29 good things (and a few silly ones) about Winter in Canberra

Sunday of the Queen’s Birthday long weekend, view from Red Hill, 4pm

It’s the end of the Queen’s Birthday long weekend, the ski fields have officially opened, and I’m now staring down the barrel of three more working weeks until the end of the financial year, which means I’m going to be very, very, busy with a number of not-excellent things not fit for this exciting blog.

We also are heading to the shortest day of the year, June 21. I googled different sun set times on Saturday and saw that Canberra’s sunset was scheduled for 4.57pm (Sydney’s was 4.52), yet at 5.10pm on Saturday I saw the most beautiful pink and orange in the sky.

Look at those colours! Filter-free fun here.

As I’m sure I’ve mentioned before on this blog, I like cold weather. So I’ve put together a quick list of some of my good things about winter in Canberra (some of them are a bit of stretch, even for winter-loving me).

  1. Being cold outside means it’s a good excuse to stay inside and try making some new dishes like dark chocolate, pear and hazelnut torte, ham and vegetable risotto, cardamom and pistachio bread and butter pudding, a variety of soups and shakshuka (things I want to make from June 2019’s Woolworth’s Fresh magazine*).
  2. The bitter cold and icy winds that cut like a knife add an extra degree of difficulty to daily life – which is really an exercise in building resilience and also helps with mindfulness (see? stretch).
  3. There’s the pride of knowing Canberra has the lowest minimum temperatures of all the capitals, everyday. (I don’t know if this is a fact, but it feels like it.)
  4. This makes you appreciate getting inside and feeling cosy (George’s contribution).
  5. “No I don’t have any more!”said George when I asked him if he had any more good things about Winter.
  6. Hot bubble baths. I wonder if Lush has any winter-themed/scented bath bombs?
  7. Frost on the grass and ice on cars left out overnight is so pretty and sparkly!
  8. The Best & Less in Tuggeranong (the name ‘Tuggeranong’ by the way means ‘cold place’ in the language of the Ngunnawal people) has been selling $4 polar fleece couch blankets! I was zipping past on my lunch break and stopped to buy two. This was in the last week of May, so they might be sold out by now.
  9. You can go the whole hog with your winter outfits: woolly scarves, felt hats, driving gloves, fur-look trim on boots and jackets, and I recently saw a girl with fluffy ear-muffs as she walked from the work carpark to the office entrance.
  10. Turning on the heater when you get home at the end of the day.
  11. Weekend afternoons at home finally putting together those IKEA flat-packs and making things cosy. When I moved here the first time, there was no IKEA. So very convenient to have one in Canberra now.
  12. Using a hot cup of coffee as a hand-warmer, and also an insides warmer, and a caffeine hit.
  13. I heard once in a political documentary on Canberra that its location was intentionally selected because of the cold climate, so we’d all be like little hamsters in the hamster-wheel, running to keep warm. Also apparently a cold climate makes public servants think more clearly. (I can’t vouch for this.)
  14. Going to bed and reading books. George came up with another good thing.
  15. Wintry bare trees against a bright blue sky.
The clear winter skies of Canberra on a sunny day are amazing.

Wow, there are 15 good things already, do you really need more? OK, here are some sensible, practical good things that you can put in your diary this Winter, residents and visitors alike…

  1. The Winter Handmade Market June 29-30. Canberra’s Handmade Market is on four times a year and showcases artists, designers, stylists, craftspeople and produce from all over Australia.
  2. The Canberra Region Truffle Festival is a whole range of truffle events from 1 – 31 July.
  3. Living in Canberra we are so close to the NSW snow fields – At 2 hours’ drive you can be there and back in a day. From June 29 Murray’s buses will run daily ‘Snow Express’ trips (link to Murray’s) from Canberra. You can get coach travel, lift ticket and equipment hire from $190. Or from $43 if you just want to go and look at the snow and not ski! Pretty.
  4. If skiing isn’t for you, how about a day trip to Cooma (the home of Birds Nest), Bredbo and Jindabyne? Riot Act has some great ideas here
  5. Corin Forest is an easy morning or afternoon trip at around 40 minutes’ drive from Canberra. There is a mini snow field that’s great for kids.
  6. Winter Festival – for the past few years, Garema Place in the city centre has been decked out like a winter wonderland with an ice-rink and fairy lights.
  7. Ice hockey matches at Phillip ice rink. Phillip Ice rink, 1 Irving Street Phillip.
  8. Going for one of many walks around Canberra – Riot Act has these ideas
  9. The Forage food festival, Dairy Rd Fyshwick, June 15 2019 2pm – 7pm. Although it must be said last time we went there was a lot of traffic getting in and out of the venue.
  10. For an “alpine experience right here in Canberra”, why not have a go at indoor skiing at Vertikal Snow Sports? It’s right next to the Forage (see number 9)
  11. Get inspired to get cosy at ‘Creative Fibre’ at the Old Bus Depot Markets – a day for the regions’ textile artists to showcase and sell their work. See products and learn about processes involved in weaving, knitting, crocheting, hand dyeing fabric and more. July 14, 2019 The Old Bus Depot Markets, 21 Wentworth Avenue Kingston.
  12. More truffle stuff: Truffle-infused winter weekends at the cellar door. Mount Majura Wineyard, June 8 – 25 August 2019.
  13. Warm Soup, Cool Jazz. Literally that – sip on warm soup and mulled wine while listening to live music. June 30, 2019 at the Mercure Canberra, 39 Limestone Ave Braddon.
  14. For other great ideas visit the Visit Canberra website!
Winter skating at ‘Skate-in-the-city’, Garema Place Canberra, 2016.

I know there are many more good things to do! Please feel free to add your own in the comments!

What do you like to do in Canberra in Winter?

*The Alexcellent Life is not sponsored by Woolworths. I just like their free magazine.

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.

Edited highlights: Autumn colours, freakshakes and disco

As Winter marches on new ideas are brewing in my head about the direction of The Alexcellent Life and ideas for entirely different blogs are taking shape.

In the meantime, while I’m plotting and planning, I want to share some highlights from previous weeks.

We have been doing so much since we moved to Canberra, along with work and school, that I’ve been having trouble making time to document it all. So even though we’re now in the middle of Winter and I feel like I’ve been behind all year, I wanted to showcase some Autumn highlights. Click on the pictures for captions. It will be Winter’s turn next post.

Lulu came for a visit and we took her to the Patissez store in the city. I had vowed NOT to have a Freakshake, as the three we ordered when Senorita Magarita came to visit was too much. We ordered one and it was easily enough for the three of us.

We also ordered a proper lunch this time. It was so long ago I can’t remember exactly what I had, but sweet potato fries were involved and I remember they were amazing.

 

That night after popping some champagne at home, we went to Canberra’s annual Enlighten festival – like Sydney’s Vivid, except not, but still good in its own Canberra way. We were intrigued by the idea of  a “Dark Disco” at the National Portrait Gallery… but once we discovered the little room where the disco was, we found it was more like a blue light disco. But it was free.

I’ve really been appreciating Canberra’s distinct seasons…

At the end of Autumn I finished up a work contract and began another one. My colleagues gave me this beautiful hanging basket of petunias. I was warned to actually hang it, rather than just leave it on the ground other wise the frost would get it.

It’s fared surprisingly well – it does droop on frosty mornings but seems to recover quite well in the sun.

I went to the Southside fresh food markets and found these beautiful cabbage flowers. And my rough and tumble Spider Boy found a heart shaped petal and a piece of bark and told me it was a heart next to a skull and crossbones, which was a logo he used to add to every drawing he did when he was four. The heart represents me and the skull and crossbones represent him (he came up with that).

I started a new job in Canberra’s CBD. It is a nice change to be working in the city, but a bit dangerous as I’m close to lots of exciting shops! But I really have needed to add to create my Winter wardrobe here in Canberra. Because the longer I’m here the more I realise Sydney doesn’t actually have a Winter. I wasn’t prepared clothes-wise. But at least I have a reason to wear my old leather gloves now!

Next Time: Canberra Winter Wonderland.

Edited highlights: bare trees and summer memories

On Monday I worked from home as Spider Boy had a cold. It was also time for his plaster to come off. Once we got home from the medical centre, I noticed for the first time that the branches on the trees outside our window are bare. I don’t know how long they’ve been that way. But as I stood by the window I thought, “Didn’t those trees have red leaves on them last time I looked?”

How could they have lost all their leaves so quickly? I thought back to Summer. I had to think hard. I found an image in the old brain files of a red and blue parrot playing peek-a-boo amongst the masses of green leaves on the same tree. Then the leaves had turned red. Now, it was leafless, and I didn’t even notice it happening.

Time just slips away, and before you know it we are halfway through the year. We’ve even passed the Winter Solstice (8.43am Tuesday 21 June, by the way).

As I mentioned, Spider Boy had his plaster removed this week. He still needs to wear a splint for three weeks while doing anything active. His skin was dry and flaky where the plaster had been. But when I went to cleanse and moisturise his arm with Cetaphil, the flakes had already disappeared. Tonight the skin on his arm looks like new.

It’s a new season, we are well into Winter. So I’m going to present some pictures of the last weeks of Summer, when we said goodbye to Sydney and began settling in to our new home in Canberra.

Click on the images to read the captions…

Edited Highlights: Silver white Winters that melt into Spring

It’s the last day of Winter today, but really, the past few weeks have been “Sprinter”; some days warm, some days chilly, while the season transitions.

I’m feeling a bit Sound of Music with this post. Everything is reminding me of the lyrics from My Favourite Things.

We may not have had raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, but the past few weeks of Winter we’ve had snowdrops on boys on toboggans and whiskers on Spider Boy. Instead of cream coloured ponies and crisp apple strudels we’ve seen cream coloured Labradors, and while we didn’t eat any deep-fried camembert balls, we’ve thought about them.

Winter is one of my favourite things and now it’s time to give it a big ol’ farewell.

During this season we hit the slopes – not the ski slopes, but a small toboggan run at Corin Forest just outside Canberra…IMG_7107

The new donut and coffee shack (on the slope) wasn’t open yet, but the cafe at the bottom of the hill was and we enjoyed the massive open fire where we toasted marshmallows that were practically pillow-sized. The wood fired pizza was very good, but this place gets crowded at lunchtime (being the only food place in the area) so we did have to wait rather a long time for it.

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The next day we all enjoyed the art at the National Gallery…

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Turning a blind eye: A kindly security guard ignores Spider Boy and the Magician.

After numerous warnings to the boys to be careful about not getting too close to the art, I managed to set off the alarm after getting to close to a Monet. I did the same thing on my last visit when I got too close to Blue Poles.

Back in Sydney I caught up with my friend Nadia who I’ve known since school days. We had a drink at the Green Park in Darlinghurst, then moved onto the pop-up bar “The Chalet” where the highlight for us was a random 80s ski movie playing mutely on a big screen. We recognised none of the actors… where was the king of 80s ski movies, John Cusack? (star of Better Off Dead, and the retro classic Hot Tub Time Machine)

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Despite promising ourselves a deep-fried camembert ball, we just had a drink and popped next door to Lil’ Darling for dinner, but it was so full of Hens parties, we were forced to flee to the nearest Thai place. We were told we could eat there as long as we were out by 10pm as they had to set up for a cooking class in the morning. So after our Pad Thai we just decided to call it a night and vowed we would return to “The Chalet”. We haven’t.

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The rest of Winter has passed in a haze of coffee (me), hot chocolate (Spider Boy) and cronuts (me) …

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The “Cave of Doom” at Ruby’s Diner in Queens Park leads to the bathroom, although the bit about “abandoning hope all ye who enter here” is perfectly apt for how I felt about my hopes for healthy eating that day once I spied the cronuts!

Winter beach visits…

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…where Spider Boy had plenty of room to practice his Ninja Turtle moves.

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Sprinter has graced us with her presence, as evidenced by the magnolias blooming outside our kitchen window.

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Spider Boy visited his old pre-school for a fundraiser (to raise money after the centre was disgustingly vandalised).

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We visited the Sydney Dog Lovers show for some puppy inspiration…

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See? A cream-coloured labrador. Almost as good as a pony.

And of course no event would be complete without the obligatory silly-photo board and face-painting!

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Bye Winter!

Here’s to the delights of a new season, wherever you are.

Winter light

Winter in Sydney is not really winter. Winter in Sydney can be a bit cool (ish). Yes, occasionally it does get cold (ish). Very occasionally, there may be a biting wind. But not most of the time. Not even often. And when it does happen, everyone talks about how cold it is. Brrrr.

For the past few years, perhaps to keep the spirit of Summer alive over the Winter months, Sydney has put on an event called Vivid – a festival of light, music and ideas. Vivid Sydney is the biggest event of its kind in Australia. According to the Vivid website, the festival is a world-class line-up of concert and music performances, public ideas programs, creative industry workshops and conferences.

I went to Vivid for the first time last week, with Spider Boy, Lulu and the Magician. As well as Vivid installations outside, we have seen indoor museum exhibition displays of light, as well as the beautiful natural winter light that surrounds us outside.

Here are some of our light treasures from Winter so far:

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The Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) looking like it’s been the recipient of a crazy mosaic job.

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The MCA outdoor cafe under lights at night.

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This display reminded me of a stained-glass window.

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This dynamic large-scale light installation, Affinity, is by artists amigo and amigo (Simone Chua and Renzo B. Larriviere). Vivid’s website explains that the piece represents the complexity and connectivity of the human brain. When people arrive at Affinity, there is a web of darkened dormant orbs, except for a small trail of light that bounces between them. As people touch the globes, light flows in, linking the orbs.

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Circular Quay train station dressed up in red.

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One of my favourite museums…

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It’s here Spider Boy made friends with his shadow side…

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We found art made of light…

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Tupperware light fittings…

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and giant lightsabers!

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Meanwhile at a local club we discovered stage lights…

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bright lights…

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and on another day, afternoon sun bouncing off the water at Circular Quay.

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Followed by a sunset at Rose Bay.

Winter doesn’t need artificial light to glow; Its natural light is beautiful in its own muted way. But Vivid is quite spectacular.  If you’re reading this on June 8th and you’re in Sydney, you can still catch Vivid, otherwise, it’s one for the diary next year.

Vivid Sydney light displays are on from 6pm until midnight June 8th, 2015 (some events finish at 11pm).

http://www.vividsydney.com

The Light Show is on at the Museum of Contemporary Art until July 5th, 2015.  

Check out the @MCA_Australia_Now on Instagram for some of the amazing light displays inside the Museum.  They’re better than my photos!

Edited highlights: skating, sledding and good craft gone bad

The school holidays are over and life is back to its routine, although I’m still working on Spider Boy getting to sleep earlier after a few late nights during the holidays. We didn’t do any “Mathletics” on the computer like we really should have, but did play Monopoly (the junior version) and there’s maths in that, right? Spider Boy is always reluctant to part with the cash to purchase property but gleefully receives the rent I pay him when I land on something he does own.

I always have such high hopes for craft projects during the holidays, but I am realising Spider Boy’s hopes for it don’t match my own. He worked with me on a foam pirate ship for about five minutes before getting frustrated with it. And it was frustrating – it was a kit from a craft store and it just didn’t work. I continued on without him trying to make it work while he did something else. Eventually I just left it – a floppy, PVA glue-smeared mess (it’s supposed to dry clear, but not really).

Made nothing from this book. Dare to dream.

Made nothing from this book. Dare to dream.

I finally put four brown bananas to good use before they liquefied in the fruit bowl by making a banana cake. I have to say this cake was not only edible, but a great success – Thank you Women’s Weekly Classic Cakes cookbook. I froze the cake and took it to Canberra for Spider Boy’s paternal family (“I baked you a cake, sorry about the missing piece”), thus cleverly saving myself (and my mother) from the rest of it. Spider Boy claims he doesn’t like banana cake, although will inhale banana bread at cafes.

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We ventured into Kathmandu for the first time ever – they were having a 60% off sale – as we had to outfit ourselves for some serious outdoor activity in our nation’s capital. Canberra welcomed us in all its wintry beauty. Brrrr. I always forget just how cold it gets there in winter. Even though I lived there for six years. This visit it was – 3 and -4 degrees celsius overnight. That’s MINUS, in case you didn’t notice the tiny minus signs there.

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Wintry beauty: there’s nothing like the clear blue skies of a Canberra winter.

I was determined to get on to an ice-rink this winter (didn’t actually skate at Sydney’s Winter Festival a couple of weeks ago) so we got straight off the bus from Sydney onto the temporary outdoor rink in Canberra. Note to self – must try not to project my 1980s ice-dancing obsession onto Spider Boy. I can just hear American figure skater and 1988 Olympic champion Brian Boitano talking about “the costumes, the glamour…”.

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Spider Boy got by with a little help from his hired helper, Pingu.

After a few goes around the edge of the rink with the penguin helper, Spider Boy declared, “I don’t need the penguin anymore.”

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…before braving the ice alone.

That’s my boy! Blades of Glory, here we come!

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Fake it till you make it.

This giant inflatable snow-globe had an attendant (unlike the one at Darling Quarter in Sydney), so for $2 we could step inside to frolic in the “snow”. We stayed in there for minutes on end and posed for many happy selfies. Goodness knows what that fake snow was made of, but the snow-globe attendant helpfully told me, “If he gets it in his mouth, tell him to spit it out.”

A couple of days later we drove to Corin Forest, about 30 minutes south of Canberra for some snow-filled fun. This was the first time Spider Boy had seen (real) snow.

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Why merely throw a snow ball when you can kick-box one?

For $5 we hired a toboggan and Spider Boy was able to sled down the mountain gentle slope. “I love snow!” he said as he crashed into a bale of hay at the bottom of the run.

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“Nice CAR, mate!”

Spider Boy’s favourite TV ad is the AAMI one where the young P-driver from the 80s pulls up beside his future self (as a father with a learner driver son beside him) and wants to drag race. “Nice car, Mate!”, Spider Boy now says at every opportunity with accompanying drag-race face.