Hello, I’m back… Spring stories and Winter wrap-up all in one

Hello, I’m back. I started drafting a post Winter school holidays wrap up 2019: You can’t go wrong in Tallong at the beginning of Term 3. Life took over and I never published it, so I’ve whacked it onto the end of this post now at the end of the third week of Term 4!

Term 3 was all about:

  • getting to know our guinea pigs better
  • joining a new team at work
  • wintry walks,
  • collecting and trading in bottles for coins with Spider Boy as part of the ACT’s container recycling scheme
  • making delicious green soup (well, I did that once)
  • more guinea pig snuggles and lots of photos
  • a visit from mum from Sydney
  • a trip to Melbourne for a Problogger day
  • book week at school
  • a walk in the National botanical gardens
  • a visit to Floriade at the beginning of Spring
  • enjoying the sight of pink and white spring blossoms in Canberra’s streets
  • more Lush bath bombs
  • Steptember
  • trivia night with work mates
  • kicking the soccer ball around in the park in the late afternoons
  • prepping Spider Boy for school camp (but then he got sick and I collected him after dinner on the first night)
  • exploring Lake Gininderra on Canberra’s north side

Then we had a visit to my Dad in the Blue Mountains and Mum in Sydney for a week in the October holidays.

I have no photos of the past couple of months in this post as I’ve run out of storage space on WordPress so I’ll need to pay for more before I can upload any new images.

Meanwhile, here’s my recap and photos from July school holidays 2019!

Winter wrap up… July School Holidays

I worked for one day of the school holidays then took the rest of the time off work. We had a few days away in Tallong with my friend Nadia and her two boys.

Spider boy and I dropped off our new pet guinea pigs at their holiday resort, the “Cavy Comfort Motel” (the exotic pet boarding facilities at the local vet), stopped off for petrol and a tyre check, then went through the Macca’s drive-through all before we’d left Canberra’s north. We headed down the Federal Highway to Goulburn and all was well, until it wasn’t.

There was a distinct “air noise” – the sound of air rushing through something. By the time we pulled up at Bundanoon station to pick up my friends, it sounded like we were dragging something. It was the mud flap. We drove on a rocky dirt road from Tallong to the property we were staying at. The sound of the mud flap dragging was very disconcerting, not to mention my worry at the sound of stones flying up and hitting the underside of the car. Then the noise stopped. A smoother road part of the road perhaps?

When we drove out of the property the next day to explore the area, I drove past something long, black and twisted on the side of the road. “I think that was my mud flap” I announced, and everyone laughed. I picked it up on my way back and shoved in the back of the hatchback.

Here are some happy snaps from the trip…

View from the back door

Tallong had a bit in common with New York:

The kids wanted to be a part of it… not New York, but it’ll do.

We met some very friendly donkeys at the sprawling Air B&B property my friend had booked: Tex, Don and Charlie, named after members of Cold Chisel.

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Mr.11 taught Tex/Charlie/Don the art of the selfie. Album cover?

They ate carrots and hay and made us miss our new(ish) pet guinea pigs even more.

Hello Spider boy

Walking in Penrose state forest to the sound of banjos playing

Evening activities

Stone buildings in Taralga, where we went for a day trip from Tallong.

July winter festival in Bundanoon

Morning tea in Bundanoon

Exeter Antique shop.

A few days later, we said goodbye to our friends and Spider boy and I drove back to Canberra with the mudflap still in the back and had no further car problems.

Then we had a few days in Sydney in the second week. Sydney in Winter is absolutely one of the best places to be. Definitely a reprieve from the Canberra cold.

Sydney Winter is a walk in the park, or a ferry ride on the Harbour.

We managed to make it in to the Rocks and Circular Quay for the Bastille Festival.

Extremely decadent lunch of fries and truffle aioli

We love getting our art fix at the MCA when we’re in that part of town.

Discovered Portrait mode on the iPhone!

See? Sydney Winter is a splash at the beach

It’s a kick of the beach ball in thongs

It’s watching the sun set from a ferry.

Thanks for a beautiful Winter escape, Sydney!

Easter holidays 2019: trains, buses, taxis and crowds.


Well we’re about to hit day 2, week 2 of Term 2, and I can’t believe we’re nearly in the middle of 2019. George was not excited about school starting last week, still being in “holiday mode” he said, the night before. I was still in holiday mode too last Monday morning but now back into the swing of things well.

This holidays, after our afternoon of bath products window shopping, I worked for a couple of days and then we hot-footed it to my Dad’s in the Blue Mountains. This involved a Murray’s Bus from Canberra then a train from Sydney’s Central station. Why did I not drive? I’ve caught the anxiety of the M5 from my parents. So 6 hours after leaving Canberra, we arrived in the Blue Mountains, about 90 minutes west of Sydney.

We witnessed an altercation on the train between two young women over one of the women saving a seat for “a friend getting on at Parramatta”, and taking up four seats (2 for her luggage, one for her bottom and another for her legs). George was quite interested in all the lively high-school/uni student conversations, including from a group of six skateboarder-types perched on chair arms, as there weren’t enough seats.

“Next time, we’re driving!” I whispered to George in a wave of middle-aged defiance against my parents.

In the mountains we met up with Dad’s partner’s daughter and her boys aged 8 and 11, so George had plenty of play time with them. We had some lovely late afternoon walks admiring the red and orange leaves and Dad cooked a lamb roast on Good Friday.

Autumn parade in Blue Mountains streets.
It was a scene from a fairy tale in a local park!

We battled the crowds in Leura Mall (Pitt Street Mall, more like it) while we were coffee-chasing (me) and lolly-shopping (George) and sneakily vintage-clothing window-shopping (me). Leura on Good Friday was like Campbell Parade in Bondi on a Summer Saturday, proportionately speaking.

Bustling Leura Mall on Good Friday

George was disappointed Woolworths was shut – he couldn’t get his hot fried chicken wings, but he cheered up with pizza at Leura Garage, a cafe with Bondi-style prices in a charmingly decorated converted garage. It was very good Margarita pizza though. We bowled up to the host standing behind a lectern at the cafe entrance who informed us we could go on a “wait list” for a table and he would phone us when one was ready. To make the most of our time, we hurried over to the gourmet chocolate shop “Josophans” around the corner and selected a few items. Just as I was about to queue up to pay, I got the call from Leura Garage… a table was ready now! No time to purchase chocolate, I planned to return later. So much for peaceful village life.

Chocolate bunnies perched on some kind of car thing.

After our late lunch George felt better so was tolerant of my browsing (Yes, I was happy browsing) in a few arty and vintage shops. And we went back to Josophans for Easter chocolate gifts.



We got a taxi to Dad’s in the next town as it was late and Good Friday – I did consider waiting for a train but a lamb roast waits for no one!

The rest of our holidays was more trains, buses and taxis. Because our train to Sydney the next day was delayed by 30 mins, it meant we had time to duck across the road for this…

Easter in Sydney was a whirlwind of wheeling luggage around from Central to Bondi Junction, lunches, family, chocolate, pizza, no church, no beach and an Easter egg hunt in Granny’s courtyard.

We caught a bus and taxi (thanks, “track work” on the Eastern Suburbs train line), and then met my friend Nadia to catch a train to the Royal Easter Show with our boys aged 8 – 13, then a train, bus and another bus back to Mum/Granny’s.


Boys 8, 11 and 13 ready for the journey home

After the Show, it was a bus from Central to Darlinghurst to Nadia’s amazing new pad – location, location, location! Then we hot-footed it to Kings X to get a bus back to Granny’s. 14,000 steps later, I collapsed on the couch and George carefully examined his Warheads (sour candy) showbag.

Location, location, location! Perfect for Mardi Gras.

The next day was lunch with Sister Señorita Margarita in the very lunch-friendly Woolworth’s* express in Pitt Street Mall (Leura Mall, more like it), before catching a train and a bus to Skyzone in Alexandria to meet my cousin and her son and then catching a bus back to Bondi Junction where the thought of a train and another bus back to Mum’s was all too much so I jumped in a taxi. Which really was all too much, in the dollar sense.

George found his mothership in Sydney’s CBD. He looks a bit tired. Too many holiday late nights!

The next day, we got a Murray’s bus back to Canberra, then a taxi home to my beautiful, scratched little hatchback that gets me from A to B.

Before the Easter holidays ended, we managed to fit in another Easter, Greek Easter, with family friends of George’s dad. George found a canine friend there. I still haven’t managed to get him a dog. I can’t remember this dog’s name, but I think it was a Greek name and she’s part husky.

George and his Greek-Siberian friend



Much fun was had by all cracking these beautiful creations, by knocking them together and seeing whose egg cracks. It’s sort of like pulling Christmas crackers without the cheap plastic trinkets and hats.

I hope you’ve had a great start to Term 2, or May, if you don’t think in school terms. Less than four weeks to Winter, my second-favourite season! I’d better fit some decent Autumn walks in before then, since it’s my favourite time of the year.

Canberrans say you don’t turn your heater on until after Anzac Day. It’s not that cold yet, so I haven’t needed to. I’m really enjoying sitting with a blanket over my knees in the evening when there’s a bit of a chill. It is SO cosy.

*This post is not sponsored by Woolworths. I just go there a lot.

Vampire skin and raspberry meringues

What to do in the school holidays on a day off from work? The 11-year-old son formerly known as Spider Boy was annoyed that he had to go to Vacation Care the next day, so I told him we could do whatever he wanted (within reason) today. He declined offers of ice-skating and movies; top of his list was to go to Lush, the bath products shop.

George’s love for Lush started one Sunday last year when we happened to be in the newish Monaro Mall beauty precinct at the Canberra Centre, and he spied Lush’s bright colours. “Oooh, let’s go in here!” We went in and he’s been hooked on the idea of bath bombs ever since.

That day we bought a bright blue, pink and gold dusted “galactic bath bomb” for $8.95. He enjoyed its fizz, bubbles and disintegration as it quickly coloured his bath water bright blue with little gold sparkles.

At $8.95 a pop on average, I suddenly became interested in seeing what we could make ourselves for less money. Lush’s selling point is that the bath products are fresh and handmade so surely I could whip up a few at home? And so our short-lived bath bomb making frenzy was born.

We watched You-tubers make bath bombs that looked like watermelon and Oreo cookies, stocked up on Citric acid and essential oils and food colouring and made bath bombs in ice-cube trays and plastic bauble toy containers from the supermarket. We came up with all kinds of names for our business, like “Bombs Away” and “Buttercream Bath”. But after about a month, our bath bomb business had become a bit of a fizzer quite frankly.

This holidays, George had fun choosing one out of 50 billion products there. He seemed disappointed that I wasn’t going to get anything for myself, but as his cost twice as much as I originally planned to spend, I thought I wouldn’t. But I did end up buying myself a soap.

We then popped into L’Occitane across the way. Our arms were a canvas for rose-scented hand cream and perfume testers.

“So many good smells here, so many good shops!” he said gleefully. I agreed, it was good for the senses and the soul.

Once back in the main thoroughfare of the beauty wing, we came across a makeup bar, specifically the section with body shimmer and other glittery products. This makeup was different to the heavy body glitters of the 90s that were part of my routine Saturday night look (Like hair gel for the skin). These body shimmers were so light and delicate they looked like they’d been harvested from fairies wings.

The friendly sales girl shrieked with excitement “They’re all testers!” as she invited us to dip our fingers into little delicate pots of rose gold and silver and shimmer up. Our inner arms smelled like roses and sparkled like a vampire’s skin in the late afternoon sunlight.

We capped off our shopping trip with some eye candy – by staring at the counter of Passiontree Velvet patisserie. It was the the hot pink cafe sign that caught my eye, followed by the delicate and beautiful cake art in the cabinet. The fluffy raspberry meringues looked like clouds at sunset. Actually, they didn’t look that different from what we’d just seen at Lush.

I had a realisation that buying bath and beauty products could be a very good substitute for the pleasure of buying cakes and chocolates. For me, part of the attraction of the cake shop is how the merchandise looks, the craftsmanship that goes into these sugary creations. It’s not JUST about the eating. I’ve realised delicious cosmetics and beauty products give me the same little burst of excitement and feeling of indulgence.

I thought of the time I walked past the old Jazz Apple cafe on Canberra’s City Walk when George was almost 2, he started pleading for an “ukcape, ukcape, ukcape”. Amazing, as I didn’t think he knew what a cupcake was.

We left the Monaro Mall beauty precinct talking about all the things we liked about it – George’s top thing was that it was uncrowded and no one seemed to know about it – well, it was 4pm on a weekday. The cashier at Passiontree Velvet said the same thing about the cake shop – not many people seem to go there while they’re beauty shopping. But to me it makes perfect sense to have the pretty soaps and the pretty cakes close by in one pretty sensory shopping destination.

Once we got home, George set up his own little mini-Lush bar in a corner of the bathroom.

David Jones, near the Monaro Mall beauty precinct, where the magic happens.


Autumn (?) flowers add to that fresh fragrant feeling.


A bath truly is one of life’s great pleasures.


The anticipation of a bath bomb hunt… like a jungle cat stalking it’s prey.

Like jewels on display…


A bizarre confectionery version of reef and beef? Surf and turf? I see starfish and shells and a rabbit.


Raspberry body butter bar from Lush, or meringue from Passiontree Velvet?


If it weren’t for the wrapping, you could mistake it for a Blue Hawaiian icecream bar. But no, it’s soap.


Sydney visit and my problem with “stuff”

Several weeks ago Spider Boy and I went back to Sydney for nearly a whole week. It was the longest we’d stayed there since we moved back to Canberra in January. While it was great to see family and friends, I was still haunted by more stuff that needed packing.

I still have stuff at my mother’s place which needs to be gone from there. So much stuff. Mostly books, files, papers, craft supplies, things “that could be used to make a great artwork someday”, actual artwork from Spider Boy’s preschool days and project books from my primary school that I just can’t throw away.

But I’ve packed it all now and it will be coming to Canberra where it will be further culled and organised. There’s only so much I could do in Sydney in limited time and it’s important to make time for my peeps. And food.

Here are some photos…

img_6539Beautiful Rose Bay on a windy spring Saturday afternoon.

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They say Rose Bay is one of Sydney’s dirtiest harbour beaches, but it’s so pretty and I’m so fond of it.

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I discovered a new little Italian bakery, I Pasticerri Italiani, has opened in my absence. Amazing customer service. The baker, an older Italian man, who spoke no English, noticed Spider Boy looking through the window to the kitchen and invited us back to have a look at some bread rolls that were about to go into the big oven.

Spider Boy, who is the fussiest eater I’ve ever known, was intrigued and wanted to try one. As soon as they were ready, he was served one, with olive oil. He liked it.  But he didn’t like any of the below… probably just as well.

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I got over-excited and purchased a delicate and lovely selection for afternoon tea as my father was visiting. On seeing the cakes, Dad said “I don’t really like Italian cakes”. Considering he spends a couple of months in Italy every couple of years, I was surprised. No little dolce for him. He would’ve been happier with a madeira cake from Woollies.

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“I liked that actually, it was very good” said Spider Boy when he saw this photo as I was drafting this post.

img_6531While I staying at Mum’s I made my Sunday French toast with Greek yoghurt and blueberries.

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I went for a “jog” (well that’s what I told people) one evening and returned with this Margarita Pizza from Made in Italy in Plumer Road Rose Bay, Spider Boy’s favourite.

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I got busy sorting and packing. I parted company with these treasures from my 80s teen years. I was a 14 year old rebel, clearly. The love I have for the music stays with me. But honestly, am I really going to play these cassettes again? That’s why I photographed them, so I could let them go.

Oh, hang on a minute.

I think I kept these, thinking they could go in a picture-box frame with other 80s cassettes and become an “artwork.” thinking they could hang out in a box until such time I decide to turn them into an “artwork”. thinking they can hang out in a box for all eternity.

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I found this lovely photo from Spider Boy’s baby days. It’s one of my all time favourites. That’s going in a frame straight to the pool room.

And here’s something more recent…

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Oh don’t they just grow like weeds! Like Mummy’s grey hairs.

img_6642We had a lovely coffee (smartie cookie and milk for Spider Boy) with Granddad at our favourite cafe and Granddad caught up on all the Canberra school news.

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…got some climbing practise at the park

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and happily, Spider Boy was able to catch up with one of his good friends (and friend’s little sister) from his old school. These boys started school and did their first three years together. I hope they will be friends for a long time.

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I enjoyed the luxury of mum babysitting while I met up with Señorita Margarita (later joined by my friend Nadia, who I’ve known since primary school) at Sydney’s oldie but goodie, The Darlo Bar.

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…followed by the most authentic Mexican in Sydney at Playa Takeria. Well that’s what the sign said, and it tasted really good, so I believe them.

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Me and my stuff. We go back a long way.

Boxes are packed. Now to move the damn things.

Edited highlights: Spring flowers, food and boys in the wild

Lately I’ve been enjoying so many colourful blooms in Canberra and that doesn’t even include Floriade, the National Capital’s annual flower festival. Now that the cold of Winter has passed, let’s look back at some Spring highlights…

I noticed a neighbour planting bulbs a few months ago and look what happened!

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Fields of gold: Spring literally springing

Spider Boy and I were invited to the most delicious Indian dinner at a school friend’s house. Cooked by an auntie visiting from Mumbai. It was honestly THE best Indian food I’ve ever had, including my favourite butter chicken.

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Amazing flavours of India

I found myself in the position I hadn’t been in since last year… unemployment! But it was only for a week and it was the last week of the school term. I have a new job starting today, first day of the new school term! #Timing.

But there was that day three weeks ago when I had time to go to the gym after school drop-off and then stop into a cafe for coffee and a muffin that just looked too good to resist. Yes,  don’t worry, I walked to the coffee shop afterwards. Better than when I was in my 20s and would get a taxi to the gym and then a taxi to McDonalds.

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HAD to replenish after the gym.

The following week, Spider Boy’s Dad took him to his favourite comic shop, Impact Comics, while I sat in Dobinsons and did some plotting and planning, just like old times in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney.

This Canberra city cafe reminds me of home, as it’s named after the former Dobinsons of Rose Bay and owned by the grand-daughter of the original Dobinson. It’s my little bit of Rose Bay in Canberra when Lake BG just isn’t doing it for me. Although what am I talking about, how could Lake BG not do it for me!

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Sun streaming in the Dobinsons window on a rainy/sunny Spring afternoon

Spider Boy came into the Canberra Centre with me a couple of times this holidays and played with the wall art. You press a button and the light changes colour. Plus he’s developed a mysterious craving for Subway sandwiches. Funny, since I never take him there. But at least he’s over his McDonald’s obsession!

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Canberra Centre: where the magic happens.

The Daffodils in the first picture actually started springing up in August. Now this little mini-field of fireballs has sprung up. Well done, mysterious neighbour whose name I don’t know! I practically don’t even need to go to Floriade any more! It’s right here in my own shared driveway.

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Fields of fire

Not too far from Canberra, there’s a unique place to explore our natural world… well that’s what the sign at Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve says. And that’s exactly what it is. On the fringe of Namadgi National Park, Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve is around 50 square kilometres of protected area only about 40 minutes drive from Canberra.

We had a beautiful day with the boys (Spider Boy and his friend), although they DID keep mentioning complaining about the fact there was no Subway there. Thank goodness!

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I think a little bit more of this would be good for them.

Have you been enjoying the warmer weather?

What do you like best about Spring in Canberra?

Let it snow: winter magic in Canberra

Canberra is gaining a reputation of being a “cool capital”, in the hipster sense. But let us not forget that it is actually very cool in a meteorological sense.

Time has done it’s old trick of running through my fingertips before I can absorb the moments, and I can’t believe Winter is nearly over.

A lot of people don’t like cold weather, but I love it. So I’m in the right place. As long as there are the resources to manage it, I find cold weather exhilarating and an exciting challenge:

“Will I be dressed warmly enough?”

“How many layers will I need?”

“Should I wear my leather gloves” etc.

Probably not, about 27, and yes, always yes.

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Exhibit A: Trees resplendent in red in the month of May. Exhibit B: Cheeky June throws off her red gown outside David Jones.

In Canberra in Winter, some days are sunny with clear blue skies, and a crispness that makes your skin tingle. It makes you feel, well, crisp. Like a reinvigorated celery stick that’s been soaking in cold water.

Spider Boy and I took off for Sydney for five days in the recent school holidays. It was warm, warm, warm. T-shirts all year round there. Even though those wussy Sydneysiders (sorry Sydney peeps, I say it with love) were crying “cold, cold, cold”. Ha. I know cold. I come from the cold… I invented cold!

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But I’ll let that one go. I saw this wonderful photo from Pat Rice Photography, shared by This Canberran Life  on Facebook. For more great pics of the Capital, check out Pat’s instagram @patriceyee

After the magic created by Pat above, here’s some magic of Canberra just being herself in Winter.

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View of Canberra from Mt Ainslie: Cold of climate, but warm of heart in my opinion.

When Spider Boy and I returned from Sydney on July 12, I knew we were heading into a massive cold front. Snow was even forecast in Canberra city. While a dusting of icing sugar on the Brindabella mountains is nothing unusual at this time of year, snow in the city itself is.

The wind howled outside our windows that Tuesday night. We even lost power. We had one torch and the lights around my makeup mirror. We went to bed at 8.45pm – unheard of! But then I got up again when the power came back at 9.30pm! Yay.

The next morning I opened the curtains and sure enough, there they were! Small, dainty snowflakes, gently fluttering past my window! So exciting. Of course, it melted once it hit the ground. We live in quite a low-lying area, but apparently some of the suburbs in the hillier areas had a bit more coverage.

I had to go to work, but Spider Boy’s dad took him to Mt Ainslie (elevation 842 metres), five minutes drive from the CBD, where many people gathered to see the snow. What a fun school-holiday treat! He took some lovely photos.

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Snow balls a plenty!

 

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Take that, Canberra!

 

Other Winter fun has included:

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Watching ice-skaters at Canberra’s Winter Festival in the CBD at lunchtime.

 

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Garema Place was a Winter Wonderland

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On the way to school and work: says it all really.

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Back to the Winter Festival: Spider Boy was out of plaster in this picture. Luckily the landings at the end of the slide and toboggan run were soft.

Fun, free kids entertainment.

There have been many offline goings-on at Alexcellent Lifestyle headquarters lately, but it is now time to sit down with my cup of instant coffee and share some of the events of the past month.

There’s an exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art at the moment which I took Spider Boy and his friend to, during the recent school holidays. (I’m just realising that the school term is almost half over, again. How does that keep happening? Time just continues to do its thing.)

Anyway, the Energies exhibition runs until early September (more details at the end of the post) and as it’s so interactive, it’s great for kids.

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Spider Boy and friend: the cold wind seemed to give them more energy than usual.

When we arrived at the museum, which was lovely and toasty inside, we were directed up to the National Centre for Creative Learning. Here the kids were presented with activity sheets on a clipboard, to fill in as they went around the exhibits.

“Look boys, it’s like a school excursion!” I enthused. They didn’t seem to mind the idea of “work” (well if they did, they didn’t show it) so we all bounded down three flights of stairs (there is a lift, but why take the lift when you can bound).

The exhibition’s energy theme was a great fit for my two little friends.

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Energies: Haines and Hinterding, is an exhibition of the unseen energies around us, by Australian artists David Haines and Joyce Hinterding. Very low frequency radio waves, television signals, satellite transmissions, solar winds, aroma molecules and even psychic forces are brought to the senses.

It was fascinating and unlike anything I have ever seen before.

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The museum photographer happened upon the boys and grabbed a few happy snaps for the museum’s publicity material.

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The exhibition explores the power of electromagnetism, light, smell, sound and vibration. The artists’ work, according to the blurb, “…encourages us to marvel at the wonders of the universe, …to experience the everyday world as a place buzzing with energies, curiosities and sensations.”

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It certainly did all that. Not only for the boys, but myself. And we managed to find a Spiderman reference with all that electrical energy buzzing around some TV antennae hanging from a ceiling in a darkened room. “Electro would love this!” we agreed.

The boys didn’t even seem to mind having a go at their worksheets. Well maybe a bit.

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After all the electro-business we went back upstairs to the National Centre for Creative Learning for some free holiday craft ($5 donation per family to cover craft supplies – well worth it).

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After the museum we went for a walk at Circular Quay, where we showed our support (literally) for a street entertainer… as the boys still had energy to spare.

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Exhibition: Energies: Haines & Hinterding

Where: MCA, 140 George Street, The Rocks, Sydney.

When: 10am – 5pm daily until September 6, 2015

Admission: free

More info: http://www.mca.com.au

Edited Highlights: big icecreams, snowboarding and bucking broncos

During the past few days I have been googling and stumbling upon things for Spider Boy to do in the school holidays. There is so much choice, with price tags ranging from free to ridiculous. Thankfully, there is a lot of free and affordable fun to be had around town.

But before I post about school holiday fun, I can’t move forward until I look back, so here’s just a few Edited Highlights from the past few weeks.

In my most recent post, I wrote about my visit to the wonderful Hungarian bakery Kurtosh House. While I was fuelling up Eastern European style, my son was doing this…

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So how did I get the photos, you may ask, if I was eating baked goods a couple of kilometres away? I took them before I left the scene, secure in the knowledge that this is what he would be doing for the next hour. This “bucking bronco” at a birthday party Spider Boy attended at Kidsportz, may have looked like a giant guinea pig, but that certainly didn’t deter any wannabe cowboys.

There was the outing to Darling Harbour where Spider Boy and I caught up with some family. A Sunday here is a plethora of food options, colour and fun. The children’s playground is busy with lots of big structures to climb on, slide down and swing across, and for the cost of a gold coin or two, you can ride the carousel.

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And it’s not all running and jumping and spinning with the kids, there’s plenty of pleasant strolling opportunities with great perspectives of the city bathed in the burnished gold of late afternoon sun.

There was our stumbling upon Sydney’s Winter Festival last Saturday. The pop-up “Winter Garden” outside St.Mary’s Cathedral is a stone’s throw from Spider Boy’s swimming lesson, so naturally when you step out of the pool, you can jump onto a snowboard, or if you’re taller than 140cm (which SB is not) ride in a giant Lindt Ball.

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City outings are all very well, but sometimes you just want to climb a tree in your local park…

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…just as much fun for a spider boy. Cost: free. Relaxing in a tree in the late afternoon sun? Priceless.

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And so the sun sets on another Edited Highlights.

Until next time, enjoy the little things.

Easter Show 2015: Food-on-a-stick, pigs, and not a kewpie doll in sight.

It was a windy and rainy finish to the school holidays yesterday, just like the first day (see previous post), but thankfully there were many sunny days in between.

One of these sunny day highlights was our visit to the Sydney Royal Easter Show, run by the NSW Royal Agricultural Society. This was Spider Boy’s first visit to the “real” Easter show, rather than the mini-one at Moore Park’s Entertainment Quarter.

I have always been partial to fairground food and the Sydney Royal Easter show never disappoints in that department…

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Yes, it is what it looks like – donuts on a stick! What fun. And yes, I know it’s just “occasional treat” food.

But I’ll get back to the food…

I hadn’t been to the RAS show at the showground at Olympic Park since years before Spider Boy was born and I remembered it being big, crowded and surely overwhelming for a young child. And I also remembered it as being a big schlep from the Eastern Suburbs. And it’s usually not a cheap day out. But my dad gave Spider Boy and I two free entry passes, so schlep we did. It was totally worth it. The schlep was a lot more arduous in my head than it actually was. Here are a few snaps from the day…

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There were many gentle and traditional rides…

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…and there were many people, but as it wasn’t a public holiday, it wasn’t overwhelmingly crowded.

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For me, the amazing Australian produce displays have always been one of the highlights of the Royal Easter Show. This year, the fruit/vegetable/grains display had an ANZAC theme, to mark the 100th anniversary of the ANZAC landings at Gallipoli.

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For Spider Boy, meeting some Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was the highlight…

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… and also meeting this mask owl called Willow. We have been reading Harry Potter lately and now he wants a pet owl. I said we could look in to it. But then my ex-husband reminded me owls are nocturnal. Not sure it would work in the tiny apartment we live in.

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My fantasy-loving son also got into a spontaneous sword fight with the girl at the Adventure Time stall. I blame those Ninja Turtles.

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Another highlight for me was seeing my boy on TV. He read that autocue like nobody’s business… apart from tripping on one word. But that just added to his charming delivery. I must not be am not a pushy stage mother.

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And I think a highlight for both of us was the “Pat a pig” pavilion! Here I am actually looking trimmer than I have in years as a fake farmer. Oink! OMG, while writing this I just had a flashback to my mother telling me that when I was a newborn the maternity nurses dubbed me “Porky Pig.”

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Not that there’s anything wrong with that… look how content these little guys seem. Three happy, spooning pigs. All they need is a blanket!

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The unlikely friendship between a spider (boy) and a llama.

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And what would an Easter show be without Easter eggs. Cheep cheep!

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Oh, and then there was the time Spider Boy came face to face (well, became the face of) his favourite vegetable.

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But you didn’t think the Royal Easter Show would be all about the vegetables did you? I know sugar is not in fashion at the moment and all I can say to that is… Pour some sugar on me! Without sugar, creations such as the cakes above WOULD NOT BE POSSIBLE.

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More spectacular sugar creations. And then there was the dirty food…

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…tasty, trashy, nasty and dirty, just the way I love it. Lots of sticky food on sticks. Cheese on a stick, meat on a stick, cake on a stick, potato on a stick. The only thing NOT on a stick was Kewpie dolls (I didn’t see any, much to my disappointment). And don’t get me started on the Manwiches. Yes, that’s right, there was a “Manwich” stall. For when a sandwich just isn’t enough. Because of course no woman could eat a big sandwich (they haven’t met me, clearly). But “Womanwich” just doesn’t have the same ring, does it?

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Oh how we laughed.

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A display in the farming pavilion set the facts straight on sugar, without all the negative hype. It was pretty much spelled out in black and white; Sugar is high in energy but has no nutritional value. But I will never abandon my love of sugar as it has sentimental, nostalgic, artistic and happy value. And for me that means something. And stevia is not the same.

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Manwich time.

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Another decorative and functional place to eat.

The Sydney Royal Easter show was a great day out and we didn’t end up spending that much money. Once you’ve paid to enter the showground (or presented a member’s pass), entry to all the pavilions and the main arena is free. There were so many things to see and experience, as well as many free samples. In fact Spider Boy enjoyed seeing the animals and the free entertainment so much, he wasn’t bothered about rides. We were just too busy posing for all those face-in-the-board photos.

The only things we paid for was a professional photo of the Spider Boy and the owl, and some food (not on a stick). And something at the Adventure Time stall. And that Ninja Turtles showbag of course.

Ordinary Joys: Donna Summer disco flowers and fancy-schmancy food.

School went back for Term 4 last Tuesday but a bad case of pharyngitis meant poor Spider Boy had a terrible last couple of holiday days and missed the first two days of school.

Still there was much fun over most of the two-week break.

There was launching an air-powered rocket in our local park…

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See the rocket? It’s that tiny black speck above and right of the tree.

There was (attempted) lunching in a local fancy-schmancy grocery store… but it was just too fancy (and expensive) with a very complicated salad selection system. Spider Boy would’ve been happier with a dirty street pie (in the words of Laurina from The Bachelor), or some chicken McNuggets at least. He settled for a toasted cheese sandwich.

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I like the idea of raw cake but thought I could just go home and eat cake batter instead.

There was shopping in our local shopping centre. Later in the car when I turned to look at Spider Boy, I faced this sight… don’t worry, I wasn’t driving at the time.

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“What big teeth you have, my dear!”

So of course the new purchase meant that when Spider Boy packed his little Toy Story suitcase for our trip to Canberra, it looked liked this…

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If only my packing was so simple: a racoon mask and a Despicable Me fart-blaster. What more could you need for a trip to Canberra?

These days I tell him if he packs it, he has to wheel it. And he does. But his clothes go into MY suitcase.

After what seemed like a long day’s journey into Canberra (3 and 3/4 hours due to massive traffic jam on the M5) during which poor Spider Boy vomited three times due to travel sickness (the bus driver took a detour with lots of winding roads near the Georges River to avoid the traffic), we sat down at the bus terminal café. Happily Spider Boy was feeling better by this time and was gesticulating about something when he accidently knocked a bottle of Diet Coke over me. So proud, he takes after his mama.  And then I dropped my phone and the screen smashed. Searching for the joy in the ordinary, I found the ordinary.

We had a few days in Canberra where Spider Boy spent time with his dad, uncle and grandfather, and I caught up with some Canberra friends. We also met Sydney friends Lulu, Mr. M and their son The Magician, at Canberra’s annual Floriade Night Fest.

After navigating our way through the fabulous fields of floral spendour, we navigated our way through the amazing maze of marketing magic.

Our goal was to avoid purchasing any “schmutters*”, as Lulu calls them, but somehow Spider Boy and The Magician ended up with these lightsabers…

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Schmutters aside, the real magic was in the flowers. If you are a real fan of flowers (mostly tulips), go to Floriade during the day so you can see them in all their colourful glory. But Floriade Night Fest is great for an almost other-wordly experience. It was like going to an outdoor floral nightclub, but one where there’s food, families and a ferris wheel.

Lighting changed the colours of the flower fields…

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The “street food” stalls were lit-up with strings of fairy lights…

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Giant coloured lotus flowers lit up the lake…

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And giant flowers lit up and flashed in time to the music that filled the air. I Feel Love by Donna Summer was the standout.

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Iggle Piggle would have felt right at home in this magical night garden.

I made the call and announced that Floriade Night Fest was “Better than Lady Gaga.”

The next day back at our accommodation, Spider Boy had a swim in the heated indoor pool, where he made good use of the available pool noodles.

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Was this the moment when Spider Boy caught the pharyngitis bug? Probably not.

I can’t blame this swimming pool for Spider Boy’s pharyngitis because the doctor couldn’t tell if it was viral or bacterial. The Magician also swam in our hotel’s pool and he didn’t get sick.

On our last morning we had breakfast at Urban Pantry in Manuka, with Spider boy’s family. It was delicious and I was delighted with my choice of lemon pancakes with vanilla yoghurt, lemon jam and grilled figs.  However, I must confess to a bit of breakfast envy about the fact Lulu, Mr.M and The Magician chose to have their breakfast at the Hyatt. Talk about Fancy-schmancy. I have had breakfast at the Hyatt hotel in Canberra twice in my life (a few years ago now) and from memory IT IS THE BEST BREAKFAST IN THE WORLD, what with the omelette, waffle and pancake station.

In a text message that morning Lulu confirmed that her Hyatt breakfast was “very delicious!” and that The Magician claimed it was “the best breakfast he had ever had.”  She did not photograph it, but confirmed they ate “delicious fresh pancakes and omelette, fruit and cappuccino.” I’m sorry, I’m a bit obsessed with breakfasts.

So in case you’re wondering, here are my lemon pancakes… not made to order from the “pancake station” but very good anyway…

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Points for presentation AND taste.

After breakfast it was onto the Murray’s bus back up the highway to Sydney. Our return passage was much smoother and this time no plastic bags were required. Phew!

Have a great week!

*Schmutter: worthless material, rubbish. From Yiddish schmatte, ‘rag’. (oxforddictionaries.com)