It has been only 4 days since we flew into Melbourne and separated our little Peach family as my hubby is taking care of business back in Cali so he can join us in April 2019. He will visit us in February and enjoy the time when the kids start their new schools and we will be in our rental house for the next 12 months. My mission for the first couple of weeks this year is to find a place to live that is close to the schools and the shops.
Bye bye baby girl Bella, this sweet kitty is enjoying all my woollen pieces while I was getting myself organised to head on back to Australia – she will join us in April 2019 when she is free to come here after all her rabies meds have taken effect and she has followed the whole procedure to get back to Australia. She will spend 10 days in quarantine and she will be back home with us, I have tried to FaceTime her but she is a bit confused 😦
So many goodbyes to San Francisco even to our lovely little (chicken) ladies protesting for Goji Berries. We had a relaxing 15-hour flight from SFO with Qantas with the sweetest crew as a wonderful intro to our time home.
After a couple of days of feeling out of it we finally got round to New Years Eve with our family and enjoyed a delicious feast of smoked salmon, prawns, salads and pavlova for dessert. We are loving all the animals here with the dogs, cats and the chickens. It is so good to be back and feel grounded back home with my sister in law.
For new years day we all hiked at Mount Macedon and just to be in the bush and smell the trees and air made me feel so good. I realised I was home in nature and am looking forward to so much more exploring this beautiful country. Funny we had not experienced it before as our life was about hanging in the city, drinking at bars and going to the movies. Now with kids life is so different and we are ready for adventures and to replicate the camping and exploring we have experienced in California.
These beauties live on the farm where my sister in laws horses live. I see the unicorn horse, the beautiful pony and the cool horse with the fly mask. We are all looking forward to 2019 with so much excitement in our new lives back in Australia.
The countdown is upon us and each day is flying by so quickly. I am in such an emotional rollercoaster at the moment as I am so happy to be going back to Melbourne but very sad to be leaving so many cool peeps. But the good thing is I will be home! There are going to be some huge hurdles, especially with everything plus study. My major problem at the moment is finding a rental property in Melbourne where we are remodelling so its easy for the kids to get to school. I am manifesting a lovely place close to the schools where we can walk to easily and has great access to the shops as I will not be getting a car as yet. Having to start all over again is not a very exciting prospect but it is going to be another adventure in the kids’ lives and for me, I will be so happy to be back in Australia. California has been a fun place to live but I am so ready to be with my family again. There are friends here who feel like family which is wonderful. I have really missed being with my family and sharing special times over the last 12 years, it is going to be so good to reconnect again.
At the end of last week, my friends organised a farewell party with some incredible food and an 80s dance party complete with my friend DJ/VJ Nik. We had such a fun time together dancing to many 1980s songs, dressed in our 80s outfits, after we had filled our bellies with some delicious Indian food – I mean look at that amazing table of delicacies!! We have known each other since the kids were preschoolers so it was such a special way to say farewell and I am sure our crew of travellers will come and visit down under one day. I am so grateful for having such thoughtful and special friends. As part Sri Lankan I am an honorary member of the crew – we have always enjoyed going out for birthday dinners and have shared many a delicious cocktail together. I will miss each and everyone!
My house is looking very bare with all the pictures taken down and now I am ready to pack my bags. The fridge is white again after I took all my magnets off and the furniture is being slowly given away on NextDoor. The study with all my craft/study/books in it is being slowly whittled away as it has been so hard to give away fabric and all my craft stuff but I think, “would I make something out of this in the next 2 years?” So the usual answer is, “Maybe not!”
Managing time will be interesting next year especially the beginning of the year with the two kids, me and study. Looking for a rental will be high on the agenda and once that is done I can hopefully fit in time to write my essay due on the 14th January (I have to get my head into being in the same time zone!). I am going to take a bit of a break this weekend and go visit friends in Portland!! My whole being has been swept away into organising, giving away, moving stuff on, cleaning out and finally going to Hope Services to donate boxes of our stuff. I still have the plants to give away but I can leave some jobs for my hubby – I need to concentrate on organising the bits that I want to take with us and hopefully it will fit in the house. But the plan is to make the study into a room so movers can come in and put it into boxes. Then they will send it away on the $6K container to travel to Melbourne. The cat now has her import permit but has about 7 more steps to follow with the Australian Government rules on bringing her back to the country, my hubby’s job. I think once I have gone through this sweep of cleaning the study this will be it. After Portland, it will be serious business of getting stuff into my cases to take with me to live out of for the next 5 months or so which means there definitely needs to be a coat in there with Melbourne’s weather. Currently, it is summer and pouring with rain.
Oh, and it is Christmas too very soon but that is something that the family has to forgive me for as this whole move is taking up most of my thoughts and energy. So I do not think Santa will be bringing stuff into this house this year – our gifts are the experience of flying away direct for 15 hours direct to our home city. Friends have told me that I am brave to be doing this but even though I have called California home for the last 12 years, your home will always be where your heart is. And my heart is back in Australia.
The excitement of remodelling our house is happening in 2019 as well but I will think about the first step of getting back first, settling down and then school for the kids. After all that, the build will start and I absolutely love the design of the house it will be amazing to actually have a comfortable house to live in. Where we are now there is no insulation so we wear coats in the house in the winter and its like having air con inside in the summer. I have really enjoyed this house, but to live in a house that the whole family has their own space with a place we can entertain with the open plan living we always dreamed of will be a reality is very exciting. I am also imagining the chickens in the garden and the cats (the kids and I hope to adopt more cats!) around the place and having a BBQ (I never BBQ as I am a vegetarian!) with some wine and friends, just like here. It will be good to be back again, who knows what else the future will hold? I feel I will be truly happy again.
Sunday we finally had a day out! Even though I still have not handed in my 3850-word report which is due this week, I felt good as I had edited the day before. So I got to go out to Ardenwood in Fremont and meet our friends for a catch up in the pumpkin patch and of course, ride the train and see the animals. I remember going ages ago when the kids were babies, now they just like to run around and chase the cool looking rooster away from his harem of ladies. It was quite random to land there and say oh the pumpkins are ready for Halloween and it is 30 days away!! In the wheelbarrow, the kids collected the pumpkins – that big mother pumpkin went to our friends and I just wanted a fairly small pumpkin to look festive around the place.
The kids were very excited to check out the pumpkins as I said to my hubby, “Who buys their pumpkin this early in October?” Well, it turns out we do, at least that errand is out of the way for this year! Our friends were laughing at the memories we have at pumpkin patches over the years – in Pescadero one year we went to a farm and saw gorillas pooping pumpkins 😀
As we met our friends on Sunday we did a bit of Fall shopping for Halloween decorations. I really like Halloween though I am not a fan of the crappy candy the kids get, we send it away with the Girl Scouts somewhere or overseas to my family to taste what bad candy is like. We found this Indian corn for sale to decorate around the place and the colours are just amazing – you can make beautiful necklaces with the kernels and they are so pretty.
Our lovely pumpkin from the farm bought on the 1st day of October – no we really are not that organised otherwise the costumes would be with us too! The kids are still deciding on that?
Back to work and reality, the observational drawings from our class of the cacti – the colours look amazing in real life. I really need to get out some watercolour and have a play when I am free again in the next couple of weeks only a couple of more days and my report will be handed in – yippee!
This week we were doing 3 digit addition and a new game was bought in the classroom to play – this is Addition Spinners, where you spin to find two numbers and add them together to find the answer on the sheet and the first player to line up 4 numbers is the winner.
Variety of resources for fun Storytelling, Math, Science and Literacy (collected from my co-teacher):
Mystery Math Town provides a math challenge at various levels for children comfortable with math symbols and operations.
EPIC! – A fun reading app (used in class) – listen to stories, read a variety of books
Today as I wanted the kids to have a bit of a stretch we ended up having a bit of fun with GoNoodle.
It was a hectic week and I am happy that I am nearly done with my report – this time my reward for this teaching period is to watch Twin Peaks new series so I am really excited about that as it came out when we were in Australia over the summer.
Our final week in Melbourne was a week of how much more delicious Melbourne food can we eat?
Melbourne is a foodie city which is why I love it so much, it speaks my language – the language of food in many cuisines. Melbourne is an absolute delight to visit, and there are always many superb restaurants to discover! My sister told me about a place called Lankan Tucker in Brunswick – as one of my last lunches with my foodie friend Cath we went for a feed of pan rolls and stuffed roti, it was absolutely delightful. The day before we had visited my uncles take away Sri Lankan shop and had a pan roll and brought home many treats we had with dinner – the kids wanted more by the time we left, which is always good. Sri Lankan food is always an excellent find – these treats of pan rolls and stuffed roti are quite time-consuming, so it is a real score to find them. At Lankan Tucker, the toilet was the best with some sayings we used to hear all the time from our parents, these sayings were described as “Lankanisms”, an absolute classic! Indeed, we would love to go back for more next time we go to Melbourne, and we will be visiting Uncle Glens take away for an order of pan rolls from Curry and Chips.
We always find well-made coffee in Melbourne that is just amazing but the kids even score with a beautiful hot chocolate as well – to me it is all about the ritual of coffee and tea, enjoying time over a cuppa. None of this takeout and go business, no thank you!
On Sunday we celebrated our 11th wedding anniversary – it was a hot day, so off we went to downtown Mountain View for dinner of a $12 salad from sweetgreen – I really like their ethos towards food sustainability and their support of local food and agriculture. I felt like a salad and scored a salad a mighty big one at that, it was chilli hot which added to the salad and our first time there. It was OK, but I think it may have been better with pickles, everything is better with pickles. As steel was the element for our 11th anniversary, I said to my hubby hey we were in a steel aeroplane for a very long time I think that makes a great anniversary gift – a trip home to Australia! Even though I have been living here for nearly 11 years, Australia is where I feel I belong.
So I was very excited to come back and see the ladies at the ranch – I love the chickens, and the Bantams have grown so much, time for some selfies with the chicks!!
On Monday it was hug a chicken day, in our neck of the woods! I don’t think they were that excited to see us but we bought them some treats, so in the end, they were happy. The kids really spent so much time with them and gave them lots of hugs and attention. Now it is back to reality, and I actually start a full-time job in August as a Teacher Assistant, life is going to start to get real busy!!
Finally, the weather has been consistent for the last few days and the weekend was just amazing! These roses are in a garden in the Los Altos Hills where the kids go swimming – the colours are breathtaking.
It is the best time of year to go bike riding as the wildlife and the flowers after the rain are super and there is also a super bloom that you can see from space. Now that the flowers are settled so is my allergies, so it was the perfect day to go riding on Sunday on the path where there were hardly any people and enjoy the peace of the bay. Check out that trail – there is no one there! This is off the main trail heading out to the Bay, but I allowed myself a short ride so I could get back home to clean out the garden and do some sewing and study.
Friday we picked up some Bantam chicks that have just hatched from an egg project from a homeschool family. The eggs were from a very special place in Sonoma where rare breeds of chickens are raised in an organic environment – they are closed to the public due to their breeding programs and having to keep the farm safe from any biohazards. Their collection of chicks and images on their site is so inspiring and make me want to move to the country to a yurt and raise chickens – it is always nice to dream! Still, we are fostering these chicks for the 4H poultry project where the kids will take care of them at home until they are ready to go into the coop with the other 2 bantam chicks. This time we are raising quite a few bantams, and it will be so exciting to watch them grow, they are quite small chickens but oh so cute! I love how the kids are so mesmerised by the chicks and how gentle they are taking care of them every day, 4H really is an incredible program for kids. The chicks sleep a lot of the time flat out on their bellies with their heads in front of them – I had no idea how chicks slept, and they are just gorgeous to watch and such a distraction.
Bella has been sad for the last month or so and has been hanging out with us more as she is really missing her brother Mack – they were the best of friends. She is such a loving cat when she wants to be and is sleeping on our bed a lot at night which we love! I am still missing my best cat friend though as each day passes, I think of all the good times we had together.
Experiences are what life is about for us as a family and finding places to stay where we can relax and unwind from the daily grind is something we aspire to. To celebrate another April birthday, I wanted the experience of staying in a geodome for the weekend. We found this beautiful geodome out in the Santa Cruz mountains complete with banana slugs and a rushing creek right by – this all appealed to our back to the earth lifestyle, so I booked it pretty much after we had spent a weekend in the caravan in the redwoods the month before.
This space was incredible and so peaceful to sleep in – the owners of this geodome found it on Craigslist. They purchased it from a family who were living in it in Watsonville, who had they had their 2nd baby in the dome 😀 Previously the geodome was living in a commune in Sonoma, what a life and experience this space has had!
The kids really enjoyed jumping around in the creek – note to self, take the water shoes for everyone whenever there is water as no doubt they will get their shoes wet! And looking underneath the redwoods, we found a few banana slugs.
The geodome had a guidebook on what to check out in the area, and we decided we wanted to go for a hike taken care of by the Land Trust of Santa Cruz – called Byrne-Milliron Forest. This hike was highly recommended in the guidebook and only 30 minutes away down the hill near a town called Corralitos.
It was a hard ask for one of our little hikers who does not like going uphill but when you go uphill there is always nice views to be had. We found a plaque at the AJ’s Point of View dedicated to a steward of the forest, who had looked after this forest for 27 years – such dedication and I truly understand what he meant by magical. The hike was just over 3 miles to a white redwood tree – it was uphill for a while, and then we found the view!
When we reached a place on the map called AJs Point of View it was filled with art created by locals artists using nature and a mailbox full of books and journals (where you could write an entry) donated by Jeff Helmer, the forest caretaker. The added bonus was water where you really needed a refill after the uphill in the sunshine on a warm spring day.
We got in touch with our wild side when travelling from the AJs Point of View as the trail narrowed and crossed a creek. We had to use a rope to jump across to the foot trail surrounded by wildflowers and sorrel, this is where the magic happens.
In the sunlight, these little blue flowers were lit up like little fireflies in amongst the green. To walk on this narrow trail led to the white redwood where the trail ended. The trail went up and down, and at points, it was steep and hard on the knees and legs!
And eventually, we took the trail up from where the kids were done up to the white redwood to this chair that read ‘For the Glory Not the Gold’. This is what being in nature is about to me feeling it within and in communion with the natural embrace of the green of the trees.
Here are some of the trees of this 2nd growth redwood forest, there were many trees like the 600-year-old white redwood that were taken from here, but over time their little tree family had grown around them. Ash is sitting there by a burnt redwood not wanting to go any further – a lot of these trees we had missed going on the track to the white redwood as we had to watch where our feet when we were walking.
What an incredible discovery weekend for all of us all the while mourning the loss of our beloved cat Mack. We had a fire for him by the geodome and enjoyed some peace contemplating the good times we had together.
The geodome had a journal for all the guests to share their thoughts and illustrations of their time. The kids shared the two at the top, and the illustration below was my favourite by a very talented artist.
Even where we parked the car was a geodome for the kids to play on – Ash with his new friend the bird we found at a church charity sale where everything was free!
On Sunday we went to Sunset State Beach for a bit of beach time – living by the beach most of my life I feel very much at home when we visit, and it was so good to walk in the ice cold water checking out the sand dollars.
We honoured our furry friend at the beach by saying goodbye in the waves and remembering our love for him.
It is with so much gratitude that I enjoyed this weekend and am celebrating my birthday writing this today for all the wonderful experiences we have together as a family. Soon we will be homeward bound in Australia where we can start some new adventures. My love is with you for all eternity and beyond, Namaste x
My little buddy I will miss you so much you were my light, my love and my rainbow and you will forever be in my heart. We have been through so much together, and you have listened to so many of my stories and shared my thoughts through your cat telekinesis. I feel that sometimes you knew what to do whenever I was sad or lonely. You made me feel so happy with your purrs and your love. I will never forget you. We saved you from a big fat cat called Sumo who was bullying you at a share house in Melbourne’s northern suburbs. Then you came to live with us and join Scrap who was the tuxedo friend of yours who after a while you two became best friends (until Scrap passed at a lovely age of 17 years old). I still remember the conversations at Bimbos in Fitzroy with my friend over pizza when he was telling me about you and how exciting it was to adopt you and bring you into our family over 12 years ago. How we came about to call you Mack – a Macintosh was one of my favourite things being a graphic designer, so it was pretty cheesy that name came about (though some will argue another story). We enjoyed our time in Flemo where I bought you a neon pink collar, even though you were a boy and I even bought a cat harness in the hope we could go strolling under the plane trees together. Alas, that plan was foiled as you were an independent kitty and wanted to climb trees and sleep in the rosemary. When I was pregnant with Ash and came home from work and lay down through sheer exhaustion, you were there with me hanging out and purring on the bed. Then came Ash and both you and Scrap were a bit disturbed about this small human in the house and soon you realised they were no threat and accepted him into your cat tribe. The kid who was pulling your tail still you lay there until you could stand it no longer and soon both you and Ash understood how to be friends. Not long, we moved you and Scrap to our next home where you were settled for just a short period of time before we whisked both of you over to California to live a cat’s dream in the sunshine and redwoods. I imagine the groomed grass felt amazing under your paws and the sunshine on the balcony was divine. Soon another little human came into being, and Missy became the cat girl who growing up with you has become a true lover of everything cat. She just used to hang out with you and pat you and you knew after the first time with a tiny human that it was time to hide if things got a bit rough. After living in an apartment complex with way too many dogs it was time, we moved again to our current house with a nice big fence to sit upon and watch the squirrels and birds from up high in your own little garden. The garden was a blessing with its plants to hide in and the afternoon sun where you enjoyed your days. Soon another kitty came to rock your world – a kitten called Bella, she was found abandoned and we adopted her after Christmas and she became your BFF. The way you two lay together grooming each other, she really loved you as her cat brother. I really enjoyed the time when you just lay upon my desk and I studied with you sleeping next to me, and I could pat you whenever I wanted and talk to you, and you would understand – even reading out my essays to you and you sharing your fleas with me. Even when I was sewing you were near my machine catching the fabric on the other side. Your presence is missing in my life, my feline friend. I came out to see you in the garden the other day and you did not respond when I called your name – not even an ear wiggle, then I felt your cat body, and it was so cold. Your body all but an empty shell but your cat spirit will live in our hearts forever. We love everything you gave us as a pet and a best friend and thank you for your beautiful, friendly cat soul and all the love you shared with us – we love you! Now I know what it means to say, Mack forever xo
After a couple of weeks of preparing for a couple of exams and finally completing them, it was time for a bit of rest and relaxation. Timing was perfect as California State Parks Foundation invited us (as Legacy donors) to a morning with the elephant seals on Saturday, so we booked an RV in the redwoods with Air BnB in Bonny Doon which was 30 minutes away from Ano Nuevo State Park where we went on our elephant seal tour.
We managed to find some delicious pie fro Pie Ranch – a place I have wanted to check out for ages and whose philosophy towards food is totally aligned with mine. And of course we had to buy some pie – we scored the lemon and the honey oat which were both super tasty with a cup of tea. We enjoyed the time in the RV catching up on knitting, reading, playing Nintendo, listening to audio books and generally relaxing under the redwoods.
Saturday morning we had our early morning hike to Ano Nuevo State Park to check out the elephant seals. We had a funny and knowledgeable docent Ben who gave us the full history and life cycle of elephant seals and how their numbers went from near extinction to what they are now close to 2,000 seals just on this stretch of this State Park!
I had my 28-105mm lens to capture these guys – we got so close to them, and I managed to get some incredible shots. Of course, a telephoto would have been the best as I had lens envy every time I saw one sitting atop a tripod. But still, our docent said we did not really need it, as there were so many and they were so close to people. I was so happy to get some beautiful shots of these vulnerable creatures. There are many ways they are vulnerable ad they risk getting eaten by white sharks on their migratory route, the males have to prove their dominance amongst the harem of lady seals, the females develop a baby every year by mating with many males, the weaners are left on the beach to practice swimming and then they too will migrate miles and miles through treacherous shark infested waters to eat deep-sea fish and squid and hopefully come back to the same beach, the saddest seals are the non-dominant males; they will just starve themselves to a certain point on the beach until they feel it’s time to go and eat and then come back for another mating season – the life of an elephant seal, who knew…
On top of all the fun of seeing the elephant seals and the area being a wildlife refuge we saw so many birds and among them the great pelicans in their flying formation. The views over the dunes and around the sand were just breathtaking, and we were very lucky to score some sunshine on our walk with the seals.
California State Parks Foundation had set up a luncheon for us back at the barn, and we had the option of going back via the beautiful beach but to stay back 25 feet away from the elephant seals. We found one, and he looked like a rock on the beach. The beach was just so beautiful with its many rock collections and colours. The bonus was getting back to the barn was crossing New Years Creek without getting wet feet! Even though the water did not look very deep – you had to navigate your way around without getting too wet which added to the excitement.
We finished our hike just after lunch, so we had a whole afternoon to chill out, so we wandered over to Pescadero Marsh to see if we could find any birds. The kids were a bit excited and scared them off, so we decided it was a good place just to chill out on the grass and watch the clouds in the sunny afternoon sky.
The evening after our trip out to Ano Nuevo and Pescadero ended with some rain, so we relaxed in the RV enjoying the sounds of the rain through the redwoods and on the roof. Such a perfect family getaway amongst nature.
Last week was Ski Week a week off school just for fun – for everyone in the Bay Area, this is your chance to go skiing with everyone else in the Bay Area, whoo hoo! Unfortunately, it was not so exciting for us last week as I had to study for a literacy and a math exam and both the kiddos were sick, boo! So towards the end of the week, the kids had gifted me their germs, and I was down, and so were my study plans!!
Most of the week it was raining so we started the week off with the Lego Batman movie which was a lot of fun, though not as good as the Lego movie. Tuesday we saw A Dog’s Purpose which was beautiful and made me cry throughout the whole film even though I knew what was going to happen! Any film with animals being harmed or dying is difficult for me, and I knew it was going to be a hard film to watch as the trailer made me cry. And as I was feeling pretty crappy by the end of the week I went to see La La Land instead of going to yoga class Saturday morning. I really enjoyed it as it resonates with you afterwards. I enjoyed the spectacular cinematography, music and dance routines, so much of it to love and the costume design of Emma Stone’s wardrobe was stunning and so yellow – my favourite colour.
So with such a lazy week of attempted study and sickness and movies, we really wanted to go outside in the sunshine on Sunday. I had a long-standing date with our friends from Oakland, and we had planned a rainy day activity to the Exploratorium, but we were not too keen to spend $100 plus for a day out. Lucky for us it was a sunny Sunday, and we were busily texting and calling Sunday morning to reschedule our plans to an outside activity. As some of the roads had been closed off due to the storms our first choice, Sunol was not accessible, and in the end, we stuck with some East Bay Parks to find a central location for both of us to drive to. We really enjoyed the hike around Lake Chabot Regional Park as it was an easy drive for us and there are many rolling green hills to wander around chatting and catching up on what has been going on in our lives.
The kids even gained some energy being outside in the sunshine and enjoying the time with their long time friend from the East Bay, they were powered by jelly beans.
Lots of Turkey Vultures were to be found flying around the lake and look at those green hills.
We ended up doing a 3-mile hike – not a big hike for us, but we really enjoyed being outside in the sun and soaking up some Vitamin D.
We wandered through lots of oak woodland as we hopped off the main trail to go up into the hills above the main trail. The guys led us on some random trail for a bit of excitement, but hey it actually did lead us back to the main trail! I loved the shape of the big old oak trees up on the hills with lots of amazing green grass with thanks to the rain. The rain also filled up the lake above some of the banks to see the jetty and the seats nearby underwater. Lots of fishing opportunities to be had here with some quiet little fishing piers to check out along the way.
Thank goodness for blue skies and sunny Sundays, I loved the day out and felt so much better. As you can see the kids still enjoyed a workout after our little hike at the exercise area by the lake. This is a super special place to hang out for the day, and I am so happy that we were out and about with our friends enjoying the sunshine!