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Sunday, December 18, 2016

Canberra: Family Trip TRAVEL REVIEW


Have you been to our nation's capital?

If not, you simply must.

If you have a terribly outdated idea that Canberra is 'boring' stop reading!

Actually, keep reading! It's the best thing you could do as a Sydney-ite as this Australian city has so much to offer, and it's under two hours away.

We, and by we I mean my family and a fellow blogger's family in tow, visited Canberra in October and fit in much as we could in a matter of days.

Think: Cockington Green Gardens, Questacon, Floriade, National Zoo and Aquarium, National Arboretum Canberra.

The National Arboretum Canberra is something to see! Not part of our schedule, we kinda stumbled across it while driving past.

(We originally published this post HERE at sister site Josie's Juice, but we've added some elements here to suit the 'Twinnie World' audience).

It's here you can actually see "the forest for the trees", with its 94 forests of rare, endangered and symbolic trees from Australia and around the world.

We loved that we could drive up the breathtaking, winding driveway and park, then walk right into the Arboretum, grab a table (try to get one as close as possible to that fabulous view,  although each table has a 360 degree view of the vast expanse of trees), peruse the menu and grab a delicious bite to eat (there is something for all, young palates and more refined palates), then stroll to the large kids 'Pod Playground' just outside, or stay inside the awe inspiring Arboretum structure and have wine and dessert.

You can walk through, drive in, cycle about, or even horse-ride around the 250 hectare site. You’ll be gobsmacked at all its beauty, including the living artworks in the National Bonsai and Penjing collection. 

You can enjoy a free guided and self-guided tours, loads of interactive displays, outdoor sculptures, or pack a picnic to enjoy an outdoor meal with some of the most spectacular views in our capital city.

Download their 'augmented reality' app and listen to soundscapes, interesting stories about the trees, and holograms featuring stories about a fire fighter, harpist, landscape architect, Ngunnawal man, volunteer guide and bonsai artist.

Here is a video round up:

And now, the zoo!

The National Zoo and Aquarium is possibly THE best zoo I have been to.

It's just ten minutes drive from the city (EVERYTHING is easy to navigate and get to in and around Canberra), and it proved a big hit with big and little people.

The zoo itself is super easy to get around, and all its all in the way they've planned out the zoo - it's a clear path between sections and the most popular animals like the majestic lion and the funny meerkats - and you can enjoy the opportunity to help feed animals (including meerkats!), 

AND: it's Australia’s only combined zoo and aquarium. You guys, it's SO good. Families, singles, bunches of friends, first dates, grandparents' days out - it's perfect for all, especially because of way it's set out, and how easy it is to get from A to B.

The zoo and adjoining aquarium is only 10 minutes’ drive from the city, you can go behind-the-scenes at the National Zoo & Aquarium.

You can try: a ZooventureFamily or Walk on the Wildside tour. You can help feed animals, handfeed a giraffe or bear, and at kids over the age of 12 can do the Meet-a-Cheetah encounter and pat a cheetah.

You could also experience a stay overnight here! THE ultimate stay for animal lovers, we saw the precinct from afar and know that you are right in the middle of it all. So fun - imagine waking up to that. Here is more on that:

Seriously, get to the zoo as soon as you can! If the last time you went was as a child, and you're not sure you can find interest in looking at animals, no matter how cute, you will be pleasantly surprised at how much you'll enjoy it, just as we did.

It was such a fab experience for our twins! Having two kids the same age can be a challenge to keep them entertained - at all ages, really - but the zoo caters to all ages and stages, and you will see easily how each child connects to their particular interest in various animals.

Next up, Australian Institute of Sport, Cockington Green Gardens and Questacon – The National Science and Technology Centre.

Best tip straight up: buy the 3 In Fun pass to get access to all three of the above - AND this means you save more than 25% on the usual price.

And guess what: the 3infun ticket also offers a FREE return visit to one of the participating attractions! Yes.

Yes, before you head to the mini manicured gardens, consider this: the 3infun ticket gets you all THREE attractions:
Australian Institute of Sport, the delightful miniature world of Cockington Green Gardens, or 200 (YES!) exhibits and experiences at Questacon - it's ALL available with ONE pass.
The 3infun ticket lets you save more than 25% on the usual price. PLUS, and I love this, 3infun is offering a FREE return visit to one of the participating attractions. So, go back and  revisit any of the three attractions for FREE!

For more on this 3infun ticket, click HERE.

Another tip: call ahead at Australian Institute of Sport and ask when they are able to host you. The AIS is open daily, but tour times are specific.
Listed on the site, the times are: 10am, 11:30am, 1pm and 2:30pm
Tours are closed only on Good Friday, Christmas and Boxing Day, and New Years Day.
The AIS is Australia's premier elite sports precinct, which attracts 200,000 visitors from Australia and overseas.  
Set amongst 65 hectares of native bushland, the AIS offers an insight into Australia's sporting past and shows what our nation is capable of from a sporting perspective.
Like seemingly everything in Canberra, it's only minutes from the CBD, with plenty of free car and coach parking.
Here you can get a sense of what it takes for a high perfomance athlete to make it, with a behind-the-scenes tour of the AIS, where the country's best athletes train.
It's located at Leverrier Street, Bruce and you call for more info here: 02 6214 1444, or go to:

Here's a video on what the AIS has to offer:

With the tour of the AIS - an award-winning guided 90-minute tour - you even might catch some of Australia's top athlete's in training!
Here you can also challenge yourself in Sportex, one of Australia's leading interactive sports exhibits, set amongst a unique collection of Australian sporting memorabilia - this is part of every AIS Tour. You can even give wheelchair basketball, virtual downhill skiing, rock climbing, football penalty shootouts and much more a red hot go.  
You can also dive into the world-class AIS aquatic and fitness centre which offers both 50-metre and 25-metre heated pools in an indoor complex, plus there is a fully equipped gym with the latest fitness equipment and a range of unique fitness and group training sessions, or you can even hire an experienced personal trainer at the AIS. Fees apply: check the website for times and session and pool availability.

Onto Cockington Green Gardens! One of my fave parts of Canberra!

No way is this miniature world just for littlies, instead it's most definitely for big and little kids. The twins LOVED this - we have boy and girl twins - and they found joy in the stereotypical things they loved: she loved the dolls house (see more below), and he loved the trains, trains, and more trains.

Created by Doug and Brenda Sarah, Cockington Green Gardens is a family owned and operated attraction, with four generations involved in it’s operation over the past 35 years. It opened to the public in 1979, and has won an Australian Tourism Award and many local tourism industry awards. And you can see why! Step into the world of Cockington Green Gardens and immediately you are transported to another land - a whimsical, very green, perfectly manicured mini world of miniature trains and gardens and immaculately kept flower beds.

Step into Cockington Green Gardens and be seriously dazzled by the attention to detail in each and every section of every themed, manicured garden, completed with doll like elements which genuinely fascinate and engage people of all ages who visit. Our group was two sets of adults and fours kids if varying age, and we were all enthralled and engaged the WHOLE time.

Cockington Green Gardens always has something to see: it's constantly growing with the popular addition of the international display area, which complements the original English Village and the established gardens.

You can also pop into the Rose Room indoor exhibition, featuring ‘Waverley’ a 34 room Dolls House, or have a coffee in the Parsons Nose Garden CafĂ©, or bring a picnic lunch.

Don't forgo the cute miniature steam train ride, which goes right around the international display, giving you a complete, leisurely total view of the whole attraction. Awesome fun for young and old!

Here is more on Cockington Green Gardens:

And of course, there is Floriade.

Floriade is now in its decades' long run in Canberra, and is a leisurely way to see flowers in season and clever and beautiful flower installations, for both young and old.

It is set on a huge expanse of land alongside the iconic Lake Burley Griffin in Canberra’s Commonwealth Park, and has been there since its beginnings in 1988, when Peter Sutton and his colleague, landscape designer Chris De Bruine, developed a proposal for a grand floral display to celebrate Australia’s Bicentenary and Canberra’s 75th birthday.

Well! Hasn't it grown since! Josie's Juice went along to the very first Floriade that year with nature loving mamma in tow, and it has changed markedly since then, growing bigger and better each year.

There are stunning floral displays of exotic bulbs and annuals, which thrive in Canberra’s cool climate. Every single year, more than one million blooms (yes, over ONE MILLION!) are on show to create a stunning backdrop to a month-long festival filled with music, cultural celebrations, horticultural workshops, artistic displays, entertainment and recreational activities.

Floriade runs from mid-September to mid-October and attracts almost half a million attendees each year.

While Floraide has free entry for adults and kids, it's advised that families bring some money along for the kiddie rides and of course food, if you like. Or, BYO sandwiches and drinks.

So, where did we rest our heads?
We stayed at the Breakfree Canberra, which is situated at 2 Marcus Clarke Street, Canberra.

An older style hotel complex, it has all you need for a family stay with all the amenities you need, lots of room, the opportunity to cook for yourself and your guests, centrally located and a short stroll to shops, Floriade (when it's on in Spring each year - allow for around 15 minutes from your hotel), and cafes and restaurants.

The hotel has a partnership with Bicicletta Restaurant (around five or so minutes away) and here you can  eat your hotel brekkie (there is no other restaurant offering at the hotel), and it is DELICIOUS and has that 'thing' many restaurants around this precinct have: the cool factor. Anyone who rattles of that antiquated notion that Canberra is uncool should be MADE to come here. Cafes buzzing with excellent coffee, a park with shipping containers set up as food truck heaven, and just a cool vibe.

Back to the hotel. Reasonably priced (click HERE for rates), here are some photos of the different room variations the hotel offers:

 And some snaps from my @josiegags Instagram account:

The view from our hotel, Breakfree:

And read more HERE.

To see more and read more about what Canberra has to offer, click HERE.

Want to know where Canberra's most Instagrammable locations are? Visit Canberra has a link for that too! CLICK HERE.

Make Canberra your next family, couple, or solo destination. For families with twins, we think there is plenty of scope to what mini and older multiples will enjoy. We think you will love it!

Josie's Juice blog was a guest of Visit Canberra, looking after our passes for each precinct. Josie's Juice was a paid guest at the Breakfree Hotel, Canberra.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Bec Judd Brings Twins Home

Bec Judd is home with her twinnies and looking gorgeous.

The family of six looks super happy (and no doubt mum and dad are tired) as the settle in a life that has changed forever.

Of course, at TwinnieWorld, we KNOW how hard it can be to tend to TWO mouths, bottoms, and demands.

Bec, we wish you all the very best with your newly expanded brood.

We may be a little (LOT) biased, but we think twins are the absolute BEST thing ever...

And Bec au naturel, sans makeup:

Bec also posted a pic in her skinny jeans (she's in the same outfit above), and some comments on social media has been less than nice.

I say: leave her be! Her body type is her body type, she has just delivered two beautiful, healthy babies, and it's not her first rodeo: the mamma of four clearly works, functions, and tends to her family.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Luna Park: Shopkins and Grossery Gang Village

The school holidays are here!

Yes, we know... you suddenly become an event planner, calendar wrangler, kiddies entertainer, time manager extraordinaire.

You KNOW Luna Park is a no brainer for non stop kiddie fun (unlimited rides, anyone? YES! For kids AND adults) and now the iconic Sydney historical theme park is introducing the BIGGEST Shopkins and Grossery Gang attraction with an entire Shopkins and Grossery Gang Village! YES!

Featuring a Shopkins Swapkins Station allowing children to swap their Shopkins with fellow fans (so, it's Shopkins aficionado heaven) and a Shopkins and Grossery Gang Museum and Treasure Hunt, there will be daily meet and greets with Kooky Cookie throughout Luna Park, and much more.

Featuring every Shopkins and Grossery Gang character ever created, a selection of one of kind Shopkins showbags and merchandise and an exciting opportunity for guests to have their very own Shopkin design made into a real life Shopkin by entering the Design your Own Shopkin competition, the Shopkins and Grossery Gang activities are bound to set little hearts racing and provide endless hours of entertainment these school holidays.

In addition to Luna Park Sydney’s traditional rides, including the recently reinstated Tango Train with a modern twist, LED light show and state of the art technology for a faster white knuckle ride, a brand new experience will be making its debut at the park only for the holiday period – The Avenger. For the older and braver crowd, the ride spins on three axes. Think extreme adrenaline and extreme fun for those brave enough to strap in.

Luna Park Marketing Manager, Brendan Biddell said, “We’re stepping it up a notch these school holidays and offering something for the entire family – the little ones can let loose in the Shopkins and Grossery Gang Village, while the bigger kids and adults can enjoy all the thrills of Luna Park’s rides, venues, attractions and entertainment.”

“Having the Shopkins and Grossery Gang Village is something we are really excited about, it’s a national first and caters to the school holiday crowd - an audience that is constantly on the look out for some extra entertainment options over the holidays.”

As the weather warms up, Luna Park will not only be THE perfect Sydney day out for young and older folks (the ferries wheel! Coney Island! The dodgem cars! The Hair Raiser drop tower! That million dollar view!), you should stay tuned for the fun pop up exhibits like this, themed events like Halloween (Halloscream), and much more.

For all your questions on Luna Park, click HERE.

For more on Shopkins at Luna Park, click HERE.

You can explore the Shopkins and Grossery Gang Villageopen daily during the school holidays from 10am - 4pm.
The Shopkins and Grossery Gang Village is open daily until 10 October.
And: it's exclusive to Luna Park Sydney. 

And here is a trailer for the Shopkins FUN at Luna Park:

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Ice Age Live! A Mammoth Adventure: Australian 2016 Tour

Ice Age Live! A Mammoth Adventure is the live, ice-skating arena spectacular, starring the characters from the much loved 'Ice Age' films, and it's here during the school holiday season for kids to enjoy - through March and April.

Scrat, Sid and all his pre-historic friends are here. TEG Live, Stage Entertainment Touring Productions and Twentieth Century Fox bring Ice Age Live! A Mammoth Adventure to Australian audiences - the FIRST EVER AUSTRALIAN SHOW performed on Friday 25 March at Newcastle Entertainment Centre then sees the tour continue to Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney and Perth for the school holidays (pic below from media launch in Sydney, 2016).

Ice Age Live! A Mammoth Adventure combines circus, comedy, aerial arts, exceptional ice-skating, puppetry and film, with a new story based on one of the top-grossing international animated film franchises of all time. Have your kiddies watched 'Ice Age'? Okay... how many times?

Directed by some of the biggest names in live entertainment, this global phenomenon has travelled 25 (YES!) countries in its five-year tour since the premiere at London’s Wembley Arena in November 2012. Due to popular demand, three new shows have been added to the schedule in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth. Fo all tickets available, go here to Ticketek site.

Here is a teaser clip:

The full run of tour dates are as follows:

Fri 25 Mar 2016

Sat 26 Mar 2016
2pm | 6 pm

Sun 27 Mar 2016
Fri 1 Apr 2016

Sat 2 Apr 2016
2pm | 6 pm

Sun 3 Apr 2016
Fri 8 Apr 2016

Sat 9 Apr 2016
10am | 2pm | 6pm

Sun 10 Apr 2016
Fri 15 Apr 2016

Sat 16 Apr 2016
10am | 2pm | 6pm

Sun 17 Apr 2016
Fri 22 Apr 2016

Sat 23 Apr 2016
10am | 2pm | 6pm

Sun 24 Apr 2016

Tickets on sale now:

Ice Age Live! A Mammoth Adventure is brought to Australia by TEG Live, produced by Stage Entertainment Touring Productions and Twentieth Century Fox directed by some of the biggest names in live entertainment. The show is co-directed by the brilliant mind behind the Cirque du Soleil productions, Ka and Dralion, Guy Caron, with story, music and lyrics created by Ella Louise Allaire and Martin Lord Ferguson (Cirque du Soleil, Holiday on Ice and APM Music). 

Michael Berg, who co-wrote some of the Ice Age films, supervises character dialogue. Character Visualisation design is headed by co-director Michael Curry (Cirque du Soleil, Walt Disney’s The Lion King).

Here are some more pics from the show's International Facebook page (which you can follow here):

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

'Healthy Food, Healthy Gut, Happy Child' by Maya Shetreat-Klein: REVIEW

TwinnieWorld is lucky to have a guest blogger: Gabriella Dessanti, who will review books for this site, as well as sister site Josie's Juice.

Here, Gabriella reviews the new book 'Healthy Food, Healthy Gut, Happy Child' by Maya Shetreat-Klein.

Says Gabriella:

This is “the children’s food bible” for any conscientious parent.

This book is a practical step by step guide to heal and nourish a child’s body. A handy take home list at the end of each chapter summarises and reinforces key points.

The author draws on her experience as an integrative paediatric neurologist and various scientific studies to prove that true health begins from our gut. True health she asserts requires diverse and abundant microbes in living elements- sunshine, fresh food, even in soil. Microbial balance and biodiversity and is the key to robust health.  A well- nourished child allowed to interact with diverse exposures becomes naturally resilient.  What is encouraging as a parent that our children’s health is not static but fluid; it can be transformed by changing what they eat and their interaction with nature. Even chronic illness may not be cured but the quality of life can be improved.

The first step for true health is detoxification. She provides a checklist to take an inventory of your child’s health, to look holistically at all symptoms and also gives a guide to recognise toxicity symptoms. To detoxify we need to identify if a child has a full basin as this overflows with toxins and disrupts our cellular health.  Cellular health is critical, if cells are functioning suboptomally this has been implicated in autism, epilepsy, ADHD, allergies, asthma and other chronic conditions. The list of usual suspects we now commonly see in children.

Second step is to heal from choosing food wisely. She discusses food sensitivities and how “healthy” food can hurt us, providing a handy list of typical symptoms for each food sensitivity.  She then provides an elimination diet “how to”. Beyond allergies and sensitivities there are also other foods to avoid including secret sugars in food. She helps us as consumers navigating the misleading and deceptive labeling used by food producers.

The third step is to nourish kids. Part 111 of the book dissects each food group, milk, meat, nuts etc and provides details of how farming and manufacturing process have changed these food groups, what effects these modified foods can have on our bodies and gives us the criteria to look for when purchasing each food.

The fourth step is pulling it all together. We are provided with guidance to put together a shopping list, how to successfully introduce change to the family diet and what to expect.   A sample meal planner is provided together with some useful recipes. She brings together the importance of nature from the outside in- how to effectively grow food in dirt, spend time in dirt, even eat dirt…mud pies, here we come!

I was impressed by the holistic approach of focusing not only on what kids eat and how well they dispose of toxins from their body but also more broadly nurturing their experiences with the natural world. It is a positive and practical guide which helps you slowly take on the daunting task of navigating our complex food environment and changing our diet. I was inspired by the recipes and some clever ideas of to make food exciting for kids.  It also more generally inspires readers to act responsibility for our kid’s sake, stand up to government and industries by voting with our dollar.

The main disappointment is that it is American based; she mentions the ineffectiveness of the American food authorities in protecting the health of our children however no comment in made on the Australian food authority as a comparison. Also some suggestions for sourcing food only have relevance for Americans.
'Healthy Food, Healthy Gut, Happy Child' by Maya Shetreat-Klein is out now, through Pan Macmillan.

Editor's note: more about the author, from the Pan Macmillan site:

Dr Maya Shetreat-Klein, MD, is an integrative paediatric neurologist with a medical degree from Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Board-certified in adult and child neurology as well as paediatrics, she completed the University of Arizona's two-year Fellowship in Integrative Medicine, founded by Dr Andrew Weil, and now serves as faculty. She lectures internationally to medical professionals and laypeople on environmental health and toxins, and healing with food and nature. Dr Shetreat-Klein lives with her family in New York City, where she runs Brainmending, her healing practice and urban farm.