The shops have been filled with tinsel and trees since September.
Santa has taken up residence in all the shopping centres and Christmas craft is
starting to make its way home in the schoolbag.
You are already having nightmares about trying to find
presents in shopping centres resembling roller derby competitions at its worst.
The thought of decorating the house and creating gourmet meals while still
looking super cool, calm and collected is turning you to drink.
Before you reach for another Chardonnay, here are some tips
to help you plan out your Christmas and stagger out the drama into manageable
- Budget: Work out your budget for presents, food
and wine to help reduce New Year bill shock.
List: Write out a list of the people
you need to buy for either on paper that you can keep in your wallet, or in a
note on your smartphone. Remember to include present ideas, sizes and colour
Online: This is the best week to shop online so your parcels arrive in time
for the big day.
Presents: Buy/make gifts for teachers and fellow classmates, as well as
adding in a few smaller gifts for unexpected presents that crop up.
- Groceries: Buy your puddings and cake this
week (if you don't have them already or are not making them). The good ones
sell out quickly. Also buy your cards, gift tags and gift-wrap this week so you
can wrap your presents as you go rather than doing a marathon on Christmas Eve.
babysitters: If you have any Christmas functions in December without the
kids, lock in your babysitters this week (and your hairdresser, dog washer,
house-cleaner, gardener and nail salon).
- Sort Your
Calendar: Write in all your family Christmas parties, carols, and school
functions into one calendar to keep track of everything.
back: Remember to add a few items for charity food collections or wishing
trees this week. It makes it easier for charities to distribute to those in
need if they receive donations early in the month rather than closer to
- Decorate:While we would all love a home that is Pinterest worthy, the reality is
that a Christmas tree is the only real essential. Anything else is a bonus.
Remember to take a photo of the kids decorating the tree every year - it makes
a great memory.
cards: Write and mail out your Christmas cards this week unless you were
one of those super organised people who did them back in November. Buy post
office preferred cards to reduce mail costs.
- Presents: This week is when you get present shopping in
earnest. Remember to keep to your budget. If you can, try and get all your
shopping done in one shopping trip (… this is where a great babysitter comes
into play, or swap caring for your friend's kids while they shop and then visa
versa. Shopping with kids in tow at Christmas is not fun!)
- House Preparation: Having guests stay over Christmas? Time
to get the spare room clean and ready for guests and to check out if you need
any new towels or sheets.
- Groceries: Plan your Christmas cooking menu and order your ham, turkey and seafood is
week. Add in bonbons and Christmas napkins to your shop.
gifts: This is the week to make
and package up any homemade Christmas gifts that won't spoil.
- Post all
out of town presents: Christmas is
the busiest time for Australia Post, so get in early with your presents for
friends and family.
week: Stock up on wine, brandy and other drinks for Christmas this week so
you avoid the crush at the bottle shop in the days before Christmas.
- Groceries:This is a great week to add in any longer life items such as Pavlova
shells, biscuits and nibbles. Top up all your AA, AAA, C, D and 9V batteries
this week so there are no tears on Christmas day if toys don't work.
Preparation: Clean out the fridge in readiness for the onslaught next week
and prepare the BBQ.
Light Displays: Avoid the Christmas week craziness and check out the
Christmas lights this week.
- Groceries:This is the week for fresh ingredients. Aim to be at the shop when the
doors open to avoid the crowds. Remember to add in cookies for Santa and
carrots for the reindeer into your shop.
Preparation: Wash and prepare all the Christmas crockery and glasses you
only use once a year, and give the house a deep clean in readiness for your
Preparation: Recharge the batteries on your digital camera or video
recorder in readiness for capturing the magic moments.
- Presents:Run out of ideas? Gift cards or vouchers are perfect last minute gifts.
Coles and Woolworths stock a massive range of cards for loads of stores and
experiences, or get in touch with your favourite service or concierge business
to give someone the gift of time.
Take advantage of the post-Christmas sales to stock up on cards, wrap and bon
bons for next year.
Christmas is naturally a busy time of year. With a bit of
planning, you can reduce your stress and serenely sail into the silly season.
Have you ever considered how much of your life is in your
mobile phone? When you need a contact phone number, you zip your phone out of
your handbag and open your contact app.
But what happens if your partner needs to contact someone on
your phone contacts app when you aren't there? Or your babysitter? Or when your
phone goes flat and the power is out?
This is where having a central, old-school pen and paper
version of your family's most important phone numbers stuck to your fridge or family
organisation board is worth its weight in gold.
Emergency Contacts Printable
I have put together a detailed printable designed for
Brisbane families. It has spaces for all of your regular essential contacts, as
well as spaces for critical contacts relevant for Queenslanders including the
SES, your friendly local snake catcher, and your gutter cleaner.
It also has spaces for you to record the key details of your
insurance policies. We heard of many locals who went through the Brisbane
floods and storms of recent years, who lost their insurance policies in the
disaster. It caused them additional stress trying to track down who they were
insured with and their policy details. By having all of these details in one
central place, you will be able to access them quickly in case of emergency.
How To Use This Printable
There are a couple of ways that you can use this printable:
Take some time over the next week to review the list and
fill in your details for your household. I suggest laminating your finished
version to stop it curling over time.
Add It To Your Emergency Kit
Laminating your list also helps to make it durable. Just
throw the completed printable into your emergency
kit at the beginning of storm season/fire season and you are ready to go in
case of emergency.
Finally, take a photo of your completed list and share the
photo with the adults in your household to save onto their mobile phones. (Let's
be honest - how many of your household will key in all the contacts you have in
You are not a true Brisbanite if you don't have fond
memories of strawberry sundaes and overpriced show bags from the Ekka. So how
to do create these same fabulous memories for your children and not go crazy in
Here are our top Ekka tips to help you not only survive, but
actually enjoy your day at the Ekka.
Top Ten Things To Do
With Younger Kids
1. Wander through the animal pavilions to see cows
and other animals up close and smelly.
2. Eat at least one Strawberry Sundae (suitably
photographed for posterity).
3. Watch a woodchop event and then hide anything
that looks like an axe at home.
4. If your kid is dinosaur mad, take in the
animatronic Dinosaur Adventures in the John Reid Pavilion.
5. Younger kids get a kick out of the Hoot &
Hootabelle show at the Entertainment and Fashion Stage at 10am, 11am and 12
noon daily. (You on the other hand may not be so thrilled and may take the
chance to upload some photos to Facebook during the performance).
6. Have your kids milked a cow before? The Milking
Barn has hands-on presentations on the hour between 10.30am and 3.30pm daily.
7. The RACQ Animal Nursery is always popular. Try to
get in early to avoid the queues and fights over the fluffiest lamb to feed.
8. Admire the fruit and vegetable district exhibits
and wonder at the giant vegetables in the Royal International Convention Centre
- Ground Floor.
9. Appreciate the amazing cake displays at the QLD
Cake Decorators exhibition in the Royal International Convention Centre -
Ground Floor (and then remind your kids that lopsided birthday cakes made by
mum taste twice as good).
the fireworks and evening ring performances (if your kids can stay awake that
long and are not terrified of loud explosions).
Things To Do With Older Kids
1. Check out the FMX Freestyle Kings - some of the
best FMX riders will push themselves and the machines to the limits 12-45-1pm
each day at the Energex Community Arena. Know that whatever you see will be
replicated in your backyard, so think carefully about this one!
2. X-Treme Action Monster Trucks featuring the
Transformers are on at 7.10-7.30pm each night at the Energex Community Arena.
More explosions, loud machinery and pyrotechnics to set off your headache.
3. Stand holding the bags while they tackle all the
Thrill Rides at Sideshow Alley.
4. Watch things explode at the Big Bang Education
science shows at the Education Stage upstairs at the Royal International
Convention Centre. (Can you sense a theme here about explosions?)
Rides at the Ekka are split between Sideshow Alley (up near
the RNA Showground) and the Children's Outdoor Carnival over at the other end
of the show near St Paul's Terrace. Sideshow Alley is more designed for the
older kids, while the Outdoor Carnival is perfect for the pre-school and early
primary aged kid set.
Some showbags have discount ride coupons included, so if
your goal is loads of rides, check out the showbag inclusions carefully.
Crowds plus kids over-awed with all the new sights is a
recipe for challenge.
- Start by dressing your kids in super bright
colours to make them easier to spot in the crowd. Some mums dress their kids in
matching rainbow or red t-shirts and neon bright hats so make a separated child
easier to track down. We have even seen parents consider hi-vis vests (not that
we would judge you if went that far!)
- Remember to take a fun happy snap on your phone
before you head out the door of your kids on their way to the Ekka. If you have
a great day, it will be a nice memory, if your child gets lost, then it is
easier to say, "Here is a photo of my child and what they were wearing."
Measuring current heights and taking fingerprints are optional extras.
- Pick up child identification wristbands from QLD
Police. They are usually available just inside most gates or at the Gregory
Terrace Police Station just inside Gate 1.
- If you do lose your child or partner, there's a
Lost Person's Station at the Gregory Terrace Police Station.
Parents' rooms at the Ekka
Having a toilet map is super handy for those "I have to
go NOW" moments. Download and print the map and highlight the toilets (it
was so much easier when they had an app!)
Parents' rooms are located next to the Woodchop Bar; in
Sideshow Alley; near the Beef Cattle Pavilion; across the road from the animal
nursery and at the Woolworths Fresh Food Pavilion.
Showbags at the Ekka
There are two very different approaches to buying showbags.
1) Get in early.As the pavilion gets extremely crowded as the day progresses, some people buy
showbags as their first task for the day. This means they either have to carry
them all day (yay - NOT!) or they may hire one of the lockers outside the
Showbag Pavilion for $8 for the day. This works well as long as your showbags
are not heavily chocolate based.
2) Scout early - Buy
Late. The other school of thought is to do a wander through the showbag
hall early so the kids know exactly where the bags they want are located. You
then do a targeted attack run on your way out of the show. This means you have
bargaining leverage during the day (not that any parent at the Ekka ever needs
It also helps to give the kids a set budget for showbags,
and then let them browse the showbag section of the Ekka website. They will do
this for hours trying to work out what they want, and how to make their $
stretch the furthest possible. Showbag maths is the ultimate way to teach kids
Food at the Ekka
Many parents on a budget bring their own snacks and
sandwiches to enjoy. If you are looking for budget friendly kid food check out
the $2 cheese toasties at the Woolworths Pavilion.
One other hidden gem tip: The CWA has an old-school eatery
under the John McDonald stand near the Beef Cattle. That's where you pick up
the best scones, jam and cream at the Ekka.
- Avoid People's Day and weekends if you are not a
fan of crowds. Seriously. Don't do it! Take a day off work if you have to - You
will have a much more enjoyable day!
- If you want to see the animals and fruit
exhibits, go early in the 10 days the Ekka is open, as many leave part of the
way through the show.
- If discounted showbags are your thing, go to the
Ekka on the last day. Sure, the popular bags will be sold out, but you will
pick up heaps of two or three for the price of one deals.
- If you want to catch the night shows and
fireworks, grab your spots by 5pm as the seats fill early. This can create
problems for kids sitting nicely in one place from 5pm - 8pm without having to
duck out for wee breaks. If you are doing to do the Ekkanites thing, have at
least 2 adults to tag team with the kids and the seats.
- Go to the earliest possible kids' shows each day
and get to each show at least 15 minutes early to have a chance of getting
- Bring a stroller. It is an awfully long way to
carry little people!
- Pre-purchase your tickets online or at RACQ offices to avoid the queues.
- If you are travelling by public transport, you can buy a combined travel and entry ticket from any attended Queensland railway stations.
- Public transport is the easiest option but
remember to avoid travelling home during peak hour if going midweek so your
over-tired kids are not crushed up against business commuters.
- Parking is limited in the area. Your best options are the old Royal Children's Hospital car park or the Royal Brisbane Hospital Car Park, Parking for the day will set you back between $25 - $32.
- Wear comfortable shoes designed for walking and tops that cover the shoulders to minimise sunburn lines. Yes, I know this is mum type advice, but 3-inch heels and strapless tops still make their regular appearance at the showgrounds.
- Go in with the right mindset. The younger your kids the less you will see - make peace with that! Some kids are happy with one ride, a cuddle of a lamb and an ice cream and then want to go home. Other kids only want to ride the one ride over and over and over and …. Forget trying to tick off the "must see everything" box and go for the" whatever your kids enjoy" box.
- Take loads of photos. Photos of your kids
patting animals, riding ponies, enjoying events and eating carnival food are
some of the best you can get for the family album. Just don't be so much behind
the camera that you miss fully experiencing the Ekka with them.
Things to Pack
Remember to pack
- Panadol & bandaids
- Water bottles to stay hydrated. There are water
fountains across from the animal nursery at Expo Place One; near the dog
pavilion; up near the Wood Chop bar as well as near the goat and cattle
- Hand sanitiser & baby wipes (for the inevitable
- Changes of undies for younger children
- Phone battery charger pack
To find out more
Go to the Ekka website to download maps, get timetables of
events and to plan your day
The last week of school holidays can be tricky for everyone. That first term flies by and it often leaves us wondering if we’re even due for holidays, let alone having been given a chance to plan for them. If you’re running short of ideas, and your sanity is at an all-time low, here’s 6 things you can do to keep everyone happy.
Number 1: Get out into nature.
Kids have far more energy than parents that’s for sure, and unless you’re planning on some extreme sport, you’re not likely to use it all up. Getting outside, if only for a couple of hours helps. Nature has such a wonderful way of energising, refreshing and wearing you out, which makes it the perfect school holiday antidote. If you have some walking trails near you, this is the time to make use of them all, either on foot, scooter or bike. Alternatively you can hit the beach for a few hours if the weather agrees, or even head to a park. Older kids might scoff at the initial idea, but in my experience it doesn’t take long for them to start having fun. The getting out of the house gives everyone a break, and you can even organise it with a friend and a coffee, so the kids occupy themselves and you get adult conversation. Score!
Number 2: Have an at home movie day.
If you’re not into the outdoors, or the weather turns for the worse, an at home movie day is a great alternative. Sure it won’t use up huge amounts of energy, but it will occupy everyone’s minds for a little while and is a great way of winding the whole family down and giving everyone an opportunity for relaxation before getting back into the next school term. Whilst hitting the cinema is a great outing, it can be crazy and crowded over the school holidays. Pull the curtains closed, throw pillows and blankets everywhere and stock up on some special treats. A bag of popcorn, some ice cream in a cone and ice-magic, and you can keep everyone happy for about a quarter of the price the movies will charge you (plus you don't have to queue up for the loo).
Better yet, the arrival of Netflix means you can download the free trial, and have access to a whole range of movies you might not have at home. Sure they aren’t new releases, but if you haven’t seen them, it doesn’t matter.
Number 3: Have a loose routine.
One of the great things about school holidays is the break from routine. However for some kids, especially little ones who have a pretty detailed school schedule, the haphazard nature can get a bit overwhelming, leading to frustration and tantrums. Even a very simple holiday routine can help bring order for everyone; something as easy as having morning tea at the same time, or always having ‘outside play’in the afternoon before watching TV. The bonus of that, is it gives you something to look forward to, or to have a break; they watch Ben and Holly and you get an uninterrupted cuppa. Bliss.
Number 4: Go out for lunch.
Making lunch can be tedious, and sometimes sandwiches at home just don't quite cut it. Find a family-friendly restaurant or cafe and let someone else cook and clean up for a change. If you're stuck for ideas Eat out with Kids have got a great list of family-friendly cafes and restaurants in and around Brisbane and other Australian capital cities.
Number 5: Have a dance party.
Dancing is one of those great mood changers and even if you do feel like a uncoordinated giraffe while doing it, it can be a lot of fun with the kids. And let's face it, the kids don’t care how you look, so long as you're having fun and they get to join in. Granted, this isn't an activity that’s going to take up a whole day, or even half a day, but when stress levels are high and everyone is ratty, play that funky music and just cut loose for half an hour. It’s guaranteed to make you feel better or at least give you a good laugh.
Bonus Number 6: Enjoy it.
School holidays can be a real juggle with some days spent wishing they'd end sooner rather than later. But in amongst the mayhem try and take a moment just to enjoy it. The days are long, but the years go by quick, and you before you know it, school holidays won't even be a bullet point on your agenda.