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Celebrating Winter in beautiful Ballarat

Celebrating Winter in beautiful Ballarat

This weekend we escaped the city and headed to beautiful Ballarat. Known for none other than being the gold epicentre of Victoria, the region has this year decided to embrace the cold and welcome us all with their huge Winter Festival. I’ve been to Ballarat countless times as a teacher, but this was my first time as a Mum with Ella and Hudson. Given the fact that we are in the thick of packing, moving and renovating, my Hubby stayed home and we took Mum (aka Nanna) along for the ride. As guest of Ballarat Tourism we were lucky enough to be heading up the freeway to experience a jam packed couple of days, with the best of Ballarat on offer. I was keen to see how the town would capture the imagination of my little ones, and have them experience the wonder of this beautiful old town.

Stop 1. Mercure Hotel Ballarat and Convention Centre

Literally a stones through away from Sovereign Hill, this sprawling complex is hospitality at its best. We were delighted to be welcomed by the team and found our way to a gorgeous two bedroom apartment. Perfect for families, it has everything you would want for a weekend stay. Full size lounge and dining, kitchen, upstairs with two large bedrooms (one with a King bed), Bathroom (including bath), seperate shower, washer and dryer. I must admit that we were delighted to be staying in an apartment, as the standard hotel room can sometimes insight cabin fever, and doesn’t really set the tone for a relaxing weekend. The apartments surround a beautiful enclosed garden with tables and chairs, ready for a gorgeous afternoon outside. A short walk away is a beautiful lake with ducks and fish to see. The main building overlooks this beautiful space and honestly is such a beautiful place to stay.

What makes it even more fabulous is the on sight restaurant Billy’s Bar and Bistro.  Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, there is nothing better than being able to eat and walk directly to your room. The food was delicious and my kids ate everything, which is saying something!

My Tips: Get an apartment with two bedrooms. You won’t regret it!

Mercure Hotel Ballarat

Stop 2. Sovereign Hill

Arguably Ballarat’s most well known tourist attraction, a Victorian child hood is not complete without a family visit to Sovereign Hill. Stepping back in time into our colonial Gold Rush history, children can experience what it truly meant to live in the early 1800’s. What’s wonderful is the fact that most of the town actually work or volunteer here at some stage during their life. Children and adults are not only dressed in iconic dress, but speak as though they are living 200 years ago! Whether your kids want to pan for gold (literally…..all my children could think about!), ride the old coach, see real gold being poured or purchasing some traditional boiled lollies from the best shop in the world, the kids are sure to have a ball.

It is extremely family friendly with all aspects covered. From wheelchair / pram access, to changing facilities, it’s all there.

Here are some of our favourite moments!

Found some!
Looking to strike it rich!

Waiting for the coach
Red!

Sovereign Hill
So much to see!
Sovereign Hill
The best lolly shop in the world!
Sovereign Hill
Main Street Fun
Sovereign Hill
Is this where people lived Mum? Where’s the toilet?
Sovereign Hill
Exploring with Nanna
Sovereign Hill
Arriving at Sovereign Hill! First time as a Mum, no heads to count as a teacher!

My Tips: If you are heading to the winter wonderlights then my tip would be head to Sovereign Hill around 1/2pm. Explore for a few hours then duck home for a rest!

Stop 3. Winter Wonderlights @ Sovereign Hill

After heading back to the hotel to change our clothes and have a bit of a rest, we headed back to Sovereign Hill at 6pm to see what is honestly the best lights spectacular I have ever seen. Winer Wonderlights celebrates all things Christmas in July. Making the most of our winter mid year, every part of the town is lit up in beautiful projections and fairy lights. Christmas music is playing, fires are lit and snow magically fills the air. The projections are truly mesmorising as you walk through the enchanting main street. Ella and Huddy literally tried to catch the snow falling. The upper street is littered with literally thousands of white fairy lights. The trees and houses are decorated beautifully and are a true inspiration for anyone wanting to create a bit of Griswold Christmas! My tip would be to arrive at 5.45 to watch the lights appear through dusk!

Sovereign Hill Winter wonderlights
Amazing projections
Sovereign Hill Winter wonderlights
The entire town is lit up with spectacular lights
Sovereign Hill Winter wonderlights
Twinkling fairy lights
Sovereign Hill Winter wonderlights
Hudson and the Nutcracker
Sovereign Hill Winter wonderlights
I see you!
Sovereign Hill Winter wonderlights
A night to remember

My Tips: Firstly rug up! Head over at about 5.45 to see dusk turn into darkness. I also bought my kids two little torches to help guide them through. They loved it!

Stop 4: Iceskating in town

Ballarat has really turned up the heat and embraced the cold! The whole town has so much to offer over the next month, with heaps of great activities. You can’t really celebrate snow without ice skating. Right in the heart of town, next to the Town Hall, you can find a Pop Up skate rink. What’s best is the little ones can get around on special ice shoes that help their little toes grip to the ice. I was actually super impressed by how Ella and Huddy went, even after falling!

After this we headed across the road to the ice slide and dome!

Ballarat Winter Festival
Ice Skating for the first time

Ballarat Winter Festival
Was super impressed by this one’s efforts!

Next was a stop at the Winter Forest. Another dazzling tunnel of lights that the kids adored!

Ballarat Winter Festival
Winter Forest

My Tips: Prepurchase your tickets here!

Stop 5: Ballarat Wildlife Park

This wildlife park was the most surprising part of our trip. I’ve been to a few zoos in my time, but honestly, this one is up there with the best. Featuring Australian Wildlife, this wildlife park is just beautiful. Kangaroos and Emus roam freely and children are encouraged to feed and pat them with care. Dingos, reptiles, Koalas, penguins, Tassie devils just to name a few. Nestled on a sprawling estate, the unique feature of being so close to the animals captivated my children. A treat was being able to toast marshmallows by the fire. I honestly was so surprised and would tell any family to make sure that they stop by whilst in Ballarat!

Ballarat Wildlife Park
Toasting Marshmallows

Ballarat Wildlife Park
Feeding the Kangaroos

My Tip: Allow a couple of hours to explore as it is AMAZING!

Stop 6: Kitteltys Cafe

We finished our trip with a visit to this gorgeous cafe in the centre of town, right out front of the Ballarat Gallery. Welcoming us with love and warmth we feasted on scones, vegetable tarts and milkshakes. This beautiful cafe is clearly a local favourite and is adorned with unique crockery, old fashioned spoons and gorgeous table ware. With loads of local produce for sale, it was the perfect way to round out our trip!

Honestly, there is nothing better than escaping the city for a weekend, and you will be blown away by the sheer variety of things to do in Ballarat. Experience their Winter Festival from July 1-3! For more information, visit their Tourism Information Site here!

 

 

 

 

Out & About: The Brickman Experience @ Melbourne Museum

Out & About: The Brickman Experience @ Melbourne Museum

Lego is one of those toys that transcends generations. Whether you are 75, 35 or 5, chances are you’ve played with lego at some stage in your life, and it’s even more probable that you loved it. You loved it so much that you would jump at the chance to put together a few of those famous little bricks, to create your very own masterpiece. Whilst the infamous lego piece may be the arch nemesis of a parent’s foot late a night, during the day, we are all still in awe of the simple pleasure that comes from lego. I remember going to Lego exhibitions when we were young, heading into the city to see magnificent creations of sky scrapers, movie characters and the like, come to life. The feeling of going home with your very own box, filled with hundreds of pieces, waiting to be put together.

Today we had the pleasure of taking our children. Ella and Hudson to the incredible Melbourne Museum, to witness the lego phenomenon for themselves. The Brickman Experience is an exhibition of more than 50 awe-inspiring models on display at the ‘Wonders of the World’ exhibition.  Be taken on a hands-on educational journey through history, learning more about each attraction. From the Leaning Tower of Pisa, to the Titanic, Golden Gate Bridge and Pyramids of Giza. Kids of all ages can witness the amazing talents of professional Lego masters who spend thousands of hours, piecing together tiny lego pieces to create magnificent works of art. The Mona Lisa itself is even on show…in lego form that is!

The Brickman Experience Lego
The kids meet Lego Man!
 The Brickman Experience Lego
King Kong
The Brickman Experience Lego
The Kremlin
The Brickman Experience Lego
Kids alike: old and young
The Arch De Triomphe
The Brickman Experience Lego
Big Ben
The Brickman Experience Lego
The learning tower of Pisa

The Brickman Experience Lego

The Brickman Experience Lego
The Golden Gate Bridge

What is even better is the fact that each lego sculpture is surrounded by a moat of lego pieces, ready to be used to recreate the featured wonder. Adults and kids, together find pieces and make their own sculptures of wonder. A wall of wonder, with individual panels adorns the space, where each visitor can leave their mark. It’s simply, super cool.

The Brickman Experience Lego
The moat of lego around each sculpture allows everyone to create their own masterpieces

The Brickman Experience Lego
The gallery wall : Ella’s name in lego bricks!

Providing hours of fun for the whole family, visitors can even put their own building skills to the test in the master builder zones and help with some of the model making.

The exhibition opens daily in the Touring Hall from 10.00am. Closing times vary, please check preferred date on the Ticketek website for last entry.

Duration is approximately 1.5 hours, all customers are advised to arrive at least 15 minutes prior to their session. We went on to visit the Melbourne Museum itself, with the kids loving the Bugs Alive, Childrens’ Gallery and of course, they met Phar Lap!. It is such a fantastic day out. You can even go home with your own projects to master and treasure.

The Brickman Experience Lego
Ants, Ants, Ants! Bugs Alive in the Melbourne Museum
Melbourne Museum
The children’s’ gallery is amazing!

Melbourne Museum

The Brickman Experience Lego
The kids are happy! Their own lego creations to master at home!
Melbourne Museum
Meeting Phar Lap!

Lego never gets old. It is, as the movie says ‘awesome’.

 

Getting out of the box – Family fun in the great outdoors

Getting out of the box – Family fun in the great outdoors

*A Sponsored Post from Zeigler & Brown

Out of the Box Weekend Activities for the Family

As time goes by, Ella is growing up fast, and so is her mind. As each weekend passes by I’m always thinking about getting out and doing things as a family. We are so lucky to live in a country where the beach, the country, the bush, the mountains are at our doorstep. Being from Melbourne, there are so many places that we can go, but lately I’ve been feeling as though we are not making the most of our surroundings. Weekends are precious, and if we stay at home the entire time, we end up doing housework and odd jobs around the house. So it’s my mission over the coming months to make the most of the great outdoors. Here are some great ideas for your family…

Let’s get started!

Family BBQ’s on the road….

If you don’t get to spend much time with extended family, why not reconnect over a weekend? It may take some planning but if everyone chips in and takes it seriously, it will happen! Maybe you could gather at a park or beach for a picnic lunch. If someone has a portable barbecue, that will make things so much easier – they’re indispensable! Try getting a Ziegler & Brown from a place like BBQ Galore. Or why not go on an outing instead? Sports, museums, theme parks, there’s so much you can do with the entire family, plus you might cut down on costs by negotiating group discounts. It’s a win-win!

Get yourself a Zieglar & Brown Portable Grill
Get yourself a Zieglar & Brown Portable Grill

Geocaching…

Something for families with older children, this is an outdoor treasure hunt using a GPS receiver to hide or seek containers (‘geocaches’ or ‘caches’) anywhere in the world. It’s a wonderful way to spend time with family and friends, while enjoying nature and other places you may not otherwise venture into. You’ll also keep fit as a lot of geocaching involves walking, sometimes hiking, and even swimming to find the hidden treasures. The caches usually contain items of little value, but the activity has become a worldwide phenomenon with about 700,000 geocaches registered on websites. It’s played in 100 countries, so you’re certain to find one to participate in locally and maybe even overseas when you’re on vacation! Trust me…google it!

Garage sale with a difference…

You may not have thought of this as a ‘family’ thing, but it can be! This is a perfect time to get the whole family involved in deciding what they would like to give away or sell and a great way to give your kids a lesson in maths and business. Get the kids to decide how much each item should sell for, and when it’s over, get them to count up the earnings and split it up between everyone, or better yet, put it towards other weekend activities.

Planes, Trains and Automobiles…

There are so many places in outer Melbourne that kids would love. Have you ever taken them to watch the planes land near Tullamarine Airport? We used to do it on a Saturday afternoon with my Dad. There is nothing like watching them land, just over your head.

Eltham Miniature Railway and Puffing Billy are two places that I am dying to take the kids. I can just imagine Ella’s legs dangling over the rails as she watches the world go by. As stated earlier, you could throw a portable BBQ in the car and head off for a family picnic to boot. The best part is not having to wait to use the communal BBQ’s in the picnic areas!

And finally, just go for a drive. Whilst my little man currently hates the car, I’m so hoping that this will change. I remember jumping in our family Tarago on the weekend and just heading off for a drive. We’d head to a country town, sample the bakeries and have fun at a new playground. There is nothing like a n unplanned find and sometimes being spontaneous is the best kind of fun!

Family time is really important in bringing up well-rounded children. There’s a plethora of activities you can do as a family on weekends, and not just the ones mentioned here. Weekends are the perfect opportunity to not only kick back, but connect with each other and discover the things you have in common. So, what will you do?

kate

Experience the Colour Club @ Highpoint

Experience the Colour Club @ Highpoint

Shopping Centres who specially cater for families are very smart. A couple of weeks ago, Ella, Hudson and I were invited to experience Highpoint Shopping Centre’s new ‘Colour Club’ – a fully supervised and free program offering hands-on activities for children and exclusive retail offers for grocery shoppers.

Launched on Monday 6 October, The Colour Club will be held at 10:00am every Monday in the Fresh Food Mall on Level 2.

Local youngsters will be treated to exciting and interactive workshops, from giant Lego construction to craft activities and storytelling.

There’s also something for the Mums and Dads, with Highpoint’s fresh food retailers offering exclusive deals on produce every Monday.

We went along to find story time being offered for this week’s activity, with Ella promptly requesting ‘Peppa Pig’ from the selection of stories. A a Mum of two, I think that it is very clever for Shopping Centres to be offering great experiences for families. Anything that makes shopping time easier and more enjoyable for kids and their parents is a winner.

Ella and I enjoying Story time at the colour club…
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Enjoying a baby cinno in the new fresh food market!

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Another great aspect of their new development, is the amazing parent room. Not only does it provide practical, clean and bright amneties for parents to feed and change their little ones, but it includes a wonderful play area for toddlers. I spoke with their PR team about the need for families with more than one child to have an area that is safe and stimulating for their toddlers whilst they feed their babies. Often, there is a room, but it is tiny. These days, you need space, room to fit a pram (in my case a double), a microwave, clean water, todder toilets and if you are really lucky, a TV with the Wiggles on it! Well I am pleased to say that the parent room in the new section of Highpoint Shopping Centre is probably the best I’ve come across. It’s actually more like a play ground for toddlers. Spacious, clean, attractive and inviting.

Ella having a ball in the new parent room…

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More like a playground, than a place to stop for a nappy change!!

Screenshot 2014-11-11 10.02.52

Well done Highpoint! You can check out their website for details of up and coming Colour Club Activities here. 

***Best of all, Highpoint have teamed up with Happy Ella After to offer our followers the chance to win a $200 voucher to spend on baby and kids clothes and wears at their centre! All you have to do is head over to Instagram, and check out Happy Ella After here!

Photo 10-11-2014 9 01 39 pm

Thanks Highpoint!

kate

Ella reviews the Royal Melbourne Show!

Ella reviews the Royal Melbourne Show!

unnamed-3Yesterday we set off to experience the Royal Melbourne Show. An annual family tradition in Melbourne, that draws crowds from all over. It has been a favourite of mine since being a kid. I remember going along, the eldest of four kids each year. We were allowed one ride, one lolly showbag and one toy showbag. We used to go later in the afternoon and stay until the fireworks at night. I have so many fond memories of growing up at ‘the show’. My earliest is the year that my Dad took my sister, brother and I, just after my Mum gave birth to my youngest sister Jane. He took us straight to the ID stand and had ‘lost and found’ identification cards made, that we had to wear all day, just in case he lost us. A pretty good effort on his part I think, firstly to take three kids on his own, and secondly, not to lose us. Whether your memories are of the showbags, the animals, the rides or the country fanfare, if you grew up in Melbourne then the chances are, you have fond memories of this old favourite.

I was very lucky to have been given the opportunity to review the Royal Melbourne Show this year, and share my experiences with my readers. So a few friends and I set off with our kids this week to find the best attractions for families with little ones. I left my little man with my Mum and took Ella out with her Aunty Jane for a girls day out! There is much that has changed, and much has also stayed the same. Overall, the grounds are much cleaner, more modern, spread out and generally more accessible than I remember as a kid. It is orderly, there are plenty of people to help, maps to help direct you and it is very family friendly. Below, I share my favourite aspects of the show from a parent’s point of view then then more importantly the things that Ella found fun and fabulous.

Tips for the parents:

  1. Parking – By far the best place to park is at Ascot Vale Primary School. For $22, you get an all day park, close to the gate and best of all, the money goes to support the kids at that school!

  2. Park your pram – around the show are opportunities for you to park your pram with attendees. This means that you can have fun with your little one (s) and know that your pram is being cared for. That said, never leave valuables in your pram. I used this service in the nursery and in the entertainment dome.

  3. Toddler ride area – I loved the fact that near the nursery, there is an area dedicated to toddlers. Rides and grass to sit and relax. The perfect area just for little ones.

  4. Water fountains – take your kids’ water bottles along, and refill at the many water fountains around the show.

  5. Ride tickets – The tickets in the toddler area were $5 each of 5 for $20. A lovely lady gave us some of her un -used tickets and I say, pass on the love. If you don’t use up your tickets, pass them to another family.

Tips from the toddler:

  1. The Disney Show at the Entertainment Dome. By far one of the best aspects of the show. Dance with Mickey, Minnie and Friends. Check out the times via this link.

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  1. Animal Nursery – an oldie but a goodie. This year, they de-cluttered the nursery and sectioned it off. There is a ‘park your pram’ area, an open nursery where animals run around, and other exhibits where kids can get up and personal with the animals. Feed is available for $2 a cup!

  2. Toddler Rides – as said above, there is a great area near the nursery where rides are dedicated for the little ones. Many of them allow you to go on with your child, if it makes them feel more comfortable.

  3. Showbag hall – this year we found it fairly easy to access. My advice is know what you want, get in and get out. The lolly bags are much more reasonably priced than the toy ones. We chose the good old Peppa Pig bag, and it was worth it, even though the $25 tag (for most toy bags) is a little steep. Check out the bags spread out on the wall before you buy them to make sure that you are happy with the contents. For value, you simply can’t go passed the $2 Bertie Beetle.

  4. Dolls on a stick – throughout the show there are vendors selling everything from balloons, to face painting and bubble makers. Ella got a gorgeous old fashioned dolly on a stick, and for $9 it was a pretty reasonable buy.

Here are some pics of our day out….

Ella clearly overwhelmed by the need to choose ONE toy showbag…

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tasting fairy floss for the first time…

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The Ferris Wheel…

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Fun with Aunty Jane in the Nursery…

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Miss Piggy…

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Three Blind Mice…

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A rare day out with Mummy and Daughter…

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Toddler Ride Fun…

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So there you have it, our picks of the show from the parent and the toddler! If you go along, make sure that you pack some snacks to take with you. That tip will never get old!

For more ideas, check out the ‘things to do and see’ page on their website here. Thanks to the Show for having us, and to my gorgeous friends for their great ideas!

Have fun!kate

Family fun with the Australian Ballet

Family fun with the Australian Ballet

Screenshot 2014-03-17 09.05.13A week ago, I was lucky enough to be invited along to a beautiful night of dancing at the Telstra Ballet in the Bowl.  Telstra Ballet in the Bowl is a FREE evening of ballet under the stars. To celebrate 30 years of partnership between Telstra and The Australian Ballet, this year’s event featured excerpts from a range of favourite works, including The NutcrackerThe Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella and more. Families were encouraged to bring bring a rug and a picnic, and enjoy a spectacular evening of ballet’s best, accompanied by Orchestra Victoria.

If Ella was a little older, I would have taken her myself, but I decided to take my life long friend, fellow Mummy and lover of all things Ballet..Laura. We were amazed (and a little excited) to take our seats near the front of the stage and take in the atmosphere. I was equally astonished at the sheer numbers of people who had come along, literally thousands, to enjoy such a beautiful evening. Families, children, teenagers and older couples. All having a great night out in Melbourne.

Here are a few snaps from our lovely night out..

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However the fun doesn’t end there. If you have children who love to dance, then the Australia Ballet offers a wide range of programs, public performances and workshops that would suit any family. Ballet Centre Tours allow you to gain an insight into the magical world of ballet, from the dancers to the costumes. Open to all from ages 6 and up, this would be a wonderful way to give your kids a unique glimpse into the world of Ballet.

Screenshot 2014-03-17 09.18.13

Have an aspiring Ballerina? Why not take them to an Australian Ballet class? Open from Ages 10 and up, this would also bring them closer to their idols and help them see how a life of ballet could indeed be their own. Similarly, if you have a boy who loves to dance, they might like to go along to the Boys Day and meet some of the male dancers! Bring your autograph book along to People’s Day, and meet the company, ask questions and feel the ballet love!

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And finally, I look forward to taking Ella along to Once Upon a Time – Story ballets are a wonderful introduction to the art form for children. This engaging 60-minute performance will feature fully staged excerpts from much-loved story balletThe Nutcracker, with narration by one of the central characters and live musical accompaniment. Once upon a time has been specially designed for families with children aged 4 and up and is the perfect activity for the September school holidays.

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So whether or not it is you, or your children who love to dance, be sure to stay tuned to the Australian Ballet for public programs family friendly events around Australia throughout 2014.

kate

Friday Finds: Mathilda’s Christmas Market

Friday Finds: Mathilda’s Christmas Market

mm_logoLast year I blogged about the fabulous Mathilda’s Market! This Sunday, they are holding their annual Christmas Market at Caulfield Racecourse. For any parent who simply loves beautiful, stylish and affordable toys, nursery items, clothing and manchester, then this is the market for you. Over a hundred stalls of mostly handmade products, from bibs, to wooden instruments, framed prints and bamboo sheets, the range at this market will please any fussy parent. I have been over the past two years and each time, I have found precious new things to adorn Ella’s room.

This year, some of the items I will be looking out for are:

These beautiful wall stickers from ‘Beautiful Online Boutique

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These gorgeous personalised aprons from ‘Marybelle’s Co

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and finally, these unique letter ‘toy bins’ from Little Big Designs

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With thousands more on show, be sure to get on down to the market this weekend!  Best of all you will be shopping local, and supporting families!

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Happy Christmas Shopping!

kate