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!

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.

Summer Retrospective – birthdays, beaches, green thumbs and too much leg.

Hello! Well we’re well into nearly at the end of March now and that means we’re well overdue for the Alexcellent Summer Retrospective. But hey, this is Canberra in March, therefore still hot, and it still feels like summer to me.

There’s also the second-half of last year retrospective that I really need to get to, but I think we’ll just leave that now.

I’ll compress summer into a few words and pictures. 

My Peace Lily flowered twice. Spider Boy just told me I’m “flexing on the internet” (that’s what the kids say these days) about my green thumb. And by the way, Spider Boy doesn’t want to go by that name anymore. It’s George. When I started this blog he was still four years old – last week he turned 11!

But more on that in a later post, now back to greenery…

I set up my cactus station with a glowing green cactus from Kmart (I think). 

There were concerts with acts from the 80s… (Pseudo Echo and Bananarama)…

 

…and acts that were close to 80… (well, Old Man Moss is 67… I know, so bold, still beautiful)

This Ronn Moss banner advertising his upcoming concert caught friend Gigi’s* eye back in December…

 

…and then her lips got stuck to it.

There were Canberra Christmas lights (not our house).

There was Christmas sparkle (might be our house)…

There was a birthday for mum very close to Christmas.

There was school holiday water fun in Sydney.

There was New Year’s hijinks with auntie Señorita Margarita,

There was a glorious new year’s beach day at Sydney’s Neilson Park.

George got to work in Granny’s courtyard garden for a little while.

 

An outing to Mad Pizza in Darlinghurst with friends

And a visit to our former local park with another Sydney friend**…

I tried to write my goals down but it’s now March and I still haven’t done that… just busy living a goal-less life where I constantly feel like I’m running to catch up with all the things I should’ve done that I haven’t done.

 

Maybe because I spend so much time just doing nothing, like photographing  a random passer-by on a paddle board.

 

I could get some wisdom from Señorita Margarita’s new book…

 

There was a Spider man movie and Spider man dreams of web slinging for George…

There was the bizarre choice to ice-skate at a synthetic ice rink on a 39 degree canberra day. The ice was made of a greasy wax-like substance and wasn’t cold. Wouldn’t do it again – it’s real ice for us next time!

There was lots of my beloved coffee from The Espresso Room at Woden Plaza.

 

There was a half-hearted attempt at this wading pool in the front-courtyard-with-fake-grass after work.

There was the much more satisfying swimming in a hotel pool

And a yummy hotel breakfast just for a treat.

We squeezed in another quick visit to Sydney at the end of January. A determination to have one swim at Bondi Beach in the limited time we had meant turning up there at 6pm when the wind was blowing a gale… but at least we got in the water!

 

There was a pre-birthday birthday cake for me with George and my mum

 

Birthday selfie with me and my boy

I had a second birthday cake during a quick Blue Mountains visit our dad’s place in the Blue Mountains. This one was an ice-cream cake with Marzipan kangaroos and trees! I was very lucky.

 

 

There was cosy capuccino with Señorita Margarita… 

before our beautiful bush walk in the mist…

 

Several bird appreciation opportunities….

 

Blue Mountains parrots

 

Canberra parrot

Back in Canberra we went to an amazing tropical plant sale at The Jungle Collective…

I even wore tropical-themed shorts just to get $5 off my plant purchases.  Mama’s gotta pinch the pennies where she can.

Showing leg in tropical shorts: dollar-saving hack #1

And back at work I had to confront this reptile in the car park down in downtown Tuggeranong. That’s the bush capital for you!

And that was just some of the edited highlights of the Alexcellent Life this summer 2018-19. (School uniform shopping, school stationery foraging, work and vacation-care negotiating, failed dieting, failed body hair removal and bill shuffling not pictured.)

*the friend formerly known as Lulu

**the friend formerly known as “the magician”

Autumn highlights

How is it already nearly the middle of 2018! It is already the third day of Winter as I write this, a Sunday morning, and outside my window I see clear blue sky with an overlay of bare dark branches wearing a skirt of sparse golden leaves. They are losing their battle to cling on, like gold spangles hanging by a thread from the lace on a blue silk dress.

I feel like I haven’t really absorbed Autumn as much as I wanted to. Life is so busy and I feel like I skate over the surface of things. To quote my busy dad, “Life just goes, and goes and goes.” Like falling spangles.

So a little thankyou and farewell to Autumn, my absolute favourite season, especially in Canberra. The burning dry heat of summer becomes less intense, and even though March can still be very hot, you know relief is coming soon. There’s the anticipation of that first chill in the air and you notice the leaves are starting to turn.

Everything is easier and prettier in Autumn with it’s warm colour palette, transeasonal wardrobe cosy evenings and cool weather cooking.

I didn’t take as many Autumn walks as I wanted to, or as many photos, but here is what I did manage to capture…

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Dreaming of a husky like Harley

 

Saturday afternoon bike ride

 

The afternoon sun enhances the trees splendid red outfits even more

 

Leaf-covered wall and roof of a friend’s garage

 

Autumn really does know how to paint the town red in Canberra! Until next year, Autumn

 

Summer 2017/18

While I was thinking about blogging, but not blogging, here’s the summer life we were living in Summer 2017/18. Click on the pics to read the captions.

Focus Schmocus

Where has the year gone? I ask myself every year at about this time.

I was just reading my most recent blog post (apart from the Angelina Jolie garage sale reblog the other week) from SIX months ago…where I said, “…I’m clearer now about what I want this blog to be. So here’s to my renewed focus!” Blah blah blah.

Winter and almost all of Spring have passed since I wrote that sentence, and the new blog focus has clearly not manifested.

So what have I been doing? Plotting and planning for The Alexcellent Life, figuring out the best way to structure my actual life,which – I’ll let you in on a little secret – is sometimes the mediocre life rather than The Alexcellent life – but we have to have something to aspire to! There’s parenting, my school-hours job, any freelance work, other business ideas, family time, extended family time, social time, life-admin, house maintenance, and just the business of living.

I will sum up the past few months with a visual retrospective of what I didn’t blog about…

I also didn’t blog about:

  • My 30-year high-school reunion which I was nervous about going to but turned out not to be so bad. In fact I’m really glad I went. It was great to reconnect and realise that those girls are just real people and we’ve all had our share of knocks
  • Lots of joy in the ordinary, but also a decent amount of worry, tiredness, and frustration
  • Flu for Spider Boy and me
  • The passing of Spider Boy’s grandfather, my-ex’s dad
  • Lots of work. Work work, housework, personal work
  • Bill juggling, haggling and staggering
  • 9am Sunday morning soccer in Winter
  • Several Sydney visits as well as visitors from Sydney
  • Plotting, planning, thinking, consolidating.
  • NO Tinder-swiping which has been a big fat relief

I have loads more photos on my phone but my old MacBook already has so many photos on it that it really struggles to cope with more.  Otherwise I’d show you more pics here.  I really need to buy a hard-drive or something.

So that’s where I’ve been and what I’ve been doing. So I’m not going to talk about things like “my renewed focus”. I often think about something my year 3 teacher from 1978 said.  I can’t remember her name, but I remember her well. Our class motto was “Don’t say it, do it!”

And that is exactly what I will do.

 

Happy New Year… now it’s Mother’s Day!

It’s been a long time between posts here at The Alexcellent Life. The last post I wrote was about George Michael’s death while I was on a Sydney visit over Christmas/New Year.

January was busy. We had a beautiful wedding to go to, and raced around visiting family and friends and a couple of beaches because, Sydney in January.

I had many post ideas to write in the last quarter of 2016, but they remained in my head. Time constraints, as well as not having a clear direction for this blog, contributed to the lack of actual posts. As did my finally working out how to hook up Netflix. I binged on episodes of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend every night.

But now that that’s over, I’m clearer now about what I want this blog to be. So here’s to my renewed focus!

While the changes to The Alexcellent Life are brewing, here’s a little retrospective of just some of what I didn’t blog about…

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!

IMG_5718

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?

Sydney visitors

Moving to Canberra means that we’ve been able to host visitors from Sydney.

In the past month we’ve had Lulu and Señorita Margarita to stay (on separate weekends). It’s been wonderful just hanging out with them at home but also showing them just a little bit of what Canberra has to offer. As my sister is always throwing back at me, “…because Canberra has things”.

Here’s just a few pics from their recent visits. I’ll post more later about specific adventures.