christmas

Our Christmas Family Road Trip

The end of one year and the beginning of another are always busy for our family not only because of Christmas and New Years but because mine and Brian’s birthdays are so very close to those big days! My birthday is 28 December and Brian is 3 January so there were lots of celebrations, adventures and memories made in the last few weeks!

We started off December buy deciding to jump into our desires and we bought a Jacyo Swan campervan!! We had been talking about doing this all year in preparation for our trip around Australia in 2016 (more info to come in another post) and we decided to bite the bullet and just do it!

I’m not in the photo but believe me, I was just as happy as Brian!
Introducing… Joy!

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On the weekend before Christmas, we hitched our camper up and set off toward Brian’s parents house which is 8 hours north from ours. We planned to stay overnight at a free rest area halfway up to break the trip up and try Joy out for the first time.

Our overnight stop was simple and just off the highway at a popular traveller rest area but were there  in golden hour which made everything glow with light.

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Apart from a hungry and frustrated toddler at dinner time we all had a great sleep for our first night and it felt like pure luxury after camping in a tent all these years!

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The next day we drove to 1770, a tiny town in Queensland close to Agnes Waters on the coast. Brian had been camping there with his parents as a child and had many great memories so we were excited to check it out. We tried to find a space at a free camp but it was full so we moved to a local caravan park for 2 nights.  The afternoon was spent enjoying the calm inlet at 1770.

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Watching the little crabs all over the beach.

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We discovered some beautiful surprises on our walk along the beach – mangroves shining in the sun and an abandoned (or was it left there on purpose?!) hammock with a stunning view.

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It was so relaxing to look at the boats on the water while the children splashed, and this local and his dog seemed to be thoroughly enjoying the slow pace of life here.

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We spent a lot of time studying the patterns the crabs left in the sand and then it was time to gather our towels and head back to our camper. The sky gave us a lovely cloud formation as we said goodnight.

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The next day we decided to be explorers looking for adventures as we drove through the small towns. We followed a sandy track that we noticed and we wondered what we would find at the end. We hoped for a beach and when we stepped out of the car we were excited to see this sign. Immediately we set off down the many stairs in search of the sea.

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Although it was quite a trek down, our explorer hearts were truly excited when our feet finally landed on the sand and we noticed that we had the whole beautiful beach to ourselves.

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We even discovered a few turtle nests!

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We desperately wanted to stay longer and enjoy the natural beauty and peace that we found at this special, hidden beach but more adventures were waiting… on the LARC!

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The LARC Tours at 1770 are one of only a few tourist activities you can book in the area and we decided it would be fun to experience it as a family. As the vehicle made it’s way through the shallow waters of the inlet and over the ridge to the sand flats created by the low tide, we were able to see what the ocean floor looks like and it was mighty bumpy! Daisy didn’t mind though, she fell asleep immediately!

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The tour guide was fantastic and asked us some quiz questions about some of the wildlife we were able to see from the LARC. We learned that crabs ‘scuttle’ and create those little balls of sand through their mouth as they eat the micro-nutrients found in the sand.

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We also spotted some Pied Oystercatchers which were fascinating birds to learn about, and we especially liked that they mate for life (so that is a male and female pair in the photo) and are territorial, ‘owning’ their own section of beach. The guide mentioned there were two other pairs on the same beach but they all kept to their own areas.

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As we turned around the tour guide asked if any children would like to drive the LARC! We were on  board with only one other family who had a teenager and a younger son so he was first to drive. Hannah and Blake both had a go too and it was so fun seeing them steer the vehicle and try to follow the lines the guide had created on the way up the beach. Hannah was basically a pro and looked very comfortable with that big steering wheel (the guide controlled the brake/accelerator).

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It was such a fun experience to do with the kids and very family friendly. Daisy slept through almost all of it and was so relaxed at the end, she didn’t even want to get off! We would definitely recommend a LARC tour if you’re ever in the area 🙂

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But our adventures didn’t stop there! We drove to the point (about 2 minutes drive!) and discovered something very special. Brian vaguely remembered an anchor during his camping trip here with his parents and suddenly we had found one! Brian wasn’t sure if this was it but we decided to take a photo anyway and ask Brian’s mum once we arrived at their place for Christmas (it turns out this was definitely it! And Brian had been here as a 4 year old boy – the same age Blake is!!!)

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We could see the sea and walked past the anchor to gaze at the view. I even managed to set up the self-timer so we could capture a family snap of what was a magical family day full of fun and adventure!

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The next day we arrived at Brian’s familys house and the kids quickly discovered a few water guns and the wading pool. Queensland summers are hot, hot, hot so there is always some sort of water play for the kids every Christmas.

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On Christmas Eve we spend the day preparing for the annual party Brian’s mum and step-dad always host. We baked some cupcakes together and Hannah kindly insisted on washing up almost every pile of dishes over the 4 days that we stayed!

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Christmas Eve was lovely, full of good food and fun games.

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And finally it was Christmas!!! (I took a lot of video with my camera of the present opening and the rest of the morning so there is no other photos. )We tried to capture a nice family photo but this was the best we could get!

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Lunch was at Brian’s Nanna’s house. She is now 94 and still lives in the house she has lived in all her married life (Brian’s grandad passed away a few years ago aged 91). Most of Brian’s childhood memories were made here, especially Christmas ones, and he remembers often playing on the slip and slide after Christmas lunch. So we made sure it happened and it was special to see how much happiness it gave Brian and his Nanna 🙂

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And just like that it was time to head home. I didn’t really document the trip home even though we free-camped again over night, it just felt like it dragged and we had a lot of rain too. But we made it home safely and spent the next day celebrating Christmas with my family and going out to lunch for my birthday.

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My parents had a party for New Years Eve so we decided to stay over and help out and the sky even gave us some love for the last day of 2014…

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Brian then went away for work for a few days and when he came home we celebrated his 30th birthday! Since it’s summer and we have a pool we went with a Hawaiian themed party and it was so much fun! My dad used his special traditional Croatian BBQ to cook the meat and that added a really unique touch! Everyone dressed up and we gave away a prize for best-dressed and then we did a ’30 questions about Brian’ quiz which was so funny! I would love to go to more themed parties they really feel like a celebration!

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And that’s it! We’re taking a break from celebrating now! But we’re not taking a break from travelling… there will be more family adventures in February so we are very much looking forward to that!!

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Our Christmas Traditions

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In 2012, we decided that it was important to begin to implement a set of Christmas traditions and ideas that we can celebrate every year as a family over the holiday season. Brian and I discussed it and we decided that we wanted our Christmas celebrations to focus on 3 particulars areas:

  • Spending quality time together as a family and within our wider circle of family, friends and community
  • Remembering to be grateful for what we have and giving to those in need
  • Learning about and sharing in various ways to celebrate Christmas around the world to promote multiculturalism and understanding about how different Christmas celebrations have evolved over the years

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    We decided to  achieve this through creating an advent calendar that begins on December 1st each year. I browse through local Christmas events and add the ones our family enjoys to the calender. Last year we particularly enjoyed the Lighting of the big Christmas tree in the city, the Christmas Carols and watching the free Christmas movies at Southbank, so we will be attending those once again. These events really help us to make time for each other and be present with each other in the hectic-ness that is this holiday season. It also gets us out into the community and when family or friends come along with us it helps us celebrate the holidays with them as well!

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We decided that we wanted to focus on the act of giving and and sharing gifts with others and in particular, using this time of year to highight the plight of those less fortunate than ourselves. We do this through donating to charities and by asking the children to participate in the Kmart Wishing Tree Appeal which they very thoughtfully enjoyed doing last Christmas. This year we will also be adding another giving tradition of encouraging the children to buy/create sibling gifts for each other which we are really looking forward to seeing evolve.

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We are a multi-cultural family, so it was important to us to share with our children the fact that every family celebrates Christmas in a unique way – some with more of a religious focus, some more with a Santa related focus and that some don’t celebrate the day at all – plus that every country has their own special Christmas traditions that can be fun to explore. This is an area we only touched on last year, but we will expand on this in the next few years as they grow and their understanding grows too.

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I also add in other Christmas events and activites into the advent calender like our yearly tradition of celebrating St Nicholas day just like my family did when I was a child, and fun craft activities like the Christmas sensroy box. We always drive around to see the big Christmas lights displays and I’ve been collecting Christmas books for a couple of years now (most of them bought from op-shops or on sale after Christmas is over) to read every second day and get into the Christmas spirit. It’s a big month yes, but a month we look forward to with great anticipation every year. We are so excited to share it with the children again and I know their faces of delight will make all the organisation totally worth it.

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