Great Ocean Road, Australia
blogging

Visiting Melbourne

Not just home to Victoria Bitter, or Tennis Australia’s epicentre, but every jar of Vegemite ever made and the largest Greek population outside of Athens, Melbourne is the world’s largest southernmost city.

As the city navigates its way out of Covid, it’s a good time to begin planning a trip there. Combine it with a self-drive tour of the Great Ocean Road and Tasmania. While many Australians are critical of Melbourne’s reputation for cold weather, I rather like the city – in fact, I’d say I like it a lot.

So what’s there to like about Melbourne?

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The Floral Clock, Botanic Gardens, Melbourne. Note the blue sky!!

1. Yes, Melbourne’s Climate

Australians mercilessly tease anyone travelling to Melbourne, taunting them with comments like: “you’ll need your umbrella” or, “don’t forget your overcoat“, (even in summer)!

Yet, in my experience, this is almost always wrong. Unless, of course, you visit in the wintertime, which in Melbourne’s defence, is actually their scheduled wet season!

cold weather week meme

In fact, other Australian cities have higher average rainfall than Melbourne, but Melbourne does have more rainy days than most.

This is likely due to a phenomenon I call, “fairy rain” or my father called, “Melbourne mist”– soft rain showers hardly worth worrying about when you compare it to the drenching one of Queensland’s downpours might unleash. When the tropical thunderstorms unleash their fury in the north, nothing will protect you from being soaked through. (Ironically Queensland, being in the sub-tropical zone, called: the Sunshine state).

Those visitors from the North who think Australia is too hot will revel in the temperate climate Melbourne offers, with maximums of 30 C (86 degrees F), in summertime and there is that wonderful southern twilight that lasts until 10pm, in summer, allowing for extra sightseeing before dark.

There’s no white stuff to shovel in winter, but during June – September you have the option of travelling to the snow fields of Falls Creek, (a mere five-hour drive), nestled in the high country of the Snowy Mountains.

2. The Arts Scene     

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Melbourne has loads of artsy attractions to sink your tourist teeth into.

ACMI, the Museum of Film, TV, Videogames and Art and the adjacent Ian Potter Museum, which houses a collection of native art and contemporary exhibits, currently undergoing renovations, thus, is temporarily closed, (June 2021), so cross the road to an informal but fascinating street display of Graffiti Art in Hosier lane. Undiscovered artistic talent abounds there!

There’s usually a buzz of activity at Federation square, from buskers to street food stalls. If you’re there in January and missed out on tickets to the Australian Open Tennis, you can watch the players battle it out on the big live screen, perhaps reclining in a complimentary deck chair or bean bag.

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Hosier Lane Graffiti Art

After that, a short walk across the iconic Princess bridge will take you over the Yarra River and past the Gardens to find the National Gallery of Victoria which will soon re-open with an exhibition of Australian impressionists.

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Gas light on Princess bridge across the Yarra River (Note: Sky is blue!)

3. The History

Melbourne, touted as Australia’s capital city in the gold-rush era, was one of the wealthiest cities in the world in the 1800s. The Queen Victoria exhibition building, housing the World Expo of 1880, is but one example of the wealth and status of Melbourne, in years gone by.

1880 Fountain at Queen Victoria Exhibition Building  (Blue sky again!)
1880 Fountain at Queen Victoria Exhibition Building (Blue sky again!)

Unfortunately with all the wealth, comes crime, and the Old Melbourne Goal was built from blue-stone blocks to house the undesirables of society. Whilst no longer in active use, it makes a great sightseeing destination, to get in touch with history, and kids love the interactive element on offer.

Ned Kelly Mock Trial
Ned Kelly Mock Trial

I spent a few hours there, including several tense minutes experiencing what it might have been like being a prisoner locked in one of the goal’s padded cells; saw the flogging triangle used in colonial times; was a “witness” in a mock courtroom trial of Ned Kelly, (a famous Aussie bush-ranger), stood under the gallows and its infamous trapdoor where Ned Kelly and other notorious criminals were hung; saw slightly creepy death masks and even tried on a Ned Kelly style metal helmet, which he fashioned to repel the bullets of apprehending police.

Gallows at Melbourne Goal
Gallows at Melbourne Goal

On a more sombre note, the Shrine of Remembrance is a gargantuan memorial to the fallen veterans of war and worthy of a visit, not only because it gives an excellent vantage point of Melbourne, from the upper balcony. The structure is something like a cross between an Egyptian pyramid and Mayan temple. Impressive and grandiose are words that come to mind.

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The Shrine of Remembrance

The date 11th November is earmarked as Remembrance day when all Australians observe a minute of silence to honour the soldiers and veterans. The Shrine is constructed so that at 11am on 11th November, sunlight will cross a stone inside the Shrine to illuminate the word Love in the verse, “Greater Love Hath No Man,” in reference to the supreme sacrifice the young soldiers made in support of war efforts in Allied countries. This phenomenon is recreated, most days, on the hour, for visitors.

You may also enjoy the Melbourne Museum for a chance to see the real “Phar Lap”, a revered Australian racehorse, (the world’s fastest of its time), which died prematurely whilst competing in America. For someone like me who is not into horses at all, I found the exhibit surprisingly mesmerizing.

Don’t forget to check out the Fairy Tree and Captain James Cook’s cottage (transported brick by brick from England), in the ‘Fitzroy’ Gardens for some unusual features in Australian history.

4. The Architecture

Historic and beautiful examples of great architecture abound in Melbourne, like the Windsor hotel, the State Library’s Reading Room, the original gas lights outside the Parliament building, as well as the old Shot Tower, now protected by an awesome glass dome.

shot tower melbourne
shot tower

In addition, Art Deco is alive and kicking at Luna Park and the ‘Palais’ Theatre, in St. Kilda and both sit comfortably together with more innovative modern examples of architectural genius like the Rialto building and Eureka Towers, with it top 10 floors plated with 22 carat gold.

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Architecture in Melbourne

Time a visit to Eureka Skydeck at sunset for a fantastic view of the city lights, or “hang out” suspended in mid-air, 88 storeys above the ground, in the Edge glass cube.

The Eureka Skydeck and "The Edge" glass cube. Sunny weather continues
The Eureka Skydeck and “The Edge” glass cube.

5. The Beach

Unless you are anywhere near the calibre of surfing legend Lane Beechley, St Kilda Beach offers everything you’d want in a beach and it’s within a 5 km stone’s throw of the city. There may not be any ‘dumpers,’ (i.e. large waves that roll in and crash over your head, throwing you around and forcing you to swallow copious amounts of salty water), but hey, I’m pretty comfortable with low lapping waves, white sand, swanky cafes, grand Federation era guesthouses as well as an old-style picture theatre and amusement park. Think Coney Island ‘down under’, but on a smaller scale.

phone 13 jan melbourne1

6. The Shopping

Not really my scene, but at the time of visiting my teenage daughter was with me, so it was a must do. It seems there is a very good reason Swedish fashion giant H& M decided to open their first Australian store there. It’s Australia’s fashion capital, (also the former hub of cloth manufacturing), and the city is alive with shoppers and not too pricey shopping arcades with brand labels.

Check out the Spencer Street outlet centre for bargains, if you are a super keen shopper.

7. The People and Food

Australians are, by and large, a friendly, laid-back bunch. Melbourne has a lively and vibrant Italian community so that you can visit authentic Italian restaurants and coffee houses in Lygon Street, such as the fabulous “Brunetti,” to the north of the city centre, where the pasta, pastries and espresso are better than that served in the streets of Milan.

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Brunetti Cafe Delights

For an alfresco dinner, there is nothing better than the restaurants lining Hardware Lane, (where waiters entice customers in by spruiking extra deals) or, De Graves Street: a cosmopolitan alleyway of small street cafes, intimate restaurants and eateries that would feel more at home in France or the continent than in Australia. The food is pretty good too, with all cuisines catered for.

8. Public Transport in Melbourne

Melbourne must be thanking its lucky stars they kept the network of city trams, year after other Australian cities ditched them. Trams take you to a multitude of destinations and the free City Circle tram enables tourists to quickly access each end of the central business district without fuss, or tired legs! The whole inner city of Melbourne is a free transport zone, meaning any bus, train or tram is free within the city centre boundaries.

N.B. You will need a ‘myki’ (electronic) card to access areas outside of the city centre on public transport.

Grab a city bike, located at various stations around the city, and for a few dollars, you can have a pleasant 5km cycle along dedicated bike-ways along St. Kilda Road or around Albert Park Lake, dropping off the bike at various destinations or when you arrive at St. Kilda beach.

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Biking around Albert Lake

Getting to and from the main airport hub is simple with the Airport bus departing every 10 minutes.

9. Further Afield – Proximity to other Attractions

Melbourne is the starting place for those venturing to the Great Ocean Road, one of the World’s most scenic journeys. It is also the departure point for the ferries to the island state of Tasmania with its World heritage areas.

Don’t forget to spend some time in country Victoria in the cherry orchards, or take a steam train through country villages, experiencing more of the Gold Rush era in towns like ‘Ballarat’ and ‘Bendigo’, or if you prefer a kicking back with an alcoholic beverage, the many wineries in the Yarra Valley will delight.

10. The Gardens

If you have a green thumb, you’re not forgotten if you stay in Melbourne city. With three botanic gardens and several well-established parks within a 3-kilometre radius, visiting more than one in a day, is easily doable. Fitzroy Gardens features the cottage where British explorer Captain Cook grew up and a fabulous Victorian Conservatory; Carlton Gardens adjoins the glamourous Queen Victoria Building and neighbour to The Museum, whilst the Botanical Gardens on the far side of the river is in close proximity to The Shrine of Rememberance, Government House, Crown Casino and the Myer Music Bowl, a popular venue for open-air concerts.

11. The Sport

If sport is your thing, Melbourne offers tennis tournaments in the state of the art ‘Rod Laver’ Arena, cricket at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, and the iconic and very Australian, “Aussie Rules” Football, something that every international visitor has to experience at least once, preferably with a meat pie in hand!

As one Melbourne taxi driver advised me: There’s never time to be bored in Melbourne.

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blogging, Motivational, Philosophy

Words to Ponder About

Life is like a mirror; we get the best results when we smile.

So talk about your blessings more than you talk about your problems.

Just because you’re struggling doesn’t mean you’re failing.

Every great success requires some type of worthy struggle to get there.

I don’t have any record of who said these words, but they resonated with me today. The power of giving or receiving a genuinely kind smile, is often under-estimated.

Smiling is an art that comes from the heart and should be practised all the time.

Denise Lofthouse, Yoga Teacher

Australia, blogging, Travel

Travelling to the Pilbara in Western Australia

I was 22 years old and I was lucky to make it to 23. But I didn’t know that yet.

While other girls my age flocked to tropical getaways or the beach for holidays, I was going to the remote North-west of Australia. The fact that I’d promised to visit a good friend in a mining town in the Pilbara, some 5000 km from a major centre, was seen by my beach-loving colleagues as evidence I’d lost the plot, or had fallen in love? Or possibly, both?

Western Australia’s Pilbara Region

Western Australia’s Pilbara Region

The Pilbara is a large, dry, thinly populated region in the north of Western Australia. It is known for its Aboriginal peoples; its ancient landscapes; the red earth; and its vast mineral deposits, in particular iron ore.

Wikipedia

This arid Western Australian region is known to be hot and very dry. Even the Aboriginal word for the area bilybara, means,”dry” in the Indigenous Nyamal and Banyjima languages. Given that it would take a staggering and torturous 51 hour drive across several deserts from the Eastern side of Australia, tourists are warned not to travel unprepared, as this region can be terribly unforgiving. Little did I know how telling those words would become, later in the trip.

The Pilbara was an unusual and very different place to my home in the East. That interested the 22 year old me. Books on the area were non-existent so my only knowledge came from the one person I knew, who lived there. Despite the reservations of the “Negative Nancys,” at work, I boarded four consecutive flights spending a total of 19 hours circumnavigating my way round to the other side of Australia by air, in order to arrive at a place, called Port Hedland.

Driving in to Port Hedland

I wrote in my travel journal:

Driving into Port Hedland from the airport, the first thing I notice is the redness; the country is so very red and flat. So flat you can literally see for miles not that there is much to see other than red dusty sand. Ancient soils like these look quite alien and hostile to a city girl, but, occasionally, I spot a vestige of low saltbush or a stunted tree struggling valiently to survive against the harshest of climates.

Tell me again why did I choose to come here?

My Travel Journal ~1984

After meeting a few of my friend’s housemates and family, it didn’t take me long to notice the town of Hedland, as the locals called it, was naive and raw – undeveloped, with an pervasive atmosphere of transience. The residents appeared similar to a young child unable to hold its attention, they were restless, found it hard to settle down, were constantly agitating and always seeking something more than Hedland could offer them.

The rudimentary Hedland Drive in. It closed when video availability came to town.

No one is putting down roots in ‘Port Hedland,’ I was quickly informed. Everyone here speaks in terms of before PH, [Port Hedland], and after PH; the present moment being likened to a kind of stagnant quagmire they wade through, before true reality begins again. This was a place in which the people exist because they have to; a place they stayed in, only for as long as they had to stay.

The majority of indigenous families live on the town’s outer fringes, usually in Government sponsored housing. There’s a multitude of social problems and I note the streets are littered with rusty car wrecks and the detritus of disadvantage. Prejudice and racism appears rampant. I feel ashamed of my comparatively affluenct city life and my general ignorance of the Aboriginal’s plight.

Even the weather seemed discontent in Hedland. Cyclones regularly ravaged swathes of this country in summer, perhaps made worse by the lack of hills or trees which might ameliorate the wind’s fury. You have to be resilient to live here or perhaps it is the living here that makes a person tough. I am unsure which.

My Travel Journal ~1984
The roads in and around Port Hedland c1984

Port Hedland Mining and Maritime Activities

Almost without exception, the town’s people were either directly employed by the mining industries of salt and iron ore, or performing ancillary jobs supporting mine workers. Mining was, after all the very reason this town was established.

One thing that is impressive about Hedland besides the mine, is the port, impressive by its sheer scale. It handles the largest tonnage of any port in Australia and it is here that that salt and iron-ore is unloaded, screened, crushed, stockpiled and transferred from wharf to ship to export.

Mammoth iron-ore carriers frequent the port and dot the horizon, transporting the iron-ore to Japanese, European, Chinese and Korean markets. A 426km-long railway was built to carry ore from one of the world’s biggest mining facilities in Newman, southeast of Port Hedland. This busy line is visible along the road to Port Hedland and trains and their cars are up to 3km long.

https://growporthedland.com.au/about-port-hedland/

Near the port itself, I recall seeing towering piles of salt and massive, massive ships – both of which seemed higher than a six story building. The tides here are huge and the land so flat, a shipping Pilot is necessary to guide the huge vessels in and out of the port.

My only Helicopter ride

I was invited aboard a Helicopter Taxi bringing the Port’s Shipping Pilot, back to the land after he completed his task guiding the ships. Nowadays WH&S would most likely prohibit such familiarity by a tourist. It was my first and probably my last helicopter ride. It was jerky and noisy, something I had not anticipated.

Mining Boom and Rental Accomodation in Port Hedland

During the 90’s mining boom, rental prices for accomodation in Hedland became ludicrously expensive and resources were stretched to breaking point. Any kind of accomodation was so sought after, the one pub in Hedland closed down and both it and shipping containers were converted to flats for workers. The workforce became ‘fifo,’ – (fly in, fly out workers), in which they were separated from their family for weeks on end, then able to fly home for some leave before flying back to resume work again. The population is now over 14,000.

My final night in Hedland was spent at the open air theatre. Even in winter, it is so cooler to sit outside under the stars on a camp chair and watch a movie and of course, there are no city lights to dull the screen. Sadly, I can’t even remember what movie we watched.

The events over the ensuing week overshadowed this and the first few nights of my visit. A story I will relate another day.

Me in the Pilbara
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National garden Japan
blogging, Mental Health

Communicating by Listening to What Others Say

“When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.”

Ernest Hemingway

A study showed that 70% of our waking hours are spent in communication with others, in some form, with almost half of that time taken up in listening. Reading, talking and writing were way down on the list.

So given that we spend so much of our communication in listening to others, do we do it effectively?

In his book, People Skills, Robert Bolton claimed researchers estimated up to 75% of oral communication is either ignored, misunderstood or quickly forgotten. Furthermore, he maintains that the quality of our friendships and the cohesiveness of our family relationships depends largely on our ability to listen.

“That went in one ear and out the other.”

Learning to be an effective listener takes work. It’s not something that we are actively taught to do in our schooling, so how can we listen better?

Reflective Listening and Attending the Conversation

Are we always fully present and attending the conversation? Or thinking of the next thing to say? For instance, do we always follow the speaker in conversations and listen for the deeper meaning behind the words?

In true listening, we reach behind the words, see through them, to find the person who is being revealed.”

Robert Bolton

Paraphrasing the essence or intent behind the words you hear, can assist in conveying that you have understood correctly, (or give the speaker the chance to otherwise clarify what they meant).

Summarizing the content of another person’s words may nurture a deeper level of trust between them. Trust encourages the other person to further open up and may build more satisfying relationships.

Use Questions Wisely

If we notice a change in the body language of others, we might see cues that they are bothered by something. For example, a child comes home from school looking sad and the reaction from others is sometimes, “Come on, cheer up!” An adult who is becoming agitated about a situation is told, “Calm down.”

This is usually the last thing they want to hear!

Instead of dispensing advice, which generally doesn’t work, asking open-ended questions may help folks who are feeling burdened divulge what is troubling them, especially if you give them a non-coercive invitation to talk.

What is the best way to do that?

Firstly describe the other’s body language – “You look as if something is bothering you.” Or: “You look troubled/sad.”

Secondly, invite them to talk:

  • “I’ve got time if you would like to chat.”
  • “Do you feel like talking?”
  • “I am here if you want to talk about it.”

Be wary of leading the conversation by asking more than one question at a time. Most questions can be re-phrased as a statement. It is good to remember that questions should help the other clarify the problem, rather than provide information.

The beginning of wisdom is silence. The second stage is listening.

Hebrew Sage

Silences in Conversations

Don’t be put off by pauses or silences as these momemts may allow the other person time to think of their answer or expand on what they want to say, at their own pace. During a pause in the conversation, you can still be fully present in the conversation by:

  • Using eye contact
  • Observing the other person’s gestures, facial expression during pauses
  • Adopting open encouraging, non verbal body posture and language
  • Keeping distractions such as checking the phone notifications, loud background etc music, TV to a minimum.

Focus on the Feelings and Emotions

Feelings are often triggered by specific events.

boat at the beach

Society’s norms implicitly teach us to suppress our feelings with the undesired result that they might bubble up and overflow. If everyone acted on impulse and expressed feelings spontaneously, society would completely disrupt. So we have a balancing act between blocking our sensitivity to emotions and freely expressing them. Reflecting emotions and feelings back to the speaker is a way of doing that while respecting the speaker’s privacy.

For instance:

I asked my daughter how her date went last night. “Okay.” was her subdued response. She wasn’t ready to talk about it, and was letting me know not to probe further. If I had not noticed her tone of voice, it could have meant it was just an average date. Her tone and body language was the key to deciphering the true meaning behind the words. Letting her know I was available, if she wanted to talk, gave her the chance to raise the subject when she was ready.

In developing empathy and reflecting the emotions of others, we can ask ourselves – if you were having that experience, how would we be feeling? Then we can put together the feeling, or emotion, and the fact with a familiar formula often used by professionals:

“You feel/are ..(insert the emotion or feeling word )….. since/because….(insert the trigger event or content associated with the feeling).

For example:

Bob: “My supervisor keeps asking questions about my personal life. I wish he’d mind his own business.

Marie: “It sounds like you are feeling pretty annoyed because he won’t respect your privacy.”

Something Further to Ponder

Have you used these techniques to improve conversations and support friends or colleagues? If so, how did they respond?

Are there other ways to develop better listening skills?

Communicating by Listening to What Others Say

Australia, blogging

Security

Germaine Greer is a legend in her own time, a leading feminist in the ‘burn the bra,’ era, yet Germaine has something to say about security.

“Security is when everything is settled, when nothing can happen to you; security is the denial of life.”

– Germaine Greer

If we think about those words, to live life we have to face risks. The trick is to balance that risk with practical common sense and find that happy medium between living and managing risk.

Zipline

Recently I attended an Adventure Climbing Park. At my age, it is an unusual thing to do and I have not done it before. But it was now or never, I thought. Last Chance station. So I gave it a go.

The task was to climb trees, harnessed in for safety about 20 metres up a tall tree, and walk across progressively more difficult and wobbly bridges and ropes from platform to platform suspended high above the ground, with no exit until the end of the course.

I was keen yet I was terrified. Terrified of falling off the bridge and hanging in my harness mid-air 20 metres up, until some 20 something park attendant could rescue me. How he would rescue me, I did not know and that was even more terrifying! This single thought propelled me onwards when I doubted my ability to continue.

This task that I was so keen to undertake was way out of my usual comfort zone and was designed to test your physical strength and mental resilience. After several reasonably easy initial steps climbing nets that gradually took us higher and higher into the trees, I faced walking across a tightrope – still harnessed in.

This was a real challenge balancing and stepping carefully and I balked at it, thinking there was no way I could do it, but as there was no way down, I inched across sideways, little by little, hanging on to the harness for grim life, until I made it safely to the other side.

NB. This was the Beginners course!

Photo credit: www.treetopchallenge.com.au/sunshine-coast-adventure

https://www.treetopchallenge.com.au/sunshine-coast-adventure

After traversing six or more wobbly poles and ropes that made my upper body muscles tremor with fear/tension? I reached the end and ziplined my way to ground again. Phew! I did it.

Would I do it again?

No! Did I enjoy it? Yes. But it was nerve wracking!

Stepping out of one’s comfort zone and performing calculated risks may allow for personal growth in confidence, ability and perhaps reduction of stress associated with the previous level of risk.

How willing are you to step out and face risks?

blogging, Painting, Traditional Art

Friendly Friday Blog Challenge – Time Capsule

Swedish church in stockholm
Tãby Church, Stockholm

Almost a decade ago, I was wandering around the backblocks of Stockholm’s upmarket outer suburbs and discovered a place of significance in Viking times. A living Time Capsule.

Rune Stone Causeway in Stockholm

At around 100 metres long, the so-called Jarlabanke’s bridge, in Täby, Sweden, is a causeway or bridge, lined with ancient Runestones.

It was designed to be an extravagant reminder of the power and prestige of a Viking chieftain named Jarlabanke Ingefastsson, who owned much of this area, way back in the 11th century.

It is presumed that the purpose of the runes is to catch the eye of passing travellers and impress them. This site must have been especially significant as it was also the place where three Viking families, battled it out for supremacy of the area.

Wooden Viking Scultpure

Four remaining Rune stones line the causeway as some were moved to other locations. One Runestone was taken to Greece by voyaging Vikings who worked as mercenaries for the Varangian Guard.

Another stone stands at the threshold of the church and depicts two serpent creatures enclosing a Latin cross. This was considered to be evidence of Chieftain Jarlabanke’s wish to ensure his entry to the afterlife. Perhaps he was undecided about which religion to follow and chose to hedge his bets honouring both Christian and Pagan practices.

Symbols of the old religion and Christianity are often found together on rune stones, evidence of transition in belief systems.

Wikipedia

Rich Medieval Ceiling Decorations in Swedish Churches

The Church adjacent to the Runsetone Causeway has a rather plain exterior which belies the treasures hidden inside. Here you see but a glimpse of the richly decorated ceiling.

Older churches in Scandinavia often have frescos, or traditional art, decorating their ceilings. They were painted in the day when many members of the congregation were illiterate and this pictorial representations of bible stories was used as a way to communicate religious teachings.

Norwegian Rosemaling in Churches

At times, Lutheran Priests lamented the striking beauty of the frescoes and decorative art, especially that seend in Norway and known as Rosemaling. Certain priests ordered for the rich decoration to be painted over in plain colours, or whitewashed. This was, presumably, to stop the congregations’ mind wandering over the artful decorations and allowed them to focus instead on the Priest’s words.

The art within Scandinavian Churches gives but a glimpse into the past, a Time Capsule of historic Times.

The ceiling, walls, pews, and altar inside the Church in Lesja, Norway, and the fresco near Trondheim are yet another example of a time capsule.

Student Time Capsules

When my sons started high school, they buried a box of items – a piece of writing, some questions to their future selves, and some small object of significance to them in a box to be opened on their graduation day. Another snippet of the past in the form of a Time capsule.

What would you put in a Time capsule?

Friendly Friday Blog Challenge Theme

The theme for this fortnight’s blogging challenge is

TIME CAPSULE

Document what you might put in your own time capsule in words or photographs, share a snippet of your local area’s or chosen point of history, somewhere you visited or something of interest that has been swept up in time.

Remember that this challenge is not restricted to photography. It can be a recipe, story, (fiction or non-fiction), or art.

Instructions for the Friendly Friday Blogging Challenge

Write and publish a post inspired by the prompt, tagging your post Friendly Friday.

Include a ping-back* here and also add a comment below, pointing the way to your own blog post.

*NB. You must ping-back to this WordPress post itself, as ping-backs to the home page of a WordPress blog don’t trigger a notification. That is why a comment here is good practixe so that we can find your post.

This challenge runs for two weeks after which Sandy will post a new prompt over at her blog The Sandy Chronicles.

Further instructions on joining in are found on the Friendly Friday Blog Challenge Page.

Blog challenge Friday
grotto at the sea
Australia, blogging, Travel

Friendly Friday Challenge – Road Trip

Over at The Sandy Chronicles, my Friendly Friday co-host Sandy has thrown out the challenge for me to participate in the theme Road Trip. Not just with the usual written post, but with a custom video presentation via Canva.

So, I know a little about Canva, but I’ve only used the trial version. Ah! This was a challenge. However, with a little bit of time invested, I have pulled it off, I hope.

Thanks Sandy for stretching my IT skills a little wider!

Road Trip along the Great Ocean Road

What do you think? Would you want to visit there?

Update: I have slowed the video shots a little and uploaded a new version.

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Australia, blogging

Dog Friendly Cafes and Bars

Unlike a lot of Europe, dogs are not welcome at all eating venues around Australia. The select ones that do welcome dogs, were so few a decade ago that I started a social media group to identify and share information about their location. It now has almost 9000 members. That is a lot of folks wanting to take their doggy with them to eat/have coffee.

Mostly the allocated dog friendly space at an Australian Dog Friendly Cafe is outdoors, without a fixed roof, if the venue is serving any kind of food. I do understand that dogs are unpredictable and can bark or become a nuisance. If this is the sort of dog you have, you probably would hang out at a park instead of a cafe.

Bearing this in mind, it was with much excitement that I attended Dalgety Public House located on the riverside fringe of the CBD. Not only did this Gastropub welcome dogs, they offered wide range of events, lunchs dinners, and weekend breakfasts. The meal we had was scrumptious and the Barista was a talented coffee artist who decorated our coffee crema with our own pet or animal of choice.

Here is some of her creations. Guess which one is my pup?

Are dogs accepted at cafes, pubs in your area?

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blogging, Community, Photography, Travel

Friendly Friday Blog Challenge – Mountain Top

Kakani 1988

It was a perfect afternoon on a perfect mountain top, 30 km west of Kathmandu in Nepal.

We’d travelled in the back seat of an ageing and dusty Black Toyota sedan to Kakani. The lack of seat belts in the car might have given an inkling of the car’s advanced age, but it was mainly the dark exterior that prompted our Nepalese guide to label it, “the Mafia car” suggesting with a hearty laugh, that our driver looked “criminal!”

nepal guide
A young Amanda at 6500 Feet at Nagarkot with Nepalese Guide Madhav

Thirty odd years ago, the road to Nagarkot Mountain Top and Lookout was narrow, winding and precipitous. Dirt tracks, barely one car width wide, that would be better suited to goats, twisted their way sharply around steep hillsides with never a guardrail to be seen.

Despite this, I was focused less on my safety than on the countryside itself. It looked alive and thriving. Almost every hill no matter how steep, had been heavily terraced and cultivated with crops. Quaint mud-brick farm cottages clung to 80 degree slopes and the mountainous backdrop grew ever more spectacular with each and every bend. I pinched myself.

Was I really here at the top of the world? I marveled at how the puffy white clouds perched high up in the sky were not actually clouds at all, but the Himalayan mountain tops tinged with snow!

Every few kilometres, or so, smiling school children appeared on the roadside, waving enthusiastically at our car, as we passed by. Our Guide informed us that many of the chuldren walk several hours just to reach the nearest school. No School of the Air exists in Nepal. A very different life to Australia, where schools are located in every suburb and in remote areas, lessons with a teacher are given over radio communication, (now, presumably skype), each day.

nepal mountain road

Nagarkot Lookout

On reaching Nagarkot Lookout, we were invited to sit on a deck chair at the cliff’s edge. I actually couldn’t stop smiling. I have never seen anything so extraordinary. It is a cliché, but the air was palpably clean and pure. Hauntingly beautiful flute music played in the air adding to the mystical atmosphere.

Sitting and looking out upon the highest mountain tops of the world brought me feelings of tranquility and material needlessness to my head. In those moments, any yearning for material objects and acquisitions completely vanished. Even my materialistic other half, the Moth, agreed that afternoon. We struck up a conversation with another traveler. He was from – wait for it: the Australian Gold Coast. Thousands of miles from home and I meet a stranger who lives less than 60 minutes from my home!

Meanwhile Mudhav, our smartly dressed guide, complete with pristine, ‘Mrs-March” bleached shirt, stated he never gets bored with the mountains. He reads Wordsworth, Keats and other romantic English poetry. He says his presentation as a guide, is different with ‘good people,’ like us.

Again, I smile!

We didn’t anticipate the final surprise that was yet to come.

Nepalese Women Carry the Load

As we sat on that small area of level ground surrounded by precipitous cliffs, enjoying the view at 2200 metres above sea level, two women appeared from below the cliff face, casually climbing up and over the rock incline directly in front of us.

Such was their physical strength they were able to scale an almost, I guess, 80 degree vertical slope, as if they were taking a light stroll.

There is no photo of them, but to our shock we noted they carried large straw baskets down their back, laden to the brim, with potatoes. The basket was held by a narrow rope tied around their forehead. You can imagine our astonishment and our incredulity at the strength of their necks under such a load!

Amazing Women!

Nagarkot and Kakani can get very cold as night draws near, but the view of  Mt. Annapurna, as well as the other mountains that make up this part of the Himalayas: Machhapuchhare, Ganesh Himal and Langtang, are in a word stupendous Mountain Tops. It is very easy to sit and watch those mountains for hours, so mesmerizing is this special part of the world.

My photographs are showing their age and the quality is not so good so I have included two videos to enhance your impression of the area.

Join in the Friendly Friday Blog Challenge

Every other week we post a topic to inspire a post on a particular theme. This week the theme is Mountain Top. Your challenge is to feature a story, photo/s, a recipe or anything else that captures your imagination.  

You can post once, twice or as many times as you’re inspired by the topic.

Sandy and I take turns in posting challenges.  Keep notified of new themes by following both our blog’s at  Something to Ponder About  and  The Sandy Chronicles

How to join the Friendly Friday Challenge

  • Write a post titled ‘Friendly Friday – ‘Mountain Top’ and add a tag: ‘Friendly Friday’
  • Include a link to this Friendly Friendly Challenge within your own post.
  • Optionally, you can include the latest Friendly Friday Challenge logo. Download it here.
  • Comment below, on this post so that others can read your post.
  • Remember to include a url link to your own post in your comment below. This will guarantee a visit, in the event the automatic ping-back does not work.
  • Visit other Friendly Friday entries by following their links. It’s fun!
  • Follow the host blogs to see future Friendly Friday Challenges

The Benefits of Joining Blog Challenges

  • Increase your exposure in the blogging communities
  • Inspire and be inspired by diverse blog articles
  • Challenge your creativity
  • Make new friends and keep in touch with old ones

Are you joining in with this theme?

Where is your favourite Mountain Top?

How do you feel when you reach the summit? This motorcyclist loves the countryside too.

Blog challenge Friday
flowers
blogging, Philosophy

Are You Ready Yet? How We Shop

Are you ready yet?”

My other half, aka the ‘Moth,’ called out – anxious to leave for another shopping expedition. Meanwhile, I tapped away on the keyboard writing yet another blog post.

I won’t be long,” I distractedly shouted back down the hall.

But time then slowed for me; I was engrossed in getting my thoughts down from the jumble of words that regularly spin about in my head.

I dislike shopping for food or groceries as it is such a mind-numbingly, repetitive, ‘rinse-repeat-rinse,’ kind of task that my other half likes to do, almost weekly. For him, it’s like a contemporary equivalent of an old religious ritual. And each time we do it, I have to grit my teeth.

Before the move to the Home by the Sea, the prelude to a shopping trip would be a visit to a delightful Italian cafe or Pasticceria and, in this way, I’d come to believe shopping could be enjoyable especially when it comes with a cup of hot chocolate as well!

The Pasticceria Cafe was run by an Italian man from Venice, with a rich and deep baritone voice, named Aladdino, who made the very best Italian hot chocolate! If you imagine a cup of blancmange-like, soupy thick, steaming dark chocolate milk, that you almost have to spoon into your mouth, you’d have the general idea.

Aladdino could often be quite intimidating, or so I found one day when I reminded him I liked the hot chocolate made really thick and soupy.

“You Australians,he bellowed at me in a tone that would impress Pavarotti. “It’s not a pudding, you know!

“It is a pudding for me,” I quip back. And my bribery comfort food, I think to myself; as it is some consolation for the ‘battle’ ahead.

Grocery shopping can be a suburban battlefield.

The stainless steel shopping trolleys are our ‘cavalry steeds’ and the supermarket aisles, a place where a cavalry-style charge might occur, if only during a red light special!

Not me, or the MotH! But a photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Each week, I notice the faces of shoppers at the supermarket. Stereotypes are always well represented.

There’s the elderly gentleman trying in vain to find Bi-Carb Soda, the fatigued mothers with crying babies insitu or children wanting popcorn, the bogan with a shirt-busting beer gut in a rush to get to the pub, the well-heeled Hampton fan searching for gourmet cheese and others who try to emulate TV reality show Chefs in an effort to tantalize their family’s tastebuds, while still balancing the budget.

The battlefield is exhausting!

shopping centre with consumers

The Rise of Generic and Convenience Food

Food prices continue to spiral upwards, coercing us to buy more of the less expensive generically branded items. Many seem to be quality degraded items from dubious overseas manufacturers, where one imagines working conditions to be almost medieval. I am lucky enough to pass them by if I can. The appearance of more and more convenience/ready-made meals is also worrisome.

Convenience food options seem to multiply each week taking up more and more shelf space.

I nearly lost the plot and caused a public scene last month, when I found they were selling shredded iceberg lettuce and grated carrot, in a bag!

So, now the working family has no time at all to grate a carrot, or perhaps the problem is they don’t own a grater? Will children grow up not knowing how to grate a carrot for a humble salad sandwich?

This leads my runaway mind to think of a future where only the elderly remember what a virgin vegetable actually looks like prior to peeling, slicing, dicing and wrapped in plastic bags lined with preservatives!

But we all have to eat, or face a riot on the home front, particularly if there are any remaining adolescent children lurking in the bedrooms!

How much longer are you going to be?

The disembodied voice filters down the hallway suddenly dragging me back to reality. It has happened again:  I have become engrossed in another blog post.

female writing

Has your supermarket changed?

Do you enjoy convenience food options?

stpa logo
proverb from Tibet with snowy background
blogging

Norwegian Wisdom in Words

Some years ago, I became fascinated with traditional proverbs and sayings, their metaphorical layers and the many different interpretations found within just a few, succinct words. I marvelled at their ability to transcend race, religion, opinions and age.

These often humble words, offer us knowledge; knowledge that is passed to us in much the same way relay runners might pass a baton. Once it’s handed over, it is up to us what we do with it and how we pass it on.

birch trees beside a Norwegian stream

Mange bekker små gjør en stor elv.

Many little streams make a great river.

Photo by Rawan Jo on Pexels.com

Smuler er også mat.

Crumbs are food too.

stpa logo
fish graffiti
blogging, Food

Friendly Friday Blog Challenge – Something Fishy

Join the Friendly Friday Blog Challenge

For the next two weeks, the Friendly Friday Blog Challenge asks for you to share a story, photographs, poem or recipe on the theme: Something Fishy. You are very welcome to join in.

  • crab
  • fish face mural fgraffiti art

Think fish markets, lobsters, fishing tales, the one that got away, graffiti art, food or travel photography, even something suspect or mysterious can fit with this theme. Make it your own!

Gold Fish in a pond
Wellington Botanic Gardens, New Zealand

The Friendly Friday Blog Challenge instructions fully explain how to join in. Don’t forget to pingback this post and leave a comment below, so I can find your post.

Here is my contribution for Something Fishy.

Fishy Dishes

During my formative years, as many Aussie families could attest, Salmon dishes hadn’t extended beyond one’s elderly Aunt Betty’s, “Salmon Patty.” For the uninitiated, salmon patties are a slightly bland salmon and mashed potato concoction. For the most part, Australian cuisine hadn’t spread its wings beyond the ‘meat and three veg’, until well after the seventies.

Unless your family was into crabbing or regular fishing trips, like my former neighbour who served up this delicious smoked fish and Red Claw lunch one day, you might not be tempted by seafood at all. But I can’t really understand that! It matters not whether it is Barramundi, Salmon or Mussels, there isn’t any seafood I don’t like.

Red claw smoked fish
Red Claw and Smoked fish

Ten or so years ago, Norwegian Gravlax, entered my life. I was visiting a Danish friend who was teaching me how to string a loom for weaving, (which had nothing to do with salmon), and she kindly offered me a smoked salmon and lettuce sandwich for lunch. It was humble and it was delicious. I was hooked. I had to have more.

Salmon and Avocado on ryebread
Salmon and Avocado on ryebread

Norwegian Gravlax

Gravlax tastes like a cross between salmon sashimi (imagine it with the addition of seasoning from salt, plus fresh herb flavour), and the smoked salmon slices you buy at stores – but minus the smokey flavour, because smoked salmon, is, [of course,] made by smoking salmon.

It’s not too salty, the flesh is not overly cured i.e. still nice and moist. But it’s cured enough to be easily sliceable into thin pieces, (which is virtually impossible with raw fish). It’s salty enough that you’ll want to eat the slices plain, but not too salty that you’ll need to guzzle a glass

recipetineats.com/cured-salmon-gravlax/

Most of the salmon, that is produced in salmon farms, is thought to be highly toxic. This is due to the techniques required to produce it according to a documentary on YouTube. Some varieties of FARMED salmon they consider especially so. The farmed salmon can and may infect, wild populations as well.

Although this revelation concerns this salmon zealot, I’ve only discovered the delights of eating smoked salmon a mere decade ago, so I’m thinking I am not about to give it up, yet, especially at my stage of life.

It’s All About the Salmon

So where do you find the best Salmon?

Sweden? The very best I’ve eaten was a Salmon dish in Stockholm, with Swedish friends. A melt-in-the-mouth fillet topped with a berry-based sauce that can only be described as sublime perfection.

Surprisingly enough, the next best salmon dish, I’ve eaten, was a pan-fried Tasmanian Salmon fillet I selected from a local restaurant’s menu. Again, it was – perfection.

Salmon varieties in Finland

Many Scandinavians love eating Salmon, so I can easily blame my Nordic genes, for my present addiction. Finns have a hundred different varieties of this fishy beast to try, as I discovered in Helsinki, one day.

Salmon Quiche, found in a Norwegian friend’s Women’s Weekly magazine, was more popular with visiting guests, than it was with my children, as was a Salmon pie recipe shared by a fellow Australian School-Mum.

Needless to say, I loved them both.

salmon pie
Salmon Pie

Some folks enjoy Salmon soup, which I found to be quite similar to a creamy seafood chowder I was served in Wellington harbour one year, but the Finns adds a flavour to die for. It must be the fresh dill or the cold waters of the Baltic region? Here’s the one I tasted in Finland.

salmon soup in helsinki
in helsinki

By now, you have probably figured salmon, smoked or otherwise, had me in its grasp. Each time I ate it, I liked it more and more. So much so that I experimented with making my own Gravlax.

How to Make Your Own Gravlax

A rose gold lump, formerly knows as a marine creature, sat curing in the refrigerator, under a cleaned bluestone rock, for 3 days. It had been doused with black pepper and enough salt to clog several arteries. The rock was to compress it, (apparently). Here is the recipe I followed:

Smoked Salmon Gravadlax
Smoked salmon fillet prior to adding the seasonings and rock

Gravlax Recipe

  • Mix equal parts salt + sugar (combined) to 50% of the weight of the salmon. 
  • Coat a fresh fillet of salmon liberally with the salt and sugar mix
  • Top with loads of chopped fresh Dill, or herbs of your choice.
  • Place a cleaned, heavy weight, such as a rock, a paperweight or marble board, on top.
  • Leave, loosely covered, in the fridge for 24 hours to cure; 36 hours for medium; 48 hours for hard cure. [I chose the medium time frame.]
  • Slice with a very sharp knife into wafer-thin slices and serve.

Next Friendly Friday Blog Challenge

Sandy, from The Sandy Chronicles, will announce the next theme for the Friendly Friday Challenge over at her blog, in two weeks time.

Blog challenge Friday
forestwoodfolkart.wordpress.com/instructions-for-the-friendly-friday-photo-challenge/

Until then,

Fishy Cheers from Amanda

blogging, Mental Health, Motivational, Philosophy

Gratitude Finding Three Things

It is fairly well recognized that counting your blessings, as opposed to your burdens can have a huge impact on your psychological health.

Studies have demonstrated that showing gratitude for even the most basic things can have reduce depression and increase contentment.

How to Find Gratitude in life?

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.

It turns what we have into enough and more.

It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity.

It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.

Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.”

-Melody Beattie

We cannot travel to, own, earn, win or consume happiness, but we can find it in gratitude in our daily lives, as Albert Clarke said,

“We must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but the gratefulness that makes us happy.”

-Albert Clarke

Feeling Thankful

Many writers and philosophers considered thankfulness to be the highest form of thought, almost a spiritual experience. Acting thankful is something that inevitably leads to gratitude.

Buddha took this to an extreme.

Let us be thankful, for if we didn’t learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn’t learn a little, at least we didn’t get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn’t die; so, let us all be thankful.

Buddha

Gratitude as a Daily Habit

Marc and Angel suggested making gratitude a daily habit by:

..intentionally identifying three things in your life you are grateful for. It could be as simple as feeling thankful for the clean water that comes out of your faucet or appreciating the cool breeze on a warm day.

List the things you feel grateful for over dinner, or make it a habit to identify what you’re thankful for before you go to bed. Over time, being thankful becomes like second nature, and you’ll experience benefits ranging from improved sleep to greater immunity.

Marc and Angel

Do you make gratitude a daily habit?

For me, feeling and showing gratitude can reset my mind from its daily worries, anxieties and concerns. Concerns that, at times, feel quite overwhelming.

Thinking of the things I am grateful fore, can help ground me, re-focusing my attention on what I do have, on what is around me.

Many aspects of my life are not ideal, are unfair and may never change. And yet, there is still so much I can be grateful for, even in circumstances not so ideal.

Could you identify three things you’re grateful for each and every day?