Monday, May 07, 2018


Lido Caravelle beach club, Taormina
To the parents out there, is there anything better than waking up before your kids? Waking up when your body wakes up? Not because a little person comes to you, whacks you over the head with a mini Qantas jet plane and squeals "Mama, it's morning. I want Weet Bix."

Well to be honest, I didn't know about this feeling until a holiday where my husband and I found ourselves in this most wonderful of worlds where adults wake when they want and kids wake after. It's so incredibly liberating after years of fun dreams being rudely interrupted and thick, motionless sleep being cut short ever so abruptly.

This realisation came to me in Sicily. That gritty, salty, hot haven on the arch of Italy's foot. It's possibly not high on the must-do list of the family travelling set but there are at least 4 good reasons why it should be. 

1. The Italians love kids
I see quite a few similarities between Italians and Australians, particularly when at rest. And I saw a lot of evidence of that in Sicily. In the beach-side, cliff top town of Taormina, at a stunning hotel where things might have been a bit stiff, the warm waitstaff at breakfast in the mornings always stopped to play with our kids. They made jokes and offered them the most incredible hot chocolates, in teeny little china cups, before turning to us to talk espressos. I was told a few times by different staff members that my son was "trop bello" (too beautiful). Don't get me wrong, our two-year-old regularly had tantrums at meal times, much to our horror and whilst a couple sitting nearby did not find this remotely amusing, the locals take it all as part of the moment. God love 'em. 

2. The Food
Oh gosh where to start. If you're like me and you think Italian food is everything, then you can almost cure any pain caused by children whilst traveling just by diving into a bowl of homemade pasta. Again, the Italians are just so accommodating. At several restaurants when the staff spotted our young kids, they made the offer or easily agreed to make a simple pasta with butter and Parmesan (pasta bianca).

At breakfast, I always found it easy to get yoghurt, toast, croissants or cereal.  I even managed to get them to try some new things like vegetable fritters at breakfast and sardines (heavily disguised) with breadcrumbs and Parmesan at dinner. Just mouthfuls, but culinary victories nonetheless I think.
Some of the food offered at the breakfast sitting at the Hotel Villa Carlotta, Taormina.

3. The Relaxed Lifestyle
In Europe in the summertime, often you end up waking late and staying up late, it's just kind of the way they roll so you do too. Which means, you can cruise into the day at a very civilised 10am, have a siesta back at the hotel/apartment at 3pm and then stay out walking in the piazza til after 9 and still have normally functioning kids the next day.  

The other thing is that when you need to offer a bribe, it is 100% perfectly acceptable to offer your kids a gelato or granita at pretty much any time of day - no judgment. It's also perfectly OK to order espresso martinis from your sun lounger at 11am (just ask the wacky Russians next to us at a beach club) or knock back a few vinos at lunch, at dinner, by the pool - wherever. All completely acceptable and encouraged behaviour.
Lemon Granita - Lido Caravelle Beach Club, Taormina
4. The Climate
And then there's the weather... I can't speak categorically but having been in these parts a few times now, I can say that I've never had a rainy day in July. In fact, it's a reliable 27+ with low humidity and a far less scorching sun than ours. This means that a day at the beach, with two young kids, was not only completely doable, but actually very enjoyable. We applied sun cream once upon arrival and again after lunch. No sunburn on the whole trip.
Author's stone-covered toes - Taormina
We never saw a rip or dangerous current, they don't have sharks and you'll find your own kids the only ones wearing hats and rashies all day. It's pretty easy really. The beach clubs which are popular there, provide water and umbrellas and even beach toys for the kids. We spent a few days at the Lido Caravella beach club otherwise known as HEAVEN. And when you get hungry, you walk a few metres to the ristorante and load up on spaghetti all vongole, birra and canoli. La bella vita indeed.

Spaghetti alle vongole - Lido Caravella, Taormina.

Monday, April 09, 2018

Ski School for Kids - the parenting form guide.

In the second part of my Canada series, I look at ski school and in particular, how to send your kids off to learn to ski without suffering a nervous breakdown, dying of guilt or leaving them scarred for life.

As any skier (and I use the term to collectively include snowboarders) knows, ski school is a necessary part of ski life. If you intend to get better at this sport, you will at some stage need to invest (and I do mean invest, it ain't cheap) in ski lessons.

As adults, this is, of course, a choice we make knowing that despite the discomfort (bathroom stops whilst wearing 5 layers clothing including all-in-one hell suits, cold, wet days, throwing oneself down steep mountains) we should theoretically emerge a better skier.

Our kids on the other hand, often have no choice, and they shouldn't really, as very few of them would volunteer to spend a week in a new school, with new friends, new teachers and the very high probability that they will get cold and wet at some point and possibly execute some falls along the way. It's not really an easy, calm safe sport to learn. But it is SOOOO worth it, as we ski elders know.

Once the skills are acquired, the kilometres skied and the magnificent mountain scenery has been experienced, in most cases, the skier is hooked. For life. And so it follows that we must also hook our kids to this sport so that we can go on and travel to snowy climes for the rest of our lives with our amenable kids in tow.

So here are 3 tried and tested strategies we used on our recent trip which enabled us to enjoy a largely drama-free ski school experience.

Give them a Preview
Before we went, I was feeling anxious about how our youngest child, 4 years old, would react to 2 weeks in ski school. It wasn't that long ago, after all, that he'd finally settled into daycare and we were able to enjoy cry-free drop-offs each day. So I embarked on a series of couch youtube sessions with him where we watched kids having fun skiing. We chatted about the gear they wore, the skis, the snow and generally familiarised him with what happens when you go skiing. He started to feel excited and wanted to experience it. Things were looking good...

Teddy and Orsie after ski school.
Be strong and walk away
So once we'd make it to Whistler, and we had wrangled the kids into the 15 layers they would need to take on a day in sub-zero conditions, we took them to ski school. As with most things in Whistler and the North Amercian ski resorts like it, ski school is very well organised. There are fun, welcoming, youthful ski instructors waiting to welcome the kids individually. For the little ones, there are fluffy toys and choc chip cookies awaiting them in their classroom. You just have to get them through this initial introduction and drop-off moment, and you're done, but this moment is not an easy one. Not in my experience.

We had a happy, excited 4-year-old as we approached the ski school, but by the time we introduced Ted to his lovely new teacher Scot, we had tears. And screaming and clinging. Ted was so tightly attached to me that I could have run down the street without holding him and he would have clung on with all 4 limbs like a little koala. He was not budging. With Scot and I both prizing away fingers, promising cookies, hot chocolates and fun times, Ted was not going for it. He was red-faced, crying and desperate to stay with his Mama. It's safe to say that at this point that I felt like someone was stabbing my heart with a large knife. I felt DREADFUL. My baby needed me, he was scared and would have done anything for me to cuddle him up, take him back to our hotel room and snuggle. So what did I do? I left him there, with lovely Scot and walked away feeling broken, gutted and utterly devastated.

As I moped to the lift queue to meet the other adults, I reminded myself that one day he would thank me, that surely within minutes he'd be smiling and eating cookies and that this gift we were giving him would deliver him years of fun memories and adventures. But that day I struggled to put that farewell out of my mind. Was he still crying? Would I hear from the ski school soon? Would they know where to reach me? Would they tell me he was just too upset to partake in the day's activities??

Sure enough at 3pm when I returned to ski school, Ted was strutting around in his ski boots and entertaining his classmates. When he spotted me he ran to me with a huge grin and outstretched arms and told me how he'd been doing flips. (Exaggeration is something he gets from me). The day was fun. He'd enjoyed his day. He learned some things. He had laughed. His teacher assured me the tears were short-lived and he went on to spend a day on the snow with friends laughing and learning. Oh my god THE RELIEF.

Teddy dancing out of ski school.

And that was the worst of it. He still cried at some of the future drop-offs but not for long and not with the same level of abject fear. He understood what was going to happen and he was ok with it. By the end of the 14 days, he missed Scot.

Remind them of it after the event
I'm presently experimenting with this idea and here's my theory. That by keeping the fun alive and reminding the kids of the fun they had skiing, they will again look forward to it and get excited at the prospect of skiing. I'm having the ski school photos framed and we'll find a nice place for them at home. I've looked at photos of the trip with them already and they've both asked when we're going back. The cold and uncertainty has been forgotten for now, and so hopefully with another year of life experience under their belts, the next trip, and its set of drop-offs will be that little bit easier.

Friday, April 06, 2018

Canada Cool

So the new feature pic you can see above was taken in beautiful British Columbia on our recent family trip. WHAT A PLACE! So much fun. Thousands of Australians flock to BC every year to take in the abundant snow and warm Canadian ski hospitality and this year the Lloyds joined in the fun. I'm posting a series of blogs from the trip which share with you my best bits. Part 1,


I mean seriously, how could the combination of SNOW and DOGS not be a great one. I've long dreamed of taking our doggie Renzo (see below, isn't he just the greatest?) to the snow but unfortunately here in Aus, our ski resorts are largely in National Parks which makes them a no dog zone. But in Canadia as I prefer to call it, the doggies run free.

Renzo, with the boys.

This was a special family day trip that I planned in advance to give us all a break from skiing, spend some time together and embark on an adventure. And it was just divine.

We went with Blackcomb Dogsledding Tours (BDT) which are about 1 hour out of Whistler, BC. The tour bus, which collected us from the Hilton in Whistler, pulled into the secluded forest location where you see a large yurt and a kennel block. It's basic but raw and wild.

Some sled groups preparing to go with the meeting point yurt in the background.

We have a short safety briefing (all very low key and lots of laughs about how not to roll out of the sled) from a guy who looks like a mixture between a Bondi hipster and an extra from Northern Exposure. Then we're divided into groups of 2 or 3 and taken to our sleds and waiting doggies.

Our guide introduces us to all the dogs who would mush for us and gave us some background on where they've come from and how they come to be at BDT. Turns out, many of their dogs and all new dogs are rescue dogs which I was stoked to learn. They had beautiful Malamute, Husky, German Shepherd crosses - even some Australian Kelpies there. The dogs apparently love the "work" and you can tell, they really do. They bark, howl, wrestle each other and pounce around in anticipation of the departure. And when the guide hops on the back of the sled with us securely ensconced in the wrap-up front sled pouch, she calls out "HUP - GO!" and we're off! The long sled lurches to life. It's a little slower than I'd imagined being honest, but still very enjoyable.

Trent and Riley on their dog tour.

Along the way, certain dogs stop to do their doggy business and misbehave as some doggies do but they are all pulled into line by the guide or by their fellow hounds. They're remarkably efficient whilst also retaining their wild, playful dogginess. As a real dog lover, this pleases me greatly.

Look at this gorgeous boy.

Special shoes for doggies whose paws weren't built for snow.

The dogs each do about 2 or 3 tours per day. The tours themselves are not long, maybe 20 minutes to your destination point where you stop, let the dogs rest, take photos and take in the incredible view. Then you turn around and head back to the yurt.

Family shot at the half-way point. 

It's not cheap but it does serve as a great family experience that you won't forget. Magnificent scenery, beautiful animals, and really great people all make this a really special day out. Do it!

The little boys and I.