Lifestyle tips

Survival Tips For Enjoying the Ekka With Kids

Posted in 'Tips' on August 4, 2015

Ferris wheelYou 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 the process?

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).

10.  Enjoy 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?)

Ekka Rides

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.

Ekka Safety

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 that!)

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 about money.

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.

General Tips

  • 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 seats.
  • 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
  • Hats
  • 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 pavilion.
  • Sunscreen
  • Hand sanitiser & baby wipes (for the inevitable spills)
  • Changes of undies for younger children (accidents happen)
  • 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

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Getting Yourself Organised for Tax Time

Posted in 'Organising' on June 15, 2015

It’s coming up to that time of year again — tax time, and if you’re among a large proportion of Australians, you may not  quite be claiming everything that you're entitled to. With the 30th of June creeping up, it’s a good time to retrieve the shoebox full of receipts you've accumulated throughout the year and consider what you can and can't claim.  

The ATO website provides a comprehensive list of deductions you're able to claim - and you might be surprised what's on the list that you may not have been claiming to date. For instance, if you work from home (even if you don’t own a business) you may be able to claim some of your workspace expenses including heating/cooling, cleaning, lighting and even office repairs. 

Of course to claim most of these deductions you will need to have maintained clear records including receipts of purchases. Whilst receipts and tax invoices from people  and businesses supplying the goods and services are some of the best evidence to use for your tax deductions, you can also use a combination of other documents to support your claims including:  
  • Bank or financial institution documents
  • Credit card statements
  • Email receipts
  • PAYG summaries
  • Handwritten evidence in a diary or similar - so long as the individual claims are no more than $10 and aren't collectively more than $300
  • Paper or electronic copies of documents that are a true representation of the originals are also acceptable. 
And whilst it might not help for the financial year just passed, there are a whole range of apps that can help you record and track your receipts on the fly like Shoeboxed AustraliaReceipts and Expensify that you can start to implement and use for the coming tax year. All have different functionality that allows you to capture and store relevant tax info on the run and some apps will even consolidate that information with your accounting platform. 

You can find out more about claimable tax deductions  on the ATO website. And don't forget you need to retain your evidence for 5 years from the day your tax return is due or the day you lodge your tax return (whichever date is the latter). 
PS: if the thought of getting yourself organised for tax time makes you nauseated then you know where I am

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Surviving the Last Week of School Holidays

Posted in 'Tips' on April 15, 2015

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. 

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Tips for Transitioning Back to School Without the Craziness

Posted in 'Tips' on January 14, 2015
Sending the kids back to school for the start of a new year is an exciting time. But it can be a terrifying time too. For kids, because it's a change in their relaxed holiday routine. For parents, because they have to get the kids out of that relaxed holiday routine! So seeing as we still have less than a couple of weeks to go, here's some tips to save your sanity in transitioning the kids back into the school routine: 

1. Sort your school calendar/diary NOW

Juggling work or business and family is busy enough but throw in school requirements and it's mayhem. Add a little organisation and planning ahead and it can certainly alleviate a little stress. Whether you run a paper diary, online diary, calendar or whatever, get access to important school dates and start writing/typing them in NOW. And make sure your partner's calendar is synced (or copied if you're that way inclined) so everyone know's what's going on. Be sure to include term dates, public holidays, student free days, school sports and any other relevant stuff that's important to your family. 

2. Buy school shoes before they run out

Lots of parents tend to leave the school shoes purchases to the very last minute, because let's face it, kids' feet grow like weeds and we don't want them to grow out of shoes before the first day of school. But at this time of year, school shoes are a hot commodity. Head down and get your kids shod ASAP, otherwise you might find yourself cat-fighting with a bunch of crazy women over the last pair of black size 4 lace-ups. Heck, grab two pairs because chances are the first pair will only last one or two terms anyway!

3. Start the routine sooner rather than later

Whilst the relaxed school holiday mornings and late nights are nice for a while, they can make getting the kids back into a school routine a nightmare. Use the week before school starts to get the kids back into a bedtime routine and a morning routine to get ready, refreshed and prepared for the school morning craziness.

4. Check their lunchboxes

The start of the year usually means shiny new lunchboxes and to be honest I don't know who's usually more excited about them, the Mums or the kids. But it's worth taking a minute to check whether your children can manage opening their lunchboxes. The last thing you (and the teachers) need is a sobbing child on day one because they can't get to the sultanas and cheese tucked away in an ergo-enviro lunchbox in a thermo-sealed bag.

5. Label, label, label

Experienced school mums will chuckle at this one because as if you wouldn't label your child's things. But consider this, if you have a child starting prep, do they recognise their own name yet? If not, stick something else identifiable on things they use daily like water bottles, lunch boxes, hats and shoes. Lots of school labels have little icons that you can include when you order them making it more easily identifiable for little ones. 

6. Check the school bag (just in case)

If you're using last years school bag for your child, best to hold your nose and open it now. Just in case. Enough said. 

7. Set up a  school filing box for each child

Before the kids start school, set up a filing box for each of them. Make it large enough to fit readers, homework books and anything else that needs to go to and from school regularly. Make this the first stop the kids make when they get home from school (before they raid the fridge) to unload any important documents, homework and notes. 

Before you know it, we'll be back into the school year making lunches and ironing uniforms and happily waving our kids off at the school gate, hoorah!

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Survive the Christmas Shopping Shenanigans

Posted in 'Tips' on November 23, 2014
So the tinsels already draped, the fake Santas litter the shelves and Christmas trees seem to be popping up like weeds. Yes we're well and truly into the Christmas seasons. But, have you started your shopping yet? Before you know it, Santa will be hauling his chunky backside into town so here's some tips to get you through the Christmas shopping shenanigans if you haven't already started. 

Make a list and check it twice
Before you hit the shops (or your laptop), it's important to nail down a list of who's on your gift list, some gift ideas and most importantly a budget for each person. Drafting a list gives you clear direction, keeps you on task and not-to-mention helps to prevent missing anyone important. Oops, awkward!

If you're keen on nabbing a bargain or equally can't stand paying full price for Christmas presents, it's worth spending some time researching. Either grab a cuppa and trawl through the junk mail to mark out any relevant specials or alternatively scan websites like Lasoo which collate all the latest catalogues of most of the major department stores in one place. There's a lot of money to be saved if you're happy to research and then shop around for specials. 

Think Homemade

If you're a little crafty or don't mind hanging out in the kitchen from time to time, offering home-made gifts for friends and family is a great way of showing-up everyone else's gifts (as long as you nail it). Homemade jams or cookies (there's a nice recipe below), candles or crafts are nice. And there's more than 1000 things you can cram into pretty jars to give as gifts this year. Bling it up with ribbons and pretty labels and you've nailed it!

image credit
Buying gift vouchers for Christmas gifts can be a bit of a contentious issue. Some would argue that a voucher is an impersonal and thoughtless gift idea. I disagree. In fact, like anything, it's all in the pitch. Buying a voucher means taking the time to select the right store for the right person and then giving them the opportunity to buy something they really want. Buying Nanna a Spotlight voucher because she's so fond of scrapbooking, presenting your brother with a BCF voucher because he's an avid fisherman, presenting your niece with an iTunes voucher so she can download her own music on her iPod, or giving Mum a massage voucher (because what mum doesn't need a massage) is actually both thoughtful and personal. 

Shop online
Every year as soon as the Shopping Centre Santas start their Christmas photo gigs we also start to see the crowds gathering at our local stores. And the closer it gets to Christmas, the crazier things seem to become with people seemingly materialising from every nook and cranny. If you're not crowd-lover at the best of times then it's probably best to avoid the shops altogether if you can help it. 

Thankfully there's plenty of online stores that offer a variety of options for Christmas gifts. If you're looking for handmade gifts then Etsy is one of your options. There's also eBayLatest BuyGift Australia plus most of the major department stores offer online shopping as well. Some of them even offer a gift-wrapping service - ka-ching!

There's nothing quite like doing all your Christmas shopping in your pajamas whilst simultaneously drinking wine and watching re-runs of Grey's Anatomy! It's a win for everyone!

If you're finding yourself with less and less to do simple things like Christmas shopping and organising your Christmas parties, then it might be time to call in the big guns. Master of all things organisation, Kay can bring you one gift you just can't buy - time. 

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I contacted Kay from Hectic Helpers to assist with my technological challenges. Kay was very efficient, helpful and organised. Kay takes care of the little things that I either don't know how to do or don't have time to learn how to do. Wonderful experience and would highly recommend Kay to others.

— C Searle, Excelencia

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