A mama getaway to Sydney

Last week I took the chance to have some Mama time off as Uni was out for a break and I had some time in between the kids going on holiday! My hubby wanted me to go for a break, as I was alone with the kids as we were settling back into Australia last year. I have to say it has been a full on 6 months with relocating home, moving house and constantly clearing out our belongings. We had the last of it – 8 boxes, taken away by the Brotherhood of St Laurence last Tuesday. I hope it goes to help some families in need.

Well back to my mini Mama vacay away to Sydney. I have not been to Sydney for about 15 years – I reckon the last time I was there I was with my boyfriend (now hubby) hanging out with his friend in Surry Hills. This time I was travelling solo in Surry Hills at this super cool pad for a couple with the most amazing shower! The neighbourhood felt super safe as it is right next to Oxford Street the home of the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade, being a “gaybourhood” as a solo traveller it was a good place to be. The supermarket was full of hot gay men shopping and as I bought my breakfast goodies I enjoyed the dance music playing in the background.

My first stop when I landed was the train and it took 18 minutes to get from the airport to Central station where I had to drop off my bag using the most excellent porter service at $8 a day – Bag Bnb you can instal the app on your phone and book your bag at an “Angel” which is usually a local hotel (the one I used had a 24 hour reception) and it was so easy.

After saying farewell to my bag for a few hours I grabbed my camera and had a tasty Bahn mi (kick arse Vietnamese in Sydney!!)for lunch and took the train to Circular Quay to go on a tour of the Sydney Opera House. From the many times I have come back to Australia in the last 12 years I would see the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House from the sky and know these great icons of Australia but I have never enjoyed them in real life. So my plan was to experience the Opera House inside and out as my thoughts were, “How could I afford a show there?” But as it turns out the Opera house has many theatres and shows and they run them simultaneously. Therefore, the price point of tickets depends on the show and the theatre it is playing in, for example, there is a theatre with 300 seats which was playing Thrones – a comedy parody about the Game of Thrones. While I was there, I wanted to go and see Bangarra Dance Theatre and their tickets started at $80 for a 2 hour show – unfortunately I ran out of time and could not make it! I have not seen any of their shows for a while, so I think that will have to go on my Things to Do list now that I am home.

There were so many interesting facts that I learnt about the Sydney Opera House expertly explained by our tour guide Alexander who was excellent and oh so funny! At the opera house, I loved the tile roof – a triple glazed tile so that the roof cleans itself when it rains, and the glass that captures the many reflections including the Harbour Bridge when you look up! The interior is spectacular with wood, concrete and steel – where kids who have visited said it looks like whale baleen.

After my tour I took advantage of the sunshine and blue sky and hopped aboard the Fast Ferry to Manly, its $10 each way but if you get your Opal card for the Sydney transit network it is all good to go! And boy it was worth it just to see the icons of Australia in the perfect shot! Arriving at Manly there’s plenty of places to eat and enjoy including ice cream – yummo! But as I had eaten I took a walk through the streets of the town up to little place on the top of the point called Peace Park, it was somewhere I needed to be that day and enjoyed the lookout onto the horizon and the deep blue sea. As I was walking, I was loving the plants and gardens as my favourite tropicals are on show here in New South Wales with the hibiscus, the umbrella plant, the bird of paradise and so many other beauties that reminded me of growing up in Queensland.

The reason I chose Sydney as my destination was the Akira Isogawa exhibition that is on the Powerhouse Museum until 30 June. Many moons ago as I was leaving Melbourne for San Francisco and that was the last exhibit I saw of Akira’s clothes at RMIT in the city, I have been a long standing fan of his work. The museum had a volunteer to take me around the exhibition and explain to me the collaborations and techniques in his work. I was the only one on the tour and really enjoyed the dialogue and the back story about this exhibition. I have come back inspired to get into some sewing and maybe try my hand at a bit of shibori sewing knots, like the black and red tunic above. My take away from the show is that his focus is on the pattern and design not about the finishing of the neckline. This has always bothered me when designing, and I have learnt it is good to keep it simple when your focus is on pattern and interesting design techniques.

After the exhibition my friend had told me about the Craft and Quilt Fair at the Exhibition Centre spread over two halls. I got to see Boro kimono which is in the first picture from Tohoku “snow country” in the Aomori Prefecture, was synonymous to most Japanese with dire poverty. The villagers created the textile aesthetic out of boro, mere “rags” making their clothes and lining them with woven hemp to create warmth they layered the scratchy hemp together by stitching found textiles layer upon layer – info from Amuse Museum, Japan.

From there – the fave craft of the show were Shibori stitching kits. These kits have the pattern drawn onto beautiful Japanese cotton or linen. Using this template you then choose fabric to incorporate into the design and use floss, perle cotton or whatever threads you are used to to outline the pattern. I have minimal time so I grabbed a business card for these little projects and ran past all the fabric displays (I already have a stash in my garage) and was on a mission to find stockists of my fave yarn Malabrigo! Lucky for me I found Hedgehog Fibres, after ages of coveting the yarn on Ravelry. In the end I came out of the show with 2 skeins of yarn for a couple of projects – one being an infinity scarf using the Hedgehog sock weight. I found an amazing yarn store Yarn Glorious Yarn in Taringa, Brisbane who stocks all my yarn faves Malabrigo, Noro, Hedgehog and Madeline Tosh and thank goodness for their online shop for when I need to refill my stash. The final pic is where I have one skin of Malabrigo in my handbag and the other Hedgehog sock yarn in the small shopping bag plus a metre of Japanese cat fabric for my daughter, a merino woven scarf, some multi coloured embroidery thread for fabric beads I am making and that was it. It was such a dangerous place for a crafter to go to and not be tempted to buy anything :D.

I have to say the food I sourced in Sydney was divine! I made sure I went to vegan restaurants so I could really enjoy everything on the menu. The first night I was a bit knackered so I went to Japanese and ate sashimi as recommended by my Air Bnb host which was a treat! The next night I tried vegan Mexican at Bad Hombres Good Food and sat at the bar at the booked out restaurant and enjoyed chatting to the manager and the incredible staff – a bunch of cool folks from South America. Oh and I did find another Sydney brewed Booch at this restaurant that I took home and enjoyed in the funky designer kitchen. The creme brulee was just amazing made from coconut cream and the margarita with jalapeno reminded me of California! I have to say the crispy eggplant tacos with pineapple habanero salsa and miso caramel was a taste sensation – find the pics on my Insta page to the right. And my final dinner in Sydney was at Yullis – again a popular booked out restaurant which was all vegan! As it was just me dining solo I managed to get a spot at the bar to enjoy all the delights including vegan meringue with berries for dessert. I loved their home brewed Kombucha and noticed that they have a vegan BBQ at their Alexandria location – next time Sydney, its a date!

I did spend time on Friday with my long lost friend Mel who I have not seen in around 10 years and had a delicious lunch at her fave coffee cafe called Morning Owl in Auburn. The food there was so good and we enjoyed coffee, tea and our lunches over catching up. It is funny there are friends in your life who when you leave and come back to it is just like yesterday that you left. I have a picture but that is for us as it has one of her beautiful boys in the pic and I will have to ask her permission to post it first.

Saturday was my last day and I checked out of my Air Bnb and wandered to the Glebe markets and hung out in Glebe and walked back to get my luggage through Haymarket. The markets were very hip and hippy and I was not in the mood to dig through peoples piles of clothes as I have recently gone through my own! I am a bit of a fan of a curated vintage collection where I found at the Works Showroom just down the road, who sold many indoor plants as well! My lunch was at Cafe Shenkin an Israeli menu where I enjoyed a avocado felafel with poached egg, mushrooms and Israeli salad and it was the perfect farewell to Sydney. Sydney was an enjoyable foodie, cultural experience – I love being home and this is where Australia shines with so many cultures living and eating together in harmony, and I cannot wait to explore more in the future!

And they are off…

Well, the time finally came and the kids were off to school. I have to say it has been a bit hard for my son with the high school kids and their cliques and not being so open to making friends. Whereas the primary school community is small enough that my daughter has met some friends, which is great! As for myself, I have friends out of the local area which is wonderful but trying to break into an already established community is a bit difficult. I remember when I went over to the States and I did not know a soul and things do take time and in reality, I have only been here since the 20th January so it has not been that long at all! My daughter’s school is having a picnic next week so with some luck I can meet some other families.

The big change for me is that I do not have to rush home to study after the gym – so I am pretty happy that I have finished my last teaching period! It was really a struggle having to study and move to a new country at the same time. I received an academic achievement for my last subject Teaching and Learning in the 21st century which really helps as trying to keep going is tricky with everything that is happening in my life! So I keep it out to look at each day so I can stay motivated and keep going!!

I have been going to the gym and cardio classes and they are intense but with my excitement to be working out I injured myself and overdid my quads when I did a body pump class. My plan was to do weights every day until I decided that every second day will be better as I can do one of the machines on my rest day. It is fun to go to the gym and it is a friendly place too but it’s not like my lovely dance class full of friendly ladies. Time will tell and you are in the zone when exercising so I can just focus on myself and not really socialise – I will have to remember to bring my headphones and listen to some motivating music :D.

Last Friday I went to see our interior scheme for our house build and it was very exciting. The exterior of the house is burnt black and white brick and the colour will be inside the house. The bathroom will have the Terrazzo floor with blue, green and wood highlights. We are still on plan for the tender process mid-February and fingers crossed a builder can fit us into their busy schedules! Oh, and while I was visiting the architect in South Melbourne, I visited the market for the most delicious food and had a cauliflower and leek pie with salad and roast veggies – so good!

Walking around our neighbourhood and who do I find? My hubby, yay he is here for a couple of weeks but alas he is working. Lucky, we have one weekend to catch up with family and friends to enjoy ourselves before he heads on back to wrap up the rest of the stuff back in California. After school when we picked up the kids, I said, “hey, how about a pie?” so Missy and my hubby took up the offer and they were tasty.

It is nice to be in some sort of routine now where I walk to the kids’ school in the morning and go to the gym. The walk is only 20 minutes away to pick up the kids in the arvo and then they have some free time and then its homework time – Ash is doing some science homework here on his bed with pictures of friends and family on the wall for inspiration, including his Serama chicken Darkstalker. Later in the evening on cooler days when I can put the oven on I made this tasty silverbeet and heirloom cherry tomato pie. I am loving the food from Ceres Fair food as it is organic, fresh and local for most of their produce. They have an excellent selection of kombucha and non-meat products too which I love so that is my fruit and veggie shop sorted with the added bonus of the delivery to the door. Other bits and pieces I can get at Woollies and other places are a 10-minute walk away. I love this area as everything is so convenient. We don’t have a car as yet so with all this walking I am getting plenty of exercise and enjoying the sunshine and fresh air.

With time off from University, I now have time to go through all our stuff! I moved all the boxes from under the bed and now we are sleeping on the floor on a mattress just like student days – lucky its only short term! Anyway, I am taking the Swedish death cleaning approach and thinking that I have not cared about this stuff for the last 12 years so then why keep it anymore. I found cassettes and business cards that are going to the recycling next week – I do not even have a tape recorder so why keep them! There were a lot of business cards and told a story of my other life before kids as a designer and freelancing around Melbourne. It was interesting to look over them and see the names of people who I met at Uni and work, so it was helpful for me to think yeah that is where most of my friendships with peeps began.

The major reason why my post is late this week is that I have been going through a moving box full of photos. It has been exhausting going through all the memories some good and some not so good. Again I thought why do I keep these pictures as it will just be for my kids to clean up when I am gone and they will just chuck it all away, this way I can hopefully recycle it all including the negatives? This is just a handful of the photos I am sending away. Sitting there looking through the travel memories have been great thinking wow I really did that when I was only 23, I am a huge proponent for travelling when you are young as it helps you see the world to open your mind to so many life experiences. It really helped pave the way for my artistic career at the beginning with photography and writing. I also have a lot of 35mm slides and maybe I can make a light fitting out of them or repurpose them somehow – there are many ideas on Pinterest, so next time I have time to craft that is my next project. As for the photos they can go – the memories were great and now it is time for a new phase in my life.

The wonderful world of Oz

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.

Farewell Melbourne, until we meet again!

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Our final week in Melbourne was a week of how much more delicious Melbourne food can we eat?

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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.

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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!

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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!!

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.

 

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!

Quokka Whole Lotta Love​

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We made a trek across from Melbourne to Adelaide by Tigerair – I thought let’s fly like the locals on their cheapo airline which gave us a really good deal through lastminute.com.au. The flight was on time and we travelled in comfort for our 1-hour flight nice and early in the morning with a 5am start!

When we arrived it was time to chill out have a chat and a cuppa tea with my mum in law and her hubby and Tigger the dog. We went out to Sarah’s Sisters sustainable cafe for lunch and enjoyed some vegetarian delicacies. I enjoyed The Pastry with Mushroom, broccoli, and cheese in a lemon and herb sauce with a fresh salad on the side, which hit the spot on a cold and just about to rain day. After lunch, we checked out the SA Maritime Museum and saw this excellent exhibition of Naturalist Artwork The Art of Science: Baudin’s Voyagers 1800 to 1804. This is from the website:

Baudin’s ships, Géographe and Naturaliste embarked from Le Havre in October 1800 for the southern continent carrying an impressive contingent of scientists and scientific assistants.  Lavishly funded by Napoleon Bonaparte, the expedition’s agenda was the discovery and study of natural sciences, underpinned by the emergence of new ideas and philosophies of reason and the rights of man.

It brings a fabulous collection of the original paintings and drawings from the Museum of Natural History in Le Havre, France to South Australian audiences for the first time. 

The work was beautifully painted in watercolour to fine detail and to see the artists little paint box was such a treat. Certainly, there were some creatures documented in this exhibit in watercolour that looked 3D and realistic, they were such talented artists!

Tuesday we went to a cafe to visit our family members in Adelaide for morning tea by the sea. Unfortunately, the weather was super cold so beach time was slim. When the kids went out with Grandma they came back like ice blocks. In the afternoon I went with Jane (my mother in law) to drop off her ceramic pieces for a show opening – it is a huge show called SALA the South Australia Living Arts Festival. She made this beautiful Heron, a couple of bowls pictured is one with lizards and a little garden snail. With some luck, these will be sold, here’s to successful sales everyone!

On our way back home I toured her ceramics studio at Pottery on Fourth – it is such a beautiful space with a gallery space at the front. From the gallery, you can walk through the studio to the wedging, kiln, glaze room and to the side were the wheels with mirrors so you can see your form as you throw. For me, as a newbie had never seen mirrors in front of the wheel before. Jane has been a studio potter for over 35 years and her work is just amazing and has so much knowledge. It is not until you are exposed to an art form it is then you can really appreciate it for what it is. In the pics above, her friend and co-collaborator Danny created the blue pieces and the huge thrown pots fired with seaweed to get an organic feel to the glaze. The bottom piece is a teapot inspired by a stingray was a Turkish potter who belongs to the club. Such an inspiring place and it was so much fun going with Jane learning about how the pieces are glazed or made – thanks for the tour Jane!

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Where do we go with this chilly rainy weather says Missy?? Lucky there was a playground close by on the walk to Grandmas house!

On Wednesday we finally got a clear day without the rain and visited the Adelaide Zoo. The second oldest zoo in Australia (after Melbourne Zoo). The Adelaide Zoo has been opened since 1883 and one of their oldest animals at the zoo, the flamingo died in 2015 at the age of 83. Their only flamingo they have left is called Chilli who has hidden away in the heated room for the day as poor ol’ Chilli was very chilly and suffering from the cold this winter!

The zoo is a non-profit, focusing on endangered species and educating people about animals throughout the world. The zoo currently houses a couple of Giant Pandas, Wang Wang and Funi who were brought into the zoo when they were really small and are on loan from China for 10 years. These two have so far been unsuccessful in the breeding program as female pandas ovulate only once a year, in the spring. A short period of two to three days around ovulation is the only time she is able to conceive. The giant pandas’ naturally slow breeding rate prevents a population from recovering quickly from illegal hunting, habitat loss, and other human-related causes of mortality. We loved seeing these Giant Pandas in real life seeing how their size and habits we became aware that this is a species that we have to learn from, see ‘The Way of the Panda’ in the pic above.

From the Giant Panda exhibit, we went to the birds of Australasia, this exhibit was a massive enclosed cage to walk through and be with the birds in their habitat. When we went it we saw that there was an echidna in with the birds and we were so lucky that we found the echidna in action! We spent ages observing the birds and even the green parrot we checked out flew straight at us and we could feel the energy of his wings right above our head.

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The exhibits are beautifully designed with water and rocks for the gibbons with lots of trees and toys to play with. I said to my daughter look there is your spirit animal climbing the trees – something she was not too happy to hear! The Patagonian Cavy (Mara) was just like a jackrabbit enjoyed its small mountainous habitat and the tree kangaroo, the tree hugger was very active in its exhibit balancing on the branch using its tail. To observe and learn about animals we may not encounter in our day to day existence is something that I really love about zoos

The Australian Pelican was putting on quite a show with its bathing routine splashing about and then it extended its wings to dry. Such a handsome looking bird.

Through the reptile enclosure which is a work in progress then we went to the Froggery and we came out and the kids found this fun frog slide!

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After lunch, we worked out we wanted to see before we left for the day. The African exhibit is small due to most of the African animals living at an open range zoo called Monarto Zoo . We can always check it out next time we are in Oz. When we wandered by the Capybara they were resting but lucky for us the zoo keeper came in and gave them some fresh bamboo cuts to eat which were rejected by the pandas! So we saw the sister capybaras in slo-mo action!

And on to my favorite animals of all time the Pygmy Marmoset and the Golden Lion Tamarin. The Emperor Tamarin was in the enclosure as well but they are so full of energy and really difficult to photograph. Lucky for me I saw these little guys coming in for snacks and a bit of a relax. The conservation status of the emperor tamarin and the pygmy marmoset are of least concern, still, they are fun to watch. The golden lion tamarin is an endangered species with an estimated wild population of about 3,200 individuals spread between four places along southeastern Brazil, and a captive population maintained at about 490 individuals among 150 zoos. Their enclosure at the Adelaide zoo is wonderful as they have little cage tunnels so they can venture outside and then come in to eat and rest. Observing them outside you have to be careful that they don’t accidentally pee on you as they are above your head! I love watching them eating and playing and the colour of their fur is just so vibrant.

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The highlight for everyone was the kid’s area and the petting zoo with free range chickens and the Quokkas – the conservation status for these little fellows is vulnerable and they only live in small areas in the southern corner of Western Australia. A perfect cat-sized critter who is super soft and very friendly if you have the fresh leaves for them.

The free range chickens were a lot of fun and the kids knew how to handle them so they took the opportunity to give one of the girls a big hug.

We loved the Adelaide Zoo for the animal encounters and the enclosures.

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Oh and this little fellow and his buddy who are an African Grey Parrot was seized at customs as they were being smuggled into the country. Looking at their head feathers they were severely damaged in transit and will not recover. They are such social birds and I love the fact they enjoy interacting with people which with that trust they feel they were taken advantage of and smuggled across the Indian Ocean. They both are happy in their enclosure at the zoo and it brought to light the awareness of animal smuggling and how lucky these guys were to survive.

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Finally, it was time to say farewell, so we enjoyed a wander around foodie paradise at the Adelaide Central Market and just before we left we enjoyed a very delicious Greek farewell lunch with Grandma and Grandpa!

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.