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!

Somewhere beyond the sea…

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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.

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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!

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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.

 

Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows

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The next stop in our journey was an hour or so up North to the beautiful Sunshine Coast to hang with my sister and my 5 year old nephew. The day when we arrived the weather was warm and sunny – a perfect Queensland winters day. As it was the perfect day for a drive we headed on up to the lovely town of Maleny in the Sunshine Coast hinterland.

Wandering through to the local town centre we found these lovely blooms on the way to a hot chocolate. The local town had a co-op and a fabric store that I love, called Sapling Textiles with fabrics from India – I was sad that it was closed! Also we found a cool local non-profit with beautifully designed clothes from India called The Industree where I found a lovely hummingbird jumper AKA sweater that matches my tattoo!

On our way to The Shak for a Sunday brunch to meet up with family we found this secret sacred garden called Wunya Park in honour of the Indigenous people of the area. A lady places random crocheted items around the garden for wanderers to find and follow.

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Finally we made our way to The Shak a legendary local, organic cafe for brunch and excellent coffee. The menu was just amazing and I enjoyed the Avo’ Smash, just delish!  Check out the iced chai with their coconut mylk made in house, just perfect!

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These amazing Moreton Bay fig trees are just a walk down from The Shak on King Street in Buderim and are perfect photo subjects.

Some more of these beautiful trees in colour. They are the best trees for climbing.

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We enjoyed some winter beach time and hanging out with my friend from Portland while we serendipitously met at the Sunshine Coast for our Stateside summer vacations!