The Love Cats

IMG_5081

New discoveries abound when you are a tourist in your own home country. As we were investigating places to walk and play we found the Coburg Lake, an easy 30-minute walk from where we are staying. We wandered through the new developments of Pentridge Prison where new apartments are popping up within the old wallls of the jail – there are some good views to be had for the apartments up high. Walking past the prison walls and out we finally found the lake and a super cool playground with this really comfortable swing and very high slide, that you just had to climb!

To get to the top of the slide you are climbing and climbing until finally, you reach the hole where you hop in and go down really, really fast due to the great curve in the slide. So much fun to be had! Of course, when we lived here we had no interest in playgrounds, slides, and roundabouts. As we walked over the bridge up the stairs we found many sculptures including this selection of yarn balls – I think they were designed to be rope balls found on a wharf.

Midweek I had organised a playdate with my fellow vegetarian food-loving friend and her daughter. We had such an amazing lunch at Monk Bodhi  Dharma. The hardest thing for me when we go to these establishments is what do I choose as I can eat absolutely anything on the menu!! I opted for the Umami Mushrooms which was a bowl full of Roasted King Oyster, Shitake, Oyster and Swiss Brown Mushrooms on a house-made polenta pumpkin bread – for a mushroom fan, it was heaven! The kids were, of course, were a bit perplexed by the menu so I said just eat the buckwheat apple pancakes with ice cream and apple chips – they did protest, but wolfed them down in seconds. The chai was the best chai I have drunk in a very long time, spices roasted in-house and made with soy milk it was to be savored to the last drop. I can eat so well when I live in this beautiful city of Melbourne, this time, the weather isn’t bothering me so much as I love this city, even its seasons!

IMG_9279IMG_9300IMG_9312

It was a rainy day and we had a mission to go down to St Kilda Readings to pick up another book of the kid’s new favorite author David Walliams, sometimes you cannot find these books in the USA. Of course, I can buy it on the internet but it is way better to support a local independent bookstore! We braved the showers and got totally wet at the St Kilda City Gardens and the kids enjoyed the climbing and play structures. To keep ourselves dry we found the greenhouse and off we went with to play ball.

Down an alleyway for our next adventure to the Cat Cafe we found lots of street art and graffiti. Ash was a bit confused about the fine line between art and graffiti – I had to explain to him that artists are sometimes commissioned for the works or the City of Melbourne enjoys the alley art and it is used in photography shoots, tourism and the like. In the ‘What Good Shall I do this Day?’ the plaque I showed it to my son and he gave me a big hug!

IMG_9338

These alleyway posters are something different and maybe considered messy but as a graphic designer, I appreciated how all this works together especially the facebook and Instagram logos.

The cat cafe was such a relaxing experience. We each paid $12 per hour to spend time with the cats, 16 cats in total. As it is coming to the end of our holiday I am really missing our 2 cats and cannot wait to see them. In the interim, this was such an enjoyable experience patting these cuties gently and playing with the younger kittens. These cats are all living together in this warehouse style space built with a see through ladder for them to climb and see the world from up on high. The kids were in kittie heaven playing with the kittens and cats. It is just the perfect space for the cats with lots of places to jump on, sleep on, plenty of cat trees and places to hide if they don’t want any attention. These cats were so sociable and lovable we did not want to leave. Unlike the cat cafes in the USA where the cats are up for adoption, these cats live down an alleyway in a luxurious Melbourne warehouse apartment.

IMG_9441IMG_9443IMG_9442

While we were in the city we met Graham at the State Library Gallery. Project Graham showed us what we might look like if we were built to survive on our roads. He’s a reminder of just how vulnerable our bodies really are when speed and impact forces as low as 30km/h are at play. The Australian Artist Patricia Piccinini designed Graham and her work is always so lifelike using latex and human hair. In conjunction with the sculpture, it had an Augmented Reality experience using Google Tango tablets for the first time in Australia. The kids really enjoyed the interaction with Graham learning about why he had hoof-like feet. Watching the video from the tablet they found out that this was so he could jump out of the way of a car and protect himself.

 

Somewhere beyond the sea…

IMG_8544

And into the SeaLife Aquarium, we went on Friday so the cousins could hang together and we could check out another tourist trap. The weather turned to rain and cold so we changed our zoo plans to an indoor activity and that was the aquarium. We enjoyed our time with the family wandering through the different areas and learning about sea creatures and a lot of them were Aussies so that was fascinating. I like to go to aquariums to learn about sea creatures and this little red fella is a fiddler crab and it derives its name from the fact that one of the male’s claws, called the fiddle, is larger than the other.

The octopus was showing off its tentacles as we wandered by and this was a Maori Octopus the largest octopod in Australasia and can exceed an arm-span of three metres and a mass of 10 kilograms. I still love octopus and my favorite is the Giant Pacific Octopus that I have seen at many aquariums on the Pacific North West. We found this groovy looking prawn and the kids enjoyed coloring in Finding Dory characters to watch them appear on the wall.

IMG_8617

We fell in love with this guy the Boyd Forest Dragon – this relative of the dinosaurs enjoys living on the tree trunks in the Daintree rainforest up in Far North Queensland. It is such a handsome little reptile and so photogenic too!

IMG_8626IMG_8654IMG_8647IMG_8636

All of these Australian sea creatures are close to my heart – the Giant Cuttlefish being an absolutely favorite animal. Cephalopod Love. The weedy seadragon and the leafy seadragon have been successfully bred in the aquarium as these beautiful creatures are near threatened so it is important to be made aware of them to preserve their natural habitats. And of course the green tree frog their numbers have been in decline for a very long time thanks to the Cane Toad – now that is a disaster of a story!

As we wandered into Antartica for the last exhibit we found the King Penguin and the Gentoo Penguin. There were so many penguins in the exhibit and I felt a bit sorry for them due to the small exhibit wth lots of animals. The Gentoo penguins conservation status are near threatened. They are an endless little ball of black and white energy swimming around in the tank and I absolutely loved watching them dive and swim.

Soon after we played tourist we wanted some food as the aquarium food was pretty crappy – would you like fried, fried or more fried food and the only vegetarian option was hot chips! Federation Square was close by and as there was a group of us, Chocolate Buddha is a great place to eat and the kids love Japanese – win win! We saw the Melbourne bikes and the boys were enjoying seeing themselves up on the big screen at the square. The architecture here is captivating and is art in itself it truly exemplifies Melbourne in this central location. The food at Chocolate Buddha has always been very good and is presented beautifully. I enjoyed the lunch tray with grilled salmon and it was such a treat!

Saturday the 23rd marked our 10th wedding anniversary – it was so perfect that we were in Melbourne to celebrate. I asked my sister in law if the kids could have a sleep over so we could go out and spend some time together. The kids couldn’t wait to go and we were looking forward to a night out so everyone was happy. I found a vegetarian restaurant in Rose Street, Fitzroy called Transformer. This was not just any vegetarian restaurant with veggie burgers and the like – this is a place where vegetables take centre stage and the dishes are all presented in a sophisticated way. It is not often we go out and enjoy a dinner where the food is so artfully presented, so a decade of marriage is the best opportunity! The flavours of the food were combined beautifully using sweet, sour, hot, umami to perfection. The menu is seasonal so it changes with the veggies available, so the flavours really shine. The cocktail flavors were super creative, for example in the Kawaii Five-O – Green Tea Ume, Mandarin and Lemongrass Sherbet, Matcha and Lemon – all right down my alley with the citrus and tea. The desserts were just delightful in their presentation and the flavor combinations of meringue and sweet fruit flavors like freeze dried mandarin were magical. Truly this was an absolute pleasure in food experiences for us.

After our dinner at Transformer, we took a walk down Brunswick Street to see what other restaurant highlights had popped up over the last 10 years. We saw Smith and Daughters a vegan restaurant which looks like something we hope we can try before we leave in a couple of weeks. To escape the chill of the night we ended our evening at the cinema seeing the film ‘Sing Street’ and enjoyed the flashback to the 1980s. For a couple of film aficionados, this was the best way to spend our anniversary.

Sunday we enjoyed a brunch with friends who 10 years ago were at our wedding reception – it was so wonderful to spend a relaxing time with everyone and enjoy delicious food and wine. In Melbourne, this is the place to celebrate good food and forever family and friends.

 

Home is whenever i’m with you

IMG_4739

Home, let me come home
Home is whenever I’m with you
Home, yes I am home
Home is wherever I’m with you

Edward Sharp and the Magnetic Zeros

This week we have spent a lot of time in the city – meeting friends, catching up eating and drinking! Melbourne is at it’s finest with the incredible food that is available for whatever cuisine that takes your fancy. We found vegan superfood at a fancy shopping centre and enjoyed sushi and juice with a former work friend, in fact, the editor of the magazine I used to work for. We enjoyed many a deadline together working late into the night with the publishers. He is coming stateside next week for a while to see what goes on, so with some luck, we will catch up and chat – living life in the U S of A.

In exploring our local hood we discovered a kitschy cafe called True North down the road and hidden amongst the cafe are cats. Cats in the loo, cats on the wall, cats on the shelves and cats up high. The kids really enjoyed the American influenced menu with Quesadillas, bagels with cream cheese and a passionfruit jam, Rueben sandwiches and granola, food that they are totally familiar with! They enjoyed the hot chocolate and was gulped down so fast I didn’t even get to try it! The flat white coffee was so strong and damn good – I enjoyed a cinnamon raisin bagel with cream cheese and jam rather than a slice of pie with that coffee. Next time we go I will try their sweet pies from Blackberry Belle Homemade Pies – as I am a big pastry fan!

Shining in all its glory on a Wednesday night throughout the winter are the Winter night markets at the Queen Victoria Market. Being a food lover this is a foodie paradise! I had seen the Okonomiyaki (the Japanese omelette) on their Instagram but I did not realise it was on chopsticks and ready to eat covered in Kewpie mayo – just divine, I wanted more! The hubby went for smokey baked beans and brisket from Burn City Smokers, who love American BBQ. Missy went for a Sicilian margarita pizza with a base so thin and cooked to perfection. Dessert was a hard call – do we go for the M&M sundae, no thanks M&Ms suck so instead we went for the Creme Brulee and Chocolate Cannoli. Holy moly cannoli so glad I ran out of cash as I could have been eating way more dessert and staying for late night movie shorts and eating popcorn, it was such a fun night out with the kids.

IMG_4696IMG_4703

I had a hole in the calendar and I thought, ‘Maybe I can carve out some Mama time?’ I asked my hubby to hang with the munchkins and managed to score a trip all on my lonesome to the 200 years of Australian Fashion exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria Australia. I am happiest wandering through a gallery solo at my own pace learning and being inspired so it was a wonderful way to spend the morning. On the train, I was listening to Big Magic read by Elizabeth Gilbert – such a perfect way to spend my free time being inspired for when we get back to our other home in California.

In wandering through the 200 years of fashion to a more contemporary time the 1980’s I found the queen of knitwear of that era Jenny Kee and her co-collaborator Linda Jackson. I watched a video of the history of how these twin souls met in Sydney. They enjoyed creating clothes just for fun and with this collaboration their Flamingo Park Frock Salon began. The ladies work with colour reflecting the Australian landscape and to this day they still enjoy colour!

There was a cool soundtrack to the exhibition and the sounds of the 1990’s  were coming through the next room I knew I had to be in there! This room was full of the 1990s clubbing fashion and disco tiles for the dance floor. Again by some strange serendipity, I found an Australian star of upcycling, Jenny Bannister. To think that back there in the early 70’s she was making sun dresses out of curtains. She was such an innovator back in the day using whatever she had on hand to create art. I enjoyed seeing the fusion of art and craft in fashion at this part of the exhibition.

IMG_4729

IMG_4731

For the finale, this piece was commissioned by the designer Dion Lee – a young designer out of Sydney. It was a larger than life dress made out of stretch jersey fabric covered with Swarovski crystals – in the light this was breathtaking. I loved his architectural line detail in his clothes especially on the braided felt detail on the back of the jacket he created for Woolmark.

IMG_4735

I couldn’t leave the gallery without wandering through the collection to see what the gallery has in its collection. One sculpture I remember from long ago is this larger than life Ricky Swallow piece entitled Model for a Sunken Monument.

To enjoy this time out is a true blessing and I am so thankful for the time I get to spend alone and surrounded by art.

 

Ch-Ch-Changes

IMG_4624

Visiting the beautiful City of Melbourne is always a joy with all the memories that come to mind discovering new places to visit with the kids. When I lived in Melbourne over 10 years ago I enjoyed a lot of ‘growing up and finding myself’ time here! Everything from finding my love of art, discovering my calling as a designer, huge nights out partying, broken hearts, love affairs, living alone, living broke week to week as a student, riding and owning a bike, living in share accommodation with strangers, freelancing jobs in many offices in the city and surrounds, enjoying eating and cooking food and finding the love of my life has all been a part of my life patchwork here in Melbourne.

This panorama is up on top of a hill at the Royal Park Nature Play Playground in Parkville just behind a place where I used to take my little blue bike and ride the oval round and round to get some exercise in the city away from the traffic and up behind the native trees. Everywhere I go I am telling the kids this is where I rode my bike or that is where I lived. There were many good times back in the day in this amazing city!

IMG_4619

Looking down into the city from the top of the hill and how the landscape has changed dramatically with lots of high rise apartment blocks. I don’t think living in an apartment block will be that appealing to a modern family these days. A lot of the 1 BR and 1 Bath apartments sit empty with a price tag of $450,000 plus attracting many an overseas investor looking to plant some cash somewhere.

IMG_4579

Still the architecture of some of the buildings are a sight to behold with so many details. The building on the right is a building belonging to the RMIT Design Hub with an outer skin of disks of glass on the exterior of the building. This fascinating except is from the Sean Godsell architect website: In particular the outer skin of the Hub incorporates automated sunshading that includes photovoltaic cells, evaporative cooling and fresh air intakes that improve the internal air quality and reduce running costs. The cells have been designed so that they can be easily replaced as research into solar energy results in improved technology and part of the northern façade is actually dedicated to ongoing research into solar cells to be conducted jointly by industry and RMIT. The entire building façade, in other words, has the capacity to be upgraded as solar technology evolves and may one day generate enough electricity to run the whole building.

IMG_4573

Down the road from our place we found a wall of cats belonging to Cat Boarding Melbourne and who can resist a lucky cat and Missy wearing her fave cat dress.

Finally I had my first sit down coffee in a Melbourne coffee shop at Heartattack and Vine in Lygon Street, Carlton. We made a visit to my friend at Readings to get some book recommendations of local authors and kids chapter books. Mr Ash now loves any book by David Walliams and is trying to collect as many books as he can before we leave Australia. Each of the books he read in one day and so far he has collected Gangsta Granny and Awful Auntie . He compares the writing of David Walliams to another of one of his fave authors Roald Dahl.

IMG_4582IMG_4605IMG_4606IMG_4612

As the day seemed too good to go back home and stay indoors we ventured out to the Royal Park Nature Play Playground in Parkville as I had heard from my sister in law that it was named the nation’s best playground by landscape architects. The design of the play structures are fantastic in their design, as you see chunky tightropes with rope to hang on up above the top of a crows nest which leads to a gigantic spider web. The kids really enjoyed navigating the space up high. Even I enjoyed climbing over the huge log sculpture and climbing in the nets – great exercise in balance and body strength. Lucky my yoga planks and chaturanga help me lift myself up onto the logs, it’s a great workout!

The kids enjoyed watching the videos of  themselves jump off the structure – you can see how much fun they had at this playground. As we left there were screams of can we go back with Daddy soon?!

Everybody walk the dinosaur

IMG_4476 (1)

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.

IMG_4489 (1)

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!

IMG_4524

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.

IMG_4527

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!

IMG_4542

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!

IMG_4551

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!