Happy New Year… now it’s Mother’s Day!

It’s been a long time between posts here at The Alexcellent Life. The last post I wrote was about George Michael’s death while I was on a Sydney visit over Christmas/New Year.

January was busy. We had a beautiful wedding to go to, and raced around visiting family and friends and a couple of beaches because, Sydney in January.

I had many post ideas to write in the last quarter of 2016, but they remained in my head. Time constraints, as well as not having a clear direction for this blog, contributed to the lack of actual posts. As did my finally working out how to hook up Netflix. I binged on episodes of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend every night.

But now that that’s over, I’m clearer now about what I want this blog to be. So here’s to my renewed focus!

While the changes to The Alexcellent Life are brewing, here’s a little retrospective of just some of what I didn’t blog about…

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!

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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Snow balls a plenty!

 

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Take that, Canberra!

 

Other Winter fun has included:

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

 

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Garema Place was a Winter Wonderland

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

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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…

Edited highlights: Dating advice books, tornados and cake

This time next week, Christmas will be over. I can’t believe how quickly this year has passed. Soon all will be revealed about big changes happening at The Alexcellent Life, but for now, let’s see what’s happened in December.

My mid-life crisis was exacerbated by going to Retro nightclub…

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This particular visit came complete with a Rock Lobster neck injury (thanks for nothin’ B52s) and a try-hard bathroom selfie.

The Chris Noth/Matt Preston look-a-like lurking on the scene, who we dubbed “Fat Mr.Big,” seemed quite nice, but then Lulu said to him, “Has anyone ever told you you look like Mr.Big from Sex and the City, and Matt Preston.giggle.” And then he ran away. Just as well, because he was married. As was his whole pack of wolves he was running with that night. Fat Mr.Big does not appear in any of the above photos.

I discovered these great The Ladybird book of … books. Who remembers them from childhood?

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Mid-life advice

I use to love my Ladybird book of Beauty and the Beast – the classic fairytale, when I was a child. These books contain beasts of a different kind. I spotted these little gems in the bookstore Harry Hartog. Perhaps I should actually part with some cash and pick up The Ladybird book of Dating. God knows I could use some help.

I witnessed Christmas eye-candy of the cake kind at yet another local street fair…

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Shooting stars of pasty

I tried one of the gingerbread stars because they were FREE.

In other cake news, I went into one of my favourite bakeries, Dobinsons in Canberra, when I was there on very important business recently.

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Come to me, my precious (es)

I looked, but didn’t touch these goodies. I’m saving myself for all the mince pies I’m planning on eating at Christmas.

And just so you know sweet treats aren’t the only things that float my boat…

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My friend Deb and I went to our favourite Mexican restaurant, El Topo Bondi Junction, for a pre-Christmas catch up. I said no to my favourite bunuelos de chocolate and concentrated on the delectable savoury flavours of tacos and frijoles negros with bacon, spicy chorizo, capsicum and queso fresco. And watermelon salad (sweet but refreshing).

I’ve been walking home from work (part of the way) through Darlinghurst streets, making the most of the vibe before my big lifestyle change coming up in January (more on that later)…

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I’ve been appreciating amazing Sydney views and beach days…

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And marvelling at the not so beach days…

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Crazy Sydney weather. Apparently it was an actual tornado.

I will be reporting on Christmas festivities next week.

How’s your December been so far?

 

Edited highlights: Stolen sculptures, Mexican donuts and my mini vampire

So here we are nearly at the end of November.  I feel like I am hurtling towards the end of the year, exemplified by having Halloween and Christmas decorations in one post. Here’s some edited highlights.

Spider Boy decided to be a vampire for Halloween, which was easy as we already had a Harry Potter robe.

The local shops tried to put on a little Halloween spirit with a few stalls and displays on the footpath. But at 3.30 in the afternoon, no one else was trick-or-treating. And does anyone actually play tricks? More like treat-or-treating in our neighbourhood (once we waited till 5ish), before going home to watch Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride.

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Top: Spider Boy in his Halloween costume before makeup. After makeup wasn’t much different. That’s what happens when you buy your makeup from Hot Dollar. And it cost THREE dollars.

The next day, November 1, was the Day of the Dead, a yearly festival where people pray for and commemorate friends and family members who have died.

My sister, Señorita Margarita, a Mexican art aficionado, has introduced me to the tradition. I don’t actually set up an altar like she does, but I really love the concept.

Spider Boy and I met auntie/Senorita Margarita at El Topo in Bondi Junction, one of our favourite restaurants, for a Mexican lunch. Spider Boy actually ate a taco with real chicken in it – there was not a nugget or a chip to be seen. There were donuts though. But they were quality donuts with a delicate slightly spicy chocolate sauce.

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Tacos and donuts at El Topo. Auntie/Senorita Margarita and Spider Boy (with darkened Halloween brows) share the love.

Then we went to Senorita’s place to see her altar.

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Senorita Margarita’s altar included photos of our Grandmothers. Mum’s mother Philippa, top, and Dad’s mother Lois below.

One Monday after school, I dragged Spider Boy to Sculpture by the Sea, an annual exhibition on the Bondi to Tamarama coastal path. He actually wanted to head straight home and prepare his news for school, a poster about Water Safety. But it was the day after Sculptures officially closed so it was today or never. We stayed half an hour at Sculptures AND got the news poster done.

So here’s a tip: Sculpture by the Sea is really crowded on weekends (and much of the weekdays when it was actually on, it was cold and raining). The trick is to go the day AFTER it officially closes – because they haven’t taken down all of the sculptures yet – and it’s not crowded. Thanks to my friend Lulu for that idea.

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Sydney has had a lot of rain this month. These photos of Rose Bay were taken at 10 in the morning from under an umbrella.

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The friends I have known for the longest time (as opposed to my oldest friends) and I went out in Darlinghurst.  A night where a few realities hit. But more about that in another post.

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I was surprised by the joy of Christmas decorations at the Queen Victoria Building last weekend. Yes, they are stunning. Their presence also reminded me that time is running out to get a million and one things done!

 

Is time speeding up for you? I think that happens at the end of the year and it’s relative to our expectations of what we want to achieve.

Whatever you’re hoping to achieve by the end of the year, I hope it goes well for you.

 

Edited Highlights: Sugar, blossoms, cake and colouring-in

Time to catch up on the past month with a series of snapshots that seem to be mostly food and floral.

I snuck away from my desk last Friday (working from home means I’m just sneaking away from myself) and went to local whole foods store, About Life. I ate a raspberry and coconut muffin that was delicious even though it probably didn’t have refined white sugar in it. Oh well.

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But refined white sugar is kind of my thing… so when I saw this 50’s-style sugar canister (which disappointingly only contained air) at Spider Boy’s school art show, I had to steal a photo. Maybe sugar itself will be a relic from the past one day, just like this canister. Sigh.

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Spring jonquils at my dad’s place…

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I love the way my cousin’s wife styled her kid’s birthday party table… they turned 3 and 1, two weeks apart so a combined party was the order of the day.

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I made some apple pies…

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I needed the whipped cream to mask the heavy pastry texture. Not quite enough carbs, fat or sugar in these little morsels I’m afraid.

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On a lighter and brighter note, the blossoms have blessed our street!

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And obviously I’ve drunk lots of coffee (and muffins) this month… but Spider Boy just gets water. Oh alright, sometimes he gets a hot chocolate. And chips.

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Now I’m going to let you in on a little secret… colouring-in is really big right now. You know when you see a “Zen” colouring book as free gift with That’s Life magazine, that colouring-in is a thing. And the local Dymock’s has a wall of colouring books, as does the National Gallery gift shop in Canberra. But I’ve been colouring-in (as an adult) since 1997. But back then, Barbie colouring-in books were all I could find. Now there is so much choice! It is VERY relaxing.

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Speaking of the National Gallery gift shop, if I had the money I would buy all of the books…

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Since I know I’ll never really be Parisian, or Danish, and will never find the time for handmade projects for a cute Tokyo-inspired lifestyle, I could just go for the Mammoth Book of Losers to make me feel better about my epic failure and underachievement in NOT being Parisian or Danish, or achieving that cute Tokyo-inspired lifestyle. Sigh.

This post is coming to an end but there’s time for dessert before I go…

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This cake I made last Sunday was meant to be a lime syrup cake. I had all the ingredients, except limes. I had a bottle of lemon juice in the fridge, so I used a bit of that. But then after making the cake, I RAN OUT OF SUGAR. So had no sugar to make the lemon syrup.  So it wasn’t going to be a syrup cake at all, was it? So I defrosted some left-over cream-cheese icing from the Father’s Day carrot cake I’d made, and dolloped that on. Plus some hundreds and thousands just for fun and fancy.

It all worked out in the end.

What are you enjoying this week?

Edited Highlights: Silver white Winters that melt into Spring

It’s the last day of Winter today, but really, the past few weeks have been “Sprinter”; some days warm, some days chilly, while the season transitions.

I’m feeling a bit Sound of Music with this post. Everything is reminding me of the lyrics from My Favourite Things.

We may not have had raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, but the past few weeks of Winter we’ve had snowdrops on boys on toboggans and whiskers on Spider Boy. Instead of cream coloured ponies and crisp apple strudels we’ve seen cream coloured Labradors, and while we didn’t eat any deep-fried camembert balls, we’ve thought about them.

Winter is one of my favourite things and now it’s time to give it a big ol’ farewell.

During this season we hit the slopes – not the ski slopes, but a small toboggan run at Corin Forest just outside Canberra…IMG_7107

The new donut and coffee shack (on the slope) wasn’t open yet, but the cafe at the bottom of the hill was and we enjoyed the massive open fire where we toasted marshmallows that were practically pillow-sized. The wood fired pizza was very good, but this place gets crowded at lunchtime (being the only food place in the area) so we did have to wait rather a long time for it.

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The next day we all enjoyed the art at the National Gallery…

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Turning a blind eye: A kindly security guard ignores Spider Boy and the Magician.

After numerous warnings to the boys to be careful about not getting too close to the art, I managed to set off the alarm after getting to close to a Monet. I did the same thing on my last visit when I got too close to Blue Poles.

Back in Sydney I caught up with my friend Nadia who I’ve known since school days. We had a drink at the Green Park in Darlinghurst, then moved onto the pop-up bar “The Chalet” where the highlight for us was a random 80s ski movie playing mutely on a big screen. We recognised none of the actors… where was the king of 80s ski movies, John Cusack? (star of Better Off Dead, and the retro classic Hot Tub Time Machine)

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Despite promising ourselves a deep-fried camembert ball, we just had a drink and popped next door to Lil’ Darling for dinner, but it was so full of Hens parties, we were forced to flee to the nearest Thai place. We were told we could eat there as long as we were out by 10pm as they had to set up for a cooking class in the morning. So after our Pad Thai we just decided to call it a night and vowed we would return to “The Chalet”. We haven’t.

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The rest of Winter has passed in a haze of coffee (me), hot chocolate (Spider Boy) and cronuts (me) …

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The “Cave of Doom” at Ruby’s Diner in Queens Park leads to the bathroom, although the bit about “abandoning hope all ye who enter here” is perfectly apt for how I felt about my hopes for healthy eating that day once I spied the cronuts!

Winter beach visits…

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…where Spider Boy had plenty of room to practice his Ninja Turtle moves.

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Sprinter has graced us with her presence, as evidenced by the magnolias blooming outside our kitchen window.

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Spider Boy visited his old pre-school for a fundraiser (to raise money after the centre was disgustingly vandalised).

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We visited the Sydney Dog Lovers show for some puppy inspiration…

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See? A cream-coloured labrador. Almost as good as a pony.

And of course no event would be complete without the obligatory silly-photo board and face-painting!

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Bye Winter!

Here’s to the delights of a new season, wherever you are.