Advent 2017: Day 11

The Aged Ps have been away since the start of the Advent season, and they came back today! We helped them decorate their Christmas tree in advance of their arrival – which is always really fun for us as the Aged Ps have collected many beautiful ornaments from their travels around the world.

The poor Barn Owl is on call this evening. He’s been sick all day and has been resting quietly in the bedroom, but he’s heading to work later.

P.S. We are following the Advent calendar from Truth In The Tinsel this year!

P.P.S. Check out our other Advent posts here with lots of crafty fun for the season and subscribe to our YouTube channel!

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Nothing’s slick as Gaston Luga – A Backpack Review (And exclusive discount code!)

We’d been on the lookout for a new bag for the Barn Owl that would be suitable not only for work and everyday use, but for travelling, and we were so pleased to have been contacted by the fine folk from Swedish retailer, Gaston Luga!

I have always associated haversacks with children and school, which is why I don’t carry them myself for fear of looking like a student. However, I have to say that after looking through the beautifully designed bags available on the Gaston Luga website, I am now convinced that these are an elegant grown-up version of the backpack!

With all the colours and styles available to choose from, it was difficult to pick our favourite but in the end, we picked out this gorgeous bag in olive and brown that combines style with practicality.

The bag arrived within a few days of ordering via DHL express, and it was much more beautiful than I expected! The bag is constructed from a thick and durable canvas, with faux leather straps and beautiful stitching. We were pleased to find that the buckles on the bag are purely for decoration as the straps are affixed with magnetic closures for convenience. I particularly like the four metal feet under the bag that not only help it stand upright when you put it down, but stops the bottom of the bag from scraping the ground.

gaston-luga-sweden-backpack-functional-design

We love pockets

The main compartment of the bag closes with a sturdy drawstring and has a nice padded laptop sleeve, as well as pockets to fit the Barn Owl’s spectacles case and phone – and when we’re on the go, he likes to tuck his phone in the unique Gaston Luga ‘passport pocket’. There’s also a little zippered outer pocket which comfortably fits all his odds and ends.

The Barn Owl has been using this bag everyday for the last four months and we recently took the backpack along with us on our last trip abroad. It really travels well and is super-comfortable to wear, even when there’s a two year old sitting on your shoulders!

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Gaston Luga was here

A Bonus for Owls Well Readers: Gaston Luga is offering a 15% discount on all Gaston Luga merchandise! Just enter the code owlswell15 at checkout to have the discount applied to your order.

Buyer’s Note: We received the Clässic backpack from Gaston Luga for the purposes of this interview. If you would like to buy your own backpack, check out the Gaston Luga website here. Gaston Luga quite often throws in some seasonal freebies (usually a cardholder or luggage tag) with every backpack order, so keep an eye out for them! Additionally, if you are ordering from outside the EU, you automatically get a 20% off tax rebate. With free DHL international shipping thrown in and 15% with the Owls Well discount code, that’s more than SGD$100 in savings – a real bargain!

Peaceful Port Macquarie: Tacking Point and Lighthouse Beach

We’re posting over at our travel blog, Owl Fly Away today, heading somewhere over the rainbow!

Owl Fly Away

We’d spent a lazy morning recuperating from our flight to Sydney and the two hour drive into Port Macquarie the previous evening. We’d managed to stop off at the supermarket on the way, and so we had farm fresh fruits with yoghurt and muesli for breakfast!

kids-australia-breakfast-holiday-macquarie-port-sydney Lazy morning with the kids

The kids were energised and ready to head outdoors, so we took a short drive from our holiday cottage in Port Macquarie to Tacking Point Lighthouse, one of the oldest lighthouses in Australia.

tacking-point-lighthouse-macquarie-rainbow-grandparent Thumper and the Aged P walking to Tacking Point Lighthouse

When we got to the tall rocky headland of Tacking Point, we were greeted by a lovely rainbow arching over the sea. The children delighted in running over the grassy knolls just next to the roadside parking area.

The tiny blue and white lighthouse is easily assessable from the carpark, and there’s also a viewing platform…

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Adventures in New Zealand: Wonderful Wanaka – Arrowtown

We’re blogging over at Owl Fly Away today!

Owl Fly Away

The Aged P was flying in to join us for our New Zealand trip, so we decided to take a drive towards the airport via the scenic Crown Range Road, which offers fabulous views over the valley, all the way to the snow tipped mountains.

Crown-Range-views-lookout-new-zealand-wanaka copy On top of Crown Range Road, all covered in fog

Crown Range Road is the highest main road in New Zealand, reaching an altitude of 1121m and is pretty steep with lots of zigzag turns. It also boasts plenty of well kept lookouts where you can enjoy the breathtaking scenery.

crown-range-drive-road The long and winding (Crown Range) road

We went on a dry but cloudy day, so there was a bit of fog rolling across the road at times which made some of our passengers a little nervous. The road was so steep in places that the car’s fuel gauge stopped being able to detect the tank level so it looked…

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Preparing Kids for Change: Top 10 Books and Movies about Moving and Travel

During my growing up years, my dad went abroad for post-graduate studies and our whole family would follow him to support his education.

Although this meant that my sister and I had the awesome opportunity to travel, live and study in a different country, we also had to learn to adapt to a new environment and culture.

When my parents told me that we were going to move far away from my friends and extended family for a whole year, I went through a whole string of emotions. I was sad about leaving my friends and schoolmates behind, as well as my precious dog, but I was also very excited about embarking on a whole new adventure with my family.

I think my parents were quite relieved that both my sister and I chose to see this Big Move as a start of a new chapter in our lives, and I think that is partly due to the fact that we grew up on a steady diet of books and movies that encouraged exploration.

I’ve put together a list of books and movies that I think will really help kids who are preparing for a big change – from the littlest ones starting school to the big ones going off to college. So here’s

Owls Well’s Top 10 Books and Movies about Moving and Travel


1. Augustine by Melanie Watt (Recommended for Preschoolers)

Little Augustine the penguin moves with her family from the South Pole to the North Pole, and it isn’t easy saying goodbye to her grandparents, friends and her old room. Being a shy penguin, adjusting to her new school and making new friends is a challenge, but with the help of her colouring pencils, Augustine finds that she can still be herself even if her surroundings are different.

This is a very good book which definitely covers both the physical and emotional journey involved in moving to a new place. I also love the beautiful pictures in this book, most of which are inspired by famous paintings and artists – also a very good way to introduce kids to art!

2. Richard Scarry’s Busy, Busy World (Recommended for Preschoolers)

This was one of my favourite books when I was growing up, and it has a load of ridiculously funny stories taking place around the world. I loved seeing the various animal characters dressed up in traditional ethnic costumes and learn about great landmarks from the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Spanish Steps in Rome to the Blarney Stone in Ireland.

I remember being so excited to see the Eiffel Tower for the first time, just because of the story about Pierre the Parisian Policeman chasing a robber all across the Paris and through a French restaurant, blowing his police whistle, “Breeeeet!”

3. Oh, The Places You’ll Go! by Dr Seuss (Recommended for Emerging Readers)

In this book, a little boy heads out and explores the world, encountering many new things – some of which are sad or scary or boring – but in general, the book takes a very positive view of being brave enough to step out of one’s comfort zone and embrace the adventure that is life and growing up.

It’s opener out there, in the wide open air

– Dr Seuss

4. Laura Ingalls Wilder “Little House” Series (Recommended for Confident Readers)

This is a wonderful series of chapter books for encouraging young readers, especially little girls who will love reading about Laura and her sisters as they grow up, moving from their Little House in the Big Woods to the Prairie and beyond.

In general, despite the fact that the Ingalls family appears to be constantly on the move and always facing new challenges, the fact remains that the concept of ‘home’ for Laura is not a physical place, but an emotional one. This is a good series for teaching kids to understand that as long as a family sticks together, they can make a home anywhere and weather any changes that life throws their way.

Everything from the little house was in the wagon except the beds and tables and chairs. They did not need to take these, because Pa could always make new ones.

– Laura Ingalls Wilder, Little House on the Prairie

5. Terry Pratchett’s Bromeliad Trilogy: Truckers, Diggers, Wings (Recommended for Confident Readers)

In this hilarious book series, a group of tiny 4 inch high Nomes who have lived for generations in a departmental store find out that their home is soon to be demolished. They embark on an epic journey to find a new home, bringing with them The Thing – a  mysterious black cube which has been the Nome tribe’s totem for as long as anyone can remember.

I remember that the main struggle that the Departmental Store Nomes had was meeting other Nomes who were from different cultures and challenging long established beliefs. The way the Nomes had to deal with drastic changes in their societal structure and family values is beautifully handled by Terry Pratchett, who writes about these issues with humour and sensitivity. A very good series to help kids keep an open mind about change!

The trouble with having an open mind, of course, is that people will insist on coming along and trying to put things in it.

― Terry Pratchett

6. J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” Series (Recommended for Confident Readers)

Although I have many issues with the Harry Potter series (I still think Harry Potter is rather a jerk. The underdog Neville Longbottom is my favourite guy in this series), the fact remains that this book series is often about having the gumption to seek out adventure.

Harry Potter’s life only really begins because he’s brave enough to leave behind everything that he knows and understands about the world – exchanging a life that is safe and predictable for one that is unstable, painful, and even dangerous. However, because of his willingness to embrace change, he finds faithful new friends, a new family and a welcoming home. Definitely a good one for a kid who needs encouragement to be brave and bold!

Things we lose have a way of coming back to us in the end, if not always in the way we expect

– J.K. Rowling

7. My Neighbor Totoro (1988) (Recommended for Preschoolers and above)

This is a very sweet film focussing on two sisters who have moved to a new home with their father in order to be closer to the hospital where their mother is recuperating from a chronic illness. In their new home, they make friends with all of their neighbours, including the woodland spirits from a nearby camphor tree.

I love the way the family is depicted in this film, and the sibling relationship between the sisters is well scripted. I also like the positive attitude that the two little girls have towards moving to the countryside and exploring their new surroundings.

8. Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989) (Recommended for Preschoolers and above)

13 year old Kiki has to complete her training as a witch by spending at least a year away from home, so she flies off on her broom with her black cat Jiji in search of a town in need of her services. She moves into the port city of Koriko and has to find a way to fit in whilst earning a living – it’s not always easy but Kiki makes it work.

What I find particularly good about this film is Kiki’s vulnerability and self-doubt which is so common to many children, especially when faced with what seems to be an insurmountable challenge. Kiki is able to learn more about herself, become more independent and take control of her own life without sacrificing her open-hearted personality or sweetness, and without anger or rebelliousness.

9. The Karate Kid (1984) (Recommended for Tweens and above)

Daniel LaRusso, a spunky teen, moves from his New Jersey home to California, and he has a very hard time fitting in until he befriends a kooky old man who teaches him the ancient art of car detailing Karate.

I mean, who doesn’t love this film? Stick with the 1984 version though.

*Mummy warning: Some swear words, juicy insults and kids beating each other up.*

Wax on, right hand. Wax off, left hand. Wax on, wax off. Breathe in through nose, out the mouth. Wax on, wax off. Don’t forget to breathe, very important.

– Mr Miyagi

10. Legally Blonde (2001) (Recommended for Teens and above)

Sorority girl Elle Woods moves from California where she holds a degree in fashion merchandising to begin her postgraduate studies in Harvard Law School, in order to win back her ex-boyfriend. This very silly comedy deals mostly with a girl who appears to be out of her depth in a new environment, but manages to defy all expectations (including the expectations she had for herself).

I particularly like the way the heroine stays true to herself whilst also discovering talents that she never knew existed until she made the decision to leave her comfort zone.

*Mummy warning: Some swear words, sexual jokes and gay stereotyping.*

I’d pick the dangerous one, ’cause I’m not afraid of a challenge.

– Elle Woods

Deep Conversations with a 5 year old girl (or, Little E packs for a trip)

Little E taking a breather and recovering from earlier traumasDebs G: Okay Little E, I want you to go and choose two pairs of shorts and two pairs of trousers and bring them to me.

Little E: Can I choose a skirt too?

Debs G: Yes, you can bring one skirt.

Little E: (rummages in cupboard) Okay, here they are, Mummy!

Debs G: Okay, um…now, how many shorts are here?!

Little E: Five. And one flower skirt. And one pair of jeans. And also these leggings.

Debs G: Okay, we only needed two pairs of shorts, but never mind, I guess if you have leggings and jeans you don’t really need another pair of trousers. (packs them all in the bag) What…what are you doing?

Little E: (rummaging in cupboard) I am getting some tee shirts.

Debs G: Good thinking! You need three tops.

Little E: Okay, here they are, Mummy!

Debs G: Um…right, how many tops are here? There’s eight. You only need three tops. Choose three.

Little E: Okay. I choose these three tee shirts.

Debs G: Good good good…

Little E: And also this Hello Kitty one with the long sleeves.

Debs G: Er…okay. I guess the Hello Kitty one is cute.

Little E: And also this one with the flower that is like the flower skirt.

Debs G: That’s uh…that’s five tops. Okay never mind. I guess you can layer some of these if it gets cold. Now, can you choose one dress to bring.

Little E: Okay, here Mummy!

Debs G: Whoa, that’s fast! But wait now, look here, that is not ONE dress, that is five dresses. Can you just choose one?

Little E: Okay, Mummy! I choose this butterfly one! Look, it is nice and cool and pretty.

Debs G: Very nice! Let’s put that in the suitcase here.

Little E: If it’s cold, I can wear this other blue one, and I can wear the Hello Kitty top underneath it and I will be warm and cosy.

Debs G: Fine, FINE, FINE!

Little E: Also, I can wear this cardigan, this jumper, and these woolly tights. In case it gets cold.

Debs G: Fine, FINE, FINE!!

Little E: And also I can wear this other skirt! And my fancy blouse!

Debs G gives up completely on packing light

 

 

Great Smoky Mountain Cool: From Tennessee to North Carolina to the North Pole

It’s Travel Thursdays over at Owl Fly Away, in which we figure out how to get from Tennessee to the North Pole in a day.

Owl Fly Away

We got up very early in the morning and headed straight to the car, because the Aged Ps had booked a surprise adventure on the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad, not realising that the Railroad was located on the other side of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park from where we were staying in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.

But no mind, the drive across to the North Carolina side of the National Park actually took us through some of the most amazing mountain landscapes, and we made plenty of stops at various lookout points along the road to stretch our legs and enjoy the view.

Panoramic views of the Smokies from various lookout points Panoramic views of the Smokies from various lookout points

One of the longer pitstops we made was at Newfound Gap, which is the lowest drivable pass through the Smoky Mountains, making crossing the mountains so much easier for travellers. Even in the most heavy snowfall, the Newfound…

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