Why you need a kid free weekend

When Mr NASD asked me to keep a weekend in November free, I was naturally curious. He offered little information other than the significant detail that it would be a KID FREE weekend. He arranged for the girls to go to his parents for two nights and he told me nothing else. The destination was a mystery.

When I told my friends about his surprise plan they were impressed and curious in equal measure. ‘But why is he doing this?” they asked. A fair enough question. It wasn’t our anniversary. He wasn’t going to propose. And it wasn’t my birthday! In the many years of our relationship, both before and after marriage, I can’t remember him pulling off a stunt like this. Admittedly, I like being in control so his reticence to take charge is, well, rather understandable!!

The motivation for a weekend getaway was actually pretty simple. He wanted to spend time with me. Quality time together; something most parents know is pretty elusive with kids. We’ve had a pretty intense year with seesawing emotion.  There’s a lot of uncertainty in our lives right now and we’re at a bit of a juncture. Contemplating the direction of our lives has taken up a great deal of mental energy and so a mini break was in order. We needed a MOOD BOOST!

When he told me we had to leave home at 5.30am I had a hint that we would be heading to the airport. And I was right. The destination for our escape was……… Sydney!!! Here’s a few scenes from our weekend getaway.

Do you think I look happy in this pic? I am not usually a morning person but in this instance, I practically jumped out of bed. Ok, jumped may be a slight exaggeration….

First stop: Manly. We took the ferry across to Manly and ate at Hugo’s restaurant thanks to a tip off from a loyal NASD reader. She couldn’t have been more right. The service, setting and meal at Hugo’s was sensational. In fact, I would go so far as to say it was the best Mushroom and Taleggio pizza I have ever had. Which is fitting considering Hugo’s won the award for the best pizza in Australia! I followed this with creme brûlée; my all-time favourite dessert, and a nice glass of Prosseco. We worked off lunch with a long walk along the beach afterwards. We covered more conversation in that walk that we ordinarily would in an entire month!

More champagne back at our hotel with this as a backdrop!

One Sunday we took the ferry to Balmain which may or may not have been motivated by my desire to visit Adriano Zumbo’s famous patisserie….

And the macaroons were……heavenly.

Sydney is such a beautiful city and she put on her best performance on Sunday and literally shone.

Can you imagine if this was the way you commuted to work each day?

And I managed to squeeze in some time for shopping. Picked up this cute feather top from the The Rocks Markets, and the dress from a boutique shop in Balmain.

Sydney was an awesome destination for our kid-free weekend but we could have been anywhere. We enjoyed great food and wine, uninterrupted conversation, but mostly we simply enjoyed each other’s company. I know not everyone has the opportunity to go away without the kids for a night or two, but if you do, I highly recommend it. A good injection of romance and adventure has given me a much-needed pause from my domestic life, and Mr NASD is feeling pretty pleased with himself for putting a big smile on his wife’s face.

Have you ever taken a mini break without the kids?

11 precious things about parenting preschoolers

Turbulent. Challenging. Exasperating. Exhausting. Welcome to the preschool years: a roller coaster ride of highs and lows. Where reason and logic fails and mystery and confusion prevails. The early years of parenting can be particularly challenging. I should know – I am parenting three preschoolers concurrently!

These emotionally charged years, while exhausting and confusing, are unique years as a parent. While these years can be tiring, vexing and grueling, little kids imbue most days with magic and possibility. Parenting young children is defined by extremes: extreme happiness, extreme frustration, and extreme love. They are a kaleidoscope of fun and funny, frustrating and fabulous. Here are 11 precious things about parenting preschoolers:

  1. Curiosity. Small children are inquisitive souls, asking seemingly hundreds of questions a day. The eyes and ears of an inquisitive, ever questioning child is both fascinating and refreshing. At this young age they are free of bias, prejudice and judgment. Their innocence allows them the capacity to treat everyone equally.
  1. Living in the moment. One of the wonderful things about young children is their ability to live in the present, without distraction. Unlike adults, they don’t dwell on the past, or worry about the future. Preschoolers have the extraordinary capacity to disappear into a moment. Life is all about what is in front of them at that point in time: The blocks; the balls; the picture they are drawing; the play they are acting out.
  1. Possibility. At a young age, life is so full of possibility. Even a single day can involve major milestones, opportunities, and new discoveries. As adults we tend to get stuck in routines and rigid thinking. Seeing the world around us through our kids’ eyes can be very liberating. Often what they show us is both surprising and revealing. This is a great privilege.
  1. Creativity. Young children are inherently “outside the box” thinkers because, to them, there really is no box. This is the creative spark unimpeded by the boundaries of reason and logic. You only have to look at a drawing your preschooler has created to witness creativity at play. Where we may see scribble on a page, they see an entire narrative.
  1. Sponges. Young children’s brains are like sponges; soaking up life’s experiences, and embracing new knowledge. They learn with acceptance and without blinkers and preconceptions. Watching them learn is a great lesson in what it means to really listen and feel. I especially love it when they ask a question that makes you stop and think and, as you ponder the answer, it’s almost as though you are considering it for the first time.
  1. No inhibitions. Preschoolers, unlike adults, are uninhibited. They say the funniest things that can make you implode with laughter or die of embarrassment. Sometimes both. They speak and act impulsively. One time my daughter shrieked at full volume for me to see the lady with a baby in her tummy. Rather unfortunately, the lady was not pregnant.
  1. Forgiveness. Young children are so forgiving. They don’t hold grudges and they can bridge the gap between crying and laughter in an instant, and vice versa. Whatever your failing or mistake, they will unreservedly forgive you from the bottom of their generous hearts.
  1. Straight shooters. I have three pre-schoolers and I am continually amazed at how literal they are. Whilst they are incredibly perceptive, they don’t get irony. The same goes for sarcasm and snark. Everything is just what it is. When I said to my 3-year-old recently that I had a hole in my tummy I was so hungry, she replied with eyes wide, “Can I see?”
  1. Affection. They love to cuddle. Just for fun. Nothing beats a spontaneous cuddle and smothering from your child. In an instant they have the extraordinary capacity to life your mood and brighten your day with this simple act of love.

   10. They think you’re beautiful. Now this one is truly special. Even when you’re having a bad day – a sleep-deprived, makeup-free, unwashed-hair day, they think you’re gorgeous. And on the odd occasion that they see you “dressed up” they are mesmerised by the beauty they genuinely see.

11. Simplicity. Life is simple in the world of a pre-schooler. It requires very little to make them happy. Although I say, “I love you” to my children often, there’s even fewer words that make their faces light up. And it’s these two, simple words: “Lets play.”

What’s the one thing you love about your toddler? We have to remember the good stuff amid the turbulence :-)

*First published on Kidspot.

How to have a real holiday with kids: reflections on Port Douglas

It is often said that a holiday with kids is an oxymoron. That more accurately it is a test of how well you can entertain your kids without the “props” of home. And I can relate to this. When you’ve got little ones even holidays require a degree of effort. We’ve had some holidays in the past that have seemed like far too much work to qualify as a true “break”.  And when they are really little you need to readjust  your holiday aspirations. It’s more a change of scene.

But that scene just changed….

Having just spent 9 days in Port Douglas, one of Australia’s most beautiful locations, I am calling this our best holiday yet. With kids. Let’s just qualify that. It doesn’t quite compare with our holiday to Eastern Europe, or India, or Vietnam, but that was a lifetime ago!

So, what made it so good?

A few things really…

1. Our little kids are not so little anymore

Having been on a few family holidays while pregnant, breastfeeding or simply wrangling babies and toddlers, I definitely noticed a shift in effort this time. That being, there was less of it.  Our girls are now 5, 4 and 2 and with no nappies to worry about, and no rigid schedules, it enabled us greater flexibility. The older girls can entertain themselves and each other without parental supervision or involvement. They are all more self-sufficient and this made the trip a lot more relaxing and enjoyable. It enabled us small pockets of time to ourselves – I even managed to finish an entire novel! So if you have really young children, trust me when I say it gets better and easier!

2. We chose a very family friendly destination

Before having kids, my husband and I travelled to some pretty exotic locations. Our last trip before becoming parents was to Montenegro, Bosnia and Slovenia. As any parent knows you need to redefine your definition of travel when kids come along. There are two things that kids generally love on holidays: the pool and the beach! We went to Port Douglas and it was ideal in every sense. At this time of year, the weather is stunning and we were blessed with 8 consecutive days of sunshine and clear skies. It’s not too humid and you can swim in the ocean safely in October. Port Douglas offers many tourist attractions for families. But you can also easily amuse yourselves doing very little at all. That’s how we enjoyed this holiday. Most of our days were spent at the hotel pool or at the beach. We took a boat trip one day and visited a wildlife park but the whole aim for this trip was to relax and not cram too much into our days.

3. The swimming lessons have paid off!

When your kids can swim it makes a huge difference to beach/pool holiday. While only our eldest daughter can swim, our younger two are now more confident in the water and this alleviated anxiety we had felt on previous trips. All girls frolicked happily in the pool, with little assistance. And in the space of a week their confidence grew exponentially. So all those Saturday morning swimming lessons are a worthwhile investment!

4. We went outside of school holidays

Travelling off-peak is definitely the way to go for a relaxed holiday. While it meant taking the girls out of Kinder and childcare for a week, it was so much more enjoyable. There were fewer people, less crowds, and this contributed to a more relaxed, slower holiday pace.

5. We flew with Qantas

The night before we left for Port Douglas I packed the girls’ backpacks/carry on with meticulous planning and precision. Colouring in books, bribes to stagger throughout the flight, snacks, books, new crayons etc. And then, to my delight, as I boarded the flight I saw what would guarantee a quiet, tantrum-free flight – iPads for every passenger. We don’t have an iPad at home so this intensified their excitement. Thanks to Peppa, Justine, Hi 5, and of course, Qantas, I was even able to read my book. The passengers were happy, the parents were happy, the flight staff were happy. Genius.

6. Packing a few “props” from home

In the past we’ve noticed that our kids got bored quickly at the hotel without access to their library of toys and books back home. This time we spent less time in it, but we took some activities from home to keep them occupied when we were chilling out. I packed puzzles in zip-lock bags so they didn’t take up much suitcase space. And we took a selection of paperback books, crayons, dvds and a deck of cards.

7. A break from the routine

For me, the best part about this holiday was the respite from the daily routine. To escape the monotony, repetition and domesticity of Groundhod Day, even for a week, is the perfect antidote to parental fatigue. A departure form the frantic pace of life. No pick ups, no drop offs, no kinder lunches, and NO COOKING!! So our kids’ diet wasn’t fabulous on this trip. Most kids meals offered at the restaurants were a variation of fried something and chips but it was a holiday for one and all. The rules of day-t0-day family life are meant to be broken on holidays. Our kids enjoyed daily ice-creams, we enjoyed daily … and I enjoyed no cooking!

8. Bonding time

Hands down the best part about family holidays is the bonding time. The girls got to spend quality time with their dad, fun time with their “relaxed, holiday mum” (a version of myself I rather liked a lot) and we all had a fabulous time simply being together!

9. A detox in some areas…

Aside from uploading a few obligatory holiday pics to Instagram and Facebook, I enjoyed a digital detox – something that I very much needed and embraced. The DFD’s (digital free days) were great, as were the CFD’s (cooking free days)  but I can assure you I didn’t have any AFD’s (alcohol free days)!

10. Throw out the rule book

Rules are meant to be broken on holidays and I enjoyed how freeing this felt. I am usually quite strict about what the girls eat and how much TV they can watch, but on this holiday I really did away with the rules. And it applied to the grown ups too. I wouldn’t normally have a beer with lunch!!

If you’re thinking of taking a trip to Port Douglas, do it! We stayed at Rendez-vous Resort (located 5-min drive out of town) and Cayman Villas (right in the heart of it). Both had something to offer and I would recommend both these places unreservedly. Please feel free to contact me for more information about accommodation.

See you next year, PD.

Have you had a really awesome family holiday? Where did you go? What made it so good?

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Family, food and a fabulous celebration

Yesterday, 5 daughters, 5 sons-in-law and 14 grandchildren gathered together to celebrate my mum’s 70th birthday. And what a celebration it was! We enjoyed  sensational food and wine in a gorgeous setting, vibrant and animated conversation (a staple of Fox family functions) and we toasted to a fine lady, loving and selfless mum, and all-round remarkable woman. If you want to read about why she’s so special, you can read about her here.

My sister set the scene for celebrating beautifully at her home.

A sit down lunch for 15 adults and 14 grandchildren (youngest party guest just turned one!)

There was plenty to eat….

Including my fruit tarts filled with creme patissiere and topped with fresh fruit

And a birthday cake for the birthday girl

All the grandchildren placed a candle in the cake each in order of eldest to youngest…

My sister made this giant card for all the grandchildren to sign or scribble….

The  day was a smashing success and included the elements of what life is all about! Cheers to mum’s 70 years…may there be many more fabulous years to come!

Don’t forget to follow notanotherslipperydip on instagram for images of food, family and beautiful things in life. 

Silverbeet and Feta Frittata

One of my ‘go-to’ weekly meals is omething whipped up with eggs.  Quiche, omelette and frittatas are all good, easy options. Now that Miss A is no longer allergic to eggs, I can happily use this versatile ingredient. Recently I made this Silverbeet & Feta frittata and it was a hit! The girls demolished it and I got to feel extra smug knowing the silver beet was home grown :-) I  dedicated much time to my veggie patch recently, but thankfully this hearty green seems to grow without much assistance. (more…)

6 things I’ll miss about pregnancy (and 6 things I won’t)

A strong heart beat and a tiny blob on a screen confirmed my pregnancy. Although I had done a pregnancy test a few weeks earlier, I couldn’t actually believe it was true. My obstetrician handed me an ultrasound photo and a few hours later I was on a plane for work with my precious cargo. As I took my seat, I looked at my scan and remember feeling like I wasn’t alone. I had company. At just nine weeks pregnant, my news wasn’t visible. It was my secret – the best secret imaginable. I had a grin from ear to ear the entire flight to Japan. (more…)

Wordless Wednesday: a little taste of slow

It’s been school holidays in Australia and although my little ones are not at school, it’s meant a break from preschool, occasional care and the girls’ activities. So we’ve had two weeks of moving at a slower pace and it’s been lovely. Here’s a little snapshot of some slow moments.

A few days of sand, sun, sea and salty air….