Friday, February 5, 2016

Back to school

It was back to school week this week for Ella and the start of preschool for Abi. It was also the start of Monday night Gym class and Thursday night swim squad training for Ella and Monday swimming and Tuesday Gym classes for Abi - they're busy girls. 

But very happy about all that too......

Ella started school on Tuesday - in year three (in the senior school now).

Abi started preschool on Wednesday morning: three 6 hour days this week (two next week). We didn't think she would be able to stay the full days this early in the year (she's only 3 after all, and she's never been away from her Mummy or us before!).

But each morning she's left home in very high spirits...

and while there have been a few tears at saying goodbye time each morning she has ended up having three really good (whole) days at preschool this week, which means we can all start to relax about it too. Hopefully this great start means we'll all have a really positive school year ahead.

Sunday, January 31, 2016


We can see some progress with our place (Saint Germain at C5) over the past three months. The pic below was taken on the 25th October last year and shows a very early start on the excavations....
and this pic below was taken two months later on the 21st December...showing good progress to at least the first level of the underground carpark and foundations.
I took this last pic below last weekend on the 25th January. We think they're at the lower level carpark by now - and only five more floors to go. ETA for completion is allegedly January 2017. We'll believe that when we see it - but not bad progress so far.
So that we could get into the vibe of lakeside living we treated ourselves to two nights at the amazing Hotel Hotel last weekend at New Acton.
We loved everything about our stay there, the funky rooms with their natural finishes and restrained aesthetic, the unobtrusive elegance, high tech everything, Aesop products and access to the wonderful Monster Kitchen and Bar, movies at the Palace and all the dining options at New Acton.
We walked to the brilliant National Museum of Australia for breakfast one morning and spent two hours at the new(ish) Encounters exhibition (comprised of "first encounter" objects from the British Museum).
 ..then a walk around part of Lake Burley Griffin.......
 through Commonwealth Park...
back to "our place" at Campbell. 

We'll need to do this a few more times before it starts to feel like it really might happen one day.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

All things Australian

We've just had an overnight stay in Coogee with the young ones so we saw lots of the banal kitsch that seems to go with our nation's "celebration" of Australia (Invasion) Day on the 26th January - although not quite as much of the flag belligerence as in the past (thank you M. Turnbull?). 

We like to "celebrate" in our own way - lunch at Barzura's, with its focus on Indonesian flavours and spirit and spectacular views over Coogee Beach (and my fave Stone & Wood beer from Byron Bay).....
 ....a magic morning on the beach with Josh and the girls (with great coffee and the best mango smoothie you'd find anywhere in the world).....

 Abi was thrilled to find an intact cuttlefish shell in one of her forensic examinations of the tideline.....
And to really place Australia day in context we took the girls to see Opera Australia's performance of "The Rabbits" - based on the remarkable book by John Marsden (illustrated by Shaun Tan) - an allegory about colonisation - but with a message of hope amidst the more disturbing events. Ella watched wide eyed for the whole performance. Abi spent most of the time asking me questions that showed she was really engaged, and she wanted to go back and see it again today!!!!  When I took the pic below the girls were terribly excited by the box of Maltesers we'd bought for them as part of the theatre experience!
Josh and Jody had some time together while we were at the theatre, walking around the Rocks, the oldest part of post settlement Sydney. They found some new headbands for the girls which rounded off pretty much a perfect day for them (and for us)!

Monday, January 18, 2016

Thredbo music

January continues to be the month of music for us. We have been heading up to the Snowy Mountains for years now in January for walking, eating and drinking weekends with friends. The last two years we've also signed up for the Blues Festival program in Thredbo, so we can add three days of some of Australia's finest Blues performances to the mix. 

There were eight of us this year - the usual crew + Fiona, James and young William from Melbourne. We had wonderful accommodation this year - the Snowgoose Apartments, overlooking the village square, and with great views of the spectacular alpine mountains and clear blue skyscape surrounding Thredbo village.

As always the best part of the long weekend is the time we spend together..laughing, walking, far ranging conversations and too much cheese and alcohol (especially James' signature G & Ts with pomegranate and lime).

Young Will coped well with all the oldies and remained cheerful and charming company the whole weekend. He expressed some amazement at the amount of cheese eaten and seemed to find the G&T fuelled conversation quite amusing at times.  I hope we didn't lose our credibility with Will as a consequence...but his behaviour was exemplary (in contrast to ours) - and we all adored him!
The Blues Festival crowd is a very mixed one - lots of regular folks like us - lots of wild men and women too (of a certain age!) and some young ones too. We met up with some younger friends in the village on Sunday afternoon, enjoying the laid back vibe just like we were. I hadn't seen young Yasmin for  few months but she greeted me like a long lost friend in Thredbo!

The Blues festival is three days of music too - from 11.00 in the morning to well after midnight each night. Highlights for me were the Foreday Riders, Shane Pacey, The band performing the Janis Joplin tribute, Brody Young, George Washingmachine, the Hip Replacements(!!??) and Russel Morris. The venues were really varied; some were good, some were terrible. They were all really crowded.
By Sunday afternoon we were ready for the relaxed vibe of the smaller outdoor venues (and the boys really liked the $5 beers on tap that went with it).
We managed to fit in a chair lift ride every day (included in our festival pass!); the novelty of this never wears off no matter how many times we do it - and the German beers available at Eagles Nest (The highest altitude cafe in Australia) at the top of the chair lift, is another attraction of the ride!

We only tackled a short mountain walk this year, the 4 and 1/2 klm walk (but 9 klm return) from Eagles Nest to Rawson Pass, just below the peak of Mt Kosciuszko. Still a perfect opportunity to reconnect with this beautiful  and pristine alpine landscape.
Taken from the Cootapatamba Lookout............ the "camouflage" view
and the "blue sky" view.
We're so close to the highest peaks in the Alps we think this might just be where the Snowy River is starting to form.....

Before we left Thredbo this morning we booked our accommodation for the 2017 Festival weekend!

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Honk at the Gong

We attended our second Honk! Festival at Wollongong at the weekend. Honk! started in the US a decade ago as a protest movement against the sterility, militarism and conformity of American marching bands.  HONK!-style street bands encourage individuality and musical improvisation. HONK! bands incorporate brass and percussion (like marching bands) and all their instruments are portable so the bands are able to perform freely in public spaces.  

American Honk! bands incorporate a lot of New Orleans type Jazz and Gospel influences while the nascent Honk! Oz movement incorporates influences from Australia's rich migrant heritages (Macedonian, Klezmer etc).  In America a lot of Honk! bands get involved with activist causes - that's yet to happen here.

One of my favourite bands at Honk! Oz this year was the Unusual Suspects (from Maleny Queensland). I really liked their style!

We were really impressed by the 12 year old Oscar who played percussion with the Unusual Suspects. It takes heaps of talent and attitude to play the way he does and to wear an outfit like this while you're doing it!
A friend and colleague from a long time ago - David, and his partner Lotte, are the instigators of Honk! in Australia. We feel very privileged to know them and to be able to support their wonderful Honk! Oz festival.
The pic below is of the Vic Janko Orkestar. That's David and Lotte and two of their very talented sons playing trumpet and trombone.  Their set was very Macedonian influenced with heaps of Jazz impros thrown in!
The Environmental Encroachment Band (from Chicago) returned to Honk Oz! this year. I love their playing's pretty wild and soulful. This year they did an Elvis tribute in one of their sets in recognition of the King's 80th anniversary.

I love the way all David and Lotte's family is involved!

For us Honk Oz! is a weekend of pure joy, some magical music moments and a window into an alternative world that we would all benefit from engaging with more often.