The Spring Flower Festival of Silvan

Is it coincidence, or simply careful planning by the seasons, that there are an abundance of tulips ready to view and appreciate in Silvan come the September school holiday period?

How is it, that it is so perfectly timed? Tulips are planted before the colder months, and Spring-time seekers, (and those on school holidays) get to reap the rewards of the superbly bulbed flower?

IMAG4061

I have wanted to go to the Tesselaar Tulip Festival for a long time. I was fascinated by the story of the couple from Holland by the surname Tesselaar, and how they had planted tulips in their Silvan property long after first settling in Melbourne, after the outbreak of World War 2.

 

It is a common story to me, at least, the background is. A couple with a dream, a wish for a better life and hope for the future, leave their homeland behind to find opportunity elsewhere… my parents did this too, only they didn’t end up with hundreds of thousands of tulips across a 25-acre property, with tourists traveling from far and wide to witness their floral beauty!

It is certainly a fairy tale story. The couple’s acreage attracted so many passersby over the years, that they eventually opened their farm to eager eyes for a coin donation… it has evolved to the huge floral attraction that it is today, with people travelling from all over the country (I saw the interstate license plates with my own eyes!) to see the tulips in wondrous bloom.

IMAG4077

Baby girl and I attended the tulip festival in the first week of the school holidays, and it coincided with the ‘superhero week!’ What is ‘superhero week’ you may ask? Well all I can ascertain is that PJ Masks were in town, and they got them on board plus added in a few more kiddie activities to make it ‘superhero’-like!

IMAG4065

The great thing about this festival, is that it is so versatile. Superhero week becomes ‘Get Active’ week (Mon 1st – Thurs 4th October), and the weekends have their own special themes, with the one just passed being the ‘Food Wine and Jazz weekend,’ and the next one (Fri 5th – Sun 7th October) being the Irish Weekend.

There is sooo much to do, and it ain’t all tulips either. As already noted, the event occurs over the school holidays, though it is longer than two weeks, and as an adult visiting with kids, you can be assured they will be kept busy! The main stages have constantly-changing entertainment, there are roving princesses, workshops where you can create sand art, learn how to drum… then there are reptile displays, a petting zoo, face painters, and did I mention, the tractor ride?

IMAG4104

Check out my SmikG facebook page for the super-cool video. Hey, as the tractor jumped forward in its start-up around the expansive tulip field, even the adults shrieked in giddy excitement alongside the kids. True story. It probably fits about, oh, 20 people, and lasts all of 5 minutes, if that much, as it does an upside down U shape around the field. It is a heap of fun, the kids could have cared less as we went past the tulips, instead getting excited by the open-air and opportunity to wave at other tulip-viewers outside of the tractor, and meanwhile the adults just took it all in, appreciating the beauty, and revelling in the happy shouts of glee from their offspring.

You HAVE TO DO IT!

Toilets, food and drink are a plenty. Dutch-style cuisine, of Poffertjes, or as you and I may call them, ‘mini pancakes,’ are a must, and The Kibbeling Express, a Dutch-themed fish and chip shop also prominently features in the grounds. But never fear, if none of that tickles your fancy, there are your other cuisines, of Mac and cheese, hamburgers, scones, gozleme, spuds, and of course…

ICE CREAM!

:):):)

It was a wonderfully lazy and self-indulgent 20 minutes or so that baby girl and I spent licking our cones and cups in the sun.

There are opportunities to buy souvenirs, take home gardening tools, purchase your own seedlings, and did I mention the potted tulips?

I bought a pot for myself to take home, and actually have repotted them with purpose… to have them last a long time. I got a small leaflet with some tips on how best to keep them going on, but any decent gardening blog online will give you similar tips on extending the tulips life.

IMAG4090

The fairy shop is another cute place for the kids to enjoy, with little unicorns and fairy paraphernalia decorating the walls of the store. Just try leaving this place with your girl empty-handed. I know, as we now own a magical glittery pen.

:/

The effects of keeping your child entertained while on holiday, I know.

And, the whole reason for going, the ‘piece de resistance’ if you will, of the actual event?

Why, the Tulips of course.

IMAG4086

They surround the festival, however the major drawcard sits amidst the large field with rows upon rows of different coloured bulbs. A large windmill sits at the far end of the field, and various works of art are spotted throughout, to provide your eye with an alternative to the wondrous colour before you… not like you need it, but it is nice to take a break and look at something else interesting.

IMAG4117

IMAG4118

IMAG4096

IMAG4110

This festival is huge, so take precaution when deciding when to go. The cars just keep coming, there are parking people organising where you can park, and then depending on what time you arrive and where you have parked, there will most likely be a short walk for you to make, so if with littlies that get easily bored or tired, you may need to take a pram (or your shoulders will feel the weight!)

By no means should any of this dissuade you – it is a festival for both young and old, with plenty to do and see that will interest people of ALL ages! In my eyes, it is actually a pretty perfect family day out 🙂

 

The deets!

The Tesselaar Tulip Festival is a September – October annual event, coinciding with the bloom of the flowers (and the school holidays!) Check their website for actual dates and theme-specific weeks and weekends.

https://tulipfestival.com.au/

Their address is 357-359 Monbulk Road Silvan.

It runs every day for about a month of the festival’s duration.

Getting there by car takes some time if you’re from Melbourne or even on the other side of it… but once you are in the Dandenong Ranges, man it is a beautifully scenic drive. You could easily make a day of it, or two or three (or a mini-break!) as there are some quaint and exquisite village-like places that you travel through to get there… Sassafras, Kallista, Monbulk… You could be forgiven for wanting to stop about 6 times before reaching your destination, so tranquil and serene is your drive and environment. The views are always so magical in the Ranges, and the day we drove there I had to contain my excitement and nostalgia in going through parts of the world that I had visited with Hubbie many times before, as I have by myself too.

Prices:

Adults are $28, Concession holders are $24, and Children 16 and under are Free!

(Which is why it is such a kid-happy place!)

RULES

Yes, I even have rules. Well their not just mine, the festival insists, with a smiley policeman cut-out and everything… baby girl observed it too…

IMAG4091

Please, for the love of God, KEEP OFF THE FLOWERS. It may seem obvious to most, but most people would not jump behind a rope where there is a sign of a person jumping over a rope with a BIG LINE THROUGH IT.

I saw some people disobey the sign for the sake of the perfect photo, and man oh man did I wish for some Dutch police to take them away and whip them with Poffertjes until they bled like strawberry jam… for the sake of respecting the Tulips, take your photos in front of the rope and not behind it… it is there for a reason after all.

And look! What do you know, a beautiful photo that wasn’t taken while standing on precious bulbs.

IMAG4081

Face palm. Some people.

Tips:

Be prepared to be out ALL DAY. That means comfy shoes, an easy and light bag, and water/snacks of some kind. Yes you can buy it all there, but you don’t wanna be running off to the food trucks when you are in the middle of a field of tulips now, do you?

They have a car park, AND an overflow car park. I suspect I was in the overflow carpark, and that was on a Thursday of the school holidays. My point is… come as early as you can, or try to avoid weekends and public holidays. If the car parks are full, they suggest you drive out to one of the quaint towns for a bit and then come back to try again. This seems absurd due to the sheer number of cars that clearly can fit there… but as I said again, it was a Thursday. And it was practically packed.

Bring your hat, sunscreen and sunnies. It can get a bit dusty, so closed-toe shoes may be the way to go.

And lastly, the MOST IMPORTANT word of advice… take home some tulips. You won’t regret it, trust me 😉

IMAG4166

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

‘Been there, done that’: A stressed Mum speaks up

One of the most frustrating things about being a Mum, is the judgment you face.

It’s bad enough when it is from a non-parent, one who has no idea of the trials and tribulations you go through to get by, day by day.

“Why do they eat that?”

“Why DON’T they eat that?”

“They go to sleep how late?”

“They don’t take any more naps?!”

“She needs to come out of her shell more.”

“She is too boisterous for her own good.”

“She craves attention from adults constantly” (this from baby girl’s kindergarten teacher – she is 3 for God’s sake!)

“She is very energetic!” (from the same teacher – and that is bad, how?)

But when you get judgment from a parent, one who has ‘been there, done that,’ and is well past the tried true and tested toddler stage, well, it’s shit.

Even worse if their critique is aimed not at your child… but at YOU.

“Why are you so stressed?”

It HURTS.

Judgement, from a parent who knows how it’s like, is really upsetting. I often wonder how that parent felt when they were dealing with one, or multiple little people all at the one time, and think of how they would have taken to such life-changing advice, from someone who had almost all but forgotten what it is like.

“Don’t be so upset. Relax.”

Because it is that easy. While you are in the throws, in life’s midst of teaching your child manners, toilet training, speech, not to finger suck, how to play fairly, how to not break things, how to not crack the shits every time things don’t turn out the way she/he wants, I am just meant to turn a blind eye and go

“Oh WTF. Stuff it all. Let me down this tequila.”

I am meant to shirk all parenting responsibilities and duties, and let them be, as they want to be.

And then what happens –

When the finger gets stuck in the door frame

She falls down the stairs

She chokes on a tiny object

She falls into a pool

She runs off into a darkened crowd

She climbs under the DJ table pulling out a cord and electrocuting herself

She ends up in the middle of the Main street

She wanders off on the beach

She goes up to that strange dog

ALL because no one was around. Because I was chilling and letting my hair down and “not stressing, man!”

Who picks up the pieces?

Who is to blame?

Who is judged???

I am. The Mother. The one who gave life, is the one who is given the most crap. Time and time and time and time and time and time and time again.

Look, I get it. The having fun part. It’s not like I’m a stickler for the rules, and I actually enjoy yelling “no!” all the time. I remember what it’s like to party. I remember what it’s like, (though very faintly), to not worry about anyone but ME. I remember how it’s like to wander wherever I like at a whim, whenever it suits, child-friendly areas or not.

I give baby girl plenty of room and choices to make up her own mind and do her own thing. I am not constantly stressing, helicoptering around her and grabbing her hand at every curious impulse of hers. I hang back and watch, but I am also, always, on guard.

You have to be, as a parent. It’s a very fine line of letting her learn and discover, while trying to look out for warning clues of impending trouble.  I mean, why would I carelessly put her in the firing line of trouble, when trouble and toddler are so unanimously tied together, naturally?

But I made a choice, about 4 years ago. I made a choice that in conjunction with Hubbie, we were going to love, cherish and nurture a little human being that was an amazing yet simultaneously super-challenging mix of the two of us.

When she gets hurt, she runs to me. When she needs comfort, she runs to me. Anything wrong that happens – she comes crying, yelling “MA!”Mum picks up the pieces. Mum needs to look after everything. Everyone looks to Mum, when baby girl is crying… no matter what, why, or how.

I don’t need someone who has passed the phase, to be telling me to relax. Turn a blind eye. “Chill a bit.”

I just want those parents to understand, and remember. That is all.

And for all those childless couples thinking that they will do SOOOO much better when they are a parent?

HA!

Move straight to the centre

Radius Restaurant
RACV Resort, 70 Cape Paterson-Inverloch Road Inverloch

(Visited June ’16)

Our trip to Inverloch in June 2016 was in celebration of many things. And it was our first family holiday together as one, so it made sense that there were people and events to celebrate.

When I say family, I mean ‘family,’ in the all-encompassing, all-inclusive sense.

Road tripping it over was myself, Hubbie and baby girl… my MIL… my parents… my sister, bro-in-law, and my two nephews.

It was a BIG one.

Although it was a very short trip, it was jam-packed and still a lot of fun.

On the night we arrived, we dressed ourselves up and headed on over into the dining quarters of Radius, the restaurant at the RACV resort that we were staying at.

If you can stay at the RACV resort, do it. You have so much accessible to you, the rooms are new and modern and luxurious, and then you have a view like this from your window.

2016-06-05 08.18.28

Highly, strongly recommended. So, back to the restaurant. There was a fairly big group of us, so it was a given that one of us had booked ahead to guarantee a table. We arrived by 7pm, and it took a while to settle with so many.

After all that though, we started getting into the holiday spirit with some drinks

2016-06-04 20.16.32

and then it was the long and arduous task of deciding what to order.

Not that there weren’t any good meals. It was just that our parents wanted ‘easy,’ ‘simple,’ ‘recognisable’ options, and translating what everything was, and what they would eventually get (understanding some menus requires study in itself) took a bit of effort.

Our waitress was lovely from the outset. She was kind and extremely accommodating, not at all like the nose-in-air customers who were dining nearby, looking over questioningly every time baby girl or my nephew made a sound. They did it with such rudeness, when they weren’t even being that noisy, that I almost asked THEM to leave. The inconsiderate nature of some people just astounds me.

But the waitress worked hard to make us happy, even telling sis that we could chill out on the empty table behind us, if it helped to make my nephew happier.

She had forgotten our bread rolls early on, but that was easily forgotten with her kind gestures, making her the ideal waitress that night.

Baby girl spent some time drawing in those small kid’s packs that come with some paper, 4 crayons and a sheet of stickers. That kept her busy, keeping us relieved.

When our food came, we were all raring to go.

I got the Bass Coast fettuccine, roasted cauliflower, charred corn, with gruyere cheese sauce and toasted hazelnuts

2016-06-04 20.41.26

Hubbie got the Porterhouse with red wine jus, with duck fat roasted baby potatoes and a resort salad, and an additional side of Steamed vegetables, local olive oil (not pictured)

2016-06-04 20.45.25

2016-06-04 20.45.34

And finally baby girl had Chicken Nuggets, chips and salad

2016-06-04 20.28.17

Baby girl’s meal was good and even we ended up pecking away as the minutes ticked on! All our meals were pretty enjoyable, I enjoyed my fettucine, the hazelnuts gave it a definite crunch, and it was a very creamy and satisfying dish, which I didn’t eat all of, only so I could make some room from the desserts I was eyeing off in the display cabinet.

Hubbie was happy with the preparation of his meat, it was done as he liked. He enjoyed the meal, and though it was substantial, he felt it was missing something, and needed a bit more beside the meat, potato and salad component. Nonetheless, he was still happy.

There were main meals, entrees, and sharing plates everywhere. By the time we were done with that, the waitress suggested we could go into the adjoining bar area, where we could lounge out on the couches there and have our coffee and cake delivered to us!

So, why not?

The 10 of us meandered across and fixed ourselves over about 3 couches, before indulging in some yummy coffee and desserts

I got a cap and a mango ‘something.’ I don’t remember the name, but I know there was a pistachio cake layer, pistachios, jelly, mango of course, and a custard. I didn’t like the cake part, but I preferred the creamy/jelly/mango layer on the bottom. So it was half good, half not. The cappuccino was smooth and easily knocked back after all of that food.

After drinking and eating some more, and baby girl going out of her way to greet everybody… it was nearing ‘late’ time, and we so we headed off down the hallway… just a minute or two walk to our rooms 🙂

Food: 8/10. Good menu, and satisfying food.

Coffee: 8/10.

Ambience: It was warm and relaxing, yet there was enough noise to still put you at ease and not have to worry that you were dining in a library (ahem, nose-in-the-air diners).

People: Apart from the above annoying people, there were a lot of families and groups, being a resort restaurant.

Staff: Our waitress was overly accommodating if there is such a term. Brilliant, so lovely and genuinely warm.

Price: Surprisingly, for our large group, where there was a multitude of drinks and all kinds of meal plates, as well as desserts and coffee, it only came to $205! I actually can’t believe that, but it was true. So clearly I am saying, due to this it was definitely value for $$$.

Advice: Book ahead, being a restaurant within the RACV resort, it is a given to be busy most nights.

In a nutshell: I really enjoyed this resort, as we all did, and because of the fond memories made there, both at the resort and restaurant, how could I not want to go back? We dined at Radius for breakfast the following morning, and I can confirm their consistency, as the buffet breakfast selection was great.

The holiday was short and sweet, but so, so good. I want to go back, now.

Radius at RACV Resort. Keep it on your radar. And then zoom in.

RACV Inverloch Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Off the wall

Off The Boat
203 Edwardes Street Reservoir

(Visited March ’16)

It was a lovely Autumn’s day in mid-March that had us deciding to lunch at this restaurant/café of European origins:) I had been to Edwardes Park Lake across the road with my parents and baby girl, trying to take advantage of as much park/mild weather/grandparent/bonding time as I could. It was all too easy to wander over to the edge of the park and cross the road to Off The Boat, on the corner of Edwardes and Spratling street.

I had wanted to come here many times already, but the right opportunity had never presented itself. It seemed very quiet from the outside, there wasn’t anyone eating out there, but upon entry I was surprised to see that there were already quite a few lunchtime diners. We took a table near the back of the café with a booth, so baby girl could jump up and down as she pleased.

It’s a small café/restaurant, with an ice cream/gelati section up the front near the register, alongside the coffee machine. It’s cosy and homely, making you feel like you may be somewhere at Nonna’s house, rather than a corner café in Reservoir. I immediately warmed to it.

We didn’t have to wait long to receive our food, all of us sharing

The Capricciosa – tomato, mozzarella, ham, olives, mushrooms

2016-03-23 13.02.09

And the Patatine Fritte – potato chips

2016-03-23 12.56.24

We were all in unison over our opinion of the pizza. It was a light and thin base, yet still the generosity of the pizza toppings made it incredibly moorish. Being a thin base, made it easy to eat, and we polished off the whole thing between the 4 of us! The chips were golden and upon arrival very hot, which made it hard to explain to a hungry baby girl who kept bringing it to her lips too soon, but I personally love food extra hot, I don’t know but it just emphasises the ‘fresh’ factor.

My Mum said the pizza was really good too, and said they had done something different with the base, but she couldn’t put her finger on it. My Mum being an old-style cook, and a self-proclaimed detective, does not give out points so easily, always saying that everything home-cooked is better. It’s true. But the fact that she gave credit here, I thought was enormous. The pizzas do come out of a wood-fire oven, so I don’t know how much that has to do with it… but oh my God they were good.

After our food we had some coffees. Cappuccinos and babycino

2016-03-23 13.23.08

2016-03-23 13.23.20

I particularly liked their own personal addition of a sweet Italian cube of cake placed beside the coffees we received. Very clever. The cake was nice, and I don’t know why I was surprised, but I was, as the coffee was quite good.

Because of the company and the weather, the food and coffee, the day had turned out exceptionally well! I went up to the counter to pay and continue our damn fine day.

Food: 8.5/10. It’s not just your average, run-of-the-mill Italian café. This place has heart and quality, and it showed in what we received that day and the subsequent surroundings.

Coffee: 8/10.

Ambience: If you’re not Italian and you don’t know how it would feel like to be in Nonna’s house, well just picture yourself in a little café on a side-street in Italy, and if you haven’t been there, just use your damn imagination. Cute, warm, ethnic. Really homely surrounds, makes you feel at ease straight away.

People: There was a mix of people but there were duos all around – tradie duos, friends meeting over lunch duos, and older duos. I think it’s a lot of locals coming in, but with the fare provided I wouldn’t be surprised if people came from much further afield to enjoy this fantastic eatery.

Staff: Friendly and warm. Our waitress wasn’t hanging over our table but when we called on her she was accommodating.

Price: $35-ish for all our food, which I considered fairly reasonable since it was shared and had fed 4 of us, and then we had gotten caffeinated too.

Advice: Go across the road to Edwardes Park Lake first, then once you’ve exhausted yourself walking, jumping around on the playgrounds, or chasing unruly children, give yourself a break (and your entourage too) by walking across the road and having an afternoon of fine Italian fare. You won’t be sorry.

Regarding seating, if you have older kids, it’s fine to sit outdoors, however with toddlers I’d advise you stay inside… there is a kind of enclosure separating the street from the outside eating area, but with a fairly main road RIGHT THERE on the doorstep of the café, I wouldn’t want to risk it, would you? No. That’s perhaps the only downfall, so staying indoors is the safe option.

In a nutshell: I really loved this place, and my eyes widened when upon paying they feasted upon the wide range of ice creams on offer. Hmmm, I set a plan into motion.

Step 1: Convince Hubbie to have a park day on the next sunny day.

Step 2: Go to Edwardes Park Lake with Hubbie and baby girl, and get them both really tired and hungry – tips: let him catch her (encourage her to chase ducks); he pushes her on the swing as I conveniently step back; she makes him partake in all the playground activities (after I whisper to her to pull Dada along to do everything with her).

Step 3: “Oh, would you look at that! A café! And it’s lunchtime. Gee, are you hungry?” (Baby girl will be so hungry and irritable by this stage that driving home 15 minutes will be like hell on earth – only option, EAT NOW).

Step 4: Eat food at Off The Boat. Drink coffee. Then buy ice cream and take to park to eat there and have more fun.

Step 5: Great park/café day concluded.

😉

These guys may be Off The Boat, but they certainly brought all the good stuff with them.

2016-03-23 12.36.03

 

Off the Boat Pizzeria Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

What (Aussie) Christmas means to me, my love

Sunny days and leafy trees

sprawled out in the yard on lounge chairs

squeals of laughter from the park children

the squeak of Mum and Dad’s backyard swing.

Prawn platters, Fruit pavlova

three courses and constant food in between

Ham is not the star – everything is

and it all goes down well with a glass (or few) of champers.

Flowy dresses and bows in tresses

the kids run barefoot on the grass

we can show some leg and we don’t care

Summer, holidays, carefree, go together.

Annoying things too, like crawling ants and invading-space flies

tightly-wound presents with ribbon, all screwed up

but this is the miniscule list I hold

for this oh-so-Merry day.

Balmy nights, revved up cars

light until past 9pm

cannot sleep, but not just for Santa

for waiting ain’t easy when it’s pushing 20 at midnight.

Eating drinking memory making

What do you talk about with those you love?

Why everything! And now let’s make some plans

about how we’ll take on the world together.

 

Hot sand replaces stinging ice

sunnies sit meandering instead of wrapped-around scarves

we still rug up on Christmas Eve

to our loved ones for warmth, but not heat.

Carols may sing of snow,

Santa may be in his jolly suit,

cards will show reindeer, eggnog, fireplaces

and the pine trees are not native at this time of year.

But those are idealistic visions

of a Faraway Place

a dream where one day I will be, and see, and touch

and live in reality.

My memories here are of sun, of outdoor fun,

sitting outside and making memories with loved ones

My Aussie Christmas

is the one I love the most.

 

(The above was inspired by a conversation I had with a work colleague about our different Christmas memories, since his ones stem from living in the UK. He found it odd that the Christmas we celebrate is so different from the one depicted in the songs we sing and the cards we send out. But like I said, faraway place 🙂 )

 

The Age of the Epiphany

If you’re anywhere under the age of 30, remember this: Your parents are right about EVERYTHING.

I’ve always listened to my parents advice, don’t get me wrong. I guess I was just kinda like working things out for myself, and thinking, like the over-confident Leo I can sometimes be, that I can do it differently, and better, my own way.

Ha.

My parents and my MIL are all super-paranoid when it comes to their babysitting duties with baby girl. They’ll cover the coffee table with the throw we have draped over our lounge, trying to cushion the pointy corners so that if she were to fall the material would soften the blow. When she runs around the dining table at full speed, they cringe. They used to barricade the bottom of the stairs with the pram, so that she couldn’t climb up them.

I didn’t so much mind all their little additions, but I told them to stress less and to not spend so much time worrying. Yes, sometimes she fell. It was never anything major, it toughened her up and taught her a bit about what she should and shouldn’t do. For some reason though, having them put the throw on the table… well it just shit me. I don’t know why. The throw was for the couch, and they were covering the coffee table with it. I felt like saying ‘she never falls near the table with us, stop over-reacting!’ To add to it, Mum further aggravated me with her comment “That’s ok, we put it on when you’re not here.” And then she laughed. Grrr.

Last week, baby girl fell while running around with her Dad, and hit her head on the tiles. It was the smallest of hits – Hubbie didn’t even think her head touched the ground. But the blood splatters on the floor and the drops down her jumper told us otherwise.

I can’t begin to express the chaos that followed that incident. There were tears and freak-outs, mostly from me. She had hit her head, but it was a minor graze, and she settled very quickly after. Thank God. But it was a major wake-up call for us. Our parents’ constant stresses and worrying was for a good reason. They had raised us. They had been through all of this before.

I haven’t said boo about the throw on the coffee table since.

On the weekend, Hubbie and I had a decent blue. We were arguing, and were both very stubbornly holding our individual positions. We were shouting angrily at each other, and not because of something we had done or said to the other- it was about a family member. I went to bed that night seething, yet so sad. And I contemplated how every single time we’ve had a big argument (minus the every day nagging stuff you just get used to) it was about a family member. I fell asleep on that.

To my surprise, we made up immediately the next morning. I didn’t think there was any going past it. But Hubbie was adamant that we weren’t to yell at each other like that again, and made the same observation that I had: all our big fights weren’t about us.

We are good, so good together. And we realised, through this struggle, that we shouldn’t let outside interference get in the way of our relationship. In fact that weekend I had read a quote about struggles being the instigators to find another way forward. Which we had. I also heard my Mum’s words circling around in my head:

“Never let anyone get in the way of your family. People will always try to make trouble between you, but don’t let them.”

Even though there was no one intentionally making our lives difficult, it was so true that we shouldn’t be letting an outsider get in the way of US.

You might be lucky, and under the age of 30 and know all of this. You may be older, and still learning. That’s ok. Life is a process. It’s fortunate if you can learn from the experiences and words of others, but often the best way to learn is when you live the lessons yourself. Just try to make the tough lessons a vicarious experience, if you can.

Happiness Is… #9

Living so close to your parents that you bump into them at the local shops.

I’m pretty fortunate (and it is truly convenient) to have my parents, oh, a 7 minute car drive away. Bumping into my Mum today while doing my weekly grocery shop was truly sweet. Having her run up to me from behind to surprise me, baby girl in the trolley staring at her wide-eyed like “What? Where did Baka come from?” was a really happy moment.

It was an unexpected, beautiful surprise. Often it’s the things you don’t expect, that make you truly grateful for what you have. I count my blessings.

Seasons that don’t do what they’re told

When you live in Melbourne, you can’t help but be overly concerned with the weather.

You can’t escape it. It’s not just another casual ice-breaker topic like in other, normal-climate parts of the world. The highs and the lows can be so drastic, so contrasting, often from one hour to the next, that us as Melburnians, cannot help but talk so much about our damn weather.

“Beautiful day today.”

“It’s so cold today.”

These aren’t just simple conversation starters with work colleagues. These are real, bonafide issues of debate my non-Melbournian friends. Weather is always, a serious surprise. You can never really know what is going to happen the following day – even the weather presenters guess half the time.

This is true ALL through the year.

One current theme running rampant has been this remark:

“Some summer we’ve had.”

You can’t hear my sarcasm, but we haven’t had much of a summer. Sure, there were hot days; but no real hot, long, drawn-out summer spells usually so characteristic of our humid state. No, we got a couple, at best, really hot days in a row, before a rainy, slightly humid low 20-something degree day came along. And then stayed. For like forever.

I was in denial all the way through. All through summer I kept saying “we’ll get a late summer, we’ll get a stinking hot spell late Feb right into March as usual” (observe my true climate guide for an accurate representation of Melbourne weather seasons).

We are now in March. For those of you who haven’t noticed, we’re actually on the cusp of April. And sadly, we’ve already had the heater on in our house more times than I’d like to count.

I’m a summer gal. I love the sunshine, the warmth, the socialising and the out and about. I love the ease, the mildness that allows you to dress so comfortably, the warm nights that let you dream and gaze at the stars outside, and I love the long, light-filled days. I got caught in the rain a month back, and it was actually fun, and pleasurable, because it was still warm. Summer is just so easy.

I HATE being cold. I hate shivering in the morning as I get dressed, fighting against the coastal wind as I charge my way through the doors at work, and I hate never being able to get the house, and keep it warm, for long enough. It’s always crisp, fresh, and biting.

However, something’s changed.

I constantly remind myself, that winter is always so much worse as we’re in anticipation of it, and that once it’s here, it’s actually not too bad. This concept has helped. But it’s more than that. Summer is easy, but summer means busy too, and finding time to catch up on stuff, to read, to write, has just been so challenging and trying in the last several months. I love to go out, yes. I love to socialise, yes. I love having things to do, places to go and people to see, yes, yes, yes.

But I’m kind of looking forward to chilling at home and hibernating through the cold.

I don’t know what it is that’s made me think this way, this year, and not every other year previously. Is it the fact that I have more on now? The fact that I’m a Mum? Do I need more time for myself and my stuff, because life is just busier now? Perhaps. I’ve always said that winter is only fun when you don’t have to go out, you don’t have to work, in fact you don’t have to do anything at all. Basically, if you’re a bear, winter is awesome. If you can just stay at home snuggled up on the couch with your favourite blankie drinking hot chocolate, reading to your heart’s content and watching all your guilty-pleasure trashy shows, well winter looks kind of rocking in a mellow sorta way.

I am actually looking forward to winter… a little bit. Staying in and lounging in your trakkies ALL day because you can, and the weather doesn’t make you feel bad for doing so. Watching the rain and feeling infinitely inspired to write, and write, and write. (I know I shouldn’t wait for the rain, in order to write, but you know, this shit helps). Using the cold as an excuse to not go anywhere and just basically, be a bear.

Don’t get me wrong, I was still reflecting today, on this gorgeously hot Melbourne day, the (lack of) summer that had just passed, feeling quite depressed that I only got two days at the beach. Just two. I bought new bikinis for this. Baby girl has 3 sets of bathers. 3. She is 19 months old, and she has 3 sets of bathers.

But never mind. It’s something we’ve come to expect, something that is a natural part of life for Melburnians. My most accurate representation of this comes in an early memory, of being a teenager lying on my parents’ bench out on the verandah in the midday hot sun, and then coming inside to green-vision thinking ‘am I going to be burnt?’ to then sitting in front of the heater that night, shivering from the cold.

That’s our city for you. Beautiful one day… screwed if I know what’s next.

O Come, All Ye Thickened Cream

I came home from work yesterday, to the beautiful smile of baby girl and the expectant and relieved glances of my parents. They love their bonding times with her when they babysit, but after entertaining baby girl for 11 hours, I know they need to just go home and relax.

I quickly went into the kitchen to drop off my stuff and organise a few things, to find a container of thickened cream sitting on the bench. I touched it, and it was still cold.

I asked my parents about it, and Mum said she’d been walking up and down the street with baby girl when an older woman caught up to her carrying her groceries. She told my Mum she’d bought an extra lot of thickened cream, and offered it to my Mum. In my Mum’s humorous words, she just wanted “to be rid of the woman,” looking after baby girl and all, so she took it.

I could see it definitely hadn’t been opened: it still had that ring part fastened underneath the lid. But still, I said to them “don’t use it.”

My Mum had wanted to see if I in fact wanted it, even though she was going to advise me of the same thing – not to use it. We had a brief to-and-fro about how it’s best to not take things from strangers, and how it’s better not to risk your health than save $2 before I promptly threw the entire thing in the bin.

This however, made me sad. Maybe 20, 30 years ago, you would have trusted the woman walking down the street who offered you an extra item from her grocery bag. You wouldn’t have questioned its authenticity, or her motive. It would have been a thoughtful and kind gesture from a neighbour, a generous and impromptu token absent of any ill intentions or malice.

Instead. Instead we’re living in a world where you could go into a coffee shop to buy your daily caffeine fix in between work, and suddenly be in the middle of a hostage situation, with the eyes of the world fixed intently on the café you are in waiting to see if you’re going to come out alive.

That was the terrible reality of yesterday. A man, a lone wolf, using God’s name to justify his unearthly and inhumane actions to hold many people hostage in a cafe on a beautiful Monday morning in Sydney. I, as many others, was glued to the screen, watching the rolling coverage unfolding in Martin Place live on TV. I kept it on up until midnight, in the meantime thinking of how fortunate I was to be safe and warm, in my home, with Hubbie and baby girl sleeping peacefully upstairs. I knew where they were and they, in their dreams, knew where I was.

I thought of the poor hostages. They were not safe. They were not in their homes. While I was getting ready for bed, they were experiencing anxiety and terror like never before. They were wondering if they were going to ever see their families again. I put myself in their shoes for a moment, and felt the stark horror of their situation. I thought briefly, of how horrible it would be, to wonder if I were ever going to see my husband or daughter again. It made me feel so, so sad, and also so sick. I hoped there was not a Mother being held hostage. Not to say that a Mother was any more worthy than another individual, more underserving of being a hostage, but I could only think that, because I could relate. Someone to separate a Mother from her children… it just breaks my heart.

I went to bed, praying that when I woke up, they would have captured the selfish bastard keeping these innocent people hostage.

As soon as I got up this morning, I got baby girl, and I carried her downstairs. I turned on the TV immediately. I gasped at the headline I saw: “Three dead as siege ends.”

I almost cried. I did, when I heard one of the victims was a Mother, of three young children. The other victim was the café manager, and the third was not a victim. He had brought it all on himself, so that was expected.

How was this incident, any different to any other that had befallen innocent victims? Why was I hurting so much? Why did the thought of going out and doing my weekly grocery shop with baby girl make me feel sick? Why did the thought of finishing up my Christmas shopping this week suddenly seem so insignificant?

There had been fear and terror in other parts of the world. People being held hostage, acts of terrorism, and I can’t believe this word is even in existence in our day and age, but, beheadings. I had felt sadness, and anger, and bewilderment when these things had happened, but not like I experienced today. Was it because it was happening on our front door? Our neighbour, Sydney, being rocked by such tragic events? Was it the simple act of going into a café that threw me? A simple task so known to me, so familiar, a part of my routine while out and about and at work… to think, something you do so, so often, could become the last thing you do. Was it all of these things? The patriotism I felt ran deep. I think to live in Australia, being of such easy-going and friendly nature, all of this just didn’t feel right. This wasn’t meant to happen. It was never meant to happen, anywhere, but here in Aus it felt truly out of place.

I went and I did my grocery shopping. And at the beginning of my trip, I went past the Santa photo set-up where kids line-up excitedly to tell Santa what presents they want this year before smiling happily before the camera.

Instead, I found a primary school choir setting up, their teacher coaching them while Santa ran around passing gifts out to the children watching on the sidelines with their parents. I did my usual bit with baby girl, exclaiming excitedly “look, there’s Santa! Can you see who that is? Wave!” Santa spotted us and a few others as newbies to the scene and came and gave us a gift. I was so happy, watching baby girl receive the present and smile shyly at Santa. Meanwhile the choir started up their rendition of “O Come All Ye Faithful” to photo flashes going off in front of them, Santa continuing her trek through the crowd,
spreading joy with her generosity and also by posing for photos and chatting to people.

I watched the scene, and listened to the school kids (their correct pronouncement of “Sing in Exultation”), getting very teary eyed. While Sydney mourned, here we all were getting into the festive spirit. Santa was in full swing attending to every single child and baby there, carols were in the air, and everyone was smiling and laughing. It was a beautiful sight that I had unexpectedly walked into.

We soon walked off, and I had to pull over to the side and gather myself. I felt like crying my eyes out, sobbing in fact. I was overwhelmed. I was so touched by the display I had come across, and yet was sad for the victims and their grieving families in Sydney. More than anything, I was happy that my faith and hope, though not absent had been wavering, was now fully restored. Australians are a beautiful people, and we have an unwavering, fighting spirit. Terror may try to come here, but anything that tries to shake us will only make us stronger.

I am so proud to live in this lucky country. I am so, so inspired by the genuine reaching out of humanity I have witnessed recently. Yes, there is bad in this world. But there will always be more good. The willingness to keep going and keep up, keeping positive and helping out your fellow human, will always win out.

I hope, that one day soon, we can accept some thickened cream from our neighbours. Just because.

R.I.P. Katrina Dawson and Tori Johnson.

Scared to go Asleep

untitled

S.J. WATSON – Before I Go To Sleep

“I would have a day of grief and pain, would remember what I miss, but it would not last. Before long I would sleep and, quietly, forget. How easy that would be (…) So much easier than this.”

That is one of the terrifying concepts explored in this exceptional thriller. What do you do when every morning you wake up, and can’t remember how you got there, what is going on, and who that man is in your bed?

Christine Lucas is a 47 year-old woman who deals with this extraordinary scenario, every single day. Having had an ‘accident’ that eventually developed into amnesia, she is unable to form new memories, as well as remember ones that have occurred in the last couple of decades. Her memory is wiped clean when she falls asleep, and on many days not only wakes thinking she is still a teenager, but also a child.

The horror of not remembering the last 20-30 years of your life I just find unimaginable. But the terrors don’t stop there. Oh no. Watson in his first novel, delivers a fine range of mind-f^&king shocks that make you truly feel sick, and lonely.

*What do you do when you can’t remember anything? How can you trust your mind, any memories that do come to you, when your mind has already failed you?
*How do you blindingly trust someone that you can’t remember?
*How do you deal when sudden and faint memories don’t match up with what you’re being told?
*And like the above opening line, what happens when you do remember something, but the pain is so harsh and frightening, that you’d rather forget it all ever happened?

The events that start to set things in motion for Christine is the presence of Dr. Nash, a neuropsychologist she’s started seeing in secret, and a journal she begins to keep in order to help her remember who she is, when she wakes each day. Her meetings with him are a series of tests to help strengthen and test her mind, to see whether there are any remainders of memory left in there, while her journal serves as a great narrative tool, not only propelling the story forward with its presence during most of the book, but it assists Christine by helping her to discover and compare what she is told day by day. Is an amnesiac a good person to take advantage of, when you know their memory fails them every morning? Hell yeah.

I learnt of this book a couple of years ago, from a work friend, who told me his mate in the UK had had his debut novel picked up and was going to be turned into a movie. Yep, a friend of a friend. Pretty cool. I didn’t get to pick up a copy at the time, but having returned from maternity leave and my work colleague asked if I’d gotten to it, I decided now was as good a time as any, buying it within a few days. It is, or recently was out in cinemas, with actors like Nicole Kidman and Colin Firth starring… you may have heard of those names. 🙂 The casting of certain actors actually made me change my opinions of some of those in the book, as it is quite common that actors have a certain reputation, and usually fit in quite nicely into the role of good-guy, bad-guy, avenger, or the romantic lead, to name a few. The casting of Colin Firth as Ben, Christine’s husband, threw me off what I was reading, but that’s all I will say. No I won’t. I’ll go as far as to say that I accidentally read the last line of the novel, and was spewing because I was only half-way through the book. But even that, although very clear, wasn’t what ended up happening as I expected, to some degree, even though the last line, and who says it, is fairly telling – BUT DON’T READ IT!

(How do you accidentally read the last line of a book? I do this thing whenever I start reading a book and get right into it, where I want to know how many pages there are and how far I’ve come in comparison… further to the look-at-the-book-from-the-top-and-see-how-far-the-bookmark-travels-through-the-spine thing I continuously do as I’m reading, I flick to the last page, and try to find the page number while trying to keep my absurdly insane and curious but don’t-wanna-know-any-spoilers contradictory eyes AWAY from the contents in the middle of the page. This time I failed. Hard when the page number was just below the last line. Damn)

It’s a fantastic premise, with real life amnesiacs having been the inspiration behind Watson’s idea. The twists and turns keep coming, and the hooks arrive quickly keeping you glued to the pages, as you’re just waiting, hoping that Christine discovers what she needs to know about her past, the broken pieces that will help her piece it all together. The last 80 or so pages I read in one go, as I just had to know how the book ended and couldn’t go to sleep until I did.

I’ve always thought of my parents and the older generation, and how it must feel for them, to know the things they know, and want to do some others, but be unable to because of their age. A young mind in an old body. This is Christine’s realisation when she wakes every day, and she sets about her day coming-to-terms with what she learns, reading her diary, and making decisions… only for it all to be reset the next day.

That’s tough. I did find it amusing how every day Christine had to read what she wrote previously, as well as write in her journal. It would take forever I thought, but it was something Watson thought of with mentions of her just skimming through certain sections. Lucky. He covered himself there.

It’s a scary thought though. There is one deliberate mention, where Christine comes back to her journal after writing of her intention to go out with Ben. She writes:

“I cannot say. I didn’t write it down and do not remember, despite it being only a few hours ago. Unless I ask Ben it is lost completely. I feel like I am going mad.”

Having to rely on others, who can be unreliable, or your journal, which if lost or you fail to write in it you have nothing to rely on, is a very lonely and scary concept. You are truly alone, with only yourself, yet no memories to back you up.

I loved his metaphorical mentions, external descriptions that expressed the real undertones happening below the surface, reminding me of what I try to do in my novels. Christine has just discovered a shocking secret and is looking at the TV:

“A remote-controlled submersible craft was exploring an underwater trench with jerky twitches.”

There is sadness too, not just with Christine wanting to forget some things she’s learnt, but with the thought: how does your family deal with you? How difficult would it be for your loved ones, if you were scared of them every day, and they had to talk you through your history, every single morning? A very sad thought emerges when Christine is having dinner out with Ben one night, and when he says he loves her, she doesn’t respond. He says “I know you don’t love me,” and Christine later thinks:

“He is a stranger. Love doesn’t happen in the space of twenty-four hours, no matter how much I might once have liked to believe that it does.”

Christine’s point-of-view is written in a very spell-it-out fashion, but I believe this is so due to the case at point – amnesia making her want to record everything, and not miss a thing. Watson’s ability to write on some very telling matters, in specific scenes, like a woman, is impressive. It makes me think he had a real good go-to girl for those points. Either that or he’s a superb transporter.

The one thing that wasn’t explored, also the one thing my cousin asked after I told her about the book, was the thought of trying to stay awake. One thought I intermittently had was why doesn’t she try to stay awake? I guess there was nothing too pressing to stay awake for, but wouldn’t it be something you’d want to test? If your memory was wiped clean every morning, would you perhaps consider only letting yourself sleep a couple of hours, to see how your memory responded then, and then only have short bursts of sleep to get through the day? I try to stay awake when I have a million jobs to do, let alone if I knew my memories would be gone the next morning!

The surprises and shocks keep-a-coming, way after you think they’ve stopped… so beware. My notes all over the second half of the book reveal how many radical theories I had, and I started to very subtly guess at what ended up eventuating, with one other main thought/hope coming true. Even so, I was on the edge of my bed every step of the way.

One line towards the end of the book, one question… it equals Terror. Pure Terror. I remember the hairs on my body standing.

Must read thriller!

Please let me know your thoughts on Before I Go To Sleep in the comments below, I would love to discuss with you 🙂