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Saturday, 16 January 2021

How good is 'dis'

On the list - read 26 books this year.  1 down, 25 to go - better get a wiggle on.

After hearing him interviewed a couple of months ago, and with my word for the year being “health” I decided to start the year with a bit of a feel-good read.  The ResilienceProject: Finding Happiness through Gratitude, Empathy and Mindfulness by Hugh van Cuylenburg.

Hugh is a Melbourne boy and a primary school teacher whose passion is building resilience in kids. The book revolves around his trip to Northern India, volunteering and meeting the adorable Stanzin who despite living in an underprivileged community is both happy and positive. So why is that back here in Australia, so many people find it hard to be happy and struggle with mental illnesses?  

Hugh set about finding the answer and recognised the key traits the kids in India had were gratitude, empathy, and mindfulness. And so The Resilience Project was born. He started off running presentations at schools and then took the message wider to the NRL, AFL, Cricket Australia and many other corporate clients explaining how we can all live a happier life.

So what did I take away from it?  That we do have a lot to be grateful for. To focus on the positives and the things we have.  That our tendency to think in terms of “if I get that new job, then I will be happy” just doesn’t work. Much better to stop and think in Stanzin’s own words "how good is dis"

Sunday, 10 January 2021

Christmas, Coos & Critters. Lotus, Lilies, Lavender & Llamas

After lockdown, did we dare to think about a few days away?  Regional Victoria was once again open for business and judging by traffic out of the city those first couple of weekends, every Melbournian and their dog hit the road.

With a few days off at Christmas, and no plans, we thought the Gippsland coast would be lovely.  An area affected by the bush fires, so we’d be helping the local economy.  Obviously, everybody else had the same idea. OK, we weren’t fussed, a few days anywhere would be nice.  Our criteria were up to 4 hours away, dog friendly and not costing an arm and a leg, so with limited options we went with a cottage on a large property in Hoddles Creek.

To be honest, we had no idea where Hoddles Creek was, but a quick check and our holiday destination was just 75 km away in the Yarra Ranges, surrounded by the Kurth Kiln Regional Park.  Not quiet as exotic as the Maldives or even Portsea if we were looking closer to home, but a holiday is a holiday.

Christmas morning, we packed up the Christmas Eve dinner leftovers and a few other essentials, bubbles, beer and doggy treats and off we went.  Through the lovely towns of Cockatoo and Gembrook in the Dandenong’s and then of course the obligatory getting a bit lost.  Never trust a GPS or your navigator on winding, gravel roads. 

Settlers Ridge. Owned by the lovely Marie and Dieter, is a 100-acre property overlooking Mount Donna Buang and the Yarra Ranges.  They’ve lived there over 35 years, first in a caravan, next in the cottage we stayed in and then in the larger house they live in now.  They have an underground fire shelter.  It’s pretty cool.

Gorgeous spot, very peaceful, we visited Maggie (the pony), said hello to Mr Rooster and his girls and checked out the magnificent Highland Cow, which I have since been reliably informed is not a ‘cow’ but a Hielan Coo.  Coo it is then.  Long horns, cute beatnik haircut and friendly. Bonnie, the large wolfhound cross, also came on a few walks around the place with us. Afternoons were spent relaxing, napping, bird watching, reading, and having a few drinks. Spotting a beautiful large goanna that then ran to climb a tree was pretty special.

Mornings we’d set off to explore the local area getting to know those gravel back roads to the Warburton Highway.  Stopped off at Yarra Junction, Milgrove and the gorgeous Warburton, although most things were closed.  It is getting harder to travel with Lola as she can only walk so far, and the purple pram is not exactly an all-terrain model. 

Another day we headed in the other direction to Wandin, checking out the 10 acre Warratina Lavender Farm (open 9am to 5pm Wed – Sun), Cherry Hill Orchards (cherry picking season has now finished) and Rayners Orchard to stock up on stone fruit. Stopped in Seville (no relation to Andalucia and no flamenco). Came across the most gorgeous herd of alpaca doing a might fine job of looking after their goats, I wanted to take one home with me. 

And then visited a place I’ve been wanting to go to for ages (and a tick of the list).  The Blue Lotus Water Garden just out of Yarra Junction.  Not doggy friendly, Emilio decided to go check out a couple of fishing spots with Lola while my partner in adventures B decided to come and join me.

The beautifully landscaped grounds, spread out over 14 acres is currently open for their annual season from 26 December 2020 until 18th April 2021 between 10am and 5pm. The ponds, lakes and lagoons filled with thousands of lotus and waterlilies are magnificent. The largest of the lakesMonet's Lake, contains over 11 million litres of water and its pathways are 500m long. Of course, Claude Monet’s original waterlilies are a feature. 

The in-house fairy was MIA at the Flower Fairy Garden, but there were lots of spots to have picnics.  The Lily Pond CafΓ© is on-site and the large Blue Lotus Plant & Flower Nursery is open a large range of water plants are garden ornaments.  

Here’s a bit more info in an article I did a while ago for Weekend Notes 
Blue Lotus Water Garden - Melbourne (

Definitely worth a day trip. 

Adults: $22.00
Senior & Pensioners: $19.50


Saturday, 9 January 2021

WE made it to 2021!


Congratulations! You survived 2020 and the first week of 2021. 2020, the year that in some ways lasted 12 months and 12 years and in other ways, flew by just as fast as every other year once you reach an “age”. 

We moved into 2021 glad to put the “unprecedented” year that was 2020 behind us. Looking back, it’s hard to believe that so much happened around the world, even if we did spend a chunk of it locked away in our own little bubbles.   

What stood out?  Devastating fires, the initial “excitement/novelty” of lock-down and working from home, the toilet paper crisis, zoom meetings, cooking more at home, cooking less because “we have to do our bit to support local business”, signing up to learn new stuff, not learning new stuff, walking around the block again and again, rainbows and chalk drawings, leggings, PJ's and tracky daks as must have fashion items, realising that nobody even notices you've been wearing the same clothes on rotation for the last 9 months, waving at neighbours, waving at strangers, waving at neighbours/strangers dogs, random household items on nature strips, free books everywhere, a morbid fascination with COVID stats and numbers, bad news addiction, good news addiction, covid calories, crying at “kindness pandemic” stories, crying at happy ending pet adoptions/saving stories, crying over burnt sour dough (hang on a minute, I never actually made any sour dough), cancelled plans, 5km radius, 25 km radius, woo hoo we can travel around Victoria, relief at double doughnuts, optimism.

Then there were the words and phrases that will be forever in our vocabulary.  “You’re on mute” “stay home, stay safe” "social distancing" “mask-up” “unprecedented times” “it’s Ok to not be OK” “get on the beers.” Gotta love Dan! I’m missing his daily updates.


And all that without even going into politics and what was happening in the US. But did you know that Macaulay Culkin turned 40? Now doesn’t that make you feel old?

What will be remembered in 100 years? Will the world have learnt anything?  Maybe it’s made us more resilient, better able to adapt to future challenges that will inevitably be thrown our way.  The pandemic isn’t over, far-from it.  2021 isn’t some miraculous turning of a page, forgetting all about the previous year and going back to how things were.  But there is hope and that’s a good thing.

Personally, I have loved working from home and definitely don’t want to go back into an office on a fulltime basis.  Life has slowed down and I’m not in a rush to fill the calendar with stuff.  I like pottering.  I like taking Lola for a slow walk around the block.  I like stopping and chatting to neighbours and patting random dogs. I still haven’t been to a big shopping centre and have no real desire to do so.  I do miss travelling, but who know what international travel will look like over the next few years.  For now, long weekends away are enough.  State borders shutting down unexpectedly are frustrating, but you know what, people are just learning to change plans and be flexible.

This post was actually going to be about Christmas away in Hoddles Creek, but I got slightly side-tracked by looking back over the year and just writing random words.

Wednesday, 6 January 2021

Happy 15 Birthday Lola

Hard to believe that our little fur-baby Lola is 15 today.  Seems like only yesterday that she joined our family weighing in at under 1kg.  She might be getting older and slower, but she still brings us joy everyday 🐾🐾

With her hearing and eyesight going, she's become a bit grumpier (haven't we all) with other doggies we meet when out and about.  Luckily most dogs seem to realise that she is a senior lady and just give her some space.  Still on her allergy shots, cushings medication and her arthritis isn't going anywhere, but that doesn't stop her from enjoying going out or 2 or 3 little walks a day.  And on longer walks, well the pram has come in handy. 

Nothing wrong with her sense of smell and appetite though. I think she would have had a red hot go at eating the whole chicken if we'd let her.  

So happy birthday Lola the Explorer - your exploring days might have changed, but you're still our gorgeous little girl πŸ’ŸπŸ’–πŸ’—

1 year ago today......

Monday, 4 January 2021

Laz's Lane and Rita's Way - first tick off the the list

While I’m on a bit of a streak, I thought I’d write about my first tick off the 2021 list. 

Laz's Lane and Rita's Way are community laneway projects in Carnegie and having lived there for a few years, I’ve been meaning to go back and visit. What a wonderful surprise!

I think the story behind them can best be described by the info found on site:

Laz Stark lived in Graceburn Avenue in Carnegie and was a bit of a local legend. After Laz died in 2018, residents decided to turn the laneway into something special and named it after him.  

Laz's Lane runs from Koornang Road through to Graceburn Avenue, near Carnegie Primary School. It’s filled with colourful paintings and art works, cabinets containing figurines, mosaic art, a little library, and Angel wings - plenty of pic opportunities. 

The Garden and Gallery continue to be added to and all the art and plants have been donated and are maintained by volunteers.

It really is a wonderful display of community diversity and worth a look. 

Rita's Way is named after local artist, Rita Santucci, whose colourful mosaics and artwork can be found dotted all around Carnegie.  Rita’s Way is a newer project, just on the opposite side of Koornang Road. It too includes lots of beautiful ceramic art, paintings, and planter boxes and is a work in progress.   

You can read more about Rita in this article from The Age. 

And if you want to know more follow the Carnegie Community Laneways Facebook page

Sunday, 3 January 2021

2021 - a year of HEALTH

Always loved a good list and back in 2015, the year I turned 50, I started the 101 things to do in 2015 list.  That then kind of expanded into a bucket list of all the places and things I wanted to do before I kick the bucket.  Many things were unrealistic but adding to it was nearly as much fun as planning days out to tick things off.

For the next few years, I added and ticked things off regularly.  Then when I had a whole year off, it kind of stalled a bit.  That was back in 2019.  As for 2020, well, let’s not talk about that one.

So I spent some time re-visiting the lists.  Removed a lot of things and started a new 52 things to do in 2021 list.  Plenty of space to add things as the year progresses.  Also as my word of the year is HEALTH, I though I’d better throw in a few things around that.

Still working out what my year of HEALTH will look like – but if Rebel Wilson can dedicate a year to feeling better, so can I.  Of course I need to lose some weight and get fitter.  I just signed up to NOOM.  Actually I started the 2-week trial 2 weeks before Christmas (probably not the best time) and unsurprisingly, haven’t lost any weight – but haven’t gained any, so that’s a win at this time of the year. My 4-month program has now kicked off and I’ve given myself to the end of April to lose 10kg.  Each day you work through a few little psyche tips and quiz’s, weigh yourself and log your food. Which is actually quite scary and makes you much more conscious of what you’re actually eating and in my case that’s not enough vegetables and way too much crap. 

Now in the past, the only commitment I’ve really stuck with is avoiding the gym, so now the challenge is to NOOM each day, walk daily, start the day with 30 sit ups and 30 push ups and do 20 minutes of weights 4 times a week.  Small steps. 

More veggies required.  I’m going to cook through a vegetarian cookbook, with my ultimate goal to stick to a 95% vegetarian diet by mid-year.

What else am I trying to incorporate into my year of health? Daily Meditation.  Dabbled a few times, but pretty crap at it.  So just trying 10 minutes at a time.  Breathe in. Breathe out. Easy. Not.

Also decided I want to go on a little retreat this year.  The ones in Byron Bay look lovely but are expensive and one slight problem is that I don’t really like Yoga, apparently that’s OK.  I also looked at Aruna Giri in Healesville – but then saw that it involved silence and maybe (OK definitely) that’s not for me.  I think I need to start off “lite” so have decided that the 2-night Inner Joy Retreat at Happy Buddha in the Blue Mountains is the perfect beginners retreat.  Now if only we’re allowed to travel……

Oh and to get into the zen mode, I've been reading about and ordered some essential oils. 

I’m also trying to get back into the habit of reading. Somewhere along the line last year, maybe because of no train travel, my reading dropped right off.  Which is a shame, because I love reading. So a relaxed target of 26 books on the list.  Oh and I’m listening to random podcasts when I take Lola out for her little walk each day. 

Not sure where I'm actually going to find all the time to do the above and work, but I'm going to be so friggin healthy, calm and in the moment, that I won't give a fuck.

Turning 55 certainly made me think that if we’re going to hit the road soon as Grey Nomads, we better be ready.

Saturday, 2 January 2021

New Year, New Word

New Year’s Resolutions, goals, plans for the year and lists. If 2020 taught us anything, it’s go ahead and make them – but be flexible and be prepared to change them.  If my 2019 list of things to do was neglected, then what can be said about my 2020 one?   

Time to re-visit the lists – not to add anything, but to take things off.  Why? Because 2020 has shown me that my bucket lists need to be smaller. Do I really want to “Visit the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida” or “Drive a Ferrari/Maserati/Lamborghini?” No.  I don’t even like driving.  Because 2020 was a year to re-evaluate what’s important and what’s not.

I also like to choose a word for the year.  My word for 2020 was BEGIN.  Maybe it should have been STALLED. Do I keep the same word for a second year and take 2?  Do I choose a new word? 

I revisited the great list of words I had last year, deleted a few, added a few and still have a long list of possibilities:





















BEGIN - 2020

FREEDOM - 2019







Once again, I narrowed it down to 5 and then waited for one of them to jump out at me. I’m leaning towards HEALTH.  A year to focus on improving my health. And I think I'll keep Begin - because I kind of feel it didn't get a chance.