Edited highlights: Mother’s Day, social visits and bye bye home learning.

Lunar phases, as told in Oreo cookies.

Life is getting back to some semblance of “normal” after restrictions and now that school is back and I’m working five days a week in the office things certainly feel that way. Thought it was time for a catch-up.

Back to school

Public schools in the ACT began the transition back to the classroom on May 18th. The week before that, the ACT government was saying schools would continue remote learning for the whole of Term 2. But there’s been no cases of COVID-19 in Canberra since May 1, and consensus is that face-to-face learning is better for kids and parents who need to go to work.

“I don’t like online learning.” George said recently. He explained he finds learning easier being able to see and talk to the teacher, touch things (particularly with science) and interact in person with his classmates. Year 7 and Infants years were the first to go back five days last week and the other years have followed, with all years back by Tuesday 2nd June.

I think it will be OK, here in Canberra anyway, while COVID-19 case numbers are zero (but with interstate travel opening up again we know that could change at anytime). Social distancing practices will be maintained as much as possible , and increased hygiene measures have been put in place. There will be no assemblies, excursions or concerts for the foreseeable future. So we’ll see how it all goes.

School starting again was another change and despite him not really liking online learning, George was a bit nervous about going back to the school after being at home since March 24. He had messaged a few school friends over the time at home and we also went around to our (former) neighbours’ new house (they’ve moved recently) once visiting restrictions were lifted a couple of weeks ago. The kids are friends with George, one of them is in his year at school, so it was great to see them before school went back.

Bye Bye home learning

The couple of weeks before that passed very similarly to previous weeks; me working in my government job in a Canberra office building two or three days per week and working from home the other days. I’ve valued that time with George while he’s been doing his remote learning. Even though I was too busy with my own work to really engage with his… I can see how difficult remote learning would’ve been for working parents with younger children.

The days I wasn’t with George, his dad did his own work from my place, an arrangement that’s worked out well. Learning remotely went OK. It wasn’t six hours a day of constant work and interaction like it is at school. More like 10 minutes a day of Google Meet time where he saw his tutor group teacher and class mates for roll call on video, then maybe a couple of hours of actual school work per day, and the occasional longer Google Meet for another class.

The rest of the day it was Tik Tok, guinea pigs and snacks. Questions of “What are you doing now George?” that I would call out from my home-office (the dining room table) were often met with “I’m just on my break.”

He submitted most of his Year 7 school work successfully, but a couple of subjects seemed to have had a lot of work to do and/or been a bit confusing (Science and Maths). We realised there were a couple of assignments due that weren’t done, and George was overwhelmed and confused about what was required. I rang the maths teacher who said “Don’t worry about the work he hasn’t done, we’ll be covering that again later in the year.” And since he’s returned to face-to-face schooling two weeks ago, he’s got back on track with his Science.

The last week of home learning I enjoyed helping him with an assignment about the phases of the moon, done with Oreo cookies. We learnt all about the waning and waxing gibbous, which somehow I’d escaped at school so it was all new to me.

We finished most days (the days I could work from home) with an invigorating walk on Red Hill. I rug up for afternoon late-autumn walks in Canberra. George wears shorts and a t-shirt…

A lovely way to end each day.

I gave George my bank card and let him loose in Woolies.

Mother’s day

“I’m going to buy you your Valentine’s Day present” said George as we got in the car and headed to the shops the day before Mothers’ Day. “Mothers Day you mean”. Anyway, so cute. As well as the flowers that he bought with my money he then bought me a triple pack of Pears Transparent soap and Ferrero Rocher with his own $10.

As well as this lovely Mothers Day treat, I had a video chat with my Mum and sister in Sydney.

A bit confusion at times

After the third attempt at trying to reach mum on a group What’s App video chat, we had contact. I called my sister in between attempts and all she could say was “Manage participants” in a hebrew accent, an in-joke after we’d shared this video of a man’s frustrated attempt to get his mum onto a Zoom meeting.

That’s better

A social visit

My brother-in-law Leo and his lovely new wife Ann (they were married in February this year at a wedding of 110 people that they just scraped-in before Coronavirus crashed society) invited us around for Mothers’ Day lunch. It was lovely to go to someone else’s house (our first social visit, the day before the visit with our neighbour). I instantly forgot the new protocol and gave my hostess a hug before she knew what hit her.

“Social distancing!” she reminded me good-naturedly. I apologised and then the host came over and gave me a more socially-appropriate elbow bump.

It was a beautiful platter of roast lamb.

Ann made a cake and got George to decorate it – beautiful.

George has now downloaded What’s App on his new phone and enjoyed making me wonder who was ringing me.

Mum, your phone’s ringing!

Gratuitous Autumn pics…

Late April/early May… Autumn in all its glory….
Winter is around the corner tomorrow!

And that was a few edited highlights from the past few weeks, the end of Autumn. What a strange year it’s been so far. It’s the first day of Winter tomorrow. I wonder what this season will bring?

Twin fur baby/neck warmers, Pizza and Pasta

What have you done since restrictions were eased?

Have you accidentally hugged anyone lately?

April “school holidays” 2020 – Tik Tok, nature walks and essential slime

I’m loving our regular sunset walks on Red Hill.

Term 2 started here in the ACT last Tuesday after a quiet and different “school holidays” which took in Easter at the beginning and Anzac Day at the end.

My son George and I go to Sydney to see my family every holidays. We usually celebrate Easter in Sydney and then Greek Easter in Canberra a week later. But this year, like everyone else we had to stay where we were because of the “C-word” restrictions.

This recent school holidays looked very similar to the last three weeks of “term”, apart from the fact that my 12-year-old George stopped spending time on his school-issued laptop, and started spending time looking at Tik Tok, making Tik Toks and watching the Big Bang Theory while I continued to work from home most days. I also joined Tik Tok, because he asked me to. Then I realised how much fun it is (and bloody addictive). We even came across his performing arts teacher on there, so extra fun! She gave him a special shout-out in their first “back-to-school” online class this week.

Back to nature

We got out for fresh air most days and have taken to walking up Red Hill regularly. When not in front of a screen, George is also quite partial to sweeping and vacuuming, and I’m not complaining. We do live in a house with four guinea pigs and accompanying hay scatter.

The weather was spectacular between Easter and Anzac day, not cold, sunny Autumn days…

Pedestrian traffic on the exercise track was quite manageable.

Essential slime

George is also quite fond of slime. He tried to whip up the first batch from ingredients we already had at home, but something went wrong. So we dashed out to buy a slime kit, which was as essential as a jigsaw puzzle I think.

School holiday Social life

The boy who lives next door half the week, one of George’s school mates, came over to visit a couple of times, even though I wasn’t sure it was allowed. But I thought it was good for their mental health. Oh, and I’ve made numerous phone calls.

Guinea pigs – the highs and lows

In other news, we had our boy guinea pigs desexed two weeks ago. The vet agreed to perform this non-emergency surgery during this time since we have also girl guinea pigs and don’t want to breed them. And we wanted these post-pubescent guinea pigs to have the surgery before they got any older. It was quite traumatic for one of them though as he developed a hernia post-op and had to have a second surgery to fix it the next day.

Pumpkin was sent home with pain medication and both he and his brother Peanut were on twice-daily antibiotics for a week. George was very good at administering their medicine through a syringe into their tiny guinea pig mouths. In around four weeks time, the boys will be able to share an enclosure with our girl guinea pigs and be one big happy herd (hopefully).

First Birthday

The girl guinea pigs turned 1! We thought a McDonalds-esque special treat

was in order. Mmmm capsicum has never looked so good.

A different Anzac day

2020 marked a new moment in history for ANZAC day, as this year people couldn’t gather together like they normally would. While I didn’t get up early to watch the service on TV live from the Australian War Memorial (a small group of officials, not members of the public, were there) I did watch the morning news a bit later and saw images of thousands of people in their driveways with candles, in their own quiet remembrance.

My sister always takes part in ANZAC Day ceremonies, particularly as she works for an organisation offering support services to veterans. She took some pictures in her driveway.

Alexcellent Recommendations:

George and I have been enjoying Masterchef. The new judges are OKaaaaay. One of them, Jock Zonfrillo (what a well-balanced name, masculine, yet feminine, Scottish, yet Italian), reminds me of Prince Frederik of Denmark.

I do miss 2 out of three of the former judges. But I’m enjoying seeing many of the old favourite contestants return. My son enjoys watching Reynold whip up amazing desserts: when he puts on those goggles and is enveloped by – I don’t know – is it dry ice? It comes from some metallic food preparation device – I don’t know – is it an ice-cream maker? He looks part scientist, part mechanic. He reminds me of Flint Lockwood from Cloudy with a chance of meatballs.

I also recently enjoyed the 2017 reality show Mariah’s World on Nine’s Life channel, documenting life behind the scenes of Mariah’s Sweet Sweet Fantasy tour including her breakup with James Packer. We don’t see much of James on camera (we see him in a party scene with his arm around her in one episode), but in the final episode Mariah reveals her decision to end the relationship.

What’s next?

Now at the end of the first week of Term 2, there is talk of lifting some restrictions; In the ACT, that means non-essential shopping and a two adults visiting another home. We’ll see what happens on the school front. Currently the plan is that public schools will stay closed for the whole term, with all learning done online.

I’m getting more comfortable with uncertainty. We never really know what’s going to happen in life, but the pandemic has pushed that idea into the forefront. In the meantime, there’s so many things to be distracted by.

Are you a Masterchef fan?

Do you agree Jock looks like Prince Frederik?

Cruel Summer (but there was still some fun to be had)

I don’t mind Summer but I’m always ready to say goodbye to it and move onto the next season.

It’s the end of February 2020, we’re two months into the new decade and it’s been a disaster-filled start for many – fires, floods and there’s the Corona virus threatening to emerge as a pandemic, and don’t get me started on “Megxit”. It has not been a relaxing start to the year.

For me, the worst I dealt with was a couple of smoke-hazey drives up and down the highway between Canberra and Sydney. There was some mild anxiety about a particularly smokey day, and a big blaze that broke out just south of Canberra, where I live.

Fire in the ‘hood

One night in early January, when I’d just driven back home to Canberra from Sydney that day, a Canberra friend messaged me from her Sydney holiday asking if I was OK. She’d read on the Emergency Services social media feed that there was a fire in our suburb.

I could smell smoke that evening but I just thought it was on the wind from the NSW south coast. I checked our local Emergency Services Facebook page and saw there was grass fire 1km from me! And it turns out it was arson.

The next morning, I knew fire had impacted as I could see a faint orange glow filtering through the partially open curtains downstairs… it was a bizarre orange smoke haze. Many people emerged on Canberra streets that day in face masks.

So began my twice-daily checking ACT Emergency Services Agency (ESA) Facebook page for live updates in the form of posts and streamed media conferences for most of January. All credit to the ACT Government’s ESA. They did an amazing job of keeping people informed in a calm and organised way, an example of excellent communications.

In the last week of January a fire started in the Namadgi national park, just south of Canberra. Conditions got really bad and everyone was on edge, particularly residents in the southern most suburbs. It looked like this from a distance ….

Photo taken by my friend Donna from her back deck, in a southern Canberra suburb not far from us.

Years of work up in smoke

My uncle’s barn that he’d spent a long time renovating into a beautiful event space was lost in one of the fires in the NSW Southern Highlands. Fortunately no one was hurt and his home was spared.

Never rains, but it pours

One day not long after “orange smoke day”, the Canberra skies opened to the almightiest of hail storms. I did get some hail where I work down in downtown Tuggeranong, it was a bit loud on the office windows… but then that afternoon I was surprised to get several texts from family and friends in Sydney asking “Are you OK? IS your house and car OK??”

I read the news and realised that many in Canberra’s parliamentary zone and northside had suffered from golf ball-size hail, smashing car windows and damaging homes. Luckily we were spared.

Making the best of a bad situation

In January I worked, taking days off here and there for the school holiday juggle. My son George (the boy formerly known as Spider Boy) and I had a few local pool swims, went to movies, and many trips to Woden plaza for the free and clean air. On his dad’s school holiday days, they did art galleries and museums and plenty of video games.

I took leave the last week of January and we had a weekend away in sunny 20-something degree smoke-free Coogee Beach in Sydney…

Almost felt guilty being here. Almost.

Then it was back to Canberra for high school prep – clothes and stationery shopping.

Then George and I went to Sydney again (minus the guinea pigs this time) for my birthday. Plans included dinner with my parents and sister and going to the Billy Idol concert with my sister and a group of friends, one of whom attended a Billy concert with me when we were 16!

Security confiscated this amazing sign señorita Margarita made but kindly said they’d pass it to Billy. They even took down my email address. But Billy never wrote.
My Billy Possie minus friend Nadia who was taking the photo (she saw Billy with me in Sydney in 1986!)

Other birthday plans included a beach swim. Now that I live in Canberra, it’s very important I squeeze in those beach and harbour swims on Summer visits to Sydney.

I love the landscape around Canberra – the hills, the trees, the native animals, the light, the big skies (when there’s no fires around), but when I’m at the beach I realise how much I miss living close to the sea; the salt water, the open space, the breeze off the water, the salt in the air, the relaxed vibe. Inland lakes are just not the same. Ah well, maybe one day…

The place I grew up. I just took my proximity to the beach for granted for years! Maybe a nice little beachside pied-à-terre some day? Photo by Mudassir Ali on Pexels.com

How has your summer been?

Next time: I’m writing this post from Surfer’s Paradise. And last week we were in Brisbane for my son’s uncle’s wedding. More about our travels soon!

Christmas 2019: Crazy guinea pig roadtrip to Sydney

Christmas seems like a long time ago now and for so many Australians, Christmas and New Year celebrations were the furthest things from their minds as they faced the prospect of losing everything in the widespread bush fires that have been burning for weeks now in many parts of Australia.

My son George and I alternate our Christmases between Sydney, where my family lives, and Canberra, where we live. This year, it was Sydney’s turn, and because fire conditions in the areas we needed to go through were OK (although a bit smokey) on Christmas Eve, we made the drive – it was my first time driving from Canberra to Sydney (long-time readers may remember George and I are Murray’s bus aficionados.) So George and I and four guinea pigs set off with the air conditioning on recycled air for 20 minutes at a time.

We made the journey straight through, apart from a quick stop at a highway truck stop at Marulan to restock the guineas’ travel compartments with cucumber slices to keep them hydrated.

We arrived to a cooler Sydney than the hot Canberra we’d left, and we were even greeted by a few drops of welcome rain – praying it will rain soon in our regional areas. We went for a walk at Rose Bay and eagle-eyed George spotted what we thought was a sting ray in the harbour…

What lurks beneath: several shades of grey.

Christmas came and went with family, church, vintage fashion, Christmas food, champagne, and guinea pig antics. I realised that morning that we’d run out of fresh veggies for our furry friends. All the veggies mum had were already cut up and thrown into assorted dressed salads – too fancy for guineapigs.

Dad was arriving to mum’s later so I asked him to bring a carrot to tide the pigs over till I went out later. Not much was open being Christmas Day, but I did find a very expensive Bondi grocery store filled with backpackers on Christmas night, so was able to restock the piggies vitamin C supply there.

Away in a manger: pellets for piggies
Oh what fun it is to wear Polyester all the way, hey! I’m wearing a $5 bargain bin item from Canberra vintage store Material Pleasures. Sister wears Elvis postage stamp skirt from I don’t know where.

The days post-Christmas drifted one into another and consisted of bowling with George, my cousin and her son, quiet times walking around mum’s neighbourhood, going to the shops, including THREE visits to Pet Barn, a swim at Cook and Phillip pool in the city, Mum’s birthday three days after Christmas which included lunch in town and her having a good chat to a charming young tattooed and pierced Canadian backpacker on his way to a harbourside beach. There was a lot of chocolate eating and watching News 24 about the fires in South East NSW and Victoria mostly, and being grateful for the joys we have here, like guinea pigs…

The joy of guinea pigs
No mistletoe in Sydney’s Queen Victoria Building but there’s no escaping a kiss from auntie!

Mum’s birthday lunch in town

Birthday fun
Too hot for coffee

Selection of cakes at Cicchetti’s in the QVB. They do a very nice high tea there.
Piggy playdate with George and our friend Josh. The piggies were being hand-fed pieces of fresh basil. Merry Christmas piggies!

I know how fortunate we were to be able to relax this Christmas unlike so many other people. If you celebrated Christmas I hope it was a good one.

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.

You can’t be Jimmy
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!

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.

Bye Autumn

The sun has set on Autumn. I find it such a calm season. Comfortable temperatures and muted tones. We’ve had a red-carpeted stroll through tree-tunnels of orange and gold. Leaves fly like earth-tone fairies across pink 5pm skies. And now suddenly, it’s Winter for sure, by calendar and temperature, in case there was any doubt. See you next time round the Sun, Autumn.

Edited highlights: Pancakes, date loaf and Swedish foodstuffs

We like to make things in this house… well, not all the time, we can open packets and buy pre-prepared stuff with the best of them (chicken-on-a-stick, fish-in-a-box), but when we do make things from scratch we are very proud!

Exhibit A: Date loaf for school election day cake stall…

Fresh…

Exibit B: My mothers’ Day pancakes, made for me by George

so lucky…

Made with a little bit of help from this…

I may have dropped a hint by buying pancake mix the day before.

The date loaf looked good, but I didn’t taste it and hadn’t baked a second one to keep for us. I wrapped it and literally took it straight to the cake stall still warm. Someone whacked a $7 price tag on it and after I came back from doing a bread and chopped onions run for the school BBQ, the date loaf had sold! Hope whoever bought it enjoyed their afternoon tea.

This sifter belonged to my mum’s mum, Philippa. I love it. This is George doing his bit for election day school fundraising.

The last days of Autumn have brought some pretty sunsets…

Looking out my dirty old window…

We’ve had high school information nights to go to in preparation for next year and dinner out with some school families.

The best card of all!

A Mother’s day outing in the city to many favourite destinations…

Dobinson’s is one of my favourites. And is soon to open in Woden!
Oh yeah, this old chestnut…

This past week we’ve had a visit from my mum, aka Batgran, aka George’s “Naughty Granny” (naughty because she was the one who introduced a much younger George to chocolate, hot chips and video games – not all in the same day). Maybe that’s just what grannies do.

This weekend, we introduced Granny to IKEA. “They’ve got it sown up!” she said, impressed with the cafe, the grocery section, the checkouts, and the other cafe at the checkouts exit where you buy the $1 hotdogs. She came out armed with Swedish foodstuffs and confessed to buying them “because they’re Swedish”. I know what she means. Sometimes I feel like I live in Europe when I visit IKEA. It’s a nice little escape.

We had been enjoying the last of T-shirt and shorts weather (George) before being hit by an icy blast at the end of May, which saw snow in the Blue Mountains (but not in Canberra). But still, he has relented and started wearing his long pants to school this past week.

And finally last week, George got his first pet… two actually, a pair of baby guinea pigs!

We’ve been learning a LOT about Guinea pigs. Will post more about that next time.

Have a great weekend.

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.