbea River.

  • Phare Amedee - for a decent beach experience out of Noumea for fussy Australians ... well worth the boat/lunch/entertainment total charge required.

  • The Loyalties - and we should have stayed in a case.

  • Isle des Pins - if you stay here, you will find very comfortable accommodation (highly priced) with a lovely beach, but a restaurant that may be unwilling to serve your kids quickly. We found the restaurant formal and were surprised after stating our aim to get the kids fed early and out, that on successive nights, after an hour, mother retreated with beside-themselves-toddlers to the room with husband following up the rear with the plates. Oh, and there was also the complete incapacity to honour a request for a hire car. And while I'm at it - if you go to the piscine naturel - take your own shade (ie pop up tent/umbrellas) or you will be easily burnt to a crisp.

  • The Vietnamese restaurant (La perle oceane) on the corner facing the police station where the porc croustillant is to die for and the service is sweet.
Give me your suggestions and I promise to update and add tips!

Kidaddle to the Northern Beaches

My Mum reminded me tonight what a great place the Salvation Army's Collaroy Centre is to stay - very comfortable accommodation, great food (including cooked breakfasts), a hop skip and a jump from Collaroy Beach ... may be worth checking out if you wanted a reasonably priced but nice place to stay on the Northern Beaches 35 minutes from Sydney CBD ...

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Kidaddle to Murramarang

Reading this
about Murramarang reminded me of a weekend we spent there with the kids when they were aged, respectively six and eighteen months ... I was determined we would enjoy a long weekend at the coast. It's another classic lesson in not rushing into "experiences" when the kids are very very little.

The "resort" is actually a cabin and caravan park. Lovely nature all around. Lovely beach. Lovely kangaroos.

Not mentioned in this item, however, are the sand flies ... which bit both kids all over their faces while they slept ... resulting in infections and - ultimately - antibiotics.

So far as the excitement of exposing your toddler to the beach goes ... well the old rule about not having high expectations applies: Jack screamed from the moment we set him down on the sand and refused to move (he was inexplicably scared of it). Father then decided to take him into the surf, at which point he went rigid with shock. I collected him with a big warm towel and he went to sleep in my arms.

Here's the good bit: he didn't wake up for six hours!

Monday, September 21, 2009

A Kidaddle to India

A Kidaddle friend has shared this interesting blog item about travelling in India with kids ...

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Kidaddle to the Dogs' Day Out

Well the pups won out. Dogs' Day Out is apparently a twice yearly event - once every spring and autumn - and boy did the pups have spring in their step. Lake Gininderra foreshore was the venue and the gundogs made the most of the water. We enjoyed flyball, sled dogs, races and a competition for the best trick.

We took a picnic and gave the six year old the opportunity to pat as many dogs as she could in two hours - great when we are not in a position to have one of our own. It also gave us the opportunity to check out heaps of breeds for the day when we do decide to commit ... have to say the black labs left a tear in my eye, reminding me of my favourite boy Blue from my teenage years.

A nice simple outing with lots of nice simple fun to be had: check it out next Autumn.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Kidaddle Outings This Weekend in Canberra

Hard to choose ...

What do you think?

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Kidaddle off to the snow

Do you remember your first visit to the snow? I do. I had the cutest little pair of yellow gumboots. We drove up to Smiggin Holes in the EH Holden and Dad lifted me out of car and put me on a mound of the stuff on the side of the road ... whereupon I promptly sank up to my knees and the slush rose up and into my boots. I recall little else beyond the cold and a lot of crying.

Last weekend I observed a lot of that going on - babies, toddlers and kindies standing on the snow, crying. And beside them stood frustrated, stressed out and thoroughly disappointed parents trying every trick in the arsenal to get the kids to do what they wanted them to do: enjoy it.

The key, friends, is to manage and, dare I say, limit our own expectations of how much our child is going to love the experience.
Kids get tired. Very very quickly, and it doesn't take a genius to work out that throwing cold, the unfamiliar environment and getting overexcited into the mix results in kids getting tired even quicker than usual. Here's what we worked out:

  • Don't rush into it - what point is there in taking a baby to the snow? Will they remember it? Not likely! So all that's involved in this enterprise is a lot of hard work for Mum and Dad, for little gain in the child's development.

  • Make a conscious effort to underestimate their stamina: with a toddler, assume half an hour is all they'll be able to take; with primary school kids, maybe work it up to about half a day. Better to leave while you're all still having fun, than hang on for the inevitable meltdown.

  • Take your own food - food they like. Nothing is worse than fighting five million people at the Perisher Centre for two stools at a bar table and watching your kids reject the horsemeat pie that you yourself can't stomach, even after you have grappled with those annoying plastic tubes to pour tomato sauce all over them. And don't get on your high horse about them eating a little of all five food groups, or insist that today's the day he/she tries spinach. We kept it simple - ham and cheese sandwiches (with pickles for the adults), iced tea (the favourite drink), chips, chocolate biscuits and apples. Everyone was happy and it was a relatively balanced meal.

  • The ski tube might be novel, convenient and fun, but consider taking your own car. It gives you a time out option when things get a bit much. Get there early so that you can park neatly between the snowplay area and the toilets. You don't want to have to hike through the snow with a small child when they are, reportedly, "busting".

  • Hire your own toboggans before you leave home - that way you don't miss out if they run out at the resort or decide to stop hiring them for some bizarre safety reason (eg a patch of ice on the toboggan run).

  • Hire the right clothes: jacket, pants, gloves and boots. Hiring kit for one adult and two kids for four days cost us less than the marked price on a child's parka. Take and make them wear beanies and sunglasses. Proper gear makes all the difference to stamina on the day.

  • Let the kids tell you what they want to do. The skitubing might look like fun to you, but careering around on a tyre may not be your child's idea of a good time - so don't force it. If they want to toboggan or build a snowman all day, why not let them?

Kidaddle recommendations for the best snow holiday with kids:

Perisher: NB - the only place you can toboggan is Perisher itself - not Smiggin Holes, not Blue Cow, none of the others.
Thredbo: Not as high up as Perisher, so the snow down below may not be in as good condition late in the season ... at least that was our experience in early September.
Crackenback Cottage: The dinner served up to us was the best we'd had in years - and we've eaten everywhere from Paris to Papeete. But the best bit? Kids are welcome, the atmosphere is not so fine dining as to be alienating, and the kids menu is very very nice.
Wild Brumby Distillery: We happened to be passing the gate every afternoon about 4pm and were very pleased to discover a place where we could enjoy beautiful schnapps while the kids gawped at the sheep, the dogs and the fabulous outdoor art.

And, finally, we loved on the Alpine Way. But don't go there if you don't like the bush, meeting interesting people and their dogs, wandering around a bush garden and admiring unusual objects. It's a great place that attracts nice people and is kid and dog friendly.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Magic Mollymook

We enjoyed the best coast holiday we've had as a family at Mollymook last March.

We stayed in the quintessential beach house - which was worth every penny as it was perfectly suited to a family and child friendly (would not be so good for toddlers but was perfect for kids aged 5, 6, 7 ...).

We hit Mollymook in Autumn, but when it was still warm enough (just) to swim but not too hot to be uncomfortable. The kids couldn't get enough of the water and the rest of us couldn't get enough of walking along the sand. We enjoyed the weekend markets at Mollymook Beach, and the pizzas in Ulladulla, but most of all we enjoyed buying our own oysters and prawns and eating them the old fashioned way with salt, pepper, lemon, alongside a fine NZ sauvignon blanc.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Great Victorian Road Trip

Well not so big ... but a fantastic road trip to kick off our renewed commitment to seeing more of Australia. We started off in Millewa, staying at Lindenwarrah ... not the best with a seven and six year old ... not because they weren't welcome, or the food wasn't good, but rather because there was little to do that they would enjoy and the rooms were over priced and devoid of comfortable furniture. It's billed like a spa type place to stay and it really wasn't. They couldn't even do breakfast before 0900 ... and that's a killer for a decent day with smallish children. Frankly, it's a killer if you're inclined to get up and enjoy your day at all.

From Millewa we drove a full seven hours to Mildura and that's where the holiday really started. We boarded our boat ... the Margaylea ... and enjoyed four days of gentle drifting, fishing, watching the river banks glide by. Put it this way: it was a real holiday for everyone principally because the kids did not require entertaining. is what you're looking for ... The photos tell the story: