Tikkun Olam – repairing the world

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I was planning to write about the current dystopian nightmare we currently live in with the news last week of a shooting in Southern California, the election results (not so bad but that idiot still is in power), devasting fires in California, to a murder in broad daylight by a crazy man who was inspired by Islam extremism of a  Melbourne icon. A man who truly saw his customers like family, the co-owner of Melbournes legendary cafe Pellegrini’s Sisto Malaspina I was in tears at the end of the week when I read the news. There are people in this world who are unforgettable and shine a light to make the world a better place and he was one of those people. I remember chatting to him when I would go and get a coffee when I worked down the road at Kinko’s, he made me my first macchiato and chatted to me about coffee and life. He always was welcoming and genuine, his presence in Melbourne will definitely be missed – my heart feels sad for the loss of this man as does most of Melbourne.

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I had the hope of waking up over the weekend and all the evil would be all over but no, we have to keep calm and carry on. So I went to yoga and witnessed the bright red sunrise to begin the busy day and as we were driving home the sunset was a smoke-filled haze and life continued feeling the pain of the world living in this dystopian nightmare.

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I had planned Saturday evening for ages and I went out to say farewell to my British friends to our fave place for happy hour Xahn and afterwards went out for more wine and dessert to chat about life and The Great British Baking Show. This delicious cheesecake is from Sugar Butter Flour in Sunnyvale and was just divine and was the perfect way to end our evening. I have met some incredible people here who I will miss and they are mostly travellers so I am sure I will see them in Australia one day!

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Friday inspired by a random post on Insta I started listening to Bjork and Spotify played one of my favourite songs which resonated with my current life situation of moving into another chapter of my being. I loved this album when I was living in my flat across from the police station in inner-city Melbourne. A place where I found the love of my life where we began our time living together briefly in Melbourne, moving to a bigger place with our little one and then our move to California for the last 12 years experiencing a different way of being. Listening to this again my gut tells me I need to be back with our family and friends and it makes me so happy to think of being back HOME in Australia.

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Hope is the feeling I am getting and there is no reason to give up when there is an inspiration in peoples words. As I was going to pick up this book by Michelle Obama as a read for my November break in Los Angeles I saw a friend of mine Ruth from the library (where I teach a sewing program) and she has recently returned from the East Coast with her dog Jesse. We had a beautiful conversation and I discovered she was a Holocaust survivor and has such an incredible history describing the Dump (current US Prez) as one of the villains in history a person who will intentionally take a piece of thread and unravel all the good in the world. The initial conversation began with Ruth sharing with me the Jewish concept defined by acts of kindness to repair the world known as Tikkun Olam, it is something to be mindful of and as Ruth mentioned to do something good for the world every day. I love to do random acts of kindness for humanity living an existence that is supportive of all beings so it was pure serendipity seeing Ruth today and having this thought-provoking conversation about our perspective on life.

Halloween the best time of the year

For the last four weeks my daughter and I attended a Girls Leadership workshop at the school I worked at last year. The new art teacher had set up a lovely area for knitting and fibre arts with an invitation for the kids to enjoy when they are in the hall, the weaving was made from two branches with hooks and string and designed so the kids can add their finger knitting to make a pattern – a very cool idea!

The workshop was empowering for me but hopefully, Missy will get something out of it eventually. Being 10 years old is difficult and if your friends are not so keen the influence rubs off and its all over, so she found it boring. Whereas I found it enlightening with using the tools below to help with kiddo conversations.

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I think these skills are universal especially with my kids who are 10 and 13 and sometimes there is a power struggle with wanting independence, I highly recommend these workshops for anyone who has girls.

On Wednesday it was my favourite time of the year – Halloween! I wore my owl costume from last year which earned me the costume prize at my dance class, which was cool 😀 My teacher went as a sailor lady and it was so fun to see everyone dressed up and dancing. I thank Joan’s class for the excitement of getting dressed up for Halloween as it was encouraged year after year and once I finally scored a sewing machine that’s when the magic happened!

Missy was a hummingbird for Halloween as you can see in the wings, she did not want a mask or a beak. We made the skirt and she glued on all the sequins and she helped sew the wings onto the blue top. Here is a barn cat from the ranch where the chickens live, one of the other kids told us this cats mama was killed by a coyote so this cutie is all alone and the humans are super protective of him by locking him away in his cage when they have completed their farm chores.

Finally, the time was right for trick or treating in the evening and we went to my daughter’s friends place where they were playing a bunch of videos on a loop such as Thriller, This is Halloween, Macarena and a song from The Greatest Showman. The kids scored a lot of candy and I even scored some for Ash who was away in Yosemite for Halloween, thanks so much G’s family!

Thursday we had our second week of Arts Focus and had decided to limit the direct instruction and just get the kids working after their big night of eating sugar and staying up late trick or treating. We managed to get these cool yarn octopuses made and the kids just loved making them but I had to make a new tutorial video due to the difficulty of following the YouTube vid we had found. Check out our new one and make your own.

Getting ready to farewell SF

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Cruising along last week prepared me for my weekend full of fun, starting with Trunk or Treat at our school. It was the first time we had signed up and it was such a good time with kids walking up and down the carpark filling their treat bags with tonnes of candy. I gave away two baskets full starting with around 800 Hersheys chocolate kisses.

The evening was a good time and I started the night off with some delicious tacos from the food truck, which really helped get through the Friday night. My outfit was a 1980s dance outfit – channelling my youth with the bubble skirt, sequins and big hair. The trunks were so creative and ours was a crafty dancy party as I have given away a lot of stuff and I do not have a lot of Halloween decorations. We shone our disco lights through the crochet blanket but the sound of the food truck drowned out our little speaker of tunes!

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My favourite trunk was our friends who designed their trunk with the theme of The Book of Life – it is such a beautiful film.

A couple of standout costumes of the evening was My friend’s costume with the lights on her hat from the character La Muerte from the Book of Life and another fave was the LED jellyfish and her sibling was a stingray – their mum told me that she was the ocean and wrapped in a blue ocean themed throw.

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After all the fun and excitement of trunk or treat my friends and I planned a hop on hop off tour of San Francisco months ago.

It was a bit strange to get the hang of as you waited around at a random bus stop and then when the bus came we had to get the ticket authorised for the Sausalito leg by the office at Pier 39. After we worked all that out half the day had gone but we packed it in and had a late lunch at this lovely traditional Italian restaurant San Drino in Sausalito (see the gnocchi and ravioli before we ate the thin crust pizza, amazing!) and had some ice cream from Lapperts as we were waiting for the bus. My ice cream was the right amount of sweetness the Ube Macapuno – Philippine Ube root with coconut puree, yummo!

Just travelling beneath the arches of the golden gate bridge atop the open bus was so cold but worth it for the incredible views of the bridge and the bay. I highly recommend these tours as you get a great overview of the city the view from the top of the bus allow for some magical photo opportunities. I plan on doing one in Melbourne when I get home to see what is new in the city 😀

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This is one of my fave shots of the day from the top of the bus while it was moving! Still, it was lucky to get this in focus with Karl the fog floating atop the water.

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After our trip to Sausalito, we went to see the rest of the loop and to check out one final destination – Lombard Street, AKA “the crookedest street in the world”. The views were spectacular and the sun was about to set so the sky was just gorgeous! As we were heading down the steep hill to go and get a quick snack for the way home we stumbled across this amazing sunset with the Golden Gate bridge in the foreground – so special and what a magnificent end to the day. That will most likely be my farewell to this beautiful city as I have two months left until we go home for good.

Sunday I had another early start with volunteering for the annual FabMo Textile Art Boutique. I wore my dress made from FabMo squares which received many comments of “cute skirt”, it is always so fun to wear it as it is the special souvenir of my time spent volunteering with FabMo – their ethos and approach to saving fabric from the landfill is something that I aspire to and maybe if I make the connections in Melbourne where I can create a FabMo there too!

This week is my last before I get into my next subject of Teaching Science and Technology – it should be a lot of fun juggling the study with moving home!

New places to play

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I don’t get out much these days with study and a ton of other tasks to do at home so I had a mission to go into San Francisco for the day to renew my daughter’s passport at the Australian Consulate. I hopped onto the train to allow myself a time of chilling and knitting which was excellent as I have many projects going on at the moment. Arriving in San Francisco and walking through SOMA I have never seen so many dudes in my life – hey if you are a single woman get out there! There were packs of them and as my hubby says its ‘cos of all the tech companies in South of Market. Funny they all look the same and dress the same in their little uniforms of trainers, jeans, t-shirt or checked shirt and some facial hair and glasses. Walking through the city there were many homeless people even camped outside the building on Market Street right in the middle of the Financial District. Crazy how there is so much money in this city and there is no real solution to the problem of housing for the homeless. Hopefully, with the upcoming election, some wise nut will be able to do something about it and begin to care for the community. As I was walking down 3rd Street there was a hotel worker strike demanding better conditions and pay – go for it and I wish you all the best of luck, it is a tough and demanding job often disregarded by the many folks who travel and expect more.

Thank goodness the Australian Consulate has such an easy process with the paperwork and it all went smoothly! With 30 minutes to spare I wandered down the road to Bluestone Lane, an Aussie inspired cafe. The story goes that the guy who started the chain began his coffee shop franchise in New York by the need to get a decent coffee and enjoy an Aussie style coffee shop. I went to the cafe in the hope of having a CUP of tea but this is the cafe and only do “to go” so I had a paper cup and had to recycle it! They had a couple of tables outside and there I sat and ate my $8 avocado toast out of a box and read my book on Swedish Death Cleaning. I really needed to go to the coffee shop in Union Square if I wanted to have a latte with a cup and saucer, this is all explained on their website, American style to go or Aussie style sit down, relax and enjoy a cuppa.  Anyway, it was not as exciting as I thought it would be and as I have been living in America for ages I always set my expectations low, so I do not suffer disappointment.

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Our baby girl Bella chilling out – which is where I should be but between subjects for Uni but alas, I have a bunch of stuff to catch up on, mainly sewing!

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To end the week I helped out at my work for a couple of hours on Friday and volunteered at the school walkathon for another 3 hours and I was done and dusted for the week, time to chill. Missy had just come back from her trip away on science camp for 4 days and was determined to get herself a t-shirt by walking 75 laps which equals around 18 miles (28 km) that is quite a walk! She did it and was quite pleased that she scored a shirt but by the time she got to the end they had run out of t-shirts so she will get it this week! Still, I am quite amazed that these 5th-grade girls mustered up the energy to complete the walkathon after their epic 5-hour hike on science camp, though they did say that was training for the walkathon 😀

The weekend was pretty packed with stuff to do with the kids going to the harvest festival with their chickens for 4H and sharing their chickens at a petting zoo and pet parade. Unfortunately one of the white king pigeons flew away, hopefully, he finds his way back to the coop – it was quite distressing for the kids to see him fly away!

On Sunday we met our friends up in San Francisco at a hidden gem called Glen Canyon Park where we hiked around the natural habitats to the main drag of Portola and found some food before we walked uphill to Twin Peaks and Sutro Tower. Glen Canyon Park has such a fascinating history which was saved from development by the “Gum Tree Ladies” in the 1970s. The park provides habitats for Red Tailed Hawks, coyote, racoon and many other critters of the city. There is a fenced off super cool park for the kids to climb and play but be warned – Adults must be accompanied by children! 

We enjoyed burgers at Tower Burgers which was a 10-minute walk away from the top of the hill and with some energy we continued our walk uphill towards Twin Peaks.

The views on Twin Peaks were breathtaking, as was the wind that was blowing us sideways! The crows were having a grand old time flying in and out of the wind currents up there. Here is San Francisco in all its glory. The kids had a blast pretending to be crows using their jackets as wings.

We headed back to the car by walking along the Gum Tree Girls trail and encountered many obstacles such as tree roots, low hanging branches, tunnels of scrub which makes it such a wonderful walk you have to be aware of your surroundings. This was another fun time in San Francisco with our friends being tourists for the day and discovering new places to play!

 

Comfort in the redwoods

A big week last week with celebrations for our newly minted 13-year-old – he had no idea about his present which we have purchased for his school in Melbourne as the kids bring their own device (BYOD). It certainly was a huge surprise to him – when asked what he got for his birthday he mentions it last in his list of gifts as it is something just for a special day! I love that about my kids they really are not that focused on consumer items and appreciate what they receive, thank goodness after living in this area where consumerism is everywhere and everyone has to have the latest tech gadget. Our house has one TV but everyone has a computer, mmmm maybe we have been sucked in too, so much for my anti-consumerist rant!! One of his fave things now are YuGiOh cards and has spent most of his birthday money on them – at least it is something that is creative and has a math component to it, so win win!

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After all the fun celebrations of the week, we took it easy and went camping with our school for one night under the redwoods. This was my first time visiting Portola Redwoods State Park and it was just beautiful. We were in two group sites called the Circle and the Point and it was surrounded by massive trees and right by the creek.

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My daughter took me on a walk through the obstacle course to get to the creek and we found one of the heroes of the redwood forest the banana slug doing his morning duty.

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Looking up high so many tall trees and the energy in amongst the green in the morning was so relaxing. I felt a bit stiff in my body as my mattress had sunk to the ground and it was freezing so in the middle of the night I got up and blew up my mattress and found myself in the same situation come the morning, blah!

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We had a couple of friends take us on the 1-mile return hike to the Old Tree, it was a very special hike leading to a very old redwood that 23 kids circled around on the docent-led hike the day before.

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Massive fallen trees provided many spaces to jump up and walk upon – these are 10-year-olds hopping upon this giant log.

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The sun was peeking through the trees in the morning and we really enjoyed the energy of these tall trees.

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Finally, we made it to the tree and my son is trying to climb it, I gave it a huge hug and said farewell to the redwoods. This is something I will really miss when we go back to Australia but there are other old trees that I can enjoy in the forests around Australia.

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This sign has the info on the age of the old tree at over 1,200 years old protected and living in a State Park. As ambassadors of the environment, our job is to take care of our earth so we can all enjoy the air that we breathe thanks to the trees.

This week before my CSA delivery came the fridge was empty and as my daughter is out on science camp it was a prime time to get into some beets! I made an amazing coconut milk (from coconut milk powder) beet latte for lunch and for dinner I found the Beet Balls recipe in my Samurai Salads book – I think I will have to look at it for more inspiration for autumn dinners. The beet balls were made with lentils and are the perfect addition for a wrap or crumbled into a salad.

Celebrations for the 13 year old

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What an epic week of celebrations with a last minute cake bake inspired by the Great British Baking Show. The bowl of the week was a Yakisoba inspired recipe minus the chicken and subbing in smoked salmon, which was a winner, winner chicken dinner for everyone – the things you do when you check out the back of a packet of soba noodles. I added in shitake mushrooms and some pickles, it was delish.

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We found this great book at the library called Bakeland jam packed full of inspiring baked goods with a Nordic influence. This is the cake we made but…

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This is the cake after we tweaked the recipe by making 3 layers and added a chocolate mousse cream topped with a raspberry icing. It was incredibly rich and fell apart when cut due to the dense cake of the brownie, what a great experiment.

The celebration is captured on video with the gang of 3 our overnight guests for an intimate sleepover doing things teens do like play computer games, watch Spaceballs, play computer games, eat chips, play computer games!

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As the cake was super rich in even the tiniest slice, the next day I put the cake in the food processor with some hemp seeds, dates and coconut to make the richness bite-sized. I rolled them up and put them in the freezer and they are now little pocket snacks of chocolatey goodness to keep you going during the day. Today I shared them with my friends for a sewing prep party and we got a lot of work done – yay!

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And to top off the good times of the weekend with the teens taking over the house my hubby made this crepe stack from Bakeland with blueberries – absolutely divine to indulge for a Sunday morning brekky.

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And there’s the soon to be 13 year old who has lived his whole life in California and is soon to live his teenage years back to where he was born – in Melbourne. Some fun times ahead for him though I can see that he will miss his buddies who we have all known for so long.

 

Lessons learned

I just completed a unit on Indigenous Education which has totally changed my viewpoint towards the importance of history. Viewing the suffering of the past on Indigenous tribes within Australia by the colonialists impacted my thoughts on white power and now white America, history is now repeating itself with this reign of racism by the orange man in power. One day we will look back on history and say WTH happened?

In my time in the US, my activist nature has been reignited and my thoughts on the future are away from here on a new adventure. Australia still has their fair share of idiots, so there is no escape. To cope with the madness in the daily news I have been very selective about what I read and focus on like minded peeps like folks at Penzeys Spices who have a lot to say about rights for all. In todays email I read:

At the heart of cooking is the belief that when we give of ourselves to help others the world becomes a better place. Through cooking we’ve come to understand the strength of kindness really can heal the world. The next great moment for kindness comes 11.6.18 on Election Day. Make your plan to vote, but please give thought to encouraging others to vote, too. You are a Cook, people look up to you. Your encouragement means everything. Let them know how important this election is. Help them put together the ingredients they need for a healthy and satisfying voting experience. You have the skills. You have the kindness. Please put them to good use. —Thanks!” (Penzeys Spices, 3rd Oct 2018)

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Getting rid of my spice collection

So what has inspired me to write about Penzeys and their amazing voice on activism is that I am clearing out my spice cupboard, the pic above is what is moving on. Thinking about spices and where they originate from is everywhere in the world and every day in the kitchen, we are creating multicultural links to the world. That is what makes me happy, the thoughts of going back to Australia and eating all the amazing cuisines that I miss especially Middle eastern food. Yeah, I get it in Sunnyvale but in my hood in Melbourne it is authentic.

Cleaning out my place and moving on is such a reflective experience where I feel I can look at many lessons learned from our time here. When I first moved here as a new mother I knew no one and over time and through community we now have friends and have met our people. It has been an interesting 12 years wavering from depression to joy – when I really could not wait to go back after 4 years but then we continued to stay as the kids were having an incredible school experience. I have enjoyed the journey of mother, wife, artist, business owner, volunteer and now a teacher in the time and it is now time to take my experience back home and share the basket of what my personal learning journey into another space in time. Growing up from the many experiences of the time here and moving home gives me a sense of peace – no more feeling angry and giving that privileged wanker in a BMW the finger anymore because I know our time is nearly done. And cheers to that!

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Celebration & good times

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Monday was my hubby’s birthday so I got rid of all the crap on the dining table and created this lovely posy of plants from the garden.

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This is one of my fave quiches to make for a special occasion – the Spinach Impossible Pie with crumbled feta, spinach, cheese and egg custard, made with a base from the pie book below so that was meatless Monday dinner.

I had to stop briefly in amongst my assessment writing over the weekend to get some celebrations happening for my hubby! I always love preparing a good feast for birthdays and the menu started on Sunday with a Strawberry Crumble pie – made from scratch with my kitchen helper Missy with a lemongrass cream, so divine!

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Heres the surprise birthday cake on a relaxed Sunday morning – well for some of us who did not have to get up early to make a birthday pie!

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This was hot out of the oven which is why there’s a piece of bread with candles to celebrate, it was super tasty and from my favourite pie book – A Year of PiesThe pie was meant to sit for an hour before we ate it but it was so good we tucked into it straight away!

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Oh, I always love a cocktail for a party so I made this watermelon fennel cocktail, it went down so well – the kids loved the juice, hehehe they had no idea about the fennel.

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This has been my number 1 drink for focusing, a nice cup of Matcha tea – discovered in Queensland with my sister. This is a coconut matcha which is probably way high in fat but if you are into Paleo this is the biz for you.

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The countdown has begun and as of tomorrow, I have 3 months left in the United States. I am getting rid of so much stuff and giving it away to neighbours who I don’t even know which is excellent as they are going to people who are happy to enjoy it. The shelves are emptying when I get need a brain break from study. My sewing and study room is slowly getting rid of fabric – I have a couple of projects before I put the machine and fabric away for the year. Our bedroom is getting rid of pictures and excess clothes – I still need to work on that space! The kid’s room is slowly getting there – though I have a plan to get rid of more stuff! The lounge needs to get rid of furniture but that will come later before we sell up and go. A plan is really starting to develop and I scored a great flight with taking myself and the kids back in December and my hubby will come for a trip in 2019 and then sell this place and come back for good.

So much stuff to do after living here for 12 years and it is strange to finally say I am going home to Melbourne FOR GOOD! It is so exciting as I am happy and things are falling into place. I have the kids enrolled in schools that I really like, one in primary and one in high school. The house remodel is still moving along and scheduled to start as planned. Once everything is a little settled maybe I could do a practicum for University at a primary school, it may have to wait another year until we have our house. I am so happy to be going back and finally be at home with my family and friends, the future is looking bright again!

 

Immigration stories

It was so good to have a mental health day away from studies over the weekend! It needed to happen as Uni has been pretty full on and now with booking my flight to arrive in Melbourne on the 29th December, its all starting to get real!

I went out for an SF stairs walk with my friends – we were doing the walk up to Telegraph Hill. First, we had to have something to eat so we found this incredible Mexican joint, Don Pistos on Union Street. There I discovered spiked horchata – that is spiked with rum! I took one sip and tipped the whole thing all over the table, lucky my friend got out in time!! The guys cleaned it up quick sticks and bought me another, thank goodness it was not as strong as the first, I am such a lightweight drinker lately. Oh, and the fish tacos were just incredible with a bit of spice on the fish and the slaw was so fresh atop fresh corn tortillas – divine!

After lunch, we headed up the hill to Coit tower and travelled up many stairs to the top checking out the many vistas as we went along. The view of the bay was stunning. We walked right to the top of the hill and then we went back down feeling a bit of vertigo on the way.

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There is the Bay Bridge that connects the city to Oakland and here are the stairs, which proved to be a great workout – thank goodness I was not too wasted!

After our stair adventure, we wandered down the Embarcadero for a little while checking out the scene, the weather was absolutely perfect!

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This incredible art piece of a polar bear was in San Francisco after being built at Burning Man. It was installed as part of the climate summit held in the city over the week – this is such a statement to global warming – a thin polar bear suffering at the loss of its Arctic habitat.

Oh and here’s a little immigration story… my son was asking about why my family immigrated to Australia for a school project.

My mum and her family moved over in 1962 and travelled to Melbourne by ship called the Oriana and it took about 2 weeks to get to Station Pier in Port Melbourne. They moved to the coldest place in Victoria – Newborough where my nan moved from her teaching job to work as a librarian. It was funny that they moved there from tropical Sri Lanka. The reason they left Sri Lanka was that there was a coup d’etat in Columbo and there was no scope and no future for their family there. They left with their suitcases, a few furniture pieces to white Australia. The only reason they were accepted into Australia was that their credentials were important – meaning they had to prove they were of European background. As it turns out my Nan side was Dutch and my Pops side was French. The white Australia policy ended in 1973, such a fascinating racist past in what is now multicultural Australia.

My mum and dad met at a cricket match in Melbourne and they married in 1965 when they went up to Queensland for a holiday that was where they wanted to be with the tropical weather.

My dads family moved over in 1949 and lived and went to school in St Kilda as his Dad has retired from the railway so they migrated to Australia. They too had to write out their genealogy to prove they had a European background and my dad’s side is German. His family moved to the country when he grew up when he met my mum when she was 21. Dads family also migrated for a better life in Australia and he travelled on the ship Orontes, this is history we need to retain for our future. Thanks, Mum and Dad and Cheryl for sharing this story with me over the weekend!

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The ship my Dads family travelled on from Sri Lanka