Apr 30, 2018

Life This Week 30/4/2018: Taking Stock.

Making : memories over these school holidays.  The places we've been.  I've been looking back at my photos and blog posts of the last fortnight and they do look pretty amazing if I do say so myself.  I can't believe we didn't even have to leave the state to do it all!

Cooking : peanut butter baked oats, a variation on my go to breakfast.

Drinking : fresh coconut water and being very underwhelmed because it wasn't as sweet and refreshing as what you can get in Malaysia and Singapore for a fraction of the price.


Reading: The Money Diaries at Refinery 29 The Money Diaries are a fascinating look at the way different, anonymous people spend their salaries for a week.  Diarists come from all walks of life and while mostly from the US, there are the occasional international diaries.  I love the mixture of personal anecdotes and glimpses of how others manage their discretionary spending fascinating.

Trawling: through all our wardrobes to cull any outgrown or old clothing.  Out with the old and in with the new!  I've already bought all the updates I need for my wardrobe this autumn / winter and for once I have a definite plan for how to work them in with what I already own.

Wanting: a quicker way to edit photos I take on my DSLR using iPhoto.

Looking: forward to Mothers Day.  My  mum and aunty will be visiting us and I'm going to my first school mums Mothers Day lunch.

Deciding: that there's a perfect pasta shape for every dish and that substitution should not be attempted.

Wishing: there was a fail safe way of keeping cardboard pasta boxes tidily closed once they've been opened.

Enjoying: the break from the treadmill.  It's been a bit of a gift that I've been able to do as many outdoor runs as I have this year.  I'm looking forward to the cool change and how the air will feel as I run.

Waiting: for this load of washing to finish so I can hang it up.  Hope that there's just enough sun and warmth today to get it all dried.  The towels might need to go straight in the dryer though.  Thinking out loud there...

Liking: being on top of my personal admin 'to do' list.  There's barely anything left on my current list.

Wondering: which animals we'll see at the zoo today.  

Loving: the ferry ride from Circular Quay to Taronga Zoo.  Never gets old.  I'm such a tourist at hear.

Pondering: why it can be so hard to peel hard boiled eggs sometimes yet at other times the shell just peels of like masking tape.  What am I doing so inconsistently?  Is it me or is it the eggs?

Listening: to REVAMP the most epic collection of Elton covers ever.  Thanks to @msshoegal for the heads up.  My favourites are Lady Gaga's Your Song and Bennie and the Jets featuring Pink and Logic with Elton.


Considering: my outfit for work tomorrow. It looks set to be a cool day.  Might debut a new Grana silk blouse and a skirt I ordered from Banana Republic online.  My ongoing passive aggressive boycott of local high street labels who ignore middle aged women continues...

Buying: Dutch applesauce.  It tastes different to the supermarket brands we normally get here.  A bit richer with a bit more spice.

Watching: Maroon 5 and Jimmy Fallon's busking session in a New York subway.  One of my favourite Jimmy segments.  

Hoping: that this isn't a cold I'm getting and that all I need is a sleep in tomorrow and a huge mug of tea when I wake up.

Marvelling: at the natural beauty of the world around me and how lucky I've been to experience it first hand over the school holidays as well as to share in the travels of my friends who've shared photos of their own exploration of nature with me.

Cringing: at the number of plastic straws I use on a weekly basis.  I need to quit them but it's so hard at Maccas.  I think I need to quit buying my Coke No Sugars at Maccas as well...

Needing: an evening curled up in bed with a good book as the rain patters gently on the roof.  


Questioning: if I can successfully bake a bundt cake recipe I found this week.  I have had nothing but bad times trying to depan bundt cakes.  They always seem to stick no matter how well I grease my tin.

Smelling: my jar of lip balm.  It smells and looks like plasticine but don't let that fool you, it works a treat on my dry lips.

Wearing: liquid foundation.  After two (!!) decades of tinted moisturizer I've made the switch and I'm hooked.

via Woolworths

Noticing: that the white panel of the Shapes box echoes the particular shape of the Shapes flavour.  Mind blown, Christian Hull.

Knowing: 'That we can only be better or bitter ... we can't be both'.  An Instragrammer I follow shared this quote from her wise mother recently and it is so very true.

Thinking: that it was a brilliant idea to have sorted out winter uniforms and hair cuts the moment last term finished.  I even emptied out the school backpack too!

Admiring: the view from the Sky Train at the zoo as we bob up to the zoo's main entrance.  It's pretty special being able to see how the landscape changes with each season on our serial visits here.

Getting: better at holding my triangle pose.

Bookmarking: travel websites for my next big trip.  Fingers crossed it all comes together.  Destination to be confirmed.

Opening: a container of something I cooked and froze a few weeks back and looking forward to dinner.  I am a big, big advocate of batch cooking.

Closing: bags of clothes we no longer need that I'll be passing on to new homes.

Feeling: gratitude.  For those who gave their lives so that we may live the lives we do in this beautiful country.

Hearing: the silent prayers and conversations with those who were lost and the dignity in the silence of those who observed ANZAC Day this year.

Celebrating: the new beginnings that each morning brings.

via eBay

Pretending: that I don't really own five pairs of distressed jeans.  At my age too.  One of them are those uneven raw hemmed pairs... that I wear with trainers or Havs rather than the more stylistically correct stilettos.

Embracing: Allens' range of chewy lollies inspired by two of our nation's favourite ice creams - Paddle Pop ices and Drumstick ice creams.  Tastes of summer that will keep me feeling the sun on my face through the coming winter.

Apr 27, 2018

The Staycation Life #5: The 21st Biennale of Sydney, Cockatoo Island.

Today's instalment of the staycation files sees us set sail for Cockatoo Island.

The Biennale of Sydney is Australia's largest contemporary visual arts event with artists from all over the world exhibiting their work at one of seven venues around Sydney for the exhibition's duration.   Some works are actually created specifically for the biennale with artists often on site creating their work in the weeks before the festival opens to the public.

Cockatoo Island plays host to 20 artists and their interpretations of the theme Superposition: Equilibrium and Engagement.

We picked one of those amazing bonus summer's days of April to visit.

Cockatoo Island was previously a convict penal establishment between 1839 - 1869.

It then became one of Australia's largest shipyards, operating between 1857 - 1991.  It has since become a UNESCO World Heritage Site. My photographs today don't really show this but the island was originally a heavily timbered sandstone knoll.  You can still see the sandstone rising between buildings as well as relics from the ship making past of the island.

With regards to the Superposition exhibition, I'm going to confess that I wandered around aimlessly between exhibits, only pausing to take photographs of works that looked interesting to me.  I then edited them at home before reading up on them through the Biennale website.  It's been interesting reflecting on the works and how they fit in with the concept of change, opposition, equilibrium and engagement that are the broad themes of the Biennale.

Mexican artist Abraham Cruzivillegas created Reconstruction I & II which he has suspended from the roof of one of the ship factories.  The works are constructed entirely from materials left on the island from previous events.

Ai Wei Wei, perhaps China's most famous living artist (though he lives and creates in Berlin) has several works featured across multiple sites of the Biennale this year.  'Law of the Journey' is a confronting work that features a 60m long rubber boat filled with the anonymous figures of refugees willing to risk everything to sail uncertain seas in uncertain dinghies to a potentially better life far from home and all that they previously held dear.

The rubber dinghy and figures are perhaps ironically made in a factory in China which also fabricates dinghies refugees and people smugglers use on the perilous trip along the Mediterranean Sea.  To quote Ai, ‘There’s no refugee crisis, only a human crisis… In dealing with refugees we’ve lost our very basic values. In this time of uncertainty, we need more tolerance, compassion and trust for each other, since we are all one, otherwise humanity will face an even bigger crisis.’

The second part of this massive installation is a wall of images Ai took on his iPhone while producing the documentary Human Flow.

Whatever perspective I viewed 'Law of the Journey' from whether it was from a distance, up close or from above, I was struck by the utter despair and facelessness of what it means to be a refugee in 2018.

Mit Jai Inn is an artist from Thailand who created the series of Planes installations on Cockatoo Island.  Their full names are Planes (Hover), Planes (Erupt) and Planes (Erode).

The works manipulate space and time in a manner that is unique to the space in which they have been created.

Timesheet by Martin Walde is a dynamic work featuring pieces of paper bearing the dates from when the Biennale opened until 2071.  Every six minutes, a new date is ejected from a printer in the ceiling. Occasional prints feature additional drawings and print by the artist.

Koji Ryui's work, Jamais Vu creates geometric abstraction by exploring the spatial potential of ordinary objects.

I'm still not quite sure what it all meant but it was both restful and questioning to my mind to gaze over the arrangements of vases and bowls across the floor of the warehouse.  I wonder what it would be like to create art like this, without brushes or tools but using instead your hands and the space and objects  in front of you to express an idea.

Diabethanol is the work of Julian Abraham 'Togar'.  It's a statement about the diabetic epidemic that is sweeping the world and how keenly the disability it leaves in its wake is felt in emerging economies such as many of those in South East Asia.  What if there could be some kind of benefit to society from the misfortune of this disease?

The objects of the installation include a toilet which is the source of diabetic urine that would then be converted to a fuel source, Diabethanol.

The Biennale of Sydney runs until June which gives me plenty of time to explore the other sites featured.

Have you been to the Biennale yet?  Which location has been your favourite so far?

Apr 26, 2018

Lovin' Life 26/4/2018: Plums.

via Google images
For me, plums have always been 'that other stone fruit'.  Each summer I get excited about seeing the first peaches and nectarines of the season and progressively more rapturous as both improve as the season progresses.

But plums?  Meh.  Despite their pretty colours, the firm but not too juicy texture never impressed me much.  Ironically, I do love prunes and canned plums but somehow things never really ignited between the plums and I.

Walking towards Harris Farm, Potts Point.
Until now. The extra time I've had over the school holidays has seen me do my fruit shopping at Harris Farm instead of hastily bagging random pieces at the supermarket.  One week, a spectacular display of candy plums caught my eye and bought some to go into a fruit salad (that we ate with MacDonalds but points for trying) and I'm now a plum lover.

It's amazing but not surprising how appearances can change a person's mind. 

Harris Farm plums are just so vibrant and vita in comparison to their tiny, underwhelming counterparts elsewhere.  I love the firm texture I previously loathed and also the more earthy sweetness plums have in contrast to the obvious charms of a peach or nectarine.

Have you fallen in love with a new fruit recently?

Apr 25, 2018

The Staycation Life #4: Scenic World, Katoomba.

Interrupting my usual programming for a moment to bring you news of Baby #3 for the Cambridges, patriotically born on St George's Day (the feast day for the patron saint of England).  Ever reliable, the Daily Mail tells me that Kate's dress is custom Jenny Packham.  I love that shade of red and the 11/10 blow dry (and heels) merely hours after bub was born.

via google images
And we'll be back to my life in flats and scraped bag hair in ten, nine ....

Just being in Central Station stirs up the (relatively) adventurous, bold explorer side of me. The arching ceilings and their skylights whose shards of light seem to imbue a sense of promise to everything they illuminate.  The solemn clocks above that seem to keep everything ticking along with the turn of their hands.  The travellers and their suitcases. That air of excitement (and determination) in the stance of people in line at the cafe and newsagent.  In some ways its more intoxicating than being at the airport.

Our eyes eagerly scanned the Intercity section of the departures screen for the platform for our morning service to Katoomba.  We were fortunate to have made it for the morning express service with time to spare for a coffee and babycino.

Only they don't do babycinos at central but rather a 'small' cup of frothed milk with a dusting of chocolate on top for $1 as well as priority service meaning you get your drink ahead of the eight or so adults already waiting for their morning cup of Joe.

Because we had time to spare, Master SSG got a chance to get up close to the trains as he watched the crew prepare the train for the journey ahead.

I wore my Mickey Stands sweater from Uniqlo in honour of the day's adventuring.

With my coffee in hand and lots to occupy us in our respective backpacks, we were soon on our way for a sedate journey beyond the city limits and into the foot hills, mountains, ranges and escarpments of the Blue Mountains.

We picked a perfect Monday for our trip.  The day was sunny but cool, perfect for all the walking ahead of us.

Katoomba train station is clearly signposted making it easy for even the terminally map illiterate such as myself to find their way to the shuttle buses.

This is a view of Katoomba Street where all the bus stands are.

We took the 686 shuttle bus (pay using your Opal card) to Echo Point, one of the best vantage points from which to see the mountains in Katoomba. There's a kiosk, toilets and an information centre close the the bus stop.  Hiking paths also connect Echo Point to other points of interest in the area.

Where we were greeted with that trademark blue haze misting around the mountains.  The blue comes from the oil of the eucalypts.  Did you know that the Blue Mountains were Heritage Listed in 2000?

I wasn't game to get a proper selfie with Master SSG, preferring to keep him within arm's reach at all times.

But I did get this photo of The Three Sisters.  There were originally Seven Sisters with four having been claimed by erosion over time.  Each of the remaining sisters stand at around 900m in height.

At the entrance to the Scenic World complex as seen from the long line to buy tickets ... on a Monday.  Albeit a stunning, bonus summer / autumn one.

It's a relatively short walk from Echo Point to Scenic World, about 20 minutes but with the traffic and ups and downs of the route, I opted for the 5 minute bus ride because I had Master SSG in tow.

Scenic World Blue Mountains is a one stop family friendly park which enables you to experience the Blur Mountains through a variety of 'rides', hike and walk between them, explore beyond the confines of the property and also enjoy meals and the view from the main building.  It is a designated stop on the 686 bus route.

The Skyway cable car boarding platform is right next to the cafe.

Tickets are pricy (adults $43 AUD, children $23) but it's a well thought out venue with easy access to all rides.  There are plenty of staff on hand and while the waits were long for the rides, things were orderly.  

Waiting and lining up was a challenge for Master SSG.  Given that we 'only' had three attractions to queue for and that the lines were within metres of each other, I'm glad I've put off attempting the big theme parks for at least another year or two.  All up, we spent about 4 hours at Scenic World.  We managed to sample a bit of everything that was on offer (except for the sculpture garden) but if you are planning a trip with younger children, be prepared that it may be a shorter visit than you had anticipated on account of their endurance and patience.

Our first 'ride' was the Skyway, a glass floored cable car suspended 270m above Katoomba falls.

It was just breathtaking seeing the mountains around us and the falls below us.

The Skyway's eastern station (outside of the main building) delivers you to the Prince Henry Cliff Walk.  It's also possible to get to Echo Point from here too.

The walk is well maintained and 'easy' to do but we only did short sections of it because it was very tempting for a certain person to literally veer off the beaten track.

Sorry for The Three Sisters overload in this post.

We took the Skyway back to Scenic World.

We had a little break before facing the queue for our next ride.  The atmosphere at Scenic World is a bit like a ski resort.  Lots of young tanned people are on staff, clad in adventure wear (as opposed to active wear) and all quick with a joke and a perfect smile.  The soundtrack was just as beat driven as it was in the snow (in the two times in my life that I've visited it but you get what I'm trying to say...).

In addition to the food outlets there's also a gift shop and this is the only photo I took inside it.

They're wooden scent diffusers and they were tempting playthings for all the children waiting in line for the Scenic Railway which was the ride with longest wait on the day we visited.

The current incarnation of the railway was built in 2013 and is the steepest passenger train in Australia.  It descends 310 metres at a 52 degree incline into the Jamison Valley.

This is what the existing rail line looks like.

The original sky train.  Look at the lack of safety restraints!  It was a different world in the 1930s...

The original railway was a mining train that was open to the public at weekends.  The original train is still on display next to the current one.

It was just a bit thrilling descending that far down a valley, being plunged into darkness and then finally looking up at the ranges.  It was well worth the half an hour wait in line.

After alighting the train, we joined the Scenic Walkway for a ten minute walk through the valley.

My train buff kindergartener had plenty to explore.

The walkways were canopied by the trees of the forest and it was one of the most peaceful and refreshing tourist attractions I've ever wondered through.

We ended the day with a ride back up to the top of the escarpment on the Scenic Cableway.

We saw Orphan Rock on the way through.  It used to be open to hikers but is now too unstable for humans to explore.

We waited for the shuttle bus back to Katoomba station with this steam clock for company.  It actually whistles instead of chiming and almost looked golden in the autumn sun.  The clock plays sections of Waltzing Matilda on the quarter, half and full hours.  Did you know that most of the functioning steam clocks in the world are designed and built by the Canadian Raymond Saunders?

Have you visited the Blue Mountains?  What's the most adventurous thing you've done on its ranges and/or in its valleys?


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