Cunning as…

Gong Hei Fat Choy! Happy Chinese New Year and welcome to the Year of the Golden Rat – the start of a whole new 60-year cycle in Chinese astrology. If you’re interested in finding out how the rat became the first sign – you can read on for more about the Chinese Zodiac.

The rat symbolises wisdom and new beginnings and after the apocalyptic weather we have had with bushfires, smoke, rain, hail and dust – I am happy to start the year all over again. I have a number of rats in my immediate and extended family as well as many friends who share the same Eastern star sign so good luck to you all this year.

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Melbourne Chinatown Chinese New Year action from my family spy 🙂

It’s a busy Australia Day long weekend but if you’re in Melbourne, it’s always great visiting Chinatown (but also always hot so take a hat, water and sunscreen). Locally, Preston Market is also holding celebrations this weekend and Box Hill next Saturday 1 Feburary. I was in the city briefly at the top end of town yesterday ducking into The European for a quick coffee and bombolini where Mr Rosanna and I spied adversing mogul Harold Mitchell as we were leaving. There were lots of happy people walking around in the sun, including this funky Melbourne couple (below).

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If you miss local celebrations, I can also highly recommend visiting the glorious Bendigo Easter Festival in April which also features dragon, lion and Chinese youth society performances in their night-time and day-time parade, as well as visiting the Golden Dragon Chinese Museum.

I also wanted to mention the Asia TOPA Double Delicious event at the Abbotsford Convent from 27 February featuring Chinese writer Benjamin Law and food legend Elizabeth Chong (whose daughter Angie runs The Humble Dumpling cooking school in Fairfield) amongst others. Tickets are now on sale.

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Image via The Society inc.

Finally, while Chinese egg roll biscuits are traditionally eaten at Chinese New year, I do love a fortune cookie and I have bought some of these beautiful porcelain fortune cookies from Australian stylist Sibella Court’s retail store The Society inc. for a number of close friends as special keepsakes.

Whether you’re at the tennis, at the beach or having a staycation like me, have a great weekend – it’s been a shock to the system returning to work and I suspect an even bigger shock in in store with school back next week!

Better days

It’s the song by Melbourne band The Meltdown which has been the soundtrack playing in my head all this week and perhaps my mantra for this year given the terrible start we’ve had with the bushfires and poor air quality. With the upcoming Lunar New Year, I’d like to think we can start this year anew (and the next 60 year cycle in terms of Chinese astrology) with the Rat being the first sign that also represents the beginnings of a new day.

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I’ve been suffering from post-holiday jet lag all week trying to adjust to being back at work and picking up where I left off. While Monday wasn’t great, I’d booked myself into a whole lot of meetings so it was a good way of getting back into the swing of things without having time to think about it.

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I’m also missing regular exercise and everything feels that bit tighter post-Christmas! I’ve booked myself into a number of health check ups as well as organised some spontaneous and planned catch ups with my closest friends while things are quieter on the work front. It’s also a good time to read, plan holidays, do paperwork, de-clutter and get on top of some of the things we don’t ordinarily find the time to do.

For Mr Rosanna and me, this included a bulk shop for the first time at DC Coffee/Conga Foods at 70 Bell Street in Preston – the site of which has been sold and may become a Bunnings with hotel (!) – but it was good to go and stock up on pasta, cheese, tomatoes, tuna and Italian biscuits. When we lived in Brunswick our go to was Mediterranean Wholesalers so it’s good to have a closer alternative.

We’ve also spent more time hanging in the ‘hood including Friday night ice cream for the kids at the new Gelati & Co (ex-Wally & Fletcher) on Burgundy Street in Heidelberg around the corner from the newly opened Rockin Rolls cafe in Hawdon Street, the owners of whom apparently do a mean Bahn Mi pork roll. I’ve always gone to Aus-Vi Vietnamese bakery at Rosanna Village but must go check them out.

Montsalvat in Eltham launches Destruction, beauty and hope – the Victorian Bushfire Appeal special fundraising exhibition on 29 January. I have a number of Nillumbik-based friends and colleagues who’ve been attending CFA sessions the past fortnight. Warrandyte, while beautiful, has only one road in and one road out and I know locals who simply pack up and leave on high fire danger days.

We’ve seen the terror of this wide brown country, I hope the beauty soon returns.

A sunburnt country

I’ve been away on the Mornington Peninsula the past week and it has been a strange time to go away with the bushfires at the peak of their destruction. A heart-breaking time for those who lost their lives, their houses, their schools, workplaces and their communities as well as the unfathomable loss of habitat and wildlife including an estimated 30% of our koala population. It has been pretty grim and I’ve limited my exposure to news media to avoid overwhelm.

Inspiring has been the swift reaction, not of our politicians, but leaders in the arts and sporting communities as well as every day people who have stepped up to volunteer their energy and time, donate their money and their talent to raise funds to help. I’ve lost count of the money that instagram star Celeste Barber has single-handedly raised on Facebook but think the power of social media and influence has been at its best in this case.

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View from pier to Blairgowrie Yacht Squadron

Scientists have been at pains to explain that climate change increases the frequency and severity of extreme weather events like bushfire, rather than being the sole cause, but whatever the case, our government and business leaders need to institute long term structural change, strategy and infrastructure now as drought, bushfire and other events unfortunately become more commonplace and we as consumers, need to do what we can individually to reduce our footprint and live more sustainably, which includes reducing our consumption of new things we may want but don’t need.

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This has been on my mind this week where while safe from the fires, we drove through thick smoke haze on our way to Sorrento which gives some idea of the frightening poor visibility experienced in bushfire and also the following Monday when we could all smell the smoke outside, apparently from Tasmanian fires rather than in Gippsland and further north.

Like many people, Mr Rosanna and I have previously holidayed on the NSW south coast and I had briefly contemplated booking our summer break this past week in Gippsland. In the end, we opted to stay close and go for the familiar but many of our friends had their holidays curtailed by evacuation or chose to cancel. While disappointing, I don’t think anyone begrudges the fact when so many others have lost so much.

Feeling very thankful indeed, we did have a lovely week away in a house with no wifi walking distance to Cameron’s Bight dog beach where we took our dog most nights for a leash-free walk after 7pm to play with all the other dogs. It also made a nice walk/run route to the nearby Blairgowrie Yacht Squadron. It was a bit like holidays of old with day-time beach walks and visits to London Bridge (part of the Sorrento-Portsea Artists Trail), the Quarantine Station in Point Nepean (where they hold Barefoot Cinema, a craft market and the Portsea Polo. Tip: take your beach gear and bathers to the largely deserted Observatory Point beach stretch which is not patrolled/unsafe in the water due to rips but makes for a lovely spot to walk, sun bake or play at the water’s edge/some beach cricket if you have older kids), doing the 1.7km Wilson’s Folly bush walk and playing Pictionary or reading books during the afternoon and at night. It was also heartening to see not one but two echidnas during this time given the loss of wildlife elsewhere.

I haven’t holidayed in Sorrento for many years but find it and Portsea a little bit la di da – we played ‘Spot the Porsche’ which ended up being pretty easy as it seems to have become the poor rich man’s car and I lost count of them (I reckon close to 100) plus a handful of Maseratis and Teslas on the road while we were there. We did drop in to the Portsea Hotel for drinks and freshly made pizza in the front bar where next door you’ll find Mermaid Vintage (which sells the most beautiful vintage dresses) and further down Le Capucin cafe. The pub has been really well renovated a bit Queenslander-style with its whitewashed interior and not surprisingly was buzzing with lots of blonde people in Ralph Lauren polo T-shirts, white shorts and boat shoes inside and out in the beer garden – a bit cliched I know.

Food-wise while I looked longingly into the window of fine food establishment Bistro Elba which has prices to match ($150 for caviar!), we had fish and chips from Fish Fetish on our first night in Sorrento plus an excellent lunch another day at Greek cafe The Pier in Rosebud (which has a good packed to the rafters second hand clothing shop next door) after buying second hand books at a Rotary Club community hall sale. We shared fried calamari, saganaki, chicken skewers and a greek salad with amazingly flavoursome fresh feta cheese, which took us all the way back to Greece.

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Our last night was spent at Itali.co which not only does great pizzas but also pasta and for me, the fish special of the day, which were all delicious. It’s located next to Morgan’s near the Sorrento-Queenscliff ferry terminal. Also worth a mention is the locally-made gelato from The Yard at Capel Sound – so good that some local CFA firefighters dropped in at the same time as us to get their fix (below).

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We visited the Red Hill Market although found it a bit overwhelming and more suited to women and girls (lots of scented candles, clothing, jewellery and other accessories) with its focus on design. We bought some fresh bread only and there were also some beautiful native flower posies being sold with funds donated to the firefighters (so too were the car parking fees).

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My $5 print

Shopping-wise we visited a number of vintage shops and op shops including My Vintage Addiction in Capel Sound and the Rosebud Vintage Bazaar. We did walk down the very crowded Sorrento Village shops another day – as I mentioned a bit la di da – I spotted the Country Road-branded cafe and concept store called Post 3943 and wasn’t surprised given the demographic of very privileged families who live or have beach houses in Sorrento.

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Second-hand bling jacket

My favourite place is the Antipodes Bookshop & Gallery which not only sells books but also locally made ceramics, jewellery and art including some beautiful hanging fish, ceramic and macrame mobiles made with driftwood and an exhibition of woodcut prints by local Warren Cooke. If I had a beach house, some of them would have made unique pieces for the home.

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I go back to work this week with new challenges ahead, that I hope to rise up and meet this year. Given what many bushfire-affected people have experienced, I am counting my blessings. Locally too a Bands, bowls and BBQ event to raise bushfire funds is being held at the Rosanna Bowling Club on Sunday 2 February if you can make it. I am grateful to be at home, knowing that many people are not. If you are one of them, then I am thinking of you.

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Me and Mr R at Itali.co

 

Twoobs, teapots and dumplings

Welcome to 2020 – the dawn of a new year and a new decade. I wish you lots of good things for the next 12 months and beyond. A lot can happen in a decade – for me it was largely spent raising children and returning to work in whatever capacity I could initially manage to end the decade working 4 days back in an organisation (or institution in my case). As a couple and family we also travelled to Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia and Greece and I hope that more overseas adventures lie ahead in the next 10 years – Japan and the USA are both on my bucket list as well as returning to Europe but school fees and a mortgage may impact on my ambitions.

I hope you had a great Christmas spent with your biological family (or ‘logical’ family as my friends in the LGBTQI community say). Like many people, I spent mine with my immediate and extended family eating lots of ham and turkey during the day, a swim for the kids and present opening in the afternoon and a seafood dinner to end the night. My morning also started at 6am when my two very excited children burst into our bedroom to open their presents so it was a long day.

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I needed to change into something more comfortable (with an elasticised waist!) in the evening so glad I brought a change of clothes and a recent Twoobs shoe purchase (above) – they are the vegan shoes made by Melbourne-based fashion blogger sisters Jess and Stef Dadon from How Two Live. I have to say they are super light and super comfy – perfect for summer down at the beach or by the pool.

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Mr Rosanna and I have difficulty every year buying each other presents – both of us are quite particular and want to be more mindful and creative about what we do choose to purchase. So I ended up accompanying Mr R on his shopping quest for me which included the buying of a Japanese cast iron teapot and trivet from T2 – this time in white (pictured above) – to complement the black one which my sister Ange who lived in Japan for many years brought back for me as a gift.

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One of my more creative gifts for Mr R this Christmas was buying him a dumpling making voucher (for both of us) from Angie at The Humble Dumpling in Fairfield and presenting it in a dim sum bamboo steamer. We are looking forward to doing a workshop at some stage this year.

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If you’re lucky enough to be down at the beach or bush somewhere – you may be interested in some summer reading, podcasting or online courses. After speed reading Boy Swallows Universe, I’ve got some more philosophical books (below) to read courtesy of Mr Rosanna.

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If you’re interested, this year’s Bold Thinking Series lectures are all available as podcasts and Harvard University also runs a number of free online courses – one of which I hope to complete over the summer.

I look forward to sharing more adventures with you in this exciting new decade where anything can happen. Stay safe, stay positive and stay well this summer.