Hello! Lovely to see you! Here you will find random posts about living a creative life in country Australia. I am an illustrator. I create, take photos, faff, collect, teach. Watercolour, collage, colour, cheese, travel and dreaming are my faves. And Turkish delight. And cushions. And gardening. And op-shops...

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

YOU ARE STRONG, AS STRONG AS STRING






YOU ARE STRONG
As Strong As String

Recently, a very dear friend of mine, Michelle Kindregan, wrote me a note to remind me how strong I was. I was feeling down, anxious and worried. Concerned and overwhelmed by the zillion and one things life seemed to throwing at me, and mainly, about the hard slog of being a parent. It had been a tough week. Then, she wrote me this note, and not only did it make me smile ( I love the way she writes ) but it made me feel just that bit of gumption and belief that I needed to find. I just think that what she wrote is brilliant. Here are her words...

"STRONG-like string. 
Like the string on a present you want to open but can't because of the string....and you can't find the scissors, so you get a knife and use it like a hacksaw, but it still won't budge and you pull it, and your fingers almost bleed because it is so strong it cuts into your skin. 
And you are in agony because you want to open your present but the fucking string is too strong. That's how strong you are."

Isn't that great?
Aren't friends the best? as in.... aren't they TOTALLY ABSOLUTELY BRILLIANT!
Don't you love string?
Are you feeling strong? Like string?


 stringing me along (LOL)



string love









Monday, 2 November 2015

#shareaustralia #mycornerofaustralia #cowra #canowindra


 #shareaustralia #mycornerofaustralia 
#cowra 
#canowindra

Before we go any further, and I show you some family, fun, interesting things to do in my corner of Australia, let me tell you something. You see, I never expected this to be my corner of Australia. I am not from here at all, nor my hubby. I never expected to live here in Central West NSW, in the country. If someone had told me 20 years ago, when we first moved here, we would still be here in 2015, I would have shaken my head in disbelief!

I still cannot believe it is almost 20 years, and it makes me think... well... why are we still here? I used to think living in the country would be limiting, and isolating. That there would be so many things we would miss out on. But I was wrong (as I often am!)

Instead, it has given us and our kids great freedom, wonderful community and great lifestyle. We are never bored, there is always something to do. We are surrounded by stunning countryside that changes dramatically from season to season, huge magnificent skies, fresh country air, and a pace of life that suits us fine. 

We do go to the big smoke and have massive retail therapy hits, cultural excursions and fill ourselves with all that cities have to offer. But then we come home and just exhale. It is a lovely place to call home.

Still, I was a little panicked when I realised I had to come up with 10 THINGS TO DO! Gah! Cowra is a small place, 2 sets of traffic lights! So I put it to my kids, the brains trust and said...

"Come on guys, give me 10 things you love to do around Cowra!" 

And you know what, they came up with 10 things within a few minutes... and more.

And so, in no particular order, I present to you, courtesy of my kids(age 15, 12 and 8), a list of 10 things that are fun and family friendly activities to do around in our corner of Australia. Hope you enjoy it... I know we had a blast doing them!


1. EATING OUT AT THE MILL

Only about a kilometre way from our home, right down the hill, is this fabulous building, The Mill about 150 years old.  For 90 of these years it lay abandoned and unloved, till some enterprising locals decided to restore and renovate it, and use it for wine  tasting. It has continued to evolve, and it now has enclosed verandahs and restaurant too. The food is yummy scrummy, huge servings, and my kids LOVE the big chips. The whole place is made of stone, rough hewn timbers, and aches with history. We went for brunch there last week, and my Miss 8 took a camera along to take photos, and was fascinated with the old pictures of Cowra on the walls and the artefacts on display. At the end of the meal, we waddled out full as googs, appetite well and truly sated. With a family that contains 2 vegetarians, a carnivore and fussy teenager, this is no mean feat. Thanks kids, you chose well!




2. THE SKATE PARK

A couple of months ago, some dear friends of ours visited from Sydney with their boys, 2 of whom are strapping young skater dudes. I really had not imagined the sheer joy they would display when they saw  our skatepark, but as they explained to me, in the city, room and time on skate ramps is a precious commodity and it is quite competitive. They were in heaven having so much space and freedom to try to new moves, get "sick airtime", and their grins were huge! MY own kids rediscovered it too, and realised how lucky they are to have this around the corner from their house, easy walking distance. It's become a favourite thing to do with their scooters, and the price is right... 



3. THE JAPANESE GARDENS AND CULTURAL CENTRE

Just up the hill from us, is this really extraordinary 5 hectare manicured, sprawling, beautiful garden, with lakes and waterfalls,a Japanese tea house, exhibition space, cafe and shop. It's not what you would expect to find in a little country town, but this little pice of loveliness has sadder roots. 

In August 1944, the largest breakout in modern military history occurred in Cowra, when Japanese soldiers, shamed by their capture, and despite almost certain death and failure, attempted to escape the POW camp here. Hundreds did die, including 4 Australians. The POW camp is now a place of quiet reflection and we walk our dogs there often. The sunsets are unbelievable. As part of the healing process, and a sign of immense courage and maturity, a deep and abiding friendship now exists between Cowra and Japan and the gardens are just one example of this bond.

My kids know all about this history, and are fascinated by it... but they also just love going to 'the gardens' because they love the cafe, they love feeding the Koi carp, chasing the ducks, having picnics there, exploring and climbing the granite tors dotted about, and even hiring a golf buggy to get around. We are so lucky to have this unique and brilliant place, I have always felt like it is the quiet beating heart of the town. This place is part of the story that enriches our life here, and as a family we all value that.





4. THE LACHLAN RIVER

The Lachlan River flows through our town, rising and falling depending on the rain and how much water they release from Wyangala dam upstream. It is the water source for our drinking, domestic use and agricultural productivity. It sustains us. But to my kids, it is the thing that they love to splash in, swim in, have picnics next to, walk to, take the dogs to, and go yabbying in. We have seen it in massive flood, brown and dirty, water ebbing up over gates and raging with tress and branches washing away. My kids marvelled at its ferocity and the sheer volume of the water. 

But it is usually quite calm, easy to access, and with lots of safe areas to play in. We always supervise, and my kids know all about the dangers of swimming in it, and are terrifically respectful of this river. Truthfully, the dogs swim in it more than they do! 

But we have plans to kayak a stretch of the river this summer, and are waiting for the yabbies to come out of hibernating so we can go catch another pet - we have had several.We have had many great times next to the Lachlan,and my kids just love hanging out at the river! 



5. WYANGALA DAM

It seems that this is a good time to introduce you to another of our fave places - because the Lachlan River is of course irrevocably the reason why this dam exists. 'The Dam' is visited by over 80,000 visors a year, so I read, and is the place lots of locals (as well as tourists from further afield) go to cool down in summer, holiday next to, fish in, water-ski on, go boating, canoeing, hire houseboats, swim in, camp next to, go hiking around... it is Cowra's playground I suppose. 

We do not own a boat or a caravan, but we are lucky enough to have generous friends that have allowed us the exhilaration of being towed behind their boat at high speeds on 'biscuits' and 'bananas', try kneeboarding (with hilarious results and the largest bruise I have ever had), and share with them wicked laughs and magic moments.

Our family has also had more sedate times out there, just having picnics and enjoying the scenery. Recently I took my girls out there, and we picnicked under the immense stone wall of the dam, and did sketching  and painting in the winter sun. They were keen to swim, but common sense and winter chill ( and a nagging mother ) meant we stayed firmly on terra firma, and admired the dam from lookouts instead.  

This is another place firmly woven into the psyche of my children, a place that is only half an hours beautiful drive away, but still promises fun, and makes them excited and happy.






6. CANOWINDRA

Canowindra is only about half an hour away, a truly scenic drive with mountains and views of the Lachlan Valley, and granite tors, and as you get closer, you can see all the way to Mt. Canobolas too. There are cows, and sheep, horses all grazing and in harvest time magnificent yellow fields of canola. Right now after winter rains, it looks lush and green... but in summer it can become golden and dry. Whatever the season, it is always a pleasure to drive over to Canowindra.

We go there because the kids LOVE the many shops, the groovy cafe's, the slightly scary swinging bridge, the parks, the Age of Fishes Museum (a favourite of Sir David Attenborough's,he was here not long ago) and the newly upgraded local pool.

Our first stop is always Finn's General Store, an amazing old place, once filled to the brim with collectibles, in recent history it has become a repository of colourful, exotic, funky, unique jewellery, thrift and re-loved clothes  home-wares, art and furniture. Not to mention lush coffee, and nibbles. Miss 8 says they do the best spiders EVER! My girls ADORE this shop. 

Finns is on the main St, called Gaskill St, but the locals all call it Bendy St, because as the name suggests, it is pretty bendy, which I think is due to it being an old bullock track that followed the line of the Belubula River. I could be wrong! From there we usually wander down to the local Vinnies op-shop, duck into one of the art galleries, or a book shop, (my husbands wallet getting lighter!). 

It is compulsory that we also  stroll down a pretty dirt lane, past grazing horses, to the swinging bridge. When the kids were smaller 
( and more gullible ) we pretended there were trolls under it, or bunyips. Now of course, they just laugh at us and our silly stories, but they still dare each other to go over the bridge without screaming! Once over the bridge there is a little memorial plaque telling a snippet of a story about bushranger Ben Hall and the way he held the town captive once upon a time... true!

Exhausted from all this merriment, beauty and history, if the lure of a bakery or another coffee does not hook us, we go up to the Blue Jacket lookout (no idea why it is called that...) and look out at the entire valley. And gasp. So, so brilliant, paddocks, fields, undulating mountains and hills, it is just sublime. 

Some of you may be aware that Canowindra is the ballooning capital of Australia. Some of you may be aware that I AM TERRIFIED POO-SCARED of heights. Big brown undies needed if there is anything to do with looking down from a large height. Really. I sweat, I cry, I shake, my heart goes wobbly, my head spins, and I feel like puking.   

One day I will attempt to overcome this fear, and be brave, as an example to my kids that you can 'feel the fear and do it anyway', kind of thing.HOWEVER until then the Blue Jacket lookout is good enough for me. I have been told that ballooning is totally peaceful and awesome. My kids would love to do it. One day...

Believe me, if we do, I will blog about it and tell you, and the whole world, how flipping' excellent I am. However for now, I am pretty happy with the usual terra firma fun we have when we head over to Canowindra. Stay posted though! 

(By the way, if anyone wants to offer me and my family free balloon flights so I can write about it, take photos, tell everyone how great it is and helped me overcome my fear... I would consider it, all for the sake of embracing new experiences. Just saying. Putting it out there in the universe.)




7. BIKE TRACKS

We have two crazy, not - trained - very - well dogs. I have never had dogs before, and I am pretty sure that it was either an act of rebellion against the fact we did not have pets as kids, or it was a middle age brain fart, that made me want to experience the magic of bonding with a dog, like in the movies. I had visions of my kids with their canine best friends, and got all soppy and mushy and sentimental. 

The reality of owning dogs was a bit less clear and the more people told me how much hard work it was, the more determined I was that we would be fine. I am quite stubborn at times (okay, I admit it.) We already had 2 cats, my frog, and 2 yabbies. I thought it would be easy peasy.

Fast forward a bit, and the realisation that unlike the cats, these 4 legged creatures need lots of attention, are highly demanding, and must be walked all the time... and suddenly we as a family have a whole new appreciation of walking and bike tracks!

Our usual  walking place is a really brilliant path called The Garrison Walk, up where the POW camp used to be. It meanders through peppercorn trees and eucalypts, there are usually mobs of roos there, galahs or cockatoos. There are the ruins of the POW camp buildings, and interesting information boards... not to mention heart achingly lovely sweeping views across to the beginnings of the Great Dividing Range. I usually take my phone with me, often my camera, and I used to post pictures of this place all the time on Instagram and Facebook. I think I have included shots in blogs too. It always inspires me. Mind you, any taking photos is done between attempting to walk dogs, and avoid being run down by my kids on their scooters!

Because it is not only the dogs who go ballistic when we say we are going for a walk. The kids too scramble to get shoes on, grab jackets, helmets and scooters. They love it.So we were pretty happy and excited to see the council putting in a new path next to the river a few weeks ago. HMMMMMM... not sure if this new bike track has a proper name. It is pretty new, and I have not seen any signs up yet. They may well be there though! But the other evening we walked it for the first time, and the kids have given it a big thumbs up too. Nice and wide, with good little slopes, right next to the river, and across to the golf course and over to West Cowra it goes. We did not go the full way, we turned back due to dusk and chill beating us. But it was a lovely way to end the day, and the kids are already nagging us to do it again.



8. BUSHWALKING & EXPLORING IN NATIONAL PARKS

Like most kids these days, my tribe are addicted to screens, mobile devices... it drives me nuts. I do realise that I spend a lot of time in front of a screen too, as does hubby... but we justify it by saying it is for work! Truthfully, we all need a little screen detox, and need to get out and explore the real world again, and lucky for us, there are plenty of great places around our corner of Australia to do just that.

About an hours drive away, closer to Grenfell, (where we lived for a few years when we first headed out this way) is the Weddin Mountains National Park. These mountains pop up, rising from the surrounding farmland, majestic and proud. On one side of this crescent shaped range it is all cliff faces, escarpments, rugged and full of caves. The  word 'weddin' seems to be derived from a Wiradjuri word meaning to stop, or remain still, and its not hard to see how this would have happened - either from the opportunities for shelter and food afforded here, or from the eerie and charismatic landscape which would easily land itself to dreaming stories. There is evidence of long Aboriginal occupation of the area, and is still a place of great significance.

For my 3 kids, and other families with kids we have brought out here when the visit us, it is the story of Ben Hall and his bushranger gang, hiding out in caves, and spying on the coaches loaded with gold and money as they rumbled across the countryside, back in the 1860's that fascinates. Whenever we head out there, we do the easy scramble up to Ben Halls cave, because it only takes about half an hour, about 1. 5km, and the view is worth every effort. 

Just near the picnic spot here (with toilets and water..and campsite too) is a Historic Site, the mind-blowing Seaton's Farm. With scraps of wire and metal, foraged, begged, given, found, the Seaton family, farm labourers, wove wire fences, created patchwork tin sheds (truly like art pieces), dug ponds with bare hands and basic tools, lived with no running water or supplied power, eking out an existence of self sufficiency truly remarkable. Their house, sheds, farm equipment, fences and outhouses are still there, with interpretive signs to explain bits of their story. My lucky kids in their cushy life are totally gobsmacked by realising people lived her until recent history. It is truly awesome, and our visitors still talk to us about this place. In fact it has become part of our lexicon... if we make do or reuse something in an inventive way, we say we are being a bit Seaton's! 

Closer to Cowra, we often go to Conimbla National Park, because it's so close, just a short drive on either Barryreenie Rd. or Kangarooby  Rd., and a really great place to just chill out in nature for a few hours, with no need to pack too much or plan too much - nice and easy. 

This park is an island in a sea of farmland, and a refuge and important remnant of native vegetation that allows fauna to move from one place to another.  There are walks suitable for kids and families, like the Wallaby track, that go through different types of bush growth, from open woodland, mugga ironbark, red stringy bark, and box trees and heath, western scribbly gums to native black cypress pine, with rocks and lots of places to stop and look about. There are always birds and roos to spot (if the kids can be quiet and miss 8 refrains from singing opera!) There's also several picnic areas, so we sometimes take a picnic along too.

We are always mindful though that these places are special and wild,  and need to be treated with care and respect, so we always take a bag along to put our rubbish in and take it with us when we go. We always follow the tracks, wear sensible shoes, take water with us and wear suitable clothing. 





9. COWRA FUN / WAR MUSEUM

WOW! Just WOW! I am not quite sure how to describe this place. It almost defies definition! To help me, I went onto trip advisor, to see what others had said, and most people were flabbergasted at the extent of the collections, but also a bit bemused, bewildered, staggered at just how much STUFF is in this museum. 

We have been going here for years, on and off, as a family,and because as my now hairy and moody (but brilliant) teenager, when he was little was a total train freak. This museum has a tonne of train related exhibits, old train carriages, train signs, steam engines, railway memorabilia... so it was bloody fantastically fortuitous that this place was just a few km away in the same little place we lived in. What are the chances! (there is also the LVR, Lachlan Valley Railway Museum... but that's another post...) 

It has changed a bit since then, with more of a focus on war memorabilia and artefacts, many to do with the Cowra Breakout, but it also has lots of tanks, armoured vehicles and other "war stuff"(as Miss 12 calls it). 

Completely randomly, it also has a vast spoon collection, model cars, flags, farming equipment, radios, dolls.... toys....Seriously, this is a lifetime (or several ) of collections. It is totally trippy! But it is pretty obvious that there is a hoarding instinct at play here too. It is lacking in editing, professional presentation, safe displaying, archival storage, museum quality labelling, information.... You used to be able to buy stuff too, but it seems these days nothing is for sale, and it is just gathering dust. 

My heart aches a little when we go here... it is obvious there is passion and love behind al this stuff, and my husband and son just adore it,  because it is so extensive and quirky. My girls loved the train carriages with their "Harry Potter Hogwarts Express" looking  compartments. (Oh! and Hercule Poirot too! pipes up Miss 8.) I wish there was some funding and some heavy investment for this place,  because it is unique and extraordinary in the truest sense of the word. You have to se it for yourself!




10. ANIMALS! ANIMALS! ANIMALS!

I will start by of course clarifying that I do of course mean farm type animals! Not lions, tigers, elephants and exotic beasties! And to be fair, the teenager is not as wildly amused by animals as the two girls are - but he used to be when he was shorter, younger and less hairy!

Is it too obvious to say that living in the country means we have lots of farm animals around us? I guess so. But what may surprise you, is that though we see them from a car, all the time, and know lots of farmers and farm kids, these animals still get make my kids get so excited and they have grins as wide as humanly possible whenever they have opportunity to get up close and personal with them. Because we live in town, in a house, go to the shops, to work, to appointments... we live like people in the city really, us 'blow-ins' and 'townies'. We have our own menagerie of animals, sure, but other peoples animals are always more exciting!

So every now and then, we organise to go to a friend's farm, or go for a drive and go and visit some animals. Especially in Spring time when poddy calfs and lambs are common ( I think poddy means baby animals that for some reason cannot be looked after by their own mother, so they are raised by hand... lots of farmers do it, and lots of farm kids. I could be wrong. Like I said already, it happens!)

This week we were in Canowindra, and my girls fell in love with some horses, naming them, choosing which ones they like best, what they would do if they owned them. Seriously, we were there for ages and ages, and it was only diminishing light and my nagging that made them finally say goodbye to these new equine friends.

Really, there's not too much to say on this final choice of theirs. So I have said it with these photos. They just love animals.




So there you have it, my kids final choice on 10 things fun to do in Cowra. I guess it just shows that even though they have been born and bred here, they still find simple things a big thrill. And when I look back at this list, I am so pleased and grateful that their list is comprised of really honest, authentic, innocent and lovely things. That my kids love just sharing time with us, and they do not always want expensive whizz bang - mega  bigger than Ben Hur treats /places/experiences to make them have fun and be happy. It fills my heart.

So if you feel like visiting our little corner of Australia, bring your camera, some sensible shoes, and be prepared to enjoy lovely scenery, yummy food, fresh air, a slower pace, quirky things, nature, history, culture... and lots of great things. We don't mind sharing it with you, there's plenty for everyone!




P.S. Just so you know, all those words in red? They are links to more information!