See you in 2019 Australia!

Our last week in Queensland was fun filled with a highlight of our trip a 5-hour whale watch adventure with my Dad and the kids out to the ocean right next to Moreton Island. It was such a beautiful day with the sun shining and the temperature was around 23 degrees – just perfect! I made a video using my new Nikon camera as I couldn’t capture the whale action as it was too slow and I am still a newbie with the settings. The video worked a treat as the lens can zoom in and out effortlessly.

The whale watch high-speed luxury catamaran was a dream on the water and the added bonus is getting a lovely lunch of salad and fresh prawns with fruit for dessert. We paid for coffee at $5 and water for $4 but I had a stash of snacks for the kids which was a good idea as they were hungry within seconds when they got on the boat. The views were just stunning and to see Moreton Island again in all its sandy glory bought back so many memories of camping over there and the big one spending Schoolies over there with my year 12 schoolmates.

I was on a mission to photograph the flying foxes for a friend of mine here in the States, she absolutely loves them on her Instagram feed and shows me the most beautiful pics of the little rescue foxes. This camp of foxes is found at the Redcliffe Botanic Gardens right across the road from my school friends house. I was in awe of how many there were and how active they are during the day – apparently, the males are super frisky all the time and harassing the females when they are trying to rest! I was pretty excited to get some cute pics too of these little fellas who are a keystone protected species in Australia as they are pollinators of the native flora.

Plus the lunar eclipse was happening the morning we were leaving so we did not get up to see it, my camera caught some close-ups of the moon before the cloud came in. The backyard had the grevilleas in bloom and the honeyeaters and lorikeets visited every day. Each week we kept our Taco Tuesday tradition going until we left the country Saturday morning.

And my friend M came to visit, we spent a lot of time together in our 20s and had a blast at all the clubs dancing away. Now we just catch up and drink fancy lattes. I enjoyed a matcha latte and M enjoyed the beet latte. The lunch I had at Soul Harvest Wholefoods was divine with 3 salads and a vegan pumpkin coconut pattie with a mango chutney – such a wholesome feast for lunch.

Soon came time for our last walk along the beach, we cherished our time together taking in the sights and feeling the fresh air and watching the water gently roll onto the sand. I did not realise how lucky I was to grow up with such a beautiful environment close by.

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Then as we flew off on a 27-degree day it was time to go back on the 13-hour journey back to San Francisco. We nearly missed the plane due to logistics with the Sydney airport bus transfer and then security finding some water in my daughter’s backpack so I had to stand there and drink it. Mind you by now I was busting to go to the toilet! Anyway, we finally got through the drama and made it to the flight QF73 and there we were on the plane about to have lunch. The time passed quickly as I caught up on my readings for University and watched a couple of films and my husband’s recommendation Search Party which was fine to pass the time. Secretly I was wanting to miss the plane and stay in Australia, I was not ready to come back to California. Now I am back it is OK as I have a lot of studies to catch up on to keep me busy and out of pining for Melbourne and to be back with my family. Until we move back – know that we love you and miss you. The countdown begins with around 10 months to go!!

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!

Jammed pack family fun

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My final week in Queensland with my family was filled with so much action interspersed with food which I love! We began our relaxing weekend with my sister and her crew coming to stay with us at our Air BnB we enjoyed a Sri Lankan feast with lots of wine for dinner and the kids enjoyed their fidget spinner collection and enjoyed the challenges of timing them.

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We spent Sunday at my parent’s place and the kids watched a movie after a lunch of tasty pastries from the bakery and took some fun photos in the garden.

Monday we went on a family trip with my uncle into the city to see the Marvel exhibit at the Gallery of Modern Art AKA GOMA – it was a super fun exhibit and displayed behind the scenes costumes and sets but the kids just zoomed through it! For lunch we went to this delicious gyoza place for a sushi burrito for me covered in wasabi pea powder, yummo! The kids loved their doughnuts and ice cream by Mr Fitz.

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Tuesday we enjoyed a family pub lunch for my aunts birthday celebrating with cake and balloons, scoring some super photos with balloons as props!

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Wednesday my sister found this great German guy who custom creates bikes as well as hires bikes to visitors on the peninsula for $25 per hour – Street Art Cycles come highly recommended and as it is an excellent bike riding destination, this was a perfect score for a day trip and we rode 20 kilometers in total for the day. The kids were really enjoying the 24″ frames and really took off riding on this dedicated pedestrian / cycleway parallel to the beach front! I rode this Breezer bike called Uptown designed by a mountain bike pioneer Joe Breeze whose history in biking began in Marin, San Francisco (so random and so fun).

We also found some local cats of the neighbourhood that were just like our dearly departed. Monty the cat across the road was just like Yeti the Himalayan Persian who belonged to my parents. And on our side of the street was an orange cat just like our lovely boy Mack who enjoyed pats from strangers.

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And my sisters beautiful black cat Millie gave us a bit of a scare when she disappeared for hours and we found her stuck behind the washing machine!

Towards the end of the week I realised I really had to get out and enjoy the sunny mornings and find some local wild life – I found some rainbow lorikeets on my morning walk / run having a party at a local mansion by the beach in this amazing tropical native garden. My friend Markus came to visit for lunch and we enjoyed another meal of fish and chips and went to find Gollums door on a tree by the beach. My last Sri Lankan meal of rice sticks, pan rolls, vadas with salad was enjoyed and it was such a treat!

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Friday came around and it was peoples day at the show so we went together with my nephew and enjoyed the pastel chickens, checking out sideshow alley with all the crazy clowns and toys and riding the ferris wheel yet again, I was a bit nervous of heights but I had to be brave as I was with Mr Ash and mum had to ‘make it work’.

Saturday we planned for our sausage sizzle and bought a variety of meat sausages from The Meat-ting Place – an organic butcher who could tell me where they sourced all their meat. The bonus was that they also had fish and I found Wild Barramundi from the Northern Territory which was perfect cooked in a foil packet with herbs and spices on the BBQ.

Sunday was our final “together” day where we went out for a day trip into BrisVegas to ride the free CityHopper ferry and eat some delicious Greek street food at Zeus Cafe in Southbank. We caught ferry down to the place where I moved to when I first left home and wandered the streets of New Farm before we went to New Farm Park with the kids. They loved it there and so did we, as we enjoyed the big old Jacarandas and the way the playground was built with a Strangler Fig!

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Before long it was my last morning walk on the beach where I said goodbye to the pelicans and our time in the peace and quiet of the Redcliffe Peninsula. I have to say it was an enjoyable couple of weeks with my family and catching up with friends!

So Long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, Goodbye

Finally the time has come to say goodbye to our home of Australia! Over our time here we have enjoyed catching up with our family and friends in Queensland, Victoria and South Australia. We have made some new discoveries at places and eaten some incredible food. The time we have spent with our family and friends has been so special for all of us. It has been 8 weeks of travelling and being away from our two furbabies so it will be good to be back to our cats. Hopefully they will be happy to see us too!

The suburb where we have our house in Australia is full of multi cultural magic with Italian, Middle Eastern, Greek, Asian, Caucasian and more living together happily. This is what I enjoy about Melbourne overall with this incredible melting pot of cultures and I just love the food. Whatever takes your fancy you will be able to find it here. I have eaten so well here without having to worry about the ingredients and the vegetarian options are so creative. No plain ol’ vege burgers on these menus.

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As a final goodbye to my good friends here in Melbourne whom I have met through work, DJs and through classes we went out to happy hour at The Moat and enjoyed civilised cups of mulled wine. As we are all mamas to little kiddos it was an early night so we all enjoyed dinner at a Japanese restaurant where my hubby and I had our first date at Izakaya Chuji. I mentioned that we have to try the deep fried eggplant with miso so we enjoyed two servings between the 4 of us and a plate of nigiri. Such a wonderful night with my beautiful friends, hope to see you all again soon.

The second last catchup with friends in East St Kilda at Lava in Balaclava where they have some yummy juices and Missy enjoyed some pancakes. We wandered to our friends house afterwards to see their cats and their house renovations. Soon they left to visit their relatives and we had a mission out to St Kilda to check out Veg Out the community garden and of course, some chickens!

As we were tourists in our own city we checked out Luna Park! So many rides but the one we really wanted to check out as a family was the Scenic Railway the old style rollercoaster that has been there since 1912 and restored in 1999.

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I could not resist this pic and had to buy it for our wall to remind the kids of the terrifying or exciting time they had on the first time on a rollercoaster! Missy was so scared and she wanted to get off – I just screamed this is just like travelling the streets of San Francisco!!

After our thrilling roller coaster ride we took it easy down the beach and found this stunning black swan from the pier. The kids were hungry for afternoon tea and thank goodness the Acland Street Cake shop is still around. Missy enjoyed this gigantic meringue with hundred and thousands as a sweet treat.

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On our way to our final brunch and farewell to our family we wandered by lots of graffiti on the walls Ash and I both appreciate the street art so we were checking out some favorites for some pics. I wanted to take a pic with the Krish tag and made a T with my body instead of the K.

Our final brunch was with my sister in law and her family at this lovely vegetarian Italian restaurant just a walk away in Coburg called Little Deer Tracks. The food was so comforting and the breads homemade and so tasty with a sourdough starter that is 8 years old. My breakfast was the Dukkah Poached Eggs with feta, mushrooms, smashed avocado and marinated capsicum with chili oil, amazing! I could not get enough of the sourdough bread the kids did not want so I ate that too, it was a spelt sourdough and a tad lighter than whole wheat with such an earthy flavour.

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We had to finally get a picture of the cousins together so here they are in front of a mural by the cafe! Gotta catch ’em all!!

Goodbye Australia, until we meet again…

Groove is in the Heart

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The weekend started with a lunch at CERES (the Centre for Education and Research in Environmental Strategies) in Brunswick East – a stones throw away from where we are staying. We have enjoyed visiting CERES since living on this side of town years ago and loved the fact that there is a native nursery, market, cafe, bike repair station, chooks and so much more, all environmentally focussed. The kids enjoyed playing at the adventure playground and we joined in the fun as well! See how you can decorate your garden beds with used bike wheels.

This beautiful tree nest is created with sticks and bicycle wheels on top of a platform in the lower branches of the tree. We found a hole big enough to fit through and escaped the wind chill for a while before we had to slip back down. We met our friends who we met in the Valley many years ago who have now moved back home to Melbourne and reestablished their life here. It was so wonderful to catch up and hear how the transition went for them coming back and how everything gets back into a groove after a time.

On our way to CERES we came across this amazing vintage market called the Lost & Found Market and lucky for us we got to spend a fair amount of time here over the weekend to check out their racks of clothes and vintage wares. There was so much to check out – fortunately for me vintage sizes are generally small, otherwise I could be adding to my luggage! Lots and lots of fabric that I could have added to my luggage were up for grabs but I have bought so much fabric already so I just need the time to get sewing now! My uncle has a vintage market at his house which would be perfect in this space 🙂

Saturday night I caught up with a long lost friend who we haven’t seen since we got married 10 years ago. So much happens in ten years and the kids are a testament to that – it was great that her 4 kids enjoyed time with our kids too. We found chillis in the garden and the kids were eating them just for kicks, so we had to deal with some chilli burnt kiddos!

Sunday came around all too soon and we met my long time work friend from the publishing days for brunch. We met again at CERES at their cafe called The Merri Table with their excellent selection of organic, free range and cruelty free goodness I was so happy! So rather than a coffee I opted for the Golden Milk and what a treat that was with local honey to sweeten the spot. The base is turmeric and ginger to give it that beautiful golden glow.

On our walk back to the tram we saw this huge fluffball cat sitting atop a fence. Just one look at her and it was our cat Bellas Melbourne fluffy cousin. She was so soft and very happy to get some pats in the winter sunshine.

Monday we finally made it to the National Gallery of Victoria – friends of ours enjoyed a day off and hung out with us. At the entrance of the NGV is a waterfall wall and the kids went straight to it – oh it’s really wet they said!

Once we were inside the gallery has many a photo opportunity – the mirror art walk through sculpture piece was just the best for pics! Look above you in the great hall to see the stained glass. And we found this stunning video installation by Lisa Reihana: In Pursuit of Venus – excerpt from the NGV website:

“A live-action video that is inspired by the colonial nineteenth century panoramic wallpaper, Les Sauvages de la Mer Pacifique (1804–05), produced by entrepreneur Joseph Dufour in Neoclassical France. Les Sauvages draws upon journal accounts of Pacific voyages of exploration but Dufour and his team harvested information from different historical sources and relocated the bodies into a fictional Tahitian landscape, removing these Pacific Islanders from their cultural, historical and political reality and dressing them in Neoclassical attire. The Pacific performers unbind the shackles of colonialism by bringing forth visual poetics of Indigenous culture and knowledge and thereby recalibrate colonial history from their own standpoints.”

The kids had a blast at the Fake Food Park by Catalan food designer Martí Guixé has created a vibrant environment in which children are inspired to think creatively about common foods via drawing challenges on the computer and hands-on activities using food shapes in a kitchen.

Of course, no visit to the city of Melbourne is complete without an excellent cup of coffee from Dukes Coffee Roasters after our felafel lunch from ENA Greek Street Food at Southbank. The kids were wanting some dessert so we opted for Nitro Lab for some ice cream created with liquid nitrogen and taking it one step further with some crazy concotions pulling apart a Golden Gaytime and reassembling it with salted caramel and chocolate chips, taking a mango sorbet and adding some jelly lychee flavours and the milo surprise with m&ms, condensed milk and milo sprinkled atop whipped cream. These guys really take it to the next level with these combos!!

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Lucky my friend and I had a hidden agenda of a little bit of shoe shopping while we were in the city. The boys took the kids to the comic shop Matador while we escaped down Flinders Lane for a bit of a look see – my friend found a perfect pair of ankle boots and I found these lovely red boots by effegie Made in Portugal on sale, how could I resist 😉  I took them for a walk today to the local park and they were so comfortable! I love European design and it is so hard to find fun shoes back in Cali so it’s best to grab these bargains while I can, great justification for a second pair of new shoes! The first pair I purchased as I accidentally went into the Camper store when all their shoes were half price and an absolute steal, we all love an excellent shoe deal!

Everybody walk the dinosaur

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We made our trek down south to Melbourne and we were greeted with a coolness only Melbourne can offer. The winter down here can be quite brutal so I always carry a coat, lucky I found this great vintage lambskin leather coat to keep me warm. Of course it does not snow here like the East Coast of the USA but coming from sunny Queensland to Victoria it was a bit of a shock!

We have an perfectly sized Air BnB house – 2o mins by tram to the city. Our first couple of days we were getting organised and enjoying the local shopping precinct before we decided to head on into the city for an afternoon adventure. We enjoyed a tram ride into the city and walked over to Federation Square so that I could show the kids the place where my husband and I met volunteering over 10 years ago! It was so cool to see how the space had changed since it first opened – there’s a cinema, cafe and bar upstairs, free exhibits for the public on the ground floor and the gallery below currently hosting a Scorsese exhibition. I will have to take the kids for a peek this week to check out the videos and games in the free gallery space.

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Saturday we met up with some friends outside the Melbourne Museum before we met up with our family here. We enjoyed a coffee from Ciuccio (Donkey in Italian) Cafe down Gertrude Street and the kids played together on these Roman ruins outside the museum. Even the take away coffee does not fail to disappoint here in Melbourne!

We were checking out the museum exhibits and the cousins were warming up to each other before we headed in for the highlight of the day the Jurassic World exhibit. It was $90 for a family to enter and we did not know what to expect when we went through. Once we went in it was such a treat as the dinosaurs looked so real! At times the kids were holding onto to us, as they were a bit scared of the gigantic realistic dinosaurs.

The lighting was dark and it was an adventure for all, like you would experience in a film and presented in a way that has some excitement – though I won’t give away any surprises!

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After the exhibit we had a look at other exhibits in the museum including The Melbourne Story and we found a 3D model of the Australian Coat of Arms with a taxidermy Kanga and Emu. It is so funny how when you are travelling you learn so much about your country when you visit. I had never really taken any notice of the shield and how each pictures represents one of the six states.

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Later on we enjoyed some wine and a delicious risotto fresh from the Thermomix followed by a mango sorbet ready in 6 minutes – amazing. Thank you to my sister in law for the incredible Thermomix demonstration and food! Her hubby found this super cool wine ‘Ladies Who Shoot Their Lunch’ – I just love the label!

Last Sunday I had booked in ages ago with my good friend who I have not seen in 5 years! So we travelled down to Port Melbourne to visit and enjoyed wine and some lunch with them before we took the kids on a Pokemon Go adventure down to the beach. See those black specks on the beach, they were a gang of Pokemon hunters!

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While we were there we met this super cute fur baby named Neville Furbottom going for a spin in a bike basket belonging to his human. This little cutie just loved pats and the kids!

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Soon the Melbourne weather started to get a wee bit chilly and we headed back home – we had a lovely relaxed afternoon with our friends and the kids made some new friends! It is so good to see old friends like it was just yesterday when we last caught up, the major difference is when we see the kids and they are all growing like weeds!

The Rainbow Connection

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I love reconnecting with long lost friends after a long time when we come home. My friend Markus & I used to have such a fun time together going out dancing all night long back in the day. We were reminiscing about the fun times we had together and caught up with what our lives are now – we had not seen each since 2009! The great thing is about good friends is that when you leave and come back the connection is still the same.

We planned for a big day out to the Redcliffe show with my uncle and the kids – as we went in the plan was to track down the farm animals and the one thing I remember from when I was a kid going to the show was the pastel colored chicks! Here are some Frizzle chicks washed with wool mix and dipped in food coloring and then blow dried for extra fluff. Apparently their feathers take ages to dry!

Soon we wandered down to side show alley and found these crazy gangster bananas – who designs these things?!? There were plenty of clown heads and certainly plenty of photo opportunities! The highlight of the day was the pig races with these cute little piggies with sequin outfits on. They were not racing on who was the fastest pig, they had a little obstacle course and the first one to the feed dish is the winner! Of course in Australia you buy some raffle tickets for which pig will be yours and whether you win a meat tray – thank goodness our numbers did not come up!! I am a vegetarian who enjoys fish.

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After our lunch it was time to go on some rides – the Gravitron was there and we were saying it was the original from back in the day, complete with ripped vinyl inside. Thank goodness these days my stomach cannot deal with that centrifugal force, so we gave that one a miss. So we opted to go on the ferris wheel – it was hilarious, as we had to separate as a group to balance out the ride as no one was riding it! So Markus and I hopped in and held on tight making sure not to rock the cage as it went higher and higher. The view was quite lovely up there and we held on tight! There were visions of us going round and round all day and night as the ride operator watched movies on his mobile phone and left us circling. Soon it was all over, we survived and made it back down to earth in one piece.

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Markus commenting that this was higher than he planned to go!

There were lots of fun shopping opportunities though traveling for a couple of months makes sure that we cannot add more to the weight of the luggage. Ash enjoyed himself checking out the hats but the kids ended up with no show bag and found themselves with yet another stuffie – this time an ocelot and a rabbit from Minecraft. Minecraft is a big thing here too with the kiddos!

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Thursday we went on a walk from one beach to another along the shore. It was lovely to take the kids and share with them what we used to do when we were kids growing up by the water. Lots of old Queenslanders are still there but in a state of repair and next to them the apartment developments facing the beach selling for the thousands. Lucky there still is a height limit on buildings in place though it does make me wonder who is buying these apartments – maybe they are vacation rentals, who knows? I still love the big verandahs on the big old Queenslanders, they have such character and inside they are designed to be cool in the summer and great for entertaining. We walked back to the main beach called Sutton’s Beach in Margate and found this great place called Pilpel by the Sea and ordered some takeaway shish kebabs with mediterranean couscous and rice and sat by the water watching the kiddos play. It was perfect as I just love Mediterranean food and it looks like we will be going back for more later in the week when we bid Redcliffe a fond farewell.