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Moving into the tail-end of the summer holidays, this is the time where many kids will be getting bored and unsettled.

Fortunately, there are a range of fun ways to keep them occupied, from outdoor adventures to DIY projects and fun games at home.

Here are some easy activities to keep them entertained:

DIY home theatre

theatre
Photo Credit: Jeremy Yap on Unsplash

With the pandemic affecting the accessibility of theatres, many kids are missing the novelty of the movie-going experience. But there’s no reason why it can’t be recreated at home. These holidays, encourage the kids to build their own home theatre.

Simply pick a room in the home and all you’ll need is a projector to display your chosen film on the wall. Throw some popcorn in the microwave and there you have it – the theatre experience in the comfort of your home. The kids may even enjoy it all the more for its cosiness.

Act out a play

play
Photo Credit: Ashton Bingham on Unsplash

This is a great way to keep your child’s mind sharp before they go back to school, while also letting them have fun. It’s a great activity to get creative with – they could choose from a range of popular plays or even write their own script.

From Shakespeare to a Harry Potter play, there are options for all ages and interests. Plus, the whole family can get involved and make a day of it. To add to the excitement, you could invite relatives or neighbours to watch the performance.

Have a dance-off

dance
Photo Credit: Yan Berthemy on Unsplash

This is a fun activity for a group of kids to get involved in a movie-esque dance competition. It’s a simple way to encourage socialisation, while also tackling boredom. And, with the added bonus of physical exercise, it’s a no-lose situation.

The kids could make their own playlist and come up with some unique dance routines. The best part is, it costs nothing and can be done anywhere and with anyone. It could be a family affair, or you could encourage the kids to invite some friends over.

Outdoor sports

swimming
Photo Credit: Todd Quackenbush on Unsplash

There’s never a better time to get exploring outside than in the summer. It’s a great time to try out some outdoor sports like open-water swimming. Explore your local area – or travel further out to your nearest beach – and dive into the deep end. This is a great opportunity for the kids to hone their swimming and water safety skills. There are also other activities for those who’d like to stay closer to the shore, such as playing around the rock pools and looking for shells.

Bike riding is a great option to get outside, while also having fun. There are a range of bike tracks out in nature so you can hit two birds with one stone – get the kids in the fresh air and get them exercising. Other types of wheel-based activities can also be a fun solution to holiday boredom, from roller skating to skateboarding – it’s the perfect time to try out some new interests. It could even lead to a long-lasting hobby and reduce hours spent looking at phone and computer screens.

Set up an indoor tent

tent
Photo Credit: Kate Darmody on Unsplash

Making an indoor tent is a novel activity that will thrill kids of all ages. They can design the interiors themselves and could even watch movies or solve puzzles in their cosy new space. It’s a great way to incorporate family bonding time into the holidays and could even become a mainstay the kids to enjoy well into the future – it may even serve as a retreat for them during stressful times.

Festive fairy lights could be added to improve the aesthetics, along with music and colourful pillows to make the space welcoming. The kids could even create their own decorations to make the space their own.

Have a picnic

picnic
Photo Credit: Jarritos on Unsplash

It’s the perfect weather to head down to the park and get some family time in. A picnic is a fun way to get outside and it also gives you a chance to combine it with other activities such as walking through park trails, birdwatching or playing cricket in the park.

To really keep the kids entertained, they can even prepare the food themselves. From finger sandwiches to muffins to sushi – the options to get creative are limitless.

With Christmas just around the corner, you may be looking for a solution to holiday boredom, and getting the kids in the kitchen for some festive cooking is a great way to entertain them.

Here are our top picks for some simple and fun recipes the kids will enjoy making – and you’ll get to enjoy test-tasting some of their creations in the process.

Gingerbread men

ginger
Pictured: Gingerbread biscuits

These biscuits are popular for good reason – they have a unique and festive taste and they’re also surprisingly easy to make. The kids will love the decorating process and it makes for great entertainment that they can enjoy from the kitchen table.

Ingredients:

  1. 115 grams butter
  2. ½ cup golden syrup
  3. ½ cup brown sugar
  4. 1 egg yolk
  5. 2 cups plain flour
  6. 1 tsp. bicarb soda
  7. 2 cups plain flour
  8. 2 tsp. ground ginger
  9. 1 tsp. cinnamon
  10. 1/3 cup icing sugar

Method:

  • Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius and line a baking tray with baking paper.
  • Coat paper with cooking oil. Beat the butter and sugar together until pale in colour.
  • Then add in the egg yolk, followed by the syrup.
  • Separately, mix the dry ingredients together: the flour, bicarb soda, cinnamon and ginger.
  • Combine the two mixtures together, then wrap the dough in plastic or parchment paper and leave it in the fridge for an hour.
  • After this, roll out the dough and use cookie cutters to cut out gingerbread man-shaped pieces. Position these onto your lined baking tray and bake for 10-15 minutes.
  • For icing: Mix icing sugar with a tablespoon of hot water, then put into a piping bag. Decorate gingerbread men with your desired design.

 

White chocolate snowflakes

White chocolate
Pictured: White chocolate snowflakes on top of biscuits

This is a very simple recipe, requiring only one ingredient, but the results are impressive and sure to thrill children of all ages – and the adults too. They also go well as a decoration for the shortbread biscuits.

Ingredients

  1. White chocolate

Method

  • Set out a tray lined with baking paper.
  • Melt chocolate in a heat-proof bowl over a pot of boiling water.
  • Once the chocolate has melted, put it into a piping bag.
  • To make the snowflake shape either use cookie cutters, baking paper with the pattern cut out, or style your snowflakes freehand.

 

Peppermint hot chocolate

peppermint hot
Pictured: Peppermint hot chocolate

This comforting beverage puts a festive spin on the traditional version, and can be decorated with any number of toppings, from sprinkles to chocolate sauce

Ingredients

  1. 2 tbsp. milk chocolate melts
  2. 1 cup milk
  3. 2 drops peppermint oil
  4. Whipped cream for decoration

Method

  • Put the milk into a saucepan on a low heat.
  • Stir the chocolate melts in.
  • Turn the heat off them add the peppermint oil.
  • Pour it into a mug and top with whipped cream.

 

Christmas shortbread biscuits

christmas biscuit
Pictured: Christmas shortbread biscuits

These classic biscuits are a hallmark for many families at Christmas time – and for good reason. They involve only a few ingredients and there’s a limitless number of shapes to be made, as long as you have the cookie cutters for your desired shape the kids can choose anything from Christmas trees to stars to reindeer.

Ingredients:

  1. 220 grams butter
  2. 1 cup castor sugar
  3. 2 ½ cups plain flour
  4. 1 cup cornflour
  5. 1 tsp. vanilla essence

Method:

  • Preheat the oven to 180 degrees and line a tray with baking paper.
  • Coat the paper with cooking oil. Beat sugar, butter and vanilla until pale in colour.
  • Then add in flour and cornflour. Wrap the dough in plastic or baking paper and leave in the fridge for an hour.
  • Then, roll out the dough and use cookie cutters to cut out your desired shapes.
  • Place them on the baking tray and bake for 10 minutes.
  • Remove from the oven and leave to cool, then decorate as desired.

 

Cheat’s mango trifle

trifle
Pictured: Cheat’s mango trifle

This is a classic summer dessert, but many are put off by the complex steps and elements involved in the recipe. This version is simple and quick – perfect for kids to get creative with.

Ingredients

  1. 2 store-bought sponge cakes
  2. 2 cups custard
  3. 2 cups of thinly sliced mango
  4. 85 grams raspberry jelly powder
  5. 300ml heavy cream
  6. 2 tbsp. raspberry jam

Method

  • Set out a large round bowl and place the first sponge cake in the base.
  • Make raspberry jelly according to package, then pour half over the sponge cake.
  • Then, pour half of the custard on top, followed by half of the mango – arrange it evenly on top of the cake.
  • After this, add the second sponge cake and pour over the rest of the jelly and the rest of the custard.
  • In a separate bowl, whip the heavy cream until stiff peaks form. This should take about 5 minutes.
  • Position the cream on top, then drizzle the jam on top and add the other half of the mango for decoration.
  • Leave it in the fridge to chill for an hour.

 

Berry summer mocktail

Berry mocktail
Pictured: Berry summer mocktail

Mocktails are perfect for the entire family – with a touch of elegance and festivity that is sure to impress any guests you have over. It’s also a great opportunity for the kids to get creative with a range of garnishing ideas they come up with, from lemon or lime wedges to mint leaves or even more substantial decorations like coating the glass rim in sugar. Here’s an easy and fun starter recipe.

Ingredients

  1. 1 cup blueberries
  2. 1 cup crushed raspberries
  3. 4 cups lemonade
  4. 8 mint leaves
  5. 1 lemon, neatly sliced

Method

  • To begin, make the berry syrup by putting the berries, sugar and a cup of water into a pot. Bring to the boil then set aside.
  • Set out four glasses – if you need to make more, simple adjust the recipe – and add the crushed raspberries into the bottom of each glass.
  • Mix a mint leaf into each cup, then add in a tablespoon of the blueberry sugar syrup mix. Add half a cup of lemonade to each glass then fill the rest of the glass with crushed ice.
  • For garnishes, add a mint leaf and a lemon slice, along with any other fruits or herbs of choice.

 

Candy cane yoghurt bark

yoghurt bark
Pictured: Candy cane yoghurt bark

This recipe puts a Christmassy twist on the easy yoghurt bark recipe with nostalgic candy canes. This dessert is so simple and safe for kids to make as there’s no hot temperatures involved.

Ingredients

  1. 2 cups plain yoghurt
  2. 2 candy canes, broken into small pieces
  3. 1 cup raspberries
  4. 1 tbsp. honey (or to taste)

Method

  • Line a freezer-safe tray with baking paper and set aside.
  • Mix yogurt and honey in a bowl.
  • Add crushed candy canes and raspberries.
  • Pour the mix onto the tray, then freeze for 3 hours. To serve, break into 10 pieces.

 

Alcohol-free pina colada

Pina Colada
Pictured: Pina Colada

It’s not summer without a pina colada, and although this beverage is known for its alcoholic kick, there’s no reason the kids can’t enjoy this summery drink – minus the rum, of course.

Ingredients

  1. 1 cup frozen pineapple
  2. ½ cup coconut milk
  3. ½ cup ice cubes
  4. ¼ cup pineapple juice
  5. 4 maraschino cherries

Method

  • Place all ingredients in a blender for 1 minute or until thoroughly blended.
  • Pour into 2 glasses – you can double the recipe to make more.
  • Garnish with maraschino cherries, 2 for each glass.

 

These are a few simple cooking ideas to encourage the kids to get creative in the kitchen. Some of these recipes involve using electric equipment, hot water and the oven, and as such they may require parental supervision to ensure safety for these steps.

3 Important Tips for Parents 

Summer is not far away and with two-thirds of Australians now staying at home, the value
of having a backyard pool has never been more emphasised.

Being able to cool off with a plunge into the water is truly one of the greatest joys of warm
weather but bear in mind that a wonderful pool time also means being safe.

Remonda Martinez, CEO of Sydney’s largest pool builder  Blue Haven Pools and Spas ,
recommends the top water safety tips to keep your kids happy and safe all summer long.

 

Place a Pool Barrier or Fence Around Your Pool

Proper fencing is a safety measure that is also a key  requirement in getting an Occupation
Certificate of Compliance for your pool ,

Take a look at this checklist from Remonda to kick off your summer safely:

Make sure that the barrier’s gate is self-latching and self-closing with the latches out of a
child’s reach.

The gate should open outwards from the pool so it becomes impossible for children to
open it.

Check if there are no gaps under the fence that exceed 100mm.

Check the height of the latching mechanism. It should be 1500mm above the ground.

Ensure that your pool fences are 1200mm high measured from outside the fence, from the
ground level or any surface within 500mm of the fencing.

Relocate your fences like pots, furniture and fixed structures out of the climb zone.

If there is a Boundary Fence as a part of the enclosure, it must be 1800mm high and
completely free of climb points.

For a glass fence, you will need to provide a glazing certificate to the certifier to ensure the
right quality of glass has been used and is not likely to explode in the future.

There should be no doors or windows opening from the dwelling or other outbuildings
entering the pool area.

No vegetation or obstructions must be seen within a 900mm arc from the top of the
boundary fence within the pool area.

To know more about the do’s and don’ts of pool fencing, check out  the Australian Pool
Safety Standards (AS1926.1 – 2012) . 

Cover the Pool When Not in Use

To effectively use pool covers, make sure to cover the pool entirely with its anchors in the
pool deck securely attached.

Remonda also reminds removing the cover completely if you’re planning to use your pool,
whether for only a short period of time or otherwise. She advises using a rigid safety cover
(preferably a motorized one) whenever you’re not using it, and let pool technicians check
its effectiveness first before you let your kids head for a swim.

Some of the best options for  pool covers  are:

• Safety nets

• Mesh covers

• Automatic  pool covers  or vinyl pool covers – this will allow you to open or close the
cover with only a press of a button. Very convenient.

Please note: If your pool is  above-ground , keep in mind that you need to remove the steps
and ladders when your pool is not in use aside from placing a pool cover.

Install Pool Alarms

Remonda encourages parents and homeowners to invest in a pool alarm as a second line
of defence to supplement a pool fence.

Having a pool alarm lets you easily detect if someone has entered your pool as it reacts to
any movement or waves in your pool water. You can opt for the type of alarm system that
shoots a beam around the pool area and sends an alarm once someone walks through it.

Water Safety Checklist 

A parent herself, Remonda understands that keeping your kids safe is a year-round effort
that goes beyond enrolling them on learn-to-swim classes. On that note, she advises you
to strictly follow these universal guidelines:

• Always supervise your children whenever they’re in and around the pool. Don’t
leave them alone even if they know how to swim.

• Enrol them and yourself on swimming lessons especially those aged 1-4 years old.

• Learn CPR and other lifesaving skills and keep a first aid box in your house.

• Teach them pool safety rules and keep rescue equipment close to the pool.

• Always let them wear life jackets. Floating toys are not life jackets.

• Do not allow them to play breath-holding games in the water.

• Remind them to always enter the water with their feet first.

• Remind them to avoid pool drains and make sure you fix faulty drains immediately.

• Make your outlined pool rules eye-catching and place it near the pool area.

• Clearly mark the deep and shallow ends of your pool.

Final Words 

In any situation, knowledge is power. By understanding and following these water safety
tips, you have all the means to ensure that your little swimmers can enjoy a wonderful and
safe plunge in your pools.

Twelve simple and healthy dessert snacks that have minimal preparation, quick-step methods and nutritional benefits.

Summer is just around the corner, and for anyone who has been searching for a sweet treat that will hit the spot but remain guilt-free these twelve simple and healthy dessert snack recipes are ready for your everyday repertoire. From pancakes, to peanut butter oats to sorbet and homemade nice-cream there is something for the whole family to enjoy. 

1. Easy Watermelon Sorbet

For those who are searching for something fresh but also like to indulge in the sweeter side, watermelon sorbet is the way.

Ingredients

• 3-4 cups of frozen de-seeded watermelon • 3/4 cup of coconut cream
• Half a small lime

Method

Blend and Enjoy!

2. Two Ingredient Mango Sorbet

A two ingredient simple mango sorbet that cools your cravings throughout the summer months.

Ingredients

• 3 cups of frozen mango • 1 can of coconut milk

Method

Blend and Enjoy!

3. Creamy Coconut Nice-Cream

Summer calls for creamy coconut goodness, nice-cream can be eaten as made or poured into ice cream frozen moulds ready to enjoy.

Ingredients

  • 4-6 frozen bananas (depending on the desired serving size)
  • 1/2 cup shredded coconut
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup coconut cream

Method

Blend and Enjoy!

4. Chocolate Peanut Butter Nice-cream

Perfect for the chocolate lovers a creamy and fresh consistency through healthy and natural ingredients.

Ingredients

• 4 frozen bananas
• 3 tbsp natural peanut butter • 1 tbsp cocoa powder
• 1/4 cup almond milk

Method

Blend and Enjoy!

5. Very Berry Nice-Cream

An easy and fresh berry combination perfect for a summer afternoon by the pool.

Ingredients

• 2 Frozen bananas
• 1 cup frozen berries
• 2 tbsp almond milk
• 1/4 tsp vanilla extract

Method

Blend and Enjoy!

6. Chia Pudding

If you’ve been searching for an overnight snack option for those who love to healthy meal prep a chia pudding is a simple recipe that you can change up toppings daily.

Ingredients

• 1/4 cup chia seeds
• 1/2 cup of almond or coconut milk

Toppings of choice eg. Banana, Honey, Greek yoghurt

Method

Combine and refrigerate overnight. In the morning the chia seeds will have expanded and softened, ready to top with topping of choice!


7. Overnight Chocolate Oats

A solution for all of the chocolate lovers big and small, chocolate oats are a satisfying overnight breakfast or a ready-to-eat chocolate snack conquering cravings.

Ingredients

• 1 tbsp cocoa powder
• 50-100 grams oats
• 150 ml almond milk
• 1 tbsp natural peanut butter

Toppings of choice eg. Banana, berries, yoghurt or peanut butter.

Method

Combine all ingredients and refrigerate overnight. Top with toppings of choice and enjoy!

8. Baked Snickers Oats

Offering warm baked goodness of oats, with a melt-in-your mouth sensation the kids (and parents) will love as an after school treat or dessert.

Ingredients

• 1 cup of oats
• 1 tbsp cocoa powder
• 1 cup almond milk
• 1 tbsp maple syrup
• 1 tbsp natural peanut butter
• Dark chocolate chips (optional)

Method

Combine ingredients and blend together.
Transfer the blended mixture to a small baking dish.
Top with dark chocolate chips (optional) and a small
tsp of natural peanut butter in the middle before baking for 15 mins. The peanut butter will melt into the chocolate oats and be ready to enjoy!

9.Banana and Egg Pancake

Sunday morning breakfast just got a whole lot healthier, nutritious and delicious these pancakes are a simple revision to your classic repertoire.

Ingredients

• 1-2 mashed banana
• 2 eggs
• 1 tbsp Chia seeds / LSA Mix (Optional)

Toppings of choice eg. Mixed Berries, Greek Yoghurt, Honey, Peanut Butter.

Method

Mash the banana and combine in a bowl with eggs. Optional to add chia seeds or LSA mix-ins. Whisk until fully combined. Cook in a saucepan for roughly 5 minutes each side [lipping like a regular pancake until cooked on both sides!

Top with toppings of choice. Enjoy!

10. Cookie Dough

For all those cookie loving kids (big kids included) this recipe is a simple way to satisfy your cravings.

Ingredients

• 1 cup oat [lour
• 1/3 cup coconut milk
• 1 cup dates
• 1/4 cup dark chocolate chips • 1 tsp vanilla

Method

Combine all ingredients and refrigerate!

11. Peanut Butter and Date Cookies

The cookies that will transform your baking, a gluten and guilt free alternative, these can also be a great Christmas cookie.

Ingredients

• 1/2 cup natural peanut butter • 1/4 cup maple syrup
• 2 tsp vanilla extract
• 1 1/2 cups almond meal

• 1/2 cup chopped dates • 1 tsp baking soda

Method

Mix wet ingredients; peanut butter, maple syrup and vanilla in one bowl. Mix dry ingredients; almond meal and baking soda in a seperate bowl. Combine both mixes and fold in the dates to mixture.
Seperate and roll mixture into bowls, [latten and bake for 10 minutes. Leave to rest for 10 minutes.

Enjoy!

12. Vegan Museli Bars

The perfect lunchbox or after school snack, prepare and store for throughout the week!

Ingredients

• 1 mashed ripe banana
• 1/4 cup maple syrup
• 1/4 cup natural peanut butter
• 1/4 cup loosely chopped almonds • 1/4 cup loosely chopped walnuts • 1 1/4 cup rolled oats
• 1/4 cup gogi berries

Method

Roast the nuts and oats in the oven for 15 minutes.
In a saucepan combine peanut butter, mashed banana and maple syrup and stir until a melted consistency.
When the oats and nuts are lightly toasted combine them to the saucepan mixture add gogi berries and mix together in a bowl.
Pour the mixture and press down with a spatula into a baking dish lined with paper. Put some more baking paper onto of mix and use the spatula to press down tightly.

Place in fridge for about 1 hour to set.
Take the paper off mixture and cut into bars and Enjoy!

Ari takes inspiration from her own childhood when planning school holidays for her child.

Okay, so now that I’m a mother, I can see the flawed and horrible logic that is the summer School Holidays.

SO LONG! Why so long? And why so sunny? Not only do the weeks last forever, each day seems like about ten days because the sun never goes down so you can’t do the old, it’s-dark-now-so-go-to-bed-and-leave-me-in-peace trick until about 9.00pm. Gruesome. Badly planned. Too hot. Whoever decides on these things needs a couple of mothers on the committee to arrange things properly.

When I was a kid, I loved Summer Hols, even though they mostly consisted of going to swimming lessons. I mean, there were a LOT of lessons and they kinda sucked. We didn’t get merit certificates for putting our heads under the water, or anything like that. No, me and my three siblings used to front up to the fifty metre non-solar-heated pool and some Old Boiler would make us fling ourselves into the lap-lane and bitch at us about our stroke. Every. Single. Day. I joke not. The only day we didn’t go was Sunday, and that’s because we had to go to church. My folks liked structure.

All of us kids were at different swimming levels and each lesson lasted about an hour – no pithy 25 minutes in a heated pool for us – so we had to hang around the local pool for about five hours by the time we got through everyone. In between lessons my mother, who engineered the annual Swimming Lesson Bonanza, would instruct us to do about a million more laps for ‘practise’, while she leisurely swam about seven lanes away from us pretending, I see in retrospect, that we didn’t belong to her.

Anyway, all that lapping took us through to about 2.00pm every day, and after five hours of swimming in waters that felt sub-Arctic, we had a lot of our collective Energizer Bunny burnt out of us. Basically that meant we were too tired to whinge and fight at the level we were accustomed to. Plus, we were starving.

My mother is a wily woman, non? She was deliberately, and delightedly, onto something and, now that I am a harried veteran of School Hols myself, I can see she utilised this strategy shamelessly throughout my childhood.

Summer hols meant overdosing on swimming lessons and Old Boilers brandishing megaphones but I think our winter holidays were worse. In winter, we’d take a trip down to Bluff Knoll and have to climb the mountain pretty much constantly. Once was never enough.

I, personally, do not understand the point of mountain climbing. I know there is a point and people feel all I’ve-Conquered-The-Mountain kind of thing when they’ve slogged up the rock face and are standing at the top, but I am quite happy for the mountain to conquer me. The mountain can win and I am MORE THAN OKAY with that. There. I said it. Go mountain. Victory is yours. Unfortunately, my folks are conquering types so I have actually conquered Bluff Knoll – miserably and without grace – more times than I care to recall. Sorry ‘bout that mountain. Won’t happen again.

If we didn’t climb the mountain, we’d go on long bush walks – like six hours or something – with an apple and a vegemite roll for sustenance, and only one another for company. I am not sure why. My parents thought this kind of thing was Fun With A Capital F. I mean, they really dug stumbling along some bush track for hours playing ‘I Spy’ for kicks. There’s only so many times you can Spy a Tree, if you know what I’m saying.

And being winter it rained quite a bit. Basically it rained whenever we had to do a Challenging Outdoor Activity, which was every day. It did not matter if there were fecking hail stones the size of golf balls – we still went mountain climbing or roaming around in the wilderness. My mother packed an odd assortment of raincoats for such weather and flung them happily at us, along with random too-big gumboots, and off we went.

We did complain to our parents, of course. I might have, ahem, complained more than anyone else but they took precisely zero notice and we still had to do these God-awful Extreme Sport like holidays, except we didn’t look cool like they do in Extreme Sport commercials, we just looked random and mis-matched, dodging hailstones in our weird raincoats.

So anyway, this School Hols we had a few weeks of the child bouncing-off-the-walls and me and the other half were starting to get a bit desperate and tetchy. The days were sunny and hot and, above all, long. So, so long.

“I have the solution,” I said, one morning after trying and failing to persuade the child to bounce on the trampoline in the broiling son without Mummy.

The other half raised an eyebrow.

“He needs to know how to swim better than he does,” I gabbled. “Much, MUCH better. We need to book him into swimming lessons EVERY DAY for the rest of the holidays RIGHT NOW.”

I grabbed my phone and started dialling swim schools and, gosh darn it, I did not stop dialling until someone told me they would take him the very next day. Huzzah!

And so he went. And he put his head under the water and blew bubbles and stuff. And he got a merit certificate and a colouring in book and lots of high fives. Unfortunately, it seems Old Boilers are now extinct, but he still got tired-ish. Sort of.

Next hols, I’ve decided that we’re off to Bluff Knoll. I plan to nominate myself for tea duty, while my husband and son conquer the mountain.

Mood Audrey Lamp 50cm

$99.95.

Salt&Pepper launches BANJO + CO – a new range dedicated to the special little ones in our lives. From classic to contemporary bases and shades, our MOOD range of lamps adds that final touch to your decorating. For more information check out https://www.saltandpepper.com.au/decorating/lighting

 

Felix Clock 30cm

$49.95.

With Salt&Pepper’s ZONE range of clocks there are a huge range of colours and designs to choose from to add ‘wow’ to your walls. Treat ZONE as you would any fashion accessory – go bold, big and or colourful. For more information check out https://www.saltandpepper.com.au/decorating/clocks

 

Palm Beach Collection

$39.95.

Introduce beautiful fragrance into your home with gorgeous soy candles. For details or to shop for The Palm Beach collection online, go to palmbeachcollection.com.au

 

Goldie + Ace Throw Blanket

$149.95.

The Splice…it’s the new must have baby blanket of the season by new kid on the block GOLDIE + ACE. Knitted with beautifully soft merino wool and finished with colourful pom poms. Goldie + Ace is a brand new Australian designed mini label, which has recently released their first collection. With a focus on quality fabrics in simple, easy to wear shapes the unique, contemporary style range has been developed for sizes 0 up to 4. For more information check out https://goldieandace.com/collections/wraps-blankets

 

Pana Chocolate

$7.90.

If you can think of someone that wouldn’t like this for Christmas, we’re worried. Organic, vegan, handmade, gluten free and refined sugar free, it includes Coconut & Goji, Mint, Raw Cacao and Sour Cherry & Vanilla. For more information check out https://panachocolate.com

 

Dessata ‘All you need is love’ Detangling Brush

From $29.95.

Dessata has released an exclusive range of limited edition detangling brushes where $5 from every brush sold is donated to headspace. The colourful print pays homage to the flamboyant ‘flower power’ era and celebrates the promotion of love, peace, equality and freedom. For more information check out dessata.com.au

 

321 Water ‘Tree Plunging Filtration Bottle’

From $32.

Crafted from a new, strong, glass-like material which is BPA and BPS free and 100% recyclable, 321 Water, incorporates a unique tree plunging mechanism which absorbs the unappealing impurities found in urban tap streams without inhibiting the benefits of fluoride fortification. For more information check out www.321water.com

 

Funkita Pina Colada Tie Me Tight One Piece

$89.95.

If you’re planning on spending time with the kids at the beach or by the pool, check out the new adults and kids swimwear collection. We love this bright and colourful Funkita Pina Colada one piece in particular. For more information check out www.funkytrunks.com or www.funkita.com

 

Qi Tea’s Slim Tea

$5.15 for a box of 20.

The subtle combination of spices, cinnamon and burdock root combine to make a warming tea that has the ability to increase the heat your body produces, resulting in thermogenesis, a process which can help burn more calories and promote weight loss. Qi Teas are available online, at Woolworths, and independent health food stores. For more information check out http://qitea.com.au

 

Travelling to foreign countries really changes who you are. Through the people you meet, the experiences you encounter and the new found appreciation and value you gain for your own life.

But the biggest blessing of all is calling your friends, family.

From travelling around the South, standing by my best friend at her wedding and a few hiccups on the way (missed flights, wrong accommodation, you know the drill).

I pushed through my culture shock and preconceived expectations, and am glad to say that it is a place I was soon calling my second home.

I had the honour of being asked to stand by my best friend at her wedding as her bridesmaid in Bitola which is her home town in Macedonia, in July this year. So I did what any normal person would do (after I accepted their offer of course). I Googled the word ‘Macedonia’ because I had absolutely no idea where it was.

I soon learnt it was a small country in the Balkan region of Europe, bordering Greece, Albania, Kosovo, Serbia and Bulgaria and the excitement of a European summer and holiday planning soon kicked it.

After having first-hand experience travelling to Macedonia from Melbourne, here are my top five suggestions.

Skopje

I had never experienced culture shock before until I travelled to Skopje.

This is where I spent my first day in Macedonia and the language was unfamiliar, it was extremely hot and some streets were beautiful with lots of history and really old worn down buildings while a few hundred metres down it would portray a real image of poverty.

It was a really confronting experience and it wasn’t until a few hours later that I felt comfortable walking around the unfamiliar streets and engaging with the predominantly locals, who lived in the city centre.

But I found that once you passed the poorer areas of the city which are quite confronting, there is so many beautiful buildings and history to be experienced. The main city centre is where we spent a majority of our day.

We purchased Kozinjak, which is sweet bread that is a famous Macedonian dish. We walked around the main square which had old historical statues of Alexander the Great, as well as thousand-year-old ancient ruins.

We also went shopping in the old town and decided that Macedonian fashion was very far off from how we dressed in Melbourne. They wore lots of bright colours, like blue, orange, red and pink and everything had a diamanté or crystal on it and was tight.

My friend and I spent the day trying on their clothes and getting an understanding of their culture  before we called a taxi and began our three hour car ride to Bitola.

 

Tip: It is a huge advantage to travel with somebody who knows their way around.

Resen

We travelled here purely for a day trip to have lunch at my friend’s relative’s restaurant. The restaurant was overflowing with greenery and looked like it was out of a fairy-tale.

The first thing I saw after walking down the wobbly cobble stone stairs, was a humongous pond with dozens of blue and orange fish swimming around. I then walked through a large area of garden, with small trees and large well-kept bushes, overflowing flowers hanging from pink garden pots and bright red roses.

To get to our lunch table we had to walk over a cute little white painted handmade bridge that was built over the pond, where the smell of fresh crisp air and flowers followed. Resen is a small town in Macedonia’s Southwest will just under 9,000 inhabitants, who are, in my experience, very humble and welcoming people.

The food is also very fresh. We ordered the traditional Ćevapi which is a mincemeat based sausage dish, that the restaurant owners made from scratch in their kitchen. I also had the traditional Shopska salad, which is tomato, cucumber, peppers and onion topped with the ingredient Macedonians put in every dish… Sirene cheese.

Ohrid

Described as Macedonia’s most ‘seductive destination’ on Lonely Planet, Ohrid is probably the most beautiful town I have ever visited in my life. The town is surrounded by a beautiful crystal blue lake, that has a strong calming tranquil feel to it, especially when you swim in its icy cold waters.

 

The lake is one of 28 sites listed on UNESCO’s Cultural and Natural World Heritage sites.

The town has such a happy positive energy to it, especially in the summer time. The main street is filled with traditional houses with red tiled roofs, buzzing with tourists taking photos by the lake and at every corner walking down the ancient cobble stones of the main street, you catch a glimpse of one of the 365 churches and monasteries Ohrid is known for.

One for every day of the year.

I climbed up a hill to visit the famous Church of St. John at Kaneo.  The church had tints of the same red tiles that filed the town, and had a main entrance surrounded by round pillars and was situated to overlook the whole lake. It was extremely dark inside the main area, and only around five metres in length and width.

The smell of essence was very overwhelming and everything inside, including the dozens of images of Christ, was gold. But you could feel the history when you walked around and felt a spiritual connection to the church and the lake.

Struga

Struga is definitely a town worth visiting and is only an hour’s drive from Bitola. I didn’t get to experience much of the town but went to the Hotel Izgrev Spa and Aqua park.

I spent the day going on a large waterslide that was about 50m high, and felt like a little kid every time I screamed down the slide and splashed into the water. I alternated between this, and ordering a fruity cocktail at the large pool side bar and laying on a tanning bed.
What I loved most about the Aqua park was that you could sit on the edge of the Luke-warm pool and get a 180-degree view of Lake Ohrid. I really enjoyed Struga because it was so relaxing and calming and gave me a day to wind down, especially after the wedding.

The Saint Jovan Bigorski monastery

Travelling to this monastery proved to be a bit of an adventure. This is where my friends decided to have their wedding ceremony, which was a 3.5-hour drive from the town we were staying in.

So we all woke up extra early the day of the wedding (which also happened to be the morning after the Hens night) and hopped onto a bus on an empty stomach and three hours sleep, to travel to this monastery which seemed like a lifetime away.

 

Especially after the bus broke down and we hitchhiked on the side of an unknown Macedonian highway, which I can now tick off my bucket list.

Two buses and several hours later we finally made it to the Orthodox St Jovan Bigorski monastery, and it was (almost) worth the trouble of getting there. The monastery was first built in 1020 and rebuilt in 1743 by Monk Ilarion after being destroyed by the Ottomans.

The monastery is fully equipped with a two fountains filled with fresh mountain water, a dining room, tower and old charnel house, that you can walk around and visit.

The views are absolutely exquisite and so picturesque. You can walk around the whole monastery and get views of the deep green Mountain Bistra and the crystal blue river banks of Radika.

Inside the monastery, you feel transported in history. In the middle of the room was a large round chandelier, at least two metres in width, in the shape of a crown, that was covered in jewels.

 

The mass, even though it was in Macedonian, felt really special and it was so interesting watching how another culture celebrates and performs religious sacraments. The priest placed large gold crowns on both the bride and grooms head and everyone stood up and surrounded the newlyweds, making it a really intimate ceremony.

The dim lighting and strong smell of essence made the experience even more special. And what topped it off was that the bus didn’t break down on the way home!