Monthly Archives: May 2014

Veggie Patch

P1020096Some time ago, I mentioned my plan to start a little veggie patch at home. It’s taken us a while, but we finally acquired some seedlings from Bunnings*, which have been planted for a couple of weeks now. And they seem to be doing pretty well in their new surrounds, despite Icklegen’s exuberant watering technique and my inability to have grown anything in the last few years.P1020091P1020097

I’ll admit to having a slightly grand vision for our patio-cum-nursery: tomato plants weighed down with delicious ripe fruit, beans clambering up trellises, herbs bursting out of terracotta pots…you get the picture. But, for the moment, I’ll be content with our modest collection of tiny plants in plastic pots. Icklegen certainly is. She names the various seedlings after me as she wanders along with her pint-sized watering can “basil, parsley, mint, peas, carrots.” And we enjoy rubbing the leaves of the different herbs between our fingers to release their special fragrance.P1020108

And, hopefully, from this initial experience will come the realisation that not all food has to be plastic-wrapped and delivered in anonymous grey plastic bags by the man from the local supermarket. But, rather, that it can be grown by a mummy and her little girl in a few pots on their patio. Green fingers permitting.P1020116

*Bunnings: leading retailer in Australia and New Zealand, selling a vast range of DIY hardware and garden supplies. 

Fun @ Speers Point Park

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Daddy Ickle needed to head up north and suggested he drop Icklegen and me at the playground in Speers Point Park for the morning. I’ve been meaning to take Ickle there for ages, so leapt at the chance. The playground comes with top credentials, having been voted ‘Best Playspace in Australia’ in 2011 by Parks and Leisure Australia, and picking up the Design Award for Excellence at the Australian Institute of Landscape Architects awards the same year.

The playground is well-screened at the main entrance; in fact, despite the sign, we questioned whether we were in the right place as we drove in. But, a wonderland of discovery awaits as you venture in, and oodles of space – some two hectares of it. After some initial hesitation, Icklegen was in the mood to explore. She was particularly taken with the Cockle Creek Ferry which comprises wooden walkways, slides, ladders and a climbing net.P1020024P1020020

A little less so with the giant 9-metre slide. She was intrigued by it but, once she and Daddy Ickle had made it to the top, she got cold feet and decided not to launch herself into the scary darkness of the tunnel heading down. Hardly surprising – take a look at it for yourselves!P1020037

The playground is a real feast for the senses. As well as traditional equipment, there are music-making features, giant metal listening dishes and an area dedicated to water play (this last proving a big hit with Ickle). And the whole place is alive with pockets of vibrant colour.P1020040P1020034P1020062

A café, Sal’s by the Lake, is handily located on site for essential refreshments. And non-essential options too, such as pretty-iced cupcakes and milkshakes (including child-sized ones). All profits go towards the Salvos* so we made our little contribution in the form of some naughty-but-nice treats.P1020012P1020031

Step outside the main enclosure and you find yourself in an expanse of beautiful parkland leading down to the lake’s edge. And a reminder for me of autumn in Europe, with orange, red and gold leaves ablaze in the trees, and crunchy underfoot. We enjoyed a quiet picnic lunch by the water, where we wound down gently after a morning full of activity.P1020076P1020070

*Salvos is an affectionate Australian diminutive for The Salvation Army.

Lake Mac Art Gallery

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Now that Icklegen is a self-proclaimed ‘big girl’ at all of age two, I thought it was high time we start to gently introduce her to the world of art and culture. And where better to start than at Lake Mac’s very own art gallery in the wonderfully-named suburb of Booragul. Not having visited for a while, I was looking forward to rediscovering what it had to offer, although I did have some concerns about whether our little toddler would enjoy her arty excursion.P1010997P1020011P1010995

The gallery building is fairly recent, opening in 2001, although the adjoining Awaba House, which now houses a café and restaurant, and the estate itself have a long (by Australian standards) and fascinating history. The site boasts a spectacular location at the north-western tip of the lake, with its grounds gently rolling down to the waterfront. And the art experience starts here, with a variety of outdoor sculptures on display throughout the gardens. Ickle liked this one in particular!

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And actually she did pretty well in the gallery, too. It’s only a very small exhibition space, so I had no concerns about her getting bored with wall upon wall of artworks. I was, however, particularly wary of the lower-level exhibits, one of which, a fabulous installation entitled Blood and Chlorophyll by Janet Laurence, comprising a vast branch of red gum and laboratory glass jars (amongst other media), proved to be a big hit with my little one. Especially once I had told her not to touch anything.

So, I would estimate we lasted a grand total of 15 minutes in amongst the artworks. And it definitely was not time to get back in the car and drive all the way home. Luckily, the very helpful lady at the welcome desk had pointed out the family activity corner on our way in. What a great idea! Icklegen and I had a wonderful time colouring in pictures of Australian wildlife and sticking them on a sheet of yellow paper. Completely free-of-charge. And no-one else was there either. In fact, barring a group of high school art students, we had the place pretty much to ourselves for the whole visit.P1020001P1020010

The café was slightly busier, with a handful of tables occupied by a well-heeled older set when we arrived. Alas, this part of our visit was not a blinding success. First, I had a contact lens shocker, leaving me with one functioning eye and feeling slightly disorientated. Next, after discussing milkshake options with Ickle and settling on ‘pik stwawbewwy’, I was informed that they only came in one-size, but “your Mummy can share.” The shake in question arrived in a giant metal cup, hilariously oversized for a little girl. And then, disaster of disasters, I ordered a BLAT* with salad cream and fries, and didn’t think to ask whether the sauce was homemade. Which it was, with raw egg, and generously slathered all over the most delicious-looking sandwich. So, at $24, a rather expensive lunch for a half-drunk milkshake and a few fries.

*BLAT: Bacon, lettuce, avocado and tomato sandwich, served here on Turkish bread, and a personal favourite.

Byron Bay Farmstay

Ask any self-respecting traveller for a list of top places to visit in Australia and the chances are that Byron Bay will be on there somewhere. The town’s popularity as a tourist destination dates back to the 1960s when it was discovered by surfers, and it hasn’t looked back since. Still renowned for its laid-back, hippy vibe, Byron attracts phenomenal numbers of visitors every year: an estimated 1.7 million of them each year, which for a little town of some 5,000 permanent residents is pretty damn impressive.P1010918P1010926

We opted to bypass the town in our accommodation search, choosing to focus on the Byron Bay Hinterland. This beautiful area of rolling hills, rainforest and scattered villages is within easy reach of the main centre, but far enough away to avoid the masses. And after some searching (and it took a while, even in the off-peak season) we had a real find: Murojum Farm. Perched in the hills with the ocean glistening in the distance, just 15 minutes’ drive from Byron and Bangalow, this family-friendly farm comprises the owners’ beautiful homestead and three self-cater cottages for rent.P1010920

James’s cottage, our home for three nights, was simply but comfortably furnished, although I wouldn’t give it top marks for cooking facilities. Two hobs, a microwave and a kettle were somewhat limiting, especially after the gourmet kitchen we enjoyed in Iluka. It did, however, more than make up for this by being within a hop, skip and jump of the most fabulous swimming pool.IMG_4972

And for Icklegen, there was also the sheer excitement of being on a working farm. Twice a day, Trevor, or his son, Murray, would ring an old-fashioned bell from their veranda – our signal to help them with the animals, if we so wished. And oh, didn’t we! Icklegen got into the swing of things very fast, and we were  pulling on our boots before the bell for the rest of our stay.IMG_4905

As an introduction to real-life farm animals, it couldn’t have been better. Murojum is not a huge operation, with just a handful of cows, goats, sheep, and hens in residence. And Trevor and Murray couldn’t have been more willing to show us around and let us assist them. Icklegen had the opportunity to milk a cow (twice), feed the goats, sheep and hens, hold a baby chick, and collect eggs. And she loved every minute of it.P1010922P1010935

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So there didn’t seem much need to venture very far. We did visit the small organic market in lovely Bangalow one morning. And one grey, rainy day Ickle and I made a whistlestop tour of Byron’s iconic lighthouse and then braved the crowds in town. And yes, it did seem a funky kinda place dotted with quirky cafés and boutiques, but 25 minutes to find a parking space with a toddler in the back is no fun. And there were no cows to milk, or hens to chase, so we hot-footed it back to the farm.IMG_4960