Australian Open Kids Ballpark – Non stop entertainment!

If you thought the tennis was intense, you should see everything on offer for Kids & Families this year!! An unforgettable experience awaits!

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The Australian Open is one of the worlds greatest sporting events, and this year, it’s even better… especially for the kids!

 

The incredible AO Ballpark presented by Emirates has officially opened at Birrarung Marr and has grown a whopping 4 x in size this year! That’s right, 4 times in size, taking up both the upper and lower terraces of Birrarung Marr. I told you it was whopping!

The AO Ballpark is the place to be for all of Melbourne’s cool kids, catering for a range of ages from the very small to the…well…very grown up! The fun isn’t all tennis focussed, far from it. Aside from the hot shots tennis courts where the kids can go all McEnroe on you, there are go karts, a zip line, LEGO fun, a super soaker battle zone, a nail biting sky flyer ride, a Ninja Warrior style obstacle course, a wonderful Disney themed section, and an awesome splash zone too! That’s where we’ll be cooling down!

There’s something for all ages from tiny tots to 10 year olds, and the NEW AO Hilltop especially for 10+ year olds.

It’s unbelievable I know, but all of this fun is on offer for just $5. The Australian Open kids ground pass ticket grants access to the new location in Birrarung Marr, encompassing both the Upper and Lower Terrace. For all you foodies, rest assured there are plenty of options, my personal favourite being the Pinchy’s Lobster bar! Yes maaaam’!

Offering kids of all ages even more summer fun than ever!

Let’s face it, we only go to the tennis to catch a glimpse of Rafa’s biceps, so for all the parents out there who’d like some time out to “watch the tennis” without having to keep one eye on the kiddos, get them booked into the awesome Kids Club and kick back!

The AO Kids Club is the first-ever childcare program offered at a Grand Slam, is even bigger and better than before, and in 2020 it’s in a new and easily accessible location at Deakin Edge at Fed Square. #winning

All the info:

A kids ground pass is just $5 for kids 3- 14 years and free for kids 2 year and under.

More information

Date: 20 January–2 February 2020
Times: Daily from 10am–7pm, Fri 31 Jan 2pm –10pm, Sat 1 Feb 10am–10pm, Sun 2 Feb 12pm–10pm
Price: AO kids ground pass $5, Adults $54
More information
Book tickets

Onsite childcare is available every day at the AO, making the event even better! Your kids will have nonstop fun at the tennis and entertainment program.

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Liv’s top tips:

  • Take drink bottles. There are lots of refill stations!
  • Pack your hats!!!
  • Pack plenty of sunscreen. Although there are lots of shady areas, it is very exposed, and you’re outdoors for many hours.
  • Pack your swimmers and a towel. The changing facilities for families are great so don’t worry about where you can change!
  • Take a packed lunch, and snacks because food is pricey.. delicious, but pricey!
  • Save your pocket money for ‘merch’ as there is some awesome AO 2020 merchandise on offer!
  • Wear comfy shoes, and make sure the kids have closed toes as they won’t be allowed on the rides or to climb without them.
  • Get a good night’s sleep beforehand as it is a big day at the Open!

Have fun

Liv xxx

Tow small, travel big! Go by Go Pod

Camping and I have a strange relationship! I love being outdoors, I don’t love the dust and dirt. I love the wildlife, I don’t love the creepy crawlies. I love the freedom that the children have, I love the camp cooking, I love the kids excitement at bed time when we’re all snuggling down. I do not love (or even like) tents! Nope! If all I have is a tent, you can go without me.

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Part of me envies the hoards of families who camp, and have all the stuff! Their camps look like they could sustain life for years and years, in a perfectly happy state, with not one meal missed or one iota of sleep even slightly disturbed. We do not camp like that! We don’t have nearly enough equipment, we barely have any camping knowledge, and to be honest I have always felt that ‘holiday sleeping’ requires, at the very least, a decent bed and a fluffy duvet! (Aka a hotel!)

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Hold on though….. You may find this hard to believe, but even I have been persuaded to fall in love with camping after testing out the gorgeous Go Pod Teardrop Caravans last weekend!

We picked up our beautiful GoPod at about 11am, on the hottest Victoria day since records began. Honestly, the thought of arriving at a campsite and having to erect a camp in this heat would have been hell. Not with our GoPod. With lots of great tips and advice from Kayleen, we hooked the teardrop caravan up to the car, and drove off toward the ocean, knowing there would be very little do do, in order to get comfy on arrival!

We have never towed anything before, not even a trailer, and as Mr W was a little ‘tired‘ after his work Christmas party the night before, I was in charge!  The glory of the GoPod is that it is very lightweight and super easy to tow. Thank goodness!! We made it safely to Anglesea with me at the helm, even negotiating Bunnings and Hungry Jacks on the way! *You may applaud now!

Set up was done and dusted in about 20 minutes. We unhooked the GoPod, rolled it into the best position, plugged it in and put up the tent! Once the table and chairs were up, and the kids were bouncing on the jumping pillow, we kicked back to enjoy our weekend. That is perfect camping in my mind! No stress, no arguments about who put the groundsheet in the wrong place, just an easy set up and a perfectly snug place to sleep…. with the fly screens tightly shut!!!

The GoPod 90 has double doors ( a godsend for extra air and midnight toilet trips!) and a deliriously comfy queen bed. (Bedding can be hired on booking). There was so much storage I felt like we could have travelled for weeks and weeks even with Monty’s desire to change his clothes every thirty six minutes. Everything has been meticulously thought about from the mattress to the tool box. Even the MukMat, chairs and table were included. Like I said, nothing had been left out!!

We make sure you have the confidence to set off and are always a phone call away for our hirers. With the support of YouTube, a manual and our advice you have everything you need for a great trip’- GoPod

The GoPod kitchen was lovingly filled with everything your little camping heart could desire! Gas burners and fridge, crockery and lights, enough storage to be able to make a Christmas feast if you so wish! The GoPod has plugs for chargers, USB sockets, heaps of storage for clothes, toys, UNO (of course), and all the other camping paraphernalia you need. There really is no easier way to hit the road!!

Everything you need for a simple getaway is right here. – GoPod

As we were four and the GoPod 90 sleeps 2 (or two adults and a small child), we added on a tent for the boys! Everyone was happy! Even the tent had a fab mattress, duvet and fan which doubled as a light. It barely felt like camping, as we were all so comfy!

I know camping is a little like Vegemite, you either love it or you hate it, however, if you are anything like the Wilsons, and are divided down the middle,  you need to look at the GoPods. These cute caravans are wonderful alone, and a marvellous addition to any camp setup. They are especially splendid for those of you who like to have home comforts whilst on the road! (Think cuddly duvet and wine glasses).

There are a few different types of GoPod, some sleeping up to four people, so they are perfect for everyone, plus, they are offering great deals on long term hire too for you adventurers! Another great use for the GoPod is for guests when you don’t have the spare room at home! Imagine giving your guests their own GoPod for the weekend, within reach of your dinner table and witty conversation! Best sleepover ever!!!

For people who want an easy towing experience for a safe and amazing getaway. GoPod Teardrop Campers are the caravans you never knew you needed. – GoPod

If you love the idea of hooking up and escaping, without the hassle, if you love the idea of being in the great outdoors whilst sleeping and cooking in luxury, this is the caravan for you! Tow small and travel big is the GoPod motto, and trust us, these are 100% made for big adventures! Who’s coming with us on our next trip??


BOOKING INFO

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VICTORIA

GoPod 90    GoPod 82   GoPod Plus

NSW

GoPod

Prices start at $80 per night (insurance included)

Click here for all the contact details

 

One who lives, sees much. One who travels, sees more!

Liv xx

Assisi – A breathtaking day in Umbria

From where we were staying at La Pievuccia  (Castiglion Fiorentino) it took us about 55 minutes to drive to Assisi. Once we’d left the motorway, we followed fields full of sunflowers, along winding, tree lined lanes, making our way toward what looked in the distance to be something from a film set. A beguiling destination that many a religious pilgrim has travelled to since the 13th century, in honour of St. Francis. The ancient town of Assisi is a sight to behold.

With it’s narrow streets, steep hills and stunning piazzas you could easily imagine you had stepped back in time whilst exploring Assisi. The views from every laneway are breathtaking, the little ornate doors on every building promising even more beauty behind.

You can’t visit Assisi without making your way to the vast Basilica di San Francesco complex, home to an unimaginable collection of medieval frescoes as well as the tomb of St. Francis.

The Basilica di San Francesco. 

The Basilica of San Francesco d’Assisi is named after St. Francis who was born here and founded the Franciscan religious order in the town in 1208. UNESCO collectively designated the Franciscan structures of Assisi as a World Heritage Site in 2000, and it’s obvious why. This is absolutely the jewel in Assisi’s crown! The majestic Basilica has to be seen to be believed. The whole complex is magnificent.

The upper church – Basilica Superiore, is decorated with 28 frescoes by Giotto and are the stand out artistry in the church in my humble opinion. Each fresco depicts a scene from the life of St. Francis. They are stunning! It’s hard to believe these vibrant frescos were completed centuries ago, and almost incomprehensible for the kids!

The lower church – Basilica Inferiore, is home to more frescoes, this time by Cimabue, Pietro Lorenzetti, and Simone Martini. In the lower sanctuary is the Cripta di San Francesco – the tomb of St. Francis of Assisi.

The upper church definitely has a different ambience to the lower, undeniably more about the celebration of life. The lower rooms are darker and seemingly solemn, more of a reflection of the spirit of St.Francis and his Franciscan order.  Note: There are plenty of worshippers and people who have obviously come here solely to pray, so it’s vital that visitors are respectful of that.

Whatever you plan for your day in Assisi, give yourself plenty of time to explore this incredible church. Take your time, breathe in your surroundings, and I promise you will be blown away!

According to the UN, the town of Assisi has a singular importance for its role in the diffusion of the Franciscan Order and for its “continuity of a city-sanctuary” from its Umbrian-Roman origins to today.

Top tip: Out of respect, you mustn’t take photographs or make too much noise inside the The Basilica di San Francesco. 

Like most of Italy, Assisi has a long history of local artisans. You can see throughout the town that many are still going strong today.  **Save your holiday money and spend it on local crafts. There is plenty for the kids to buy too, so make sure you set their budget before going!

Small delicatessens are bursting with regional specialties like local cured meats, dried pasta. Umbrian chocolates are a MUST. We spent a whole day wandering the lanes of Assisi, making our way in and out of beautiful churches, and of course eating our way through some of Italy’s finest nougat, gelato and cakes. Even with young children, Assisi is an easy and ‘must do’ day trip.

Note: Your shoulders must be covered in The Basilica di San Francesco

The town of Assisi is spotlessly clean, and filled with many cafes and restaurants for when you need refreshment. Make sure you find out what the restaurant cover charge is, as it can be really pricey to sit and eat in some places.  We visited in September, which I imagine was one of the quieter times of year, yet it was still hard to get a seat in the restaurants, without a huge surcharge.

Top tip: No matter what, stay in town for an early supper and watch the sun set, overlooking the valley.

I highly recommend Assisi, not only for the incredible scenery, but also for a huge learning experience for all ages. This is a place steeped in incredible history, which you can feel with every step you take.


 

Other highlights in Assisi

Rocca Maggiore – a 12th-century fortress perched high in the hills, and the Roman Temple of Minerva and Roman Forum. The Rocca Maggiore is a majestic castle which dominated, for more than 800 years the citadel of Assisi and the valley of Tescio, constituting the most viable fortification for their defence.

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Rocca Maggiore – Visit Assisi

Duomo di San Rufino – The San Rufino Cathedral or simply Assisi Cathedral is a favourite spot among pilgrims due to its connection to St. Francis’ life.

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Duomo di San Rufino

Santa Maria Sopra Minerva –Not to be confused with the church of the same name in Rome, this church is built inside a converted 1st century BC temple dedicated to the Roman goddess of wisdom, Minerva.

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Santa Maria Sopra Minerva

Santa Maria degli Angeli- St. Mary of the Angels is a 16th-century, domed church located about 2.5 miles down the hill from Assisi.  We drove down and parked very easily. This Basilica is most famous for being home to the Porziuncola, a tiny stone building believed to be the home of St. Francis and his followers. Today the Porziuncola is a small church on the inside of Santa Maria degli Angeli with qeues of devout Catholics waiting to get inside and say their prayers. This incredibly ornate building is thought to be the house where St. Francis founded the Franciscan order and also where he died. This church is not only a must see for the devout and for pilgrims but also anyone with an interest in history and history of the Catholic church.

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Fun fact: the Porzuincola isn’t the only building within a building owned by the Catholic Church. The Holy House of Loreto is a structure that was brought to Italy, with some difficulty, all the way from Jerusalem because it was thought to be the house of the Virgin Mary. Like the Porziuncola, it’s a major pilgrimage site.

Spot : The gold-plated statue of the Madonna degli Angeli (“Madonna of the Angels”), will watch over you as you enter the square.

 

Whatever time of year you decide to visit Assisi, make sure you do your research online beforehand. There are many religious festivals, which increase visitor numbers hugely.

Have a beautiful time!

Liv xx


 

Getting to Assisi

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 – We hired a car with Budget/Avis and collected it at Bologna airport. We drove from our Farm Stay in Castiglion Fiorentino which was a little under an hour away from Assisi.

Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible. – St. Francis of Assisi

A few days in San Casciano Val di Pesa

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.

IMG_6127Top 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

STAYB&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! IMG_6239

EATLa 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.

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La Cantinetta del Nonno

 

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! 

Liv xx 

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!

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Viaggiare amplia la mente

Fuel your child’s imagination at PLAY WORLD AUSTRALIA

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A magical event fuelling the imagination of young Aussie minds is about to hit Darling Harbour in Sydney and you could win tickets with us!!! 

In 2018 fun legends, ReedPOP introduced Sydney to their most marvellous creation yet, Play World Australia. It was an event so large, so incredible, and oh so epic that the brand new, upcoming (even more amazing) event is going to blow you and your little ones away! 

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Presented by Nintendo, this 2 day event in Sydney, creates the most unique atmosphere for our littlest generation and allows them to play in a dynamic, fun and educational environment that is bound to get everyone excited!

Play World will light up Sydney’s ICC this October school holidays where, kids aged 4 to 12, can let their creativity and imagination run free. This is your chance to play with the latest games from Nintendo, go on a musical adventure with The Beanies, laugh until your belly hurts with The Listies, take part in drumming workshops and explore the world where kids’ imagination is the only limit. 

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With so much to explore from the minute you walk in, this high energy atmosphere entices you to the interactive and colourful exhibits inviting kids to laugh, play and dance all weekend long. Play World Australia gives kids the opportunity to learn and educate themselves on some crazy skills; from intricate coding with the experts from Code Camp to creating beautiful flower crowns with Sydney Flower School. Find some imagery from our 2018 event Here. 


The details

Where: International Convention Centre, Sydney, Darling Harbour, 2000

When: October 5-6, 2019 Time: 9am – 5pm Saturday & Sunday

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Play World Australia are proud to support Kids Helpline as the official charity partner, helping raise funds and awareness for the essential service they provide for young Australians. Kids Helpline is Australia’s only free, private and confidential 24/7 phone and online counselling service for young people ages 5 to 25. Find out more here 

Let’s Laugh, Play, Sing and Dance Together on October 5th & 6th 2019! 

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Find joy in the journey!

A weekend at JoyBell Cottage

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It seems like an age ago that we left the rush of the city behind us and headed out into the Victorian countryside. A weekend of heavenly fresh air, family time and glorious Aussie bush exploring lay ahead of us, and let me tell you, the Friday night traffic wasn’t going to get me down.

We were heading to JoyBell Cottage, a much adored, family owned hideaway near Elaine, 117km from Melbourne. Elaine is small town located on the Midland Highway between Ballarat and Geelong. At the 2016 census, Elaine and the surrounding area had a population of 228, so we knew it was going to be blissfully serene. Hurrah!

Leaving the cities in Australia is a real eye opener to just how barren parts of this country are. I love that you can drive huge distances down under and see very little sign of life, just the odd kangaroo or lonely farm house. It seems to make every journey an adventure!

The arrival

We arrived at our secluded little retreat in the bush at about 8pm, exhausted, but thrilled at the promise of total peace for the entire weekend! 

6537FBA8-531D-4DDD-BAFD-CAF341914758We were so thankful to Sam, the owner, who had left a box of treats for us, and a beautiful welcome note from her children. This sort of personal touch is what JoyBell is all about! It really is like coming home. This was a beautiful start to what was going to be a really special weekend.

The story behind JoyBell Cottage

Every wonderful house has a story doesn’t it! JoyBell is no different! You can feel the warmth as soon as you walk in, and I’m certain it’s because of the love that has been poured into this house since it was bought by Sam and her husband.

Sam and her husband both grew up in the Aussie bush and wanted to give their children experiences that mirrored their own childhoods as often as they could. It took a year of searching for the right place but they finally found their little piece of paradise and purchased this beautiful cottage. They named it JoyBell after Sam’s mother in law Joy, who sadly passed away in 2017 from leukaemia. Joy was a passionate quilter, nature lover and raised her boys as a single mum. She was amazing, and her incredible quilting talents are in pride of place throughout the cottage!

JoyBell Cottage has 5 acres, so there is plenty of room to wear the children out, or go for a peaceful walk! There is a dam where we caught yabbies (tick off the bucket list)  and plenty of room to ride bikes, explore the Australian bush and make the most of the beautiful outdoors on the doorstep!

Sam and her family have filled their lovely country cottage with Joy’s treasures, quilts and furniture, which have made it not only incredibly comfortable to stay in, but beautiful and welcoming. You can almost smell the freshly baked cookies as you walk into the kitchen.  It is a true testament to the life of Sam’s mother in law, and knowing the story, and visiting the cottage, I think the name is absolutely perfect.

If you are looking to connect with nature and each other, this is the perfect weekend getaway. If you’re looking to get the children away from the tv and their iPads, this is the place for you. If you want to explore the Aussie bush, and have breakfast on the deck whilst listening to nothing but native birds, this is the place for you. If you want to see Australia at its most wonderful, this is the place for you.

JoyBell Cottage

JoyBell cottage is a rustic Australian bush home with three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a laundry room, a large family room, a games room and a kitchen diner. The decking is perfect for mealtimes, snoozing, reading, watching kangaroos hop past, and enjoying the outdoors!  It is welcoming, relaxed and ready for anyone to enjoy. Why not treat yourself to a weekend in the bush! It doesn’t get any more relaxed or more Aussie than this!

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‘Joy is the most magnetic force in the universe’ – Unknown

You can learn more about JoyBell and book your stay by contacting Sam via Instagram 


What’s nearby? 

For those of you who love to have something to do, when you’re done relaxing, here are a few ideas for your weekend at JoyBell.

Ballarat

Ballarat is 35-40 mins away and a hive of activity for couples and families. Check out the Visit Ballarat website for what’s on right now!

Our faves:

Buninyong – Local town

Buninyong is about a 20 minute drive from Joybell Cottage. The first thing that you’ll notice is the beautiful Town Hall and the incredible number of coffee shops! Oh and the peace too!

Our faves:

Buninyong Town Hall – If you are there at the weekend, you must pop in and talk to the members of the Historical Society. They will tell you some fascinating tales of Buninyong’s past! One of my favourite facts was that ‘Buninyong’ is the aboriginal for ‘Man laying down with his knees up’ which is exactly what Mount Buninyong looks like!!

Book Cottage – Search out this wonderful little cottage bursting at the seams with $1 books. It is run by the local Lions Club, who make you feel like a long lost friend when you are joyfully flicking through all the books you have ever wanted!

In Buninyong there are more coffee shops than you could ever use in a weekend and a well stocked supermarket. You’ll find a play park, a skate park & a parkour park! Yes kids, it’s true!! Ace street art dons the walls and the botanical gardens are worth taking a stroll through. Buninyong also has a small art gallery and an outdoor pool, although we didn’t check these out.

Mount Buninyong Winery is a whole afternoon of adventure! So many games for the whole family to enjoy, and plenty of space for the kids to get outdoors whilst you sip some local wine and eat the most delicious pizza you ever tasted! Go smoked salmon, its AMAZING!!!

 

Have a beautiful time!

xxxx Liv xxxx

Even big kids need to be sun safe!

Since touch down in Australia, I have been incredibly aware of how desperately important it is for our whole family to protect our skin from the sun. We’re all very English in the skin department, me more than most! Keeping the kids protected is a mission (think Ethan Hunt) and it doesn’t get any easier the older they get! In fact, I think it becomes harder.

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Click for the details…

With 2 in 3 Australians being diagnosed with skin cancer by the age of 70, Australia needs a generational sun-safety shift.

Even big kids need to be sun safe!

Once your kids hit a certain age, they need to be able to take responsibility of being sun safe, however it’s not always a walk in the park!  We’ve taught our two about applying sunscreen properly, why it’s important, and how often it needs re applying. We have gallons of sunscreen at the ready, enough hats to kit out a footie team, and ‘rashies’ of all sizes fill our swim cupboard. No matter how many hats we have, the kids always end up without one on their head! It’s a constant circus act of taking them off, throwing them back in the bag, hiding them, or “accidentally on purpose” forgetting them. I’ve tried everything. Like all children down under, they are used to the school’s ‘no hat, no play’ policy, but no matter how hard I try, as soon as they’re at home and the sun makes an appearance I’m wrestling with heads and hats. Too hot, too uncomfortable, uncool, itchy, scratchy… I’ve heard it all believe me!

 

 

Introducing BedHead Hats

My prayers might have been answered. We have just discovered the most beautifully made sun hats which are so soft and easy to wear, the kids actually kept them on…for hours! Yay!

“Like many parents, I know first-hand that teaching children to wear hats can be a trying time. I really wanted to make this life skill easier to learn. My research found that familiarising a baby early on with the sensation of wearing a hat is the first step in teaching responsible sun safety skills they keep for the rest of their life. I want to educate parents about this and provide them with the most comfortable and protective hats for children of all ages” Rachel Ellis founder of BedHead Hats.

 

Comfortable hats make a whole world of difference when it comes to keeping our kids sun-smart. Comfort and funky designs. Our kids are a little older now, and like the average 10 and 6 year old, they are all about the baseball cap, and give no thought to the lack of protection it gives. **I took photos of the sun hitting their necks whilst they had caps on, just to prove my point. #mumwin. This summer we’re ditching the caps!

Australia has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world. Not everyone realises that sun exposure in the first 10 years of life plays a large part in determining your lifetime potential for cancer.

Why Bedhead?

  • UPF50+ Excellent Protection rating
  • Made with a resilient stretch cotton that grows with the child
  •  Anti-flop brim
  •  Made to suit the hot Australian climate
  • Pram and baby carrier friendly
  • Soft around the neck
  • Providing both sun and glare protection
  • Great designs even for the biggest kids
  • Pony tail holes (Godsend)
  • Easy and comfortable to wear

Thanks to BedHead Hats, summer is looking like it’s going to be the least stressful for all Aussie (and expat) mums and most sun protected for all kids!!

Have a beautiful summer everyone!

Olivia xxx


 

Bedhead Hats is an Australian, family run business who are taking the sun hat market by storm, and leading the way in sun safety for kids.  We just need a couple of adult prints now! *hint!! 


#protectthepotential 

Bedhead Hats established the ‘Protect the Potential’ initiative in 2017 to ensure that Aussie babies get the best start they can to live a sun-safe life. This year, with the help of charities, maternity wards and post-natal services nationwide, Bedhead Hats will provide $200,000 of sun-hats to babies who need them most.

Throughout Spring and Summer 2018, a selection of charities, maternity wards and post-natal services nationwide will be provided with UPF50+ newborn Bedhead Hats to distribute to new mums and bubs to start the sun-safety journey of Aussie babies. Additionally, as part of the ‘Protect the Potential’ initiative, Bedhead Hats will be giving away five baby hats a day until the end of Summer through social media.

All Bedhead Hats have a UPF50+ Excellent Protection rating, are made with a resilient stretch cotton that grows with the child and an anti-flop brim, all made to suit the hot Australian climate. Bedhead Hats are pram and baby carrier friendly; soft around the neck, while providing sun and glare protection.

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Available via www.bedheadhats.com.au

The Cotton Originals Bundle includes a plain hat and a printed hat and has an RRP of $50.00

The Expat ‘Mumcation’!

Are you dreaming of a childfree vacay with your gal pals?

Are you desperate to say goodbye to the laundry and school run, and lay by a pool, sipping Manhattan’s like an extra out of Sex in the City with your long lost mates from back home? Isn’t it about time you took a break and spent some quality time with your friends, minus the hubster and the kids? A relaxing break, being all classy and beautiful? This could be the chance to really be you again, to rekindle old friendships long left behind.

Mums Grapevine
MumsGrapevine.com.au

Well, it turns out when the media were telling us ‘Mums’ that we all deserved.. no… needed a ‘Mumcation’ they were thinking of classy trips to the local winery, or Yummy Mummies sipping Chardonnay in hot tubs chatting about Florence’s ballet lessons. They weren’t thinking about the millions of Expat mums who would be rushing to the airport, gagging for a bag of pickled onion monster munch, clutching their passports, heading home for a week in the pub with the girls.. I’m here to fill you in on the reality of  The ‘Expat Mumcation’…

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The reality of an Expat ‘Mumcation’

I’m currently ‘drying out’ in Hong Kong airport after my very own Expat ‘Mumcation’, and let me tell you, it’s not pretty. I’m sweating, my stomach is churning, I’ve got the shakes and the bags under my eyes are way more impressive than even the best Louis Vuitton cases.. My fake tan has almost completely disappeared, my perfectly shaped eyebrows have started sprouting, and I have just broken a nail. My hair is greasy, my jeans are way too tight and I have a broken tooth. I feel (and look) like the guys out of ‘The Hangover’

Hangover

Just over two weeks ago I gleefully waved farewell to my two little darlings in Melbourne and headed off on a ‘Mumcation’ to the UK to celebrate the wedding of a dear friend. I had just under three weeks of freedom ahead of me and was pumped, preened, waxed, and feeling tip top. Having planned this trip for months, I’d had time to give myself a good talking to about my behaviour on my upcoming trip.

“You’re an adult Olivia, there’s no need to go crazy”

“It’s important that you’re sensible Olivia, you have two small children who need you”…. 

Well. It turns out that when you go on a ‘Mumcation’, whether it’s in Barbados, Benidorm or Bognor, you just can’t help yourself. I joked about behaving like a 14 year old, but totally lived up to it. I was child free, I had a wad of cash in my pocket and the barman was gonna get it… “double G&T’s all round”…. oh dear god…. Even typing that is making me queasy.

I had landed at Heathrow after a 26hr trek from Melbourne, squeezed my ‘bestie’ and headed to Windsor for a “quiet night” before Saturdays Hen Do… After a very civilised dinner, lots of giggles and catching up, we decided to have a walk before bed. Turns out the local pub did 2-4-1 cocktails, so we had 18.  At 3:45am we found ourselves down some back alley with a bunch of 17 year olds, smoking and begging the bouncers to let us in an already closed nightclub. It wasn’t pretty. I was free as a bird, for the first time in ages and my behaviour was, quite frankly, unacceptable.

The outcome

 

19 days later and it turns out my liver isn’t thanking me for the 2 whole bottles of gin, 27 tonics, 4 bottles of prosecco, 6 bottles of Sav, 102 Sambucca shots, 34 tequila shots, an entire tube of Mango flavoured Berocca and one whole box of Alka Seltzer. My heart is barely pumping due to the 29 pork pies, 18,000 Cadbury chocolate buttons, 22 Menthol cigarettes (I don’t even smoke) and about 72 packets of Salt & Vinegar Squares.

I lost count of the cans of coke I guzzled (wtf) just to get over the hangovers.. My dentist is going to poke me in the eye. I ate scampi and chips about 8 times.. because my daughter misses it?? Do you see what I’m getting at? Most mums will get together with their local friends, pop to a hotel in the city, have a few too many, totter back to their room, and get up for a leisurely brekkie, before making their way home to their little darlings. When your best friends are 10,000 miles away, there is no “weekend break”; it has to be at least two weeks, involve binge drinking and excessive calorie consumption. You basically have to make up for the 3 and a half years you’ve missed out on, when it comes to food, drink and shopping. *whoops.

The truth

The truth is, we all need to see our friends, spend time with them, and make the bloody most of it while we’re there, because it doesn’t happen very often. If that means almost dying in the process, well, hey, it is what it is… You know what though.. No matter how useless my body is, lying here in my tiny bed at the airport, no matter how many wrinkles I have added to my forehead, no matter how wrecked my organs are, I would do it all over again… No matter how much my heart ached for my babies, no matter how much I missed my husband, no matter what I may have missed out on, I wouldn’t change a thing.

 

We laughed, really, really laughed. We laughed so hard it hurt. We sat round the table and shared meals together after years apart. We talked for hours about our children, our lives, about everything. And, we laughed a bit more. We had time to be us. We spent time doing things we wanted to do, without time restrictions, play dates or bedtime routines. I watched my friend marry her love, and we all ugly cried to Oasis’ Wonderwall at the disco…

I guess what I am trying to tell you is that when you take your ‘Expat Mumcation’, do it in style, because it’s over in the blink of an eye, and you’ll be back on the other side of the world, reading “The Tiger Who Came To Tea” thanking your lucky stars you did it…. and survived… 

Road Trip the Stuart Highway with kids!

 

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I know, I know, road tripping with the kids sounds like a holiday from hell to some people. “Are we there yet” being shouted over and over, popcorn covering the back seats, umpteen toilet breaks and cries of “I’m booooored” interrupting “The Greatest Showman” soundtrack. However, if ever there was a trip we have done, that we could recommend to you, this would be it.

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If you get the pleasure of “are we nearly there yet” on the way to the supermarket, this is probably not the holiday for you YET! Some days we were smashing out 700km+ which is not a distance for the fussy traveller! There is no amount of iPad time that can fill that space, so be prepared to play games, sing, write journals, wildlife spot, and throw in a few obligatory arguments into the mix.

Travelling through the red centre of Australia, was not only a great big tick on the bucket list, it was without doubt the trip of a lifetime. Nothing could compare.

 Our top reasons to road trip with your gang

Family time – Yes this is a cert when you’re ‘trapped’ in a car or van with the family. This is the trip to do if you’d like to spend time together, lots of time. There are no kids clubs, it’s just you guys, a few dead kangaroos and the road ahead, but this is what makes it so perfect. As contrived as it sounds, we all learnt so much about each other. We had hours and hours to talk, sing our favourite songs, tell jokes, play games and really immerse ourselves in each other. Life gets in the way of these beautiful moments and a road trip is the perfect way to rekindle lost time. It’s amazing what you talk about when there are no emails distracting you and no YouTube on the tv.

Scenery – Driving through the centre of Australia is like being on a David Attenborough shoot. The dingo’s running past, the Emu looking up to see who is frantically waving out of the Campervan window. The colour of the earth changing so dramatically to that deep, warm red that is so quintessentially Australian was amazing. That same red earth that we soon learnt would be ingrained in our clothes, shoes and skin. Every now and again we would stop on the side of the road and Monty would hop out and find a pile of Kangaroo bones, or a half eaten eagle. The enchantment on his face at his latest haul of treasure to take back to school was priceless. The scenery is like nowhere else on earth, and we were right there, in the thick of it, treading the same ground as people have been for thousands of years, and it felt so magical.

Sightseeing – The beauty of road tripping the Stuart Highway is that you get to see places and speak to people you would never meet if you flew this route. The incredible salt lakes, the vastness of the outback, the eagles soaring above us as we sped up the only highway going North. Road tripping allowed us to follow the signs to places we hadn’t planned to visit, and stop at free camping sites because the scenery was particularly spectacular. Road tripping gives you the freedom to make your own way, in your own time, and stay the extra night if you fancy it.  This is one of the reasons it’s a great holiday when travelling with kids.

Adventure – As our journey went on, none of our excitement waned. I was sitting on the edge of my seat, watching the red earth fly by the van. The children were in the back, faces up against the windows, a live wildlife show, eyes wide and mouths open, shouting “dingo” or “eagle” every now and again! The view is like a movie set. The scenery, unbelievable.. This is the outback. The real outback.  It’s almost too beautiful to put into words. Driving the Stuart Highway is nothing less than epic. The adventure of scrambling through incredible gorges, tiptoeing across water holes, laying your hands on Uluru and looking at ancient aboriginal cave paintings. Free camping, building campfires, finding roadside treasures and footprints of creatures long gone. We loved lying in the red dirt at night, star gazing up at the most breathtaking skies you have ever seen. There is almost too much adventure out there to tell you about.

New Friendships – We stopped at every roadhouse along our journey.  They were all so different but each one had the same collection of people huddled around the fuel pumps.  The drivers of enormous trucks getting a much needed break after hours on the road. There were travellers, refuelling and stretching their legs, batting flies, eating a much needed piece of homemade cake, or sipping on a cold beer. The atmosphere at these roadhouses was awesome. Everyone is there on an adventure and trying desperately get some wifi. People chat to each other, you hear wonderful stories of what’s to come, and swap tips for your onward journeys. A regular servo turns into a hub of storytelling and the birthplace of new friendships.

Journals –  These books are so special. The hours the children spent in the back of the van drawing their surroundings, writing little scripts about what we had seen and sticking in leaflets and ticket stubs from the tours we’d been on. They are filled with adventures, stories and bursting with tales which we will all remember for years to come.  I can picture us holding these books in twenty years time, when our children have their own children, telling tales of the Dingo we saw, the mine we climbed in to, or the dreamtime tales from Uluru. To have pages and pages of aboriginal dot paintings that the children created after visiting Uluru, is such an incredible keepsake that we wouldn’t have got any where else.

New experiences & Noodling – Coober Pedy is a funny old town, almost a little like you have stepped back in time, but, by far the best hours we spent on our road trip were noodling in a barren patch of ground just off the high street. Noodling is sifting through the dumps left by the miners and specking is walking slowly along staring at the ground looking for any signs of colour. A very eager gentleman at our camp site told us that noodling was allowed as long as you don’t take a shovel, and showed us on the map where he had collected a jar full of tiny gems. The kids LOVED noodling. I was less enthusiastic, mainly because of the flies, and the fact that I couldn’t find a single sparkly stone. After an hour or so Monty had enough gems to give one to every kid in his class. I was panicking that we were about to give 22 kids our little fortune, but nevertheless he was adamant they weren’t for us!  Noodling is completely free, and one of the days the kids remember most about our trip.

Just go!

Our kids are very used to road trips. I would say this is a must if you want to explore Australia by road! However you plan to road trip; caravan, car, campervan, bus, motorbike or even bicycle, (yes there were a few) get out there and see the magic of the Australian outback. It may seem like a mammoth feat with children but believe me, it was our greatest adventure yet, and I know it will be yours too.


This is not a cheap holiday.

We flew from Melbourne to Adelaide, where we hired a Britz campervan. The van came with everything we needed to be comfortable. We just had to stock up with food and hit the road.

When you weigh up the cost of the trip vs the experience it was totally worth it, but no, it wasn’t cheap! In fact it’s one of our most expensive trips to date and we were only away for 13 days. *Fuel is eye wateringly expensive in the outback.


Tips: 

  • Campsites were fairly reasonably priced, be prepared for some to be a lot more expensive than others.
  • Make sure you book you Uluru campsite first! It gets busy. **The IGA is amazing.
  • Free camping is FREEEE and super fun!
  • Take lots of pens, books, games and music to keep you entertained.
  • Be prepared for no wifi or phone signal. Download movies and games onto your devices, and tell your boss you aren’t contactable.
  • Stock up with plenty of food and drinks. Eating certainly passes the time and roadhouses aren’t cheap!
  • Take a decent camera, the pictures will be wonderful.
  • Pack warm clothes, it gets COLD out there
  • For anyone who suffers with nosebleeds.. Take tissues. The air is DRY! We learnt the hard way.
  • Take your first aid kit.
  • Prepare for the price of fuel!
  • Do a tour of Uluru. It’s worth the money!

Coles sell out of scones as Expats stockpile for their Royal Wedding parties!! *Kidding (can you even buy scones in Coles?)

Before we go any further… Coles have definitely not sold out of scones, or cucumbers.. So your party will go ahead as long as you don’t wear out your flag waving, butter spreading hand before Saturday!

Are you one of millions of Expats across Australia going nuts for the upcoming nuptials of possibly the most bizarre (but gorgeous) couple on the planet? I feel like we’ve only just got over Eurovision and we’re straight back on it with the flag waving and frantic public displays of patriotism!

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Kevin Cruise going all out for Eurovision!!

I would love to say I am all over this wedding, but I feel very disorganised. I’m almost beginning to panic.. As if I’ve got a real invite. *Trust me, I would have been on a massive diet if I had!

I feel like maybe I should have made as much effort as my expat friends, but…. I just haven’t. I don’t have cupcakes waiting to be baked, I am not planning on whipping up cucumber ‘sarnies’ and a cream tea and I probably won’t be attending any parties, although I think at last count I had been invited to 6. Yes 6! Not because I’m popular just because all 6 of my friends are having parties!

Watching the world (and Australia) in particular going all out for this wedding makes me wonder whether Expats become more patriotic and possibly more Royalist once we’ve left the country?

Us expats are marking our territory, and making sure you all know Meghan is going to be “OUR PRINCESS”! We want to make it bloody clear that (although she’s American, and we’re in Australia) she belongs to us Brits now and we’re gonna throw the biggest bloody party in our garage (because that’s where the big telly and the beer fridge is) with beef snags, (because that’s all we can get) and loads of our expat mates, because like I said, we’re BRITISH and we own this bloody wedding!

I wonder if we would all be frantically covering our houses in bunting, buying new outfits and getting Meghan loves Harry tattoos if we were living in Berkshire? Would we be charging into our local Tesco’s in Guildford demanding the highest quality cucumber for our “Royal Wedding Party”? Would we be buying job lots of these ‘Hazza and Meggie’ cozzies for all our girlfriends if we were back in Blighty?? Brrrrr just the thought of it… Is Britain going as nutty about this as us lot overseas?

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Here, in the land down under, Brits in their thousands are gearing up for a mammoth ‘sesh’ in front of the telly on Saturday night! Please don’t forget though we will not be listening to the legendary Huw Edwards charming us through every step of the wedding, we will be watching Aussie coverage of the Royal Wedding! This has enormous potential to turn out to be an infuriating 6 hours of drunken Aussie students being interviewed on Pall Mall holding inflatable Kangaroos! Yes, it may leave much to be desired if their current coverage from Tower Bridge is anything to go by! *Please prove me wrong Channel 7!

When Kate and Wills got married in 2011, I had a party at my house and wore a shirt made out of a Kate Middleton tea towel,” – Edwina Bartholomew from Sunrise

I totally love the magic of a royal wedding.  The costume, the carriages, the surprise attendees.. “Whaaaat, Elton isn’t invited”… (I’m sure he is btw). I love the precision timings, the tabloid gossip and the ‘sheer class’ that only the British can bring to a Royal Wedding. In the UK it will feel very different to here. The ceremony doesn’t get going until 9pm Down Under, so we’ll have waited a lot longer than the UK, and the anticipation will have been building..aaaaaallllll day!!

At 8:59pm we will finally see the bride and at 9:00pm on the dot we will be glued to our screens as she walks down the aisle at the wedding of the Century (sorry Kate)! Union jack flags covering the house (and the ute), and G&T (*make that beer)  fuelled women in ballgowns and tiaras, passing out in their living rooms before Meghan utters the words “I do”…

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So Harry may be funking (yes that says FUNKING as in FUNKY!) up the Royal Household by marrying a super hot American ACTRESS who has been divorced… **GASP, and the Royal family may be curling their toes in their brogues as they walk into St Georges Chapel on Saturday, but I think it’s wonderful, and it seems like a bazillion other expats do too! If only Clarence House could arrange an overnight wedding next time so as we can watch it with our breakfast…in bed!!

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