Tuesday, December 30, 2014


R and I recently celebrated our 10 year wedding anniversary.  The traditional gift for 10 years apparently is tin.  According to wikipedia the modern interpretation of tin is diamonds.  I would have been happy with diamonds, that goes without saying!  The gift I did receive though is even better than diamonds.

My lovely and ever thoughtful husband suggested to me that I choose a new painting to celebrate our 10 years of marriage and so I did.  I finally got my much longed for Alexander Mckenzie art work and it now hangs in pride of place in our dining room.

For the actual day of our anniversary though R whisked me away for a whirlwind getaway without the children.  It was the longest I had ever been away from them (5 nights!) and I struggled, but as I knew they were in capable hands with my parents I eventually relaxed and started to enjoy myself!

The first two nights were spent in Port Douglas at the new QT Hotel.  R is a huge fan of the QT Hotel chain and stays at the Gold Coast one several times a month.  Yes, he travels a lot for work.

I haven't stayed at any of them, but when I walked into the hotel lobby and spotted this incredible wreath made of vintage glass sea buoys I knew I would not be disappointed.  It was made by Nic Graham of g+a, (the interior architects behind the QT chain) and is absolutely breathtaking in real life.  It is almost reminiscent of a magnificent sea creature with it's shimmering blue and green colours and the dangling ropes are tentacle like in their delicateness.

The rest of the hotel is equally as charming and full of fabulous vintage nautical references that I of course adored!

On our second day in Port Douglas R somehow convinced me to get into a helicopter.   My cheerful smile in the photo above really does not reflect how nervous I actually was! I know, for someone that worked as a flight attendant for years it is a bit crazy that I am terrified of small aircraft/rotorcraft! 

The helicopter flight over the reef was an amazing experience though and it really was a fabulous way to explore the Great Barrier Reef.  Such a different perspective to seeing the reef from a glass bottomed boat or snorkelling, both of which we have done on previous trips.  Instead from the helicopter we were able to comprehend for the first time the incredible vastness of the reef.  It  is so enormous it is actually visible from space!  It was also so pretty seeing it from above, a beautiful garden under the sea.  We saw huge turtles that were the size of small cars, sharks swimming at great speed and the highlight for me was seeing enormous, colourful drifts of coral spawn!  At one point we even flew over Australia!

Once again Tasmania was forgotten though!!

Port Douglas is very pretty and I loved our quick visit but after Port Douglas we drove back down the coast to Palm Cove which truly is the jewel on that part of the Queensland tropical coast.  There is just something about those enormous and ancient paperbark trees lining the beach and esplanade that really is spectacular.

We have visited Palm Cove several times before but it was the first time we stayed at Peppers.  As soon as we walked in I announced to R that we have to come back and stay here with the children soon!  The hotel is positioned directly opposite the beach where the playground and swimming net is located and is walking distance to all the great restaurants and most importantly for the children, it has two fantastic pools!

For our anniversary dinner we had the degustation menu at Nu Nu's. We were both left a little underwhelmed unfortunately.   The new location of the restaurant is stunning though.  Last time we dined at Nu Nu's, which was about 2 years ago, it was part of the Pepper's hotel. The restaurant is now located at the new Alamanda Hotel, (the old Angsana) and is positioned right on the waterfront.  I think it is the only restaurant in Palm Cove that is actually on the water and the location and atmosphere were absolutely perfect.  The food though, sadly it just was not as good as the last time we ate there. R informed the wait staff that he was allergic to peanuts and would prefer that no other nuts were included in any of the dishes he was served.  Literally every single dish we were served had nuts (yes no peanuts but everything else in the nut family just about made an appearance!)  To say that this left a bad taste in R's mouth would be the understatement of the evening.  We were unable to foresee this happening as the degustation menu is at the Chef's whim!  It was quite disappointing as the last time we ate there it was truly amazing and we were really looking forward to eating there again.  As in all things though, it might just have been a bad night and we would almost certainly eat there next time we visited Palm Cove.  I would recommend lunch or breakfast though to make the most of that view! 

Palm Cove really is magical.  It is so pretty and unspoilt and well worth a visit if you feel like a tropical holiday without the tourist element that is omnipresent at so many other Australian coastal holiday destinations.  

Our whirlwind getaway then wound up with two days in Melbourne that largely rotated around shopping, attending parties and catching up with family and friends!  R was quite put out with me for choosing what he deemed to be "family destinations" for our 10 year wedding anniversary.  He was desperate to go somewhere more exotic but for my first holiday away without children I insisted that we remain on the mainland and near an airport at all times! Next time though I think I am ready to cross the seas without them.... I just have to hope that my long suffering parents will put their hands up to look after the darlings again for me! 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Painting the house

When we purchased the house it was a very pale, nondescript grey colour and despite being a  traditional and very popular colour for weatherboard houses, it just didn't work for us. So we have gone for something completely different, you can see the colours we painted the last house here.   This time we have chosen a very dark grey.  It took us a while to find the perfect grey as we found that a lot of greys have blue or even lilac/purple undertones in certain lights, but the fabulous colour that we have finally settled on has worked out perfectly and we are delighted with how it has completely transformed the house.  The architraves and trims now really pop out against the colour of the house and my next step will definitely be to put a potted bouganvillea on the deck to add a splash of pink to compliment the grey and white. 

The front door colour though still eludes me.  I suspect that is a decision that will have to wait until after we have started planting the front garden!  If anyone has any brilliant front door colour suggestions for me I would love to hear them or if you have any dark grey houses in your neighbourhood, what colour have they painted their front door?

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The House

We have been in this house for a few months now and a lot of time has been devoted to re-arranging the furniture.  I really don't want to race out and buy new things until I am absolutely sure it is necessary, so that involves time spent living in the house and truly thinking about how each space is used.  If a cherished item doesn't work in one room it might be able to be used elsewhere for a different purpose!

One of the first rooms that I feel is coming together nicely is the dining room.  Initially the room had a functional but boring Ikea pendant hanging in it which we replaced with these two converted French wool basket pendant lights from A Country Trader.  The shadows and light that they cast around the room is stunning, in particular the reflections on the cathedral ceiling are spectacular.  

R fell in love with the antique Turkish canoe (the big wooden object on the left in the photo above) recently at Garden Life  and insisted on bringing it home.  I could not for the life of me work out how we were going to incorporate it into our house and just had it plonked on the outside table.  The outside table which is currently inside as there is no room on the deck for it outside!  Then my clever sister-in-law V, suggested filling the canoe with orchids.   Suddenly it completely altered the room.  The table now looks like a console or a buffet under the window and the canoe no longer looks like something the boys should be playing in the pool with!  Well, it never really looked like that but they were desperate to give it a whirl!   

We still need to source some more dining chairs to finish the room off though.   At our little cottage we had the table against a window bench seat so only needed 4, of the 5 chairs we have, for the other side.    We are currently using one of the benches from the outdoor setting as a stop gap while we work out what to do.  I would love to try and source some more antique Bentwoods similar to the ones we are currently using but I don't particularly like my chances.  My parents picked them up in  the early 1980s in Malacca whilst we were on posting in Malaysia.  They even have vintage Chinese graffiti on them!    

So the chances of me finding some to match these is virtually non existent! I shall start looking for chairs that compliment them, but I shall also begin the hunt for a whole new set of dining room chairs.  If I do find something to replace my beloved Bentwoods I will then use them somewhere else in the house.  Probably as desk chairs in the bedrooms and study.    

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Flying with kids

As a former Flight Attendant and someone that travelled extensively as a child (my Father was a Diplomat) I feel more than qualified to write a blog post about airline travel with kids.  Plus  I seriously get asked all the time by people what my top tips for travelling with kids are, so I thought that I would collate them all in a blog post for anyone who is interested.  Please keep in mind though that this is just what has worked for me and my two rascals and is based upon my flying experiences.


Firstly check what the airline provides.

Many budget carriers these days don't include food as part of the inflight service.  They often sell food onboard, (check if you need to pre-order it) and keep in mind that popular items sell out quickly. A copy of the menu (for want of a better word) should be available online.   If you have picky eaters pack your own or if you want your kids eating something semi-nutritious, pack your own.  If in doubt, pack your own!  Make sure that it is not something that needs to be heated up.  For hygiene and safety reasons the Cabin Crew are not permitted to heat up food belonging to passengers.  No, there is not a microwave in the galley (if I had a dollar....) Nor is there room in the galley to keep things cold.  Use an ice pack and esky style lunch box if you want to keep anything on ice.

If the airline includes food as part of the service:  Buying a child's airfare does not automatically mean the airline provides a special child's meal.  This is something that you need to organise and be mindful that some airlines require you to book any special meals at the time of reservation.  Most though only require 24 hours notice, it is worth checking this out before you book your tickets just in case.  There are a huge variety of special meals available catering for almost every dietary need you can think of.  One of my favourites is a fruit platter (FPML).  The codes for a kids meal are CHML and for a babies meal,  BBML.  Never assume that your travel agent has ordered for you either.

Eating food on board: If you are travelling with a small child or an infant I highly recommend one of the adults ordering a special meal as well.  The special meals tend to be handed out first, this means that one of you can eat undisturbed whilst the other tends to the needs of the kids.  It is also handy to only have one tray down for food at a time, especially if you have an infant sitting on your lap! If you are travelling solo with a couple of kids this is when you need to ask for help.  Feed the kids first and then ask one of the cabin crew to sit and hold the baby for you so that you can eat.  

What do we do?  I pack a lot of snacks.  Mainly sliced fresh fruit, crackers, dried fruit, sandwiches, biscuits, veggie sticks, cheese sticks, sushi, tortellini (ricotta/spinach) mine will happily eat it plain and cold. I store it all in little zip lock baggies and then put it all together in my carry on in one big zip lock.   That way if there are any questions at security about content it can be seen easily without needing to be handled.  The bags can be re-used later if you are worried about waste.   I always end up using them for a bunch of different stuff on holiday.

Keep in mind:  LAG's: Liquids Aerosols and Gels on an International Flight

 Flying internationally means that any liquids or gels need to be stored in a container no greater in size than 100mls and must be presented at security in a clear zip lock bag.  This also applies to yoghourt and any drinks for children.  You can take empty bottles though security and have them filled once on the other side and it is also possible to purchase bottles of water and other drinks once you have passed through security.  Babies however are exempt from this rule so if you are travelling with an infant you are permitted to carry on board the 140ml sachets of pureed food and bottles of water larger than 100ml.


I pack both boys a backpack and load them up with a variety of stuff.  

Craft items:  The best ones are self-contained.  You can pick lots of different ones up at cheap $2 shop type places.  The Crayola "on the go" packs are great and at $3 (Kmart) are an affordable item.  Invisible Ink books are always good.  Mosaic kits, the Djeco ones are fantastic but I have seen cheap ones at KMart that look good as well.  Sticker books and colouring-in are usually good for an hours entertainment.   I  always pack a set of textas in one of the bags as well as a couple of Pacer style mechanical pencils, no need for a sharpener or eraser that way.

Books:  As I have two voracious readers I pack them both 2 or 3 books each to read for a long-haul flight.  Go for paperbacks! 

IPods: Both boys have iPods loaded up with hours of audiobooks.  The 9 year old is currently listening to the William books by Richmal Crompton, The Just So Stories,  The Jungle Book and The Railway Children.  The 6 year old has on his The Magic Tree House stories (Mary Pope Osbourne), The Magic Faraway series and so on.  The headphones we use are the Griffin ones.  We like them mainly because they are over the head style and are volume limited.  You can buy an airline adapter for them if you want to plug them into the airline entertainment system. They are compatible with iPads as well.

Balloons:  Balloons are one of my top travel items.  In the airport they make a quick, safe ball.  Fantastic for unexpected delays or for a transit when you want to run them around a bit.  Find a quiet spot and let them go for it.  We have ended up with a bunch of other kids playing as well.  Balloons are also an excellent way of helping kids clear their ears on descent. Hand them a balloon and have them try and inflate it.  This is way more effective than a lollipop I promise you! We have the Tiger Tribe balloon balls, little canvas covers that go over the balloons for rough play but any old balloons will do and they seriously take up no room.  Great in hotel rooms, hotel swimming pools and parks while you are away from home.  Pack balloons.

Other random things that work well on planes to entertain children:
  • A box of bandaids has been a life saver a number of times for me when the boys were little.  
  • Bubbles, I recommend the touchable ones.  The little container is under 100mls so meets the Liquid and Gel requirements for International flying and are great for airport transits and for hotel rooms.  

  • Jeliku Puzzles.  These are one of the best purchases I have ever made, they both played with them for hours on our last trip to Canada and the States, plus they are tiny, flat and super cheap.


Everything takes a lot longer with kids.  Don't book connecting flights too close together, especially if there is a terminal change.  They like to stop and look at stuff.  You know, you are a parent, everything takes longer!

If you have a couple of hours (or more) between flights check to see if the airport has a playground.  The one at Changi Airport in Singapore is well worth a visit if you have a transit stop.  If there isn't a playground pull out the balloons and bubbles.  If you have a long layover, more than 6 hours I would definitely consider checking into an airport hotel.   You can have a sleep, go for a swim, have a shower, get outside.


I still change my boys (yes, even the 9 year old) into pyjamas and follow the whole bedtime routine as much as we can. With little ones I would put them into a sleeping bag if you use one.

I always get asked this so I will answer the inevitable question, yes everyone in business and first class change into pjs.  Most passengers change straight after take off.  In Economy and Premium Economy though it is pretty rare, so wear something comfy.  For the kids though I would still change them into pjs.


Keep all the passports and boarding passes together, either in a travel document wallet or a zip lock bag would do the trick.  If you can, obtain copies of all the immigration cards/incoming passenger cards and fill them out at home beforehand.

If you are travelling alone with kids and you have a different last name to the children, you will also need a document from the other parent giving you permission to take the children out of the country.  It does not matter if you are married to the other parent you will still need the paperwork.  This happened to me in Singapore and a very good friend got pulled up in Sydney.  Neither of us were permitted to travel until we provided the necessary documentation.  You will need a notarized letter from the absent parent with all their details on it and all the relevant travel details (length of stay, destination etc).  If the child had only one parent at birth you will need a copy of the birth certificate.

Photocopy all of your travel documents, your travel insurance, credit cards and passport, carry a copy with you (separately to the originals) and leave a copy with someone you trust at home.  If something does go wrong or they go missing it means that the person at home will be able to assist you in replacing the originals.


If you are travelling within Australia and plan to drive at your destination I highly recommend travelling with your child's car seat.  Just ring ahead to the airline to advise them that you will be travelling with a car seat and as long as the car seat meets Australian Standard 1754 (a red and white sticker usually stuck under or on the back of the car seat) it should not be a problem.  Not all airlines do permit car seats on board though so definitely ring ahead to check that it is permitted.

I would be hesitant to consider travelling internationally with a car seat.  Mainly because different countries have different car seat regulations and an Australian car seat might not be approved for use at your holiday destination.  It would be a pain lugging around a car seat that you might not even be permitted to use.


Breast Feeding: If you are breast feeding, definitely try and feed on descent as this will help baby with any ear trouble. Just try and position the infant seatbelt into a comfortable position for both of you!  

Bottle feeding:  As there isn't a microwave on board the Cabin Crew can only warm a bottle up for you by placing it into a pot of hot water.  Do not fill any bottles up with aircraft tank water.  Carry on a bottle of filtered water or you can buy one once you pass through customs if you are flying long haul.  

As far as when is the best time to start nursing or giving the baby the bottle.  Wait until the seat belt sign is switched on.  The descent PA happens fairly early on in the actual descent of the aircraft and it is probably best to wait a while before you begin feeding.  Otherwise you might find that baby finishes feeding well before the true descent starts.

Older kids:  If they complain that their ears are hurting get them to try and blow up a balloon.  It is without a doubt the most effective way of clearing troublesome ears.  Lollipops work well too but I think more because the kid is distracted by the thought of getting a lollipop!


Having flown as an Unaccompanied Minor a number of times (albeit a very long time ago!) and looked after probably hundreds of them over the years I can reassure any panicky parents that your little ones are well cared for.  There is always one Flight Attendant who is assigned to caring for the "UMs" and they will keep an eye on them for the duration of the flight.  If there is a connecting flight involved the UMs are not free to wander the airport but instead are taken to a designated room in the airport that has toys and craft  to keep kids of all ages occupied until the next leg of their journey.

 Two things though:  pack your child a jumper or a cardigan as they often complain of being cold in the chilly cabin and often those that are stuck in airports due to transit delays have no money or food in their bags.  The ground staff are not permitted to feed your child anything and a delay can often be significant.  Either pack some snacks or else give them a little money if they are old enough.  The ground staff will escort the UM to the food court in order to purchase some food if the UM requests it.


A change of clothes:  Both boys get a complete change of clothes in their bags.  I put them inside a large zip lock bag.  The bag helps keep things together and flat in their backpacks and means that in the dark of the night on a plane you are not ferreting around in a backpack full of stickers, crayons and matchbox cars for a sock.  Just pull the entire bag out and then re-use the same bag to store away the wet clothes or their day clothes.   Keeping clothes in the bag also means that if they spill their drink, into their backpack whilst they are trying to get something out, the clothes inside are still dry. (Trust me on this one....).  A change of clothes is also super handy if your bags go missing.  In the bag on the left I have a pair of long pants, a t-shirt, undies and socks.  I then squash the bag flat to squeeze out the excess air and zip lock shut.  In the bag on the right I have a pair of pjs.  These then slide into the back of their backpacks upright and take up next to no room!  

Planes and airports are cold:  Pack at least a cardigan or a jumper.  For a long haul flight even if you are going to Bali consider packing a few extra layers in your cabin bag and especially for any children or infants.  There are a limited amount of blankets on board an aircraft and you can always ask for one but it is best to be prepared for a chilly aircraft cabin by packing a few layers.  A pashmina can double as blanket as well and takes up very little room in a cabin bag.  For my boys I usually throw in an extra jumper or cardigan.  Again I pop it into a zip lock bag and slide it into their backpacks at the back.  In my bag I usually store a pashmina to use as a blanket if needed.

Asking the Cabin Crew for something:  One of the main complaints that I used to hear as a flight attendant was that the cabin crew were unhelpful.  Upon further questioning I would often find that the person complaining had at no stage pressed the call bell and actually asked for the drink, aspirin, snack (insert appropriate request here...).  Don't be scared to press the call bell and ask for something.  Even if the cabin lights are switched off and everyone is asleep.  A Flight Attendant is always on duty and there is always someone on duty that is responsible for answering call bells.  

Flagging down a Flight Attendant:  As a former hostie I do not recommend that you wait for someone to walk past in the cabin and then hail them down.  The Flight Attendant walking past could be on their way to a rest break, in the middle of dealing with an on board medical emergency, indeed they could be on their way to doing any number of things and have almost certainly been flagged down half a dozen times already by the time you attract their attention.  They will endeavour to remember to pass on all the requests that they receive on their way but a number of requests will of course be forgotten.  Press the call bell.

If anyone reads this and has any further suggestions or even any questions please add them to the comments. We have a few flights coming up including our annual trip to Canada so I would welcome any travel tips.

Happy and safe travels to all.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The lengthy absence

I never planned to leave the blog unattended for so long or indeed leave without at least publishing some sort of a farewell note.  Life just got in the way as it is wont to do and blogging became something I really didn't feel motivated to do.  Every now and then though I will randomly be asked by a friend if I intend to return to it.  Initially, my responses were vehemently negative, more recently though I have responded with a hesitant maybe and then today, I decided enough with the procrastinating.  I need to update the blog, if only for myself as I love looking back at the past entries.

The most significant change in our lives is that we have moved.  We are still on the northern beaches of Sydney,  a few suburbs away from our old beach cottage.  The old house sold after a week on the market and smashed the street record!  Of course we were absolutely delighted, but also a touch sad to say goodbye to the house as we had truly put our heart and soul into the renovation and the garden.  A young couple expecting their first baby are the new purchasers and were absolutely lovely when we met them and so despite the touch of sadness,  I am also excited that a new family will now enjoy the lovely home and garden we created.

Our new house is mostly "done"  although we intend to make some smallish changes in order to put our own stamp on it, the garden however is a disaster and R and I are both looking forward to getting our hands grubby and creating a new magical garden space.

The pirates?  Well, they are no longer little.  I will have to start thinking of a new name for the blog now!  The 8 year old started at a new school this year.  An all boys school this time which I had never intended to choose for my boys and yet it has turned out to be one of the best parenting decisions we have ever made. The 6 year old started school this year, at the same school as his brother, and he too is thriving.

Back to blogging though and whether I will stick to it this time?!  I intend to try.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

The 5 year old

So the next Steve Backshall  is 5.  As a future naturalist it was only appropriate he had a Bush Birthday Party.

At 5 years old you are the loveliest little boy, an absolute joy to us all.  There is  both a quiet gentleness about you (that I adore) and simultaneously a loud, rambunctious wildness about you too.  

Your best friend is Joshua and the two of you hang out together all day long at preschool apparently.  Your favourite TV show is Deadly 60 of course, although you don't mind Operation Ouch either.  Apart from these two shows you are not a big fan of TV, you would rather be outside.  You are a perfectionist... (I don't like too think too hard about where this trait came from!) and very competitive.  You want to be the best at everything and I admire your determination. You can read already and it won't be long before you are reading chapter books.  Probably before you start school even.  Your favourite colour is yellow, orange will do though in a pinch.  Your adore spaghetti and meatballs made by your Dad and pizza from Hugo's or Cavallino's. You are still very attached to Big and Little.  The other day, whilst watching the Tour with your dad, you announced that you were going for yellow as it was your favourite colour.  Going for yellow in the Tour is a safe bet!  Later when they handed the days winner his lion en peluche, a toy lion that is remarkably similar to your beloveds Big and Little, you squealed with excitement and said that one day you were going to win one.  As much as your father would love this I would prefer that you stuck to cycling as a purely recreational activity! 

Happy Birthday my darling boy.

Friday, April 5, 2013


Nearly 30 years ago, when we moved back to Australia after our posting to KL,   I made two very dear and special friends.  One I met on my first day at my new school, which was actually my old school but Canberra has such a transient population that there were hardly any recognisable faces.  I was allocated a seat at a double wooden desk next to D and promptly handed a Hymn book, a Bible and a sheaf of photocopied Prayers and Hymns that needed to be glued into both.  I must have looked quite bewildered as D kindly offered to do it all for me.  V I met shortly afterwards at Girl Guides.  Come around the back she enticed and I'll let you feel my bra strap.  I have been best friends with both ever since.

Last year for my 40th birthday they gave me a very generous voucher for one of my most favourite shops. 

 As V lives in Brisbane nowadays she was able to accompany me for the grand shopping trip but D now lives in the Hunter Valley and thus has not yet seen the divine things that I purchased with their very thoughtful gift.

Thank you both so very much for my lovely 40th birthday presents.  Every time I look at the Pineapple painting it makes me smile and everybody that visits the house loves it and asks after it.  I use the butter dish everyday and it's vintage gorgeousness makes me so happy, as does the lovely hammered silver trinket box which looks perfect on my bookshelves. 

Thank you for being such marvellous friends, you have both enriched my life in so many ways.


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