New chapters = New Beginnings

 

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Back in the bay and the countdown has begun to the start of school for the year – everyone is pretty happy to go back! We have only 4 days to go, and for me, it is 3 as I start a new job as a Teacher Assistant on Friday with Orientation – how exciting as I have not worked full time for about 9 years!

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Since coming back I have enjoyed Granita cocktails with lemon verbena from my neighbours garden and watermelon from my CSA box, absolutely incredible. I made cocktails at a friends house the other night for dinner, and we had mixed melon and mint with lemon and Hangar 1 vodka, just the perfect drink for a tasty Indian meal! Oh I have to mention the inspiration for Granita was from Melbourne from an Italian coffee house called Pellegrini’s where every Friday they made fresh gnocchi and served it with watermelon granita, it was such a treat!

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I have loved being back on my bike and getting around the trails I opted for a 7.5-mile ride down the trail early on a Saturday morning and it was just perfect. Smooth riding, flowers in bloom and many bridges to cross.

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I have been really enjoying the colours in nature and coming back after spending a month in a dramatic winter scape it is beautiful to see everything in bloom and so alive!

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Sometimes I feel like this little guy trapped in its razor wire with one step forward and many steps back with the amount of work I have to get through with University and now planning for a full-time job plus volunteering and taking care of the household. One thing at a time from my list and eventually I get through, and there is more work. Still, it will make the time fly by, before I know it plans will be underway for our house in Oz.

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We had an enjoyable hike with our friends from Oakland on Sunday at the halfway meeting point in Pacifica and found this super cool County Park with many eucalyptus trees. There were so many and it was just like being home in Australia. That could be one of the many reasons how I have managed to be here so long, being amongst native trees and enjoying their energy. This tree was just spectacular as it was gigantic, growing like an oak tree with its massive supportive trunk in the centre.

There was so much fog that morning, and it enlivened the trees formations. We walked up and down for around 5 miles, and it was refreshing for all of us with some lovely views along the way. The trees were my favourite as we wandered through the many different landscapes.

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The kids were very excited to have found some sibling lizards on the hike and caught them for a bit of play – you can just see them on Ash’s finger sitting together. The bonus was the cafe at the bottom of the hill from the park was Beach Monkey Organic Cafe had tasty food for all of us including delicious Acai bowls!

Not long to go until life changes gear and I start a new chapter of my life for the next 6 months, it is something to look forward to and a super opportunity to engage in for my education degree.

A nature lovers paradise

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All I can say is that I am planning another trip back to the wonderful Washington State. Washington is a nature lover’s paradise, from the tiny little fungi to the massive old growth trees. It was such a perfect way for us all to recharge and revive ourselves at the end of the year. I wanted to capture Whidbey Island in all its glory and our memories of this wonderful getaway.

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Getting used to the island we did some exploring down to the most southern end of the island, Possession Beach which was quite small though full of small wonders including a harbour seal washed up on the shore that had been attacked by birds revealing its skeleton and inside – with the kids it was an anatomy lesson right there on the beach. My favourite is photographing the log sculptures washed up on the beach they are so picturesque and make excellent props in photographs.

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A view from our house was this beauty Mt Rainier sitting at 14,410 above sea level so it is visible from all over Seattle. This snow covered beauty revealed herself the morning we were leaving for Deception Pass, and we finally enjoyed a clear morning to see this glorious mountain and have a beautiful sunny/shady day.

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An hour drive up north was Deception Pass State Park where a Discovery pass is $10 for a day and you can see as many as you can fit in. The best deal is the annual pass for $30 that is if you are planning to spend more time wandering in the woods. If you are prepared for hiking here with a raincoat with a hood you are so set! Across the water, from the car park, we saw the Olympic mountains on the horizon. That particular morning the navy jets were doing their flying training over the mountains and in the second image you can see the black speck above the mountain which is a jet plane.

We did lovely 2-mile return hike up to the Deception Pass bridge via lots of trails to calm beach inlets along the way. Once we finally reached the bridge it was suggested that we walk on the windy bridge then I realised I had a slight fear of heights and quickly turned around! :/

On our way back to the house we stopped by Fort Casey and checked out the lighthouse in all its Christmas glory. In the darkness of an early winters evening, we drove across the 525 (the main freeway) to Coupeville to see this super cute historic town with lots of stores set in historic buildings it is definitely worth a visit, just for its quirkiness.

On Christmas Eve we took a drive over to Port Townsend via the ferry to check out what we could of Olympic National Park. The park is gigantic just like any national park and takes days to explore which is part of the magic. I really want to go to the Hoh Rainforest though in the time allocated it was too much driving which is a 2-hour drive from Port Angeles yes from the Twilight fame. I am already planning our next trip to Forks (again from Twilight) so we can check out the rainforest and explore this incredible park. We travelled past Dungeness National Refuge and went for a hike to the spit which is gigantic at 5.5 miles long and getting bigger year by year with a wild beach with huge waves on one side and a birder’s paradise on the other with the calm waters.

We made it to the Olympic National Park visitors centre in Port Angeles and spoke to the staff about what it would take to explore the vastness of this place. Hurricane Ridge required chains this time of year so we took a wander to the forest behind the visitors centre for a tiny peek into the grandness of this National Park.

On the way back before driving onto the ferry we checked out Port Townsend for some pics and then the trip back on the ferry was magical with the sun setting with many colours painting the clouds. I love this blue house we drove by, complete with a dragon wind compass.

Christmas day came and we really were working up an appetite for our shepherd’s pie, wine and chocolate feast. We walked up the beach on a 3-mile walk to as far as we could go and turned around. It was an excellent beach for dogs off their leash and my favourite was a black pug with a neon pink puffer jacket – styling! The kids loved climbing the trees on the beach and enjoyed us daring them to jump from the log and land on the beach, Missy here got some air but landed right in the water on the shore – oops cold feet!

Our last day on the island was a very windy 3 degrees celsius so we decided to have a picnic in the woods. The kids were super keen to go so we grabbed the opportunity and off we went. This morning after my shower I looked out the window and found this buck out in the garden enjoying his breakfast. Today we went to South Whidbey State Park for a wander through a magical old growth forest! The trees were breathtaking and I was in awe of the nature that exists in this small little forest from the tiny fern leaves en masse to the 500-year-old cedar.

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I am hugging an old growth giant, to take a picture in all this shade and green was quite difficult to get the light right and it is hard for the kids to hold my heavy lens so this is the best I could get including the bag as a prop for size comparison 😀

Everything is covered in green moss or ferns it was such an incredible and soul fulfilling experience sharing space with these trees who have been here for so long. The fungi were everywhere especially where trees had been cut or fallen, I read this interesting article about the future of some of the old growth trees in the campground and why the campground is closed.

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We found the 500-year-old Ancient Cedar and I am giving it a blurry virtual hug as you cannot go near the tree so people do not harm it and the roots. The forest was saved in the 1970s by a group of tree huggers (my people) who literally hugged the tree to save it from logging. My boots are now trashed after all the trail walking over mud, sand and rain and these Tevas really did an awesome job keeping my feet warm on all these hikes!

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!

Farewell my Fine Feathered Friends

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Today I say farewell to the first part of our journey down under… We came to Redcliffe my hometown first to see my family and from here we are going up to the Sunshine Coast (a place where I also lived up at Peregian Beach). Then we will be going down south to feel the real winter of Melbourne and traveling over to Adelaide for a weekend getaway to see my husbands family. Whoa I am exhausted just thinking about it but time is flying by – only 11 days and I see my hubby again! Still it is always paced gently and generally centered around food with family and friends, which I like very much.

Thursday we travelled by train – a trip I know all too well when I used to work in the city and did the journey every day. This was when I returned home from a 2 year trip to the United Kingdom and need to save some $. Sometimes you wonder when will this day to day cycle ever end and it sure did with moving down to Melbourne, finding a partner, having a baby, buying a house, getting married and then relocating to the Northern Hemisphere. The finding a partner, baby, house, marriage and relocating happened in a mere 3 years!!

I digress, so back to our day trip to South Bank in Brizvegas and it was a sunny and warm winters day in Queensland. We visited the rainforest walk and the Nepalese Peace Pagoda from World Expo ’88 – such a beautiful piece of craftsmanship created in Nepal over 2 years transported from Nepal and assembled for the Expo. I remember going to the Expo in 1988 and visiting the Pagoda and it is wonderful to see that it is still here. The area of South Bank by the river is a thriving tourist hub and a very beautiful place to visit and I am sure in the summer it would be a lot of fun to go swimming at the man made beach. It looked inviting with life guards there at the ready for those brave enough to jump into the chilly waters.

We had a pub lunch at the Plough Inn that has been in South Brisbane forever – more beer battered chips, so good! The smoked salmon on rye bagel with the chips was a treat but my uncle who took us out for the day enjoyed his roast lamb that the pub serves every Thursday. How I miss pub meals. After lunch we needed a walk and took the kids to the museum to see the dinosaurs and the fantastic collection of taxidermy animals including lots of Australian animals. We finally saw a platypus plus and the kids enjoyed checking out the possums and flying foxes who we have been watching traveling the sky at dusk.

Friday was my last day and we had a farewell lunch at Pipel By the Sea and we ate at the cafe. The food was amazing and Mediterranean is one of my all time favorite cuisines. This platter of dips was divine with roast capsicum, blue cheese, olive and hommus with toasted pita bread. The desert was a lemon sorbet in a lemon skin outer with turkish delight and baklava with caramel and coconut – certainly a wonderful treat. I love eating new foods and I have certainly had a fair share of seafood since coming to Queensland, the shish kebabs I enjoyed with lunch were Lemon Myrtle Calamari and Garlic Prawns – my two favorites from the menu.

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The kids found it hard to sit and eat at the cafe so after they had eaten as much as they could they could go and play with the soldier crabs at the low tide. We could see them from where we were sitting and they had a blast digging out the crabs – it was probably a bit cruel! Then they relocated the crabs to a resort they built out of sand leading out to the waves with a pool for the crabs to swim in?!? That kept them occupied for a long time and with the weather at a lovely 21 degrees C they wanted to dip their toes in, so off went the shoes and in they went. I must say the water did feel a perfect temperature unlike the chilly waters of the Bay Area in SF.

My dad enjoyed taking some pictures of the silhouette of the monkey tree on the sand and the shades of blue in the water. It was such a perfect day. Soon it was time to say goodbye to the soldier crabs and head on back to the house for a cuppa and to FaceTime California.

 

There are a few things I discovered in the first part of this holiday –

The trees planted by the beach are called Norfolk Pines not monkey tail trees!

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Pic taken by Ash

These mechanical sounding birds are cool and called top notches by my uncle. Actually they are crested pigeons!

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My kids can actually smile for a photograph.

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More evidence of kids smiling in a photograph – this is the photo shoot we did with the kids when we went to the shops our first week here.

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I do really enjoy the beach and spending time there, it is in my genes and makes me feel at home.

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I also enjoy watching the sun set in the evenings – I can only can do this on holidays when I am being a slacker and not working in the kitchen making dinner!

NaBloPoMo – Day 10 – A lazy though productive Sunday

Today was spent sleeping in till 8:30am – what a luxury! Followed by a lazy Sunday morning organising the closet and passing on clothes and shoes to Goodwill – such a great feeling to be clearing out and sorting for the new season. I had a bit of work to do for the shows I am doing this week and next so that is progressing along slowly…

So the afternoon came and it was time to get the kids out in the fresh air and get some energy out at the park, we decided to go for a bit of a walk to admire the trees and we found this great dream car for Missy…

Missy and her pink sports car complete with Hello Kitty car seat covers!

I wanted to see the trees before they loose all their leaves and there are a couple of favourites that I like to admire with their leaves in the autumn colours.

This beauty is just outside and its glowing colours in the afternoon 

This autumn tree is much more moody in it’s colour

So what the heck have I been doing?

Here are some pictures of what’s been going on in the crazy month of May! From the kitten to the Maker Faire to Sequoia National Park – there are some of my favourite pictures of the month.

Bella on the fence

Bella our new addition to our family is getting bigger by the day – she is over 6 months old and still as cute as ever. She has lost all of the collars I have given her so far, which are 3 including her safety tag from the cat rescue place 😦 So here she is sporting a new neon pink and purple collar which she still has, yipee! She is such a wanderer that she needs to keep a collar on so people know she has a home.

Please be kind to the forest
Electric Giraffe
Tapigami

The above pictures are my favourites from the Maker Faire… I was volunteering to work at the FabMo booth this year and we did a couple of crafts with the kids and the adults. The craft I was working with was decoupage with tiles to make a collage and the other craft was an owl made out of a fabric sample on card – which was a lot of fun though I stabbed my finger with a staple and my owl was a bit bloody! Still we had a wonderful amount of people visit the booth when we crafting with the tile and people were so happy with what they made too 😀

Ash and I were very excited to see General Sherman
‘What the hell man’ we made it to the waterfall – yay!
Hug a sequoia today
The first time I had ever seen a marmot in my life – so cute!!

My what an amazing place Sequoia National Park is! We camped at the Lodgepole campground that we booked in January and it was just such a beautiful place to be, surrounded by masses of trees and wild animals – we even saw a bear on the road as we were travelling up the mountain to 6700 ft. The highlight was to see so many sequoia trees in the big trees grove where we hiked over 4 miles through the forest from the Giant Forest Museum to the General Sherman Tree. So many massive trees just so big that to capture them on camera is nearly impossible so you need to add people to get a sense of perspective of how giant these trees are. The General Sherman tree is the largest living thing on earth by volume and what a mob of people were there to visit it – I wonder if all the people visiting the tree support conservation efforts and make a difference to the environment, let us hope so! As you can see in the picture we had to take the shot with the ton of people in the background – my son and I were very excited indeed!! We did a family friendly hike the next day from our campground which was around 4 miles return to a waterfall high up in the sky, well it felt like that after we had hiked through the small rocks and under the massive boulders to get there. The reward was a big drink of water and some snacks while checking out the view. The kids did the hike without a problem and it was so easy to just take off from the campground and hike. What I loved best about Sequoia National Park was that you could hop a shuttle to the major stops and take a hike from there and catch the shuttle back to the campground, it makes life so much easier when you don’t have to drive from the campground to hike around the forest. Oh and the wild animals, apart from the bears the deer and the chipmunk, I loved seeing the yellow bellied Marmot – what a joy to see such a furry critter bounding about on the rocks.

Looking down into the valley between Sequoia National Park and Kings Canyon National Park

San Mateo gum trees

Gum trees by the bay

Gum trees and Monterey Pines living by the bay

Last Sunday was a random trip down to Coyote Point in San Mateo for the day. Usually we go there and it is so windy, this time we went and the weather was just perfect! I cannot believe this winter weather with a morning temperature of 5 degrees only to increase to to 17 degrees during the day and in the sunshine that is just beautiful. We hung out at Magic Mountain playground with it’s super size slide – the kids loved it and afterwards we went for a walk along the waterfront watching the planes come in to SFO airport. Perfect for a Sunday morning and wanderings in the sunshine.