CRUISIN’ WITH THE KIDS!

Ahoy me hearties! Thinking of taking your kids on a cruise for the first time?  Do it! They’re bound to love it.

We recently went on a 9 night Christmas cruise around some of the Pacific Islands and on a whole it was a wonderful experience.

We were at sea for 2 days before any Island visits which was good as it gave us time to acquaint ourselves with the ship and workout where everything was situated onboard.  14 Levels to explore and find cafes, restaurants, exercise gym, beauty day spa, pool, waterslides, water park, outdoor hot spas and activities like flying fox, walking the plank, Titanic experience, night shows and outside movies on the big screen (just to name a few!)

Kids Water Park

One point that didn’t work well for our family, was the fact there was only 1 pool and it was not ideal for young kids.  There was no shallow end…just a deep plunge pool and with the sway of the sea, most days it became one big wave pool. Good fun for older kids, but for the little ones it ain’t fun.

Our first onshore visit was to the Isle of Pines and it certainly didn’t disappoint.  We entered the Island by the ship’s tenders and this was an exciting experience for the kids.  The crystal-clear water was gorgeous and we found a little bay (called Kanumera Bay) to snorkel, swim and play on the beach.  Snorkelling was fantastic here, just off from the beach we found colourful coral and bright tropical fish, including a sea snake!!  We spent hours on the beach, drinking coconut milk and eating coconuts and trying other local foods like chocolate crepes & banana donuts!  The Isle of Pines also has a rich history as it was once a French penal colony.

Trying some local foods (Isle of Pines)

Our next onshore visit was to the capital of New Caledonia, Noumea.  Noumea can be described as a peaceful port city with colourful European architectures, reflecting its colonial history.   The city sits on a large peninsula, surrounded by picturesque bays and I was surprised at how mountainous it was.  We caught a local bus to the Bay of Lemons, or as the locals call it “Baie de Citrons”.  The bus ride can only be described as a roller-coaster ride!  We all hung on for dear life, and of course both of the boys had the time of their lives hanging on as the bus driver sped up and down the hills and around corners at fast pace. Thankful to arrive in one piece, Baie de Citrons was well worth visiting and experiencing the exquisite still clear waters.  

Catching the local bus (hanging on!!)

Our next country was Vanuatu with a visit to Mystery Island and then to the capital Port Vila.  Mystery Island is a designated marine sanction with a ban on fishing.  Snorkelling was fantastic here both off the Island and out by the reef.  The whole Island is approx. one square kilometre in area and to walk around the whole Island takes about 45 minutes. We also found a gorgeous little tea house which was really nice to stop and have a cup of tea looking out to such a delightful view!

Taking tea with a view
Tea House

Being the capital, Port Vila is the main hub of Vanuatu and is well known for its lively market stalls selling produce and local handicrafts.  The National Museum of Vanuatu is well worth a visit and if you have time, take a drive to the Mele Cascades, which is a peaceful waterfall with rock pools in a rainforest.

While in Port Vila we also did a glass bottom boat ride and snorkelling in the harbour.  The kids loved the experience of the boat ride and snorkelling, however compared to other places we snorkelled on the trip, Port Vila Harbour snorkelling was average.  Visibility was fair to middling and I would not give a spectacular rating for coral or tropical fish.  In saying this though, we saw plenty of clown fish and the kids were super excited to see Nemo again!

Christmas Day and Boxing Day was spent at sea en route back to Brisbane and the cruise ship sure knew how to help us celebrate Christmas.  Santa entered the ship via flying fox and all the children gathered to receive a gift each.  The ship was beautifully decorated with Christmas trees and decorations and in some parts a winter wonderland was created with fake snow falling.

Restaurant entry on Christmas Day

I’m almost at the end of the blog and I have not yet paid tribute to the KIDS CLUB!  A flipping good time was had by both our kids in Turtle Cove (ages 2-5) and Shark Shack (ages 6-9).  Both centres had a range of toys, games and fun activities (which were educational too), plenty of arts & craft, theme nights, talent shows & concerts.  I have one word to describe kids club…..HALLELUJAH!

As I sign off, I hope you had a Merry Christmas with your loved ones and I would like to wish you all a safe and happy 2019.

Keep on cruisin’ and have a happy day out.

Megan Carige

Author

Happydayout.com.au

SPRING IS IN THE AIR!

On today’s blog I feel like having a chit chat about Spring.  After a long cold winter, I’m celebrating some warmer weather and enjoying Spring!

One thing that has been noticeable for me moving back to live in Toowoomba is feeling each and every season (something I didn’t notice as much living in Brisbane).  I love watching the changing seasons, it certainly gives me connectivity to nature.

I love nothing more than getting out into the garden during spring & livening it up with some colourful annuals.  This year we also made a birdbath.  All you need is to find a rough-textured dish (that birds’ claws can grip), place in a shady spot in the garden, fill with water and watch the birds splash. The kids loved doing this activity.

We also move our dinner’s outside into the garden.  The BBQ becomes my outdoor frypan and salads become my best friend.

Crab & Green Bean Salad is a vibrant dish that is one of our spring favourites.  It is a mix of lovely fresh ingredients with a zestful dressing featuring coconut milk and lime.  The kids love being involved in picking fresh herbs out of the garden to be used in the meal.  If you are a lover of coriander & mint then this salad is for you, give it ago……

RECIPE

450g green beans (trimmed)

Salt

1 red capsicum (deseeded and thinly sliced)

225g cooked crabmeat

4 spring onions (sliced)

1 tbsp chopped coriander (plus extra leaves to garnish)

1 tbsp chopped mint

60g peanut butter

50ml coconut milk

Juice and finely grated zest of 1 lime

2 tbsp fish sauce

1 small red chilli (deseeded & finely chopped)

35g chopped roasted peanuts

  1. Cook the green beans in boiling salted water for about 5 minutes, until just tender. Drain & rinse under cool water.
  2. Place beans, capsicum, crabmeat, spring onions, coriander & mint in a large bowl.
  3. Make the dressing in another bowl: mix together peanut butter, coconut milk, lime juice and zest, fish sauce & chilli until well blended.
  4. Toss the salad in the dressing and spoon onto serving plates. Divide the peanuts between the plates and garnish with coriander leaves.

As we live in the Garden City I must make mention of our Carnival of Flowers which is held every September.  It is a 10-day event of flowers, food & fun and runs from 21st – 30th September this year.   Check out tcof.com.au for information on what is happening, particularly child friendly activities on offer & destinations to visit during Carnival.

Just a point too, out of all the destinations mentioned in the Happy Day Out in Toowoomba book, four are our favourites during Carnival.  Queens Park, Picnic Point, Laurel Bank Park & Spring Bluff are all full of colour and great for kids.  If you have time, instead of driving to Spring Bluff you can catch the steam train and it is well worth the experience!

Enjoy Spring & have a happy day,

Megan Carige

Author

Happydayout.com.au

HAPPY DAY OUT IN JAPAN

Konnichiwa and welcome to today’s blog on life in Japan for Kids!

We recently holidayed in Japan and it certainly didn’t disappoint!  We kickstarted our adventure in Tokyo and what an amazing city to start the Japanese experience.  The Cherry Blossoms (Sakura) were out, and we visited several Japanese gardens, including a Bonsai museum. Being Spring, all the parks were full of locals enjoying the weather and many local Kindy’s came out with young children all piled into buggies – it was fantastic to see.

Kindy

The Greater Tokyo area has a population of 38 million – almost 60% more than the population of Australia. Yet Tokyo remains one of the world’s most liveable cities – and we can see why.  Everything is orderly and calm.  For the entire time we were in Tokyo, we didn’t hear one car horn being sounded, nor did we see anyone raise their voice out of frustration or abusing others to move out of the way.  They seemingly walk, ride their bikes and drive their cars around peacefully and respectfully towards each other.  It is so busy, the hustle and bustle of one of the busiest cities in the world…yet it is quiet on the streets!

In Tokyo there is lots to do with Kids, here are just a few ideas:

  • Kiddy Land
  • Kidzania
  • Sky Tree (if you like heights)
  • Ueno Zoo
  • Lego land
  • Disneyland

Other ideas are to visit the local markets, and in particular the fish markets!  Kids will love wandering around the markets looking at all the seafood on display.  Local parks and playgrounds are also good.  We did notice though, in all the parks we saw, there is no grass (just dirt or cement), however the equipment was good.  There were no fences around the parks and all the parks we saw were right beside busy expressways and roads.

Japan Playground

Baseball is huge in Japan, so depending on the ages of your kids – you could catch a game.

We then headed to the elusive Mt Fuji and got a glimpse of her in all her beauty.  We took our time and drove through the Japanese Alps staying in little towns called Matsumoto and Kanazawa.  While in Matsumoto we had the chance to stay in a traditional Japanese hotel and enjoy the hot spring baths. We also drove past the Mt Fuji Amusement Park or commonly known as Fuji-Q Highland.  An amazing park for kids, with Mt Fuji as the backdrop!

Amusement Park Mt Fuji

Amusement Park Mt Fuji

We continued driving to Kyoto and had 3 nights in this beautiful city.  I would describe Kyoto as traditional and modern Japan joined together.  I loved the shopping and the food in Kyoto!  We did a walk through the Gion district which is famous for its teahouses and Geisha girls.

We left Kyoto and caught the bullet train to Hiroshima. Hiroshima is a modern city, due largely to the fact it was destroyed by the atomic bomb during WWII.  Visiting the Peace Park was solemn,  yet we came away feeling positive after seeing the progression the Japanese people have made and how they have moved forward positively.

In the peace park there is ruins of the Genbaku Dome, which was one of the few buildings that was left standing.   It was humbling to visit Hiroshima, and to experience the powerful impact the A Bomb had on both Japan and Australia’s history.

Hiroshima
Hiroshima

Whilst in Hiroshima we also experienced an earthquake!  Up on the 16th floor in the early hours of the morning, it was quite scary to say the least.

On the bullet train again, and this time heading to Osaka.  There was something different about Osaka compared to all the other cities we had visited.  Osaka had modern architecture, and a buzzing nightlife.  The food in Japan, on a whole, was fantastic and was mainly seafood (fish) and rice.  By the time we arrived in Osaka, we were craving steak…and we found it!

Wagyu was on the lunch time special at a downtown steak house.  It worked out to be approx. $10 Aussie, and it was the most tender steak we have EVER tasted.  Absolutely mouth-watering, we felt pleased as the same steak house charged $100 A for the evening menu.

Whilst in Osaka with Kids, a must is to head to Nara to visit Todai-ji-Hall and the huge Buddha.  There is a small square hole in the base of one of the temple’s great wooden pillars, and this hole is the size of Buddha’s nostril.  The Buddhist’s believe if a child can crawl through the hole, they will be granted a life of happiness.

And of course…. Universal studios Japan is in Osaka, so this is a must visit with kids.

One aspect of our trip that did overwhelmingly stand out for us was the kids of Japan.  Their level of independence and self-reliance was noticeable.  It was very common to see young kids (as young as 8&9) walking to School without adults.

It appears that Japan prides itself on a low crime rate and creating a safe society for their children to grow up in….and they have certainly achieved this.

Japan has 5 times the population of Australia yet has 4 times less the crime rate.

On a final note, if nothing in this blog has ignited you to want to come and visit Japan, how about you come to experience the toilets!  They are a work of art.  From heated seats to arm rests and self-opening lids…it was sheer luxury J

Sayonara and have a happy day out.

Megan Carige

Author

Happydayout.com.au

The Mysteries of the Australian Pelican!

My first blog…here goes!

It was about 12 months ago that the Illustrator for Happy Day Out in Toowoomba, Laura, started her sketching. It was her idea to put a Pelican into the sketch for the Lake Annand page, and I went with it!

I know, right? A Pelican in Toowoomba!

We are about 180 kms from the nearest beach, what are the chances of a Pelican being spotted? But hey, these gracious large water birds do head inland at times I said to myself! I remembered at School doing a study on the mysteries of the Australian Pelican, and on occasions they congregate inland to breed.

This is a children’s story book after all, and I told myself there is nothing better than imagination, a little magic and fairytale.

As the sketches were being finalized, the Pelican page (as I referred to it) quickly became one of my favourites and as I stared into the page I could almost see the characters Finn & Henry moving around feeding the ducks and laughing and yelling out “there’s a Pelican”.

In early September 2017 we were only weeks away from finalising the book. The draft was with the Editor having its final touches and we were getting ready to send to the printers.  It was the same time I took the boys to the Water Bird Habitat, in Toowoomba, to feed the ducks. The water bird habitat is only meters from Lake Annand and shares the same water system AND what should be there….yep you guessed it, A PELICAN!!

Pelican at the Water Bird Habitat

I called it my good Omen and I was excited to see a pelican in all its glory in Toowoomba! I was more excited than the kids!

It was tranquil watching the Pelican sit on the edge of the lake, having travelled so far from home. It was almost the magic of the fairytale in the book had come true.

It got me thinking just what do Pelicans eat when they are inland? Are the fish big enough? After some research I understand that whilst fish are the preferred option for Pelicans, occasionally they will eat amphibians, turtles, crustaceans, insects, birds and mammals….so look out little birds at the Waterbird Habitat!

And for those interested, according to Google the Pelican symbolizes social responsibility and active attributes, such as social, teamwork, charity, generosity and friendliness. This is because these birds are highly social and reliant upon their groups.

If you are out and about today with the kids, keep an eye out for a Pelican, even if you don’t live near the beach.

Have a happy day everyone,

Megan
Author
www.happydayout.com.au