Thursday, December 23, 2010

Beary Christmas

It's not every day you get invited to a polar bear Christmas party, so when a media release popped into my inbox, the kids and I wasted no time in hot-footing it to the Gold Coast.

(Okay, we hot-footed it into the car, pausing only for me to program the GPS. For once it didn't direct me to the middle of nowhere and insist I had reached my fricking destination!)

And so we made it to Sea World on the Gold Coast in plenty of time to join Queensland's version of The Polar Bear Express.

Yes, a team of about seven handlers had spent several weeks sourcing and wrapping and freezing and flavouring presents for Sea World's resident polar bears.

And you thought wrapping kids' presents was tough!

To help mimic behaviour in the wild, and to bring out instinctive behaviours, the staff had frozen treats like toys and dried fruit in blocks of ice, so the bears would have to work for their special gifts.

Some blocks of ice were covered and flavoured - scents like vanilla and curry are apparently particularly enjoyed by the bears.

Other treats and toys had been wrapped in traditional style presents and boxes.

The handlers explained that unlike most animals, polar bears instinctively know what they can and cannot eat, so will not devour cardboard, paper, tinsel or any other product except food, drink and ice. And so we saw them sniff, paw, and tear their way through the wrappings in order to reach their gifts. Aren't they clever?

There were some 120 different ice-block presents, plus an assortment of other treats like popcorn and balls. (Who knew that polar bears are partial to popcorn?)

Sea World is closed on Christmas Day, so the beary merry Christmas was brought forward for visitors could join in the fun.

On the day itself, various staff will visit and interact with the bears, and treat them to a special Christmas dinner - a 20 kg tuna each!

And it's well-deserved. Sea World’s Polar Bears, Hudson, Nelson and Liya,
are ambassadors for their species and play a vital role in rasing awareness of the effects of global warning.

Research indicates that Polar Bear numbers in the wild are declining, with between 20,000 - 22,000 bears remaining world wide.

For the new year, staff have fingers and toes crossed that 2011 may bring the pitter patter of tiny polar bear paws.

Technically, the boys, Hudson and Nelson are ready, but as far as staff know, they haven't acted on any mating instincts.

Liya is apparently particularly fond of Nelson, so who knows what a year could bring?

Readers, what are you hoping for this Christmas?

Hmm, I wonder what this is?

"Ooh, this one looks interesting!"

"This tinsel is nothing to sniff at! Where's the food?"

"Oh wow, clearly I was a very good bear this year..."

Photos courtesy of Sea World on the Gold Coast


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Genesis: The Magic Spectacular

The highlight of our recent mini-break on the Gold Coast, was three seats in the audience at Genesis: The Magic Spectacular.
The show, headed by Swedish illusionist Joe Labero, is Jupiter's Hotel and Casino's latest attraction.
Joe was once voted the world's Magician Of The Decade, and it's easy to see why.
We weren't allowed to take photos during the performance, but suffice to say, the kids were spellbound.
Weeks later, it's all Mr 9 can talk about, and he's keen to become a magician/illusionist just like Joe.
I have to be honest here, and declare that, for me personally, the show was a tiny bit dated. But I've been lucky enough to travel the world and see shows in places like Las Vegas, so I'm a little bit spoiled.
But there was still plenty to love, and make no mistake, the audience LOVED Joe, and his illusions, and his team.
My kids most of all.
I doubt that there's anything as cool or as polished or as unique as this show anywhere else in Australia, and Joe, quite clearly, rocks it.
The man himself, began his career at the age of 12 when he received a magician’s box from his parents. His magic shows became an essential ingredient for children’s parties and school dances, and he turned  professional and famous just eight years later.
We're certainly lucky to have an entertainer like Joe Labero to share his magic in Australia.
You can get an idea of some of the action here.
 Before the show. The kids liked the creepy dudes who hung around looking erm, creepy.

 H. summons her best scaredy-cat expression, while Mr 9 acts nonplussed

 Please tell me how you took your head off?

The kids with their latest hero.

If you go: Genesis, The Magic Spectacular, is playing at the Jupiter's Hotel And Casino on the Gold Coast. Go here for details.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Jupiters Gold Coast Hotel And Casino

Sometimes it's the last minute breaks that are the best.

The kids are used to me doing things at the last hour, and so it was, that I checked my email inbox the other day and saw a great deal via wotif's mystery hotel deal.

We had a couple of days free - it's school holidays after all - so I asked them for 10 minutes while I checked the deal out (and booked it). Then, we threw a few things into the car - mainly swimmers and sunscreen - and headed south.

I don't gamble, and with a couple of kids, I knew I wouldn't be able to.  (Children aren't allowed inside Australian casinos, and nor should they be. However, they are allowed inside the hotel parts).

In any case, the restriction didn't bother me, or them. It was the rest, relaxation, and room service that we were after!

And we got it in spades.

After days of almost torrential rain, we lucked into some sunny weather.

The hotel part of the casino has been upgraded since I last visited - probably about ten years or so ago - and the pool has a Las Vegas-esque feel.

I relaxed on a cushioned sun bed as the kids swam, before they talked me into joining them. I'm usually a wimp when it comes to swimming, but the temperature was perfect and I found myself enjoying it just as much as they were.

We also tried out the spas - yes plural - and we shared lunch by the pool. Fish, chips and salad. Mr 9 had the fish, Miss 7 had the chips, and I got the salad. $12 to feed the three of us - bargain!

That night, we took in the Genesis show, Jupiters' latest hit show.

Led by illusionist Joe Labero, it was a little bit old-fashioned by my standards - but hey I'm a jaded journo. In contrast, the audience, and more importantly, my kids, loved it. Mr 9 already wants to be like Joe when he grows up.

We shared room service for dinner, and spent the next morning by the pool. It would have been great if the pool menu had been a little more extensive. My kids (and me too for that matter), would have loved to have breakfast by the pool, and they'd already tried what they wanted to eat the day before.

All too soon, our one night holiday was over and it was time to go home.

The kids are already begging to return and I have to say a HUGE thank you to the team at Jupiters. When Mr 9 left his precious Nintendo DS charger there, the staff located it and posted it straight home.

Nowhere like Queensland hey?


 Taking in the view from our 17th floor room

 The pool soon became our base

 My view, before I decided to join them ...

 Mr 9 loved living large

 Kudos to the chef ...

 A free ride on the monorail to the Oasis Shopping Centre, Broadbeach

 Mr 9 wasn't sure it was safe ...

 But he soon relaxed over an extortionately priced ice-cream with Miss 7

A fellow 'guest'. 'I hope they remembered to do my steak the way I like it'.

 Ready for the Genesis show

 Miss 7 does her best 'scaredy-cat' face, while Mr 9 tries to act cool...

 A little of Missy Through The Looking Glass going on ...
 One, two, three ...Woo hoo!
I'm glad they cleared up the fact that Skinny Dipping Is Not An Option, cos I totally would have been nuding it up ...

Readers, do you find short breaks can be as reviving as longer ones?

Friday, December 3, 2010

School's out for summer ...

My kids finished school this week in a blur of carols, cards, and candy canes.

For our family that means one thing: Christmas holidays! Six long, lovely weeks.

When I was a kid, Christmas holidays meant sucking ice to keep cool, lying on my tummy with the dog and/or cat, and watching cricket with my brothers. In the morning and later afternoon, I playing cricket in the backyard, or tennis out the front with my brothers. Or went biking, yabbying, walking my dog to visit my Nana.

We generally got two weeks away somewhere too. It was never anywhere posh, but it was fun.

For years, we rented a holiday house in Hervey Bay from friends who owned it. It still had an old-fashioned dunny - out-house - sitting under a mango tree. I was always terrified of using the thing, dodging snakes and cane toads and worrying that one would climb up and bite me on the bum! Hervey Bay was the first place I ever tried soft serve ice-cream, and it was often an after dinner treat. It was also the first place I ever used a shower. (We had a bath at home, and showers were considered fancy).

There were sandflies and mosquitos, and long days at the beach. Dad would squeeze the mangos by hand to make home-made mango ice-blocks. I tried not to think about the thunderbox while eating them. The mangos clearly. Obviously, I did not eat thunderboxes.)


In later years, we often caravanned, which was a little piece of hell, given the six of us were sharing a four-berth van. Some years we took the family dog along as well. No air-conditioning, no TV and one father and two brothers meant many stinky, sleepless nights.

Dad didn't like Mum and my sister and I going to the loos in the middle of the night, so he had special bucket for us to pee in. It was his job to empty it the next day, which would always make me giggle. I still remember the noise the sound of someone peeing in it made, and I still believe my brothers also used the wee bucket, because sometimes it was almost overflowing by morning!

The upside of caravanning was we got to holiday at great spots. On the esplanade by the Maroochy River. On the beach at Mon Repos beach, where we'd go out late at night to watch the turtles lay their eggs.

Gorgeous. My days were spent swimming, walking the beach, and reading as many books as I could lay my hands on.

The one thing we never get in Queensland for Christmas is snow. (Even though, as a child, I prayed and bargained and wished my hardest for a White Christmas. Let's face it: I still do).

So you can imagine how intrigued I was by an invitation to Warner Bros. Movie World's first ever Christmas Wonderland experience.

Held over eight magical nights at Movie World, the White Christmas events include snow falling on Main Street, a spectacular display of one million fair lights and an enchanting ice-skating show performed by Looney Tunes characters in true Movie World style.

Sadly, I didn't have my kids the night Movie World had their media preview, so we didn't get to review the experience for you.

But my spies tell me Movie World's Christmas Wonderland is awesome. And guess what? The name of Movie World's general manager is Bob White! Love it!
“The Movie World White Christmas event is like nothing we have ever done before," says Mr White. "The park will be transformed into a magical Christmas wonderland with a dazzling Christmas Parade full of colour and light, all under a glistening white snowy sky."

And of course, there will be loads of other family entertainment as well:  Rides, Christmas Carollers, a special Polar Express 4-D screening and of course Santa Claus.

The White Christmas evenings began on Thursday December 9, and continued yesterday, and will continue tonight and tomorrow night. From then on they will run on Thursday 16 December,  Friday 17 December,
Saturday 18 December, and finally Sunday 19 December.
White Christmas tickets are $39.99 for adults, children and pensioners. For the best value theme park pass including one free entry into White Christmas, purchase a VIP Pass* for just $99.99 and receive unlimited entry to Movie World, Sea World and Wet’n’Wild until June 30, 2011.

Visit for more details.