Arabian Sandcastles by the Bay

Now, that doesn’t sound right, does it? We should be in a desert when it comes to any kind of Aladdin-inspired tale, am I right?

Well, not if we are talking about the ‘Aladdin & The Arabian Tales’ event currently being showcased at Sand Sculpting Australia on the Frankston Waterfront. Baby girl and I headed over last week to check out the magnificent sand creations, and see what all the fuss was about. Plus school holidays ‘killing time,’ and what the hell let’s just go out and have some January fun…

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The Genie-rific (see what I did there?!) event is a several months long attraction, running up until the 25th of April, and is located along the great winding part of Nepean Hwy that shows off the curved and stunning beauty of the Frankston beach and coastline, and now also, the sky- high sculptures made of sand and clay that are inhabiting the area for the next little while down South.

Once in, baby girl and I went fairly quickly through the sand sculptures part of the exhibition. Sure, we could have taken photos at every sculpture, and sure, we could have read every piece of info on each sculpture there, and SURE, we could have stood for 5 minutes per sculpture just staring, and analysing, and critiquing/appreciating all of its magical sand glory.

But she is 4. That was NEVER gonna happen.

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The sand creations ARE marvellous. Very intricate, detailed and let’s face it, size DOES matter, as the sheer magnification of these things just makes them all the more incredible and fascinating to look at. I read up a little here and there when baby girl was within sight, and then when she ventured off to play in the sandpit on the far left of the event, I had to leave my study at home and follow.

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The sandpit offers relief for parents and kids alike, with a couple of umbrella’d tables available to rest those sandy feet. (Yep, I went there again). This area is probably best suited for the younger kiddies, probably no older than 7 or so.

What I did realise after my quick and brief walks around the sculptures, was that they were based on the traditional Ali Baba and Arabian Nights stories, and as such, there were no actual Aladdin movie-based displays to see there. Initially a bit of a letdown, if only because I love the movie and knew baby girl would have understood / been able to relate to it all a bit more from her Disney-fests, but thats just how it was, there was no false advertising, as the brochure did showcase the traditional sculptures. Nonetheless, she still pointed out with glee at an Aladdin and Jasmine-like sand sculpture sitting atop a magic carpet, so that was pretty cool.

Between the entrance and the sandpit, was a marquee with some free activities and games for the kids to enjoy – think tables with Lego, bowling pins, and a life-size Connect Four game.

There were two girls also there providing free face painting for the kids (or as in baby girl’s case, hand painting!) and then to the far right of the marquee, a café, with lollies and drinks for both young and old to satiate their naughty hunger pains on, but the main attraction, ice cream, which baby girl did have later on right upon us leaving, and where she promptly told me multiple times that I was not allowed to share in on her icy cold treats. So just beware, parents.

But, the best part of our visit there had to be from the other marquee. Located at the far right of the exhibition, after entering, was another activities tent, but this one, more dedicated to the sand tasks at hand.

Here there was some sort of clay creation on one side of the room, that kids could literally get their hands into… that we didn’t try out. Instead we headed over to the counter to discover just what baby girl could do since she had a special pink band from our purchase of a Super Pass ticket for her, and we soon found out she could fill a sand jar, and create sand art.

There was coloured sand of all kinds on each table to explore and be creative with, and so she filled up the jar first, before proceeding to the sand art.

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This was more time-consuming, as it required peeling off the yellow paper to reveal a sticky substance beneath that the sand would stick to… shake it off, and hey presto, your coloured sand remained!

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Sure, it WAS messy. This is sand peoples. Not only was it all over the tables (the girls working there were doing a fantastic job of cleaning up after people had left though!), but the floor was sand too. I would never ever EVER willingly take my daughter to a sandy place that WASN’T the beach, so for me to be having a ball there? Unheard of.

But so, so true. It was the highlight of the day. I had left my sandy reservations at the door, and baby girl and I had a truly beautiful time, peeling back sections of the picture, applying coloured sand, and watching it slowly transform to something bright and magical.

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We were both really happy. This section is probably best suited to kids showing an interest in art, up to adult age. So maybe 4 onwards, but if your younger littlies are patient enough to stick out the end result, go with it. I could see many parents enjoying the creativity as much as their brood, so it really is a fun activity for all, including the older kids.

I left thoroughly pleased, and baby girl even thanked me for taking her to see the sand castles. Aww 🙂 A heart-clawing gratitude post on the above experience can be found at my other blog here, but keep reading below for all the deets you sooo need…

Where: Frankston Waterfront, 510N Nepean Highway Frankston

When: Now ’til April 25th 2018. 10pm ’til 4pm every day, except for school holiday periods when they close at 6pm.

Parking? There are 4 hour ticketed parkings available all along the Nepean Highway, or else turn into the Frankston Waterfront parking near the big playground/Sofia’s and you should be able to find something.

Price:

Adults $11

Kids standard entry $9; Super Pass $18.

Concession also available.

The Super Pass entitled baby girl to the sand art and sand jar without us having to pay extra at the counter… however if you decide on the basic entry, you can then choose to pay for however many sand arts/sand jars you wish to for your child inside, so it is not an either/or situation.

The sand art and jars are all about a couple of bucks each, and the only other addition she got was a little packet of pencils and activity book to fill out, which for a 4 year-old, she wouldn’t do much with. In my opinion (especially if you have a toddler), pick the $9 entry and then see what your child wants to do activity-wise, if anything. The $18 price was a bit silly considering we could have chosen basic entry and then gotten the same jars and art we did for a few dollars less…

Anything else?

YES. Wear thongs. Please for the love of God. I wore ‘nice’ sandals, and let’s just say… yep. They were nice.

Due to the time of year, bring a hat, especially for the kids, and sunscreen too. The golden sandcastles can be very glare-y.

Final word:

Although with child, viewing the sandcastles can be kind of a super short trip, the bonus additions of the sand art activities, sand pit, other kids games and free face painting (and there are also sand art-making workshops which we weren’t there for) there is honestly something for everyone here, both young and old. The babies can play in the sand pit, the toddlers and older kids can engage creatively with some sand creations, and the adults can take more time and pleasure (if kids allow!) to discover the wonderful world of Ali Baba in sand-form.

A great day out for all, and then… you also have the beach nearby. Somewhere to continue practicing your sand-castle making. Why, you can’t really lose, can you?

 

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An event to ruffle up my feathers

“What?” I stared at my phone in disbelief. I didn’t know what to think. It was a while ago and a beautiful coincidence later, when I had happened across the words ‘Mornington Peninsula Bloggers’ in a Peninsula-based facebook page.

There was a group in my area, for bloggers? I didn’t even realise local blogger groups existed, and then I was soon finding out that they were often hosted by organisations in order for some kind of ‘review’ to be later posted by them…

Surely they were buying a positive review. I balked at the idea of being ‘bought.’

“Yeah right,” I thought. I was going to write a nice review about someone just because they paid for some of my stuff? Don’t forget I waged war on one institution which I will never visit again, and though I don’t go out of my way to bag them, if anyone ever asks me where to go Lygon Street way, I won’t be able to keep my mouth shut.

I like to think I am fair, but also, I am picky.

I couldn’t fathom this ‘pay-for-positivity’ idea circling in my head, and so went to Hubbie.

“They’re going to shout you food?” He looked at me incredulously. I really wanted him to go all moral and high-ground like me, and yet his expression told me otherwise.

“Go!” he urged. “You don’t have to write a positive review.”

“But I feel I’ll have to!” That was the clincher. All those food posts I’d read on other sites. They prologue their review with

“Restaurant X&Y hosted us that evening, but all opinions are my own.”

You know what that translates to?

“All opinions have been diluted through my well-fed tummy… What is an ‘opinion?’… More food please… Nom nom nom.”

I didn’t wanna be one of those food-coma bloggers.

But then my alter ego, SmikG, stepped in.

“I will be hosted, and I WILL have an opinion!”

I needn’t have worried about having my opinions watered down through my digestive system, or of having to lie about my experiences though…

So on an uncharacteristically beautiful and still sunny July day, I found myself driving 17 or so minutes down Mornington-Tyabb road. The scenery was striking. I was used to roads like this since I frequent Bungower so often, however I felt that the further I drove away from the Mornington beach-side, the more the imagery turned pristine and pointed. There were still the huge blocks of land, long winding paths leading to expansive houses and farm-style cottages, however they were both perfectly rustic and exceptionally manicured at the same time. White picket fences, immaculately placed rock trails, even the trees on either sides of the road stretched far and wide, meeting in the middle and opening their branches just enough to allow you a glimpse into the road ahead, providing a magnificently glorious backdrop to the gorgeous day that was.

It was very Castle-esque. I had “how’s the serenity” playing on loop in my mind with my musings, as we drove on ahead.

On first impressions, I felt I almost could’ve kept driving past The Hungry Peacock, our host for that afternoon. Even with my google maps alerting me that it was indeed, a 50 metre left turn away, I still had to slow down suddenly, and heads up for those with lowered cars – watch your bumper bars as you enter the dirt car park.

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(Church hall on left, The Busy Peacock on right)

The setting was quiet and peaceful. I slowly headed into where I thought I needed to be, as fresh as baby girl who was in more knowledge than I was about what lay ahead. Soon though we found our group, in a barn-like shed otherwise known as ‘The Busy Peacock,’ which sits nearby the café ‘The Hungry Peacock’ on the premises. You see, not only were us bloggers getting shouted, but so were our kids.

Those clever minxes.

So the whole idea behind the The Busy Peacock, is that kids get a 45 minute session, in where they engage in sensory play.

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There are two sessions a day – one early morning and one late morning – and they run from Tuesday to Sunday. The children come in, put on smocks, and then just go where their curious hands and minds lead them…

There are water-based activities, sandpits, kid-sized building box areas, hammering and craft tables, gooey water ball tubs, and so much more. The great thing is, these activities change every two weeks, so you can be sure you’ll get some new play areas for your little explorer, even if you do frequent the place often.

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Baby girl of course LOVED the water areas, and after having a good sticky-nose into almost every other section, spent a significant amount of time spraying a white board and applying human features to it to make a face, followed by the rest of the time counting gooey balls in a tub.

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I mean, simple things. And little details too, as I loved how there was a bucket of fresh water with some old rags for the kids to wash their hands with and dry when things got a little bit messy. As you know it undoubtedly would. I know kids dig that stuff, but baby girl is a little OCD like me (proud as punch Mama) and so when a smidgen of sand touched her fingertips, she was holding them high in the air and high-tailing it to the bucket of water that was now blue.

That’s right, blue, because there was paint too!

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My honest-to-goodness thoughts? I honestly can’t fault the space. I mean, for $10, you keep your kid entertained for 45 minutes, they get their fill of all kinds of fun and exciting play areas and sensory experiences, and then after that you get to eat and drink next door, and they have MORE areas to play in?

What? There’s more?

So after three quarters of an hour following the kiddies around, making a mess and getting their hands into all kinds of gunk, we tidied them up and followed the owner, Rebecca, into the renovated church nearby which is also a space for functions. Rebecca is part-owner with her behind-the-scenes chef Hubbie, and they have been running the place for a while now, ever since their previous partnership running the joint with another couple, went bust. As it happens. They’ve since renovated the interior café too (which we’ll get to) and put their own personal mark on the premises which I can see will be a terrific kid-friendly mainstay.

And these were my thoughts before I’d even had any food.

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The church is a gloriously beautiful building, one that would easily cater for a large number of people in any kind of function, and this was perfectly demonstrated that day as our kiddies began to run amuck and show us just how grand the space was.

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Give them an empty room, and they run for their lives, giddy with joy. God Bless. Oh how appropriate that was…

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That was our brief stopover, before heading into the last area of our afternoon, the actual Hungry Peacock café.

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Being my first time there, I actually can’t comment on the renovation itself, other than to marvel at how many kids play areas there were! It is actually a quite genius, and fairly simple idea.

What do parents want more than anything?

A break.

What keeps kids busy (and away from hassling their folks?)

Why, novelty play things of course.

(Butcher pic thrown in for Hubbie)

A track running along the wall for mini car enthusiasts (i.e. ALL kids), a shop corner complete with play food, and colouring pencils and paper for the creative kiddies completed the tables and chairs inhabiting the café. The café consists of two large rooms, the first one containing the counter/coffee area and kitchen entrance, while the other had more places to sit, a couch and a fireplace.

It really was the perfect place to spend an hour or two catching up with an old friend, or just chilling on your own-some… all while your little one ran amuck looking, and most importantly, FINDING interesting and amusing things to do.

But what if it’s a gorgeous day out, and you want to take in some sunshine, you ask expectantly (waiting for me to stammer and halt?!) ?

???

Even better.

There are even more play areas outside for the kids, comprising of cubby houses and a long tube-like contraption to send balls down, all with a decked area for the parents to sit down and wine, dine, AND whine away, conveniently nearby.

The venue itself caters to all types of parents and their kids – those who want to get messy in the Busy Peacock; those who want to chill indoors while their children wind down and explore other avenues; and those who want to sit outside and take in the sunshine, while the kids become backyard explorers of a different brigade.

I have to say though, quite strongly, that I think it is only a place for parents and their kids. It is a parent’s haven –

(let’s interrupt this broadcast for the Angels singing)

Ahhhhhh!

(and back again)

– knowing your child can lose their shit and not be ridiculed by other non-parents. Even if you have already passed the child-rearing stage, you will probably not be able to take the yells and screams so much. It is a serene place, so the backdrop and nature may just win you over… but really, this is a Mum and Dad go-to for some much needed R&R while the little ones take over everything else.

I can’t comment on the food, because I only tasted the slightest morsels from the shared platters we received… and being a European woman, those platters would have been demolished between just Hubbie and I.

So, a Food Review, next time. Hubbie will be pleased to hear beer is on the Menu…

In a nutshell:

16 Mornington-Tyabb Road, Tyabb.

The Busy Peacock runs from Tuesday to Sunday, at 9:30am and 11:15am sessions.

Book ahead. 0416623827

$10 per child, for a 45 minute sensory play session.

There is an old church beside it that can be booked for functions.

Finally, The Hungry Peacock is the café that has even more play areas for the kids to keep them entertained, while offering food and drink for adults and children alike. Also open Tuesday to Sunday, 8/9am to 4pm.

So in its entirety, the concept is fantastic. You go out, let your kid have fun, go to the neighbouring house for some food and drink while they get even more exhausted, and then come home to a clean house, and hopefully a nap-ready child too.

And as for my first hosted blogging experience? The Peacocks feathers are brighter in person, and that there is my metaphor for my first-time blogging out in the open, and not trying to hide the fact that I’m inconspicuously taking xxx number of photos.

I was fortunately pleased to find that I didn’t need to lie, nor blow smoke up anyone’s behind for a false positive experience. It was a fun day for baby girl and I, and we will ALL be back to explore even more.

The only way is up, folks.

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