Three Cheers!! ‘Little’ dinner parties are back on, and I am ecstatic! I delight in having friends over to eat with us. I adore the preparation, the laying of the table, the lighting of the candles. I love everything there is to love about getting together with those you feel most at ease with. Sharing a meal is so significant to me, even more so since we moved away from our nearest and dearest. It’s a great way for us to spoil new friends, build on friendships and create a real family atmosphere for our children.
Cooking a meal for others really is a great way to show how much you love them; and when I say meal, I mostly mean curry! Nothing warms my heart more than the air filled with the scent of India, the sounds of romantic Hindi love songs playing gently in the background, cutlery hitting plates, sharing plates being passed around and laughter gently powdering the air. Meals like this are the be all and end all for me, and I hope it’s something my children look back on fondly.
Family – परिवार
An ‘Indian Culture Night’ is a great way of getting everyone involved, whilst savouring some of the words most divine spices. There are so many wonderful things to explore when it comes to the diverse and vibrant Indian culture which makes it a great conversation starter. Saturday night was cold and wet here, so an Indian meal was the perfect way to warm things up. We popped Om Shanti Om on (best movie ever) whilst we got to work. We chatted, danced, and the children wrote place cards for everyone in Hindi. It was the sweetest touch to the table.
“There are so many options for people looking to create their own Indian meals at home. It feels to me that there has been a gap in the market for a long time to show people how they can introduce authentic Indian tastes and flavours to dishes beyond just curries” – Beloved chef Anjum Anand, founder of The SpiceTailor
स्वादिष्ट – Delicious
Thankfully, I was fully prepared to create a feast with The Spice Tailor’s incredible meal kits. They have an easy three step process to creating a restaurant quality meal that the children can get involved in. Hurrah! Glass of red wine in hand and three simple steps to create the most authentic curry to wow my guests!
These meals are not only easy to prepare, but they are thoughtfully created, free from artificial preservatives, colours, and flavourings which is always a good thing. The Spice Tailor use natural ingredients to create their simple to use, flavourful sauces, dahl and pastes which means even the least creative cooks can shine.
यादें – Memories
Creating a themed dinner party is so much fun for the whole family. Our table was full. Full of friends, of love, and of laughter whilst brimming with curries and rice, chapatis, naan bread, poppadum and pickles. It was a truly delicious banquet, that we all had a hand in preparing.
What a night to cherish; the beginning of the end of lockdown, celebrating travels to come, India, food, friendship and family; all before diving in to a tray of carefully selected Indian Sweets.
The fondest memories are made, gathered round the table.
I am so excited to introduce you all to Elly Vvaller. Elly is not only a beautiful person, she is also the creator of some insanely gorgeous hand printed paper goods! Yes that says hand printed!!!
I had a good chat with Elly and asked her to share her story, so that you could all be encouraged to reach out and support her.
Elly – Elly VValler Design
I’ve been running my own business since 2015. I started whilst on maternity leave, got my first big retailer early on and the rest followed!
Originally from the UK, I’m now based in Sweden where I run the business from my peaceful home studio.
I have always been creative and am an illustrator at heart. For that reason, when I started my business I decided to specialise in beautiful hand foiled greetings cards and prints. I sell these worldwide via wholesale and through Etsy for those of you who love putting pen to paper or wrapping gifts in delightful designs.
The current climate means that I’m having to be a little more creative in how I work and what I’m producing. I’ve found my new print at home files are doing well and I’m hoping to offer a bespoke service where I ship products direct with a personal message. Fingers crossed!
As a small business owner, I’m continuously looking at working harder on my social presence. I feel that it’s so important my customers know who’s behind the brand and understand that there’s more to me than my stationery. I am currently working on a brand new website that combines my love for vintage, styling and illustration, so watch this space!
Collaborations are at the top of my list! Do get in touch if you have a great idea!
At times like this we all need to remember we’re in this together! It’s unthinkable that every single person and business is affected by Covid 19 no matter how big or small they are. I truly hope we can learn to see the positive take aways from this situation we find ourselves in. I’m hoping that over time we relearn the joy of snail mail, slowing down and most importantly, staying in touch. Writing is our historical archive and we don’t want to lose it in a time when text and zoom is king.
I am lucky in that I haven’t had to make too many changes to my way of working because of the pandemic. However, I have made it my goal to create more of a presence on social media to really reach my customers and show them who I am and what I am creating. I’d love for you to reach out and find me, see my work, like what I do, and purchase something that may brighten someone’s day just at the right time.
If you would like to get in touch with Elly regarding wholesale or purchasing something to make someone smile, please email her directly at @email@example.com or you can reach out to her through Instagram
Whilst many, many small businesses are letting go of staff, and popping the ‘closed’ sign on the door for the last time, thousands more are trying their absolute best not to become a victim of the Covid-19 Pandemic. That is why it is crucially important that we all make sure we are researching before buying and making a real point of ‘shopping small’. By sharing these posts you are sharing this small business with your friends and you are creating a chain of exposure for each and every business we feature. Imagine the difference you could make, just with the click of a button!!
Covid-19 is throwing ‘life as we know it’ into something we have only ever seen in films. It’s pushed us to think long and hard about what we we really need, and shown us just how much we take for granted. (Not necessarily a bad thing?) We all have so many questions as we sit back and watch it unfold across the world, in ways we could have never imagined.
“We are in a war against an invisible killer,” UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock
For expats, living far from their loved ones, this pandemic hits us hard, not only because our every day life is fast becoming unrecognisable, but it’s hit us in the heart.
Whilst we are experts in conversing via video chat, and writing letters to friends in far off lands, nothing has prepared us for being helpless when seeing our loved ones in lockdown. We are only able to watch on as our older relatives need us now more than ever. Over 65’s in the UK are facing a long stretch of time at home in isolation, and when that includes your family members, and you’re so far away, it’s hard. A month ago, we could have jumped on a flight, and raced to the rescue if a parent or family member was sick, needed us, or worst case scenario passed away. Now we’re feeling shut off and we don’t know how long for. Many expats are deeply concerned they may never get the chance to see some of their loved ones again.
My sister is a doctor in an NHS hospital. Last year she had lymphoma and faced a long battle against cancer, she has only been well enough to return to work full time in the last month. I’m terrified she will get sick and die and I will be stuck here in Australia. My Dad is also very vulnerable, and she won’t be able to visit in case she passes it on as she will be exposed at work. I am so scared I may never see them again. I’ve always thought that I could get home in 24 hours and now that’s not the case and I hate it – Chloe Reynolds
“I’m feeling far away”
Flights are being cancelled and border controls are being put in place to stop people spreading the virus. When you rely on flying to get you to your family, this can lead to feelings of claustrophobia and panic. We are too far away to pop a cooked meal on the doorstep of a loved one, or pop by and check on them (through the window), so who’s going to help them?
At a time when Age UK have stressed the importance of thinking of “practical” ways to help the elderly, such as running errands on relatives’ behalf or picking up supplies such as food and medication, it is tougher than ever to be overseas. You feel helpless. The only thing we can do is make an extra effort to check in on our local community, reach out to the more vulnerable people in our streets, and hope that people are doing the same for our family too.
My parents were due here early May. We haven’t seen them for almost 4 years. Also my 70+ dad has heart condition & mum weak immunity. Yes that distance suddenly got a long way away. It is what it is, but gosh what I would do to have a hug from my parents right now – Sarah Trett
With so many frightening scenes around the world, we have mixed emotions about the Covid-19 pandemic, but it’s important that we are brave, not just for ourselves but for our loved ones too.
It’s like a nightmare, my Dad passed away yesterday, Mum isn’t coping at all and my only brother is in isolation as my nephew is sick- Paulette Smith
At this stage it’s hard to ascertain how long we will be faced with restrictions or determine when will it be ‘safe’ for any of us to get home, so the most important thing for everyone to do, is keep in touch, keep strong and most importantly keep well.
I have a frail elderly mum who is 83 and living by herself in the UK. Luckily the church community are keeping an eye on her.
I have a brother who is a respiratory physician who will be very much at risk of catching the virus.
A sister in Belfast who helps run the breast cancer services whose services have basically stopped to push resources and manpower to care for those with the virus, leaving those who get sick with cancer and needing surgery having just to wait!
My other sister is a teacher … keeping teaching in her school for those children of key workers. Very anxious times. – Juliet Clayton
Despite all our worries, and our feelings of helplessness during this crisis, we must remember, this pandemic has the ability to segregate us all, but it absolutely has the capability to bring us all closer than we have ever been.
Have courage, and be kind
If you are an expat, we’d love to hear how you are keeping in touch with loved ones back home. What are you doing to assist or make life easier & brighter for friends & relatives who are far away?
In this live-action adventure comedy, Sonic and his new best friend Tom (James Marsden) team up to defend the planet from the evil genius Dr. Robotnik (Jim Carrey) and his plans for world domination. The family-friendly film also stars Tika Sumpter and Ben Schwartz as the voice of Sonic.
To celebrate the release of this exciting new movie, we are giving you the chance to WIN 1 of 10 double in-season passes over on our Facebook & Instagram pages!
Directed by Jeff Fowler Written by Pat Casey & Josh Miller Based on the Sega Video Game Produced by Neal H. Moritz, p.g.a, Toby Ascher, Toru Nakahara, Takeshi Ito Executive Producers Hajime Satomi, Haruki Satomi, Masanao Maeda, Nan Morales, Tim Miller Starring: James Marsden, Ben Schwartz, Tika Sumpter and Jim Carrey
The Being Brave Book: A novel & guide about finding courage and strength by Sema Musson and Hester Leung.
I have recently enjoyed this delightful book with my 11-year-old daughter, who herself has moved schools and walked, in many ways, in the shoes of the main characters. Not only did it encourage us to discuss the power of positive thinking, but also started conversations on the importance of being determined, brave, honest, imaginative, and best of all, kind. Lessons that we could all take on board and talk to our children about a little more frequently.
‘Ellie and Alyssa have been best friends since pre-school. One chatty, one shy, one adventurous, the other considered, one Australian, one with Chinese heritage, both supportive and giving. It’s easy together. Then they change schools.’
Being Brave is a novel and personal development guide for young girls with themes on self-esteem and resilience. It’s the first novel/guide we have read and I’m glad we did!
We are all aware of the challenges children face while growing up, but it’s stories like this that teach us all how to put one foot in front of the other regardless of how big the climb! It’s an important read for youngsters as it confirms their feelings are not out of the ordinary, and therefore they’re not alone.
Please grab a copy and join Ellie and Alyssa on this important journey through the everyday pressures of school and family life in this all-Australian girls’ adventure story, where girls triumph and the main characters reflect Australia’s wonderful ethnic diversity.
Get a copy, cuddle up with your girl, and take some time out to enjoy the togetherness whilst learning some positive personal development tips!
Yes folks, picnic season is back on! (We’re in Melbourne, so picnic season is definitely a thing!) Everyone loves eating outdoors, especially us Mamas, as it means fresh air, fun times, and the birds get to clean up the crumbs! That’s why I’m hitting you up with this intel before you finish your Christmas shopping, or complete your back to school haul, and before the weeks and weeks of school holidays where lunches last aaaaalllll day!!
If you are a parent in Melbourne, you will have heard of the amazing gang at Friend in Me. If you haven’t, keep reading because you need to know about the wonderful work they are doing!
Friend In Me enhances social inclusion and spreads kindness in childhood in the effort to break the cycle of mental health conditions that derive from being ostracised from society. These guys deliver all the magic that is sadly missing from some children’s lives! Talk about AMAZING!!!
Friend in Me are on a mission to make sure that no child is left behind.
‘We want to children to be empowered to celebrate their uniqueness and have the confidence and the tools to build their tribe so they can go forth with life when they never thought possible. We are working and collaborating with organisations to have an impact on social change through our events and workshops.’ – Friend in Me
Friend In Me is having an end of year celebration at the iconic Melbourne Museum on Saturday, 14th December 2019 with some amazing acts including;
Headlining act by Harrison Craig winner of the second series of ‘The Voice’
Snow Queen Elsa
To join in all the fun at Melbourne Museum, in support of Friend in Me, you can purchase adult tickets for $30. All of the money will go directly to Friend In Me to make sure even more kids are supported! Kids are free (or gold coin donation).
**Tickets include free entry into the Museum after the event so you can all make a day of it.
We are so excited to tell you that the NGV Kids Summer Festival returns in 2020, and this year it’s inspired by the NGV’s summer program featuring KAWS: Companionship in the Age of Loneliness and Keith Haring | Jean Michel Basquiat: Crossing Lines. If you haven’t seen this exhibition yet, then you need to get to the NGV pronto!!
Running from Saturday 11 – Sunday 19 January this year’s summer program follows the theme of Party Time featuring hip-hop workshops, dance parties and hands-on art-inspired activities hosted in the NGV’s Great Hall. Now who could possibly turn that down?
Drawing on the emotive characters featured in KAWS: Companionship in the Age of Loneliness,kids can design a portrait using bright colours and expressions to explore identity and emotion. Taking inspiration from Keith Haring’s iconic New York subway chalk drawings, kids can share their own chalk art on an installation responding to the NGV’s Great Hall stain glass ceiling.
KAWS: PLAYTIME Relaxed Mornings will run from Monday-Friday during the Kids Summer Festival offering children with autism or disability a quiet and relaxed session in the free kids space.
During the January holidays, teens get the opportunity to master a new skill at a screen printing workshop at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia.
Make sure you head to the NGV website and get hold of all the information, so that your little darlings don’t miss out on all this wonderful fun!
We are the sort of travellers who won’t usually visit the same place twice. Well, why would you? There’s a wide world out there, waiting to be explored! That was until we took the children to Tuscany and fell in love, not only with our surroundings but also the Tuscan people. They are renowned for being laid back life lovers, filling their days with hard work, and their evenings with great food, family, and impeccable wine. So, Tuscany drew us back and boy did we have a wonderful time again.
Tuscany is a wonderful destination for a family holiday, not just because of the splendid vistas and the impeccable wine, but also the huge variety of things to do and see. From outstanding cities and art galleries to pristine beaches and boat trips to incomparable museums and churches, Tuscany really does have it all.
Over the next few posts, I will fill you in on what we did on our latest adventure to Italy.
First stop San Casciano Val di Pesa.
San Casciano Val di Pesa – 15km Southwest of Florence
We stayed in San Casciano Val di Pesa for a few nights at the very start of our trip, as we were heading to a wedding at a nearby castle. Like all of Tuscany’s small towns, it is incredibly beautiful. This is a truly authentic Chianti town, and an easy trip to or from Florence by car, bus or train.
The medieval walled town of San Casciano Val di Pesa is very easy to get around on foot, with plenty of fashion boutiques, restaurants, cafes, churches and museums. Luckily for our Gelato loving kids, there was plenty of that on offer too! The play park could easily win a medal for having the best view of any park in Italy and is perfectly placed in close proximity to great cafes. Always a winner! There were a few market stalls dotted about the park selling local cheese, fruit and veg, and freshly caught seafood. There was another selling what can only be described as Nonna’s underwear which the children made a beeline for! We purchased some cheese but sadly had no space in the case for Nonna’s Knickers.
Top tip: Have a look online at the long list of events held here throughout the year, as it’s a busy little town with plenty to share with tourists! Market day (on a Monday) is definitely worth a peek!
Eating out in San Casciano Val di Pesa is easy! When we asked our B&B owners where we could eat a good lunch, we were told “here, everywhere is great”. They weren’t lying! We ate three meals out and each one was divine. Oh the tomatoes in Italy!!!!
The Wilson’s Top Picks in San Casciano Val di Pesa
STAY– B&B Art – This small B&B is traditionally Tuscan. The rooms are quaint tuscan style, spotlessly clean and have just the things you need in a room. (Yay for a decent hairdryer). Breakfast was an array of cured meats, cheeses, fruit, cereals, yoghurts and homemade croissant! Delish!
EAT– La Cantinetta del Nonno (Via IV Novembre, 18, 50026 San Casciano in Val di Pesa) Most definitely the best lasagne you’ll ever eat! Yes, quote me on that!
SEE –“Giuliano Ghelli” Museum of Sacred Art, located inside the Church of Santa Maria del Gesù (enter through the library on Via Lucardesi, 6). The museum hosts many religious-themed paintings from the 14th and 15th centuries, and is made up of a sacred art section, an archaeological section and a section dedicated to primitive dwellings. The museum hosts a rare piece from the Master of Cabestany, an anonymous sculptor active in the second half of the 12th century. It’s a sculpted column representing the birth and the Baptism of Christ, with plenty of details. His figures are peculiar: they have long faces, almond-shaped eyes and many are folded in drapery.
SPOT– Make a beeline for the piazza, and see if the kids can spot the majestic silver stag standing atop the Medieval town wall. This is a contemporary artwork by Mario Merz that represents the freedom of nature.
Top Tip: Coffee is always cheaper if you stand at the bar to drink it, plus, it’s a really local thing to do, so you’ll fit in like a gem!!
All in all Casciano in Val di Pesa is wonderful place to stop for a few days. If you are thinking of visiting Tuscany you can easily day trip to Florence and Sienna from Casciano in Val di Pesa, whilst also making the most of this historic town and it’s surroundings. If you’re travelling to Italy soon, have a wonderful time!
Getting to Casciano in Val di Pesa
Flights – We flew Royal Brunei from Melbourne to London (approx. $4,500 for us all), then British Airways, London Heathrow to Bologna (approx. £500 for us all). Flights to Italy were hard to come by as we left it fairly close to lift off before we booked. We checked our luggage in when we left Melbourne, and it went all the way through to Bologna which was awesome, and saved us the hassle of checking in again!
Drive – The drive from Bologna to Casciano in Val di Pesa is a little over two hours. We hired a car with Budget/Avis and collected it at Bologna airport. The whole process was painful. It took about 90 mins to collect the car, there were huge queues (make sure you get a ticket to be in line), not many staff, and it was all just a headache after such a long journey. They did the usual ‘upselling’ of all sorts of insurance this and insurance that, trying to baffle everyone stood at the counter, so beware! Make sure you know what you need and what you don’t so that you’re ready and armed with all the facts! Our friends hired with another company and got hit with a HUGE insurance add on which hadn’t been made clear at all! You have been warned!
Your little builders are invited to LEGOLAND® Discovery Centre on Wednesday 11th September for a fun and inspiring morning with Playgroup Victoria to celebrate 50 years of DUPLO® fun!
The Ultimate DUPLO Playgroup will take place from 8:30am-10am, giving families with kids aged 0-4 the opportunity to enjoy building activities, storytelling, a visit from Emmett from The LEGO Movie (YAY!!!!), and enjoy the arts and crafts in the centre’s new DUPLO Farm Adventure zone at a discounted rate.
Playgroup Victoria and LEGOLAND Discovery Centre are hosting the special event to mark 50 years since LEGO created DUPLO, the big bricks for small hands.
DUPLO was designed to inspire toddlers to unlock their full potential through interactive, creative and playful experiences.
According to the LEGO Play Well Report, 95% of parents believe play is essential for children’s well-being and is a vital educational tool.
LEGOLAND Discovery Centre supports the important role Playgroup Victoria plays in bringing young children, parents, families and communities together to learn and develop through informal play and social interaction.
“Participation in playgroup positively impacts so much of children’s development as well as parent’s capacity to engage with their children through play,” Danny Schwarz, Playgroup Victoria CEO.
“LEGO is a wonderful tool that allows children to practice their fine and gross motor skills. Moreover, it encourages them to create, be curious, be innovative, share, imagine and play – all which feeds into their greater understanding of the world and its concepts,” Sinead Halliday, Playgroup Victoria.
The new DUPLO Farm Adventure zone at LEGOLAND Discovery Centre is an interactive experience where toddlers can let their imaginations run wild. Behind the giant barn doors, children can explore a multi-level farmhouse where they can build with DUPLO and climb, crawl, slide and swing!
To purchase tickets to the special event, enter the promo code “ultimateplaygroup” at www.LEGOLANDDiscoveryCentre.com.au. Families can stay at LEGOLAND Discovery Centre after The Ultimate DUPLO Playgroup concludes.
As well as DUPLO Farm Adventure, LEGOLAND Discovery Centre is also home to two thrilling rides, a 4D cinema and 11 LEGO build and play zones to keep kids of all ages entertained!
What: The Ultimate DUPLO Playgroup
Where: LEGOLAND Discovery Centre, Chadtsone Shopping Centre, 1341 Dandenong Rd, Chadstone, VIC 3148
When: Wednesday 11th September from 08:30-10:00 (families can stay after the event)
Cost: $25 per adult; $20 per child 3yrs and over, free for children 2yrs and under