Edited highlights: Spring flowers, food and boys in the wild

Lately I’ve been enjoying so many colourful blooms in Canberra and that doesn’t even include Floriade, the National Capital’s annual flower festival. Now that the cold of Winter has passed, let’s look back at some Spring highlights…

I noticed a neighbour planting bulbs a few months ago and look what happened!


Fields of gold: Spring literally springing

Spider Boy and I were invited to the most delicious Indian dinner at a school friend’s house. Cooked by an auntie visiting from Mumbai. It was honestly THE best Indian food I’ve ever had, including my favourite butter chicken.


Amazing flavours of India

I found myself in the position I hadn’t been in since last year… unemployment! But it was only for a week and it was the last week of the school term. I have a new job starting today, first day of the new school term! #Timing.

But there was that day three weeks ago when I had time to go to the gym after school drop-off and then stop into a cafe for coffee and a muffin that just looked too good to resist. Yes,  don’t worry, I walked to the coffee shop afterwards. Better than when I was in my 20s and would get a taxi to the gym and then a taxi to McDonalds.


HAD to replenish after the gym.

The following week, Spider Boy’s Dad took him to his favourite comic shop, Impact Comics, while I sat in Dobinsons and did some plotting and planning, just like old times in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney.

This Canberra city cafe reminds me of home, as it’s named after the former Dobinsons of Rose Bay and owned by the grand-daughter of the original Dobinson. It’s my little bit of Rose Bay in Canberra when Lake BG just isn’t doing it for me. Although what am I talking about, how could Lake BG not do it for me!


Sun streaming in the Dobinsons window on a rainy/sunny Spring afternoon

Spider Boy came into the Canberra Centre with me a couple of times this holidays and played with the wall art. You press a button and the light changes colour. Plus he’s developed a mysterious craving for Subway sandwiches. Funny, since I never take him there. But at least he’s over his McDonald’s obsession!


Canberra Centre: where the magic happens.

The Daffodils in the first picture actually started springing up in August. Now this little mini-field of fireballs has sprung up. Well done, mysterious neighbour whose name I don’t know! I practically don’t even need to go to Floriade any more! It’s right here in my own shared driveway.


Fields of fire

Not too far from Canberra, there’s a unique place to explore our natural world… well that’s what the sign at Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve says. And that’s exactly what it is. On the fringe of Namadgi National Park, Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve is around 50 square kilometres of protected area only about 40 minutes drive from Canberra.

We had a beautiful day with the boys (Spider Boy and his friend), although they DID keep mentioning complaining about the fact there was no Subway there. Thank goodness!


I think a little bit more of this would be good for them.

Have you been enjoying the warmer weather?

What do you like best about Spring in Canberra?

Sydney visitors

Moving to Canberra means that we’ve been able to host visitors from Sydney.

In the past month we’ve had Lulu and Señorita Margarita to stay (on separate weekends). It’s been wonderful just hanging out with them at home but also showing them just a little bit of what Canberra has to offer. As my sister is always throwing back at me, “…because Canberra has things”.

Here’s just a few pics from their recent visits. I’ll post more later about specific adventures.




Let it snow: winter magic in Canberra

Canberra is gaining a reputation of being a “cool capital”, in the hipster sense. But let us not forget that it is actually very cool in a meteorological sense.

Time has done it’s old trick of running through my fingertips before I can absorb the moments, and I can’t believe Winter is nearly over.

A lot of people don’t like cold weather, but I love it. So I’m in the right place. As long as there are the resources to manage it, I find cold weather exhilarating and an exciting challenge:

“Will I be dressed warmly enough?”

“How many layers will I need?”

“Should I wear my leather gloves” etc.

Probably not, about 27, and yes, always yes.


Exhibit A: Trees resplendent in red in the month of May. Exhibit B: Cheeky June throws off her red gown outside David Jones.

In Canberra in Winter, some days are sunny with clear blue skies, and a crispness that makes your skin tingle. It makes you feel, well, crisp. Like a reinvigorated celery stick that’s been soaking in cold water.

Spider Boy and I took off for Sydney for five days in the recent school holidays. It was warm, warm, warm. T-shirts all year round there. Even though those wussy Sydneysiders (sorry Sydney peeps, I say it with love) were crying “cold, cold, cold”. Ha. I know cold. I come from the cold… I invented cold!


But I’ll let that one go. I saw this wonderful photo from Pat Rice Photography, shared by This Canberran Life  on Facebook. For more great pics of the Capital, check out Pat’s instagram @patriceyee

After the magic created by Pat above, here’s some magic of Canberra just being herself in Winter.


View of Canberra from Mt Ainslie: Cold of climate, but warm of heart in my opinion.

When Spider Boy and I returned from Sydney on July 12, I knew we were heading into a massive cold front. Snow was even forecast in Canberra city. While a dusting of icing sugar on the Brindabella mountains is nothing unusual at this time of year, snow in the city itself is.

The wind howled outside our windows that Tuesday night. We even lost power. We had one torch and the lights around my makeup mirror. We went to bed at 8.45pm – unheard of! But then I got up again when the power came back at 9.30pm! Yay.

The next morning I opened the curtains and sure enough, there they were! Small, dainty snowflakes, gently fluttering past my window! So exciting. Of course, it melted once it hit the ground. We live in quite a low-lying area, but apparently some of the suburbs in the hillier areas had a bit more coverage.

I had to go to work, but Spider Boy’s dad took him to Mt Ainslie (elevation 842 metres), five minutes drive from the CBD, where many people gathered to see the snow. What a fun school-holiday treat! He took some lovely photos.


Snow balls a plenty!



Take that, Canberra!


Other Winter fun has included:


Watching ice-skaters at Canberra’s Winter Festival in the CBD at lunchtime.



Garema Place was a Winter Wonderland


On the way to school and work: says it all really.


Back to the Winter Festival: Spider Boy was out of plaster in this picture. Luckily the landings at the end of the slide and toboggan run were soft.

Edited highlights: Autumn colours, freakshakes and disco

As Winter marches on new ideas are brewing in my head about the direction of The Alexcellent Life and ideas for entirely different blogs are taking shape.

In the meantime, while I’m plotting and planning, I want to share some highlights from previous weeks.

We have been doing so much since we moved to Canberra, along with work and school, that I’ve been having trouble making time to document it all. So even though we’re now in the middle of Winter and I feel like I’ve been behind all year, I wanted to showcase some Autumn highlights. Click on the pictures for captions. It will be Winter’s turn next post.

Lulu came for a visit and we took her to the Patissez store in the city. I had vowed NOT to have a Freakshake, as the three we ordered when Senorita Magarita came to visit was too much. We ordered one and it was easily enough for the three of us.

We also ordered a proper lunch this time. It was so long ago I can’t remember exactly what I had, but sweet potato fries were involved and I remember they were amazing.


That night after popping some champagne at home, we went to Canberra’s annual Enlighten festival – like Sydney’s Vivid, except not, but still good in its own Canberra way. We were intrigued by the idea of  a “Dark Disco” at the National Portrait Gallery… but once we discovered the little room where the disco was, we found it was more like a blue light disco. But it was free.

I’ve really been appreciating Canberra’s distinct seasons…

At the end of Autumn I finished up a work contract and began another one. My colleagues gave me this beautiful hanging basket of petunias. I was warned to actually hang it, rather than just leave it on the ground other wise the frost would get it.

It’s fared surprisingly well – it does droop on frosty mornings but seems to recover quite well in the sun.

I went to the Southside fresh food markets and found these beautiful cabbage flowers. And my rough and tumble Spider Boy found a heart shaped petal and a piece of bark and told me it was a heart next to a skull and crossbones, which was a logo he used to add to every drawing he did when he was four. The heart represents me and the skull and crossbones represent him (he came up with that).

I started a new job in Canberra’s CBD. It is a nice change to be working in the city, but a bit dangerous as I’m close to lots of exciting shops! But I really have needed to add to create my Winter wardrobe here in Canberra. Because the longer I’m here the more I realise Sydney doesn’t actually have a Winter. I wasn’t prepared clothes-wise. But at least I have a reason to wear my old leather gloves now!

Next Time: Canberra Winter Wonderland.

Edited highlights: bare trees and summer memories

On Monday I worked from home as Spider Boy had a cold. It was also time for his plaster to come off. Once we got home from the medical centre, I noticed for the first time that the branches on the trees outside our window are bare. I don’t know how long they’ve been that way. But as I stood by the window I thought, “Didn’t those trees have red leaves on them last time I looked?”

How could they have lost all their leaves so quickly? I thought back to Summer. I had to think hard. I found an image in the old brain files of a red and blue parrot playing peek-a-boo amongst the masses of green leaves on the same tree. Then the leaves had turned red. Now, it was leafless, and I didn’t even notice it happening.

Time just slips away, and before you know it we are halfway through the year. We’ve even passed the Winter Solstice (8.43am Tuesday 21 June, by the way).

As I mentioned, Spider Boy had his plaster removed this week. He still needs to wear a splint for three weeks while doing anything active. His skin was dry and flaky where the plaster had been. But when I went to cleanse and moisturise his arm with Cetaphil, the flakes had already disappeared. Tonight the skin on his arm looks like new.

It’s a new season, we are well into Winter. So I’m going to present some pictures of the last weeks of Summer, when we said goodbye to Sydney and began settling in to our new home in Canberra.

Click on the images to read the captions…

Feeling guilty like a mother part 2: the broken wrist


The broken wrist

Plaster day 1

In my last post I wrote about the challenge of adjusting to full-time work for me, and the shock of going to after-school care every day for Spider Boy.

To add to this, about three weeks ago (the week before I started a new work contract), Spider Boy broke his wrist when he fell off playground equipment at after-school care.

It was a terrible day.

A terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

It was the day of the year 3 NAPLAN Maths test. It was the day BEFORE Friday the 13th.

That morning I’d wanted to acknowledge Spider Boy’s completing NAPLAN, so thought an after school special treat was in order. I told him I would pick him up a bit earlier and that we’d go to his favourite cafe, a 50s-style diner.

Usually my boss (at the job I was about to leave) was really good about me leaving on time to pick up Spider Boy from after care. But on this day, she said:

“I know you said you wanted to go at five but did you manage to do those budget updates?” Damn, damn, damn. I hadn’t. I had planned to tackle it tomorrow.

“No…” I told her. “I needed to ask you about it because I’m actually a bit confused about something” I explained to her disappointed face. (I’d shared the pain of this particular work project with my sister, who made me laugh by texting me a line from that carpet ad from the 80s or 90s, “Oh Mr.Hart, what a mess!”)

So after a discussion with my boss about the approach for tackling the mess, I left work at 5.25pm that day instead.  When I arrived at aftercare at 5.45pm, Spider Boy had a dark look on his face. He didn’t look happy to see me. Because yet again, it was “dark and night time.”

I didn’t rush up to him; I felt bad, because I realised he remembered I’d said I’d get there a bit earlier. But I hadn’t. I felt like he was calling me out with his eyes for breaking my word.

I walked over to the sign-out book.

It was only when he was standing next to me I noticed he was holding an icepack to his wrist. The carer explained he’d hurt himself when he fell off playground equipment.

“I didn’t see it happen, but then I heard him calling me and he was on the ground crying”. It turns out he’d jumped off something and landed on this wrist.

“But I don’t think it’s broken,” she said. She illustrated this by moving his wrist this way and that. He didn’t seem to feel it. He said it didn’t hurt. He didn’t wince anyway. I’ve witnessed a couple of other broken bones (not Spider Boy’s) and this didn’t seem to induce the pain of those ones.

“I think it’s just a sprain.”

“See? If you’d come early I wouldn’t have hurt my arm” said Spider Boy as we walked to the car in the dark, the bitter late Autumn wind whipping around us.

I felt like karma was stabbing me in the heart for arriving later than I’d said.

“No, Darling, no. It could’ve happened even if I’d been watching you in the park on an afternoon play date. Sometimes these things just happen.”

I tried to work out his level of pain. In the car I asked him to move his wrist for me again and he said it didn’t hurt. It’s probably just a sprain, I thought.

“Maybe we should go to the doctor. Do you want to go to the doctor?”  It was dark and cold and windy. “No, let’s just get hot chips” we agreed. I was sure it was just a sprain.

Later at home on the couch, he said sweetly, “Mum, don’t promise, but can you try to pick me up early tomorrow?”as he clutched the icepack to his wrist.

His father came to visit him, as he usually does each evening, and they sat on the couch together while Spider Boy showed him his iPad games. He seemed OK and ate his dinner.

But later, about 10pm, he said his wrist was hurting. He’d gone to bed with an ice pack and I offered him Panadol. He had one sip of that and then screwed his face up and said he couldn’t drink it. Not long afterwards he vomited.

He slept in my bed that night, tossing and turning, refusing Panadol and asking for a new icepack when the current one lost its coldness.

I didn’t go to work the next day. My favourite doctor from last time we lived in Canberra wasn’t available so we went to a medical centre.

The GP said an X-ray was in order. He viewed the images straight away.

“No major damage” I breathed a sigh of relief.

“But there is a very small crack in the wrist bone here, see? It’s a greenstick crack.” He’ll need to wear a splint for two weeks, that should be enough. I don’t think he needs plaster. We can do plaster if you want, but it’s probably not necessary. As long as the wrist is kept still. And the benefit of the splint is he can take it off for the bath.”

“Mum, is this my childhood accident?” Spider Boy asked me from the back seat of the car on the way home.

“Darling, if this is your only childhood accident, then we are very, very lucky.”

Still, a little voice in my head niggled at me;”What if the splint’s not enough? what if he needs plaster. The doctor had mentioned plaster. What if he really needed plaster?”

My sister visited that weekend and Spider Boy worked the guilt card a bit. ” Margie’s watching what she wants on TV, and I’m the one with the broken arm!” (ahem…wrist)

We went out on a long walk with Señorita Margarita and he complained that I was talking to her too much. “What’s wrong, Spider Boy, what’s going on?”

“It’s because I have to go to aftercare everyday!” he started crying. My sister and I stopped and tried to calm him with gentle reason, but the big fat fact standing in the way was that I had a full-time job (and was about to start another one) and there was no one else who could pick him up for the time being.

The next night, Sunday, the GP rang me at home. Never a good sign. “The wrist is worse than I first thought,” he told me.

It appeared that the GP had underestimated the damage to Spider Boy’s wrist (as had his mother). Once the actual radiographer saw the X-rays, they determined that it was a deeper crack.

“He’s going to  need plaster. Come in on Wednesday morning to give it time for the swelling to go down.”

Wednesday morning was the day I was to start my new job. I shifted my start day to Thursday.

I sent him to school in his wrist splint on Monday and Tuesday. I waited to speak to his teacher at the morning bell. “Are you sure he’s right to do the walkathon?” she asked me. (I was thinking he’s going to be walking on his legs, not his hands, so yes.)

“Yes,” I told her. But what of the 20-minute playground stop that was scheduled into their walk? “He’s not allowed on the play equipment.” I told his teacher. “Please keep an eye on him”.

“He can sit with me,” she said. I knew this wasn’t going to be easy for Spider Boy, but today was the last day of a work contract and I had to be there to complete as much as I could and do a handover.

Was the teacher judging me? I don’t know, maybe. In an ideal world, I would’ve have gone on the walkathon and sat with Spider Boy at playground time.

The plaster was applied the next day, and we were told he’d need it on for four to five weeks.

I think back to that first night when I didn’t take him to a doctor. The GP who did treat him the next day told me he wouldn’t have been in a great deal of pain with this particularly injury, so I’m grateful for that.

I started my new job the next day and worried about Spider Boy facing the rigours of the playground and after school care.

I spoke to the aftercare carers, with instructions about making sure that he is not on the playground equipment, not playing contact games, but is sitting quietly doing craft, which is really not his thing after 5 minutes.

But as I write this three weeks later, he’s coping so well. The aftercare carers have been fantastic, introducing him to new board games and coming up with non-active, creative pursuits. He is like the godfather of card games at aftercare now, teaching all the kindy kids to play Top Trumps.

I am so proud of him. He complains sometimes, but that’s OK, it’s better he gets it off his chest – his life has changed in many ways.  I’m so grateful he enjoys his new school and that he has made friends. He just gets on with things. He’s a trooper.

And what really helps is that his uncle is now able to pick him up from school on Wednesdays, which breaks up the long week nicely.

I am also grateful to Danny Katz, Robyn Butler and Wayne Hope for writing/producing Little Lunch, a kids’ mockumentary-style comedy on ABC’s channel 23. It gets Spider Boy out of bed every morning by 7.30am. Except when he watches the opening credits, with vision of kids swinging on monkey bars, he says “They’re doing all the things I can’t do.”  But he says it with a cheeky look in his eye and a hint of irony.

He’ll be OK.

The broken wrist - day 2

Plaster day 2

Feeling guilty like a mother



Spider Boy and I in the days of having time to hold in our hands.

Life is different now. I’ve been working full-time since we moved to Canberra in January, something I haven’t done since before Spider Boy was born 8 years ago.

Since becoming a mum, when I did do some work, it was “freelancing”: a bit of proofreading and editing for a couple of clients, and lots of blog reading “research” into business ideas at home, that I could do between 10am and 3pm. I wrote my little blog, attended writing and blogging courses and webinars.

I did a lot of volunteer work at Spider Boy’s primary school, which I loved. I was always available for school assemblies, reading groups, classroom assisting, open days, P&C fundraisers, carnivals and excursions. Señorita Margarita told me “you’re one of those nerd mothers.”

I felt sorry for the kids that had to go to after-care everyday, especially after a tiring excursion. Other mums used to call me to pass messages to their kids in the playground, like “Don’t forget you’re going to after-care today” or they’d text “is today the swimming carnival and what do they need to bring?”

I was at soccer in the park, after-school playdates, ji do kwan and swimming lessons.I babysat toddlers, picked up other people’s kids and dropped them to school. I was regularly found chatting at the school gate at 9.30am, helping family with errands,  spying on the neighbours, grocery shopping, and baking.

I was doing lots of boring and challenging paperwork and emails while going through my divorce proceedings, half-heartedly attending appointments at Max Employment, and doing very important plotting and planning for business and blog ideas in coffee shops around the Eastern suburbs of Sydney.

I attempted Michelle Bridges 12WBT four times, which took up a lot of time. All those video lectures haranguings, all that calorie counting. I also attempted the 5:2 diet twice, and because I felt dizzy 2 out of 7 days a week, my productivity was down by 2/7 per cent (or whatever, maths is not my thing)

I did Instagram challenges (#hashtag).

I am so, so grateful for those three years of time I could hold in my hand while Spider Boy was in Infants’ school. I am so grateful to my mum for having us to stay all those years, and the gift of time it gave me.

And now, I do none of it, as time slips through my fingers faster than I can catch it.  I work full-time and my son goes to after-school care every day, and I don’t know anyone in the playground because I’m never in the playground.

I’m like that Sheena Easton song, My baby takes the morning train… except I’m nobody’s baby and there’s no train in Canberra. I am grateful to my ex that he’s been letting me borrow his car during the week. For a variety of reasons, he is not able to pick up Spider Boy early.

But at least I’m actually earning good money know. I can pay my bills. I can buy things we need. Save a bit.

Spider Boy knows in theory he has to go to after-care because I have to go to work, but I don’t think he really understands. Or at least, he doesn’t understand why it has to be everyday. He puts up with it, but doesn’t really like it. He gets tired.

“I’ve forgotten what it’s like to be picked up straight after school” he pleads with me, can’t you just pick me up – once?”(I did pick him up at 3pm on the first day of school, his birthday, and also my dad has picked him up early a couple of times – bless him – when he’s visited)

My heart sinks.

“I’m happy to go to after-care two days a week” he tries to bargain. He tells me his new best school friend (thank goodness he has one) and he are the only ones who “…have to come to after-care every day!”

I can only imagine how it must feel. My mum was always there to pick me up when I was at school. She would be waiting outside the school gates in the car with treats. She would wait with a thermos of hot chocolate while I was at choir practice on winter afternoons. my mum organised her work around school hours. She chose jobs not because she loved them, but because they fitted the school hours. But then, I’m living in a single-income household.

I need to make up for lost time as far as earning money goes. I need to be earning. But right now I’m wondering if there’s a way I can work a little less, even 4 hours less per week.

There are interesting well-paid jobs out there, but you’re expected to work full-time hours in those jobs. There must be something out there I can do where I can earn enough to pay my living expenses, but still do school pickup at 3pm, a couple of days?

I could always go back to “freelance”, but am terrified my income will dip too low and the electricity will be cut off.

It seems really unfair that Spider Boy has to be there every day, especially now that it’s so dark and cold when I pick him up.

“It’s night time when you pick me up!” he reminds me.

My work life has really gone from one extreme to another.

If I could make a decent regular income from it right now, I’d be a self-employed interior designer/house-flipper/prop-hirer/home-stager/events-stylist. But I have no interior-design qualifications. Sadly, watching the Life channel is not going to turn me into Joanna Gaines (from the US Renovation show Fixer Upper – I highly recommend it).

I’d also love to be a blogger/novelist/part-time language teacher/greeting-card maker/online shop owner.

Sigh…If only I could get paid for watching the Life channel and plotting and planning.


I took a day off work during the school holidays – yay! We went ice-skating, to the library, Spider Boy-clothes shopping and had the best day ever!


The past three months has flown…

Well here I am. It’s been three months since my last blog post. Spider Boy and I are moving back have moved back to Canberra. Yeah, I started writing this post in January, right before we moved!

In my previous post I wrote about the science of new year’s resolutions, I gushed about “…my exciting plans for 2016” and how I would catch you up “…in the next one or two days”. Well make that one or two three months because here I am in MARCH APRIL! ANZAC Day in fact. But let me briefly catch you up.

Packing stress

Late December and early January passed in a haze of sweat, dust, stubbed toes, paper cuts, boxes, butchers paper, a shoddy tape gun and backaches. There was Christmas, New Year, family, friends and trying to keep Spider Boy amused between bouts of packing, and weather involving intense heat and extreme rain. There was too much screen time and not enough beach time. I’m sorry, Spider Boy.

Settling into a new life

I don’t blame my new, busy, full-time job for my lack of blogging since moving to Canberra. I don’t blame settling Spider Boy into a new school and setting up a home for us. I blame my Internet Service Provider and the faulty modem they sent me. Then finally, four weeks after “connecting the internet”,  it finally worked! After numerous laborious phone calls to the call centre and a technician visit, we had Wifi lift off. But by then I’d lost my blogging groove.

Why am I in Canberra again?

For  the past 6 years, since Spider Boy was was 2,  we’d been living in Sydney, where I grew up, close to my family and long-time friends. But now it’s time to be back to the city Spider Boy was born in, where his father lives, so he can see his dad regularly. It’s the main reason I moved back. I wanted the logistics of my son spending time with his father, to be easier. And I also have good work opportunities here. And real-estate is a bit more affordable.

We have been promised lots of visits from our family and friends, and we have had some already, which makes us very happy. The time we spend with loved ones and the situations we see them in may have been reconfigured, but they are still in our hearts every day. And even though I feel a connection with Canberra, I’ll always be a Bondi girl.

Moving to Canberra was easier the second-time around

I may hail from a trendy beach-side suburb, but I was never the kale-inhaling, chain-smoking, bikini-top wearing type sitting on a crate outside the Paris Go cafe. But I did schlepp up and down Hall Street for 27 years. Three of those years were spent in a part-time job helping tourists and celebrities buy postage stamps, cigarettes, scratchies and bus tickets at Bondi Beach Newsagency. (I sold a pack of Camels to Noah Taylor once.)

When I first told my dad back in 2012 I was thinking of moving back to Canberra, he said, “But you’re such a Sydney person.” The ocean gets under your skin. The first time I moved to Canberra,  I dreamed of the beach and harbour every night for months. But I haven’t had those dreams this time around. Maybe because moving to Canberra for the second time isn’t such a culture shock. But the first time it really was.

The culture-shock of the Capital

When I first moved to the Capital in January 2004, although I immediately loved the mountain vistas, wildlife and people I met, there were things I struggled with:

  • the language – did everyone speak Acronym?
  • no beach
  • not being able to just run down to the beach
  • the dry, baking heat of January
  • dry dusty earth and gum leaves everywhere
  • the reliance on cars
  • the whole “town centre” concept with long stretches of road in between
  • brutalist architecture
  • weird 70s bus-stops
  • unmowed grass hiding the “footpaths”
  • The realisation that the Woden Plaza/bus interchange of the mid 2000’s was just like the Bondi Junction of my 70s childhood

I remember a visit back home to Sydney when I was pregnant with Spider Boy.  I went to a Tupperware party at Señorita Margarita’s house. The Tupperware demonstrator happened to come from Canberra. “Yeah, I escaped” she said gleefully. I felt like hitting her over the head with her food storage solutions. Her glee at escaping served as unwitting mockery of where I now lived, and I felt resentful I had to go back there.

The beginnings of my Canberrafication

But then after I did leave Canberra almost 6 years ago, it gradually dawned on me that there were things I missed about this city  with its developing quiet confidence.

I didn’t realise it until after I’d left, but I’d actually become a bit Canberrafied. And during my visits back to Canberra with Spider Boy, I realised I was missing:

  • fresh air
  • proximity to snow and rural areas
  • mountain vistas
  • the ability to park your car not only in front of your house, but on your own property
  • green space and trees
  • crisp and sunny winter days
  • blossoming fruit trees in spring
  • Braddon’s vibrant coffee culture and cool shops
  • the burgeoning food and wine scene
  • great little hidden-treasure suburban coffee shops
  • the birds, so many birds
  • kangaroos in surburbia and on the walking tracks that weave through the city
  • Tilley’s
  • hot air balloons slowly rising and descending on crisp Autumn mornings
  • all the amazing national institutions, exhibitions and events
  • farmer’s markets
  • the great community feeling

And other things that make it a great place for Spider Boy:

  • sporty places – bike paths, ovals, sports clubs, ice-skating rink, the Australian Institute of Sport etc
  • educational opportunities

These lists just scratch the surface.


View of Telstra Tower from the National Arboretum.


Canberra’s joys

So for the past few years, I’ve been promoting Canberra’s joys to Sydneysiders. On Christmas day I said to Señorita Margarita: “You have to come and stay in Canberra! To see us, but also to see all the things in Canberra. Canberra has things.”

“Oh, here we go, the Canberra has things speech,” she said with an eye-roll.

Converting family and friends (trying to)

Yes, the Señorita has come to stay and we are already planning her next visit in May. Friend Lou-Lou has stayed for a weekend, and my mum (aka BatGran) has also come to stay twice (and is here right now) even though she says she hates Canberra. I’m hoping to change her mind. Thanks for giving it a go Mum.

My Dad was also here last week. He got into the spirit of the Bush Capital by buying a sausage at the local Bunnings sausage sizzle and eating it in the carpark in his Akubra hat. He sees Canberra’s opportunities and possibilities. And whenever he visits he brings bags of my things that I didn’t quite get around to packing. Thanks Dad.

What’s next?

The Alexcellent Life was a little quiet for a few weeks months while the actual Alexcellent life got settled. So it wasn’t entirely my ISP’s fault.

We are at the start of a new chapter, and it feels exciting. So here’s to our Canberrafication. But I’ll always have a soft spot for Bondi.


Bondi Baths. Photo taken by my clever and talented sister, Señorita Margarita. This hangs on my wall.

The science of resolutions: what will you do with 2016?



Hello 2016!

I am lucky enough to have been blessed with the gift of seeing another year go by. Like many people, at this time of year I think about what I want to achieve and what I hope to change in the year ahead.

I just looked back to what I wrote a year ago on January 3, 2015:

Every year it’s the same. I think about several things I don’t like about myself and resolve to change them. I think about all the things I want for my life and resolve to get them. But then, before you know it, another year has rolled by, and I am exactly the same. Same rolls of fat around my middle, same bad habits, same character flaws.

I think maybe I should just save myself the time and grief and not make any resolutions. Because if I don’t make any in the first place, that’s one less thing to fail at, right?

But isn’t the definition of success simply picking yourself up one more time than you fall?… So here I am, 2015, picking myself up, again. This year is the year I really need to make these changes, because it’s amazing how quickly one year turns into five… especially as you get older.

My resolutions involve the three ‘Fs’. No, not ‘Fun’, ‘Funk’ or any other ‘F’ word. It’s the three sensible ‘F’ words: ‘Fitness’, ‘Finance’ and my favourite, ‘Furniture’.

Here’s what I plan to do with these F-words.

Fitness – I’m gonna get me some!

Finance – I’m taking control!

Furniture – I’m moving it to a new location!

As 2016 dawns I’ve almost achieved two out of the three things:

Furniture – Will be moved to a new location in a week’s time.

Finances – I’m starting a new job in a couple of weeks.

It only took me a year!

As for the third ‘F’, Fitness – Got none of that. Tried (sort of, a bit). Failed. Never mind.


Image: Care2.com

But if I were resolving to improve my fitness (oh let’s face it, I’m talking about fat loss), how would I stick to my resolution?

On New Year’s Eve, right before the midnight fireworks, I happened upon a video on the blog Be Like Water about the science of New Year’s resolutions (I know, such a party animal).

The video post How to commit to your new year goals (from The Science of Success) outlines practical steps for making and sticking to resolutions. I’ll recap them below.

First, some facts:

  • People who make resolutions are 10 times more likely to change their behaviour than those who don’t make them.
  • 54% of people give up on their resolutions within 6 months of making them.
  • 8% of people ultimately succeed by the end of the year.

The video explains that there are two types of resolutions that will always fail:

  1. “Pie in the sky” resolutions. My “resolution” from last year of “Fitness – I’m gonna get me some” is a classic example of that. Now that was just silly. There was no actual plan.

Keeping a resolution is not easy. You can’t just say that this year I will lose 20kg, without a strategy for making it happen. And that lack of strategy has always been my problem. As the saying goes, “Hope is not a plan.”

  2. “All over the place” resolutions. When we take on too much at once, our brain chemistry works against us. Resolutions require self-control. This is an exhaustible resource.

So having too many new year’s resolutions is a recipe for not keeping any of them.

So how do we resolve this resolution issue? 

  1. Work on one thing at a time. When it comes to goals, less is more.

Instead of picking several resolutions that you’ll abandon, pick one that will give you the biggest pay off. It doesn’t mean you can’t work on more than one resolution per year, it just means you should only focus on one at a time.

2. Translate your resolution to specific behaviours.

People who change their behaviour achieve what is known as “habitual automaticity.” This is when you perform your new behaviour without even thinking about it.

The idea is to break down your resolution into particular behaviours and put them on a timetable. For example, instead of just saying, “Move more”, actually write in your diary, each week, what movement you’re going to do (e.g. walk to work?) and the day and time you’re going to do it, until it becomes as habitual as brushing your teeth.

3. Practice everyday. This one gives me hope (which is a good thing to have, despite it not being a plan). Daily practice allows people with average talent to achieve extraordinary things. By practicing everyday, you can achieve long-term traction with your new behaviours.

Clearly, I need to decide on realistic and specific actions to take, and work on that “habitual automaticity” thing for my fat loss strategy. And I need to practice those new behaviours. I need to practice a lot.

Then I may just have a chance at living the Vincent van Gogh quote I had stuck to my wall on a Post-it for most of 2014 (it must have fluttered away sometime in 2015):

Great things are not done by impulse but by a series of small things brought together.

At the moment, I’m just trying to get myself organised for the big changes coming up. 2016 marks the beginning of a whole new chapter of The Alexcellent Life. I’m really looking forward to seeing what it brings.

I will post about my plans in the next day or two.

As I said last January, it’s exciting just thinking about how things could be this time next year… change can be a bit scary, but it also is what’s exciting about life. Even change arising from hardship can mark a turn-around or bring a new opportunity.

What are your plans for 2016? Anything exciting coming up for you?

Image Bridget Jones: http://www.dailymail.co.uk