Sunday, January 30, 2011

Cake month

I thought Joshy's birthday would be our last excuse for eating cake, in what has been the mother of all cake eating months. I was proud of my first attempt at making a gluten free - lactose free chocolate cake for his celebration. It was quite successful, and much more inclusive of all the dietary needs of our family now!

However it turned out to be the second last cake of the month as another one had to be produced for our dinner with friends last night (our last social engagement for the month -I think). Those gym sessions coming up will have to be very intense to make up for all the excesses we have enjoyed lately.

With everyone now back from their holidays Joshy's birthday was a great opportunity for the little cousins to catch up. Once again it was really noticeable how much more self directed they are playing together now. Angus and Ella played harmoniously for AGES, although taking turns on the Smart phone proved to be somewhat more challenging.

It's always much easier on playdates with "Banny". I am very malleable to directions from Ella, about where to sit, which "child" I get to carry and which character I should be playing in the game. We have a favourite location for our best imaginary games, up on the hill a short walk from our house. Ella reckons you can see Sydney Harbour Bridge from our hill.

It's a great spot for picnic lunches too, with plenty of scope for the "children" to have safe seats in the trees while we unpack the vegemite sandwiches.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Alpine adventure

We took another opportunity to celebrate Rob's big birthday this year, with friends, at a ski lodge at Charlotte Pass in the Snowy Mountains. Our group had the ski lodge to ourselves so there was stacks of room and plenty of scope for preparing big feasts in the fully equipped commercial kitchen.......

and then cleaning up afterwards!

One of our goals was to do the summit walk to Mt Kosciuszko; at 2228 metres Australia's highest mountain, and a 9 km walk from the lodge at Charlotte Pass (18km return that is).

Charlotte Pass marks the end of the tree line in this alpine region. The snow gums' fight for survival against the wind and the snow turns them into amazing sculptural forms over time.

This was our first crossing of the Snowy River, only a few kilometres from its source in the mountains.

And on to Seaman's Hut, a welcome landmark for walkers and skiers needing emergency shelter when conditions turn treacherous.

The wildflowers were in beautiful bloom all over the mountain range. It looked like Charlotte must have gone to a lot of trouble planting this huge garden.

After about three hours of gradual climbing we all made it to the highest point in Australia!

At this stage the wind was blowing in fierce, icy gusts. I had to brace myself to keep from over balancing on the rocks. It felt dangerous even taking photos with my big say nothing about having a very bad hair day!

Five of us decided to go the extra distance and walk back to Charlotte Pass the long way, around the Western face of the main range and past a number of spectacular glacial lakes.
Early into the walk we passed very close to some remnant snow, where a posse of crows had gathered.

Our walk was much more challenging on this track but the views down to the Victorian Alps and then Lake Albina, the first of the glacial lakes, made the effort worth it.

The wind was so strong at this point we all felt we could go into orbit at any moment.

The common name for the lush, green, fern leafed plant is native celery. Later we found plants like these with well formed flower shoots on long stalks. They smelt just like farmed celery.

Even in this harsh place with wind roaring around us and the clouds rolling in Charlotte's garden looked quite beautiful.

About an hour and a half from home we passed Blue Lake and then started the long descent from the Main Range. The wind dropped, the sun shone through the rolling clouds and we crossed the Snowy River for the second time today.

We'd walked 22kms, a lot of it climbing or navigating steep descents. We were stuffed by the end, exhilarated by completing this challenging walk, but capable of little else but nursing our tight muscles, exhaustion, windburn and (unexpected) sunburn.
We had a fit of the lazies next morning. We were late starting and only attempted a mild 3km walk (return) to the pretty Rainbow Lake, further back towards Perisher and close to the historic old Sponars Chalet on Kosciuszko Road.

We were surprised to see lots of Royal Bluebells growing near the lake, Canberra's floral emblem.

By 4.00pm we were sufficiently recovered to attempt another small walk. We drove the car to the ridge above the Charlotte Pass Ski Resort, affording us great views of our lodge (the pale green painted one next to / on the left of the large multi level building to the right of centre of this picture).

It was only a 2 km walk along the ridge to Mt Stillwell (a bit less than 4km return).

This was a very pretty walk with flowers growing profusely amongst the rock outcrops and magnificent views to the North ranges. We started in warm sunshine, but within a half hour dark, low clouds started rolling in, the temperature dropped at least 5 degrees and we made our way back, still a few metres short of making it to the very top of this mountain.

This time in the mountains, shared with good friends, has been a wonderful way to celebrate the start of a year of big birthdays for Rob and me.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Love Queensland

We left Queensland in 1972, in the early years of the notorious Joh Bjelke-Peterson government. Ever since we've nursed a few prejudices (probably quite unfairly) against Queensland governments of any persuasion, the police force and the various state based media interests, despite the subsequent best efforts of the Fitzgerald inquiry and the reforms of Wayne Goss/K Rudd etc throughout the nineties.

However the events of the past week have been enough to demolish anyone's rusted on prejudices about this part of the world.

Luckily, no one we know has been hurt, killed or even "inundated" by the flooding in Queensland. J and I were stranded in Gympie while we all worried about the flooding in Rosalie Village encroaching on their apartment (just a few metres up the hill). A niece and nephew and respective partners living in West End had to evacuate to their Mum & Dad's house, much further away from the river, during the crisis. Luckily their apartments turned out to be out of the badly flooded area of West End.

My friend Jane and her Rob had to evacuate their Bulimba house. They spent the night sandbagging (along with K Rudd and other residents of the suburb) as the river level rose dangerously. They managed to keep the worst of the flooding at bay in their part of the suburb, so their house is safe. My friend Meg and her Steve at Teneriffe watched in trepidation as flood waters rose to within one street away of their (sandbagged) ground floor apartment.

Our mother was in Brisbane in the even bigger '74 flood and helped some of hers and Dad's friends with the clean up afterwards. She'll never forget the stench of the mud - this week's events are bringing all the memories back.

We have been so impressed with the leadership shown by the Q'ld government, emergency workers, the public service agencies directly involved in the response and rescue efforts, and the huge number and enormous spirit of all the volunteers. Our hearts go out to those people who lost their lives, especially those families in the Lockyer Valley, and now those families being threatened by flooding in Victoria and Tasmania.

Go Queensland!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A big year

We intend to spend 2011 celebrating our respective BIG birthdays - doing something special for each month of the year. Rob's birthday celebrations started (a bit early) last Sunday morning at the Hyatt Hotel - breakfast with his Mum and me and J&J&E.

We had a lovely day today on his actual birthday: early lunch with J&J&E, then a French film at Dendy for us and then home to share a special bottle of red.

Except all celebratory aspects diminished as we started to hear about the worsening situation in SE Queensland, with 1/3 of the state declared a disaster zone, so many people dead and missing and so many shocking images bringing back memories of the traumas of the 1974 flood in Brisbane!