Sydney visit and my problem with “stuff”

Several weeks ago Spider Boy and I went back to Sydney for nearly a whole week. It was the longest we’d stayed there since we moved back to Canberra in January. While it was great to see family and friends, I was still haunted by more stuff that needed packing.

I still have stuff at my mother’s place which needs to be gone from there. So much stuff. Mostly books, files, papers, craft supplies, things “that could be used to make a great artwork someday”, actual artwork from Spider Boy’s preschool days and project books from my primary school that I just can’t throw away.

But I’ve packed it all now and it will be coming to Canberra where it will be further culled and organised. There’s only so much I could do in Sydney in limited time and it’s important to make time for my peeps. And food.

Here are some photos…

img_6539Beautiful Rose Bay on a windy spring Saturday afternoon.

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They say Rose Bay is one of Sydney’s dirtiest harbour beaches, but it’s so pretty and I’m so fond of it.

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I discovered a new little Italian bakery, I Pasticerri Italiani, has opened in my absence. Amazing customer service. The baker, an older Italian man, who spoke no English, noticed Spider Boy looking through the window to the kitchen and invited us back to have a look at some bread rolls that were about to go into the big oven.

Spider Boy, who is the fussiest eater I’ve ever known, was intrigued and wanted to try one. As soon as they were ready, he was served one, with olive oil. He liked it.  But he didn’t like any of the below… probably just as well.

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I got over-excited and purchased a delicate and lovely selection for afternoon tea as my father was visiting. On seeing the cakes, Dad said “I don’t really like Italian cakes”. Considering he spends a couple of months in Italy every couple of years, I was surprised. No little dolce for him. He would’ve been happier with a madeira cake from Woollies.

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“I liked that actually, it was very good” said Spider Boy when he saw this photo as I was drafting this post.

img_6531While I staying at Mum’s I made my Sunday French toast with Greek yoghurt and blueberries.

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I went for a “jog” (well that’s what I told people) one evening and returned with this Margarita Pizza from Made in Italy in Plumer Road Rose Bay, Spider Boy’s favourite.

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I got busy sorting and packing. I parted company with these treasures from my 80s teen years. I was a 14 year old rebel, clearly. The love I have for the music stays with me. But honestly, am I really going to play these cassettes again? That’s why I photographed them, so I could let them go.

Oh, hang on a minute.

I think I kept these, thinking they could go in a picture-box frame with other 80s cassettes and become an “artwork.” thinking they could hang out in a box until such time I decide to turn them into an “artwork”. thinking they can hang out in a box for all eternity.

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I found this lovely photo from Spider Boy’s baby days. It’s one of my all time favourites. That’s going in a frame straight to the pool room.

And here’s something more recent…

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Oh don’t they just grow like weeds! Like Mummy’s grey hairs.

img_6642We had a lovely coffee (smartie cookie and milk for Spider Boy) with Granddad at our favourite cafe and Granddad caught up on all the Canberra school news.

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…got some climbing practise at the park

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and happily, Spider Boy was able to catch up with one of his good friends (and friend’s little sister) from his old school. These boys started school and did their first three years together. I hope they will be friends for a long time.

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I enjoyed the luxury of mum babysitting while I met up with Señorita Margarita (later joined by my friend Nadia, who I’ve known since primary school) at Sydney’s oldie but goodie, The Darlo Bar.

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…followed by the most authentic Mexican in Sydney at Playa Takeria. Well that’s what the sign said, and it tasted really good, so I believe them.

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Me and my stuff. We go back a long way.

Boxes are packed. Now to move the damn things.

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…

Canberrafication

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.

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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.

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

New Year’s Eve 2015

Here it is January 2 and I’m only just getting to my New Year’s Eve recap. Wow, that must have been some party.

No. I hung up my New Year’s Eve party shoes years ago. It was a quiet but lovely evening. Yesterday I was in a decluttering frame of mind – I’m moving soon.

Here are some pictures from the day and night that was New Year’s Eve 2015.

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I got to hang out with the invisible boy at Rose Bay beach. Lucky he was wearing his glasses!

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View of the 9pm fireworks from Rose Bay

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View from the TV at midnight. 

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Real life 9pm Vs TV at midnight.

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Thanks for the New Year cake Aunt Mary!

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Beautiful Rose Bay during the day

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Normally I’m a bit of a fireworks cynic. You know, that the money should be spent on something more useful and important.

But it is important to celebrate together as a city, to say we’ve made it to the end of another year.

We could say that fireworks are a contribution to this city’s sense of community,  celebration and culture. Fireworks, fleeting by nature, are part of the joy of life. Also, tourism dollars.

Apparently this year, the Sydney fireworks were meant to be “the best ones ever!” and I have to say that as Mum and I watched it all on TV, I did notice they were even more spectacular.

And Sydney does it better than any other city  – it’s the harbour, the cityscape, the attitude. Sorry Canberra.

Happy New Year to you! May 2016 be all that you want it to be.

 

 

Feeling the Christmas spirit while shopping at the last minute

Well, it’s Christmas Eve, and as usual, I STILL have a to-do list the size of my arm. Every year I tell myself I will start doing things in November or at least from December 1, but it NEVER happens. I still find myself rushing around at the last minute (well, the last 48 hours, but you know).

But ever the optimist, I tell myself that rushing around at the last minute can really help you feel the spirit of Christmas. Sometimes, you feel the Christmas spirit in a bar of your favourite carol (and sometimes in a bar… ho ho ho) piped through the sound system, or success in finding a gift that someone you love will really like.

But sometimes you feel that Christmas spirit while you’re waiting in a queue, waiting for the lift at Westfield, or waiting while the happy young retail assistants at JB Hi Fi and EB Games make phone calls for you to see if what you want is available. The Christmas spirit of waiting, when you need to be rushing. Oh what a feeling.

But during all that waiting, at least we can feast our eyes on wonderful Christmas displays such as this…

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Queen Victoria Building, Sydney

 

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Queen Victoria Building

 

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Westfield Bondi Junction

Meanwhile, the Christmas spirit can be felt all over the neighbourhood. Feast your eyes on these homes. Love that kind of Christmas spirit…

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Christmas wreaths…

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This one was handmade by Spider Boy at his After School Care…

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The cute little tree at Dad’s. Not quite as big as the shopping centre trees, but just as lovely in my opinion.

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And remember, when Christmas shopping and prep feels all too hard, here’s a nice little reminder from a local bookseller…

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So if Santa believes in you, you can believe in yourself this Christmas Eve.  My lovely grandmother (her nickname was Dear because she was such a Dear) use to say, “Do what you can, and can what you can’t!”

My grandmother is no longer with us, but Christmas Eve was her birthday. I remember all those special things about her, and that helps me feel the Christmas spirit too.

I hope it’s a good Christmas for you, my readers. Merry Christmas, and a big thank you for reading! X

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?

 

Princess Mary and Me

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Mary, Crown Princess of Denmark, aka “Our Mary” graces the cover of this week’s Woman’s Day.

Last Sunday night, I didn’t watch news reports about the Paris attacks. I watched Mary: The Making of a Princess, along with 928,999 other metro viewers. Apparently the biopic won its timeslot, outrating both Seven and Nine’s special news bulletins.

Media commentator/advertising guru Dee Madigan tweeted on Monday that there are 929,000 people who need to take a long, hard look at themselves. Well, I constantly take long hard looks at myself whether I watch fantasy-injected biopics or not.

As my irony gene is so weak, I couldn’t tell whether Dee was joking or judging. But sometimes taking in all the terrible things that happen in this world gets too much and by Sunday night I had reached my quota of brutal and horrific. I needed to escape (and yes, I am grateful I have the luxury of being able to escape by simply changing the channel).

My go-to-escape channel on Sunday was 10 (channels 11, 22, 72, 99 and 90 are also tried and tested escape routes). But on this night, I time-travelled back to early-noughties retro fun; the music, the fashion, and the lifestyle of Mary Donaldson’s young single days in Sydney.

Oh how I reminisced about Madison Avenue’s Don’t Call Me Baby and the bars of Darling Harbour in Sydney’s optimistic Olympic wake. What early noughties lifestyle/romance montage would be complete without a soundtrack of Killing Heidi and New Radicals?

Mary’s life was practically a mirror to my own in the early days of the 21st century. Apart from the dating a Danish Prince thing. Both 30ish, Aquarian brunette marketing/communications (sort of) professionals living in Sydney’s east, we both had long-distance relationships and re-located for love. She to Copenhagen, and I to Canberra.

I’m sure Mary missed the Bondi-to-Bronte as she pounded the cold Copenhagen pavements on her morning run. As I did, when I first moved to the bush captital. I remember just wanting to just run down to the beach on several occasions,  but I couldn’t. Because there was no beach. Instead, I found a bush track close to where I lived and stumbled upon a mob of about 10 kangaroos, a couple of metres away, just staring at me. All was still apart from their chewing. And I was surprised by joy.

I wasn’t Princess Mary, but I was known as “The Princess Mary of Public Affairs” in my new Canberra public service job, a title I wore like the tiara I wished I had. Mary got engaged, I got engaged. Mary studied Danish, while I studied Canberra’s own secret language, Acronym.

After weddings and first-born sons, Mary’s and my parallel pathways diverged. But that’s OK. I saw a Judy Garland quote on Facebook the other day, “Always be a first-rate version of yourself, and not a second-rate version of someone else.”

Maybe if I continue taking those long hard looks at myself, as Dee Madigan suggests,  I’ll achieve that aspiration.

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Jiawei Shen’s 2005 portrait of Princess Mary hangs in The National Portrait Gallery in Canberra. The Opera House designed by Danish architect Jorn Utzon visible through the sheer curtain, a nod to her past and present.

 

 

Fun, free kids entertainment.

There have been many offline goings-on at Alexcellent Lifestyle headquarters lately, but it is now time to sit down with my cup of instant coffee and share some of the events of the past month.

There’s an exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art at the moment which I took Spider Boy and his friend to, during the recent school holidays. (I’m just realising that the school term is almost half over, again. How does that keep happening? Time just continues to do its thing.)

Anyway, the Energies exhibition runs until early September (more details at the end of the post) and as it’s so interactive, it’s great for kids.

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Spider Boy and friend: the cold wind seemed to give them more energy than usual.

When we arrived at the museum, which was lovely and toasty inside, we were directed up to the National Centre for Creative Learning. Here the kids were presented with activity sheets on a clipboard, to fill in as they went around the exhibits.

“Look boys, it’s like a school excursion!” I enthused. They didn’t seem to mind the idea of “work” (well if they did, they didn’t show it) so we all bounded down three flights of stairs (there is a lift, but why take the lift when you can bound).

The exhibition’s energy theme was a great fit for my two little friends.

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Energies: Haines and Hinterding, is an exhibition of the unseen energies around us, by Australian artists David Haines and Joyce Hinterding. Very low frequency radio waves, television signals, satellite transmissions, solar winds, aroma molecules and even psychic forces are brought to the senses.

It was fascinating and unlike anything I have ever seen before.

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The museum photographer happened upon the boys and grabbed a few happy snaps for the museum’s publicity material.

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The exhibition explores the power of electromagnetism, light, smell, sound and vibration. The artists’ work, according to the blurb, “…encourages us to marvel at the wonders of the universe, …to experience the everyday world as a place buzzing with energies, curiosities and sensations.”

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It certainly did all that. Not only for the boys, but myself. And we managed to find a Spiderman reference with all that electrical energy buzzing around some TV antennae hanging from a ceiling in a darkened room. “Electro would love this!” we agreed.

The boys didn’t even seem to mind having a go at their worksheets. Well maybe a bit.

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After all the electro-business we went back upstairs to the National Centre for Creative Learning for some free holiday craft ($5 donation per family to cover craft supplies – well worth it).

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After the museum we went for a walk at Circular Quay, where we showed our support (literally) for a street entertainer… as the boys still had energy to spare.

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Exhibition: Energies: Haines & Hinterding

Where: MCA, 140 George Street, The Rocks, Sydney.

When: 10am – 5pm daily until September 6, 2015

Admission: free

More info: http://www.mca.com.au

Fun Food at Sydney’s Winter Garden. And Dolph Lundgren.

Have you got a hankering for a bit of apres-ski adventure, but not the funds to actually hit the slopes? Don’t worry; Sydney’s pop-up “winter garden” is the answer to affordable urban apres ski-style adventure, complete with alpine-style huts selling sausages, mulled wine and hot chocolate. And Tornado Potatoes.

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It was almost taller than he was!

But more about them later… IMG_6308 Although the main attraction, the ice skating rink in the forecourt of St.Mary’s Cathedral, is not what I’d call a cheap activity for a family, it is still a billion times more affordable than a ski holiday/actual alpine adventure. And even if you don’t want to fork out the dollars for skating, you can sit down at the outdoor chairs and tables and soak up the winter wonderland atmosphere for free. IMG_6065 Kids can experience weaving their way down the slopes on a mechanical snowboard, a giant slide or for milder fun they can visit the baby animal nursery. They can also float around a pond in a giant Lindt ball. Spider Boy didn’t meet the 140cm height requirement, and I was secretly relieved. IMG_6169

There are also igloos available to “chill-out” in of course…

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Because the Winter Garden is in a prime city location, we’ve been to this frozen funland three times in the past two weeks when we happened to be in the neighbourhood. We haven’t ice-skated, because, budget, but we’ve enjoyed sitting in the winter sun with our hot chocolate (and yes alright, our potato-on-a-stick) watching the skaters carve up the ice to a pop-music soundtrack. But if you think the only food available is the greasy fair-ground type, you’d be wrong. Agape Organic has a kids menu including vegetarian nachos and organic fruit juice, there’s teppanyaki noodles, gozlame, wood-fired pizza and of course no alpine-style adventure would be complete without German sausages and Nutella crepes. If you want a really good hot chocolate, try the pop-up Lindt chocolate cafe for a hot sweet, thick beverage and, Lindt balls wrapped in every colour of the rainbow.

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But back to the potato-on-a-stick, aka the “Potato Tornado”. I couldn’t resist its greasy, salty allure, so we bought one to share. It was exactly as I imagined plus oh-so chicken-salty. The charming young man working the potato counter (and also the German Sausage counter) had a charming alpine accent: I assumed it was German but my sister Señorita Margarita later pointed out it could be Austrian or Swiss.

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Clockwise from left: “Dolph” patiently explains the Tornado Potato to customers at the German Sausage Hut (he was multi-tasking). The Tornado Potato machine. Don’t worry, Spider Boy didn’t eat all of this, I finished it off for him; The deep-fryer, spectacular and frightening all at the same time. 

I do want to acknowledge Mr. Potato’s great customer service. He patiently explained the Tornado Potato concept to customers, and with his well-groomed northern European style and charming accent, Margarita and I dubbed him Dolph Lundgren. We may have been referencing a character in an Adam Sandler movie. Because sometimes with my sister, I am 15 again. I had mentioned “Dolph” to Margarita on the phone when I called her to get her ETA. She and Spider Boy had an auntie-nephew afternoon planned at the Australian Museum across the road. Later when we all met at the Winter Garden again, Margarita went to the counter of the Tornado Potato/German Sausage Hut, not to purchase a potato, or a sausage, (because, deep-fried carbs and fat) but to hear “Dolph” speak. I observed the exchange from a distance. I couldn’t hear what she asked him, but I believe she went with my suggestion of “How many potatoes are there in a Tornado Potato?” Then to my delight I saw Dolph hold up a whole unpeeled raw potato, on a stick, and point to the machine that spins the potato into a long coil, and then he pointed to the deep-fryer, with the exaggerated and engaging hand gestures of a flight attendant. IMG_6464

The Sydney Winter Garden: Fun, food, alpine adventure and Dolph Lundgren.

As that other* Austrian superstar would say, “I’ll be back.”

*The real Dolph Lundgren is actually Swedish.

Sydney Winter Garden: St Mary’s Cathedral, Cnr College St and Cathedral Square, Sydney.

June 19 – July 19

Skating (including skate hire) $30 (adults) $20 (children). Family skate 4 pack: $90 Rides (Zorb ball, slide, snowboard machine)

1 ride/3 rides/unlimited $6/$15/$20

Winter Garden

Review: Kurtosh House, where “gluttonous curiosity is to be explored”.

Señorita Margarita had told me there was a great bakery/cafe she wanted to share with me when I next trekked over to her neck of the woods. So last Sunday when Spider Boy had a birthday party to attend nearby, I dropped him off (after watching him ride a mechanical bull that looked like a giant guinea pig) and my mum, sister and I went to Kurtosh House (No.1), a cosy little bakery in Randwick (Kurtosh Houses 2, 3, 4, and 5 are in Surry Hills, Crows Nest, Darlinghurst and Wollongong respectively).

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The decor is very old-world rustic charm thanks to the pretty tiles, exposed brick walls, metal and wood chairs, soft lighting and a beautiful vintage-style coffee machine.

The cake display will make you say, “Oh wow!” Well, that’s what I said. There were sample plates along the top of the cabinets which looked like they were being regularly replenished.

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Clockwise from left: strawberry sponge, cookies and cream slice, lemon crumble cheesecake and choc-hazelnut torte.

There were huge slabs of cake, from fudgey chocolate, to sponge to cheesecake.  And the special thing is that cake is sold by weight (to satisfy your inner-glutton, according to the Kurtosh website). So you could ask them to slice 100 grams off a huge slab of chocolate, sugar and butter, and pay $4.50. So neither the indecisive nor those with a penchant for variety need to fret, their website statesWell, that’s a relief.

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They also sell chimney-shaped pastries called Kurtosh’s (also known as chimney cake), something I’d never seen or heard of before. These are cylinders of caramelised crispy flaky pastry dipped in a variety of coatings, such as cinnamon, coconut, pistachio, walnut, almond, caramelised hazelnut and chocolate hazelnut.

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Normally I go to bakeries for the combination of fat and sugar, but since it was lunchtime I ordered a quinoa and veggie pastry. I know, you’re practically blinded by my halo, right? It was so good, I couldn’t even taste the quinoa. But I could taste the curried veggies, which were not too spicy, not too bland, but just right. Does quinoa even have a taste? Or is it like tofu, the quinoa of the 90s?

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Kurtosh describes itself as being …what home feels like – comfortable, cozy, relaxing, flawed, unquestionably accepting, eclectic and sweet. I would say they pretty much nailed it. The only flaw I could see was that our veggie pastries weren’t quite hot enough, but when our waitress brought them over she said that may be the case and she happily obliged when we asked her to reheat them.

The coffee was great. And in case you’re wondering, yes, of course I took home a dessert for later. When I paid for my coffee and pastry and realised I didn’t have any cash, a staff member at the counter told me there was a $10 Eftpos minimum. Luckily there were plenty of slices to choose from that could bump up my spend. And bump up my blood sugar at the same time.

I chose the cookies and cream slice. The staff member helpfully reminded me I only needed $2.00 worth of cookies and cream slice to total $10. But that would mean less than 50 grams of sugar and fat. I can do better than that.

I told her I’d take the 100 grams slice for $4.50, thanks very much.

If the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, then Kurtosh House No.1 would be Love Potion No.9. If the old cliche is true, here’s hoping for more baking successes from me, and less baking “disasters” (read about one of my baking disasters here).

By the way, if you have a penchant for pastry porn, I implore you to get onto the Kurtosh website now.

www.kurtosh.com.au

Kurtosh House No.1

20B – 20C St Paul’s Street, Randwick

Open Monday – Friday 7am – 10pm

Saturday – Sunday and public holidays 8am – 10pm

Ph 9399 8412