Monday, 28 October 2013


Did you have a bedspread when you were growing up? Maybe you have one now.

I had a jacquard one (that's when the pattern is woven into the fabric) in cream and beige as I recall. Probably terribly sophisticated back in the 1970s, but what I really hankered for was pink candlewick one, like our cleaning lady had in her spare room where we sometimes got to stay. 

So cosy, so warm, so, so.... pink!
You can tell a lot about accommodation by the bedspreads. It's one of my key criteria. In fact, these days, as I scoot around Trip Advisor, Wot If and Last Minute I'd have to say a bedspread is pretty much a deal breaker.

I think I was scarred by a nine-day shoot for a television commercial I was on a few years back. It literally took us to every corner of Australia and my client Elisa and I took great note of the bedspreads in the selection of cheap motels we briefly lay down in at the end of each hectic day. And yes, there were attempts at themes. 

Anywhere within 50km of the coast erred towards shells, tropical foliage and hibiscus flowers. Inland was more your earthy, bush colours, often reminiscent of the surrounding countryside. Either than or the hideous brown abstract patterns had been selected for their ability to hide the proverbial 'multitude of sins'. Ew. Doesn't even bear thinking about. But now that I am, I wonder how often they do get peeled off and tossed through a hot cycle?

All were polyester and probably highly flammable had they not been treated with an even more deadly chemical cocktail. All were lightly padded against the freezing nights down south and the freezing air conditioning up north. And all were in equally poor taste.

This isn't them exactly... no wait!... maybe it is?! They look frighteningly familiar! Either that or they've all blended into the one selection. What do you think? Familiar?

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

A Year

What's a year? 365 days. The time it takes planet earth to chug a lap around the sun? A real measure, but still arbitrary in many ways.

George died on September 30th last year. And on September 30th this year, I didn't want to dwell on it.
I didn't want to recall in painful details, the hideous decision and even more hideous process of withdrawing life support. And just because the earth was sitting in the same position it was when in happened, does that matter? Does that mean you have to be contemplative? I decided no.

It's not that I don't think of George every day and the little things about him. The fact that he took his top off every night to go to sleep - summer, winter, camping - he was just that kind of guy. Even the shape of his fingernails is very clear to me - and I hope I can maintain that detail into old age. I just didn't feel more or less pained by his loss at the 365-day mark than I did at 364 or 366.

My sister-in-law Karen sent me this photo of all the cousins on Geoff's side. I love it. You can almost see the personalities of these kids as they are now, more than 10 years later.  It was so typical of George to be holding the baby - in this case, the youngest cousin at the time, Michael. (Yes, Sass was yet to be then. Karen has suggested we Photoshop her in!)

L-R: Back - Eliza, Eleanor, Jazzy, George & Michael, Timothy, James. Front - Stephanie, Claire, Jack.  2003

So to repeat the poignant text of my friend Annie from Paris, a year after Jazzy died - time goes quickly, times goes slowly.

How right she is.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Show Bags.

I was at uni with a guy nicknamed Show Bags - very appealing on the outside but in reality, full of crap.

So one of the many advantages of running your own business is flexibility. We had a client who had a presence at The Royal Melbourne Show so Mandy and I decided to take the kids and check it out.

It had been quite some time since Mandy had been to The Show, so she was surprised to see a small baby in a pram drinking chocolate milk from her baby bottle. I raised her when I saw two small children in a double stroller in The Show Bag Pavilion with Coke in their baby bottles. Classy.

Being the super nerdy dag that I am, I love the Craft & Cooking Pavilion. All the quilts and knitted bits, woodwork and decorated cakes. Some are incredible, many are hideous, but I'm dazzled never the less. So much so that after the kids had watched the biscuit decorating demonstration and I was still immersed in the preserves, I got the tap on the shoulder from Mands - we were out of there.

A tea cosy titled: Fifty Shades of Earl Grey.

It's no cheap outing with rides costing between $7 and $13 each!  So I was pleased to see Sass (aka Quinoa) get a driver for her dodgem' car. Why drive yourself when you can have a professional (aka the Carnie) do it for you?? Oh that's right - because you can't reach the accelerator.

The girls also had a go at reading the Channel 7 news....which was not only kinda cool because they immediately text you a link to the video - but it's FREE!!! Yes, really.

"Elle & Sass. Seven News."

Sugar stash as of this morning.
So back to the show bags. As a general observation, there seems to be an inverse correlation between household income and expenditure on show bags. There are dozens of $24 Kmart strollers weighed down with $240-worth of complete and utter rubbish.
The girls were allowed two each. Elle went straight for the magazine/beauty ones with make up, fast tan, bags and other things she'll actually use.

You won't recognise a brand -
it's all made up names - probably from China
The choice for Sass was slim - landfill (ie cheap crap that I will need to sneakily dispose of in the coming 12 months) or sugar (she's lost a heap of baby teeth lately and I didn't like that idea either.) We settled for one of each. But two weeks later, the sugar stash is still ludicrously large and I'm finding tell-tale wrappers everywhere.

So do you do The Show? What's your fave? And do you choose landfill or sugar for the kids' show bags?

Monday, 14 October 2013

Adelaide: The Wrap (Up).

Although Mum and Dad were happy to drive to Adelaide, once they got there they parked their car at the hotel and drove no more until it was home time. Geoff and I were keen to explore, especially the wineries, so we discussed our options. I could drive our hire car and he could drive their car - nup - that didn't sound like fun. So in the end, I booked a tour. No one needed to drive.

The mini bus pulled up at our hotel at the appointed time and our smooth and dulcet toned guide, slash, driver (he'd had a career in radio in a former life and had the perfectly blow-dried hair to prove it) was waiting to shake my hand and introduce himself before we got on the bus. 'Hi,' I said and tried to whip my hand away to join Mum, Dad and everyone else on the bus. But Adrian's gentle shake became a vice like grip that prevented my getaway as he explained he really did need to see the Visa card I'd booked with.... if I'd be so kind.

After that somewhat rocky start, we were away!

Adrian remembered the names of all 24 guests aboard his bus and liked to refer to us all individually and single people out for special questions. It was kinda odd but kinda fun at the same time as we certainly got to know everyone else fast. Our day included a city tour, a sprint up to Mt Barker, into Hahndorf for a bite of lunch, back to town to drop of those that had (rudely) only booked a half day tour then off to the Barossa. A lot to pack into a tour but you quickly realise everything is pretty close by in Adelaide.

The architecture in the city is also quite beautiful and they've done a great job of blending the old and new. It may have stood out too because I was a bit underwhelmed with Perth's (sorry Lara and Di). We saw them applying copper to the sport stadium redevelopment and it looks incredible. They've extended their convention centre and it's hard to believe that the original was built it the 80s and was the first purpose built convention centre in Australia. Who said they were all backwards in Adelaide?

And check out their new Medical Reseach building! It's still under construction but it's amazing.

So, there you go peeps - Adelaide - not such a bad place after all!

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Welcome to Adelaide

The train arrived in Adelaide at 7am, ahead of schedule so the Fremantle fans travelling up the back could catch their connecting buses and trains to Melbourne for the AFL Grand Final. I can only imagine that it was a journey filled with unprecedented excitement and anticipation surpassed only by the degree disappointment and heartache on the excruciatingly long journey home.

Kids, I said, I'll go get the hire car. I grabbed a cab and headed in to town. Three minutes later I was there but the office didn't open until 8am. I sat on the concrete stairs and waited while Geoff and the kids sat at the station and waited. Finally I got the car, plugged the station into my phone GPS and was off. Now I love GPS - when it's on the money, but I could see from the map it wasn't quite right. After an 8 kilometre lap of Adelaide, taking in the same sights I saw first time round, I finally pulled over and asked a cab driver. I'd missed the road into the station by about 10 metres - ahhhhh!!! So 2 hours after setting off, we were finally reunited. First stop, the zoo.

Adelaide has a great zoo and the only pandas in Australia that they pay a million bucks a year for the privilege, so they'd want to be bloody cute!!! And they were.

On arrival, we were met by a zoo rep who was selling animal encounters. It as $30 each to get up close to the giant tortoises - so $120 for all of us. Outrageous - but I guess they need to pay for those pandas. We passed. But when we got around to the tortoises, one was so close to the fence that I got the shot we would have paid $120 for and the girls (and all the other people there) could just reach over and give him (or her?) a little scratch. I think they need to rethink that deal. Or train the tortoise not give away what they can get people to pay for!!

It's a really lovely zoo, beautiful gardens, happy looking residents so if you're there, it's worth a visit, even though it probably takes a good three minutes to get there from the centre of town (yes, three minutes).

Mum and Dad had come to Adelaide and met us at the zoo. Geoff popped back to put more money in the meter but too late - we got a parking fine. But only $45 which is cheap compared to Melbourne.

The next morning, Geoff trotted out of our hotel early to top up the parking metre - he was 20 minutes late and yes, another $45 parking fine. Welcome to Adelaide!

It was the day of the AFL grand final so we headed down to Glenelg on the tram (such a novelty when you're from Melbourne - not!). We took a family selfie on the pier and then Mum suggested we find the Oyster Bar. Good plan, Mum. It wasn't quite lunch time but hey, we were on holiday!

Then back to the folks' fancy hotel to drink red wine and order a cheese platter and watch the footy. I'm not really into footy but I really did feel for all those Fremantle fans who'd been in the less luxurious Red Class of the train and then an eight hour bus ride - all at great expense to witness THAT.

Anyway....there was a baby Spiegel tent in the park over from said fancy hotel that had free 15 minute shows. We queued up for the first and it was so good we rushed around twice more and saw three before dinner. Adelaide does arts so well! So a quick dinner in the closest pub and another great day in Adelaide was over.

Daphne, a performer in Adelaide pouring a wine while hoola hooping.

Friday, 4 October 2013

Quinoa's ancient ancestor, Barley.

I just came across this and had to share!!

This is the amazing work of Melbourne photographic artist, Bill Gekas that's recently featured on Yellow Trace.

It reminded me so much of Quinoa! Aren't they just adorable!!!

Check out the Yellow Trace article here or go straight to Bill's website here.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

The Train

Yes, where have I been....

Actually, on holiday as you know with crap weather, but we are now home.

One of the anticipated highlights was the trip across the Nullarbor on the Indian Pacific train. By comparison to our train travel in Vietnam and Egypt, this was truly civilized. There were clean sheets, en suites and even..... toilet paper. Wow. You might recall after two consecutive nights on the trains in Vietnam, enthusiasm for train travel was waning, so it was quite remarkable that I managed to convince the crew to get on another one. Oh that's right, I didn't ask them, I just booked it.

We arrived at the train station in Perth and it was like pensioner's day at the pokies. I'd joked that Geoff and I would drag down the average age by 20 years - but it was true. It was us, two other families and 200 people aged over 70.  'Don't think it'll be rowdy' I quipped on FB. 'Just wait til bingo!" responded my friend Deb. But there was no bingo.

Having boarded the train just before noon, we sorted out our cabins and set off for the lounge and dining car. And that's where we found everyone - in the bar - and drinks are included! And it's not the cheap stuff either - I kicked off with a glass of Vasse Felix bubbles and pretty much took it from there. We played Scrabble, Uno, dominoes and Connect Four. (Geoff asked what the point of that game was. Elle and I thought it was pretty apparent, but apparently not.) We read books, napped, ate and drank - and then did it all again.

The train pulled in to Kalgoorlie about 10pm and those of us who'd stayed up late (many of the oldies had indeed gone to bed) piled onto buses for a town tour - which was surprisingly good - or maybe it was that I was kinda relaxed on the Vasse Felix! We saw the gold mine that runs 24/7 and climbed into one of the huge trucks they use to transport the dirt to the extraction plant. And of course we had a quick look at Hay Street where the ladies of the night still run a reasonable trade, despite the population shift away from being mostly blokes and at least one brothel now being a 'romantic' bed and breakfast.

Indeed, for a town that's less than 30,000 strong, 26 pubs, many bragging 'skimpies' (girls clad in not much), does seem a tad excessive and not quite as 'family' as they now like to think they are.

The next day was again filled with eating and drinking and views of the desert. Here's a picture.

And here's another.

And one with a filter.

Get the picture?

In fact, the name Nullarbor is Latin (not aboriginal as sometimes thought) and very obvious. 'Null' as in none/nothing and 'arbor' as in trees (as in arborists the tree doctors or arboreal animals, meaning tree-dwelling).

Just before (or after - I can't remember!) pre-lunch drinks on day two, we pulled into Cook, a tiny town just inside the South Australian border. I actually did this same train journey in reverse when I was about 13 and Cook was a highlight. The kids from the school were so excited to see people from the train. But these days, the school is closed, the pool is filled with dirt, the tennis courts are decaying. the jails are empty and the population is a staggeringly tiny four.

At one stage, Cook boasted a hospital which they viewed as their salvation as the privatisation of the rail system threatened the town's continuance. And someone should have been in advertising!

Back on the train for a bite of lunch and a glass of very lovely red (or two) before yet another nap. Then it was time for pre-dinner drinks and dinner and bed. It was extremely relaxing! 

The train arrived in Adelaide at just after 7am where we disembarked for a weekend of more wineries and touring.

The Moroccan Bath

The girls and I have come up to Dubai for a few days to escape the Melbourne winter. It's in the 40s so we've thawed out - quickly. ...