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’

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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 ‘besite’ 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!

When ‘big things’ happen – An Expat Dilemma

Living far from home

I often use the phrase ‘living far from home,’ in fact it’s one of my favourite hashtags! However, it confuses even me. I also tend to bang on about ‘home’ being where we are together, where the children and the Mr are. Home for me is where we live, work, play.. so therefore ‘home’ is Melbourne… isn’t it? Ah the Expat existence! Today I’m mulling things over so I thought I’d reach out for your advice.

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Does it matter where we consider home to be?

Probably not. Is it possible to have more than one home? Yes, I think it is. Why am I homesick when I am at home then? Can you see I’m battling with myself?

So many expats are ‘living the dream’ down under, living their “best lives” all tanned and throwing Aussie slang into their convo’s; yet lots of expats live this Australian life of sea, sun, snags, and surfing with…. regret, homesickness and longing.. Guess what! I’m one of them.

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No matter how long we’ve been here, it hasn’t got better.

I don’t pine for the UK, I don’t miss ‘Britain’, I’m not craving monster much crisps, or proper gravy. I don’t miss the rain or the M25..  I pine for my friends. Those life long friends, those college friends, the friends I made when I first became a mother. The friends who know me inside and out, the friends I can be my real self with.. The friends I call when things get tough. I’m craving the time spent with cousins, the children really knowing their relatives, their godparents and their long lost friends they left behind.

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Grandad

You may or may not have heard I lost my beloved Grandfather this weekend. He was a  my absolute favourite human.. *sorry kids.  Losing him has sparked a weird sense of unease about our expat life. Losing this dear, dear man has made us question what we are doing so far away from our loved ones.

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This loss to our family has made our house eerily quiet, our hearts truly heavy and our minds dance all over the place. How long do we sacrifice our ‘connections’ to live under sunnier skies? How many years do we want our children living 24hrs away from the people who love them most? How much longer do we miss out on time with our friends? How many more Christmases do we want overseas and not sitting around the fire with a mulled wine and loved ones? Does Aussie life bring us enough to sacrifice so much?

Living on the other side of the world has its perks don’t get me wrong, it’s just every time I try and justify this beautiful life, I find myself saying “yeah but we have that at home” and “yeah but if we were doing that at home we’d be with X, Y and Z.”

I’m forever second guessing… everything!

I’m not second guessing because we are unhappy in Australia, I am second guessing as I can’t help but feel that we have been away long enough, and now we need to be closer to our village. When things go wrong, or sad things happen, I feel a pull toward home. I immediately make overseas phone calls, I send emails and messages across the pond, and right now, it’s making me feel like that’s where we should be. Permanently.

Living as an Expat in Australia, comes with so much adventure, and being in Melbourne, the most liveable city in the world is such a blessing. We have so much more at our fingertips here down under, but is that enough to be giving up all we had at home? Shouldn’t life’s adventures be enjoyed with the people we love, the people who know us best, the people who miss us too?

So, where does this all end up? Who knows. Can we really do the big pack up? Could we really repatriate back to Blighty? Would we even be happy or have I got my rose tinted specs on? Have you done it? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Beach bums

Olivia xx

 

Hi Honey, I’m home- Forever

I opened Google this morning and it told me that there are 258 days remaining until the end of the year. Thanks Google, you’ve reminded me that all those things I have promised myself that I would get done in 2018 aren’t moving as fast as I’d like, and it’s woken me up to just how blinking fast this year is going!

So, just over 100 days into 2018 and The Wilson’s are ten months off the end of our visa! Yes ten months!! I know!! I can almost see it sitting on the horizon, sarcastically beckoning me toward it.. Bastard!! It’s insane. Ten months left until we need to vacate the country. Well… we get 12 weeks after that date to officially get out before we become illegal immigrants, but yeah, we’re on a tick, tock, tick, tock,  countdown right now.

I guess like most families who came to Australia on a 457 visa, (before Mr Turnball abolished it.. Thanks Malc!) we kind of assumed four years away from home would be enough, and we’d be ready to go home. Or, if we weren’t ready to go, we would have at least put some plans in place to stay for a while longer…. Um…. *insert tumbleweed! We have no plans as yet; we have no contingency plan if we don’t get extended and I literally have no idea what we will do or where we will go…. (I can hear some of you muttering “this woman is insane”) Truthfully, this really only came up in conversation in the car this morning with just ten months to go.. ‘What the actual @£$%’ I hear you say!

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I know! It seems a little irresponsible not to plan or prepare everyone for the possible big life change ahead, however I’m still in the ‘live for the moment’ stage, ‘running around in my underwear because I’m so excited to be here’ stage; and I can’t for the life of me snap out of it. I’m telling myself “hey, it may never happen, let’s just go to the beach and not think about it” and “ah well, if it’s gonna happen we may as well make the most of life in Oz and go out for dinner… and NOT talk about it”…   therefore allowing the thought to slip to the back of my mind for a while longer; because if you don’t talk about something it doesn’t happen right?

Potentially however, we have ten months left until we need to go! Ten months until our practically native Australian kids have to move again. *Truth: Every time we stay in a hotel Monty asks “how long are we living in this house Mum?” In ten months time, we may have our passports in hand, and be heading off to pastures new.. or old, back to our friends, my girl gang, who knows?

I just took a sip of water and glanced up at my friends faces smiling down on me from the last postcard they sent from the UK! A sudden gulp! Honestly, just over three years ago, whilst we were hugging, and wailing as they were waving us off on our adventure, I remember distinctly telling everyone (myself included) “it’s not forever, it’s only four years… If that!!”

However now, sitting here, the kids at school, friends round the corner, things planned, work life thriving… it’s hard to imagine leaving Australia. It’s hard to imagine going through all those goodbyes again, only this time with our new found friends.

The uncertainty of living on a visa and not being secure in the knowledge we can stay is a huge thing. Even though I push it to the back of my mind, it’s a big deal for any expat family.

Living life as an expat is such a treat. We get to explore,  see new things, and experience new adventures; but part of me wonders whether the time has come for us to be thinking about a ‘forever home’ for our family. A place that the children can say they’re “from”… A place that we can settle, properly settle in, put pictures up on the walls without worrying about the landlords reaction, plant what we like in the garden, paint the walls whatever colour we like, and design a space for our growing family. Somewhere we can stay and know that we’ll not be moving again. Part of me thinks that maybe the children need to be more settled. Maybe we all need it, but I don’t think any of us really want it!

Having said all that, the thought of having a ‘forever home‘ terrifies me. The thought of buying a house, moving in, and thinking “right that’s it, we’re here!” makes me come over all cold. I hear people saying “oh we’ve just bought our “forever home” and before I congratulate them, all I can think is ‘you poor, poor thing”. Forever stuck in one place seems so final..

Maybe I’m frightened to settle somewhere because it’s not in my nature. Maybe our family is supposed to keep moving. Maybe that’s what’s written in our stars! Maybe I’m scared to make life so static because it means long distance friendships are definitely a forever thing. It means guaranteed travelling to visit loved ones, rather than the comforting possibility of one day relocating to be closer. If we decide on a forever home, it means one way or another, we’re closing one door, and locking it tight and I don’t want to do that! I like the idea of being able to move when we want, go where we want, experience life somewhere else if we want to. I like the romantic idea that ‘one day’ we’ll go ‘home‘, but not just yet!!!

I suppose what I’m trying to say is that for this expat family and all the others out there, who maybe haven’t completely settled on a place to stay put, or signed their life away on a house because it’s in the right catchment for high school, or who don’t seem to have any life plans that include a particular location; we actually do have our forever home. We’re already living in it. Our forever home is right here, right now, and wherever we are together in the future. Our family is our forever home! It doesn’t have to be bricks and mortar, it doesn’t have to be staying in the same place for the rest of our days, we are in our forever home all the time, no matter where on the map that may be this year!! Our forever homes are dotted all over the world, wherever we want them to be, as long as we’re together.

You are my home

 

Olivia xxx

‘A ship is safe in harbour, but that’s not what ships are built for” – Unknown

 

Easter Fun at Boneo Maze – Mornington Peninsula

Easter Weekend is throwing up some serious fun in and around Melbourne. We are so lucky! If you are living in Melbourne or travelling here for the Easter weekend, you’re in for a treat! One of the many wonderful things going on over the weekend is the Autumn Fest at Boneo Maze! (30th March – 1st April 2018)

Autumn Fest is a 3 day event celebrating all the wonderful seasonal changes Autumn brings combined with mindful and sustainable family fun. It’s by far my most favourite time of year! The grounds at Boneo Maze are extra beautiful this time of year! We have visited a few times, you can read about our Father’s day adventure at Boneo here!

Autumn Fest will be three enticing days jam packed with different attractions, activities, music, light displays, art and food and more. You can check out each days events below, with a fire show, circus performers, Easter Bunny, workshops, wildlife displays and so much more, you absolutely want to get down to the Peninsula for this. The mini golf, mazes and adventure zone will be available everyday for you and the family to enjoy, which is awesome! My kids just love the mini golf!

Each day of the Easter weekend has it’s own theme and attraction, so it will be easy to spend the entire weekend enjoying the fun!!

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Tickets:

If the entire weekend sounds amazing to you, then a 3-day pass might be your best choice! Alternatively you can pick the day you simply can’t miss.

1 Day Pass (Choose any 1 day) Adult $25 Child/senior $20 Family (2A2C) $80 (SAVE $10)

2Day Pass (Choose any 2 days) Adult $35 Child/Senior $30 Family (2A2C) $120 (SAVE $10)

3 Day Pass (Enjoy the entire 3 day festival) Adult $45 Child/Senior $40 Family (2A2C) $160 (SAVE $10).


 

I hope you have an amazing Easter weekend, whatever you decide to do! Let us know how you get on at Boneo Maze if you do decide to visit!!

‘Easter egg hunts; proof that your kids can find things when they really want to!’ -Unknown

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Awesome Easter Adventures – Melbourne

Easter holidays are fast approaching and if you’re anything like me, you are totally unprepared and have already eaten the kids easter eggs. (Shopping trip round two coming up!) I’m here to give you some awesome ideas to make up for the gobbled chocolates, and earn you some serious Mama points! Melbourne has a plethora of awesome activities, as always, this school holidays, and I’m going to be sharing my favourites with you over the next few days! Good luck to all of you!! The school holidays are a struggle, and finding just the right balance of IPads, playdates, and days out is mind boggling. Here’s the first instalment to help ease your pain!!  *love the kids really, just… two whole weeks…..

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LEGOLAND DISCOVERY CENTRE

 Have you got space mad kids? This school holidays at Legoland Discovery centre, your budding astronauts can embark on a Space Mission! Yup, they can rocket in to outer space, and embark on a galactic adventure.  How awesome does that sound??? I know my two would LOOOOVE this! 

 Upon entry each child will be able to dress the part, with a super cool space mask! They will then head off to take part in a scavenger hunt in MINILAND Melbourne, and help a fellow cadet find the missing pieces to his spaceship!

Your little LEGO© lovers can then build their very own LEGO© spaceship in a creative workshop before defying gravity by learning how to fly on the popular Merlin’s Apprentice ride! The mission will then continue in a place out of this world – the Space Training Centre –  where cosmic travellers will be tested on their knowledge of the solar system’s planets.

Hurrah for awesome school holiday fun, awarding us mums with some SERIOUS brownie points!

What are you waiting for? Accept your space mission here: https://melbourne.legolanddiscoverycentre.com.au

All the info….

Where: LEGOLAND Discovery Centre, Chadstone Shopping Centre VIC 3148

When: Thursday 29 March – Tuesday 17 April 2018

Cost: Book online now – $45 per person for the Melbourne Big Ticket. Ticket includes entry to both LEGOLAND Discovery Centre Melbourne and Sea Life Melbourne


SEA LIFE MELBOURNE

 Paw Patrol at Sea Life Melbourne

Oh my goodness, not only can the kids see some awesome sealife this holidays, but the PAW Patrol pups are on SEA Patrol at Sea Life Melbourne! Have you got little pups at home who are crazy for Chase and his friends?

 This school holidays, the PAW Patrol SEA Patrol pups are going to be making a splash when they swim into Sea Life Melbourne for an all new adventure in Melbourne.

The interactive experience will take families on a ‘pawsome’ underwater quest throughout the aquarium to help find the missing PAW Patrol pups and save the day. No job is too big, no pup is too small! Yes, it’s going to be great!

As soon as you arrive, the children will receive a PAW Patrol pup pack including wearable puppy ears, a treasure hunt map and a PAW Patrol sticker sheet.

 The race is then on to follow the map (and the paw prints!) to find all of the PAW Patrol SEA Patrol pups who are hiding throughout Sea Life Melbourne. Everyone loves a treasure hunt!!

As honorary members of the rescue squad, children can also pose with the PAW Patrol pups at the photo wall to capture a memento of the school holiday escapade.

 Make sure you’ve signed up to join the PAW Patrol SEA Patrol rescue squad now! For more information or to purchase tickets for Sea Life Melbourne’s new school holiday experience, please visit:https://www.melbourneaquarium.com.au/

All the info

Where: Sea Life Melbourne. Corner of King Street and Flinders Street, Melbourne, VIC 3000

When: Friday 30 March –  Monday 30 April 2018

Cost: Book online now – $45 per person for the Melbourne Big Ticket. Ticket includes entry to both Sea Life Melbourne and LEGOLAND Discovery Centre Melbourne

Why the Wilson’s have fallen for ‘The Staycation!’

Just to add some immediate irritation to your reading, I want to let you know I am writing this poolside, overlooking Melbourne at Crown. I’d like to say I was lying here in a bikini, all tanned, sipping on a large cocktail, but I’d be lying. After a few too many amazing Melbourne burgers, too much wine, and over the top stress chocolate eating, I am actually lying here, fully clothed, bollocking the kids for jumping in the pool every so often! Believe me, it’s bliss compared to being at home and bollocking them for putting their dirty hands on the walls or stealing spoonfuls of Nutella out of the pantry! *Only mum is allowed to do that….

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Mr W booked a staycation for this weekend. Oh I can’t tell you how much I was looking forward to this. Just getting away from the laundry is good enough for me to be honest. Staying in your own city means you can really switch off, put your feet up and relax. No stress to get up early and sightsee, no fast paced trips round the local museums, no dragging your kids out of the pool because you have four more “must see” spots to visit before check out.

Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love going away, exploring new places, trawling the kids round ancient monuments, and making them try obscure foods that make their faces scrunch. This though, is just so good.

The Wilson’s were “staycation” virgins until now. As you know, we love travelling, and we’re usually quick to save our cash to go somewhere new… I’m now thinking staycations could be a regular thing for us. How many amazing hotels can we try in Melbourne I wonder?

We checked in to Crown yesterday, all ready for a snooze filled weekend. Poppy had played a game of netball, Monty had been to a birthday party at Extreme Air  and the Mr and I have been working full on for weeks. We were all exhausted. We got to the room and leapt into bed. Aren’t those black out curtains in hotels AMAZING?! You can convince the kids it’s actually bed time even though it’s blatantly 5:45pm. The snooze sesh didn’t last long. Living in Melbourne means the kids know exactly what is downstairs and they were absolutely fighting the zz’s and hyper for the movies, and the roulette and blackjack tables… Kidding! We only gamble responsibly, usually a Friday night, after lots of wine, and a boogie!

Image - Crown Resorts
Image – Crown Resorts

 

Mr W and I reluctantly dragged ourselves out of bed… Of course the first thing we had to do was eat, because we actually can’t go anywhere without eating… We went to Guillaume. For those of you who don’t know this restaurant, it’s introduction on the website says:

Inspired by the popular neighbourhood bistros of Paris, Bistro Guillaume offers a menu rich with French classics in a stylish setting on the Crown Riverwalk.  
 
The service style is relaxed and diners are encouraged to sit back and enjoy good French food and wine in an unpretentious atmosphere. 

The food is amazing, the service was beautiful…. If only the customers were as unpretentious as the restaurant promises it is. One of my pet hates about eating out is that if you have children, people seem to think you have to eat in shit restaurants. As soon as we walked in you could feel the eyes. Couples in the ‘Autumn of their lives’, turning to look. To be fair Monty looked like he’d been dragged through a hedge backwards and Poppy hadn’t even sat down before she was spreading butter on the bread, and herself, however….

The food and wine was divine. We ate, the kids made the most of the wifi, and we left. Oh I love French food and free internet connection.

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Image – Bestmenus.com.au

Yesterday was a warm day in Melbourne. 32 degrees and super windy. We didn’t need to be out and about so we made the most of the pool on the 27th floor. What a view! The kids quickly made some friends so Mr W and I chilled on the loungers whilst the other parents were on pool duty.. (remember that awesome tip right there)… Got to love a hotel pool.

Room service was a must on our staycation. There is nothing more satisfying than siting in your undies, air con blasting, nice and warm under the sheets, watching trashy tv and eating a huge club sandwich! Total bliss right there. As soon as I had taken my last mouthful and was ready to lie down, the kids were up, dressed again and begging to go for a walk… Arghhhh I must try harder to teach them the art of hotel relaxation! *someone have my kids for the weekend!!

Off we went back down in the elevator, two VERY tired kids, one sleepy dad and a very full, rather swollen mum.

Gradi are holding a pizza festival this weekend. Poppy is a Gradi superfan so she was thrilled, although way too full of schnitzel and hot chips from the room to be eating any pizzas. Monty begged and begged for a $50.00 toy car off the Ferrari stand (Formula 1 is coming to Melbs) and threw a huge ‘tanty’ when I said no!

Turned out to be a beautiful evening stroll in this wonderful city! Mr W ended up carrying a sobbing Monty through the hotel, Poppy and I waddling behind begging him to slow down. This race to the lift was made so much worse by the fact that the Crown on a Saturday night is filled with romantic couples, laughing at each others jokes, super slinky show gals and plenty of bars bursting into life… * exactly where Mr W and I would rather be at this precise moment… In to the elevator…. Bed time!!

 

Sunday morning, after a great sleep, and hurrah no hangover, it’s time for the hotel brekkie! *insert dancing mama emoji right here! This is a big one for us. The Wilson’s love a hotel breakfast! Poppy always heads straight for the sweet pastries and the hash browns, Monty just gets a huge pile of bacon and a pain au chocolate, Mr W and I do the strategic breakfast buffet eating. Start one end and make sure you’ve tried at least one of everything before going back to the start again! We’ve mastered the art I can assure you!

So sadly we’re just one more swim before we go; before we head back to normality, back to the laundry and back to preparing the school bags for another week. You know what though, I wouldn’t have it any other way; despite the bags under my eyes, and the little tears on my cheek as we hand back the room key…..  Staycations are absolutely my new fave thing. Enjoying hotels in your own city, not even leaving the building if you don’t want to, has to be one of the best breaks ever!!

Thank you Melbourne, thank you Crown, thank you Mr W… Here’s to another staycation really REAAALLLLY soon! Pretty please!

Olivia xxx

‘Sometimes a break from your routine is all you need’ – Unknown


 

We booked our stay direct with Crown, you can use this link , although there are many other sites you can use.

We collect Crown rewards which allow us to get points on all our purchases in the Crown, and give us free parking. You can join here for free! Worth doing if you visit Crown here in Melbourne or Perth!

If you’re thinking of travelling to Melbourne anytime soon, make sure you check out Crown; not just for your accomodation but for entertainment, family fun, restaurants, bars and the world famous casino. A must see in Melbourne.

Jewish Museum of Australia – Celebrating the life of such an extraordinary musician and artist

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Photo by Mark Okoh

Last week, I went to the Jewish Museum of Australia with a girlfriend, we were desperate to get in to see the current exhibition Amy Winehouse: A Family Portrait before it ends on the 25th March.

The Jewish Museum is located in St Kilda, and easy to find. We headed in and straight up the stairs to the sound of Amy Winehouse’s beautiful voice in the distance.

“This isn’t an attempt to tell people what my sister was like, or what kind of people my grandparents were, or to force my opinions on you. This is a snapshot of a girl who was, to her deepest core, simply a little Jewish kid from North London with a big talent who, more than anything, just wanted to be true to her heritage.”
Alex Winehouse

Like millions of people I’m a huge Amy Winehouse fan so this exhibition was a must see for me. She was such an intriguing character and absolutely someone who got to me. I loved her music, her voice, the sound as if from another era. In my eyes she was a true talent.

Amy Winehouse (1983 – 2011) was an incredible singer and songwriter but far beyond that and evident throughout the exhibition, she was all about ‘family’;  hugely proud of her home (London) and her Jewish roots. The exhibition feels so personal. As if you’ve walked into her bedroom and you’re thumbing through her things.

The memorabilia on show feels too ‘young’ to be that of someone who has passed. The iconic outfits, giving a real sense of just how tiny Amy was. Amy’s belongings sit in a vast white space; her school uniforms, photographs of her with her friends, her records, and her guitar, all a stark reminder of a life well and truly cut short. A life filled with so much drama, yet essentially she was a proud Jewish girl with a strong sense of family and traditional values.

Amy Winehouse: A Family Portrait is a personal and intimate exhibition which explores Amy Winehouse’s inner world, and the influences that shaped her career and personal life – Jewish Museum

Through this exhibition Alex Winehouse celebrates his sisters life and heritage, and allows us to explore her world and everything that influenced it. There are lovely family trees, old photos, and stories of her family who left Belarus in the late nineteenth century, and headed to London, where Amy was to grow up and fall deeply in love with her city.

Amy won five Grammy Awards and had numerous hit songs including Rehab, Back to Black, and Valerie before dying tragically at the age of 27 in 2011.

Amy Winehouse: A Family Portrait honours Amy’s memory and achievements, and provides a personal portrait of her family life and Jewish heritage; things that were not always visible in her public life.

“The Jewish Museum is perhaps an unexpected venue for an exhibition about Amy Winehouse, but Amy’s brother, Alex, was adamant that this was the best place to tell her story, because being Jewish was so much a part of who she was.” Jewish Museum of Australia Director Rebecca Forgasz

Since launching in London in 2013, the exhibition has toured internationally from San Francisco to Vienna, Tel Aviv and Amsterdam, with huge success. The Jewish Museum is the only place in Australia to host the Amy Winehouse exhibition and they are very excited to share this fantastic show with us lucky Amy Winehouse fans.

Grab your tickets before it’s gone!!!


Amy Winehouse: A Family Portrait

Adults: $12 (18+)
Children: Free (5 and under)
Children: $6 (6+)
Concession: $6 (students, pension card holders, Health Care card)
Family: $27 (2 adults, 2 children or 1 adult, 3 children)
Member: Free

Book Here

Opening Hours: Tues – Thurs 10am-4pm Fri 10M-3PM Sun 10-5pm

Phone: (03) 8534 3600
Email: info@jewishmuseum.com.au

Location: 26 Alma Rd, St Kilda Victoria 3182. A two-minute walk from tram stop 32 on St Kilda Rd (Routes 3 or 67).


THIS RARE AMY WINEHOUSE DEMO PROVES SHE WAS WAY AHEAD OF HER TIME: LISTEN

Handhorf – A little bit of Germany in the Adelaide Hills

Located just 25 minutes from Adelaide, Handhorf is Australia’s oldest surviving German settlement and celebrated 175 years in 2014. It still has a strong German flavour most evident in the small goods outlets, bakeries, pubs, restaurants and cafes that line the bustling main street’ – Adelaide Hills.org  

Handhorf is a truly picturesque little town founded by Prussian Lutherans in 1839. It is so close to Adelaide, you really don’t need to leave it out of your trip. We visited in January, and the weather was lovely. We have been told that Autumn is spectacular too because of the wonderful colour of the leaves on the trees.


 

Driving in to Handhorf, it hits you how German this little town really is.  The bakeries are pumping out freshly baked pretzels, there are sausages hanging in the windows of the butchers, German flags proudly swaying in the breeze, and souvenir shops selling all kinds of Germanic keepsakes including huge beer steins. We particularly liked the aprons which made the children look like they were wearing traditional German costume…Monty liked playing the accordion… The shop assistant didn’t enjoy it quite as much!

I always find it fascinating to think that people came to Australia, seeking a safe place to rebuild their lives, and they ended up somewhere like this. The journey must have been daunting, such a huge trip. Then, to build a town so much like home, a community and a brand new life, it’s incredibly brave.

We visited The Handhorf Academy which is the regional centre for art and heritage. Originally a boarding school, and later a maternity hospital, this 19th Century Heritage building could tell some phenomenal stories of courage, excitement and fear as early settlers built their new lives.

There are four galleries, a migration museum and a shop selling locally handcrafted products.  This is also the home of the tourist information office, otherwise known as the place where Monty left his shoes.

A visit is a must. Go in and be captivated by objects and stories relating to the lives of Hahndorf’s pioneering families. We particularly liked the outfits worn by the Lutheran children, the ladies ornate lace dresses, and the children were amazed by the furniture and an old pram.

After a bit of a walk and the purchase of some salami type sausages that nearly blew our heads off, it was time for a trip to the play park! We like to use Monkey Bars all over the world. No Monkey Bars are ever left out!

Once we were too hot to swing, we headed into the Seasonal Garden Cafe which was heavenly. Fresh produce from their own garden, and juices squeezed right there for you to enjoy! We lazed in the sunshine sipping on green juice, until Mr W’s phone ran out of battery, Monty squealed and Poppy insisted we head off to our next destination! Bliss ruined…

Top Handhorf hints

  • Take a walking tour of Handhorf if you have the time. They take about 90 minutes, but you get to visit places that the general public can’t. We love a guided tour, as you learn so much more about a place, and the children have to be quiet too! Win win!!
  • The Handhorf Leathersmith is a great shop! And if you walk right to the back, they have the biggest bunnies you ever did see! The kids will be asking you to buy them one all the way home!
  • There are plenty of cellar doors in Handhorf, and a craft brewery there too. Gulf Brewery are a micro brewery, who offer tastings at the cellar door, or for those who have a little more time, they pair food with beer for another truly Handhorf experience.
  • Handhorf is a shoppers heaven. The high street is filled with local craftspeople making wonderful wares. You can find anything from hand crafted leather wares to cuckoo clocks to toys, books and candlemakers. We just bought food, (surprise surprise) but were tempted by so much more! 

     Close by: 

  • One of Australia’s most famous artists, Sir Hans Heysen’s home is nearby on Heysen Road. Visit The Cedars, explore his garden, home and studio.
  • The Prancing Pony craft brewery is about five minutes away in Totness. If you didn’t get chance to sample the beers in Handhorf this is definitely worth a visit.
  • Beerenberg Family Farm has ‘pick your own strawberries’ from November to April. There’s also a wonderful shop selling a huge range of jams, sauces and relishes. Their website if full of lovely recipes too! (drool)
  • Wineries surround Handhorf, so there is no possible way you could miss out on sampling some of the Adelaide Hills local wines.
  • The children will love the Hahndorf Farm Barn. It’s a farm/wildlife park and a great place to spend a few hours. They have picnic areas, tractor rides and the children get to try their hand at milking a cow or even holding a python!! Family tickets for 2 adults + 2 children is $47

 

The Adelaide Hills are like a treasure chest, full of wonderful food, wine, beer, and adventure. It’s a fabulous place to spend time together exploring. Head to Handhorf and wind your way through the surrounding area slowly, taking it all in as you drive! You won’t be disappointed!

Flights – We flew direct to Adelaide from Melbourne with Tiger Air. For all four of us the cost was approximate cost $450

Car Hire – We hired a car through Avis at Adelaide airport – approximate cost $179 for three days.

Hotels – Adelaide and the surrounding areas have so much variety when it comes to hotels. Whatever your budget, it wont be hard to find somewhere that fits!

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This photo caused a major tantrum “I’m not a girl and you made me the girl”….. Oh how we laughed… (not)

A chapter from my “real life story” – Dedicated to Joanne…

I’m bloody frustrated today!! The reason for my irritation is that I’m sitting here having a huge battle with an impending cold!!! I’m sniffing every 6 seconds, (I know… get a bloody tissue), thinking to myself, for god’s sake, just do one!! I will not put up with getting a darn cold, especially as the kids are back at school tomorrow and I have some free time on my hands… (*think dancing mum emoji next to sad looking kids emoji)

I have spent a long time now keeping relatively quiet about what essentially is a big part of me, and it’s the reason I kick myself when my immune system gives in to a simple cold. Moving to Australia and becoming an expat was a good chance for me to close the door on a chunk of my life and pretend that it never happened. Why do I rarely talk about it? Probably because I am generally very well, and I don’t want to be drowning again in that vat of “illness”.

Recently however,  I have had a lot of questions about my health, after I uploaded photos of myself in hospital.

Hospital
Instagram @the_wilsons_of_oz 12/01/2018

So, my little secret??

I have Transverse Myelitis. Whaaat?? Yeah I said the same thing when I was told. In a nutshell it’s a neurological condition in which the spinal cord is inflamed. The inflammation damages nerve fibres, and causes them to lose their myelin coating leading to decreased electrical conductivity in the central nervous system. (That’s about as ‘nutshell” as I could manage).

 

One day, I realised the pins and needles I had over the weekend weren’t going away. The next, I had numb legs. The next, my hands were tingling and the feeling in them was disappearing.

myelitis

The next…. I couldn’t get out of bed!! I was a human jelly! Not paralysed thank God, but no feeling from my neck down which made it incredibly difficult to move. You know the feeling you get when you have an anaesthetic? This led to an anxious trip to my GP who sent me straight to the emergency department. Phew, I was ok, I was told I probably had Guillain Barre syndrome and you ALWAYS recover from that. Off I went to the hospital for the doctors to do all sort of disgusting tests on me, only to be told three days later it was actually Transverse Myelitis! And no, you probably won’t ever walk again!

Transverse1
A buggy was always a better option than sticks for me…

 

Ten days in a hospital room, a kind nurse by my side cutting up my food, lumbar punctures, MRI scans, neurological tests, intravenous steroids, lots of cards, hundreds of student doctors excited to meet me, weepy well wishers carrying flowers, and then I was sent home! That’s the start of the story! Now I’m almost 12 years down the road, the hardest road I’ve had to travel, I am like a walking pin cushion, have a dodgy thyroid but I’m actually ok!

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I was told I may never walk again, let alone ride around Tasmania on a bike!

The October before we moved to Australia, I was in a dark place. I was in a constant state of severe pain and fatigue, and forever left lying in bed with no energy! I felt useless and needed to escape! Don’t get me wrong, I had good days, where I felt almost “normal,” but they came at a high price. I would go out with my friends, knowing that the next day and the day after would be a complete write off. I would desperately want to take the kids for a walk on the beach, but end up in tears, lying in bed, listening to Mr W and the kids getting their shoes on. The reality of any neurological and auto immune condition is it’s debilitating in so many ways. For me, on the outside I looked perfectly normal, and on a good day, you’d probably have no idea there was anything wrong with me. On a bad day…. no words can describe that horror story to you!

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Enough was enough!

I felt I had missed out on 8 years of my life already, and I longed with every bit of me for just one more chance! I did heaps of research into diet, exercise, completely natural versions of medicines. I spoke to all sorts of experts in healing!  I totally overhauled every bit of food I put in my mouth, and we made the decision to move abroad if I could at least ditch the fatigue. Introduce the Whole 30; and an incredible three months of each day feeling a little bit more human. I began sleeping really well, I was walking a little further, I was staying awake a little longer. I got rid of the wrist supports I’d worn for years, and the stick I was using to walk with.  I eventually stopped taking medicine altogether!!

It sounds like a miracle I know. Maybe it was.  All I can say is after nearly 8 years of hell, 8 years of being unable to fully enjoy my children or my life; my dreaded fatigue, and my pain were dramatically reduced, so we made the decision to go on an adventure, quickly, before it all came crumbling down again. Mr W searched for jobs all over the world, we desperately wanted to go somewhere, do something exciting, and make up for the past 8 years!! A job offer in Australia came up,  we applied for visa’s, and we were off!!! From job offer to Heathrow was about 12 weeks. Expat life here we come!!

The Wilson’s of Oz was born!

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As soon as the trip began I decided not to write about surviving Transverse Myelitis, and I started to write about our Expat adventures. I wrote about our days out and all the wonderful things we were seeing Down Under. The more I wrote, the less I thought about my ‘old life’! I forgot about all those people who I had wanted to encourage, the TM warriors who I had wanted to give a huge shout out to. The ones surviving even though they felt terrible! I forgot about the message I wanted to send to everyone that it can get easier. I was having the most amazing time and I hadn’t once reassured anyone that it can get better.

I had once imagined I would become a “Recovery Role Model” for patients at the start of their journey, but in reality I was too frightened to even bring it up in public.  I was still running away from all those horrid feelings I had left behind me. I thought that if I was to say aloud how good I was feeling, I may jinx myself and end up back in a hospital bed, only this time I would be 10,000 miles from home. So, I haven’t really mentioned it.

Writing my blog, experiencing ‘living’ again, and ‘Turning life into an Adventure’ was exactly what I needed to do and I desperately wanted other sufferers of TM to see that feeling better tomorrow is possible no matter how far down the road you are.

‘You can look to the future, you can hope for something better, you can plan ahead.  People do come out the other side, albeit a little bruised and battered!’ 

Why bring it up now?

I guess now that more people are checking out The Wilsons of Oz, not just Grandma, I have more of a voice?!? (Does it work like that?)  I guess I’m in a better position to let people with a health condition to know that there is hope, and I’m no longer too scared to talk about it here. There is light at the end of the tunnel and sometimes we just need to keep holding on to that glimmer, and keep our minds open. Know your limits, set your goals, and you’ll amaze yourself. I promise!

Welcome to Vic

 

Just because something isn’t happening for you right now, doesn’t mean it will never happen – Unknown

Olivia xx

I’d like to dedicate this post to a true warrior! Joanne Lokwiya is a friend of mine who also suffers from Transverse Myelitis. She is brave, she is beautiful inside and out, and she is a true fighter! I want her to know that anything is possible! xxx 


Transverse Myelitis Society (UK)

The 9th June marks TM Awareness Day 2017. It would be awesome if you could support the Transverse Myelitis Society with just one click here!!!

You can read my Whole30 story here