Monday, 15 June 2015

Melbourne: Big City Adventures with Kids! {part one}

Exploring a big city with little kids can be a whole lotta fun! The bustling city is so exciting in their eyes :) It can be a little overwhelming though, knowing just what to do and where to go - and whether it's really kid friendly. If you are considering an urban adventure, you might just get some ideas and inspiration here... 

My husband recently had a few days of training for work down in Melbourne, Victoria. Rather than chug along at home without him, we decided at the last minute to go along too. It's not easy to leave town for us at the moment, but my Mum insisted we take a few days away and it felt like a good opportunity to spend some quality time with the kiddos, as things have been so hectic lately. It turned out to be a really sweet time for our little family, exploring downtown Melbourne together, as well as catching up with a few old friends.

We drove down early Tuesday morning, as is our road trip MO. The kids are road trip warriors (we road trip quite a bit!) and we just prefer to go hard and get there. We left Canberra at 5am and arrived in Melbourne around 1pm, with just one quick stop for a leg stretch and to pick up breakfast on the way. Yep, those kids are champions! :) I think I will keep 'em, haha.

We stayed at Mantra on the Park in Carlton. I love this hotel (I think it's more like serviced apartments?). We have actually stayed there before and I was keen to go straight back - it's just perfect for a city stay with kids, plus a 'known quantity' is always helpful when planning a family trip away, huh?! We had a super spacious two bedroom/two bathroom apartment (which did a lot to save our sanity for four days, haha! Very nice to have a bit of room with a longer stay). A full size kitchen meant we could prepare our own meals sometimes, which we did for breakfast and lunch, therefore saving a few dollars! (Not dinner though because... well, we were on holidays!!). The hotel also has an indoor pool, perfect for burning energy on those cold and rainy Melbourne days! It ALSO is right across the road from the Carlton Gardens, so plenty of grass for kids to run and play on - and just a few minutes walk from the Museum and an awesome playground too. Can you tell I love this place for a family stay?! ;) Perfect location for kids - still right in the CBD (close enough to walk or tram to everything) but not surrounded by concrete and nowhere for kids to play (which has happened on work trips with Mark before and makes the whole thing a lot harder to manage when the kids can't roam!). The hotel has a restaurant downstairs too which is great for easy meals when needed.

Life on the twelfth floor was pretty exciting for the kids, they loved watching the traffic go by, all the sirens going and best of all, a huge crane was working on construction on the building next door - instant entertainment!! :) They turned from suburban to urban kiddos in the blink of an eye it seemed!

Eli checks out the view and watches the people bustling by.

We went straight to the pool on our first afternoon, enjoying a big swim after our big road trip! We had the whole pool to ourselves and had a really delightful time together. Gave myself a little high five for managing all three in the pool myself too, woohoo ;) It was a really sweet time, just splashing and laughing together, and Eli did awesome, managing to flail himself from one side of the pool to the other several times. So cute, he can swim but it's just very.... enthusiastic. Thrashing water all over the place, it just cracks me up to watch him.

I'll just stay here on this step, thank you....
Lily makes a splash....

All bundled up, cold but happy after their swim. Just love this photo of my three little cherubs :)
We brought our lego mat and a little bag of Lego...always good to have a quiet activity while on holidays for a bit of down time! These two are just loving doing Lego together lately. Cant beleive Miles is only just two and already able to get into Lego. He is just always desperate to keep up with the big kids!
Apparently this is relaxing!? Ha!
A special treat for the kids on our first night - room service!!! We didn't feel like going out and the room service was actually really reasonably priced! We had the cheeky idea to order the kids fish and chips at 6pm for an early dinner, shuffled them off to bed then ordered our own room service at 7pm and had a delicious dinner all to ourselves - date night in! Goodness, I could get used to this lifestyle, haha ;)

We strolled over to the Melbourne Museum one morning to meet up with dear friends and explore. We have visited the Museum before and had a blast so I couldn't wait to take the kids back now they were a little older. It's such a great interactive space, and very accessible as the adult tickets are only  $12 and kids under 16 are FREE - how good is that!! We had a delightful morning roaming around, enjoying best of all the dinosaur bones and the children's section.

Miles exploring the amazing spaces at the museum.
Meandering along the path in the Rainforest Walk!
Absorbing the vast size of the dinosaurs from the second floor
Miles was obsessed with this huge shark suspended in the foyer. I'm just obsessed with him!! He rocks a cardie like a boss, yes??
Enchanted by the fountain at Carlton Gardens.
Love Melbourne's street art and murals! Adds so much personality to the city :)
We had a wonderful walk through Fitzroy one early evening on the way to meet friends
for dinner. Love the fascinating little shops and laneways of the big city :)

A dear old friend of mine, Scarlett, recently opened up her very own tea parlour,
called Porcelain. It is charming beyond words! We popped in late one evening and
enjoyed the most delicious and lovingly prepared chai - with macarons! If you are in
the Carlton area (right near CBD) then definitely stop by! It is open late too so perfect
place to visit after dinner or movie... or in the afternoon for a delightful cuppa.
So wonderful to see friends live out their dreams!! :)
Sipping chai like a lady - note the pinkie, heehee!
Mark took this photo. So arty, honey! ;) But seriously, it is, right!? He was proud. That is a teeny morsel of delicious macaron... it did not last long!
How to keep kids busy when it's wayyyyyy past bedtime and they are in a little tea parlour surrounded by delicate crockery. Yes, a literal 'five bulls in a china shop' situation, ha! Mark decided to take funny photos with the kids while I had a quick catch up with my lovely friend Scarlett. Fast thinking, hubby! xx

Three adorable little bulls in the china shop. Our friend's cute son Joseph, with Lily and Eli
Who needs TV? Early morning entertainment from the crane next door...

Well, that's quite enough photos for one post, I am sure?! In 'Part Two', we explore the Melbourne Sealife Aquarium (the kid's absolute favourite thing we did!!), the Docklands (super cool!) and then head out to the Mornington Peninsula for some beach fun (beautiful!).

PS Just wanted to note that nothing in this post was sponsored or complimentary! Just places we stayed, saw and loved :)

Kidspot Top 100 Voices of 2015 // Who Me!?

This is like my face when I got the email from Kidspot ;)

Well, knock me down with a feather.

Like, SERIOUSLY. YOU COULD HAVE! I recently got an email telling me that someone had kindly nominated my blog, and from 3,000 entries, little ol' Living Loving Laughing blog was now a Kidspot Top 100 Finalist in the Voices of 2015.. In all of Australia....

Yeah. Colour me 'shocked'!!! To the point where I called my husband in and showed him the email, saying that surely someone had made a mistake!

Turns out... it was real. Heehee! So I thought I better share this on the actual BLOG in case you didn't hear me squealing all about the news on my Facebook page. What? You aren't on my Facebook page? Please feel free to hop on over and come hang out there, I share lots of interesting articles, community questions etc. Good times :)

Anyway, soooo grateful to Kidspot. It's such an unexpected honour to be part of the Top 100, especially alongside so many other wonderful blogs. Hop on over to their Voices of 2015 page and scroll around, because there are soooo many other delightful bloggers on there to discover! I feel rather humbled to be named amongst them, they are a clever bunch of cats, that's for sure. I really appreciate that Kidspot chose such a wide range of Aussie blogs to showcase - not just the big ones, you know? :)

And before I go, let me say a big thank youuuuuuu to all of you who read here. I just tinker along here in this little hobby blog of mine, I certainly never sought or expected any recognition like this but now that it's happened, I gotta say it's pretty lovely. Like a hug from the interwebz (awwww!).

Thanks again to Kidspot, and congrats to all the other 99 nominated blogs.... I will be busily clicking around discovering some more good ones tonight, I think :)


Thursday, 11 June 2015

childhood cancer // dancing for finlay + papa

In February 2015, my blogging friend Katey had the life changing news that her beautiful 18 month old boy Finlay had cancer. Stage 4 Hepatoblastoma, to be precise. Utterly devastating news - I cannot even imagine :(

Finlay has been courageously fighting this terrible cancer ever since, with his amazing family always by his side. He has been through chemotherapy and all sorts of treatments in hospital. And he is now having a mammoth eight hour surgery TODAY to remove the cancer, having flown across the country from his home in Perth to Westmead Children’s Hospital in Sydney.

Katey and I are part of a small group of amazing fellow Aussie kid bloggers. When we heard the news from Katey, the group was desperate to show our support in any small way we could. We gave what we could practically, but wanted to do more and it seemed fitting to use our blogging platform to help get the word out. Having seen the #justkeepdancing project started by Ellen Degeneres after Katey's kids took part, we knew we’d love to dance for Finlay and donate what we could to his family and to ongoing cancer research. We’d love for you to do the same, as raising support and awareness means a lot to this family right now!

As many of you know, our lives are also deeply affected by cancer at the moment. My beloved step-father, David, is in the end stages of pancreatic cancer. Although his journey is a very different one to Finlay, today the kids are also dancing for him. He always, always takes joy in every day and every moment. Even now, even going through this, he smiles at the birds outside his window, at the smallest flower brought inside. He still finds reasons to laugh, to wonder, to be thankful to God. He still loves music, he loves his grandkids and if he could, he would still love to do some dancing too :)

So, today my kids are dancing. For sweet Finlay, for our beloved Papa, and to celebrate the love, hope and prayers that we always have.....

Oh, our video is very simple, but it does include a special surprise guest at the end ;)

Oh yeah, they know how to get their groove on ;)

Before I go, some more information on this topic it's important to know...

Childhood Cancer Facts:

·         #1 Killer of Australian Kids from disease
·         The causes of Childhood Cancer are unknown – there is no prevention
·         98% of Childhood Cancer survivors will develop chronic medical conditions as a result of their treatments
·         4 Families hear the words ‘Your child has cancer’ everyday
·         3 Kids die from cancer every week, between 150 and 160 every year
·         Childhood Cancer is NOT the same as Adult Cancer
·         1000 Kids aged 0 – 24 will be diagnosed with Childhood Cancer every year

If you would like to support Finlay and his family as they go through this unimaginable battle, please click here.
If you would like to support research into childhood cancer, please click here.
If you would like to follow along as Finlay and his family face this battle, click here for their Facebook page - the bigger their cheer squad, the better!!

And if you want to raise awareness about Finlay and the terribly high incidence of childhood cancer, please share this post. WHY? Because where there is awareness, there is funding. And where there is funding, there is a cure.

Thank you on behalf of a little fair haired hero named Finlay xx

PS It was my sweet husband's idea to include Optimus Prime in the video! When I told him about the video we were doing for Finlay, he wanted to include Mr Prime as he said 'what little boy wouldn't love a dancing robot?!' Hope you get a giggle out of it, Fin!!! xx

PPS Find more amazing blogs who are showing support with cute dancing and dancing ideas here -

Saturday, 30 May 2015

exploring light and colour with rainbow blocks

My little sidekick, Miles, and I have gotten into a bit of a routine on days when the older two kids are in school. After breakfast, chores and independent play is done, we spend a little time playing by the front window, soaking up some togetherness along with the wintery sunshine!

Side note: Have I mentioned lately how much I love two year olds!? They are the most fascinating little creatures, I'm so grateful to have a bit of one-on-one time to just chat, play and watch this litle man explore the world!

Miles has always been hugely into any kind of block and building play, so when I was given the opportunity to try out these gorgeous Rainbow Sound Blocks from Finlee and Me, I jumped at the chance, knowing my little man would be alllll over them.  I must admit I have been very eager to add these particular blocks to our block collection too as they tick every box for me - open ended play, sensory experience, natural materials! Plus, you know....just soooooo preeeeetty with all the colours!! :)

And as you can see, he sure did love them...

Eager to investigate this amazing wooden 'box' the blocks come in...
Quick to unpack, and start building!
Naming shapes and colours as we stack...
He sat quietly for sooooo long, just stacking, sorting and and moving them around :)
The smooth, raw wood finish just makes you want to keep touching the blocks!
...and it was all yellow orange!!
Each block has a variety of small or large beads inside. Of course, Miles had to give each one 'the shake test' to check out what sound they made. 
Just a teensy bit obsessed with the hinge at the top of the box! 'Snap, snap'
'Building a House!'  (A toddler's work is never done, you know)

Of course, the best bit... looking at the sweet sunshine pouring through the blocks and reflecting on the carpet! Miles was so intrigued at this mysterious occurrence, he kept touching the coloured reflections while we named all the colours.

I am a huge fan of block-play for kids. Any opportunity for open-ended play is such a valuable thing for children, especially when it includes a sensory experience too. These blocks definitely fit the bill - beautifully textural raw wood, a variety of sounds to experience when they shake them, and the gorgeous colours to look through and experiment with reflection and light. The thing I love about blocks like these is they are an investment in years of quality play.... as evidenced by my four and six year old who couldn't wait to get their hands on them too!

If play is the work of childhood, then building with blocks is not a bad job :)

This post was sponsored by Finlee and Me, a lovely online store filled with a vast range of goodies for babies, kids and even Mums! All opinions are 100% my own. 

Monday, 25 May 2015

#highlightsreel // all kinds of wheels and wonder

The days roll by, filled with precious little moments that will one day seem like the big moments. 

I try to capture some of them here, pinning down those fleeting joys that scatter through our days 

Amidst the mess and stress of life, God gives us these happy little anchors to remind us of what truly matters.

Bike riding practise...
Ready to ride!
A proud Papa watches on...
Washing the cars is a family affair...
At the car wash... (our driveway)
Car washing // Apple eating
Our family is a teeny bit pizza obsessed. So, sometimes you just gotta make mini-dessert pizzas. Chocolate sauce, marshmallows and white chocolate drops. Ummm.... deeeeelish!
Despite the many happy and sweet moments captured here, in reality these are hard days for our family. On one of my emotional (teary!) days, I emerged from my room to discover this beautiful fruit platter prepared by the kids to 'make me happy again'. My little blessings, they are such a source of joy on the darkest days.

I walk by to discover him peacefully inhaling the scent of the flowers. We should all take such moments of simple pleasure!
I love to see literacy emerge, naturally and at it's own pace. Lately Eli has been so interested in writing letters, mastering one at a time. Nothing quite so charming as seeing a world of letters slowly transform as little ones learn to decipher the codes!
Every day (multiple times a day!) the craft area transforms from one thing to another, as she rapidly changes her plans about 'what I'm going to be when I grow up'. This minute? A teacher! She has the desk and pose nailed, I think!! ;)

Here comes the clippers....
First home haircut from Daddy. 
Magnatiles in a sunny spot on a cold day.

Peekaboo!! So grateful for my quiet days at home with this little guy when the older two are at school for half the week. He is my little buddy and we just have the best time hanging out :)

Lily doing a bit of Reading Eggs... and everyone wants to have some input ;)
The playkitchen was transformed into a Lego workshop. In fact, Lily hung a sign saying 'Please don't come in here, we are working on Lego in our workshop.' Serious business!
'Shopping? Shopping bags! Go to Aldi??
Yes, those puppy dog eyes are pleading for me to take him to Aldi. He seriously wanders around the house most of the day with two shopping bags over his shoulder, just waiting to go to the shops. This kid!!

After a year of begging, Lily is finally learning to play her little guitar!! Thanks to the time and talents of our lovely friend, Michael :) In just two lessons she learnt to play Twinkle Twinkle - she was sooooo excited :)