Off season boons

Would you travel outside peak season? I’m here to give you some really good reasons why you might like to consider doing it. Unless of course, you are one of choir. Travelling during peak season has its perks for sure – the snow is dumping 3 feet overnight, the surf breaks are clean, fat, barrelling waves, the cities and towns are alive with shops/restaurants/museums all open. All that fun and lively-ness also hits the hip pocket, sometimes brutally. All of that is justifiable and I’m by no means suggesting that anyone should travel only in the off-shoulder season. But often, the same places can be just as beautiful, just as festive, just as fun, off-peak and for a fraction of the price.

I’ve done a lot of travel in the off season. As a student and when I was working on minimal salary, it was the most affordable way to travel. Wanderlust is a terrible thing! Europe in winter is so beautiful. If you can’t afford to ski, grab a sled or toboggan. Sipping on hot chocolate or mulled wine while perusing markets is a cheap way to soak in the local culture and atmosphere. Get up close to Monet’s water lilies without having to stand on tip toe in a crowd 15, 20 people deep. Airfares are probably the biggest cost in travel and again, it’s much cheaper going during the off-season, plus you increase your chances of getting two seats to yourself!

Recently we came back from Costa Rica. It is a place that is so beautiful in its lushness and simplicity that I am embarrassed by my inefficiency in trying to describe it. We went in the ‘green season’. It’s called the ‘green season’ because the landscape is so dense, vibrant and green from all the rain. The rivers and waterfalls are flowing over-abundantly. We went in June and we had perfect weather every day (except for one day where it rained until 11am and the rest of the day was perfect). There were no crowds, service at restaurants was not quick (admittedly) but imagine what it must be like when there are crowds! We had whole beaches to ourselves which was fantastic for errant and erratic frisbee-throwing. The surf was fantastic and even more so without having to battle for a wave and worry about some numpty dropping in.IMG_0083

Accommodation was also so much cheaper. The hillside apartment with sea breezes and views over the ocean was actually affordable (no second mortgage needed). We stayed in a 2-bedroom villa right across the road from one of the best beaches, with a kitchen and pool for US$60 a night. We hired an ATV for the week for a 45% discount from peak rates.

Sure you may have to plan a little bit more and take into account that some things will be closed. But I’m sure that unless that museum/art gallery/restaurant is the sole reason for your travel, you’ll be able to find something else wonderful and magical and fantastic to do. Go on and do it! You won’t regret it.



[10 weeks]

It’s not a pregnancy, but the first trimester of a relocation holds the same elements: danger, excitement, apprehension, panic, curiosity and plenty of have-we-done-the-right-thing? moments. And the tiredness hits. The other day I was watering plastic pot plants because I thought they were withering.

Our furniture finally arrived after our container was subject to a slight delay as customs officials held it back to examine the contents. Once it was here, unpacking the boxes was a frenzy of paper and cardboard. One broken platter, one broken lamp and one sliced surfboard cover. The collateral damage was not bad for a half-globe move. We even experienced a bit of magic! Somehow, across the seas and over many days, my tupperware population multiplied; box after box explodTupperware (2)ed with plasticware – tubs, lids, drink bottles.

Well, that took care of about 15 boxes and one cupboard. Now for the other 89 boxes. Unpacking is like playing jenga trying to fit everything into a new house, strategically working out what needs to go where without everything collapsing on you. Our already nervous dog’s blood pressure increased with every “Move Lana!” or “Get out of the way Lana!” All she wanted to do is go for a walk…through the paper and boxes. *sigh*

Eventually cupboards are filled (can’t believe I packed that roll of cling film from Australia?!) and Pinterest is consulted heavily for ideas of how to arrange cupboards and the spaces beneath sinks. Our friends, Amazon Prime, are called in to do some heavy work and for days there is a parade of UPS trucks outside our house.

We are fortunate enough to have a small group of friends in Brookfield. Largely, they come from the juvenile diabetes connection at #JDRF. There are a few disarming moments when we turn up at events or at friend’s houses and people come up to us and say “So YOU’RE the Australians! I’ve heard all about you.” I can only say that this is the closest we will ever get to experience what worldly famous people do each day they step out their front door. We are Brookfield Rock Stars! Even Callum had his own fan club at school where the girls two years ahead of him at school would sidle up and ask him to say something and he’d respond with an inane “Something” at which the girls screamed and ran away giggling. I asked Callum how he felt and he merely rolled his eyes. Just you wait young man, there’ll be a day when you will LOVE that attention.

We slowly build up an everyday presence in the US. It has been non-stop for 10 weeks while we navigate (literally) the roads, road rules, and the medical and insurance maze, without trying to gorge on everything that’s on offer. There is so much on offer – concerts, sports, new terrains and topographies, food. It’s a #smorgasbordoflife.

If you follow my blog I have talked about our pooch a bit as she is as integral to our family. Lana is now on Prozac because even our lovely holistic vet Dr Lisa felt that Lana needed a little help. I have often looked at Lana’s little blue tube of pills and wondered what if….

Oh how life has changed in the few months of this year. We’ve booked a trip to Costa Rica for some desperately needed sun and R&R before we come back to cruise through the second (easy) trimester.

Before this post ends, if you are feeling philanthropic, please consider donating to the #JDRFOneWalk. It is the flagship fundraising event for juvenile diabetes in the US and walks are happening all over the country in this next trimester. Donations are tax-deductible. Your donation goes towards changing the lives of millions of people who are diagnosed with diabetes including my awesome kid Callum. Here is a link to the donation page. Thank you!

Amsterdam with kids

Amsterdam. I’m pretty sure that when we told our parents our intended itinerary, there were a few raised eyebrows at “Amsterdam.” Instant images of the Red Light District. Marijuana leaves. Hash. Joints. Beers. Frites. Bicycles. Not really what you immediately think of as a playground for kids. YET, it is listed as my son’s favourite city in the world.

I wrote an earlier post about IMG_1212 Amsterdam (45)cycling in Amsterdam which was definitely a highlight! Here he is riding through a paddock in the Amsterdam-Nord. A truly uniquely fun experience. Riding without a helmet is exhilirating.

Food. Ahh the food. One of the biggest challenges travelling with kids to different parts of the world is the food. Can we find something they will eat? Is there a supermarket we can get supplies from?

The answer to both questions is yes. There are local supermarkets which are well stocked with a huge variety of staples. I mean, the Dutch need to feed their kids too right? If your kids are cheese-fiends, look no further than your local Albert Heijn. It’s perfect when you’re staying for a while to cut down on costs on eating out all the time. Sometimes a piece of toast or croissant with jam is the perfect way to start the day at home.

Amsterdam has some of the tastiest treats on the northern side of the equator. Asian influences abound, Turkish, Greek, of course continental European. Many eateries will happily cater for kids. There is a cafe called Winkel Cafe in the Jordaan area which makes a type of apple pie-cake, about 3 inches high, sweet, chock full of tart apples, cinnamony and lavished with cream or icecream. Take your pick from one of the many ice creameries. Monte Pelmo (Tweede Anjeliersdwarsstraat 17) is THE best. You can’t go past IJscuypje (Prisengracht 292) without getting a bolletje. 

Street food in Amsterdam is literally everywhere which makes it very handy when travelling with kids. A stroopwaffel in De Pijp, kibbeling (a deep fried, crumbed, scrumptious morsel of white fish usually served with a mayonnaise chosen at the discretion of the truck vendor – just go with it – it’s delicious!), and if you’re game, raw herring which Callum liked, but not as much as the kibbeling.

Museums. There are plenty of museums around but if you’re there for a short while and if your kids are like mine, a long wandering foray into a museum is ok but not up there with the things to do. This is where the RIJKSMUSEUM is brilliantly ingenious. What do kIMG_3289 Amsterdam (37)ids hate? Queueing. Purchase your tickets online for the Rijksmuseum and skip the queues. Once you get past the awesomeness of the entrance and foyer, head up to the front desk where you can get set up with a multimedia family quest for a small fee. See link here for more details.

Go and get lost in the maze of alleyways and streets, check out the boat house museum, go for a canal tour.

Babysitting. And if you need a babysitter, we found the lovely Rosie (who spoke fantastic English) through (For those from the US, it’s similar to I paid about 25 euro to join as a member.

We have the opportunity to go to Europe again next year and of all the places you could go to, Callum wants to go back to Amsterdam.

#Amsterdam #applepie #streetfood #Rijksmuseum #Jordaan #canaltour 


What I would do

6 weeks ago I was packed into the back seat of a car amongst boxes, luggage, pillows and food to travel for 9 hours from Melbourne to Sydney with my grandparents. THEN! trauma and chaos descended in a confusing, monstrous, MESS!! I was packed into a space where I could easily and happily lie down, stand up, turn around but for 30 hours I was alone, hungry and I’m sure I smelt pretty bad. Actually, I know I smelt pretty bad because that’s all my parents and brother could say when they picked me up from the airport in my dreadlocked glory.

Dad drove us back home and as soon as I got there, I jumped out the car and my feet hit snow for the first time in my life. Holy shit, it’s pretty cold and I have bare feet. I’m not sure if this is normal. I want to get inside the house, but it smells really nice and fresh out here so I’m going to cruise around for a bit. Eventually we all go inside because mum is complaining that she can’t feel her fingers. All good. First night in the new house and it’s cosy and I have a bed and I just crash out.

The next morning dad gets it into his head that he wants to play in the snow. Mum and my brother think it’s hilarious watching me run up and down through the snow. My brother has his snow shoes on and tramps through the soft snow that’s covered the entire backyard. This is ace. A whole acre of yard.

What I don’t see at first are the pink flags sticking out of the ground. It’s about the fourth of fifth day that I find out what the pink flags are. Let this be a warning my friends, those pink flags = a jolt of electricity when you cross over the line. DO NOT cross the line. Listen for the beep and back away. This is an invisible fence to keep you within the boundaries of the property. Now, I’m meant to be smart, but it took me about 3 goes (and 3 bejesus shocks) before I realised that these flags were not to be messed with. There’s meant to be a warning beep but I literally have wool growing out my ears and don’t really hear much.

Below is a photo of me. I’m the one in front.


The next week dad tries to teach me how to stay inside the boundaries. Man, that lesson sucked! Where’s my mum and why is she laughing? This is bullshit! One day I just brace and I run straight through the line, I get shocked again but I’m free! It’s raining but it’s pretty nice and the earth smells good and I’m just walking walking walking…towards one of the busiest roads in the area. I can hear my mum hollering for me and I can see she’s in two minds about whether to come after me or whether she trusts me to turn around and come back home. Sucked in mum! Your indecision means I’m going to keep walking. Screw the pink flags! I walk on to the main road and mum can see that the cars have slowed right down. It’s still raining and I’m feeling pretty indestructible after beating those pink flags. Now I’m going to take on peak hour traffic and beat that too.

Mum’s on the phone to dad, “The dog’s escaped! F**k!”

Someone makes a call to the local police that I’m on the loose and for about 3 hours I’m like uberfamous because I’m all over the Brookfield Police Dispatch.  Woo! After a while though I’m kinda tired and cold and I think I’ve done something to my left fore paw. I cross a few more busy roads before I see that there is a convoy of cars that mum’s neighbour has rounded up and they’re all trailing me trying to herd me in. Mum eventually gets me and then I try to bite the guy who did most of the herding. Sorry mate whoever you are and I hope you didn’t get fired from your job because you were late after trying to help my mum out.

For the next couple of weeks mum watches me like a hawk. She goes a bit OTT at the pet store and buys rope lines, retractable leads, tie outs, stuff!

Then mum brings me to the vet. I don’t like the vet clinic (it smells like stale disinfectant covering up dog mess), I don’t like the vet and I don’t like the vet assistant (get this irony – the vet assistant is a behavioural specialist. If I could have done this  download I would have). Anyway, mum gets conned into giving me a vaccination against Lyme disease just because the vet’s got a bunch of stories about how bad the ticks are yadda yadda yadda. What do you know? I develop frigging hives and I’m itching and scratching. It’s driving me crazy and I’m pretty sure I kept the whole house up all night with me scurrying around trying to reach that stupid place between my shoulder blades. Really. This is so shit. Mum brings me back to the vet the next day who gives me a couple of shots and before mum can throw one more death glare at the vet, we get out of there. If things can’t get any worse, mum puts one of her old tshirts on me and socks on my feet so that I can’t scratch anymore and that’s really annoying because all I want to do is get that itch, and she posts the photo on social media. Awesome.


See she’s done it again here. She just can’t help herself.

Ahh, it’s a dog’s life.

Shout outs from mum to: #BrookfieldPolice, all-in-one butcher and baker and candlestick-maker Jackie #neighbourextraordinaire #DENsoycandles and friends at

Adjusting to Fahrenheit

Temperature4 weeks (!) have flown by since we touched down in the US. Life has settled into as much of a rhythm as you can get when half your life is still somewhere close to the Panama Canal aboard a cargo boat.

The expat life, as I emailed a friend recently, is a huge challenge when starting out. I’m pretty sure it’s not meant to be anything other when you uproot to a new country in which you have absolutely no base – financially, medically, friend-ly or even foe-ly. Being the citizen of a country should never be taken for granted. Yes, we have legal status (our visa says that we do), but for nearly all companies here we are huge liability without any “everyday status”. No credit history means we can’t get a credit card, we can’t get a loan, can’t get a mobile phone or utilities. Of course there are ways around all this, but these things in life, that we consider everyday necessities, aren’t easy to come by at all. There are hoops (some of them on fire!) that you need to jump through.

To give it further context, our neighbour wanted to get a rescue dog. Great! So he went online, found the one he fell in love with, proceeded with several interviews with the dog refuge, a police check, a background check, and two home visits before he was allowed to apply to get the dog. As he put it, “It’s easier to get a woman online than it is to get a rescue dog.”

kitchen-conversion-cutting-board (2)I almost feel that there should be a Welcome to America pack handed out to newcomers in the Arrivals Hall which contains (at the very least) the following:

  • a social security application form
  • a wallet guide for conversions eg Celsius to Fahrenheit, weights, distances, measures
  • a chopping board like the one to the right (utter genius available at Crate & Barrel)
  • three free driving lessons and/or if you live in a city where public transport exists, a travel pass
  • a glossary for US medical and insurance systems


We speak the same language but the vernacular is different. It got to a point where I You Tubed how to say “water” after going to a Bucks game and it took about 5 minutes for the cashier to work out I wanted a bottle of water. [For those linguistically-minded, the ‘a’ is like in ‘father’ and the ‘t’ is like a soft ‘d’.] So I think this ICONSPEAK World Edition traveller t-shirt should also be in the Welcome Pack. It may also come in handy for non-Spanish speakers when travelling to nearby South America.

After 4 weeks, lessons learnt so far:

  • A day that is 70+ degrees is a no-socks-needed-might-need-sunscreen-day.
  • When your sat nav says “1000 feet” get ready to turn very soon.
  • A gallon of milk is heavy and cannot be carried in a single plastic bag.

America does good

Image result for US flag

There is a lot of bad press about the US and its policy-makers at the moment. The populus and the media wait eagerly for any Trumphap (you know, like a mishap) so that it can be shared on the digital global stage.

What would I know though? I’ve only lived in the US for the past two weeks. What I DO know, hand on heart, is that America does GREAT at these:

  • Drive through Starbucks. OK, it’s Starbucks, but the pure concept of a drive through coffee shop is just awesome. (Incidentally, I actually don’t mind Starbucks. They do a great almond latte at Brookfield Square.)
  • Online shopping! Anything.You.Want. 24/7. Delivered the next day or sometimes even within 2 hours! Amazon, you already had me. And then you introduced me to Amazon Prime. You’re a keeper.
  • The choice and variety of products are mindblowing. Grocery shopping is nuts. Not just nuts, it’s 50 brands of cereal, 30 types of bread, 10 different types of almond milk (as a lactose-intolerant person this is pretty much like striking the lottery, gallons of water for $1.67/gallon, sugar-free Belgian chocolate that tastes like the real deal (striking the lottery for my diabetic son), 20 types of coffee that you can grind yourself to whatever size grounds you want.
  • Affordable organic food. Yay for Whole Foods and Trader Joes!
  • Right turns on a red light (the most common-sensical road rule ever)
  • School buses that pick your kids up and drop them off at the end of the driveway
  • Organised sport for kids and summer camps to get them (and parents through 3 months of summer break!)
  • Did I mention online shopping?
  • Barnes & Noble. I am a book lover. To be able to get my hands on books without wiping out my annual salary in the process – wow – I am a book glutton.
  • Double glazing and heating in every house
  • Friday night Fish Fry!

#goamerica #Trumphap #WholeFoodsMarket @wholefoods #Barnes&Noble @BNBuzz

Irony defined

Liberté, égalité, fraternitéImage result for the bastille today

The catchcry of the French Revolution. My European history is rusty at best, what I have learned is largely due to Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Les Misérables; social upheaval as the French upper class was overthrown.

Yet in the 21st century, I found myself standing at the bottom of the former Bastille, face to face with a young, homeless family. The irony! What shocked and distressed me the most was the fact that it could have been me and my family. They weren’t the itinerant gypsies that you frequently see begging in the streets of Paris. They weren’t dirty. They weren’t immigrants or refugees. It was a family who looked like they could have been my nextdoor neighbours and our kids might have gone to the same school.

Marcus, Callum and I were on our way to get icecream and at the other end of the scale, here was this young family – they had a mattress, a stroller with their belongings, and each other. I stopped Marcus and asked him for some money to give them. I found myself looking into the dark eyes of a mother with a young child. That look will stay with me forever: gratefulness, shame, sadness. Maybe as a mother I could sympathise with that guilt, the fear of not knowing what was going to happen to your baby, of not being able to provide for your child. Maybe as a human being I was moved by the unfairness of a system that could allow a young family to become homeless.

Was I conned? Perhaps. But if I was, it was the greatest piece of street theatre I have ever seen.

It’s not only Paris that you see this. It’s everywhere. Sure most of the world has come a long way in formulating a social welfare system that theoretically is there to support its citizens. As a global-whole, we are still arguing about the best way to help the thousands of displaced families. There are obviously many gaps in the system and it is alarming and despairing that there are so many families like the one in Paris. I don’t have any answers. But I wish there was a way for all kids to have icecream.

Can I encourage you to think about one thing you can be grateful for, then can I encourage you to donate one piece of something that you don’t need or use anymore. Find your local Salvation Army/Goodwill/St Vincent’s.

#begrateful  #theworldneedsicecream