Love, actually

Life got so busy in the lead up to Christmas with some exciting last minute developments that I ran out of time to post on this blog, which is saying something.

Me and Mr Rosanna (wearing his gift from his family) – Christmas 2021

I had a manic last week of work trying to tie up as many loose ends as possible which included a marketing shoot in Sydney conducted remotely by ANZSOG’s advertising agency Marmalade Melbourne (whose name always reminds me of Paddington Bear!) with one of my final tasks interviewing three alumni who hold senior positions in the public sector as they were photographed and filmed.

Many of our alumni have had a very tough year too on the frontline as leaders responsible for making policy decisions and delivering value under a lot of public scrutiny and pressure – I was asked by the Fair Work Ombudsman (who is also an alumna) a while ago about my observations as someone new to the sector and I told her I think it’s vocational for many of her colleagues, that it’s almost a calling whether they’re career public servants or have moved from private sector to public. Many have also come from, or move into, management consultancy roles so that’s also been interesting for me to unpack over the past nine months.

It has felt like the never ending year and I was very happy to finally take leave the week before Christmas as Mr Rosanna and I decided a few months ago to sneak in a pre-Christmas beach break after realising there were barely any vacancies accommodation-wise after Christmas. It was one of our better decisions given it’s been an exhausting year on so many fronts and the start of my 2022 is about to go into warp speed (but more on that in the new year).

We stayed at a gorgeous dog-friendly cottage in Rosebud called Evandale Shack (above) and had a great five days on the Mornington Peninsula enjoying the calm and lack of crowds, although some of it was due to caravaners not being there in their usual numbers. With the Omicron variant and bringing forward of boosters, Mr R and I were also very lucky to get our shots as walk-ins at the local Amcal pharmacy.

We also enjoyed op shopping returning to the Rosebud Vintage Bazaar where we picked up an Art Deco mirror and there is a big Salvos store and other nearby op shops all on the main drag. With Christmas and wanting to avoid potentially isolating, we chose to avoid indoor spaces with lots of people which was pretty easy to do with a dog in tow and warmer weather.

Our family had a great night out bringing our furry friend to the Dromana Drive-In where we saw Spiderman: No Way Home in somewhat cramped conditions (Mr R and I let the kids have the front seats), a daytime al fresco lunch at Zarb & Ru (below) which specialises in coffee and jaffles (with a great deli La Casa Nostra next door) and another outdoor lunch on our last day at Greek-owned dog-friendly boutique winery Abelli Estate where the owners live on-site (with their pet macaw parrot!) and whose delicious food took us all the way back to Paros, Greece.

We also spent one afternoon strolling the Sorrento Portsea Artists’ Trail including the Millionaire’s Walk (below) – it was lovely to see a reminder of here with Heidelberg School artist Arthur Streeton’s artwork featured. We didn’t quite make it to Portsea given the return walk back on a warm day but clocked up over 10km and felt like we deserved our end-of-trip gelati at Mubble.

I’ve had a busy time on the personal front with family flying in for Christmas and seeing others I’ve not seen all year on Christmas Day – everyone has been affected by the pandemic – some have suffered from loneliness and anxiety so it was nice to reflect on the highlights of 2021 but also mention the lowlights at dinner last night, with each of us taking a turn to speak around the table. It’s been a blessing this Christmas if you haven’t caught COVID-19 (which I think now is likely to happen to all of us hopefully with less dire consequences) or had to isolate – and if you were able to spend the day with your biological or logical family – it’s a win in what’s been a gruelling year not only for Melburnians but everyone else around the world.

If you have someone to love who loves you back whether it’s a partner, friend or family member (including a pet), then you’re doing OK! If you’ve lost someone you love or haven’t found love this year, then I am thinking of you this Christmas time. A new beginning is just around the corner and I have no pithy or wise words to say this year just that I hope it’s the dawn of a better and brighter time for all of us in 2022.


Orient Express

It’s been busy leading up to Christmas as much as I’ve chosen day-time walkie talkies with friends instead of dinners out with end of year and pandemic fatigue. I walked to Burgundy Street in Heidelberg on Saturday meeting friends at The Pepper Tree cafe (two doors up from The Train Yard cafe and across the road from the Salvo’s Store). There are some new businesses opening with Doctor Dumpling (below) catching my eye! While on Sunday, I met friends at Ora cafe in East Kew and walked the Darebin Creek trail past Alphington Grammar and La Trobe Golf Club all the way to Sparks Reserve in Ivanhoe and back. I have slowed down to walking rather than running at this time of year even though metaphorically I think I am limping to the finish line.

It’s nice to see more sustainable Christmas options as gifts this year including directing your money towards Melbourne businesses that need the support or donating to organisations such as the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre if you shop with Your Grocer. Recycled, local and sustainable fashion options are also much kinder to the environment. It’s been interesting reading about second hand fashion stores selling solely on Instagram and this upcycled denim skirt (below) by KITX has caught my eye as much as I lack the budget to buy! I’m also enjoying looking at the fashion choices of Carrie and her SATC friends on And Just Like That

KITX denim skirt

I’ve been to the inner city twice this past week with the ANZSOG Christmas party on Wednesday at the Emerald Peacock Rooftop Bar in Lonsdale Street which while a bit cool weather-wise, was still lovely. It’s not far from another recommended summer outdoor dining venue Pepe’s Italian & Liquor. Things were pumping a bit harder at Johnny’s Green Room in Lygon Street Carlton which I walked past yesterday with my family as we had al fresco pre-dinner drinks at Milk the Cow (where I spied this cool Kung Fu bottle below in the window of Bottega Tasca Fine Wine & Spirits) and dinner at old favourite University Cafe after watching sci-fi movie Dune on the big screen at IMAX Melbourne. We also enjoyed browsing at Readings which has just opened another outpost at the Emporium in the city.

Speaking of Kung Fu, you can catch Jason Phu: Analects of Kung Fu inspired by martial arts and showing for free at ACMI and we loved watching Marvel movie Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings as a family. It was also uplifting to know that a second Cantonese Red Emporer restaurant has moved to the former Shark Fin House site in Chinatown and if you’re in the area this coming weekend, Melbourne’s Chinese Museum is also holding its Christmas Open Day on Sunday 19 December.

Heal the world

It’s a lofty ambition but a lovely thing to think about this Christmas – some peace in, and for, the world which has suffered so much these past two years. The second extended lockdown in Melbourne has also affected a few people I know more significantly even though the moment has now passed. It will take time for us to re-adjust and re-set but I think Christmas and the summer ahead will be good for that.

It was timely to hear about the healing garden at Heide Museum of Modern Art in Bulleen opening last month as a place to ‘restore equilibrium’. I sought refuge last year in Sunday Reed’s Heart Garden there near Heide I so it’s nice to know there is another place to go to for solace. The Heide Makers Market has also re-started with the next one being held on Saturday 11 December and a reminder you can park in nearby Banksia Park and walk through to Heide past the holly bush if it’s crowded.

Heidelberg Makers Market retailer
Lene Kuhl Jakobsen ceramic mug

We’ve been lucky to have a dog as pet therapy over the pandemic and it’s therapeutic to pat a dog or a cat if you have one. For those that don’t, you can now cuddle a cat at the Cat Protection Society in Greensborough which is a great idea if you have allergies in the family or can’t commit to owning your own cat at this time. Pets are for life so you need to be ready if you take one on as much as they also become a very much loved member of your family.

I also love the look of this book (above) The Cat Who Saved Books by Japanese writer Sosuke Natsukawa – it would make a thoughtful Christmas present for the cat lover in your life. I’m looking forward to turning to my head to Christmas after having not one, two but three birthday celebrations last week for the December babies in my life.

Boca Gelato Ivanhoe (above and below)

It’s been good to dine locally for these celebrations and with the warm weather last week, we had sushi and gelato at Toyama and Boca Gelato mid-week in Ivanhoe. I was impressed with both the style and different gelati itself at Boca where you can also buy their signature ice cream scoops at the front. We also went out the following night for Mr Rosanna’s birthday dinner to Umberto Espresso Bar (which has a newly opened rooftop bar) in Thornbury located diagonally opposite the Thornbury Picture House. Umberto’s owners also run Italian wine bar Joanie’s Baretto – another place I’ve not yet visited but on the list.

I spent last Friday night at Narai Classic Thai in Station Street Fairfield having the set dinner menu as we were a large group celebrating a milestone birthday. I blogged about using the (Australian owned start up) Mr Yum app at the table to order meals at last weekend’s brunch with my girlfriends, but Narai Thai took it one step further with a robot waiter bringing out our meals which was a novel experience! I think artificial intelligence and robotics won’t necessarily replace human contact, but make person-to-person and face-to-face interaction and experiences all the more important in retail, hospitality and events. You can’t escape the future but only embrace it as everything changes and nothing stays the same.

Narai Classic Thai restaurant
robot waiter