Thursday, 25 August 2016

Nannie's Visit

Ella's Nannie, (my mom) came to visit us for the first three weeks of August, hence the lack of activity on the blog. I can't believe how quickly three weeks passed us by, and that her visit is already over. It was so great having my mom here. She was a big help around the house, not just with things like cooking and doing our laundry (which I already feel like I'm behind with since she left!) but she also gave Andy and I the opportunity to go out a few times together, which we rarely get to do since Ella was born. However, by far the best thing about her being here was seeing her relationship with Ella develop even further.

We saw my parents in London in July, so it was actually only three weeks later when my mom arrived in Melbourne. Ella and I met her at the airport and Ella gave her the biggest smile and cuddled right in when my mom picked her up. She doesn't normally give out cuddles when you pick her up, so to see her lie her head on my mom's shoulder with a big smile on her face really melted my heart. In fact someone else at the airport commented on how beautiful the moment was. Ella definitely recognised her Nannie, and knows that she is someone special who cares about her!

It was a warm, sunny winter's day, so once my mom had freshened up after her 24 hours of travel we headed over to Abbotsford Convent to meet Charlotte and Adam for a glass of wine. Andy was coaching football but joined us once he was finished, and then we all headed back to ours for an impromptu BBQ.

That week on my first day off we walked to Birdie Num Nums in Carlton, a café with a sand pit and play area outside. I'd read about it in some article or another about good cafés for kids. It had rained earlier in the week so the sand was still wet, and I thought that the toys were in pretty rough shape, but Ella didn't seem to mind. She kept herself busy while my mom and I drank Chai lattés and shared a (very average) piece of carrot cake. I really love the idea of a play area in a café but it was a fair distance for us to get to (about a 45-50 minute walk) so I'm not sure I'd make the trek again without a car.

Birdie Num Nums play area

Walking home through Edinburgh Gardens
On my second day off we took Ella to the zoo for the first time. I purchased a membership which is about $90. You can go to the Melbourne Zoo, Healesville Sanctuary, and the Weribee Open Range Zoo as many times as you want in a year. The coolest bit of the zoo for us was the walk-through Lemur Island exhibit. It is totally open and you just walk amongst the lemurs as they run and jump around you. The exhibits that were the best for Ella were ones where the animals were behind glass. As she can't walk or stand on her own yet, she could look and lean on the glass at the animals without having to be held by us or in her pram. I think the zoo will be a bit more enjoyable for her once she is walking, as she didn't want to stay in her pram all afternoon but we couldn't really let her just crawl wherever she wanted. The best part of the day for mom and I was when she took a nap in her pram and we had lunch, complete with mulled wine and then scones and tea for dessert!

Lemur island
Ella loved petting this stuffed lion in the zoo gift shop!
The Friday of that week my mom stayed in with Ella so that Andy and I could have a date night. We met up with Charlotte and Adam in the city for dinner at Chin Chin. Andy and I had never been there, which is poor form from us. It's one of Melbourne's top restaurants and we have been here for nearly four years! They don't take bookings so you have to get there early, put your name down, and then go for drinks until they call you. We were quoted about a 2.5 hour wait, which was fine as we had a baby-sitter at home, so no worries! Charlotte and Adam took us to a few different bars for some very Melbourne cocktails. Dinner was incredibly yummy. We all went for the "feed me" option which was about $70 each, and they just bring you a range of their top dishes, including dessert. It was SUCH a good night. Going out and feeling like a normal adult was a big treat. You could definitely spot the parents at our table as by midnight when we finished Andy and I were struggling to stay awake, which I don't think was the case for Charlotte and Adam!

The second week we went to Noosa which I wrote about in my last post. Our last week together we stayed pretty local. The weather was nice so Ella had lots of walks and trips to the park with my mom while Andy and I were at work. In the three weeks my mom was here Ella seemed to grow up so much, you could pretty much see changes every day. She is a very confident climber now, and can pull herself up and stand, although she is still hesitant to try and take any steps. She's also started repeating things we say, and when you ask her what a duck says, she replies "kack kack kack" which is super cute. 

It was so special to have my mom visit, and like every time we are together it went by much too quickly. We said a tearful goodbye on Saturday morning, and now the countdown until the next visit is on. Andy, Ella and I are back to our little family of three, forever contemplating when will be the best time to move to Canada, so that our little girl can grow up with her extended family around her (and her English family a much closer plane ride away). It does not help that Melbourne is such a cool city (the most liveable city in the world, for the sixth year in a row), we have good jobs, and feel fairly settled here now. But does that all matter when you don't have your family around you? That's the question we seem to never have an answer to! 

Fun times at our local park
Lots of fun climbing in and out of this tunnel, while Nannie works out how to use her phone!

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Noosa with Nannie

I've been a bit slack on the blog in the last month. I've actually notice that this is a pattern with me. Looking back on the past three years I always go through a blog drought in the winter. It must be the dark nights that make me want to just switch off and watch TV or read rather than try and write, which I find quite challenging. On top of that we've been very busy with Nannie (my mom) who visited us for the past three weeks. Sadly we said goodbye to her yesterday morning, but we had a lot of fun while she was here. The highlight (besides just seeing Ella and my mom continue to form their special relationship) was having a three day "girls weekend" in Noosa last week.

Ella, my mom and I headed up last Thursday morning, staying in the Nautilus Resort, located pretty much in the middle of Noosa Heads and Noosaville. This was my second visit to Noosa, Andy and I holidayed here in September 2013 and absolutely loved it. Unfortunately Andy could not join us this time as he had to work. I am very lucky at the moment being part-time and can be fairly flexible with the days I work, so could rearrange that week to have my two days off on a Thursday and Friday to take a long weekend.

We flew with Virgin Australia were lucky to have an extra seat in our row of three, giving Ella lots of space to crawl around. She was pretty good on the flight, which was just over two hours. That's actually a pretty short flight for our jet-setting baby! I arranged for an airport transfer with Rentacar Noosa, who I would highly recommend. This was the first time I've felt like the car seat they had was properly installed (we've even had one transfer in Melbourne where we had to install the car seat ourselves!), new, clean and it was no problem to have a rear facing one, which is much safer for babies. Ah, the things you have to organise when you travel with a baby!

Anyway we arrived at our resort around noon. We had a two bedroom place which was a good size for us. Not the most modern of apartments but a good price and the resort had a swimming pool, heated spa, and tennis court. As mentioned above it was located about a 20 minute walk from both Noosa Heads (the beach side) and Noosaville (the river side). Once we got settled in we headed towards Noosaville for some lunch and exploring.

Nautilus Resort Noosa
We had fish and chips at Red Emporer by the river, which Ella enjoyed, although for her we peeled off the batter of the fish and she didn't have any chips - I think she is still too young for anything like that. We then browsed a few shops, stopped for Gelato, and took Ella down to the sandy banks in the river. Boy did she love it!! She happily crawled through the sand, stopping to do what looked like "sand angles" and very interested in all the ducks and pelicans in the water. While walking through Noosaville we took note of many delicious looking restaurants, however ended up spending the rest of our holiday in Noosa Heads so didn't get the chance to try any of them out.

On Friday miss Ella woke nice and early so I took her for a walk and ended up at Little Cove Coffee, which is where Andy and I went for coffees on our last visit to Noosa. It was very nostalgic, actually, remembering our trip nearly three years ago, when we had just moved to Australia, had only been married about a year, and were child free!

Walk to Little Coffee Cove - not a bad view!
On the walk back Ella fell asleep and so I parked her beside the pool in our resort while mom and I got our books and planned on relaxing.

That was short-lived, of course, as soon as my mom came to the pool with fresh cups of tea Ella woke up and wanted to play. It was pretty warm by then, so we got changed into our bathing suits and took Ella for a swim in the pool. When I say pool, I mean "heated spa", as the pool seemed a bit too cold. I will say it was too cold for Ella, but really it was too cold for me! The spa was the perfect temperature however and we spent the rest of the morning there splashing around with Ella.

Pre Swimming snack - a yummy pear. 

In the afternoon we headed to Noosa Heads and browsed the shops on Hasting Street. Ella had the most epic nap in her pram, allowing us to get not only a Gelato but a glass of wine as well! We tried the gelato at Nitrogenie, where they make the ice cream in front of you fresh eggs, cream, and real food ingredients, and then frozen with liquid nitrogen. It was pretty expensive as far as gelato goes, but very delicious and creamy and a fun experience to see it being made in front of you.

After devouring our gelato (and regretting not getting two!) we strolled along Hastings Street and noticed all of the inviting looking bars and restaurants, with outdoor seating in the beautiful sunshine. We thought we'd risk it and try and get a sneaky glass of wine in at Miss Moneypennys, and my very well behaved daughter slept almost the whole time! When she woke up she was super calm and cuddely and generously let us finish up our wine while sitting on my lap. If only it was always this easy!

We took Ella down to the beach after that, so that she could crawl around and burn some energy for a while. She loved the sand again, along with the Bush Turkeys, that can be seen frequently around Noosa. We ended up getting a pizza for dinner and ate it on the beach while watching the sunset before heading back to our resort for the night. We got the "pizza on the beach" idea from a dad and daughter that were doing the same. The little girl was about four years old and they were having the best time together. After enquiring about where to get the pizza from, we sat down to eat with Ella. Pizza with a one-year-old on the beach is slight less relaxing than pizza with a four-year-old. Lesson learned! I did, however, manage to keep pizza from getting on her cute cardigan, which I was pretty proud of.

On Saturday was our last full day. In the morning we all went to Little Cove Coffee for breakfast, where Ella enjoyed a pumpkin, sage and pear quiche which was very yum.

We then took Ella back to the beach for a closer look at the water. She was very intrigued and I think confused as to why the water kept coming closer, and then going away. Prior to this she has only really experienced water in the bath or a swimming pool, so this was a whole new territory. She got a big shock as she tried crawling towards the water but then was met with a little wave that splashed her in the face. She was not too happy about that!! After that it took a bit of convincing to get her near the water again, so we spent some time letting her experience the water running over her feet, and I think she seemed to get over her initial distrust of it.

After getting Ella changed into some dry clothes we went for lunch, followed buy some shopping for Ella on Hastings St. Ella fell asleep and after a bit of searching we found a spot in the sun to have some wine. Rather optimistically we ordered a whole bottle, so of course she woke up as soon as it was opened! She was less willing to sit nicely while we drank wine this time, so after a glass each we decided to take her to the beach again for more crawling time. Luckily we were able to take the remainder of the bottle of wine with us, which we enjoyed once we got Ella back to the resort and into bed.

We played on the beach for a while again - Ella was super interested in some kids playing with a soccer ball nearby. I felt a bit sorry for her as she really looked like she wanted to join in, and kept crawling towards them and pointing at them. She also amazed us with some new skills in being able to pull herself up and climb, as seen in the video below:


I know this looks like just a very boring video of a baby doing normal baby things, but to her mom and Nannie this was the most amazing thing ever.

And that was it! Sunday morning seemed to come around way too quickly, and I really wished that we had at least one more day. Noosa was the perfect place for us to escape the Melbourne winter and just chill out with Ella. It was nice to just take each day as it came and not feel like we had to "do" a lot of stuff to get the most out of our days. We were happy to just go with the Ella-flow, which is basically they key to enjoying a holiday with a baby or young child.

We did lots of other fun things with my mom which I will write about in our next post. Of course now the next countdown is on until we see my parents again, which is only four months away when we meet them in California for Christmas!

Saturday, 23 July 2016

England Holiday Highlights Part 2

After spending 10 days in Waterlooville with Andy's parents, we headed up to Bicester for the weekend for Lee and Claire's wedding. We did, however, have one very important stop along the way... picking up my parents from Gatwick Airport! Yay! After the obligatory sit down and catch up at the airport Costa Coffee we all piled into the huge van Andy's dad had rented to drive us around for the week. We all joked that Dave should start a business called "Dave's Retirement Taxis" as he did a lot of driving around with us while we were in England.

We stopped for lunch just outside of Bicester at a pub called The Lion Wendlebury. What a find this was! There was a garden outside and the grandparents took turns playing with Ella out there, which meant we were able to enjoy a long, leisurely lunch together. The food was delicious, impressing even our Melbourne food snob selves.

Ella with her two Grandma's for the first time!
Enjoying our lunch at The Lion
Bicester is a little town about an hour north west of London, near Oxford. It is most famous for Bicester Village, which is a huge outlet shopping centre. The town centre is really cutesy and looks exactly like you'd expect a small English village to look like. We stayed at The Kings Arms Hotel with the rest of the wedding party, right in the centre of town. My parents were staying at an Airbnb about half an hour walk away with Ella, giving Andy and I our first "weekend away from the baby" (sort of).

The weekend was pretty busy, especially for Andy as he had to fulfil all his best man duties. The Friday was Ella's first birthday, which she spent mostly with my parents. We did have lunch all together while she opened some presents, but it was a pretty low key first birthday. I feel kind of sad and guilty about that, but I am happy that we were able to spend so much time with both sets of grandparents around her birthday. Maybe we will have a party next year. I decided in the end to save her first taste of cake/sugar for another time. Again, maybe next year. I am trying to hold off on her tasting sugar as long as possible!

Opening presents!
The wedding was absolutely gorgeous. There was a church ceremony at St. Mary's church in Launton, followed by a reception at The Tythe Barn. It was so much fun to see all of Andy's friends again - there is definitely never a dull moment around that group! Andy's best man speech was very funny, I will admit I was nervous for him throughout dinner, but he did a great job and kept everyone very engaged. After the speeches he was able to relax - probably for the first time since we got to England! In the picture below you can see the dress I mentioned in my last post - found in under half an hour and on sale - I was pretty proud of that one!

After the wedding we headed to London for the last leg of our trip. We managed to book a two bedroom Airbnb in Herne Hill, which is where Andy and I first lived together. I loved living in Herne Hill (I lived there previously with flatmates as well) and being in the area again brought back so many memories. Brockwell Park where we regularly did our runs and where the Lido is located - a gym and outdoor pool we used to be members at. Blackbird Bakery, where we would get coffees on a weekend morning (which I was horrified to see was replaced by a mobile phone shop, and later relieved to see they had just moved to a bigger location). The little Sainsbury Local where we would do our shopping (now Tesco's has also moved in next door). The Florence, The Commercial and The Prince Regent pubs we frequented regularly, mainly with our teacher friends. The walk from Herne Hill to Brixton, where most of my friends lived. Ahhh, it all seems like so long ago!

My old street in Herne Hill
Our first day in London we were proper tourists and went up The Shard, home to London's highest views. It was being built when we lived there and was finished in 2012, just before we moved to London. It costs 25 quid to get to the top, which always seemed pretty extreme, but it is one thing neither we nor my parents had done in London so we thought, why not? We were lucky to visit on a very clear day and it was cool to see London from a bird's eye view, especially picking out landmarks we were familiar with from when we lived there. There are two viewing levels, and the highest one is open so you can hear and feel the wind whistling through. The coolest bit was actually the toilets, which are called "A Loo with a View" as each stall is up against a floor to ceiling pane of glass.

After that we visited Borough Market for some lunch, and then took a long walk along the Thames to Southbank and then through Trafalgar Square, St. James' Park and all the way to Victoria Station where we caught a train back to Herne Hill. This was also where we said good-bye to Andy's parents, who returned to Waterlooville after that. It was, as always, very sad to say good-bye.

Borough Market

Trafalgar Square
St. James Park - Dave and Andy waiting for the slow walkers to catch up!
St. James Park
We spent the rest of our time in the local area, discovering all the great places there are for kids that I had no idea about when I lived there. We had beautiful, sunny weather these last few days... It almost made me want to move back to London. However reality hit when I checked out some local house prices - they are even more extortionate than Melbourne! My mom and I went to a yoga class at Yoga Point in Herne Hill, we had lunch in Brixton Village, and then spent the afternoon at the duck ponds, paddling pools and sand pits at Brockwell Park (a favourite of Ella's). 

Brockwell Park paddling pools

Brockwell Park duck ponds
Andy and I also visited our old school, which was where we both started our teaching careers, albeit at different times. I left there mid-2011, but there was still quite a few familiar faces and it was brilliant to catch up with them and introduce them to Ella. After that visit we met up with my parents in Dulwich Village and visited one of THE best bakeries I think I've ever been to, called Gail's. After making the nearly impossible choice of what to have for lunch, and dessert (a chocolate and cherry scone, which was super yum), we went to nearby Dulwich Park for a picnic. The park has an immense playground so my parents took Ella there for a play while Andy and I had a little nap in the park - a rare luxury to have a bit of time alone together! We  then walked to the Horniman Museum in Forest Hill. The museum and grounds are another great place for kids in South London. The gardens are high on a hill and have a great view of the city, and include a Nature Walk and and Animal Walk where you can visit goats, alpachas and rabbits among others. Inside the museum there are some paid exhibitions and an aquarium, but as it was getting late we just wandered around the free part, which is mainly taxidermy, fossils and skeletons of just about every animal you could think of. We then had some ice cream in the sun before walking about an hour back to our apartment in Herne Hill.

Ella and her Nannie and Grampie in Dulwich Park
Horniman Museum
And then next day was our flight back to Melbourne. My parents left very early for their flights to Dublin, where they started the next leg of their European vacation. We had the whole day until our flights that evening, and our Airbnb hosts graciously let us stay in the apartment as late as we needed to. We took Ella back to Brockwell park for a play in the playground and had some breakfast at hte Lido Cafe, before packing up our stuff and heading off to the airport. Andy's dad amazingly drove back to London to take us to the airport which was so super helpful. 

One last play in Brockwell Park

Our flights back actually went much better with Ella than our flights to London. She slept a lot more (although only on us again), but it meant she was less cranky when she was awake. We arrived back in Melbourne last Saturday morning, sad to say good-bye to our family but also happy to be back in what is currently our "home". It was a bit easier to say good bye this time as my mom is actually coming to visit us in less than two weeks, so we are eagerly looking foward to having her stay with us for a few weeks. 

Ella and Andy having a nap in Abu Dhabi airport

If only we could actually afford to get Ella her own seat!

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

England Holiday Highlights - Part 1

We are back from our holiday in England, currently dealing with jet lag and the dreaded return to work. Our little Ella has adjusted fairly well, sleeping through the last night, after a few very restless and exhausting nights for us. I think daycare tired her out yesterday! 

We spent the first 10 days of our holiday in Waterlooville, East Hampshire (near Portsmouth) at Andy's parents house, aka Grandad and Grandma Bunny. We then travelled to Bicester for the wedding of Lee and Claire, stoping at Gatwick Airport to pick up my parents, aka Nannie and Grampie, who flew in from Toronto. After Bicester we went to London for a few days with Nannie and Grampie, staying in an Airbnb in Herne Hill, our old stomping ground. 

Our first afternoon we had lovely weather (which was not true of the majority of the trip). Andy's parents took Ella out for a big walk so she would nap after our long, arduous flight from Melbourne, also giving Andy and I a chance to freshen up and have a nap. We spent the afternoon in the back garden, blowing bubbles, eating ice cream, and exploring a local park. 

On our second day I headed up to London on the train to catch up with my old friends. We met up at Pop Brixton, located in Brixton, as you might have guessed by the name. Most of my friends live or lived in Brixton during my time in London so it's fair to say I've spent a lot of time in this part of the city. Pop Brixton is new to me though, I think it was built some time in 2015, and is an evolving community space. It was commissioned by the council, supporting local jobs, training, and businesses. It's jumble of pop-up bars, restaurants (eat in and take-away), independent shops and workspaces, all made up from old shipping containers. Sounds weird but it really works. At the back there is an area that looks like a mini football field, with chairs, bars, and a huge screen set up for sports watching, where we saw Ireland beat Italy in the Eurocup. So great to try out a new place and see all my friends!

Me and Guillaume
Me, Alison and Guillaume
Clause, me, Betty and Alison enjoying our food - I'm eating my dessert crepe here, Betty has a bowl of Vietnamese
While in London I stayed at Jon and Betty's place. So great to catch up with these guys, I really miss them living in Melbourne with us. Betty had a report writing day the next day (aka a day off), so I went to a yoga class in the morning at Triyoga while she did some report writing, and then met her in Primrose Hill for lunch. To get from Triyoga to the cafe I was able to walk along Regent's canal which was very calm and peaceful - I love finding places like this in a very busy city! After our lunch I headed back to Waterlooville on the train, saying good-bye to Andy for the next few days as he headed to Barcelona for Lee's stag do. I know very little of what went on this weekend and nor do I want to!

Regent's Canal, Primrose Hill
While Andy was away Dave, Ella and I took a trip to Staunton Farm. Located in East Hampshire, we checked out cows, goats, llamas, donkeys, alpacas and even an ostrich. There was also a great soft play area for babies/toddlers in the Play Barn which Ella enjoyed. Soft play areas and animals are a perfect combination for one-year-olds!

That weekend we were busy with Andy's dad's 60th birthday/retirement party. A great chance to catch up with all of Andy's family - especially Ella's only living great-grandparent. Andy managed to make it for the party Sunday afternoon, looking surprisingly fresh after his weekend in Barcelona!

Ella - stealing the show at Dave's retirement party
Mmmm cake!
After the weekend we headed over to Emsworth, a small town in Hampshire on the south coast. We enjoyed a walk along the Chichester Harbour, feeding some ducks, and wandering around the cute town looking in charity shops and stoping for lunch at the Driftwood Café.

Emsworth: Town square, Lake Emsworth and feeding the ducks
Our second last day in Waterlooville included a shopping trip to Portsmouth where I found a dress to wear at Lee and Claire's wedding in about half an hour... surely that is some kind of record?! And it was on sale, what a bonus! (Pics to follow in the next post.)

We also visited the Waterlooville Leisure Centre to take Ella swimming. Unfortunately the water was pretty cold so we didn't stay long. However once there we discovered they have a HUGE play centre, with different areas for different ages. Ella absolutely loves any sort of soft play centre - they are a great place for her to crawl around and explore. Each section of the play centre was designed to look like a different country, and funnily enough the baby section was Australia!

Waterlooville Playcentre

Our last night was spent with Andy's good friend's Alex and Michelle, who have a 9 month old. Ella loved playing with all her toys and especially with their dog, Woody. She just cuddled up to him at the end of the night which was super cute. 

Ella and Woody
And that's all for part 1! Stay tuned for part 2, with highlights from our weekend in Bicester and a time in London. We got to spend time with my parents and shockingly the sun actually came out for our last few days, before returning to wintery Melbourne.