Sunday, 21 May 2017

Mother's Day Weekend

Last weekend was Mother’s Day here in Australia. My second one as a mom, but more importantly the first one I’ve spent with my own mom since 2005!

The weekend kicked off on Friday after school with a Mother’s Day Tea at Ella’s daycare. The weather was beautiful so we got to sit outside with the rest of the kids in her room and their mummies and eat snacks provided by the daycare. It was nice to get to know some of the other mums who are local, and also I’ve never had so much attention from Ella! As soon as I got there she gave me a huge hug and then wanted to sit on my lap to eat all her snacks. While all of the other kids ran around the yard playing she just wanted to stick close to me and play with me. It was cute, as she is not like this at home at all! I was a very clingy kid (so my parents tell me), so I wonder if Ella will end up being the same.

Saturday  morning my mom and I got up nice and early to attend Wanderlust 108. I went to their first event in Melbourne last year and absolutely loved it. Wanderlust is a “mindful triathlon”, consisting of a 5k run/walk, 75 minutes of yoga, and then a 30 minute meditation session. My mom and I both used to run quite regularly, but haven’t over the past two years (her because of a knee injury and me due to having a baby). When I first suggested we attend Wanderlust while she was here in Melbourne we decided we’d just take the 5k pretty easy and walk it. As the date of Wanderlust approached, we changed our thinking and agreed do a run/walk combo, taking a break from running every five minutes or so. The morning of, we decided we’d start off with a light jog, and then just see how things went from there. We ended up running the whole thing in 31 minutes, which we were both pretty pleased with given our lack of running prior to the event. Yay, us! And I’m happy to report my mom had no knee pain afterwards, which was a double win.

Mom and me at Wanderlust Melbourne
After the run we had about an hour to kill before the yoga session, so we wandered through the marketplace, checking out all the healthy eats and yoga gear. We ended up getting a chia porridge topped with fruit that reminded me of being back in Bali. The yoga session was a fairly challenging 75 minutes of vinyasa led by Tahl Rinsky and then we did a 30 minute guided meditation session. I really enjoyed the event, and we were lucky to have had beautiful weather for it.

Pre-yoga porridge
After Wanderlust we met up with Andy and Ella, and a few friends for some well deserved lunch by the beach in St. Kilda. Our friends have a son who is about 6 months younger than Ella, so the two of them had a good time playing in the sand while we waited for our food.

On Sunday, Mother’s Day, the four of us went out for brunch at Smug Relish, my new favourite local café. It’s on Lygon St. in Brunswick East, about a ten minute walk from our house. The food is pretty good and reasonably priced, but more importantly there is a large area at the back with a big table, some couches and a small play area. Also the café never seems to be crazy busy, so you can always get a table and the play area is quiet, which Ella likes. She can play there on her own while we relax on the sofas until the food comes. Perfect!

Smug Relish, back room with play area
After brunch Andy had to coach soccer, so my mom and I headed into the city with Ella. We went to the State Library, where they have a Play Pod set up in the covered courtyard. The Play Pod has a few toys and tables for crafts, cosy reading corners, and has a rotating theme based on a children’s book that changes every few months. Currently the theme is based on the book “Where is the Green Sheep?” by Mem Fox, which is one of our favourite books to read before bed. When you finally find the green sheep at the end of the book he is sleeping, so now when we read the book, which asks “where is the green sheep?” every few lines, Ella goes “shhhhhhh” with her finger up at her lips. It’s so cute.

There's the green sheep!

Reading corner in the State Library

Play Pod, State Library

We have been to the Play Pod before and I always think it’s a bit “meh”. Ella, however, loves it. We spent nearly two hours there, alternating between playing with various toys, drawing, and reading. After that we gave Ella her snack (an apple), put her in her pram, and she was fast asleep within minutes. My mom and I took advantage of this and sat down to have our snack, a salted caramel chocolate slice from the library café, Mr Tusk. Mmmmm it was nice. Slightly less healthy than Ella’s apple! I would be so much healthier if I just ate what Ella ate.

My mom and I then headed to the Emporium to do a bit of shopping, and I picked up a few bits from Uniqlo before getting frustrated with the crowds. Ella was still asleep so we took advantage of that to get a glass of wine and a light dinner from Mama's Buoi, a Vietnamese restaurant down a laneway in the city. Ella was nice enough to stay asleep until we were nearly finished our food, giving my mom and I a chance to sit down and have a nice dinner together.

Sleeping baby = time for a glass of wine!
We stopped in Carlton Gardens to give Ella a chance to run around before heading home. Most of my life as a mom right now involves me finding ways to tire out Ella so she sleeps well at night. By this time it was getting dark, so the Royal Exhibition building and fountain outside were lit up which was beautiful.

Royal Exhibition Building, Carlton Gardens

All in all I had a wonderful mother’s day weekend, spending lots of quality time with both my mom and my little girl. Who could ask for anything more?

Gratuitous shot of Ella as she looks so cute here!

Saturday, 6 May 2017

Bali with Toddler - Tips!

We recently spent ten days in Bali with both of our families, and of course Ella, who is nearly two years old. Prior to our trip I scoured the internet for advice on travelling in Bali with a toddler. Now that we've been, here is my advice on flights and what to bring:

Getting There/Away:

When booking flights to Denpasar, Bali, the only options for direct flights from Melbourne were with Garuda Indonesia and Jetstar or Qantas. Qantas was the most expensive option by far, with Jetstar and Garuda fairly similar in price. After a bit of research I decided to book with the Indonesian carrier. They had good reviews and I prefer to avoid Jetstar when possible! The flight is about zix hours long. After both flights I think we made the right choice, I would definitely recommend flying with Garuda and would probably book with them again if we ever get the chance to return to Bali.

On our way out we had a 9am flight from Melbourne Tullamarine airport. They are currently renovating the International terminal (yay! It has to be one of the most boring international terminals ever, so the renos are long overdue), but that meant there was not much in the way of shopping/entertainment while we waited for our flight. After a quick breakfast at Movida, which is frankly always a disappointment, we headed to our gate. On our way we passed by a random little playhouse, which I have never seen before in this airport. Ella loved it and we ended up staying there until our flight boarded.

The only thing that was slightly annoying about the airline was that they wouldn’t let us take our Mountain Buggy Nano with us on board. We specifically bought this pram as it folds up to meet airline regulations in terms of size and weight for carry-on baggage. Garuda made us check it at the gate, saying that some customers had started opening the pram on board making it unsafe. I wonder if this is a rule on all airplanes now? I hate it when stupid people ruin things for the rest of us!

The flight attendants were excellent with Ella, they paid a lot of attention to her, talking and playing with her throughout the flight. On our flight to Bali we were given bassinet seats, although she is way too big for them now. The extra legroom did give her some room to play down by our feet, but keeping her contained and out of the aisles was hard work. At the start of  the flight they gave Ella a little pouch with two finger puppets that kept her amused for a while, and also a little stuffed toy. They also gave us some pretty good baby food when the meals were served.

Playing with her finger puppets courtesy of Garuda Indonesia
We thought Ella might have a sleep on the flight a few hours in, when she would regularly have her afternoon nap, but of course she ended up falling asleep 12 minutes before we landed! Not having our pram right when we got off the plane was annoying here, as we had to wait for it with the rest of our luggage. Poor Andy had to carry our sleeping toddler off the plane, through immigration, to the baggage claim area. A sleeping toddler is a total dead weight, like carrying a 12kg sack of potatoes with you everywhere. Needless to say, she did not stay asleep long and was pretty cranky and unhappy when she woke!

We had arranged an airport transport with our villa (rented through airbnb), so getting out of the airport was quick and easy. The drive to Canggu took about 45 minutes, and was an eye opener for our parents! I don’t think either had experienced the chaotic roads of South East Asia, with families on scooters whizzing by. Ella was pretty amused as she was not in a car seat for the first time in her young life (more on that below). She sat/stood on Andy’s lap, and discovered the handles above the window to hold on to, insisting that everyone else in the car also hold on to their handles.

Our flight back to Melbourne was a night flight, departing at 11:30pm. Ella fell asleep in the car on the way to the airport and pretty much stayed asleep until we landed in Melbourne. So in that way it was a pretty easy journey! We did not get bassinet seats this time, the flight was full and there were quite a few younger babies on board. In a couple of months we will have no choice but to book a seat for Ella when she turns two years old. While I’m not looking forward to the extra cost, the extra space for our toddler will be a relief!

Packing Guide

It’s pretty much impossible to pack light when you travel with a toddler, especially when you are going somewhere for the first time. Here are some of the things we took with us to Bali, and how I’d pack differently if we were to come here again.

Port-a-cot. Our villa quoted us $15 (AUD) per day to rent a cot, which I thought was extortionate for a 10-day stay. You can buy a port-a-cot for less than that! Some villas might include a cot, but unfortunately ours did not. There are lots of baby rental places in Bali (here and here for example), but the prices of rental gear start to add up. In the end we opted to bring ours, as you can easily check it in on a flight, and we had transport to and from the airport both in Melbourne and in Bali. I’m glad we did in the end, as Ella is used to sleeping in it and it really was not a hassle to bring with us at all. We did buy some mosquito netting for the cot at Baby Bunting prior to our trip, but didn’t end up using it. Instead we pushed her cot right beside our bed, and then just hung the netting from our bed around her cot. Simples! (She did not like this at all though. The first two nights she woke up and when we tried to calm her down she would just be saying “out! out!” until we took her outside of the netting. Fortunately there were never any mosquitos in the house anyway, and she did eventually get used to it.)

Car Seat. We ummed and ahhed about whether or not to bring or rent a car seat in Bali. In the end we decided not to do either, based on advice from a friend. We were only in a car a few times during the trip, and not all taxis would have been able to fit the seat anyway. The drivers we had were all recommended by our villa manager, and were excellent. If we go to Bali again I would do the same and not bother with a car seat. 

Nappies and Swimming Nappies. Take lots of these! Swimming nappies don’t seem to exist, even at the large ex-pat supermarket we went to, and nappies in the right size can be hard to come by. Although we brought enough regular nappies I did check a pharmacy for them just out of curiosity, and the one I went into only had infant size. We had to ration the swimming nappies as I only brought 10 in total. This meant there was lots of nudie swimming for Ella! Thankfully she lets us know when she wants to poo now.

Baby food. Baby specific snacks and food don’t really exist, which was mostly fine as Ella eats a lot of what we eat. But we did bring some fruit and veg pouches which were great to have on the plane. Ella also loves these dried apple slices, and they were good to have on hand. I only brought one pack so I'd probably bring more if we went again.  

Baby carrier or pram.  We brought our Mountain Buggy Nano pram with us, which is an excellent travel pram. However, after about two days we stopped taking it out with us. The pavement (when it exists) was too narrow and bumpy and she likes to walk now unless she is tired anyway. It was useful for our day trip to Sanur, where there is a wide path along the beach and she could nap it in as we were out all day. When we went out for food or to the beach we either walked slowly with Ella, carried her, or put her in the baby carrier. The baby carrier was really only useful at night, as during the day it was too hot to put Ella in it. I did see lots of other, younger babies in carriers out and about though. Basically, we just relaxed and followed Ella’s lead, taking our time to get around Canggu. We weren’t in any rush.

Sunscreen. You can buy this readily in Bali, but if you have a specific one for babies that you know doesn’t irritate your child’s skin then I’d bring that with you.

Mosquito spray/cream. There were way less mosquitos than I thought there would be in Canggu. They were only really around at dusk when we would be going out for dinner. It was surprisingly hard to find any spray in the pharmacies, so if you have a brand you like, bring it with you. We also got  electronic mosquito repellents, which emit a high pitched sound (nearly inaudible to humans) that you can clip to your clothing. As a group we did not get many bites at all, so they must have worked?

Popsicle (ice lolly) moulds. This one is a bit random! But Ella loves an ice lolly and we found this a very good way to ensure she was staying hydrated. We filled the moulds with chopped up fruit and dissolved hydralyte tablets in water to make her some ice lollies every day. She’d happily eat two or three a day outside by the pool.

Nappy cream. Perhaps TMI here, but Ella did have diarrhoea for the last few days of our trip. Her poor bum was red and sore and we only had a little bit of nappy cream that we were rationing out.

Baby monitor. We did not bring one of these and totally regretted it! Our villa was pretty big and you couldn’t hear her crying if she was in bed and we were outside by the pool. Someone would have to stay inside or just constantly check on her when she was having her naps. It would have been great to have had a monitor to take out by the pool.

Baby floaty. We got the one pictured below from Baby Bunting for $30 before we left and it worked a treat. Ella loved it, there is a steering wheel attached so she pretended to drive it around the pool. It also had a detachable shade cover, which was very practical However it did end up with a hole in it before the end of the trip so for the price it wasn't very durable!

Clothing. All you need in Bali are light, cotton/bamboo clothes. Some of the things I brought for Ella were too heavy, even though they didn't seem that way for summer in Melbourne. Basically it's hot and humid all day and all night! Also at least one hat is a must.

Toys. We brought a few of Ella's smaller favourite toys. They were good for some distraction when we were getting ready to go out and we didn't want her in the pool. We ended up buying a bucket and shovel set for the beach at a market for about $4 (which we later gave to some Balinese kids). 

Grandparents. I highly recommend bringing these along whenever you travel with a toddler. They will occupy your toddler for hours and let you pretend you are on a holiday as just a couple. You may even get to eat a meal out just the two of you which is just heaven. If this is not possible, lots of people hire babysitters in Bali for about $5/hour. The Balinese are great with kids and if you live in Australia, chances are you know someone who has been to Bali with their kids that can give you a recommendation.

Those are my main tips. We had a great time in Bali and I'd totally go back. We stayed in the Canggu area, which I loved. You can read more on what we did while in Canggu here.

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Bali with Toddler

We spent this Easter term break in Bali on a family holiday. And when I say family, I mean like pretty much our whole family. My parents, Andy’s parents, my brother and his girlfriend all joined us for 10 days on the island. Pre-holiday research led me to choose Canggu as our destination. Canggu is located in South Bali, on the coast, just north of Kuta and Seminyak. We figured that the more popular destinations of Kuta and Seminyak would be too busy for us, and that the laid back surfer-vibe in Canggu would be the right atmosphere to de-stress after a busy first term of school. We briefly flirted with the idea of splitting the holiday into two parts, spending five days in Ubud and five in Canggu. However previous experiences travelling with Ella led us to choose just one destination so we could have a base and she could get used to her surroundings. 

Ella walking with her grandmothers in Canggu
Canggu: villas and rice paddies everywhere!

Scooters are the best form of transportation

Ella walking down the street with her bag and daddy

Canggu after an afternoon of rain

Where we stayed:

We rented this villa for the entire trip, located about 500m from Echo Beach in Canggu. The villa had four bedrooms, each with its own en-suite bathroom. Two of the bedrooms were in the main part of the house, and the other two were in their own separate buildings, with French doors opening on to the pool. The pool was the absolute highlight of the place! Turquoise brick lining, vertical wall fountains trickling water throughout the afternoon, a pagoda at one end, and a Jacuzzi area at the other. It was bliss! We spent A LOT of time in/by the pool: playing games, reading, entertaining Ella, and sitting outside in the pagoda with drinks at night.

LOVED this pool
What we did:

Having a toddler with us meant that we had to plan our days based around Ella-friendly activities and nap times. It definitely helped having lots of other adults around to assist with this. Andy and I were able to escape for morning coffees on our own, and even the odd lunch in the afternoon. Besides playing in the pool, which we spent a few hours doing each day, here are some of the other things we got up to in and around Canggu:
(Note: I’ve listed prices in Indonesian Rupiah. The exchange rate at the time was 1 AUD =  10,000 IRD, a nice and easy exchange rate for us to work with!)

We were closest to Echo Beach, which is a hot surfing spot. We took Ella down there when the tide was out to splash around in the shallow water and play in the black sand along the beach. The waves were pretty powerful so we had to hold on tightly to her while in the water. She seemed to love this though, giggling widely as waves crashed into her, nearly knocking her over. There was another beach close by called Batu Balong, just south of Echo Beach. You can easily walk from one to another in about 15-20 minutes. Batu Balong is supposed to be more suited to swimming but still looked pretty rough to me! Both beaches have sun loungers for rent and there are plenty of options for renting surfboards or taking surfing lessons.

Echo Beach

Walking from Batu Bolong to Echo Beach at sunset
There are endless cafés and restaurants that would rival any Melbourne eatery. Delicious coffee, and tasty, inventive, Instagram-worthy dishes wherever you go. There are a lot of very healthy choices, smoothies and big abundance bowls are very popular. This was the first holiday I’ve ever been on where I ate a lot but didn’t come home feeling bloated and heavy. I’m working on a separate post about our favourite places to eat in Canggu, as there are too many to list here.

Ashley, Mike and I went to The Practice, near Batu Bolong Beach. They run about four classes per day, and the cost was 140,000 IDR for a drop-in class. That was a bit higher than other places I’d looked in to, but it was worth every penny! The studio is a gorgeous space, an open air, domed building made of bamboo, looking out on to rice fields. It was one of the best yoga classes I've been to. The classes are mostly 90 minutes long, so there was time for the instructor to focus on teaching us about the breath and some of the deeper aspects of yoga, rather than just getting straight to the sequence of asanas. After class you can relax and have a cup of tea in a peaceful setting. I'd highly recommend this place, even if you have never done yoga before - there are beginner as well as more advanced classes.

This place is really geared towards expats and visitors that want the comforts of home in Bali. The entry cost is 350,000 IDR ($35) for the day, and includes a fitness studio, lap pool, restaurant, water park, various sporting grounds, tennis courts, bowling alley, bounce trampoline studio, spa and hairdressers. We went with Andy’s parents mainly for the water park. Ella loved it, and Andy and I had fun going on the water slides. If we didn’t have a kid I wouldn’t bother coming here (I’m not sure why you’d go to Bali for a water park when you could do that in Australia), but with kids it would be a pretty fun way to spend the day. They have a daycare as well, for children aged 2-12 years. If Andy and I came back on our own to Canggu with Ella, I can definitely see us making use of that facility!

Splash Waterpark, Canggu Club

Every Sunday there is a market in Canggu selling local, organic produce, baked goods (lots of gluten free and vegan options), jewellery and clothing. We bought Ella a doll made by Bali Street Mums, a charity that gives impoverished mothers the training and skills to create incomes and business opportunities. The market is held on the site of Samadi Bali, a small hotel, yoga studio and café.

Ella with her new doll, made by Bali Street Mums
Massages and Spas
There are a few spas to choose from in Canggu. Treatments are ridiculously cheap compared to Australia so it is a good opportunity to pamper yourself! I got my eyebrows waxed at Therapy Day Spa near Echo Beach. A small treatment, but the space was lovely and calming and I wish I had gone back for a massage here. I was given a glass of lemongrass water and cool cloth on arrival, and some tea when I was finished. Also I’ve never had such care and attention given to my brows!  Massages here started at 240,000 IDR, so very cheap by Australian standards.
We ended up having massages at a new place called ModLov Salon, which was on the same road as Samadi Bali. The massages were cheap at 150,000 IDR but the space wasn’t as calming as Therapy and you could hear the noise from the road the whole time. Still, a pretty good massage for the price!

Wildlife Spotting
Ella absolutely loved spotting all the little lizards darting around everywhere. There were also lots of stray dogs to point out (she probably didn't understand why I wouldn't let her pet these dogs), cows and various other interesting insects. 

HUGE cricket!

Day Trips
Andy’s dad really wanted to visit the Bali Bird Park, so we combined that with a trip to Sanur, which is just east of Denpasar. I’d read that the beaches were a lot calmer and better suited to swimming than where we were staying. There is also a board walk that runs along the beach, past many hotels, restaurants and market stalls. This was great for having a pram! Only Andy and his dad went to the Bird Park which they said was good, but expensive at $40 entry fee. (I think this also includes entrance to a reptile park but the reputation of that one is a bit shady… some unethical practices of feeding live chickens to crocodiles for tourists.) Sanur was very calm and the beaches were nice, but I think I am glad we chose to stay in Canggu overall.

Boardwalk along the beach in Sanur
Beach in Sanur
Sanur fishing boats
Andy at Bali Bird Park
Bali Bird Park
Mike and Ashley rented scooters and went to Ubud for two days. We originally thought we’d do a day trip there as well, but in the end decided not to, as it was just easier to stay close to home with Ella. It took them about an hour to get there. I think in a taxi it might take a bit longer as the traffic can be very bad and it’s much quicker to get around on a scooter. They visited Tegalalang Rice Terrace and raved about it, and indeed their pictures were stunning.

Renting a driver for the day to go anywhere is pretty inexpensive, we were quoted 750,000 IDR for the day. That’s less than it costs us just to get to the airport in Melbourne!

All in all we had a great family holiday. I'd totally go back to Bali as there are so many different areas to explore. The Balinese were also great with kids, so it was a relatively easy place to travel with a toddler.