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…

The Love Cats

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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…

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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.

 

A piece a week – A craft organizer made from Jeans & Spring break fun/food plus artwork for the school play, yay!

We had no plans on Spring Break except to hang around and catch up with friends. It was excellent to just run errands and chill out for the rest of the day. Currently I am in Spring cleaning mode 😀 Which is a good thing! I have been reading about clearing clutter and throwing away your stuff but it is just not very motivating to go through absolutely everything… So I chose a few spaces that I enjoy being in and want to keep them tidy and free from clutter – well let me tell you, with kiddos that is a hard task to keep spaces in shape!! 
My craft room needed a major clean out so I got to that room (after the kids room) and decided that my projects needed to be near my machines and in easy access or they may get fur all over them by the kitties, as anything is a target for my two cats – one sheds more than the other. Any fabric that is wool is like a magnet for fur – there’s a scarf in one on the pockets of this organizer that I need to complete that has the furry treatment all over it, even the cats create work for me!!  
So to make this lovely organizer I used a pair of my husbands old jeans and cut off a leg and folded the top down and added FabMo fabric samples under the back pocket! Next time I am looking for my next project – there they are waiting in the queue on the wall…
The organizer made from an old pair of jeans and some FabMo samples
The week went by really fast and we enjoyed some sleeping in and going down the park, going to the library, catching up with friends and eating out (this is a treat for us!) I even took the kids on a car service trip to Subaru, San Jose and we went to Santana Row for a bit of shopping – everything is high end there except places for fast fashion like H&M (excellent for the kiddos clothes and shoes) and this cute little Japanese store the kids really enjoyed with me! Of course I love Anthropologie to check out the fabrics and dresses. It was a fun day out and we went to my new fave vegetarian place Veggie Grill. This is the Tres ‘fish’ tacos – yes fake fish but yummy nonetheless and perfect for lunch with the kids. Their kids menu was yum too with veggie burgers and mac and cheese with nutritional yeast for extra flavour.
Tres ‘fish” tacos and jalapeno green salad 
And another lovely feast we had at Yam Leaf Bistro in Mountain View – this is an $8 lunch and everything here is vegetarian too which I love! Oh and their Pupusas and horchata are delicious and filling, ever since I tried them at El Calderon (their previous entity) I still love them except the horchata is not served in a hollowed out gourd anymore 😦
The Salvadorian Style Tostada

Park play was a lot of fun in the afternoons and we visited a friend in Sunnyvale at their local park Las Palmas. This park has always been a favorite of mine and now it has been renovated the kids love it. There is this huge volcano climbing structure and slide and statues from Easter Island that are in the pond. As you can see the kids enjoyed being in the pond with their scooters. Though due to water restrictions at the moment there is no pond – this is a collection of rain water from the small downfall overnight.

Scooting through the water!

Friday I had my first wheel throwing class through the city of Sunnyvale – it was so exciting to be in a pottery studio with 3 huge kilns and lots of pottery wheels overlooking a lake with fake swans. My teacher walked me through the space and told me where everything was and the processes. Man it is going to be a huge learning curve for me but I am loving it, the challenge of it all is so stimulating and I cannot wait to go back this Friday. The kiddos were at gymnastics camp for the day and they had a great time too! Afterwards we went down to the park and the kids made art with chalk, flowers and leaves.

Missy creating her masterpiece

I volunteered for doing the art for the school play as Missy is in it this year, every parent has to help behind the scenes. As my life before kids was a graphic designer this should be a super fun gig! My brief for the school play was Alice in Wonderland meets Steampunk so I had to design graphics for the program and the tee shirt – I love playing in Illustrator and here are the finished pieces. And I got the OK from our Director today – yay!!

A piece a Week – A stingray gift for a baby and a weekend away to Aptos

For my birthday I booked an Air BnB getaway by the beach which was so relaxing. The times have been so busy these past few weeks that a weekend away by the beach was the best thing to do. The fun thing was that it was the same weekend as Easter so the easter bunny came to visit the lovely garden right by the house. On the way back home we stopped by at Capitola – we have lived here for 8 years and this was the first time we visited Capitola by the sea. I was entranced by the Venetian Hotel pictures I had seen on the internet – so I was on a mission to find them! 
On the Sunday we were at Capitola it was a rainy and overcast perfect for photos and Capitola is an excellent place to take pictures, it still has a lot of old signage and the Venetian Hotel is so colourful. The evening before was my birthday and we went out to dinner to a vegetarian restaurant with Sri Lankan and Indian flavors! I was so excited to find a vegetarian restaurant with a Sri Lankan spin and could not wait to go – the restaurant was Malabar and the food was divine. I really should not have worn a belt that evening as I ate so much!! There was no alcohol on the menu but they did have a collection of very tasty drinks and a favorite was dates, rose water and almond milk so I will have to try this at home, what a combination. Malabar in downtown Santa Cruz was certainly a highlight of my weekend, a vegetarian restaurant and Sri Lankan goodness all in one 🙂 
For one of our teachers at school I made this stingray (our mascot the Stevenson Stingrays) for her little baby it is a spin on the Bunny Blanket Buddy pattern by Lion Brand Yarn. 
Hello stingray in the sea!

This is an eggplant dosa from Malabar – just like my mum used to make her eggplant curry. As the kids are not fans of eggplant at home so when I get the opportunity to eat it at a restaurant I grab it! This was spicy and in a Sri Lankan style of curry that took me back to my roots.

This dosa and it’s accompaniments – yummo!!
On our way back from our weekend away we stopped at Capitola and here it looks like the kids are wandering alleyways of Europe 🙂 This is the Venetian Hotel right near the beach built by a Venetian Architect in 1924 – super cool and very colorful! 
Look out you are on private property!! 

We took a wander on the pier where you can hire boats and kayaks to go fishing and hang out on the water for the day – I found this though Mr A is not too keen!

Should we go on a boat ride?? 

We had the easter bunny drop his eggs the night before in the garden – that was very foolish as when we woke up in the morning for the egg hunt the eggs had been pilfered by the bandits of the night! The raccoons had a feast of easter eggs and enjoyed the milk chocolate and dissed the dark chocolate eggs!

The hunters in action!

Egg aftermath after the bandits struck 😦

Score from the Easter bunny

“This dark chocolate egg sucks,” says Racoon and his buds!