Search This Blog

Saturday, 11 January 2020

Cactus Country

After 5 days of very hot weather up in Kyabram or Ky as the locals call it, which raises an interesting question of the pronunciation of Kyabram and Kyneton – but that’s a whole other story, 31 December 2019 had cooler weather forecasted so we made the most of it.  We finished the year/decade with a long overdue visit to Cactus Country in Strathmerton (approximately 3 hours north of Melbourne, near Cobram).

What an awesome place!  If you love cactus and succulents, then this is the place for you.  They have over 4,000 species from around the globe spread over 12 acres.  Easy to follow coloured trails (borrow a folder containing maps and descriptions of the different varieties and where they are from) allow you to wander around marvelling at the range and size of their collection – with plans to continue expanding!

Many of the cactus were still in flower, although if you want to see them in full bloom, October/November is probably the best time of the year.  They are open 7 days a week from 9am to 5pm.

Owner Jim Hall has done a brilliant job of bringing a little bit of Mexico to Victoria and he was more than happy to chat and share his passion for all things prickly.  As well as the gorgeous gardens, they have a café, bar and restaurant on site and lots of cute little nooks and crannies that make for some fabulous Instagram moments (if you’re into that sort of thing).  Not surprising that they hold weddings and functions here, it makes for a great back drop. We tried the Cactus Cake and that was delish – super moist, but a bit early for Margaritas (never too early?).

Many know my love of skulls, so I loved the Mexican graveyard with its Day of the Dead theme – wore a skull t-shirt for the occasion.  They host a Day of the Dead fiesta which looks like lots of fun, must return for that!  Sunset and night-time tours are also available – check the website for details.

They also have an area for plant sales on site where you can add to your own collection. Some of the unusual Elephant’s foot, (Dioscorea elephantipes), available.  Resembling an elephant’s foot or a tortoise shell they belong to the yam family and are native to semi-arid areas in southern Africa. They are not cheap, but they do make an interesting talking point.

All in all, well worth the visit.  Oh and dogs are welcome, so even Lola got to enjoy being part of the day and meeting Oreo the local doggy on-site.  Just watch where they walk and pee – cactus spikes can hurt!

Gorgeous Colour

Love the graveyard for a bit of fun!

Lola enjoying her day out exploring

The unusual Elephant's Foot - at $450 for this one, not cheap!

Monday, 6 January 2020

Happy 14th Birthday Lola!

On this day back in 2006, our beloved fur-baby Lola was born.  14 years old today.  She might not be as active and arthritis, Cushings, near deafness and her itches might have slowed her down, but she brings joy every day and we love her dearly.

Lola came into our lives in April 2006 weighing in at a mighty 900g.  A tiny little ball of fluff, we had to put a bell on her to stop us stepping on her.  Sad to say that she was a pet-shop puppy – bought before we knew better, on the spur of the moment.  We’d gone to Kmart to buy welly boots and there she was.  Well not in Kmart, but next door. We had been looking for a new Cocker Spaniel to join our family and had just missed out on a nine-month-old.  Emi saw her, picked her up and that was it – all over red rover. Love at first sight. 

Our dearly missed bubba Lucas (just re-read this, so now have tears streaming down my face) wasn’t overly impressed at his new baby sis (maybe because she wasn’t a Cocker), but they eventually became friends and shared many happy adventures together.  Since losing Lucas, Lola has become the queen of her domain, defender of the home and remains the happy little (OK maybe not so little – she’s now a porky 10kg) fur-baby she has always been.

So on this day of her 14th Birthday, we celebrate and hope that she is with us for many more to come. A few of Lola's adventures (like me, even she has slacked off on the writing):

Lola the Explorer goes to Lake Eildon
Left behind
Christmas in Ballarat - Part Two
Back to Baconsville
Lola and the mystery of the black truffle
It's all about me - a special guest post
Lola goes to the beauty parlour
Tail on the Road

Lola and Lucas

Always had my dad wrapped around my paw

A bit of yoga

Today is also “Reyes” or the Three Kings Day (something to do with Epiphany). Celebrated in Spain (and elsewhere) it’s the day the 3 wise men arrived bearing gifts.  Gold as a symbol of kingship on earth, frankincense as a symbol of deity, and myrrh (an embalming oil) as a symbol of death. Weird gifts for a bub, but I guess they were different times.  In Spain today it’s celebrated with a parade, sweets, presents and Rosca de Reyes (Ring of the Kings) a sweet bread.  Nothing like extending Christmas holidays and more eating.

Sunday, 5 January 2020

New Year, New Decade, New Word

It’s that time of the year when thoughts turn to New Year’s Resolutions, goals, plans for the year and lists (lots of people are addicted to lists - and notebooks). Sadly, my 2019 list of things to do was severely neglected in 2019 – even though I had more time than ever to get things done.  So neglected, that when I upgraded my computer, it seems to have dropped off and I've only just noticed. Technology fail.

I don’t really go for New Year’s Resolutions – in one year and out the other (I did read this week that they are basically just to-do-lists for the first week of the year) – but I do like a good list and I choose a ‘word.’ 

My word for 2019 was FREEDOM.  That was an easy one, after all I was happily unemployed and had a whole year ahead of me to do as I pleased.  But what did that actually mean?  Time to write more, read more, get fit, learn new things and do all those things I’ve always wanted to do but never had enough time.

Full steam ahead.  Until, I stalled.  Life got slower, I don’t mean I slept in or spent all day doing nothing, I walked more, got out and met new people for coffee, chatted to neighbours, went overseas, helped Emi, ironed (livin' the dream) and cooked more than ever!  Was I bored? Never. Did I miss work? Fuck no.  But I didn’t do all the things that I thought were important. I didn’t write more, I wrote less, I read less, I ticked less things off my list and I still don’t have a Will.


I would have quiet happily remained 'retired', but financially not a realistic option and FREEDOM obviously wasn’t working out as expected.  Get a job I love was top of the list, working out what that was – hard!  Finding a job outside of “what you do” not so easy.  

But exactly one year after FREEDOM, I started working again.  My new job came out of the blue in that I didn’t apply for it.  Do I love it? Does it pay well? No, not really but guess what, I’m starting to get more of the things I love to do done!  The saying “if you want something done give it to a busy person” now makes perfect sense. 

I start 2020 employed.  I’ve given some thought to goals and have started working on my list of things to do for the year.  And now I need a word.  In a recent post, I asked for a positive word that began with the first letter of your name to get some ideas. 

  I received lots of great words and added a few more and came up with a long list:


 I narrowed it down to five and then chose one without overthinking it. And the word is…………..


Not sure why that word stood out for me. Maybe because I’d read a recent quote by Zig Ziglar:

“You don’t have to be great to start, but you do have to start to be great”   Be like Zig.

All of a sudden, I came across other quotes that resonated: 

“Start before you're ready. Don't prepare, begin.” - Mel Robbins

“Begin, be bold, and venture to be wise.” - Horace

“There are so many doors to open. I am impatient to begin." - Charlie Gordan

“Beginning is difficult, but unavoidable” - Israelmore Ayivor

“Don't try to figure out the whole race. Just figure out where to put your foot for the starting line. Just start.” - Jeff Olson

Footnote:  Thanks Lesley for writing down "Lazy".  Because it's an important reminder that we should all have a lazy day once in a while!  Siesta Sunday's should be a thing.

Wednesday, 28 August 2019

Come from Away

Am I the only one that didn't know this story? 

The play Come from Away caught my attention and I entered the cheap tix lottery and managed to grab 2 tickets ($50 each and great seats). So off we went on a Sunday afternoon at the end of July with only a vague idea that it was based on a true story about planes diverted to Canada on 11 September 2001. 9/11, that fateful day.

So glad we did.  It's one of those feel good plays that you walk away from with a big smile on your face. Take tissues. Actually, that's possibly just me, I cry at everything. It is indeed the remarkable true story of the day 38 civilian, 4 military planes and more than 6,600 passengers and crew (and 19 animals in cargo) were diverted to Gander when US airspace was closed.  

The small town of Gander (population in 2001 approx. 10,000) on the island of Newfoundland (The Rock, nothing to do with the man), is home to Gander International Airport (opened January 1938), once an important refuelling stop and still used today as an emergency landing point. 

It must have been terrifying for those passengers, not knowing where they were (welcome to Gander - where the fuck are we), what was happening or when they would be getting home. For up to 6 days passengers were stranded and it's hard to imagine what it must have been like. So Operation Yellow Ribbon was put into action and residents of Gander and the surrounding towns swung into action volunteering to house, feed and entertain all these "Come from Aways" The term is used by locals for anyone not born on the island. 

The play tells the story.  How unease, fear, culture clashes and mistrust was turned around with patience, music and friendship - oh and maybe with a bit of alcohol thrown in.  The scene where the musicians (Celtic style) join in the fun, and over many drinks, tensions ease and lifelong friendships are formed is awesome.  When it was time to leave, the locals refused any money and once everyone left, they found money had been tucked away as a way of saying thanks to their hosts.

One of the scenes was the "Kissing the Cod" or "Screech-in." Like all good local customs, it's usually performed at a pub by a resident.  The "Come from Away" kisses a cod and is asked by the local "Is ye a Screecher?" The newcomer must reply "Deed I is, me old cock, and long may your big jib draw!" Which translates to "Yes indeed my friend, may there always be wind in your sails." Then you drink a shot of Newfoundland Screech, a type of rum, and receive a certificate from the Royal Order of Newfoundland Screechers.  Kiss the Cod - I'll add it to the list 'cos it sounds like my sort of tradition.

Friday, 23 August 2019

Women on Walks

Back in May I discovered this Facebook group called "Women on Walks" and decided I could do with a bit more getting off my fat arse and walking.  The next planned walk was along the beach from Sandringham to Green Point in Brighton.  Talked Andrea, Heather and Erminia into coming along, so at 9.45am on a grey Tuesday, (ah the joys of not working are never-ending) off we set.  Easy pace, walked past the Sandringham Rotunda, Sandy Yacht Club, through some bushland which sometimes is hard to believe is right on our doorstep, along Hampton beach (home sweet home) and finally to Green Point where we had a short pit-stop for morning tea (BYO). On the way back we stopped off at a café in Sandringham Village (Elefant) for lunch/coffee and were back where we started at around 1.30pm.  

Friday 12 July was a bit of a wet and wild day in St Kilda. I guess bad weather needs to be factored in when it's the middle of winter.  Anyway, we didn't let that stop us as we set off through the St Kilda Botanical Gardens and made our way to Albert Park and then strolled around the lake. Heavy rain at one point, but at least it was only blowing in 1 direction so only half the body got wet.  Wandered down Fitzroy and Acland Streets and ended up at Iddy Biddy Bar for a much needed coffee and a delish lunch. Oh and met Ron Barassi along the way - much to the delight (if the squeals were anything to go by) of some of our fellow walkers.

The weather gods took pity on us on Sunday 21st July and the sun was shining.  This time we were in the city and after meeting up in Fed Square, we were off to check out the street art in a couple of laneways (I do love a good laneway stroll). On to and around Carlton Gardens and then back past Parliament for a walk through Treasury and Fitzroy Gardens before our coffee/lunch stop at Great Space café. Lots to see along the way and we had many keen photographers merrily snapping away on route.

The most recent walk was on Sunday 18 August and it was a repeat of the St Kilda one - this time with no rain and much warmer, although it was windy around the lake - and not just because there were 25 women chatting away. We kept a look out for the great Ron B, but he wasn't hanging around on any street corners on this day.

Each month there are two walks. One held during the week and one on the weekend.  The following month, the one that was held during the week is repeated on a Sunday for those that aren't lucky enough to be retired/unemployed/taking a break.  

Each walk is around 10 - 12km and everyone is welcome. Well, as long as you are a women. Apparently some men have tried to join the group and have been politely turned away. Can't blame them for trying - I'm sure an equivalent men's walking group would be nowhere near as exciting when it comes to gossip. 

The group is run by the lovely Annie, who diligently takes a practice walk when planning the next ones and ensures that coffee/lunch spots are up to scratch.  So far I've met a lovely bunch of ladies,  all ages and from various walks of life. Some mothers and daughters share the day and there is usually at least one fur-baby (male's welcome) accompanying us.  It's a fabulous way to get a bit of exercise, discover new spots around our city and make new friends.

All walks to date have been classed as "Easy." Although in October, a slightly more taxing hike down in the Mornington Peninsula is planned and that will be 14.5km.  Now the question has been raised - What is the difference between a "hike" and a "walk?" The answer appears a bit grey, but seems to depend on the surface being walked upon and where you are. Walking tends to refer to the stuff we do everyday on hard, relatively flat surfaces in urban areas, whereas hiking is done in nature and on more natural, uneven ground. Got it?  So really, telling someone to take a hike is not necessarily a bad thing.

Monday, 22 April 2019

Procrastination, Punting and Prosecco

"Procrastination - the action of delaying or postponing something"   

So, I have become an expert procrastinator.  And rather than get on with writing and doing all the other things I should be doing, I did some reading on procrastination. Because that's just what us procrastinators do.

Seems like it's a thing we humans are very good at and it's been happening for centuries. Those old wise ones even had a word for it Akrasia (cheers Aristotle). "The state of acting against your better judgement" (like opening that third bottle of bubbles or eating the entire box of chocolates.) It's when you do something even though you know you should probably be doing something else.

Whatever, I need to get my writing mojo back.  That means just one thing, actually doing some writing.  So much for that dream of sitting in a cafe tapping away. Nada. Not happening. Not even once. I used to get more writing done when I was working.

Anyway, at least I managed a tick off the old list and whipped up this quick post.

Good Friday dawned warm and sunny so a perfect day to go punting on the Royal Botanic Gardens. Nice one B, who took the initiative and grabbed us some tickets.  All aboard our wooden punt, complete with prosecco, plastic cups and parasol for a tour around the lake. After a brief safety briefing (there are after all killer eels and who knows what else lurking beneath the surface of the murky waters), our professional punter Wesley pushed us off and provided plenty of info about the lakes history, the plants and the bird life that call the lake home.  Pointing out mama and papa swan with their four very cute fluffy cygnets was a highlight.

Very pleasant and the prosecco went down very nicely.  Punting on the Lake, costs $25 for adults, $12 for kids (5 - 15) and $65 for families (2 adults and 3 kids) for a 30 minute tour.  Well behaved dogs are allowed on board, so will have to take Lola along next time.  Oh and yes, you are welcome to take alcohol on board - even at 10.30am. Just don't fall in. Apart from those killer eels, the water is a bit smelly - duck poo.

After a pleasant stroll through the gardens, we checked out The Kettle Black for a delicious brunch in South Melbourne.  All that and home in time for a lazy afternoon siesta.

Right, so tomorrow, I'll head down to the corner cafe and seek inspiration.  Or is that motivation? Or fuck it, maybe I'll just pop down for a skinny latte, a croissant and read the gossip mags. Because that too is what us procrastinators do.

Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Urban Scrawl Street Art Tours

Another Sunday, another day exploring our beautiful city.  Having only caught up with the lovely Lynda a couple of weeks earlier on our Wayward Wanders Tour, it was fab to set off an another adventure with her. 

This time we joined Urban Scrawl on one of their Street Art Tours. Having been on a few of these and spent many hours wandering our laneways, it never ceases to amaze me the level of talent we have around us. Melbourne is actually well known as one of the top cities in the world for street art and it's not hard to see why.

What started as a graffiti subculture, is now widely accepted by local authorities who commission many of the beautiful large pieces we have around the city and suburbs.  Whilst generally graffiti and tagging is still illegal, many of our laneways have opened up for artists to share their talents.  It is a bit of a shame to see some amazing pieces tagged, but I guess that's part of it.

On this tour, we wandered around many of the famous spots we have in the city and learnt about some of the artists and their work.  Many of them have made a name for themselves not only in Melbourne, but throughout Australia and around the world. 

The great thing about street art, is that it's ever changing; so what's there one day, might have been replaced the next.  No matter how many times you visit, there are always new works to discover and old faves to admire.  Yes, little Banksy rat, it's good to see you still there.  A piece of art that should really be preserved.

Overall, another good tour company doing these and a pleasant way to spend a couple of hours.  The tours are by appointment and meet at Federation Square.  Cost is $35.  They also run one through Fitzroy and Collingwood.

If you don't want to do a tour, it's easy to go and check them out on your own.  City of Melbourne  have a great guide of all the most popular sites and laneways and you can dowload a map.  Or just wander around and get lost.

Oh and a big thank you to Lynda for the gorgeous pics. I did take some, but they are still sitting on the camera card.