Dec 31, 2011

2011, You Know What? You Weren't So Bad After All.

2011, you've been quite a year.

For most of the time we've shared, I've been cursing you and hurrying you along so that I could get to 2012 which I am convinced will hold much better times for me.  Bugger what everyone else thought of 2011, at times it has been all about me and this burning desire to be done with the year and to get on to those elusive 'better times'.  Those ones that I feel that I deserve for goodness sake.

So now here we are.  I'm saying goodbye to you and do you know what?  You and God weren't so bad to me after all.

  • You've taught me a lot about myself - my strengths and my weaknesses, what I really want in life and how just because things don't happen on my timeline doesn't mean that the end of the world is nigh.  
  • You've taught me to appreciate my friends and loved ones.  To genuinely value their love and friendship and to give something back to them whether it be emotional support or an actual physical gift.  To see those gifts bring a smile or laugh really did make me feel better about things too.  I admit that now.
  • You've taught me that when the worst case scenario has happened that I can't just crumble and opt out of the real world because the rest of the world just keeps on keeping on around me.  Time just won't stop / rewind / delete for me.  It only moves forward and I have to go along for the ride whether I like it or not.  So I might as well make it a fun ride.
  • You've taught me how to think about life in a completely different way.  You've forced me to change my mind set because often the only thing I do have control over in my life is how I choose to think about what has happened and how the surviving the experience has strengthened both myself and my relationships.
  • You've given me amazing experiences and achievements I never could have dreamed of.  In my professional and personal lives.  Things just seemed to happen and to fall into place.  So obsessed was I on the 'bad' events of the year that I neglected to put much thought into everything else.  And wouldn't you know it? The rest of my life went on perfectly well without my obsession and anxiety.
So, I guess this is goodbye, 2011.  You taught me what I needed to learn and I thank you for this.  You happened to me for reasons I don't fully appreciate right now but know that I will some time down the track.  Perhaps nor in 2012, maybe later but definitely at some stage in the future.

Now that the serious bits are done....

How are your plans for the evening shaping up?  I'm staying in with Mr SSG.  There's meant to be a taxi shortage in Sydney tonight, even the Hummers of the city aren't available for hire tonight.  I'm all pedi-ed up with 2 coats of Opi's The Show Must Go On (nothing sets off grey trackies and a black T better).  The champagne fest has begun with a bottle of Bollinger with strawberries.  Thank you, Costco for your competitive pricing.

I've done a bit of out with the old and in with the new as well.  My old school stereo is going out for general waste collection.  I was going to leave it out on the front verge for someone to pick up this weekend if they had a need for it but Mr SSG advised me that there probably wouldn't be any takers for a clunker of a stereo that features both a cassette deck and a mini disk drive.

A long weekend can't go by without Mr SSG and I hitting Costco for some fun and games.  I don't know how it happens but we can never leave without a full trolley.  More about this tomorrow but for the moment, here's my new wireless mouse.  It's so vibrant and happy, I had to bring it home with me.

Happy New Year, everyone.  Thank you for following me and the rocky ride that was 2011.  Here's to 2012 and whatever it holds for us all.

God bless and stay safe tonight.

Dec 29, 2011

Hello Four Day Weekend. The Last Friday of 2011!!!!

Thursday was my Friday this week and thank goodness for  small mercies!
Hello, Four Day Weekend.

You couldn't have come along at a better time.  It might only have been a 3 day working week but somehow I've managed to have a whole week's work (and then some) compressed into those few days.  I'm definitely back in the real world.  Four Day Weekend, I'm going to need you just to recover from returning to work.

The weather here in Sydney is finally getting its act together and behaving like a summer should.

Remember the free dress that came with January 2012 marieclaire?

Dress - freebie with marieclaire, tank - Costco, skinnies - JBrand, necklace - SSG by Red Phoenix Emporium, cross - T&Co.  Newly done hair!
It's actually more the length of a long T-shirt.  Which made it the perfect summer top to wear with my skinny jeans today.

I believe good colour schemes transcend the gap between fashion and food so I went with blue and red in my choices of fruit today.  Hasn't this been a spectacular strawberry season?  They've gotten so cheap in recent weeks I've been eating punnets on a daily basis after dinner.  Blueberries seem to be coming in from New Zealand at the moment.  They're very plump and zingy right now.

A mountain of housework has accumulated at SSG Manor this month.  I've been away or working so often over the weekends, things just never got around to getting done.  I finally got my act together this morning and got cracking.  Starting with the most important things like the bathroom cleaning the SSG wedding gift crystal champagne flutes in preparation for celebrating the start of 2012.  I don't  now about you but I can't see the back of 2011 soon enough.

Then there was the annual clearing of the dining table for a bit of a clean and condition with some O'Cedar Premium Revive Wood Polish.  I'm biased  but I think that table top definitely looks revived and well rested now.

Speaking of wood, I forgot to show you the newest resident of SSG Manor.

Wombats have a special place in Wolgan Valley.  Wombat Hotel is a series of wombat tunnels at the perimeter of the resort where the local wombats meet and crash for the day.
Wolli, the huon pine wombat.  At Wolgan Valley, Wollis sit on the bedside table and are used to help indicate if you need a fresh change of bed linen daily (put Wolli on the bed) or are happy with the resort's eco friendly second daily policy (leave Wolli where he is).  Each Wolli is hand carved by a local artist, Ole Nielson and the best part of this is that you can actually bring a Wolli home with you.  Not exactly clones but each piece is hand carved by the artist and bears his signature under the front paws.

Wolli contemplating the words of Mr Iyegnar at SSG Manor  as he inhales the scent of Mr SSG's Acqua Di Parma.  It's my turn for Wolli on my bedside table next week.
Both Mr SSG and I fell in love with Wolli and decided we had to bring his likeness home with us.  As luck would have it, we scored the last Wolli at the resort store.  There is usually a waiting list and back orders for Wolli but we were fortunate to be able to take our wooden wombat home with us.  Wolli is now officially the most expensive and only hand crafted art work at SSG Manor.

On other exciting news today, I went to the hairdresser.  I hardly ever get to go on a Friday.  It was crazy but the good thing is that my favourite coffee place down that end of town was open (it's shut on weekends).  Does anyone else love 2 Black Sheep in the Pavilion on George Street?  Great coffee and very lovely staff.  I also love their funky use of the sheep motif.

Here's a large black sheep on the side of my skinny cap.  You can tell its large because the writing says so.  In November, the staff put on moustaches and deck the sheep out with mo's as well for Movember.  Just a random fact I thought I'd throw in.  It's the weekend (for me), after all.

It was all good on the hair front.  My hair is finally growing out in a vaguely tidy manner and the stylists were all deeply relieved that their beloved Japanese henna hair treatments have returned.  This will sound trite, I warn you.  In the aftermath of the horrors of Japan's tsunami and nuclear power plant melt down, exports of Japanese hair treatments ground to a halt and have only just now resumed.

Celebrating Christmas with the wall of a ginger bread house and a cup of  Byron Bay loose leaf tea one weekend and saying good bye to the year that was (and wasn't) the next.

I can't believe that this is the last Friday of 2011.  I say this every year, but the older you get, the faster time flies past.  This time of the year is usually a time of reflection for me but it feels like I've been reflecting all year long this year.

I'm trying to bottle the serenity vibe of the Blue Mountains and make it last though 2012.

So with much of the reflection down already, I'm going to spend this weekend chilling out and looking forward to the good times I know the future holds and preparing myself for the happiness that they will bring.

Happy New Years Eve Eve, everyone!  Enjoy your weekend.

Dec 28, 2011

The Inaugural SSG Bush Christmas: Boxing Day.

The unusualness of this Christmas continued into Boxing Day.

Instead of finding myself in a crush of people at the entrance to my local Westfield or poised over my laptop, ready to click 'proceed to payment' - I was on my bike by the front gate of an old homestead.

1832 homestead is located to the back of the cottages that make up Wolgan Valley resort.  It is a relic from the days when the property was a farm.

I'll write more later on in this post about what currently goes on at the homestead.  For now, though, let's all acknowledge my bravery in getting onto a mountain bike and navigating its gears to get both myself and the bike safely from the paths of the resort area down to the unsealed tracks through the bushland.

I must have been quite a sight because even the local kangaroos stopped to have a closer look at my unsteady and loud progress.

So much for my city slicker prowess on the step and bike machines in the gym.  I had to get help in order to carry my bike across the 'bridge' that formed part of our route.

It never ceased to amaze me whilst I was in the valley, just how green everything around me was.  It's been a mild summer in these parts and there has also been quite a fair bit of rain.  The undergrowth was a treat for the local butterfly population.  As we rode the winding tracks, flocks (?flutters) of orange butterflies would join us and perch on our heads as they searched for grass to feed on.

As for me on my bike, I finally got some confidence and released my firm grip on both brakes.

There are lookouts dotted over the property where guests can bike out and have a picnic lunch.  The land on which the resort lies is a complex ecosystem that is the basis for ongoing research funded by Emirates with input from researchers of the University of Western Sydney.  The local wombat, possum and wallaroo populations are quite vulnerable to predatory foxes and wild cats and there is a programme in place to try and control the numbers of these introduced animals who not only prey on the native species but have also introduced infections that are proving difficult to control with the current available treatments.

You may have noticed that I haven't mentioned koalas.  Despite the abundance of koala appropriate gum trees in the area, koalas have not yet made it to their preferred food choice this side of the Blue Mountains.  No one is quite sure why this is the case but one of the environmental programmes occurring in Wolgan Valley is an attempt to create natural corridors to enable the passage of wildlife from the national parkland that surrounds the resort into the resort's gum trees (koalas are sorely missed by guests here, as are the elusive platypus who frequent the water holes but rarely in front of human eyes).

As we rode along, I had some time to reflect on just how amazing it was that the first generations of European settlers in this area actually found this place, let alone made a go of farming here.  There is dense bushland and uneven rock formations as far as the eye can see yet a homestead has been built here and cattle were bred successfully.  Rumour has it that it was the livestock that found this place first.  A few escaped from some of the early convict ships and found the water here where they grazed and bred without human intervention before being found again by their captors.

Several decades later, the developers of this resort spent around 5 million dollars to get electricity connected to the valley, raising the value of the farmland along the path of supply.

Back at the homestead, after our ride, Mr SSG and I took a look around and basked in the serenity (there, I've said the 'S' word) and the freshness of the air.

A central 'fire place' in front of the homestead is the location for damper making, one of many activities arranged for the junior visitors to Wolgan Valley.

Next to the homestead is a vegetable patch that produces many of the fruit and vegetables that make up the meals at Wolgan Valley.  As part of its goal as a sustainable luxury resort, most of the food and drink here is sourced within a 100 kilometre radius.  Which is pretty impressive given that there's a  26 kilometre buffer between farmland and the front door.

There's something about trucks decked out with gardening equipment and wooden fences that make me think of Jamie Oliver.

Or Mr SSG as he 'tests the irrigation system' over at the herb garden.

I found the strawberry patch!

Given the number of strawberries that went into our Christmas Day champagnes, I was lucky to find these still unpicked.

You will have to excuse my vegetable ignorance as I bumble my way through my photos.  I'm pretty sure we have an artichoke plant here.

And some zucchini flowers here.

Are these chamomile flowers?

Definitely blueberries here.

I think either you or Jamie Oliver will have to help me identify these.

Instead of making damper on Boxing Day, the children were decorating a pair of the electric buggies that usually zoom between the corsages with luggage, guests and supplies.

After a busy morning, I went back to our cottage and had a long bath.

With a Diet Coke and the gossip world's wrap up of 2011.  I was spared the cricket as a soundtrack as Mr SSG was too engrossed in the selection of new release films on offer.

The bath left me so relaxed I felt more than up to the challenge of making the in room Nespresso machine and frothacino whatsit work.

I got a good froth on my milk but failed with the actual coffee.  How I managed to get a stone cold brew despite having all the correct buttons flashing remains a mystery to this day.

Never mind, other technologies were on my side.  The Parlux hairdryer gave me the best hotel hair I've had in my entire life.

And the blisteringly fast broad band made short work of holiday blogging and social networking.  My long goodbye on my pre getaway post seems a bit melodramatic now.


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