Home sweet home

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The big news that made me so happy last week was the approval of my hubby working remotely in Australia. Now with all the plans moving along it was a hard decision to up and leave a job but now with this in the pipeline and a presentation from our architect in Melbourne shortly I am getting excited to be back in Australia. This illustration was found at the park after I took the kids for a walk as I could not sit still after my hubby gave me the news. Day by day I am patiently waiting for the green light that says now start packing and selling everything it is time to go. But until then I am enjoying myself here and having fun carving out my future career in education.

I was still on a balanced nutrition diet last week had me caving and wanting extra flavour in my food with sriracha and miso mayo. Tacos have carbohydrates that I do not want to be eating in the evening, so I turned Taco Tuesday into a bowl minus the taco of salad, avocado salsa and beer battered fish. I know my diet of no bad stuff, but hey it fitted into my macro plan for the day! The bowl on the right is smoked salmon on a kale salad with miso mayo and spring onions. I am finding with eating fish is helping me reach my protein limit to build muscle, fingers crossed I am doing this thing right! I love food too much to eat bland food all the time…

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At Ventana School where I work we made some pipe cleaner dolls for the dollhouse the kids built, and here they are all ready to be sold at the auction.

Speaking of the auction my hubby and I had a lovely night out on Saturday night at the adults-only event with cocktails, wine and a delicious catered dinner by Opa! It was a game theme, so my outfit was my own interpretation of a Candy Land princess :D. It was a bit wacky but anyway it gave me the opportunity to wear the lovely raw silk vintage beaded jacket (from my fave vintage store in Mountain View, which is now gone!) with a dress I made out of FabMo silk pieces.

The quilt that is pictured was created with help by the 1st-grade class I help teach. A grandma of the students (who is a star quilter) designed and made the quilt, and it is incredible. It was won by the parents of the class and will be shared by the parents to travel with this cohort of children at the school. It is an absolute treasure and captures the spirit of the community at the school.

My daughter came with me to work today, and we had a fun time in the classroom together. She was a bit tired by the end of the day, so she did some reading when I was working with the kindergarten kids. She had a fun time with the 1st grade and enjoyed the tinkering with the kids at lunchtime and ate and played with them all which was so good!

After work, we went to visit the lovely ladies AKA the chickens at the ranch, and they have a new addition an Easter Egger whom we call chicken cheeks which is just beautiful and tiny. Apparently, these ladies lay different coloured eggs which are how they get their name. I cannot wait until she starts laying. I was so happy to spend time with the chickens where at one point I turned around, and the whole flock of standard hens had followed me out into the grass, I am so looking forward to having chickens of our own one day!! At the coop we now have 13 bantams and 10 standard chickens so that is quite a flock and they are all very entertaining, I am sure they remember the people they interact with and most especially whoever gives them the best treats like strawberry tops and kombucha!

Thoughts for the future

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Slowly I am getting used to life back here after our fantastic time back in Australia – one step at a time…

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My plan is to go back next year once our house in Oz is complete and a little big bigger, and we have a place to live in Melbourne. Many people have been asking me what the difference between Australia and the USA is?

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My answer is always that Australians are very relaxed, friendly human beings. Americans take a little while to feel acquainted and are always on the go – an energy that to resonate through the community even on the freeways. Gotta go here, there and everywhere all at once.

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So I have done a little bit of reflecting about why I cannot feel settled here and why I want to go back home (my birth home).

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Culturally the differences are vast where here in our little bubble of Silicon Valley ego seems rather significant. Understandably people are working hard, and they define themselves by what college they went to – this always perplexed me, but college does cost a lot of money here, so why not talk about it. Australians do not really talk about themselves so much but as my friend pointed out Aussies do like to speak about other people 😀

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Whereas back down under people will say hello to you on the street and smile, just because. The friendliness of conversations even with shop owners really makes me happy. When we were visiting the main drag where our house is in Oz, I spoke to a book shop owner about living in the area, and she mentioned her kids go the schools I was interested in going to. It was such a serendipitous moment as it confirmed my decision on wanting to return to Melbourne because she spoke so highly of the school communities and had been a resident there for 27 years!

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So fundamentally it is ego (in the Valley) vs. authenticity (down under), and for me, I know where I would rather be. It has taken me a while to feel comfortable here in California these last 10 years so having a connection to an amazing school community really helped me with a feeling I was amongst “my people”. Our elementary school is an incredible community – multi cultural, open minded, supportive and loving, so it has been just perfect.

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I want my children to grow up in a school that embraces the arts, music and humanities as I feel it is important to have a whole education that develops the whole child. I feel that once my son hit middle school here, the education is just OK – he is missing out on art at school, but he has had some great sporting opportunities like cross country and robotics/engineering. Hey, he can create his art (graphic novels) at home!

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Touring the schools in Australia made me realise that I want my children in Melbourne to complete their education as I feel it will be well rounded including a true appreciation for the arts – which is what that city is about! The arts, friends and family are what my heart aches for when I am in California having the beauty of art around me in the form of gorgeous architecture and the accessibility to amazing galleries embracing arts everywhere.

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Here in California, there is art in San Francisco at the SFMOMA and museums around the city that I am yet to explore but time is slim in my life, and it’s tricky to get out and about just for fun these days with study and now work. I am excited to be starting a job as a Teacher Assistant at a local school in August, this is an incredible opportunity for me as it aligns with my Education degree, to be completed way in the future…

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So weighing up the positives which are the perfect weather and nature in California and the negatives, where I really miss my time with my family. I feel the decision to move back will be beneficial for myself as I can do my Education placements and the kids will have access to well rounded 21st-century education. A 21st-century education you might ask? It is teaching for the future, and the children learn skills that prepare them for a life of uncertainty in their careers where jobs that exist may be something else in the future.

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It will be a bittersweet farewell to California though I know now after visiting Australia two years in a row that I feel more grounded to Australia and that is where I want to be. California has been a great experience, and I have really enjoyed my time here growing up with my family but the time has come to decide on the future and where I see our family. I had a glimpse into the future when we were in Melbourne, and I like the fact we can:

  • walk/bike to school
  • walk to the shops
  • walk to the train
  • public transit into the city
  • a gym is on the way to school
  • a fruit and veg market is down the road
  • my sister in law and her family is a drive away
  • there are bike tracks close by
  • a beautiful park is a walk away complete with a flying fox.

We just need our house to have a couple of extra rooms! That plan is coming along with my friend who is an architect who can help us with our project, so the ball is rolling along.

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I really miss my family, and because they do not travel we have to go to Oz, it will be much better to be 2 hours away by plane from my family rather than a whole day travel time. Time is ticking away, and I have investigated our options and feel that the opportunity for the children to enjoy their tween/teen years back in Australia will be a good thing for them, having them appreciate the arts and the academics hand in hand.

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As for now, I have a job for the next few months that I have to juggle with part time study, my family and volunteer duties. It will be busy but the time will fly by, and before we know it, the time will come to go back to Australia for good.

 

A week of Melbourne Art Immersion

Farewell to the tropics and Hello Melbourne! It is so wonderful to be immersed in the beauty of this city, and I honestly feel like I am home when I am here as this is where my life truly began in my mid-twenties. Studying at RMIT and working as a Graphic Artist then meeting my soul partner and having our baby – who is now 11! So many amazing memories that resonate with life in another world. Now only to get back home that is in Melbourne and settled again!

To start off the holidays we met the cousins at the Bug Lab: Little Bugs, Super Powers special exhibit designed by Weta Workshop in New Zealand as a travelling exhibit from NZ. The installations are so lifelike, and the bugs were huge and gave the visitors insight into the amazing world of bugs and even spiders! I really loved it though the kids really zipped through the exhibit we wanted repeat viewings of the zoetrope dragonfly installation where the idea was that saw what it was like to fly like a dragonfly and it was just spectacular.

I met a friend with her daughter at the NGV International Kids area to do free craft activities, and it was perfect for all of our kid’s ages 7 to 11. They could craft away while we caught up with news and happenings in life.

That afternoon I found some yarn bombed trees in Federation Square and knew this is where I belong – the yarn is keeping the trees warm over the winter! I took the kids to see Kedi finally at ACMI, and we just loved it, I would love to see it again just to see all those cats closeup and listen to their fascinating stories.

Friday was a big day, and we went to the zoo with our family – an incredible photo exhibit called Photo Ark was on display. The photographer Joel Sartore, a National Geographic photographer, has documented 6,531 species in human care. I just loved these images so much, a book is available as well which has many beautiful animal personalities captured. I was in love with the sloth pic!

I really enjoyed the enclosures at the zoo, and there were many opportunities to take pics of these animals my favourite being the lemurs as you could walk around with lemurs in their space staying a metre away from them. Missy’s favourite was the butterfly house where I felt home among the tropics. We stayed all afternoon until the meerkats showed us how cold it was and it was time to go home.

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Saturday I met a good friend and her kids for tea, and we wandered down to the local cafe for a coffee and smashed avo on toast – now that is the business! It makes me so happy to catch up with my friends here 😀

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In the evening we were having a farewell dinner with my mother in law before they drove back to Adelaide – we are getting our cat fixes by hanging out at my sister in laws place and loving their new kitten Izzy!

Sunday was another incredible day of eating Melbourne style with good friends and fantastic food – we went to Maha for a 4 course Sunday session lunch for 2 hours of eating the most incredible food! To me, it is so inspirational the way this restaurant redefines middle eastern flavours, my absolute favourite cuisine. The restaurant had a beautiful ambience with music and comfortable chairs to enjoy a long lunch of divine delicacies. A true Melbourne experience that I would love to do again with everything cooked to perfection and no problem with the Lacto-Ovo pescatarian that I am.

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After lunch I caught up with friends from Choice Hotels International where we met and enjoyed our time together as a Marketing team, it feels so long ago and so much has happened in our lives and lovely to see my work friends again and reminisce on the fun times we had.

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We just happened to be in the city for the Boho Luxe Market in Federation Square where I had to have a quick run through to see what was on offer and of course I was attracted to this vintage bus with vintage clothes, so cool! It is so good to be back in Melbourne with art everywhere.

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The kid’s really enjoyed ACMI (Australian Centre for the Moving Image) the place where my husband and I first met 12 years ago, so we had to capture a shot outside. I love Melbourne, and it is so good to be immersed in all these art experiences that will live with me for another year until I come home again!

Back home by the beach

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The trip I have patiently been waiting for has arrived, and I am now back at home with my family. It is so good to be at home with everyone and being at a place where my feet feel firmly planted on the ground – this is the place where my roots feel the most grounded and somewhere I belong. It is funny when you go back home you really appreciate the depth of family love and experience that can never be replicated even by close friends. That is the hardest thing I find living miles away from my family.

I am creating experiences and memories for my kids with bringing them to this place we call home – a place where they can enjoy the freedom and the friendliness of this wonderful country. I have been enjoying walking along the beachfront every day and saying hello to the people passing by. This alone is something the children really love, and they ask me, “do you know that person”, and it is always a no, but here in Australia, people don’t mind saying hello to each other as it does not cost a thing. In the USA this was hard for me to get used to – being in a place where even in the same apartment complex everyone is way too busy even to say a Good Morning. I am used to it now after being there for 10 years, and you just acclimate to whatever is the norm of the culture you are living in – eventually.

Walking along the beach and the rocks with or without shoes have been just beautiful as it is so relaxing and quiet around here away from the rushed life of the everyday. The red cliffs of Redcliffe have such a variation in colour, and I am looking at them in a new light and enjoying the patterns and formations.

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The incredible food is one of my fave things when coming home and enjoying Smoked Tasmanian Salmon over a quinoa rice bowl with locally grown avocados and salad with the newfound seeds and flavours of Dukkah.

In my wanderings around the neighbourhood, I finally found some frangipani even though it is the middle of winter. The sunrise and sunsets have been absolutely breathtaking in the big Australian skies. And I found a cocoon of the case moth a caterpillar who travels with his cocoon wherever they go – I have not seen one of these for ages!

When we come here we enjoy going to the library to source out some new books, I found ‘This Changes Everything’ by Naomi Klein that I have been wanting to read for ages. No way will I be able to read this by the end of next week, but it has been fascinating. Next to the library is a gallery space and this time there was a quilting exhibition that I could not resist going to so I said to my Mum and Dad I will just be 5 minutes and 15 minutes later my Dad was saying its time to go now! They were with Missy who had said to them this happens all the time, my mum likes to talk to people and she was right, I really enjoyed chatting to a couple of the ladies who were part of the quilting collective, and we talked quilts and fabrics. Such a great opportunity to share information about fabric stores and sewing techniques and one day I will make my own quilt too! Afterwards, Mum wanted to go to the bakery – a real Aussie bakery complete with custard and neenish tarts, vanilla slices and fresh sausage rolls, that was worth leaving the exhibition for!

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I am getting used to the new face of Redcliffe with its cinder block base house construction, big window houses overlooking the sea. From what I can see the blocks of land are gigantic with a double block property a few houses down from this place currently for sale at over $3 million dollars. Though it is evident that the blocks of land are subdivided and smaller, taller properties are built and sold in a very contemporary house design that maximises space. Still, it is always good for inspiration to wander new neighbourhoods for ideas!

Back to Life, Back to Reality

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So we arrived back home to our house in amongst drama and a house infested with mice and a couple of nasty rats. Those nasty rats took a liking to the pantry and decided they would gnaw away at anything that might deem edible in the pantry totally destroying containers in their wake. This was something I did not expect I had to deal with when we came home – so after a good nights sleep, it was time to clean the pantry of mice and rat poo… what a god damn nightmare!!

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An urgent call to the exterminator and he came by as soon as he could – the first thing he saw was the cat door and said that is how they come into your house! Excellent time to close the cat door I say… Then out to the yard and holy hell, there is a jungle growing out there – apparently a haven for mice and rats. So I said OK time to employ these little munchkins and cut that jungle down!!

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After dealing with the pantry and the jungle in the back garden the next morning I found a rat scurrying across my bedroom floor, so I yelled: “Quick get a cat up here!!” And another call to the exterminator and he says it’s wandering looking for food… go on, lay out a trap and when we came home from our morning errands that rat was caught dead. Hopefully, now we have got the mice and rats trapped or in places where they cannot escape – I just want my house back minus the vermin.

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And the day finally came to send the kiddos off to school after our wonderful time in Australia. To say I am homesick is an understatement and if I could leave to go back to Australia tomorrow  I would. Still, the value of spending quality time with family is something that cannot be taken for granted and the times we spent together is going to live in my heart for a long time. We just need to align the stars and we will be back home soon…

Australia is a long way from the USA…

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Finally after traveling for over 20 hours we made it to the Southern Hemisphere a bit blurry and tired but very happy to see the family. It has been 10 years since our move to California and we finally came home after 5 years!

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Flying from Sydney airport to Brisbane for a 1 hour flight I was finally greeted by some very decent airline food with some amazing treats by Rowie’s Cakes made locally in Sydney. After over 13 hours of eating and sitting watching films that did not require too much concentration this was a breakfast that spoke to me with the combination of passionfruit yoghurt and wholegrain sprinkles – now you are talking Australia! And the Super Bites snack with superfoods – that is my language.

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See this little magpie sitting on the cable –  I heard his call and I know I am back in Australia, being up from 5:30am was fine with me watching the beautiful sky and sunrise. The sounds of the familiar bird sounds like the rainbow lorikeet speeding through the sky was a special thing to wake up to!

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As we went to the ‘mall’ as my son calls it to do some errands we found some kids photographers who asked us for a photography shoot which was a lot of fun – the kids seemed to have a great time posing for the camera with little outfits they provided with a quick presto-change-o being a shower curtain hooked up to a hula hoop!

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More talk about food – – I saw the name of this and thought of my cats Mack and Bella, this is the best name for a chocolate macadamia spread made right here in Queensland. So instead of the usual Nutella we are going to give this a go! It is Belgian chocolate and macadamia nuts, I seriously could eat the whole jar!!

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As one of our errands today was to go to the local library and get some new books to read! The fun thing about visiting libraries on the other side of the world is finding new books that are not available in the USA we found books published in either the UK or Australia. We found some cute little character books like this new favorite series Best Dog Bonnie as animal books are always a fave with Missy.

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We are staying at a beautiful Air BnB on the Peninsula and loving it with its space and open back yard – here is Mr Ash done for the day and happy to curl up in his bed and read Garfield comic books.