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!

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.

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”

Shocking savage seagulls of Sydney the sequel: Mothers’ Day – away with the birds

seagull-sky-holiday-bird-56618.jpeg

Imagine the title of this post being spoken in the kind of voice typically heard in a horror movie trailer.  Maybe with some chilling, high-pitched, psycho violins reminiscent of stabbing.

But we’ll get to the seagulls later. Mothers’ Day 2018 in Canberra was pretty low key which is just how I wanted it: a chance to sleep in, teach Spider Boy how to make my breakfast (after he ran into my room at a reasonable hour to give me a beautiful card and origami box he’d made) go to Bunnings for a sausage sandwich and some double-sided wall adhesive, and a little walk and coffee by the lake. There were no seagulls. But there were chips, and former-Sydneysider Spider Boy commented how lovely it was to eat chips by the sea, while lakeside at Kingston Foreshore. I knew what he meant. But just as well we weren’t by the sea in Sydney, after what I heard next…

On the way home from our pleasant little lakeside stroll, my sister Senorita Margarita called to report a savage seagull incident in the Harbour city. She and my mum had decided to take a ferry from Rose Bay to Circular Quay and enjoy some fish and chips by the water. According to the Senorita, just as Mum was about to tuck in to her seafood lunch, fish on fork on its way to her mouth, a seagull swooped in, stole the fork from under her nose, slapping her in the cheek with its wing as it flew off, fork in beak with the fish still attached. Then it ate the fish and dropped the cutlery on the ground. Not only a violent thief, but a tosser!

As my sister recounted mum’s seagull encounter over the phone we both started laughing at the sheer gall of the gull, but then I was laughing so hard I nearly ran the car off Yamba drive. My laughter was hypercritical, considering I got annoyed when Spider Boy laughed at me spilling my flat white on my new felt winter hat that very afternoon (and in case you’ve got a mental picture, I wasn’t wearing my hat at the time)

The Senorita reminded me of another seagull event at the Quay a few years ago, when one decided to move into her lustrous blonde curls during her lunch break, while its seagull sidekick did a fly-by and took a bite of her sandwich as she brought it to her mouth. Yes, the Circular Quay seagulls are particularly bold.

Later that day after hearing about Mum’s seagull drama,  I rang my dad.

Dad, who has recently moved to the Blue Mountains just west of Sydney, had ventured back to the East for the weekend. We swapped stories about our Sundays. He complained about Sydney traffic, Sydney queues, Sydney prices, Sydney attitude and annoying and expensive Lexuses and Range Rovers in Centennial Park, and how he’s so happy that’s all behind him now that he’s moved to the Mountains. (I must admit, I do love being able to visit him there.) And then I told Dad about my peaceful Mothers’ Day in Canberra, and about my Mother’s not-so-peaceful day in Sydney.

While relating the story of the savage seagulls at Circular Quay, it occured to me the Seagulls were just like Sydney itself… they were, in fact, very Sydney seagulls.

“Yes!” agreed Dad. “That’s exactly what they are – Very. Sydney. Seagulls!”

In May 2014, I blogged about a family outing where we experienced another particularly rude seagull event coupled with terrible service from an ice-cream vendor. Here’s an edited version of Sunday drive: savage seagulls, snakes and service with a snarl

My sister Senorita Margarita, Mum Spider Boy and I decided on a nice low-key beach area. So not Bondi. We drove south and ended up at Botany Bay.

We bought fish and chips and made our way down to the little beach facing the airport runways. There was lots of interesting things to look at, and balmy weather considering it was May.

We perched on the wall of an elevated garden bed since all the benches were taken. Suddenly, A flock of seagulls descended. Spider Boy wanted to run, run so far away (sorry, any chance to bring up the 80s).

Spider Boy was edgy. He tensed as the seagulls squawked and edged closer to his lunch. “Should I give them some lunch?” He asked, obviously hoping that feeding them would make them go away.

“No!” I squawked. “If you do that, they’ll never leave! They’ll just get louder, closer and more annoying! Like Mummy nagging.”

So we sat there uncomfortably perched on the garden bed, sea grass tickling our legs, seagulls staring us down, wind blowing my hair in my face.

Suddenly a rampaging toddler disturbed the status quo, throwing out the delicate mutual respect Spider Boy and I had achieved with the flock of seagulls. They squawked, they flapped. Spider Boy jumped. Then I felt something drop onto my fish and chips paper at the same time as hearing a distinctive splat! I felt something wet on my hand and leg.

I looked at my lunch fearing what I knew I would see there, and I’m not talking about tartare sauce.

“A seagull just pooed on my lunch!” I shared with my family and passers-by.
“Well at least a seagull didn’t land on your head!” said The Senorita. “That happened to me once you know!” 

Here are some pics from Sunday…

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.

Sydney visit and my problem with “stuff”

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

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

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

Here are some photos…

img_6539Beautiful Rose Bay on a windy spring Saturday afternoon.

img_6484

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

img_6658

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

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

img_6551

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

img_6480

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

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

img_6505

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

img_6595

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

Oh, hang on a minute.

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

img_7038

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

And here’s something more recent…

img_6512

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

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

img_6709

…got some climbing practise at the park

img_6632

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

img_6722

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

img_6681img_6672

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

img_6636

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

Boxes are packed. Now to move the damn things.

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…

Canberrafication

The past three months has flown…

Well here I am. It’s been three months since my last blog post. Spider Boy and I are moving back have moved back to Canberra. Yeah, I started writing this post in January, right before we moved!

In my previous post I wrote about the science of new year’s resolutions, I gushed about “…my exciting plans for 2016” and how I would catch you up “…in the next one or two days”. Well make that one or two three months because here I am in MARCH APRIL! ANZAC Day in fact. But let me briefly catch you up.

Packing stress

Late December and early January passed in a haze of sweat, dust, stubbed toes, paper cuts, boxes, butchers paper, a shoddy tape gun and backaches. There was Christmas, New Year, family, friends and trying to keep Spider Boy amused between bouts of packing, and weather involving intense heat and extreme rain. There was too much screen time and not enough beach time. I’m sorry, Spider Boy.

Settling into a new life

I don’t blame my new, busy, full-time job for my lack of blogging since moving to Canberra. I don’t blame settling Spider Boy into a new school and setting up a home for us. I blame my Internet Service Provider and the faulty modem they sent me. Then finally, four weeks after “connecting the internet”,  it finally worked! After numerous laborious phone calls to the call centre and a technician visit, we had Wifi lift off. But by then I’d lost my blogging groove.

Why am I in Canberra again?

For  the past 6 years, since Spider Boy was was 2,  we’d been living in Sydney, where I grew up, close to my family and long-time friends. But now it’s time to be back to the city Spider Boy was born in, where his father lives, so he can see his dad regularly. It’s the main reason I moved back. I wanted the logistics of my son spending time with his father, to be easier. And I also have good work opportunities here. And real-estate is a bit more affordable.

We have been promised lots of visits from our family and friends, and we have had some already, which makes us very happy. The time we spend with loved ones and the situations we see them in may have been reconfigured, but they are still in our hearts every day. And even though I feel a connection with Canberra, I’ll always be a Bondi girl.

Moving to Canberra was easier the second-time around

I may hail from a trendy beach-side suburb, but I was never the kale-inhaling, chain-smoking, bikini-top wearing type sitting on a crate outside the Paris Go cafe. But I did schlepp up and down Hall Street for 27 years. Three of those years were spent in a part-time job helping tourists and celebrities buy postage stamps, cigarettes, scratchies and bus tickets at Bondi Beach Newsagency. (I sold a pack of Camels to Noah Taylor once.)

When I first told my dad back in 2012 I was thinking of moving back to Canberra, he said, “But you’re such a Sydney person.” The ocean gets under your skin. The first time I moved to Canberra,  I dreamed of the beach and harbour every night for months. But I haven’t had those dreams this time around. Maybe because moving to Canberra for the second time isn’t such a culture shock. But the first time it really was.

The culture-shock of the Capital

When I first moved to the Capital in January 2004, although I immediately loved the mountain vistas, wildlife and people I met, there were things I struggled with:

  • the language – did everyone speak Acronym?
  • no beach
  • not being able to just run down to the beach
  • the dry, baking heat of January
  • dry dusty earth and gum leaves everywhere
  • the reliance on cars
  • the whole “town centre” concept with long stretches of road in between
  • brutalist architecture
  • weird 70s bus-stops
  • unmowed grass hiding the “footpaths”
  • The realisation that the Woden Plaza/bus interchange of the mid 2000’s was just like the Bondi Junction of my 70s childhood

I remember a visit back home to Sydney when I was pregnant with Spider Boy.  I went to a Tupperware party at Señorita Margarita’s house. The Tupperware demonstrator happened to come from Canberra. “Yeah, I escaped” she said gleefully. I felt like hitting her over the head with her food storage solutions. Her glee at escaping served as unwitting mockery of where I now lived, and I felt resentful I had to go back there.

The beginnings of my Canberrafication

But then after I did leave Canberra almost 6 years ago, it gradually dawned on me that there were things I missed about this city  with its developing quiet confidence.

I didn’t realise it until after I’d left, but I’d actually become a bit Canberrafied. And during my visits back to Canberra with Spider Boy, I realised I was missing:

  • fresh air
  • proximity to snow and rural areas
  • mountain vistas
  • the ability to park your car not only in front of your house, but on your own property
  • green space and trees
  • crisp and sunny winter days
  • blossoming fruit trees in spring
  • Braddon’s vibrant coffee culture and cool shops
  • the burgeoning food and wine scene
  • great little hidden-treasure suburban coffee shops
  • the birds, so many birds
  • kangaroos in surburbia and on the walking tracks that weave through the city
  • Tilley’s
  • hot air balloons slowly rising and descending on crisp Autumn mornings
  • all the amazing national institutions, exhibitions and events
  • farmer’s markets
  • the great community feeling

And other things that make it a great place for Spider Boy:

  • sporty places – bike paths, ovals, sports clubs, ice-skating rink, the Australian Institute of Sport etc
  • educational opportunities

These lists just scratch the surface.

IMG_8461

View of Telstra Tower from the National Arboretum.

 

Canberra’s joys

So for the past few years, I’ve been promoting Canberra’s joys to Sydneysiders. On Christmas day I said to Señorita Margarita: “You have to come and stay in Canberra! To see us, but also to see all the things in Canberra. Canberra has things.”

“Oh, here we go, the Canberra has things speech,” she said with an eye-roll.

Converting family and friends (trying to)

Yes, the Señorita has come to stay and we are already planning her next visit in May. Friend Lou-Lou has stayed for a weekend, and my mum (aka BatGran) has also come to stay twice (and is here right now) even though she says she hates Canberra. I’m hoping to change her mind. Thanks for giving it a go Mum.

My Dad was also here last week. He got into the spirit of the Bush Capital by buying a sausage at the local Bunnings sausage sizzle and eating it in the carpark in his Akubra hat. He sees Canberra’s opportunities and possibilities. And whenever he visits he brings bags of my things that I didn’t quite get around to packing. Thanks Dad.

What’s next?

The Alexcellent Life was a little quiet for a few weeks months while the actual Alexcellent life got settled. So it wasn’t entirely my ISP’s fault.

We are at the start of a new chapter, and it feels exciting. So here’s to our Canberrafication. But I’ll always have a soft spot for Bondi.

IMG_3220

Bondi Baths. Photo taken by my clever and talented sister, Señorita Margarita. This hangs on my wall.