Father’s Day 2017

Father’s Day is becoming quite the event as our girls grow. Homemade presents are in abundance (thanks to School and Daycare), and the girls seem to be at that perfect age and have a wonderful time spoiling their Dad on his special day.

After a relaxing morning filled with presents and cuddles, our annual Father’s Day tradition continued with a family lunch. And, as is the case each year, we selected an international theme for the meal.

This year – it was all things Greek! Starring freshly picked lemons and rosemary from our garden to give the table a Mediterranean feel.

We actually opted for a late lunch (linner), as it works well with the girls’ nap times and means that they can join us for the meal. Although as is the case each year, linner soon turns into dinner, as we chat and eat our way through the afternoon and into the evening.

On the menu this year?

Spinach and feta pinwheels to start – that I made the day before and reheated just before serving. Washed down with a pre-lunch cocktail – of course – a Santorini Sunrise.

Made with vodka, peach schnapps, orange juice, pineapple juice and a splash of grenadine.

For the main course – we served chicken souvlaki skewers, keftedes, roasted lemon potatoes, a burghul salad and a green salad. With homemade tzatziki and a fig and olive relish on the side, along with some flatbread.

And for dessert? This rather impressive-looking baklava cheesecake (recipe here).

A lovely baked vanilla cheesecake, with a honey / nut crumble and enclosed in filo pastry. Served with a honey cinnamon syrup. YUM!

And so another Father’s Day celebration came to an end, with full bellies and lots of laughs.

Adding another country to our list of Father’s Day lunch destinations too!

2013 – China

2014 – Turkey

2015 – Mexico

2016 – Italy

 

Third Pregnancy: Third Trimester Reflections

In some ways I feel like this pregnancy has been a long one. The relentless nausea and fatigue of the first trimester probably has a lot to do with it.

But in other ways, I am a little surprised that we just hit the 38 + week mark. Yes, I’ve officially made it to full term and, once again, I am pretty damn amazed at the wonder that is the human body.  Sure, I may not *fall* pregnant easily, but this ol’ body of mine has now grown and carried three beautiful babies to full term, all within the space of 5 years, which feels rather wonderful in itself.

So how has the third trimester treated me this third time around?

(25 weeks, 30 weeks, 36 weeks)

I’m feeling large, despite most people saying that I look ‘small’ , and I’m pretty sure I’m in the waddle-phase. But I am grateful that I have been able to keep up with my daily walks, something I wasn’t all that consistent with in my previous pregnancies,  and I am hopeful that the regular exercise will assist with the recovery phase.

I’m not sure whether it is due to the regular walking, or perhaps the baby is just sitting differently, but I am pleased to report that I have suffered none of the pelvic pain (SPD) that plagued me throughout my pregnancy with Little J. Over the last few weeks I’ve had some pretty intense shooting pains down the back of my upper leg / hip / area, but I think that might have something to do with the baby pressing on a particular nerve? Sure, they are painful and will stop me in my tracks for a moment (and elicit a curse word or two), but they are nowhere near as frustrating as the daily SPD pain.

(36 weeks – round 1, 2, and 3. Not much difference really – except for the bags under my eyes!!)

Perhaps the biggest shock of the third trimester was being diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes – something I never considered would be an issue.  I’ve eaten healthier this pregnancy than in my others, and managed to walk around 5km each day, even with the nausea of the first trimester.  But, despite this,  it seems my body likes to dump a little glucose into my system overnight while I am sleeping, so I continue to have high fasting levels when I wake up – and no amount of diet watching or exercise was working to correct it. As a result? I’ve now been introduced to the world of endocrinology, the national diabetes scheme and blood-glucose monitors. I’m having insulin before bed at night, which is not too bad, and my doctors tell me everything should correct itself once the baby is born. Fingers crossed!

Symptoms aside, I am most definitely at the stage where I just want our newest family member to be here. I finished up at work a week or so ago, which has been nice. I was tempted to stay a little longer, but my family encouraged me to finish up and have a couple weeks “off” before the baby arrives. And I am pretty grateful for that encouragement (if not for the fact I no longer have to try and squeeze into the last few corporate work dresses that fit…)

I’m not all that great at sitting still, though, so being at home has meant that the nesting urge has been in full swing. I finally pulled all our baby things out of storage, washed a bunch of clothes, reorganised my linen cupboard and pantry, tackled the office filing pile, and can’t help but find more things to add to my ‘to do’ list.

The freezer is also stocked with lots of ready-made meals that I have been preparing over the last few weeks or so. Casseroles, stews, pulled pork, lasagne, pasta sauce – you name it, its probably in there. I figure these will come in handy while I am in hospital, and also for the first week or so when  I get home. So much for cleaning out the freezer recently.

Although there is, if I’m honest, no great rush to get everything done for unlike after my other pregnancies, I’ve decided to take a little extra time off work this time around. I’ll still be helping with bookkeeping for my husband’s business, but I’m not due back into the office until the New Year. My longest time off work since I was 17!

Another big focus recently has been spending as much time with the girls before their little sister arrives (not only because we are acutely aware that getting out and about with 3 kids of varying ages will take some getting used to!).  We’ve taken lots of walks, headed up to Corin Forest for some snow play, and generally just been making the most of these last few weeks as a family of 4.

It’s been lovely to have some one-on-one time with each of the girls too. Little J and I had a great morning at the playground while her big sister was at school, then it was off to the toy shop – stopping for milk and cookies along the way. I’m not 100% convinced that she really understands what is going on – although her daycare teachers mentioned she told them that the baby is coming soon – so maybe she understands more than I give her credit for…

Miss C and I also took advantage of the school holidays and had a girl’s day out at the movies, followed by lunch. She seems to be very aware that home life is about to change, but as long as the baby doesn’t play with her ‘beanie-boos’ I’m pretty sure she will cope just fine. In fact, I have no doubt she will be a huge help in the coming weeks.

Overall, this third pregnancy has been…well…different. Not only because of all the physical reasons I’ve already spoken about, but also because of the  emotional ones too. Life with active  5 and 2 year olds meant that I had very little time to really think about being pregnant at all. There were still the hours to be billed at work, books to be audited,  the never-ending loads of washing to be done and meals to be prepared… yes pre-pregnancy life went on as usual – just with the addition of a basketball belly to contend with when packing up the kids toys at the end of the day! Don’t get me wrong, I am so very grateful to have carried three beautiful babies to full term , I just don’t feel that I have had any pregnancy ‘glow’ this third time round.

And at 38+ weeks, I can safely say that we are more than ready to meet our newest little one!! Now if we could only decide on a name….

Life. Lately.

My oh my. Where do I begin?

I feel as if we hit the ground running in 2017 and haven’t really stopped since. We knew it was always going to be a busy start to the year, but I probably underestimated just how busy. Work is hectic. Home life is busy. Our social calendar is quite full. And then there is the whole ‘growing a baby’ thing…

I’ve just come off the back of a couple particularly full-on weeks, with a few more ahead of me. I’m certainly juggling the work / life balance, and probably dropping a few, no a lot of, balls along the way. Life is feeling full, and too often – frantic, but I’d be lying if I said there haven’t been lots of fun times too. For in amongst the chaos we wedged in a family holiday and have even booked in a few more short  family trips away for next month too!

So while I’ve found myself with a spare 20 minutes until my flight boards, let’s focus on some recent happenings that have made us smile…

The girls and I headed down the Hume just before Easter to spend the week in Melbourne. After a big school term for Miss C (and a term of daycare for Little J), it was truly rewarding to spend some one-on-one time with both the girls outside of their normal daily routine, and for them to also spend some time together.  Sure, there were moments of bickering (sisters..), but for the most part they seemed to really enjoy each other’s company, while collectively, and collaboratively,  keeping me on my toes!

Ps. Number of games of Uno played? Approximately 1000…

The car trip itself went pretty smoothly – although having done it quite a few times now with the girls they are becoming quite the seasoned car travellers. A bucketload of snacks helped, as did having the Moana soundtrack on repeat (both girls are obsessed!!)

But the main reason for our trip? Celebrating my little brother getting married!!!! Both girls were flowergirls and Charlotte, in particular, took her role very seriously. Josie on the other hand….yeah not so much (aka we had to wrestle her into her dress lol). They both barely left the dancefloor once the reception started though – so needless to say a lot of fun was had by all!

Yes. Shoes were optional by this time….

(You might notice that I don’t have a lot of photos from the day. I was also honoured to be a bridesmaid and my camera was, as expected, swapped for a bouquet!)

The next big excitement on the agenda? Easter! Which after an Easter-Thursday wedding snuck up on us in no time. It was wonderful to spend the morning with my family (before hitting the road for home), and watching the kiddies run around collecting eggs and generally getting up to mischief.

And in no way related to chocolate consumption (I swear!), we celebrated another milestone with Miss C losing her first tooth while we were away. It was wobbly for about a week (so so gross), and finally fell out the day before the wedding.  A visit from the tooth fairy and the Easter Bunny was, as you would imagine, pretty exciting for a certain 5 year old!

But it wasn’t all about the kids, for us ‘oldies’ got to have a bit of fun too. Namely ticking an item off our bucket list and watching our beloved Brumbies play in Melbourne. Starting with sunset nibbles on the Yarra, it was a fun night for sure – we just won’t mention the result…

Overall, this little break was just what I needed. Time with our girls and with my family, and trying to switch off from work before the next two crazy weeks begin.

Until next time!!!

 

 

Third Pregnancy – Reflections at the halfway mark

Our THIRD pregnancy.

It still feels rather surreal to be saying it, and boy do we feel blessed.

If you follow me on Instagram – you would have seen our big announcement recently. For our little family of four is set to become a family of five in July this year. And while I was super organised in keeping a diary during my first pregnancy, and somewhat organised throughout my second, well let’s just say I’ve been less than organised this time around.

My previous diary entries have been so wonderful to look back on, so now seems like the perfect time to take a step back and reflect on this pregnancy too.  There’s always a fine-line between share and overshare, but I always appreciate having a little record to look back on in years to come. So here goes.

I’m currently 22 weeks pregnant, and we have known since I was 4 weeks. The downside of IVF being that you find out early, really early.

Yes, like J, this little bean is also an IVF gift.

We had always seen 3 children in our future, but weren’t too sure how realistic our dream was. We went through a failed IVF attempt early last year, which only made the reality of the situation all too clear. Maternal age was weighing heavily on my mind (I’m a dinosaur, I know…) and I always had a set “end-point” to when we would say goodbye to the prospect of adding a new member to our family. But with the help of our amazing doctor, some crazy growth-hormone drugs and other concoctions to dent our bank account, in September last year we received the amazing news.

We were pregnant.

Weeks 4 to 13

I’d like to say that the first trimester flew, but honestly, it dragged.

(4 weeks: We were just about to go into the circus when we got the ‘good news’ phonecall)

Finding out so early is always a curse, particularly when you can’t really share your news, and you have to act ‘normal’. And then the dreaded morning sickness hit. Or in my case, and as was the case with my pregnancy with J, my “morning” sickness hit around lunchtime and continued until bed time.

(6 weeks pregnant: At a friend’s wedding. The nausea had just started, but it was all smiles for the camera!)

The nausea generally peaked right on school pick up time, and left me feeling drained, nauseous and generally unwell.  Salads made me gag, cheese sandwiches were my staple, and the nausea was only manageable if I was consuming carbs.

(10 weeks: I took the girls down to Melbourne for my nephew’s 1st birthday. And while the drive and evenings were a struggle, it was wonderful to share our news with my family  in person).

A saving grace was the distraction of Christmas. Although there were none of the usual celebratory champagne or cocktails for me, it was great to have some time off work and take little adventures with our family (not to mention, naps).

(Smiling for the camera to get our Christmas picture, and if my memory serves me correct, eating a bag of chips and going to bed as soon as we got home). 

Thankfully my mornings were relatively symptom free, however, and I was still able to fit in my daily walk. And I coped with work and household chores by trying to fit in as much as I could  before the nausea came on around lunch (after which I was pretty much useless). And while the symptoms were not wanted, they were reassuring, and we got beautiful results at our growth scans and other tests.

On that note, we were surprised to learn that since my last pregnancies, they have introduced a new genetic test – the side benefit being that you can find out gender really early. Like 10 weeks early. And right on the 10-week mark, we found out we were welcoming another little girl into our family. Miss C was less than impressed at first (she really wanted a brother) but has now warmed to the idea and can’t wait to meet her newest little sister!

I think J is still a little too young to really understand what is going on, although if I ask her where the baby is, she points to my tummy which is pretty adorable.

Weeks 14 to 20

Somehow I managed to bumble through the first 8 weeks then as quickly as the nausea arrived, it subsided. One day it was there, the next it was gone. And I must say I was pretty pleased about that. My usual salads regained their appeal, and I could actually do things during the afternoon without feeling like death warmed up.

Physically, I felt great during this period.  None of the headaches or pelvic pain that I had experienced with J, and I loved being able to keep active with my morning walks.

(16 weeks: Celebrating Australia Day with a hike up to Booroomba Rocks)

I was, and still am, battling with bone-tiring fatigue. I’m heading to bed quite early (although, let’s be honest , I generally do), although there are some days where I can barely keep my eyes open!  I put it down to being a few years older, working and having two other little ones to run around after all day. So yeah – I’ve pretty much accepted that it is the new normal – albeit begrudgingly.

As for the belly – well – it grows (as does everything else!). Faster with each pregnancy it seems, and if I’m honest – I’m not really loving it. I know its all part of the process, but experiencing growth and slimdown with 3 pregnancies in 5 years – and a bulging wardrobe to cater for multiple sizes – well its not as exciting as the first time around that’s for sure!

(9 weeks, 14 weeks, 19 weeks)

So there you have it – a little snippet into the last 20 weeks! Here’s hoping the next half flies, as we are all looking forward to meeting our newest family member and beginning our life as a family of five.

Now if we could only decide on a name….

My words for 2017

I’m not one for resolutions, but I do appreciate the freshness of a new year. The chance to sit back and reflect on the year that was – what worked and what didn’t – and make some goals for the year to come.

We’ve worked hard over the last few years to get more balance back in our family life. And while it still remains a work in progress, it’s something that we think about, and talk about, often. Time always seems in short supply, and with two littlies in the house I don’t see that changing anytime soon. But making the most of the time we do have, filling it with fun and adventures, well that seems like a pretty good goal to me.

This year I sense that we are again going to be busy. Our calendar is already filling up – and the first half of the year is on its way to being pretty full. Miss C starts big school shortly, and Little J moves into an extra day at daycare, and I’m a bit unsure as to how we are going to fit in all the drop offs and pick ups, the other activities, fitness, family…..

And while I don’t have any resolutions for the year, per se, and I’m reluctant to commit to any firm “plan” (at least until I work out what the new normal is going to be) I do have a few words that I am going to give a little more attention to this year…

  • Create – I’ve missed writing, and creating in the kitchen, and its about time I got back into it. Starting with a more regular blogging schedule and perhaps a few other creative outlets. More recipe experiments, and expanding my knowledge of international cuisine too.
  • Capture –  I love photography, and want to make the conscious effort to grab my ‘good’ camera more. For the memories captured are always so special to me.
  • Focus – On the present, and the small. More moments spent cherishing the little things. Reading more books and writing more letters.
  • Adventure –  Continuing to embrace my love for the outdoors, and sharing this with our girls.

So, just a few words to get me started -on what I am sure is going to be a magical year!

What about you? What are your ‘words’ for 2017?

2016 – A Year in Review

I’ve heard a lot of people lamenting 2016 – and bidding it a quick and eager farewell. For us, though, 2016 was a good year. Sure, there were some less than stellar moments dotted throughout (but that’s generally the case isn’t it?) but for the most part, we finally managed to strike an ok work / life balance. We also made it through the year with good health and in good spirits, such that we enter 2017 with a sense of anticipation for what the new year might bring.

But before I turn to our hopes and aims for the year to come, it seems only fair to recap the year that was. 

January 

Summer holidays continued in full swing. We celebrated a late Christmas linner, devoured a 8-course Australia Day ‘tasting menu‘, and spent time playing tourist in our home town.

February

Josie turned ONE(!), Charlotte started Pre-School(!) and we took a week-long cruise around New Caledonia (see here, here, here and here).

March

Charlotte turned FOUR, we celebrated Easter and took lots of family hikes.

April

We took more family hikes, cheered on the Brumbies, went camping and got all dressed up for a costume party!

May

We celebrated Mother’s Day, took more hikes,  and had lots of little adventures – both indoors and out.

June

With the Canberra Winter having arrived, we had lots of fun indoors. We also took a girl’s road trip down to Melbourne to catch up with family and visit the zoo!

July

We had dance classes, visitors in town and lots of good food.

August

We celebrated Book Week, took a quick trip to Melbourne and then a family holiday to Fiji!

September

We celebrated Father’s Day – Italian Style, painted, created a fairy garden and flew a kite.

October

We took another trip to Melbourne, the girls dressed up for Halloween and the husband and I went on a “Bloody Long Walk” for charity.

November

We baked, we went to the Circus, we visited the Show and we celebrated our dear friends’ wedding in Thredbo (where we played in snow!).  

December

We ate, we drank, we partied.  We took a quick trip to Melbourne to celebrate my nephew’s 1st birthday. Then we had lots of family arrive into town, and celebrated Christmas accordingly.

And so our 2016 came to a close. Filled to the brim with new memories, time spent with family and a seemingly better balance between work and play (well better than in previous years, that’s for sure!!).

Here’s to an even bigger and better 2017!

Reminiscing…

School holidays have arrived, as have a couple long weekends, so a trip to see my family in Melbourne was a must! The girls and I headed down the Hume, and I’m pleased to report that both have been amazing despite living out of a suitcase and bed-hopping between motels, and various family members’ houses.

It’s always fantastic to head to the town I grew up in, and show the girls my old  “haunts”. But a recent find while clearing out our garage – brought back lots of memories for me too. A box filled to the brim with old photographs and holiday memorabilia, that I had no idea I’d kept.

What a find indeed!

Cue: Hours of reminiscing as I scanned the best photos into my computer (while thinking that I will have to put together a photo album sometime soon).

But in the meantime? Here are some pictures that brought back particularly fond memories…

img_0010-4Dad and I, circa 1983 (?) at the Botanical Gardens in Melbourne. This photo makes me laugh as it was obviously taken before my irrational fear of birds kicked in. I can almost 100% guarantee that you would never see me standing this close to a bunch of birds these days.

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Yarrawonga circa 1982. I’ve always been a horse lover – and it seems our girls are too!

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I can’t remember where this was taken, but I loved all the little adventures our family used to take.

img_0021Twinning at Kindergarten. I definitely remember this jumper – and am left wondering why legwarmers are no longer in fashion.

img_0023-3I see so much of Charlotte in this picture, that I think was taken at my 6th birthday party(?). I’m also loving the fancy wine glasses (that were probably filled with Sunkist), and the awesome 70s curtains in the background.

img_0003-2I have no idea who my bike buddy is, but we are definitely looking like kids of the 80s! Girly-mullet for me and all…img_0004Our Bear. The stinkiest Rottweiler x Alsatian rescue dog that you ever did meet. But with a heart of pure gold.

img_0048-2This would have to be one of my all-time favourite photos of my little brother. Though I suspect it was taken not too long before he attempted a BMX jump and knocked out his two front teeth !?

img_0126Mixed doubles tennis champions! Tennis was my sport of choice throughout high school and taking home the “flag” one year was definitely a highlight. As were the colourful parachute tracksuits that my Mum used to buy me…

img_0005And finally, Miss Tess. Proving that she is, and has always been, one weird cat!

Life, Lately.

I feel that it is all too easy to get caught up in the day to day. Work is done, school is attended, chores are completed, dinner is cooked, TV is watched, and bed is fallen into.

Wake, and repeat.

This feels particularly more so when the skies outside are dark and grey, and a “quick” trip to the shops requires a good half an hour to make sure everyone has enough layers on.

But in these moments, when the days are feeling busy but a little mundane, and the Winter-blues have sunk in, it is always nice to pause and reflect on life. Or at least, life lately.

Travels, lately.

The girls and I recently took what is becoming our annual trip to Melbourne. I snuck C and J out of pre-school and daycare for the week, and we headed down the Hume to stay with my family. I’m not into big drives, and nor are the kids for that matter, so we stopped overnight at Albury, both on the way down and on the way back.

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The road trip itself was quite an adventure, filled with music and snacks that had been judiciously selected by C. We found new playgrounds to explore, autumn leaves to stomp through and ate our weight in junk food.

As for our time together in Melbourne, well what can I say. It was so wonderful to step away from the pressures of being a working Mum, and just be a Mum for the week. Even if I did feel a little outnumbered by the girls at times (hats off to solo parents out there!)

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The highlight was spending time with my own Mum, brother, sister-in-law (to be) and my gorgeous little nephew. The girls were simply enamoured with their baby cousin, and I can’t wait to plan many more trips like this over the years to come.

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Exercise, lately.

Since the start of the year, I have made taking a walk or run part of my daily routine. The aim is to get a minimum of 10,000 steps each day, and so far so good. And while the weather has been pretty inclement lately, I’ve avoided missing my daily exercise by taking a walk early. Like 5.30am (before the kids wake up) early. Even if it is raining I’ve been layering up and hiding under an umbrella – guided by a headtorch from our camping supplies.  Pure style, right there.

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Dark and cold aside, these moments are proving rather wonderful.  Just an hour or so to myself to reflect and to plan, or to listen to a pod-cast.  Sometimes both.

Charlotte, lately.

I truly love age 4. So full of curiosity, knowledge, independence and spirit.

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C is blossoming into quite the young lady, and it feels as if she has grown so much since starting pre-school this year. She is bright and bubbly, and never fails to astound me with the little things she picks up along the way. She loves role-playing, and making up wild stories, but has a softer and sensitive side too.

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And is quite the little helper in the kitchen!

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Sometimes I have to remind myself that she is only 4, because she seems so much older!

Josephine, lately.

Oh Josie. My dare-devil, spirited one.

I’m not sure whether it is her age (almost 17 months) or her personality, but she is not afraid of sharing her emotions.

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Be they huge belly laughs, or throwing herself on the floor yelling with displeasure, J is one loud girl.  She has finally started walking, and wants to explore whenever she can – particularly if she can sneak into her big sister’s room and bounce on the bed.

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She has a smile that lights up her whole face, and squeals like a crazy lady whenever she sees her favourite animal….a dog!  And her new favourite activity? Drawing and colouring.

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Life, lately? Yes its been cold and I am counting down the days until the warmer months arrive. Yes its been busy, with work and all the things that come with raising two active kids. But we are healthy and happy, and looking forward to some fun new adventures in the months to come (hint: passports required for one such adventure!)

What about you? How has life been lately?

Our Carnival Legend Cruise – The Islands

With the ‘logistics’ of our cruise covered in my Part 1 post, it’s time to talk about the adventure aspects! For a big selling point of this particular cruise was that it would allow us to explore a new region, without having to take any long-haul flights with two kids in tow.

The Itinerary included 4 islands in New Caledonia – Isle of Pines, Lifou, Noumea and Mare. However, as I mentioned in my earlier post, the visit to Mare was cancelled owing to the presence of cyclone Winston in the area. It was a little disappointing as that was to be another family ‘beach’ day, but we managed to make the most of the ship pool’s instead.

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General – tours

Not long after we boarded, a brochure was delivered to our cabin outlining various tours and excursions that we could book for the Island visits. Most tours cost in in excess of $59.99 per person (with some reduced fees for kids) – which did seem excessive (although I appreciate that they support the local economy…)

IMG_7043We were able to book the tours via our television – although I think you could also make bookings in person at the tour desk in the lobby if that was your preference.

*Tip for new cruisers: If you have your heart set on a particular activity, make sure to book early. We left our run a little late – and discovered that some tours had sold out – and we could not get our preferred timeslot for others.

General – Disembarkation

Aside from Noumea where the ship was able to dock at the wharf, it was usually anchored off-shore and “tenders” were used to transfer passengers from the ship to the Island. If you had a pre-booked tour, I think you could jump on any tender. However, if you didn’t have a tour booked, you were allocated a boarding number and had to wait in the lobby until that number was called.

IMG_6944The tenders would then run back and / forth between the islands – carrying passengers to and from the ship. There was no need to book a return trip, it was just a matter of returning to the jetty when you wanted to go back to the ship,  and waiting for the next tender to arrive.

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Island 1 – Isle of Pines

None of the Isle of Pines tours in the brochure took our fancy, so we decided to just hang out on the Island.  And on reflection, this was one of my favourite days.

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We headed over mid morning and were greeted by locals selling their wares, drinks and a variety of food from little stalls set up along the beach. I can’t say that they were all that “friendly” (and service speed definitely suggested that “Island-time” is a real thing), but they were pleasant enough given the thousands of tourists that had landed on their doorstep for the day.

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We grabbed a bite to eat (chicken kebabs and coconut rice) and watched Charlotte dance along with some of the locals (girl loves to dance!).

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But instead of hanging out at the beach near the jetty, we decided to walk a few hundred meters up the road until we found our own little patch of sand.

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The weather was not fantastic with some scattered showers throughout the day. But it wasn’t cold, and the showers seemed to move through pretty quickly, so a fun day was had by all as we played in the sand and waded in the water. We opted to stay on the more sheltered side of the Island, although I am told that there were some good snorkelling options on the other side near the rocks?

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We also took the pram across, so that Josie could take her lunchtime nap. It was a little tricky getting it on and off the tender, but was handy to have with us (not only to let Josie nap, but to also carry the piles of swim gear, food and towels we inevitably seem to accumulate!) The Island was pram-friendly, with decent paved roads and lots of shelter under the trees when it started to drizzle.

*Tips for new cruisers – All vendors on Isle of Pines (and the other Islands for that matter) accept Australian currency. Although it was recommended that you take smaller notes for purchases (and the Guest services desk on the ship was happy to exchange larger notes if needed).

Island 2 – Lifou

Our second Island was Lifou, although our guide informed us that he did not like that French name (it had connotations of ‘madness’). Instead, the locals preferred “Drehu”.

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We signed up for a “Forest and Secret Grotto” Tour  (adults $65.99, kids $35.99)- and made sure to leave the pram on the ship and take the Ergo instead,  in anticipation of the walk.

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We headed over to the Island by tender just before lunch, and wandered along the beach, through the few stalls and watched a local dance performance. Lunch was a rather uninspiring chicken curry, and I couldn’t help but feel it was a shame that no ‘local’ dishes were on offer.

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There weren’t too many stalls, but quite a few places to get a massage or your hair braided, if that is your thing.

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We met up with our tour group after lunch, and took a short (but steaming hot) bus ride to the start of the walk. Turns out, however, that the ‘walk’ was more of a short nature stroll (only a few hundred meters long), which our guide spread out over a few hours explaining various customs and plants along the way. It was a nice walk, but Charlotte struggled with having to stop and listen every 20 metres or so, as we were shown a new plant.

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It was hot and humid under the canopy of the trees, but Josie soon fell asleep in the Ergo. Charlotte too, rather unexpectedly, fell asleep in Mr BBB’s arms along the way (the adventures of the previous few days obviously catching up with her!)

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The walk concluded at the “Secret Grotto”, which the brochure had described as “unearthly”. I was perhaps expecting something a little more grand – although it was still nice to get some brief respite from the heat and climb down into the cave (that had been lit with candles) and see all the formations of stalagmites and stalactites.

IMG_6973IMG_6978 IMG_5441 As for other activities on Lifou, my niece and her husband went snorkelling just off the beach, and reported back that it was rather amazing! Although she commented that there was a lot of sharp coral underfoot, so reef shoes would come in handy.

IMG_6943Actually, snorkelling seems to be the way to go on Lifou (which we unfortunately couldn’t do with the girls). Apparently the best snorkelling can be found at Jinek Bay – a marine conservation area – although only a limited number of passes are available (at $15 each) so you need to book quick.  Snorkelling gear is available for hire and purchase through the ship – at a pretty reasonable cost.

So yes, if we had our time on Lifou again – we would definitely bypass the walking tour, and try to go snorkelling instead.

Island 3 – Noumea

Unlike the other two Islands, we docked at the cargo wharf in Noumea – meaning that we could just walk off the ship. We were greeted with the sounds of drums on our arrival, with dancers putting on a local display. IMG_7024We were all feeling the effects of a big few days, so we kept things pretty simple. I had my heart set on heading over to the Amedee Island Marine Reserve (which I’ve heard is amazing), however it was an 8 hour tour (and $189.99 for adults, $129.99 for kids), so we decided to give it a miss until the girls were older.

Instead, we booked ourselves onto a Wine, Cheese & Tchou Tchou Train tour ($89.99 per person) in the afternoon.

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We were picked up on the wharf in the ‘train’, and taken for a driving tour of Noumea. It was a little rainy, and oh so windy, and it took a bit of work to get Josie to take a nap.

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On that point, I had misunderstood the nature of the ‘train’ and thought it would be pram-friendly. Alas, it was not, and at the last minute we had to rouse a sleeping Josie from the pram and dash back to the room to grab the Ergo instead. Not a great start to the afternoon.

The drive was nice, and the locals would wave at our ‘train’ as we drove past. We wound our way through the city, and headed along the coastal road – stopping at Lemon Bay and the Ouen Toro lookout.

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We then headed to a seaside restaurant – where a French wine & cheese tasting had been set up.

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It was an informative experience as our host talked us through the various wine flavours – and certainly more ‘structured and formal’ than I had been expecting. Both kids, again, struggled with having to sit still – but that was probably an error on my part in not finding out beforehand just how formal the afternoon would be.

IMG_7067 Overall, Noumea was not my favourite day, and I think if we were to visit again I’d try to head out on a tour to Duck Island or Amedee Island instead (although this would largely depend on how old the kids are, costs etc…)

In sum

  • We loved having a beach day on Isle of Pines, and would do the same next time!
  • On Lifou, we’d try to get a pass to Jinek Bay Marine Resort and do some snorkelling.
  • We’d use Noumea as a base to visit one of the nearby Islands – preferably Amedee Island.

Stay tuned for Part 3 – the Highlights of our holiday!

Christmas 2015

The title of this post should actually be Christmases 2015, as we were lucky enough to celebrate Christmas not once, not twice, but on three occasions.  And although it is probably a tad late to post about Christmas when we are over half way through January, I figured “why not”?

One

The first of our celebrations took place during the week before Christmas at Gumbuya Park. We met up with my Dad and spent the day wandering the animal enclosures, patting kangaroos and squeezing into the various rides. It turned out to be the perfect venue for a casual Christmas catch up, and visiting on a Monday meant that we had the place pretty much to ourselves. Not even the unexpectedly cool temperature could dampen our spirits!

IMG_5610 IMG_5622 IMG_5639 IMG_5679 IMG_5691 (I love this pic – for it shows J’s current obsession with things she finds on the ground. Although I suspect that 2 seconds after taking this photo she would have put the leaf in her mouth….)

Two

Our second Christmas, well that was on the day itself.  Little J’s remarkably reliable body clock saw us up and out for a walk at 5.30am, and a little while after returning home Miss C woke and excitedly discovered her gifts (she had requested a cash register from Santa!)

Later that morning, we headed to lunch with my sister-in-law’s family, where we feasted on all the delicious Christmas trimmings – meat, salads, prawns, champagne… finished with a layered eggnog + ginger cake that I contributed to the meal.  The day was a hot one, so we even squeezed in a walk to the beach – where Miss C, in particular, had a fantastic time splashing around! A highlight of the day,  was definitely taking all the newborn cuddles I could get – with my gorgeous 13 day
old nephew.

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Returning home from Melbourne, we held a late Christmas “linner” with Mr BBB’s family in Canberra. A casual afternoon, filled with family and food (always a winning combination). We hosted the linner at our place, keeping the menu simple. Mr BBB cooked a turkey roll and some pork  in the BBQ, and his family supplied some delicious salads – meaning there was no need for me to turn on the oven at all! Dessert was a tropical pavlova – topped with lemon curd cream, mango, lychees, passionfruit and coconut.  All washed down with peach bellinis.

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And so we came out the ‘other side’ of our extended Christmas celebrations feeling rather relaxed and perhaps a little more rotund.  The girls had an absolute blast along the way, and were thoroughly spoilt.

A delightful end to 2015 indeed!