Tag Archive | Holidays

Easter adventure – driving south 

The Pacific Highway is a different beast from that of my childhood; even from that of five years ago. 

In my childhood it was a narrow, windy road with tall trees right next to the road. Me S and I were once nearly wiped out by a logging truck that crossed to our side of the road. Another time one washed a wave of water, from rain that covered the road, over us, so we were blinded. On a narrow crest and curve!

Now for much of it, it is two lanes both ways on separated roadways. Safer. But boring. And by bypassing towns, you don’t just come across interesting places to stop. 

Hence our mid trip cuppa was at an awful stop. The first town we passed through was packed. Because it was the first interesting place to stop! And everyone wanted to stop. So, of course, Mr S didn’t want to stop. 

We tried the first roadside rest stop, one that signs from the start of the highway in NSW has advertised as future rest stops. Surely that must indicate the stop must be large, have good facilities and be attractive? OMG. It was so bad, we drove off. 

Mr S had taken over the driving, and he didn’t notice what may have been a suitable place off the road. Or did he just not want to cross the highway? He took the next road side stop on our side of the highway. It was bleak. Mozzies started to attack me. Mozzies the size of flies. Huge buggers! And then it started to rain. I hid in the car. Mr S stayed outside and fed the mozzies. 

Arriving in Bellingen, where we planned to stay for two nights, was like arriving in Nirvana. Lush, green, and sunny. The town was full of hippies and hipsters or weekend hippies. 

Our accommodation, on the main street, was above shops – a masseuse/naturopath, an alternate bookshop and a locally-made Nepalese-inspired clothes shop. Of course! What else would you expec  in a large rustic building in Bellingen! 

With large front and back verandahs, our accommodation was a spacious retreat. Rustic and arty. And it was all ours. Well except for one room off the back verandah which was used by a masseuse or acupuncturist. We couldn’t see but heard the music and smelt the incense. 

Morning view of the misty mountains from my bed.

Mr S, breakfasting in our kitchen

Back verandah

Back verandah dining table. All ours. Looking over the shops. With a spot like this, why would you go to a cafe for breakfast?

The first night we drank and ate in the pub. The food was gross. So the second night we bought the makings of our own antipasto spread and enjoyed the feast in our flat. 

Cauliflower pakora, lentil and pumpkin patties, prosciutto, cherry toms in fig balsamic vinegar, artichokes, semi dried tomatoes and olives, and French bread.

The pub. Nice beer. Meh food.

We spent the day walking around the shops, along the river, around the town. This is cafe paradise, if you’re into cafes. We’re not but we visited one for a chocolate milk shake and another one for a toasted roast pumpkin, creamy feta, spinach and dukkah sandwich. The afternoon was beer and chatting on our verandahS – time spent on both verandahs, enjoying the different views. 

We’d never seen these birds before. A quick internet search, blue-faced honey eaters, described as “pugnacious”. So accurate. They shooed off other birds to eat the scraps from the outdoor tables at the cafe.

Very yummy roast pumpkin, spinach, feta and dukkah toastie

Lots of choices of places to eat. Bellingen, cafe territory.

Mr S walking down steep path, which we walked up by mistake. The chain would be needed if it was raining. I needed it for the way up.

Old emporium.

We visited the town museum, gold coin donation entry. It has a few interesting pieces but is very cluttered and not well laid out or described. The volunteers here are going for quantity. I don’t think they want to throw anything out but really don’t have the space for it. (By the way, the Uralla museum is also run by volunteers, and while having a much bigger space, have realised space between exhibits is as important as the items exhibited. Without the space and labels, it all just becomes stuff.)

We had a five hour trip home. Time for more Dad’s Army and Agatha Christie radio plays. And, of course, a stop for a cuppa. This stop was off the highway. The toilets were built by volunteers from the local community. Not sure about the tables and playground equipment. I can see the spot will be well used by travellers. It was clean, with a playground for kids to play, somewhere to sit, an information display to read. We watched a family exercise their dog in the field you see behind Mr S. The area is removed from the highway noise but only a short way off the highway. Good for those who hate deviating off the route too far. I hope the local community don’t regret building this and that travellers treat it well. 

The sun had a bit of bite. We were grateful for the shade of the shelters. It was about 25°.

Hedge of fuchsia bottlebrushes in flower along the rest area, separating it from the road.

Mr S and I are universal in enjoying our adventures. A friend pointed out to me that I am lucky to have a partner who enjoys the same “adventures” as I do. And she’s right. 

What awaits us next break? It’s snow season, so not much guess work needed. 

Easter Adventuring – driving north

We normally stay at home over Easter; the traffic, the crowds. 

Traffic escaping Sydney over the long weekend is mad and we don’t want to be stuck in it. After all we have enough breaks to be luckily enough to travel at other weekends. 

A friend posted this on her FB – leaving Sydney on the Thursday before Good Friday

Still, we planned a trip so we would avoid the traffic of Easter. Indeed this was our first Easter trip away in over 15 years as Easter fell in the middle weekend of our two week break so we couldn’t avoid being away at Easter if we were going to be anywhere but home for any length of time. 

The main purpose of our trip was to visit my mother who lives in the hinterland of the Gold Coast. We could fly up and it would “save” time. But saved for what? Chores at home?

It takes about 10 hours of non-stop driving to get to my mother’s place. We actually prefer to drive and break the trip with an overnight stay somewhere, exploring different regions and towns, and stopping for lunch along the way. 

Mr S is a man of habits. If he had his way, we would stop at the same lunch stop every trip. Once he has a place burned in his mind as being “our stop”, it is nigh on impossible getting him to change. Yet, conversely, when we exploring new places, he loves it. 

Our drive north was via the inland road, the New England Highway. It’s our tradition to stop for a lunch of tea and egg, mayo and lettuce rolls with something sweet for dessert. Mr S makes a thermos of tea and I pack the food, a tablecloth and my fine bone china mug. If I’m going to drink tea, it will be from something nice!

As highways are upgraded and towns by-passed, it becomes harder to get Mr S to stop at nice places. He just wants to keep driving and limit tea stops to roadside rest stops. It is not nice siting on the side of the highway with traffic roaring past and with very little to look at. These stops are utilitarian, rather than part of a sightseeing trip. 

Luckily the New England Highway is still mainly single lane and still goes through towns and villages, offering much to see and interesting places to stop. 

We stopped at Muswellbrook, on the Upper Hunter, in a well-maintained park next to the old railway station. It wasn’t actually very quiet as several long coal trains rumbled by. But in between it was peaceful. And it had various things to look at – a tree with aboriginal markings, gardens, a mural on reconciliation, war memorial, the old train station, playground equipment with families playing on them, information on various old trees in the area. Definitely worthy of a stop and a nice place to have a cuppa. 

Mr S in front of the tree with aboriginal markings and the mural in the background. The observant may notice Mr S wears a cap adorned with my favourite anti-hero.

It’s always sad to see so many family names repeated on war memorials in country towns. So many family lost multiple family members.

The war memorial at one end of the park. The blue sky hides the fact that it was a little cool, perfect tea drinking weather.

Satiated, we had a slow drive by of some of the interesting building of Muswellbrook. 

Another of our road trip traditions is to listen to BBC radio plays. We have the complete three series of Dad’s Army, various Agatha Christie adaptations and other plays. We have audio books too but much prefer full cast radio plays.  It really makes the road trip so enjoyable. 

As we set off late, we arrived at the historic guesthouse in Armidale in the New England Highlands where we were booked in for two night just as dusk was deepening.  

So are you a road tripper? Do you have traditions? 

If you make the trip between Sydney and the Gold Coast, do you have any favourite rest stops to recommend? Share away. New England or Pacific Highways? Which is your pick?


It was a mad race to the end of the year and as often happens with teachers, come then holidays my body collapsed. Hacking cough, head cold, sore throat. 

But you know, these things – the mad time line and list of tasks to be done at work and colds – pass. 

As the days went on I lost track not only of the dates but what day it was. What a lovely feeling! 

So now for some things of joy and peace and beauty and sugar and spice. 

Look what my friend who lives across the road brought me when I was in the peak of suffering from my sore throat – hit honey and lemon and a medicated lozenge with a flower to cheer me. 

And then we had Christmas. Hope it was good for you? We have a relative from California staying – a young twenty-something whippersnapper. It is nice having a girl in the house, someone to decorate the tree with. My theme this year was silver with the gold weeping angel (Dr Who fans, did you get one too?) that I stuck a green feather in. Why? Just because. I wrapped my gifts in pale blue with silver ribbon. All so coordinated! Except for the gifts wrapped by Mr S and my boys. They used cheap and tacky Christmas wrapping paper. 

I think I must have a stomach tumour or something as my stomach is so big. Okay.  Food and drink galore. My waist is protesting.
Don’t you love the reflection  from tinsel? 

Dr Who Christmas special rounded off the Christmas celebrations. (If you listen to the video of my favourite Christmas candle, you can hear Dr Who in the background.)

Saw the latest James Bond and was greatly influenced to make my own cocktails. Shaken. Not stirred. So needed to buy a cocktail shaker. And cocktail glasses. What the heck! Let’s get a matching gold tray. 

Straight into New Year celebrations. More food and drink. The weather was perfect for an evening on the verandah with nibbles and BBQ. 

Fireworks anyone? I chose the classic Sydney view. Friends with sparkling wine in front of the tele. 

Now I am packing for my trip south. To Tassie!!! 

I will update my challenges – boxes out, wear it out and use it up. And friends, I will drop by your blogs shortly. 

In other news I am half way through Wolf Hall and loving it. Shocked given my three failed attempts? I know I am. 
And I was doing a university fitness research project. I know. So much has happened. I should have told you. The “was” may be “am doing”. Will fill you in shortly. Off for my walk now. 

Real life vs Cyber life

How to explain my nervous excitement?Like I was going on a blind date. With all the fear of being judged and being found wanting. 

I was off to meet a fellow blogger IRL! 

Fiona from Declutterer is holidaying in the Gold Coast. And I was flying into the GC airport on my way to visit family. Dare I? Dare we? 

Well, we hit it off. And I could have stayed for hours more. But I fear Dar, we would have consumed much alcohol. Indeed we did talk about your latest post, Dar. And our conflicted emotions about our alcohol consumption. Our resolution? Blow it! Open the bottle. 

Then we went for a walk along the beach. Fiona is staying right on the beach! Right on it! Oh the view!

It is funny to say, when someone is explaining something, “Yes, I know. I’ve read your blog.”

Our anonymity has to be maintained. Work. But especially small world and less than 6 degrees of separation. 

You know how you are always warned that people pretend to be someone else online? Well I don’t think you can sustain that in a blog. Fiona struck me as someone I’d like. And I was right. 

I do find it funny how people make assumptions, though. Fiona offered me parking in the underground parking in the complex in which she is staying. I declined. She thought it was self-protection – as in not going into a locked area with a “stranger”. No, it was that the car hire place had upgraded me from the smallest car I booked to the largest 4WD available. I was worried I couldn’t park it in an unknown car park. 

Upshot. A parking fine! Fuck it. I’ve never had a parking fine before. 

Visitors to the GC beware. They don’t have signs but use painted lines on the road. Don’t think it has anything to with visual pollution; there are advertising hordings and road work signs everywhere. I think it is another way to claw money from unsuspecting southerners. 

Oh well! I’ll consider it a tax revenue for beach maintenance. I don’t mind paying tax. It’s breaking the law and paying something through stupidity I hate. 

And how sweet is Fiona? She offered to pay half. My mistake, my fine. 

I will just have to get down to Melbourne one day!

London Bound

So here’s a frugal tip: hide the credit card away when you have a few drinks and have your iPad to hand.

Mr S and I have agreed on our overseas travel plans for the next three years. (I preface our list of plans with the info that our holidays and travel have largely been around Australia. When money was tight we camped and stayed with relatives. As we became financially secure we stayed at resorts and flew further afield. Besides a cruise to some Pacific Islands as a family over ten years ago, Mr S hasn’t travelled outside of Australia and NZ. I did the obligatory backpacking trip in my 20s to Europe. So the three years of overseas travel is not that extravagant. Well, may, but so be it.)

So where to in the next three years? NZ January 2015; England 2016; France, Belgium and Germany 2017.

NZ flights are booked and paid for and the itinerary roughly planned. I was using the “special” birthday year for me as a tool to get my way about travel to England. It’s “my” trip so I get to pick what and where. 2017 would be Mr S’s trip to visit WWI battlegrounds and timed for the 100 year anniversary of some big battles.

Sunday afternoon I made some lovely cocktails and was reading a forum to which I belong when up popped a comment about a Qantas special. Naturally I went to have a look.

Unfortunately, while I did know about the connection between alcohol and addled-mind syndrome, I didn’t know about the horrible nexus between poor online shopping choices. The deal looked so good and we were going in that year anyway, weren’t we? Not the month I wanted but the deal was so good, I could be flexible. So I whipped out the Amex and bought two tickets and skipped down to Mr S to share my thrill at such a bargain.

Mmmm. Seems I got the years mixed up again. 2015 is next year. March is only 6 months away.

Oh well. It could be worse. I could have bought a ventriloquist dummy in a muppet version of myself. Look here for that and other online shopping regrets.

Dar is off to NYC, and has received lots of great suggestions for her visit. So what would you do, what would be on your must see, for London?

Decades ago I spent three weeks or so in London and a few months travelling around England, Scotland and Ireland. I’m a different person now and some things I will be looking at with different eyes, some things have changed and some things I didn’t do/see/experience.

I don’t know how far out of London I will venture this time. It will depend on my list of things I have to do in London this time round.

So fire away. Something different! Something unusual! Little known! Quirky, even.


Boom and bust – skiing for less

As a family, we’re tight-arsed splurgers, frugal spend-thrifts.

Mr S and I have just returned from eleven nights down the snow. People always ask how long you’re down for, or how long are you going, or how long did you go. Their eyes pop out when you say eleven nights.

Yes it is not cheap.

But we have ways of stretching our dollar to do things we love.

Firstly, we own all our own gear. And most of it comes from Aldi. Aldi neck warmers – check. Aldi gloves – check. Aldi beanie – check. Aldi ski socks – check. Aldi skies – check. (Well, only mine and the kids’ skis are Aldi. Mr S bought his on-line from the US and got an amazing price for a top of the range product. Shortly after, the Australian importers signed an agreement with the US suppliers blocking consumers from purchasing the skis online. A win for the importers’ profits.) Aldi ski pants – check. (Well actually I have new ski pants this year from Aldi. For the past ten years I have worn Mr S’s spare pair of pants. He can never have just one of something.)

Some of our gear is high-end labelled stuff. But even that has been sourced on the cheap. I have a Karbon ski jacket. It was my son’s. A friend bought it at its point of manufacture – Vietnam, when said friend worked there. This became my hand-me-down when son grew out of it. Son got Spider gear from the same friend from Vietnam. Same friend has also worked in Sri Lanka where he bought British Columbia gear for us. This friend used to visit home every year and come skiing with us with some new gear. Good friend to have!

20140711-112141.jpg (My pants and jacket.)

Our boots aren’t Aldi. Mr S bought them online from the US. So much cheaper than here in Oz.

20140711-111625.jpg (My boots.)

Not all of our clothing is designated ski gear. I wear 20 year old tights as thermals. Mr S loves Aldi thermals and Aldi ski fleece tops. (In fact he loves them so much he bought way too many, but he is a collector and cannot buy one of anything.)

(Some of the extra Aldi ski stuff bought by Mr S. His excuse: I’ll never have to buy anything again. Mmm, sure they’ll be other stuff he’ll buy. Sorry, have to buy.)

Of course we didn’t buy the stuff all at once. We built up over years. After two seasons, having the gear has recouped the cost of hiring pants, skis, boots and poles.

Secondly we look after our gear so it lasts. I wear a polar fleece jacket bought twelve years ago and I wear it regularly at home. Mr S has just said goodbye to a thermal top he has had for fifteen years. Everything is aired on return. Woollens washed in wool wash. The rails of the skis are treated with Vaseline before being packed away for another year so they don’t rust. [Yes, all this gear takes up a lot of space. Not the best for someone who wants to declutter. Mr S feels better surrounded by clutter. *sigh* It’s a constant battle.]

Thirdly, we hardly ever eat out down the snow. Not breakfast, not lunch, not dinner. We always book accommodation with a kitchen. We used to take down meals we had cooked and frozen at home. (Who wants to cook after a day on the slopes? And the groceries from the supermarket in the snow are over-priced.) Now we buy everything at the supermarket in the snow. Yes, it is more expensive than bringing from home. But with our own gear and catching the bus up the mountain (Mr S got sick of digging the car out and his new car doesn’t fit chains) carrying extra food became too difficult.

Also the restaurants have always been disappointing. The food is plainly ordinary, very ordinary, and overpriced. This year we ate out once – pizzas. We had a buy one get one free voucher from our accommodation. The pizzas were not very nice. In fact pretty shite. But they lasted us two nights. So for $25 and two nights free from cooking it was OK.

And now we’re home we tighten the belt. How?

Well, the sun is out and all our clothes are drying on the line. No clothes dryer for us. Doesn’t make sense when you have free sunshine which also disinfects!

And yesterday I put kidney beans and red lentils in the slow cooker to make refried beans from scratch. I looked in the pantry. Opps! Some things past their use-by date. Use them up I say. They’re only dried pulses. They’ll be OK. Few fresh ingredients and an open packet of tortillas also needing to be used up, and ta da, Mexican wraps.

I took a container of dip (layered beans, salsa and guacamole) to a friends for evening drinks – she supplied the bubbles. And I have beans enough for at least two more dips and a wrap for lunch. (I’ll share the recipe in a future post.)

There you have it. How to ski and save money. Lol!

We know we are lucky. Many people can’t afford a ski trip at all. But with a little bit of frugal living, scrimping in some places, we can splurge in others, and be a spendthrift on the things we enjoy.

A good day was had by all

Am I internally contradictory? Am I inconsistent?

OK, yes. I nod in self-recognition.

I borrowed Mr S’s goggles and hit the slopes yesterday. It was bucketing down.

And heaven! Like sliding on icing sugar. Soft. Quiet.

I wish I had my own googles. I would have been out for much longer! Up and down; up and down. Purposelessly! Mindfully? (Well, I was mindful of the lift ticket that I bought and thought I better make use of it. Glad it made me head out instead of staying inside for another day.)

And no queues! Jumped straight onto the chair lifts.

Look at the home run. You’re looking straight up it. (Photo taken this morning from the back stairs of our block.)


And last night’s photo of nature’s swizzle sticks. The stripes are snow falling. Exciting for Aussies. Snow, that is. And icicles.