Happy birthday Ariana!

Every year when I write a post about the kids birthdays, it takes me a minute to get my head into the right space to write my thoughts! Not only because I’m usually absolutely exhausted from the celebrations we’ve endured enjoyed but because there’s times when I feel like the days are going so slowly and then it hits me, another year has gone by and my babies aren’t babies anymore.

Ariana turned 7 last weekend and although last year we swore we wouldn’t be throwing any more parties at home because of the huge amount of work and cost involved (I’m sure you know what I mean!) when she said she wanted the water slide again, we figured there’s probably not going to be many more birthdays that she wants to celebrate with a party at home (*sob), so we dug deep for the time, money and motivation!

I felt so blessed the day that Ariana came into our world like an explosion of pink onto a blank canvas making everything about life make sense to us for the very first time. Ariana only had me to herself for two short years before Kian and Kaira came along and my time and energy got divided three ways (often not in her favour during that first year of their birth, I’ve got to be honest) and the mum-guilts got me feeling so bad about her needs not being met in ways they were before we were a family of 5. Luckily Ariana has the most generous and sweet nature that from the moment she became a big sister, she just got it. She just seemed to know we were all meant to be together and looking back I realise while I was busy carrying the twins in many ways, she was carrying me.

Although we would have loved to invite the whole school to enjoy the birthday fun last week, we just didn’t have the space so we told Ariana to invite the kids she played with the most along with their siblings and it was very much a full house! Here’s some pictures if you’d like to see.

Ariana wanted a rainbow theme this year, which made buying a cake a whole lot cheaper as we found this one at The Cheesecake Shop for only $60! Thankfully my friend Kirsty came over early to help with the food preparations while Ste took care of the decorating that needed to be done outside and I ran around collecting the balloons and bits we could only do on the day!

Ariana has made so many gorgeous friends since we moved to Melbourne (exactly two years ago this week!) and they have the best time together, laughing and playing! It really warms my heart to think how far we’ve come not only in terms of physical distance but emotionally too.

The kids enjoyed a game of ‘pin the horn on the unicorn’ (that was completely wet-through!) and a pinata filled with enough sugary treats to make them nocturnal for the next 3 weeks!

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Because we’d laid all of the party food out in full view of the kids, they hung around the table helping themselves to so much food that when the pizzas we’d made came out, no-one ate them! I think there’s a lesson for me to learn in there somewhere!

When Ariana’s friend from school, Elijah, brought out his guitar, she shouted “get my piano daddy!” and the two of them played the cutest music together. I was amazed by their confidence and control in front of so many people. That was the highlight of the whole party for me!

The party carried on as the sun went down and our garden became a haven of music and bubbles for the kids (and bubbles for the parents too!) Thank you so much to everyone that came and made our girl feel special on her big day. We feel so lucky to have such amazing friends in our lives here on the Mornington Peninsula and although we missed our family and friends back in England, we chatted on video calls the whole weekend and it felt like they were sharing the fun with us.

I am so very proud of Ariana and the imaginative, intelligent, curious, caring, brave and beautiful person that she is and I know that she has the strength inside to make any of her dreams come true.

Happy birthday Ariana.

Love from Leyla

So long, summer!

It’s fair to say, this summer has been nothing short of wonderful! It is our second here in Australia and I think it’s taken this long to shed our Mancunian layers and embrace the great outdoors that this beautiful country provides!

It never ceases to amaze me when the kids see an insect that would normally have me leaping three feet in the air and either know the species by name (seriously, has anyone English ever heard of a cicada?) or literally grab it and laugh as it crawls around in their hands while I try to look delighted and hide my horror at the same time. Kian and Kaira found a little lizard in the back garden a few days ago and before I’d even had chance to unleash my neurosis onto them, they’d scooped it up, named it ‘Gecko’ and fallen in love!

And despite the ongoing assault from mosquitoes that have HAUNTED us throughout the season, we’ve been loving having the doors thrown open (but the fly screen closed, of course) and doubling our living space as the kids enjoyed riding scooters, eating picnics and splashing in their paddling pool in the garden. We’ve strolled into our local village for evening meals, rode bikes for morning smoothies and met friends to enjoy light lunches – all without needing any additional layers other than sunscreen before we left the house.

Watching the weather back home this past week and the onslaught of the snow (a.k.a  ‘The beast from the east’) has made us feel incredibly lucky to be away from the English winter. As the twins were born in October and their sleep routines were out of sync, I spent many hours pounding the pavements in the cold just to get them to sleep at the same time so I know how hard it is to live in that climate and I don’t miss the freezing cold at all.

We tell the kids how lucky we are to live in this beautiful part of the world but it’s just home to them now whereas being able to hop in the car on a whim and explore the Mornington Peninsula still feels so new to me! As we’re practically surrounded by the sea, it’s so easy to pack a picnic and drive along the coast until we see somewhere we’d like to visit. Last weekend we did just that and twenty minutes after setting off, we found ourselves at Point Leo and were blown away by the beauty of the beach.

Of course Kian was the first to fall in the sea before we’d had time to get him into his swimsuit! He took it well though, laughing it off then running as fast as his little legs could carry him off up the coastline!

“No, I don’t know what’s inside there and no, I don’t want to find out thanks!”

It’s so lovely to be able to let the kids run without worrying about them falling and hurting themselves on sand! They occupy themselves so nicely at the beach, often heading in different directions to explore under rocks, throw stones in the water and swim!

Point Leo is a surf beach and the sea comes in from the Bass Strait, making it choppier than we’re used to over on the Port Phillip Bay side. There’s a kiosk, barbecue, play area and camping facilities nearby making it a perfect spot for a family adventure!

Ariana is going to be seven in a couple of weeks! It’s hard to believe we left England just days after her fifth birthday, I have no idea where the time has gone!

We always pack the kids Yum Boxes with snacks to keep them going when we’re out and about, never knowing how long we’ll be away from home!

We all feel so relaxed at the beach. Feeling the warm sea breeze on my face as I hear the kids splash in the sea really is blissful and reminds me why we came to Australia in the first place!

Turning the kids into mermaids and a shark never gets old and they even sit still for a few minutes when they’re half buried – parenting win!

Kaira loves cuddling with her daddy! She’s pretty lucky, I really miss cuddling mine!

We spent hours at Point Leo but knew it was time to leave when the kids started flagging so we jumped back in the car and drove along the coast to a little town we love called Flinders. It’s so peaceful and scenic there and we love to stroll past the galleries and historic buildings.

Our favourite cafe to visit is Flinders Bakehouse where the pastries and milkshakes are so bad but so good! If you’ve been following the blog since the twins were born, you’ll know that both Kian and Kaira suffered from CMPI (Cows Milk Protein Intolerance) as babies and were on a special hydrolysed formula and strict diet. If you have a child with the same digestion problems, you’ll understand how hard it is for a parent to watch their baby suffer and I’ve written blog posts about how we dealt with it at the time, which you can see over on the Reflux and CMPI page.

After several visits to a dietician, we conducted a ‘milk ladder’ test and thought the twins had started processing the protein so allowed them milk in their diets again. Although Kian has been fine, Kaira has still had some terrible symptoms that got worse recently, which lead us back to a pediatrician here in Melbourne who diagnosed the intolerance once again. It’s pretty upsetting us to deny her the food she enjoys but we’re trying to teach the kids about dairy and our belief that we don’t need it as a food source and the kids are coming around to the plant based options we’re replacing it with. Thankfully, most places we go have coconut milk these days and they didn’t notice any difference at the Bakehouse!

It is now officially Autumn for us here in Australia and I really hope we can send some of this sunshine to England. Our beautiful home country deserves to experience warm weather now more than ever!

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Love from Leyla

Summer and sunscreen

Sandwiched somewhere in between wanting to enjoy the sunshine but not wanting to get eaten by mosquitoes is where you’ll find me at this time of year in Melbourne! The phrase ‘every silver lining has a cloud’ is far too relevant for my liking as I battle with sunscreens and insect repellents on the daily and still get bitten more in our back garden than I ever have on some of the most remote tropical islands we’ve visited!

I do worry about the toxicity of DEET so we mostly use a natural deterrent called Good Riddance, which is $20 for a small bottle that lasts us about a week and adds to our ever increasing outgoings that shock Ste to the core every time I return from doing the food shop. Last week I applied it to my entire body before even attempting to hang out the washing in the garden, only to get bitten on the hand I used to apply it with (I obviously missed a bit!) I then was awake for two nights straight as it swelled and itched and drove me crazy! Poor Kian got bites on top of his bites a few weeks ago and ended up with hives. He was so uncomfortable! It really is a massive downside of the summer.

Oh but we love the warm weather! It is such a joy to wake up to a blue sky and warm breeze and be able to plan things outdoors. The kids can only be described as being ‘free range’ since we moved to Australia and probably don’t even remember the amount of time we used to spend indoors in the UK. So, as long as we’re covered in sunscreen and mosquito repellent from head to toe, we’re good to go and there’s always something fun going on around the Mornington Peninsula. Last weekend, Frankston Beach Front hosted a fun event (that I can’t remember the name of), so we packed a picnic and headed out.

It wasn’t very busy last Sunday morning when we arrived and I don’t know if it was the heat or prices that discouraged people. We found the $5 per activity a bit pricey for us as a family of 5 and I wasn’t impressed that we got charged an extra $2 in addition to the ride tickets just to pay by card but the kids were excited and lead us straight to the candy floss to start the day on a high!

The kids first experience of candy floss was a success! I’m sure the odd fly that managed to land on their sticky faces while they were eating it only added to the flavour (UHHHH!) 

After a very quick (too quick for $15) run around the ‘jungle maze’, the kids joined in with some activities on the beach. It was a great set up, with water games, chess and live music. The kids ran back and forth loading water canons from buckets and spraying down little pictures that had been propped up. They managed to win the kind of plastic rubbish that keeps them quiet for five minutes, so they were super happy unlike one of the poor ladies running the game who got squirted by a boy (as above). I have NO IDEA who that boy is by the way!

It gives me so much pleasure to watch the kids at the beach. The way they kick off their shoes and run screaming and laughing all the way to the sea without a care in the world, makes my heart happy and all the battles we have experienced after emigrating, seem worthwhile. We try to tell them how lucky they are of course, like all parents do! How picnics on the beach and swimming in the sea were activities Ste and I only ever got to enjoy during family holidays when we grew up in Manchester but they don’t understand that! Living near a beach and being permanently scattered with sand and freckles is the norm already after only 2 years to them!

It’s hard to take in how lucky we are to live in such a beautiful place sometimes. Looking back over the pictures at the bright sky and smiles on the kids faces, is wonderful! I’m so grateful to live in a world where we have cameras to be able to capture these special moments!

Team Fitz were in their element when football kicked off in the sand! I was so proud of Ariana and Kian in opposite goals and Kaira running around like a maniac with no idea where to kick the ball but loving every minute of it, in the middle! This picture of Kian cracks me up because he looked so comfortable stood there among the big boys, “I don’t need help mummy!” he shouted when I offered my extremely limited advice about keeping his legs stretched out wide! Also, I’ve only just noticed the guy photographing in the background! I wonder where that ended up!

We had such a fun time and even managed to resist nipping into Sophia’s on the beach for tea. Kaira has been really struggling with some digestion issues recently and if you’ve followed the blog from the start, you’ll know about the Cows Milk Protein Intolerance (CMPI) she was diagnosed with as a baby. We thought it had gone away but after some pretty severe symptoms, we fear it’s back with a vengeance and have had to take dairy out of her diet completely. We’re happy to do it as we gave up meat and milk around 6 months ago, but it means no more ice cream at the beach for the kids (we feel it’s not fair to buy for the other two) so we all went home and enjoyed some vegan coconut ice cream together instead. I’ll tell you more about the changes to our diets we’ve made in future blog posts.

As always, thanks for being here with us. We have so many wonderful messages of support and advice, and I always try to respond as soon as I can in between covering us all in mosquito repellent and sunscreen that is! It really does take forever but I’ll get used to it, right?

Love from Leyla

Moving to Melbourne – our most frequently asked questions

I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have this blog as a space where people from around the world can get in touch with me with their questions about the emigration process and I’ve made some very good friends along the way. It’s become an absolute blessing to be able to help people facilitate their move and what’s really special is seeing them make their dreams come true when they land. It’s also given me a good handle on what it is that people want to know either before they make the decision to leave their home country or after they’ve arrived so I’ve put together a list of the most frequently asked questions I’ve had.

How did you chose a location?

Just an hours drive south east from Melbourne city is an area cushioned by crystal blue sea and filled with coastal cafes, rare restaurants and wineries known as the Mornington Peninsula. The region is also the place we chose to settle when we left Manchester and after almost two years of acclimatizing, it is starting to feel like ‘home’.

People often ask us why we chose to bring our children to live in this part of the world, probably because Australia has a similar land mass to Europe so the possibilities of where  we could have settled was immense. But having spent a year traveling Australia in 2007, both Ste and I knew that  there was nowhere else on the planet we would rather raise our children.

Before we left the UK, we would spend hours on YouTube watching little films about the Mornington Peninsula “ooo’ing” and “aaaah’ing” at drone footage over sand and surf while the kids shouted “oh can we do that?” as we watched people swim with dolphins, run on beaches and – for me – sit outside wineries enjoying the locally made beverages! It had to be somewhere really special for us to leave England behind because despite the usual complaints we had about the cold weather and dark days of winter, we were happy. It wasn’t ‘broken’ so I didn’t feel a need to ‘fix it’, which meant for me the move had to be an enhancement of the wonderful world we’d already spent our lifetimes creating.

Cue a very good friend of mine that came into my life when we lived in Hawthorn ten years ago – Dayna. Dayna told us how beautiful life on the Peninsula  part of Melbourne is and how it’s a perfect place to raise a family. We knew we wanted to live near the beach (there’s no point moving from one urban area to another, right?) but the practicalities of house prices along the coast were completely unattainable the closer to the city they were. Traveling down the coast and away from the CBD, house prices seemed to decrease slightly so it made sense to us to head that way and rent a home in an area that would be affordable for us to buy in one day. That was if we chose to stay.

How did you find a place to live when you first arrived?

We rented through Air BnB for four weeks, which allowed us just enough time (by the skin of our teeth!) to acquire a job, a long term rental and furniture to fill it with. I wouldn’t recommend shipping furniture as the thousands of pounds that it costs to do it, plus the price of renting somewhere furnished while you wait for the cargo to arrive (which takes around three months) will potentially cost more than buying it after you arrive. If you don’t want to buy brand new there is Gumtree, local Facebook pages and the usual free ads filled with everything you will need to furnish your new home when you’re here.

What about the cost of living?

I can’t speak for anywhere else in the country as I can only go off my own experiences and that’s of Melbourne, but it seems to me that the ‘Australian Dream’ consisting of coming over here to improved job prospects, smaller commutes to work leading to an improvement in family time and owning a house with a pool near the beach, is very much over. With the prices rising as quickly as they are at the current rates, becoming a home owner in this city is moving further and further from our reach and I suspect that of the majority of people who move to Melbourne now.

Jobs prospects on the Mornington Peninsula are very much dependant on your vocation, but for the majority of people, working means a commute to the city and a three hour round trip. For us this has meant Ste’s working days have increased in their duration and he no longer has as much time to spend at home as he did back in Manchester (which could be a good thing for him some days!) It’s definitely fair to say the added longevity of days for both of us plus the loss of support from family that used to allow us time-out together now and again has definitely impacted on our energy and stress levels! See Seek.com.au for jobs advertised throughout the country.

With a growth rate of approximately 16% per year, the house prices have increased dramatically since we arrived in Melbourne in 2016. We chose to rent as we weren’t sure how long we would be staying here but if we had bought a house when we landed, it would have cost us a huge portion less than the same house would cost us to buy today. The average house price in Melbourne really differs between suburbs but the median of the city is estimated at $826,000, which is almost three times the average price of a house in Manchester.

It sounds phenomenal (and it is) but when you compare that to the average annual household income of both cities (Manchester is estimated at $41,000/£24,000 and Melbourne at $81,000/£47,000 according to the 2016 Census) you can work out for yourself if you think the higher prices here are in proportion to the higher wages. The cost of living came as a massive shock when we landed and found ourselves paying over three times the price in rent for a three bedroom home as our mortgage payments were on a house of the same dwelling size in Manchester. A great place to compare prices of houses throughout Australia is RealEstate.com.au.

According to website Numbeo.com, the cost of food is also an average of 32% higher in Australia than it is in the U.K with bread averaged at 80% more costly and simple salad items such as lettuce a whopping 100% more expensive. Utilities such as internet is up 70% and the cost of your average monthly train travel ticket is up over 30% also. The price of petrol is the only thing we’ve found to be cheaper at 33% lower, which helps with the larger areas of land you have to travel to get from one place to another though the cost of buying a car is estimated at over 20% higher.

How about schooling?

We’ve found a lot of differences between the school systems in the two countries, but for us the main one with three children aged five and under when we arrived, was the age that school starts in this part of Australia. In England the age a child starts school is the September following their fourth birthday, whereas in Victoria children are expected to start school the year they turn five. The school year starts in January with the six week summer holidays encompassing Christmas allowing families to make the most of the beautiful summer sunshine and the year is divided into four terms, with no half term holidays.

Before primary school starts, kindergarten is where children can go for two years from age three, but the first year is not supplemented by the government and costs around $2,000 for five hours per week. For us this means a lot of money as we have twins to pay for so it is up to the individual to work out if it’s an affordable option for them. When a child turns four (depending on their visa type) they may be eligible for some support to help with the fees, which is around the same amount but gives them 15 hours of care. In England, all children are entitled to 570 free hours of childcare per year, which is usually taken as 15 hours a week for 38 weeks from the term after a child turns three. This is obviously a massive difference to take into account when budgeting for a move down under with young children. See here for more info.

I think I need to also mention the size of schools here. I can only speak from my own experience, but I have always found the primary schools in England to be fairly small with most activities taking place within the class room. Primary schools here in Melbourne remind me of British high schools due to their immense size (Ariana’s school has over 700 pupils) with facilities such as sport, art, science and language departments. We have been really impressed by the school we chose for our daughter and the opportunities to learn and play it has given to her but I do worry that navigating such a huge space from such a young age could be overwhelming for some kids.

There is also a real sense of ‘trust’ within the community as some schools here in Victoria have little to no security at their perimeters. Gates are wide open all day, sometimes leading onto busy highways and anyone can walk in or out without the need to ask for permission. This has been a massive shock to me and I have worried a lot about the problems this lack of protection of the kids that this system can bring but I’m learning to live with it!

Another element to the school system worth noting is the Victorian state government’s ‘No Jab No Play’ policy that came into place in 2015, which prohibits the enrollment of unvaccinated children in Victorian childcare services (not including primary or secondary schools). The extra vaccinations on top of the British schedule for a child moving to Victoria includes Chicken Pox and Hepatitis B. Failure to comply with the law will result in not only a refusal of education but to any potential financial support from the government also. For more information visit avn.org.au.

Missing home

If you’re lucky enough to have lived a life filled with family and friends, there’s no doubt that starting a new life in a foreign country will leave you feeling a loss like grief at times. There’s so many wonderful ways to keep in touch with everyone via social media and apps, but nothing compares to having the familiarity only a family can bring particularly when raising young children. I feel really lucky to have lived all my life without experiencing emotions such as loneliness and loss until now, and that certainly is an element of emigration that seems to be sticking around.

We had the over optimistic notion that we would be able to visit England regularly after we moved to Australia, however the cost of flights for our family of five means we need to save around $800 per month to make an annual visit. You can figure out from there, even if we want to do it bi-yearly, we’d still need to save $100 per week, which just isn’t do-able at this stage in our lives. You can see from our blog posts here and here that we did make the trip in October last year and how wonderful it was to be reunited with everyone who’s made such an effort to stay in our lives since we moved away but the grueling journey and financial hit has meant that we can’t do it again for a while. Saying goodbye to people for potentially another two or three years is heartbreaking to do and it’s the same financial burden for family and friends to visit Australia too.

How easy is it to make friends?

Making friends is something that needs to take time and I would really recommend getting established in a community that makes you feel comfortable being the first step. From there, it’s easy to meet new people either through work or the kids schools and hobbies and we have been really lucky to have met some wonderful people over the past couple of years. There is so much to do here in Melbourne and everywhere we go is so child-friendly, we have had so much fun with the gorgeous families that have come into our lives and having a support network again has made us feel more at home than ever before. Most of pictures in this particular post were taken at one of our favourite places here in the Peninsula – The Briars, which is just one example of the endless activities available for families to enjoy.

So, I’ve tried to answer some of the questions I’ve been asked most regularly here and I hope it can be of some help for some of you that are considering making the move to Melbourne. I’m always happy to answer questions through here and my facebook and Instagram pages, so please feel free to send me a message if there’s anything else you’d like to know. I’ll add to this list again very soon.

If you found this post useful, you might like more from our new Emigration page (linked in the title bar above) and please share this page with anyone you think could benefit from the information.

Love from Leyla

Merry Christmas from us in Oz

Merry Christmas and a happy New Year from us in Oz! I have so much respect for anyone who genuinely writes their own blogs (and doesn’t outsource) because I can’t seem to catch a break – how does anyone do it??? In between the endless end of term parties and random festivities that swallowed up the whole of December, we somehow managed to squeeze in a bit of shopping for the kids then -BOOM – Christmas Day had arrived!

And it felt completely different to our first Christmas in Australia for me. I think last year seeing festive trees lining the streets and hearing songs about snow in the baking heat was all new and exciting and we embraced the change whole heartedly. This year, a lot of the traditions that we have maintained like giving the kids advent calendars, decorating the house on the first of the month and the Elf of the Shelf, all felt a bit forced and surreal if I’m honest.

I missed the momentum that the change in weather in England used to bring, the sparkly lights outside peoples houses and the TV ramping up it’s programming in the build up to the big day. As people discussed their arrangements with family over the holidays, it made me miss mine even more as I longed to share the kids excitement about Santa coming to town and to watch them perform in their Christmas concerts with us. No matter how much their little faces singing their hearts out on stage made me burst with pride, I still felt pretty sad inside because we weren’t sharing these special times with the people who would have applauded the loudest and celebrated the hardest.

Yes, it’s fair to say the past month has been pretty challenging for me although if you ask Ste and the kids I’m sure they’d tell you they’ve been having an amazing time – thankfully – and when I look at the pictures, it’s easy to see why.

Kian and Kaira took part in their first performance through their playgroup and we weren’t sure if they would get on the stage at all, never mind a) sing and b) behave but they did great, our beautiful little twinkling Christmas stars! We were very proud and they were over the moon to get a surprise visit from the big man himself!

Hanging the stockings on Christmas Eve and making little trees with pom poms and new ornaments was so special. We listened to music, ran around in the sunshine in the garden and felt completely relaxed, until bedtime! If you thought getting the kids to bed on Christmas Eve is hard when it’s dark- you should try it in the middle of Summer when it’s broad daylight until 9pm! They did go to sleep…eventually!

Maybe this was just before Ariana swung Kaira out of the way to get to her sack of toys? Also, does anyone else with kids have a clean TV screen? Please let me know how!

All the toys, and all the mess! If I heard “open it” once on Christmas Day, I must have heard in a thousand times!

“He really likes me doesn’t he mummy?!” Kian was relieved to find out he was on the Nice List after a year of making mischief!

Our parents watched the kids unwrap their toys on video messages during Christmas morning. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to it!

We all went down to the beach in the afternoon and the kids splashed around in the sea while I waited for the rest of my family to wake up in England so I could share the celebrations with them.

I feel so lucky that we live in such a beautiful part of the world and to have made some amazing friends here in Melbourne but despite all the sunshine it’s fair to say that our second Christmas overseas has felt more like a bit of a challenge. I’ve realised that missing friends and family back home is really highlighted during the holidays, I’m just so grateful for our beautiful kids and the fun ages they’re at to make the festivities seem magical!

Merry Christmas to you, thank you so much for stopping by our blog and keeping in touch the way so many of you do through our social media pages and here. Wishing you a healthy and happy 2018! (wow, is that right?!!)

Love from Leyla

Sunshine back in the city!

I’m not sure if it’s the warmer weather or the festive season that’s making time go by so quickly these days! It feels like only yesterday we returned from our UK trip (OK so it might actually be yesterday when I finally finished all the holiday laundry!) and now it’s December already – how did that happen?!

We were driving to the beach a couple of weeks ago when Ariana blurted out “it feels like Christmas!” Both Ste and I had to ask her to repeat herself as we weren’t sure we’d heard her right but yep, apparently 30 degree heat and swimming in the sea now signifies Santa time for our British kids.

How can that be? This is only our second Christmas in Australia and I’m still mourning our old family traditions like endless family functions, drinking mulled wine by open fires, enjoying hot roast dinners and enduring cold late night shopping and yes even the snow at this time of year all of which signified the start of the season to me but it appears our kids have totally adapted to our new country a lot quicker than us! And that should be a good thing right? Surely we want them to feel at home here in Melbourne by now so why does it make me feel a bit sad? Like a huge part of our past is disappearing and the kids might never remember our world as it was.

We have lived in Australia for almost two years and it’s safe to say these 20 or so months have been the fastest of my life. It’s like I blinked and we were permanent residents of a whole new life consisting of almost everything the opposite of anything we’ve known before. But regardless of how much I might still feel like a fish out of water at times, it’s safe to say the kids are really happy here and the more time that goes by, I think they’ll find it hard to ever leave. Although we always said this time in our lives is more of an ‘adventure’ than a permanent decision, to Ariana, Kian and Kaira Melbourne is definitely their home now and as the weather warms up, it’s easier than ever to see why they love it so much.

Life in Melbourne takes on a whole new dimension in the Spring. It really is a time of stripping back the layers we’ve accumulated over the winter (which seems to last from April until November) and getting back out into the great outdoors. For us, primarily that means dusting off the plastic paraphernalia that has been dumped stored in the garage since March and hitting the beach, which still feels completely surreal to be right here on our doorstep.

What’s not to love about kicking off their shoes (if the sand isn’t too hot) and running on soft sand that cushions every fall before cooling off in the clear blue sea? The beach is a perfect place for the kids to let off steam and find a space of their own to explore either alone or with their best friends. But then again, it’s not them that have to drag a tent for shade, a cool box filled with cold drinks and sandwiches (that almost always end up full of sand), bodyboards, snorkels, towels, buckets and spades with them! Parking spaces at the beaches on the Mornington Peninsula are often quite a walk away from the beach and we’ve learned usually involve steps!

As the kids are not yet swimming unaided, we still need to keep a close eye on them in the sea. Even though we’re really lucky here in Port Phillip Bay where there’s lots of shallow water, we’re always on guard to ensure their safety. When Ste is with me, we take it in turns to watch the kids while the other attempts to sit in the sun but it never lasts long! We seem to always have one that wants to wander off into the deep blue yonder (Kian), one who’s always cold within a minute of getting wet (Kaira) and one who is always too hot (Ariana). Needless to say, we’ve prioritised swimming lessons in the new year and are looking forward to the experience being a bit more relaxing one day!

After a couple of hours, our beach time generally will come to an end and we absolutely love visiting Main Street in Mornington, particularly at the weekend. There’s so many places to eat and drink and everywhere is really child friendly so Ste and I can ply the kids with ice cream and chips while we attempt to have an uninterrupted conversation (you know like in the days we had willing babysitters!) The kids loved watching the world (and particularly the dogs) walk by outside Publican on this particular Saturday afternoon and I loved Kian’s inventive way of using chopsticks to eat his chips. Even his big sister was impressed (which doesn’t happen often!)

I love to spend time cooking Persian food at weekend, so we headed home to indulge ourselves in our favourite cuisine just before the sun started to set on another warm day. There’s no more homely or comforting smell to me than rice freshly baked with aromatic herbs along side crisp salad, marinaded yoghurt and warmed bread. It makes me so happy to watch the kids enjoy the food I grew up eating and to find something they all relish (as any parent will know) is worth it’s weight in gold! Our favourite recipes are available to download here.

It really doesn’t feel like Christmas to us yet, which Ste keeps telling me is a good thing. He doesn’t miss the media hype that would have whipped us into a shopping frenzy by now or the family gatherings that made our lives a bit too busy at times or the cold weather that meant us scraping the ice of our cars in the dark before work in the morning. I’m sure we will create new family traditions that signify the start of the festive period to us over the years if we do choose to stay in Australia and maybe then it won’t just be the kids that say “it feels like Christmas” when we’re on the way to the beach!

Love from Leyla

Kian and Kaira are 4!

I never know where to begin when it comes to wishing a happy birthday to any of our tiny trio! The days feel so long sometimes but the years are starting to feel shorter than ever as we say goodbye to the toddler years and hello to our FOUR YEAR OLD preschoolers (I know, how did that happen?!) We heard Kian wake up with “Kaira we are 4!!” last Saturday morning and we knew that marked the start of a very special (and very, very, very busy) day!

It feels like only yesterday Ariana was the same age as the twins (the pictures are here) and we noticed a massive transition from baby to big girl. Time is flying by but not a day goes by when I don’t wonder what I did to get so lucky to have 3 beautiful constant companions!

The twins teach us more about their special bond every day with Kian asserting himself into the role of protector telling Kaira things like “remember I’m here if you need me in the night” and letting her win the games they play (because it’s a lot easier than dealing with Kaira when she’s angry, which is good practice for his married life one day) and Kaira reminding Kian how to tidy away his toys, put his shoes on before he goes outside and to “be quiet Kian!” to give her a chance to speak now and again (he honestly never stops talking). They’re both such different characters but one thing they do the same is to ensure they are always by each other’s side whether that’s while they’re sitting on a plane or simply on the sofa.

We really are so proud of all of our kids and even though we complain about the cost of their parties, we still seem to keep throwing them every time their birthdays come around! These are the pictures from Kian and Kaira’s special day, if you’d like to see.

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Ariana insisted on buying her sister this little lipgloss compact in the shape of a mobile phone. I’m not sure if it was for Kaira’s benefit or her own because of course she had to have one too!

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The kids were so lucky to get presents and cards from our friends and family back home before we came back to Melbourne and they opened each with excitement as we read them the messages from our loved ones.

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Although the twins have worked out weird and wonderful ways to antagonise each other and make my blood pressure soar whenever they feel like it, the friendship between them is extraordinary. They play together for 12 hours every day and we still have to tell them it’s time to stop playing and go to sleep at night. They are so close and we hope they always will be.

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We held the party at Steeples in Mornington as we were in England right up until a week before the big day. It was a great location to let the kids run riot while we sipped necked bubbles with our friends and someone else took care of the cooking and cleaning (WINNING!)

The twins chose a PJ Masks themed cake as it’s their favourite cartoon and it’s also our go-to show when mummy needs ‘a little sit down in peace for 5 minutes’ (or 45 minutes if we play them back to back). A cake maker from My Cake Craze (on Facebook) came up with this design for us. I would have voted for a little less food colouring if given the choice but hey, I didn’t have to make it and the fact that the kids had toxic looking toilet trips for a few days later is far less important than that.

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Face painting and a playcentre, what more could the kids want on their birthday!

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The staff at Steeples provided pass the parcel for the kids to enjoy, although the rest of the customers probably didn’t enjoy the noise they all made while the game was taking place. I don’t think they’ll be putting whistles in the parcels anymore, put it that way!

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We loved sharing the special day with the friends we’ve made here on the Mornington Peninsula and although we missed lots of people back in the UK, we are so, so blessed to have such beautiful people in our lives right here and now. The twins were so happy when we got home, opening the amazing gifts they’d been given and we were so happy to not have the aftermath of a kids party to clean up after! Everyone was a winner!

It really was a wonderful day and I really can’t believe our kids are now 6 and 4 years old. Where is the time going?!

Thank you for being there!

Love from Leyla

Settling in the sunshine

It’s safe to say we are fickle! As much as I hesitated and procrastinated getting on that flight back from the UK, the sun has put on such a wonderful display over the past few days that I’m feeling happy to be back in Melbourne!

We flew Emirates to Dubai then Quantas to Melbourne on Tuesday afternoon. I’m not going to lie, those final farewells were awful but the flights themselves were more manageable than we expected. Despite getting lost and being the last to board our connecting flight at Dubai airport due to the enormous size of the place, the kids were exceptionally good (sleeping for 10 hours!) and even though the food was AWFUL, the snacks we packed kept us going.

The jetlag has been much harder travelling against the sun and we’ve had some very disrupted nights (even starting our day at 3am on Thursday) and as much as I love the kids, reliving the exhaustion of when the twins were newborn is a phobia I can’t revisit. Thankfully last night, we all slept right through and we met the beautiful day with renewed enthusiasm for our Australian adventure.

My lovely friend Kristie invited us to join her at The Briars today as it is host to a Family Funday on the last Sunday of every month. What a lovely surpise it was to find live music, hot chips and cold beer in the grounds of the historical homestead with stunning surrounding views of the Peninsula.

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As soon as the kids got out of the car, off they ran and played in the 25 degree sunshine. I don’t know if it’s the return from England or the fact that Spring has just arrived in Melbourne but we couldn’t get over the colour of the sky today – just look at that bright blue!IMG_4420 (Large)-1

I am pretty lucky to be thrust every flower the kids see (even if some do ‘accidentally’ get blown away by the wind ;)) I know it’s a passing phase so I’m treasuring their little gifts! IMG_4470 (Large)-3

The atmosphere was so lively, we thoroughly enjoyed feeling part of the buzzing local community.

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The food trucks at all the outdoor events we go to are so good! They can be a bit pricey ($7 for a very small glass of wine and $6 for the potato twists today) but access to the Briars is completely free and we decided the next time we go, we’ll take our own refreshments! Thank you Kristie for recommending the event and for rescuing my kids from sunburn with sunscreen! I really need to get used to packing that everywhere we go again!

While the girls made their way to the craft tent to make Halloween bats from paper plates (another free activity), Kian made the most of the frisbees, balls and skittles available on the lawn. They were all happily entertained so Ste and I kicked off our shoes with a glass of cold beer and contemplated the contrast between the Sunday afternoons we spend here and the ones spent back in Manchester. It really is a more outdoors lifestyle here in Australia and there’s no doubt that the kids absolutely revel in it.

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After a couple of hours, we made our way back down the hill to the Visitors Centre. The kids love learning about the different types of animals roaming around the enclosure and even though we missed the Emu’s, they were happy looking out for ducks and other various types of birds.

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If you haven’t guessed, the twins have had new bikes for their upcoming 4th birthday presents. We bought them yesterday and they haven’t been off them since, waking us up early shouting “we want to ride our bikes!”

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We had a lovely afternoon at The Briars then came home and after a Persian dinner, the kids were right back outside again running around with water guns in the garden while new freckles appeared on their cheeks and our worries about returning to Melbourne melted in the heat. It feels good to be back, whether that’s fickle or not!

Love from Leyla

So far but so good

I can’t even describe how I’m feeling right now. Saying goodbye to our family and friends from home is as hard 18 months after our move to Melbourne as it was the first time around. If you’ve been following our adventure here or on our Instagram stories, you’ll know we’ve done so many things since we landed back in Manchester for our holiday from dancing to Disney, sightseeing and snow-play but nothing is as important to me as the time we’ve spent just being with the people we love.

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I hope you’ve seen the film of us surprising my grandparents when we arrived 3 weeks ago (but if you haven’t, it’s here) and we’ve visited them again as much as possible since. It’s been wonderful to spend time them and with my cousins and their kids too. The kids have come alive being with their family even though the twins haven’t seen them since they were 2, but I honestly believe they know when they’re with people that love them because their laughter has been relentless and their personalities have been shining like the little stars they are.

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It’s been so lovely to visit Ste’s nanna too during this trip. The cards we get every Christmas and birthday from relatives like Betty mean the absolute world to us when we’re in Australia and we’ve found a packet of Tim Tams is a great way to say thank you!

img_0499 img_0500 img_0501 img_0498We are so grateful to my mum for letting us borrow her house for our holiday and to my sister Ciana and her husband Stuart for putting her up (or putting up with her!) They run the nicest bed and breakfast called Oak House Hotel so if you’re ever looking for a place to stay within easy reach of Manchester City Centre, check it out!IMG_0588 IMG_0593 IMG_0594 IMG_0592

^^^A cuddle with grandma can heal any hurt! I am going to miss you more than I can bare mum!^^^IMG_9132 img_0533 img_0532 img_0531 img_0530

^^^Making pizzas with grandpa was a lot of fun! I love spending time with my dad, he has been such an inspiration to me to be the best version of myself all of my life and I am so proud to call him my hero. We were happy the kids got some veggies on their dinner too – winner winner, I didn’t have to cook dinner!^^^img_0534img_0487

^^^My gorgeous sisters. I am going to miss them so much!^^^

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There is so much love in these pictures,  I can’t even put it into words how happy they make me! We have enjoyed so many lovely Persian dinners, traditional pub lunches, picnics in the sunshine (yes, even in the Autumn weather!) and soul warming cuddles with our parents and siblings. Every single one of the memories we’ve made has restored my faith in who we are and where we’ve come from and it’s been worth every pound we’ve spent and put on (from all the curries and fish and chips!)

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Having your makeup done by your best friend could go one of 2 ways and we have made an absolute mess of each others faces since we were 11 year old amateurs, but thankfully she now is a wonderfully talented artist who spoiled me with a makeover before a night out we had with our closest friends and if you would like to be pampered (and pick up a few tips too!) you can find Carolyne on Facebook – Makeup by Carolyne

IMG_0537 IMG_0510 IMG_0542 IMG_0474 IMG_0475 IMG_0476 FullSizeRenderMoving overseas has made me so grateful for the friends have kept in touch with me every single day even though I was hundreds of miles away. I remember someone telling me when we first moved to Melbourne that my friends would soon move on and I felt heartbroken at the thought especially about Carolyne, Jane and Dionne who have been my besties since we met at highschool 27 years ago. The shared history we have from knowing each other for most of our lives, makes me so proud that for almost 3 decades we’ve been there for each other through thick and thin. All of our friends made so much effort to spend time with us during the past few weeks, I’ll never forget the fun we’ve had and I think I’ve laughed more in these last few days than I have in the past 2 years!

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I can’t write this post without telling you about  my beautiful friend of 20 years, Laura and The Woodland Spa that she booked for us last week. Together we have graduated at university, travelled the world and have 7 children including a set of twins each so we feel connected on a level that has to be as close to soul mates as you can get. It really was a wonderful way to spend the day catching up with each other and even though we speak at least once a week when I’m in Melbourne, being back together was a breath of fresh air I will treasure forever.

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I always felt really lucky that the mum’s of Ariana’s best friends were my best friends here too and being back together again has been absolutely amazing. The kids are all a little bit taller but that literally is the only thing that’s changed when we are back together! We went back to Ariana’s old school to see everyone that means so much to us and it was like we’ve never been away as the kids came running across the playground shouting “Ariana!” much to her delight! She even had sleepovers with her best friend Isla who has been writing to her constantly since we left England and her mum Lexi and I are so proud of the relationship they’ve maintained since they were 2 years old. We love them all so much and miss them every single day.

Last night, we said goodbye again to all the friends and family that we love (I’ll share those pictures with you ASAP!) and I can honestly say, it was heartbreaking so much so that I felt my knees give way more than once. This trip has been a really important reminder of who we are and where we’re from, I just wish it had given us a clue about where we are meant to be because this journey has been as metaphorical as it has been literal. Tomorrow we leave for Melbourne again and I am hoping I can shake this sadness in the sunshine with the lovely friends we have made there too. I guess home is wherever we are together and I’m so grateful for that.

I’ll keep you posted.

Love from Leyla

 

 

We ❤️ Manchester

It was a hugely humbling experience being back at the MEN Arena last week, not only because we were back at the heart of the city we love but because of the terrible tragedy that we witnessed unfold only a few months ago.

The Manchester bomb shook me to my very core when we watched the news from our home in Melbourne and we felt a pull back to our homeland stronger than ever before and despite the half empty Arena, we were very proud to support our city and indulge the kids in a whole lot of Disney on Ice!

The kids sat through the whole two hour production and we were all amazed by the stunts the performers did on the ice! The choreography and light show was pretty amazing and and we all agreed it’s something we’re glad we did during our visit!

Another favourite activity we’ve managed to squeeze in during our holiday at home was a visit to the Chill FactorE. One of the things the kids have told us that they miss about England is the snow (they’re on their own there!) so when Ste’s parents offered to take them, we jumped at the chance not only to watch them all have fun together but to stay warm indoors while they sledged and spun in the minus four temperature!

They came spinning down the slopes in doughnuts, sledges and burrowed through tunnels in the ice until their little noses turned red and their craving for snow play was satisfied!

We had a little look around the Trafford Centre on our way home and despite my longing to accumulate some summer sale bargains, I was dragged to the water fountain, Pizza Hut and strangely enough into Lush so the kids could play with the bath bombs! I suppose I can wait for our next visit to England to grab some bargains!

Manchester has been a lot of fun for us and the kids during this break, it hasn’t helped my missing home at all!

Will share more very soon.

Love from Leyla