I cannot believe we are halfway through the school holidays here in sunny Queensland. School holidays seemed so long where you were a little kid, weeks and weeks of no school! As a parent, grandparent or carer – school holidays means trying to think of things to do, and sometimes (a lot of the time?) dealing with ‘bored’ kids.
To help out a little, here are a couple of winners I have discovered over the years with my gang.
- Visit the Libraries in Brisbane. Don’t worry if you aren’t a member, it’s super easy to join! Check out the library in person or online for holiday activities, our local library has craft, lego, author (last holidays it was Roald Dahl) celebrations. Best of all it’s free! Most libraries nowadays also lend DVDs, comics, and magazines as well, something for everyone!
- Check out your local National Parks, botanic gardens, bush reserves. Nothing burns off excess energy and curbs cabin fever like a good run around, and some bushwalking. Pack a backpack, water and first aid kit and you are good to go. It’s also worthwhile checking online first, as a lot of parks have special programs just for kids. Try Find a National Park in Queensland for information/ ideas.
- Have a bake-off. Split up into teams and have a baking competition, keep it fun though as things can get pretty competitive once the kids start to get into it! Here are some recipe sites to try… Food to Love, Delicious
- Hold a crafter-noon with some friends, take turns with other parents and have a few of the kids friends over for a craft session. Lego/ brick making also works well. This one works best outside/ on the verandah, and use recyclable material if you can, super cheap and easy to clean up. Take a look here and My Poppet for ideas!
- Have a movie afternoon, make popcorn and snacks. Steer away from new releases and break out a classic like Back to the Future, Goonies, The Labyrinth. Kids and grownups will love it!
Hopefully that will give you a little inspiration! Feel free to post any great ideas that work for your gang too!
When I am busy, it is so very tempting to reach for the quick convenient option. Takeaway for dinner, buying lunch or a snack from work, when something breaks – just buy a new one. The list goes on and on…
While this seems to be a great idea in the moment, inevitably those small acts of convenience ends up costing me in the long run. More money, generating more waste or even being less healthy.
So I am always on the lookout for easy ways to save money, time and even the planet.
Here are my top five tips for making the most out of your meals – saving money and the planet while you are at it!
Ditch the single use plastic. Get yourself a keep cup, a metal straw, a good lunch box or bento box, and a cutlery set. Bingo! You are now prepared for anytime food-wise. Try Flora and Fauna and Biome for some fab options that look good and help you to ditch single use plastic for good! Now that you have fab lunch gear, that brings us to the next one.
Pack your lunch. Ok, so this may not be the most glamorous thing to do each day, but bear with me. Packing your lunch each day can save you between $5-$15! Over an average working week, that works out to be a saving of between $25-$75!! Plus you won’t be generating any additional rubbish from you lunch. Most modern offices provide kitchen facilities, so you can reheat meals and wash up afterwards. Don’t despair if you don’t have a fancy kitchen. When I am out in the field (as a lot of environmental scientists are) I use an esky (cooler) bag with a frozen drink to keep everything cool and fresh.
Plan your meals. Food waste is a huge problem in Australia and around the world – especially in developed countries. A super easy way to avoid food waste and save your precious cash is plan your meals. Write out a weekly menu and then only buy the groceries you need. If you want to be more sustainable, get to know your local fruit and veg shop and learn what is in season. Seasonal produce is usually cheaper, fresher and can have less ‘food miles‘ (produced closer to where you live). Don’t forget about leftovers! Pack your leftovers and use in your lunches or freeze for ‘make your own convenience meals’. Take a look here for family friendly tips (Planning with Kids) or here for lots of great recipes (Delicious).
Go meat free/eat a plant based diet more often. Eating a plant-based diet is better for the environment and meals are often cheaper. If you’re a little skeptical, start with one day a week. Build that day into your meal plan and off you go!
Use all of your food. Now that you have your groceries and your meal plan, make sure that any leftover food is used each week. Roast any leftover veges, make vege fritters, make a delicious homemade soup, whatever you can think of to use up everything at the end of the week. You can stock up your ‘convenience meals’ and give the fridge a clean out before starting your new week.
What are your top tips?
Life sometimes seems to rush by in a flurry of projects, field trips, kids commitments, keeping up with everything and home and trying my best to stay healthy. In those moments, it is sometimes tempting to push aside my writing, making and reading.
Squeeze in another load of washing.
Answer a few more emails.
Maybe scroll through social media…
For a little while I pushed creative pursuits aside and squeezed in the extra work, at home, in the office, on the weekends.
You know what, life did not get easier, I didn’t feel like I was getting ahead. I just started to feel burnt out.
You know the feeling? Less patience, finding less joy and generally feeling a little blah.
So this month, I’ve been focusing on making time again for creativity. I turned to some super talented ladies for inspiration.
Finally I re-read a fab book from one of the fave authors – Elizabeth Gilbert. Big Magic is all about exploring and examining creativity and how you can always make the time to create and nourish your soul. It’s super woo woo, but that just makes me love it even more.
I guess the golden thread through all three books is that you need to make the time to get creative as often as you can. Write in your journal, sew, crochet, sing, play music, whatever takes your fancy. Just make it a priority and carve out the time as often as you can. The lovely Pip is right, getting crafty is good for your soul.
*Please note this is not a sponsored post. I purchased all of the books listed above myself.
When I first started my family, I daydreamed about the day that I could watch my kids playing sport on a Saturday morning. Coffee in hand, I would watch my perfectly behaved child learn and grow through playing a team sport. Sure they may lose some games, but they would be good sports and learn valuable life lessons.
Fast forward 15 years and all four of my kids play sport. Just not in the way, or even the sports that I would have expected.
The early years
Early on, I came to realise that a fun sports skills program is a great place to start. I found an awesome bunch of people in Perth who ran a program called Kids in Sport. Every Sunday morning we would head down to a local school where the kids would spend around an hour learning how to catch, throw, balance, jump and all kids of fun games. At first I was a little skeptical. I mean, who needs to learn how to run? Then the more I thought about it, the more it made sense. You don’t automatically know how to throw a ball, catch, hit a ball using a bat or even jog or run. Well, maybe those of us that are athletically gifted do – but that is most definitely not me! Kids sports skill programs can start as young as 2-3 years of age, however make sure the program is play-based and fun! My little crew all started at about 3 as their attention spans were quite up to it before then!
A whole world of sports and activities starts to emerge! Team sports start, along with gymnastics, dance, BMX and a whole bunch more. Don’t be afraid to stretch outside of your comfort zone and choose a new sport. Also think about extending your little one’s social circle by joining a club (rather than a school team). Take the time to go along and watch a game at the club you’re interested in, so that you can see what the culture is like. How do the other parents interact with each other, the kids and the coaches/umpires?
School holidays are also a great time to get your kids more involved in sport. There are a whole host of sports programs available in cities and regional centres. Swimming, multi-sports (where kids can ‘sample’ a wide range of different sports), rugby, cricket, even pony club camps are all fantastic options.
The most important part is to show kids that you can have a lot fun and how with practice you can learn new skills and get better over time. Of course, there are also all of the other benefits, improving resilience, learning how to get along with other people, making friends, dealing with conflict and disappointment…
Now that three of my kids are in high school, I have a new appreciation for the years they spent happily playing sport at primary school. Those early, often crazy games have given my kids the confidence and the skills to now play sport at high school. Well worth the effort!
High school is a completely different arena for sport. Peer pressure is rampant, kids are super busy and family life tends to be hectic. It can be tempting to let sport fall by the wayside.
This is such a critical time to continue to encourage your kids to play sport. It’s really common for kids, particularly girls to drop out of sport when they reach high school. A recent survey (AIS) found that 40% of 13-17 have not participated in sport in the previous year. Just as concerning is the 57% of the students that were disengaged were female.
Benefits from playing sport as a teenager are huge. Playing a sport helps kids establish a connection to place (being part of a community), are better at self-regulation (emotional and physical) and also help boost their confidence and motivation. My crew all had a grumble about playing sport over the years. Each time we’ve worked together to find a sport or activity that suits.
My kids have played water polo, swimming (social squad/club), touch football, rugby, soccer (football for our international crew), basketball, netball, volleyball and cricket. Seems like a lot doesn’t it? The reality is most of those sports are through a combination of school and club, and usually involve a uniform and a pair of runners.
Sports equipment can be really expensive. Did you know most clubs and schools provide teams with a ‘kit’? This helps to minimise the expense for parents and also helps if they have a change of heart about playing that sport (you aren’t stuck with a bunch of sports gear you no longer need). You can also apply for sports vouchers in most states (of Australia) to help out with the costs – simply google ‘sports vouchers’ along with your state and you’ll be able to see all of the relevant information.
Hopefully this has helped. Choosing a sport can seem overwhelming! Just remember to focus on the fun and the friendships and you and your kids will have a ball (see what I did there!),
The lead up to New Year’s Eve can be an exciting time. There’s that weird time between Christmas and New Year where everyone lose track of the days, the date, and just floats through the days in a post-Christmas delirium.
As New Year’s Eve approaches, there a sense of excitement and renewed motivation to reset and rebalance your life.
Over the years I have tried loads of different ideas, tips and tricks to try and give myself focus and work out what my goals are each year. Here are a few that have worked for me, along with a couple of new ideas for starting the new year on the great note:
New Years Resolutions – Ok, so this is a really obvious one. Stay with me though. As you get closer to the big day. Give yourself some time to stop and think, reflect on your year. What went well? What would you change? What did you miss? What do you wish you did more of? Now, here’s my trick, write down as many ideas as you like. Then, after a little more soul searching and thinking, choose one. That’s right, choose one. Make sure your resolution is really important to you and then commit to it. Write your resolution down. Try and check in regularly and reflect on how you are going. Oh, and make it positive! Be kind to yourself and focus on changing one part of your life for the better.
Visualisation – This is a firm fave of mine. Start by thinking about what you would do if money was no object. What would your life look like? Where would you live? What would you do with your time? How would you spend each day? What would bring you joy? Who would you be spending time with? Got it? Now, take some time, sit down are write out what your ‘new’ life would look like… in a years time. Try and be as descriptive as you want to. Now, keep your ‘Visualisation’ in a safe spot ready to take out and read next year! I’ve used this technique over the years and I am a HUGE fan. Its a great way to try and imagine what my ‘big picture’ for my life looks like.
Write it down – Sounds simple, but it really is important to write down your goal, visualization, whatever you decide! Why? Writing down your goal makes you accountable. Writing down your visualization allows you to check back in (with yourself) in a years time and see how you are going. A simple notebook will do the trick, no need to get too fancy! Unless of course you want to.
Choosing a word for the year – This is a new idea I tried for the first time last year thanks to a tip from the lovely ladies at Mama Mia. The idea is you pick a word to focus your intentions and actions and aim to live by that word for the next year. My word was ‘strong’ and through last year I worked on getting physically and emotionally stronger. I exercised more, I said no when I didn’t want to do something, I held my ground when something was important to me. You can see just how much you can get from having a singular focus. I wrote regularly in my journal (which in reality is a stock-standard notebook!) and was really happy with how I was able to focus in on my word throughout the year. I’ve already decided that this years word will be ‘free’. More on that throughout the year.
Hopefully you’ll find some time over the coming days to stop, reflect and come up with your own goals, visualisations, maybe you’ll choose a word too?
Christmas can be a strange and weird time of the year. It can also be a really stressful time at work and at home, especially when you throw family into the mix! Routines are tossed out the window as school holidays start, trading hours are extended and social gatherings ramp up. The weather takes a turn for the warmer (or colder for our northern hemisphere friends). Before you know it, it’s Christmas complete with gifts, expectations and for some people exhaustion and maybe even overwhelm.
Over the years I’ve embraced a calmer and simpler approach to the Christmas season and have tried to focus on helping my family and myself enjoy our time together.
My approach is centred around a few key themes:
Family and friends. Instead of gifts, we focus on spending time together. Cousins reconnecting and catching up, making time to catch up with each other sharing meals together. We aim for simple, easy to share meals.
Creating memories. My sisters and I all love taking and sharing photos. Photo books, framed prints and capturing the moment are all super popular in my family. Sometimes we also just live in the moment. Laughing, chatting and just spending time together. No photos, selfies or pressure to be looking your best! Just enjoying each others company and creating great memories together.
Less focus on gifts – more focus on the thought that goes into the gift. I have always loved taking the time to create or select the ‘perfect’ gift. Nowadays, my focus is on creating gifts that have meaning or buying gifts that can used and are ethically made.
How does you celebrate and make the most out of the Christmas or holiday season?
November is a strange time of the year.
School is coming to an end. For little kids, that means absolute exhaustion, tough going in the mornings and the start of concert season! For tweens and teenagers, add in assignments, exams, formals, an ever increasing number of social events, sport and general all round fever-pitch activity.
Which can make for a crazy stressful time of the year for everyone.
So I thought it was a timely to share some tips and tricks for making your end of year memorable for all the right reasons!
Be prepared early!
Take stock this month and try and write down all of the social gatherings and events in one place. Whatever you chose – old school paper calendar, App, or Outlook/calendar on your phone, just decide on the ‘one source of truth’ and get everyone in the family onto it. As new invitations come in, take note and decide as a family if you will go. Which brings me to the next one…
There is so much going on, it’s easy to fall into the trap of saying yes to invitations or requests without checking what else you have going on. Take a breath and check if you have time (and the patience and energy) before saying yes or no. Remember you don’t have to justify your decision, ‘no’ is a complete sentence.
Once you have your one source of truth (your event calendar), get cracking on getting organized. Work out with your family if anyone wants to give out cards/presents and buy in bulk if you can. Start thinking about gifts (if that’s part of your tradition) and then try and plan early. That way you can save your hard earned cash and avoid the Christmas rush!
Think outside the box when it comes to gifts and cards. Perhaps set up a Secret Santa with your family? Agree with your family that instead of gifts you will all get together for a picnic and then take some great family pics of the day which everyone can share. Create photo books as presents. There are some great options including the gorgeous Momento, Milk and Papier – who all offer high quality reasonably priced photo books . Get crafty and create your own cards – check out the fab Frankie magazine, the talented Dawn Tan , Beci Orpin and Pip at Meet Me at Mikes for inspiration.
Hopefully that will set you off on a calmer path to the Christmas break! With everything sorted you’ll be able to sit back, relax and have fun with all of your friends and family.
This morning before work/school drop off I had two conversations that really struck a chord with me.
The first was with an amazing lady who has taught my children at the beautiful small school they attend here in sunny Brisbane, Australia. She’s a dynamo of a lady, fantastic teacher, and mother of a bunch of kids herself. She’s one of those people who is a ray of sunshine, and the kind of person that you feel kind of lucky to get to know let alone be the person to shape the minds of your kids.
I saw her whilst we were both grabbing a coffee at our local café before 7am. She had already dropped her kids to school and been to the gym and was off to school…at 7am.
We talked about teaching, how tricky it can be to squeeze in the curriculum, stay relevant, cater for individual needs, be innovative and also be inspiring for kids. She has years of experience under her belt, whilst my experience was limited to my ‘prac teaching’ experience a few years ago whilst studying a Graduate Diploma of Education.
I came away from our conversation thinking, wow, we are so lucky to have this wonderful lady as part of our school community and that I still think that teaching is a tough gig.
Once I arrived at school to drop my youngest daughter off at Before School Care, I had a brief but frustrating conversation with two other parents.
The conversation started with one of the parents commenting on seeing this wonderful teacher (who I had just spoken to) arriving at school in her gym gear, with a dress in her hand ready to get changed and prepare for the day.
The comment was something along the lines of ‘how nice it must be to have the time to exercise’ and how ‘easy it must be for this particular lady as she is a teacher and has teenagers’. I couldn’t help but feel a little incredulous and also defensive. I replied that I thought teaching was a tough gig, and that my brief stint highlighted to me how tough it can be, especially if you are also a parent. The response I got was underwhelming and came with a side-serve of eye roll, along with a comment about how nice it would be to have ‘all those holidays’.
I smiled, nodded and continued on my day, signing in my youngest daughter, dropping my sons to school and then heading to the hospital to spend the day juggling caring for my eldest daughter whilst also working remotely.
After giving the morning and those interactions some thought, here’s my take.
Working can be hard.
Working with children can be hard.
Working once you are a parent can be hard.
So it stands to reason surely, that working with children once you are a parent can also be hard.
It can be so easy to look across and form an opinion on how hard someone’s life/job/family/ situation is when you have not walked a mile in their shoes.
I will freely admit I am sometimes jealous of the amount of holidays teachers get each year. When you work full-time in most other professions, you only get four weeks annual leave a year. Once you have children this presents you with an impossible challenge – spread out your four weeks annual leave to care for your children during their 12-16 weeks of holidays. So unfair right?
Well, not quite when you look at the whole picture. My brief stint of teaching taught me this – teaching is hard, rewarding, gruelling (so much time on your feet! parents expectations! the assault on your senses!) and takes you away from your own kids…a lot.
I also came to the realisation that teachers need those holidays to plan, recover, relax and for some to spend time with their own children, connecting and having fun. How can I begrudge the great people who spend every day of the school term fostering the learning of my kids some time to recover, relax and plan for the next semester/year/subject/group of young minds they will be looking after?
On a related note, if you are there on the sidelines judging and thinking teaching is such a great deal…why not become a teacher? You know why a lot of people don’t? Most people don’t have the patience, resilience and passion to do that.
Most people find out what teachers are paid, and think well that’s not enough for me. I know that I didn’t have the patience and right personality to become a teacher. Which makes me feel even more appreciative of the fantastic people who do.
It’s not just teachers, there are countless other professions who cop flak and yet these wonderful people still turn up day in and day out to work, helping others, contributing to society, supporting their families. They do this despite the criticism and judgment levelled at them.
I came away from my conversation with those parents thinking, I really hope that one day they can appreciate how hard teachers work and how life can be tricky for teachers too.
Until you’ve taught a class, worked a night shift, completed a swing as a FIFO (Fly-In-Fly-Out) worker, maybe save the judgement.
A little empathy can go a long way.
It’s been a super busy time here, with school holidays and then back to school, exams, school sports finishing/starting…it’s all a little hectic really!
Whenever life gets a little too hectic, I always take the opportunity to stop, take a breath and refocus on our routines and see what’s working and what’s not working.
I thought I’d share a few of our ideas today – maybe you’re thinking of starting /stopping some things at your place?
Starting – Chef’s Tuesday is the newest addition to our family routine. Here’s the lowdown, each week two of the kids select a recipe they would like to cook for dinner and then we have a family cooking session. This week, the kids choose Bacon & Zucchini Fritters and Beef Stir-fry with Garlic Rice. My top tip? Keep the recipes simple (try this fab magazine or grab the freebies from Coles, Woolworths or Aldi), sneak in lots of vegetables and try and shop for the ingredients together (great opportunity for real life maths – bonus!).
Stopping – Trying to solve everyone’s problems and overreacting to bad things. Ok, this is a tough one, and one I’ve really had to work on. With the aim of building grit and resistance in each of my kids, I have been trying to listen more, guide them to solve/ deal with issues in their lives, and have been encouraging more independence. Here’s an example – so you find out that your kid didn’t get invited to a birthday party. Your instinct may be to get super grumpy and feel put out (on your kids behalf). The downside? Your kid see your reaction and thinks ‘hang on, maybe this is a big deal – Mum/ Dad is really cranky, maybe I should be too?’. Not great right? Instead, stay calm and model the resilience and confidence you’d like to see in your kid. So you didn’t get invited to the party, that’s ok, maybe their parents could only invite a few kids, or maybe that’s just what they wanted to do. So, what are we going to do that weekend? (Ahhh, the powers of distraction can also work a treat with this one).
Continuing – Daily exercise. All the experts agree, exercise is really good for you! Our exercise can include going for a walk, getting the bikes or scooters out and heading out and about, heading to the boxing gym together or going for swim. My top tips? Make it fun, add in a scavenger hunt if interest is waning, make it a race (oh my goodness, my kids will compete for any reason!), try a new sport if you can, stay positive – remember it should be about effort and attitude – not ability. One final tip – make sure everyone has comfortable exercising gear including decent runners/ sneakers. Target, Big W, Kmart and Best & Less all have some great affordable gear (*not sponsored by the way, I just find kitting out four kids in clothes can get super expensive!).
Hopefully that’s given you a little insight into what’s working and not working in my world, and maybe also given you a little inspiration to take a look at your world and think about what’s working/ not working for you.
I was chatting to a good friend about what makes Byron such a special place.
Is it the beach?
The gorgeous places to eat and drink?
Is it the super-friendly and relaxed people you meet and who run the amazing businesses there?
For me, it’s a combination of all of the above and why I always have a fab time in Byron whether I visit for a few hours or stay for a week.
Breakfast or Brunch? No matter what time you finally wake up, head to The Farm
If you are an early riser like me, Byron is a fab spot to get up early and head out for a walk along the beach. Love a sleep in? No worries, breakfast at most places seems to stretch out to become brunch. The Farm is a perfect spot to enjoy both. The Farm is a firm fave of mine.
You can choose to takeaway delicious hot coffee and buttery pastries and head off for a stroll (let the kids run wild!) or dine in and enjoy the view. If you choose to dine in, super friendly staff are always buzzing around, which means you can relax while you order from the locavore menu.
A lot of the fresh produce comes directly from the small lot farmers who share the space and I think you can taste the difference!
Time for a Sunday stroll – Bangalow & Newrybar
After enjoying a sleep in, big breakfast and a strong coffee, if you feel the need to walk it off or just go for a wander – take the short drive to beautiful Bangalow and Newrybar. Nestled in the hinterland behind Byron, these two tiny villages are home to gorgeous homewares, more great cafes and some fab fashion.
Some of my fave spots to visit/ eat in and around Bangalow and Newrybar are:
For a beautiful collective of retailers head to Newrybar Merchants, home to Art Park, Shannon Fricke, The Book Room, Minimosh, Tigmi Trading, Beautiflora, Nikau, Fate & Fortune and firm fave The Society Inc.
Time for a drink – fab spots for a drink or two, maybe just settle in for the afternoon
After all of that eating, shopping and walking if you are feeling a little parched head back to Byron for a cold drink or two. For a laid-back afternoon under the trees, try starting with a Bloody Mary at The Treehouse. My friend and I both settled in for some quality people-watching, savouring ours. Order extra-hot if you’re feeling game! Nestled next to the beach, and serving wood-fired pizzas, Treehouse is a perfect spot to relax for a couple of hours with a drink or two.
If a pub and a cold brew are more your scene, wander in to the Beach Hotel (fab views, live music, did I mention the view?), The Rails (The Railway Friendly Barl) or The Great Northern (for an old school pub, keep an eye out for the great bands playing here).
The Rails (The Railway Friendly Bar)
If you’re not a fan of pubs, Miss Margarita is a fab little spot near the beach serving a range of delicious drinks and Mexican food.
Whew! That is one hefty list, but there are just so many great places to eat/drink/shop and relax!
Have you got any firm faves in Byron?
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