Archive | September 2014

Beyond the Black Stump

No time for decluttering, no time for The Year of the Gardening. I’ve been on the road, back of the black stump.


A five day road trip to the Hunter and north west region of NSW. Lots of road hours! We stopped at the Warrumbungles, Coonamble, Gunnedah, Coonabarabran, Baradine, Armatree, Scone, Aberdeen and the southern bit bit of the Pilliga forest. Drove through Gulargumbone and Gilgandra. (Don’t you love the names? Spellcheck doesn’t!)

Let’s play “One of these things is not like the other”. Can you pick the names not from the north-west but from the Hunter? Yes, the ring-ins from British words. Disappointingly, there were no scones in Scone.


After Sydney, the Upper Hunter looks open and free. After the wide, open fields and never-ending sky of the north-west, the Hunter looks over-populated and crowded and commercial. Yes, the north-west is dry whereas the Hunter is green and lush (between the coal mines!) but the colours have an amazing beauty. And yes, you have to travel vast distances between “sights” or towns. But there are plenty of roos, cattle, horses, birds, farms, vistas, occasional emus along the way.

And the air speaks of the openness and vastness of the horizon. The night sky is so black, the Milky Way uninterrupted by light pollution or, well, by anything. It is a dome of not just constellations, but the smudge that is the Milky Way. (Google: night sky under Coonabarabran for some idea of what I saw.)

This panoramic shot gives you an indication of why research telescopes are here.


I witnessed an amazing artistic, multi-art performance. Another Googling effort will give you some idea: Moorambilla. And if you’re from Australia, ABC will be broadcasting a documentary later in the year.



I’d go back in an instant. (But not in summer, ’cause it’s hotter than Hades.) In fact, I have to go back. The air, the light, the space is addictive. And I want to go further into the Pilliga. The rock formations spoke of ancient times.


Just look at this view. Not a fence, road, structure in sight. Just the horizon.


Only downside? Bugs on the windscreen.


Fitbitting for the Technologically Challenged

So, I’ve worked out (with help from Fiona and from a colleague at work) that you can do a screen shot on an iPad.

And the belittling response from my eldest offspring? “Will I be as hopeless with technology when I am your age?”

But I digress. This is about Steptember. Here is the graph of my daily stepping out for the past week as recorded by my Purposeful Thing.


You can see the two green days – I reached my goal of 10,000 steps. And it calculates my average. Even shows it with the dashed line. If I touch any of the columns, the exact number of steps are displayed.

(And for those interested in a Purposeful Thing of their own, you can change steps to calories, distance or active minutes. Groovy, hey?)

And the PT tracks sleep. Last night I didn’t sleep well. I kept waking up and felt a little unwell. So what does that look like?


A less restless night (but bad in its own way for how late I went to bed) looks like this:


Yes, you can tell if you’re tired in the morning, that you didn’t sleep well. But it is interesting to see what it looks like. Don’t know if I can do much about it! Except it is making me more conscious of getting to bed on time (so much so that if I go to bed too late I don’t switch my Purposeful Thing to monitoring sleep mode.) And you can fool the thing by staying still. One night I couldn’t sleep so I got up, and lay very still on the lounge. The PT thought I had fallen back to sleep. But all in all, I’m a convert, with the zealotry of a convert.

Sorry if my photos are too big but with the upgrade of my iPad, I can’t work out how to resize images from my iPad into WordPress. Win some, lose some when it comes to technology. Look I called my iPod a Walkman today. Don’t expect too much from me.

Steptember – Week 1.

There’s been a cycle in my journey to health and fitness. I start a program of exercise, keen and eager, and then, well, umm, it kinda tails off.

So right now I’m in the up cycle. My Fitbit has given my walking a little boost.

Love the instant feedback. Love the motivation with the flashing lights. Love the graphs. Love how my iPad gets the data from somewhere. (Don’t love how I can’t save the graph as a picture so I can post it here. 😦 And don’t love how I can’t upload graphs straight to WordPress. I was wong on that little matter.

My Week 1 daily average is 9,579. Just short of my goal of 10,000. But better than the weeks before when I first got the Fitbit and my goal was 8,000. (I kept quiet lest the gadget was a dud or I didn’t stick with it.)

Monday: 11,605
Tuesday: 9,671
Wednesday: 10,263
Thursday: 8,749
Friday: 7,612
Saturday: 8,383
Sunday: 10,773

Key to getting my goal: going for a walk AND doing lots of incidental walking during the day. Walk to the printer. Walk around work. Walk to speak with people rather than phone or email.

Either on their own is not sufficient to reach the goal. So free hint: get your incidental walking up. It’s good for you. And if you can’t go for a walk (too dark, too cold, too wet, uneven footpaths and low branches make it too dangerous) the steps taken for incidental walking all count!

Weekend away.

I had a planned girls’ weekend away, but best laid schemes and such it turned into a couples’ weekend away.

I have just returned and am amazed at how leaving the burbs on a Friday afternoon makes a weekend away feel like a long holiday.

We just beat the real crush of Sydneysiders heading north. The luck of being able to duck off early and of living on the north side (or the outback as my son’s new girlfriend calls our suburb – she lives in a more built-up area with no towering trees as we have here, several train journeys from our stop. In fact it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to say her suburb is all concrete. But I digress, which you know is what I do.)

Now I feel slightly surprised at my ignorance. You know how I like bubbles? And red wine? And nice things? And getting away?

Well, we went to The Hunter Valley, NSW’s wine country. Yes, well, I knew it was wine country and produces great reds. But I didn’t know it was so close to the top end of Sydney. Nor did I know it was so lovely.

OK, it was slightly touristy, and slightly crowded, and somewhat overpriced. But what do you expect when it is within escape distance for Sydneysiders?

In my conceptual framework I associated it with a loooong drive and the coach wine tasting tours I remember my parents going on in the 70s. Tacky, raucous.

But it was gorgeous. And less than two hours from my house!

The contrast with the nearest town that you have to drive through to get to the area we stayed in couldn’t be more marked in terms of class and money. There’s no mistaking to whom the wineries and restaurants and shops are appealing, and it is not the locals. Sorry, locals. I fall in the demographic and I loved it and I will return. We stayed here.

We drank bubbles (of course), visited some beautiful wineries, admired the scenery and the changing weather, drunk in the fresh air, listened to the birds, ate a flash dinner (pasta of a name I can’t remember with truffles and with something in Italian the waitress had to look – can you get anymore pretentious? What do you expect from a middle class weekend escape?), bought lovely things, resisted buying more gorgeous things (like a divine handbag, am I strong, or what?), bought lollies from the British lolly shop, watched the funniest crap on Foxtel (opps that doesn’t fit in, does it? But really it WAS funny and we had to let the food digest.), admired the cherry blossoms.

And made it home to go for a walk and do some mundane tasks like washing and ironing.

Some bad iPad photos for your enjoyment.