Raise hell

IMG_8468Despite being raised in a family of girls, I now live with my family of boys and so have moved from fashion and frocks to football.  We saw Melbourne play off against Geelong at the MCG last Friday night (pictured below) and it was a great atmosphere as much as I had a pretty hoarse throat by the end of the night.  We joined over 90,000 people there and there’s just as many going tonight.  Football at the G is one of those quintessential Melbourne experiences whether you follow the footy or not and may the best team win this season.  There’s also some great street art featuring a couple of the boys currently on display in the city’s laneways.

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It’s pretty warm today but I think the weather is going to turn tonight.  If Mexican mariachi music is of interest the Heidelberg Symphony Orchestra’s Of light and darkness is on at Ivanhoe Girls Grammar School tomorrow, which isn’t something you hear everyday!

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I’m hoping the weather is better on Sunday as the Olivia Newton John Wellness Walk and Research Run is being held at La Trobe University, YouthFest 2018 in Macleod as well as the Montsalvat Arts Festival in Eltham.  Go Dees!

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Crazy Rich Asians

Grossly materialistic and over the top? Well yes, but I think that point was a bit mistaken by some of the film’s detractors given the intention was creating something all about froth and bubble on the surface.  While it’s a story about old and new money in Singapore and the prevalence of conspicuous consumption (tasteful and otherwise) in the movie Crazy Rich Asians (based on the book by Kevin Kwan) I really enjoyed its underlying, and universal, themes of family, love, duty, class, the transformative power of education and the importance of personal integrity, identity and self-worth. Class to me is not a question of birth but of personal values, and how these are demonstrated in different ways by different people.  Money doesn’t buy class, nor does it buy taste or style as I’ve previously said on this blog.  My sisters and I had a great time at the Kino Cinema (where the recent Persian Film Festival has been on) watching the movie yesterday and there was more pathos and depth to something that initially presents itself as being more light-hearted and lightweight.

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Image via Classic Cinemas

We’d caught up earlier in Chinatown at Shark Fin House for a quick yum cha where my Uncle George’s restaurant Golden Orchids can also be found in Little Bourke Street (pictured below on a somewhat dreary Sunday afternoon).  After decades of working in hospitality, my uncle has decided to finally retire and his restaurant will close at the end of the month signifying the end of an era.  Like much of the street, the old guard of Cantonese Chinese are making way for the new Mandarin-speaking northern Chinese and their dumplings.

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But back to the movie, it was surprisingly emotional and there is a pivotal, and powerful scene, near the end that centres around a strategic game of mahjong, another thing that reminds me of Uncle George as his late wife, my Aunty Faye, would play most weeks at their house and my sisters, cousins and I would marvel at how fast, and noisy, the game was.  I won’t spoil the ending but it’s also been lovely to see how many of my non-Asian friends have loved the movie as well.

The Italian Film Festival is about to start at Palace Cinemas this Thursday and if you’re looking for an Asian meal experience locally, Eltham Bookshop still had some tickets available for a special Adam Liaw Destination Flavour Literary Dinner also taking place this Thursday night at Noble House Chinese Restaurant.

The art of doing nothing

Mr Rosanna is also a writer and in fact more progressed along the path than me in that he’s actually started a manuscript for a book.  He’s also written his first published article  Are we forgetting to rest? on Medium considering the need for rest especially if you want to perform at your best regardless of whether you are an elite athlete, a parent, a business person or just someone struggling to keep up with daily life of work, study, family, friends and interests.

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I was out last night catching up with two ex-work colleagues at the very stylish Cru wine bar in Kew – an ‘all day Euro bar’ with functions and event space (pictured above and below).  It’s been there for a while and is a bit of a fave with the inner Eastern locals.  They have a serious selection of wine on offer, a bit similar to the Gertrude Street Enoteca in Fitzroy that’s owned by a girl I went to high school with, and the food was good.  Carnivores that we are, I had the salmon fillet and my two girlfriends a rib-eye steak and the veal.  There’s also the FLATIRON Side Door bar that’s part of the FLATIRON fashion and homewares store in East Kew that’s also a local favourite for those in the east.

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A couple of things to mention today.  Homewares store Lightly Design has a warehouse sale on today and tomorrow if you’re in the Collingwood area with samples, seconds and goodies with up to 70% off and the Heide Makers Market is on tomorrow in Bulleen and would make a lovely outing now that Spring is in the air.

Finals fever

Despite growing up in a family of girls, I now seem to have made up for it as the sole female (bar my dog) in a family of boys.  It’s finals season in my household not only in terms of the AFL but also with kids’ sports.  I’ve been one of the many team managers for the Banyule Hawks this season and it’s been a lot of fun.

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Spring has arrived and it was glorious standing outside bathed in the morning light today – the weather is going to heat up this week and it’s about time!  I’ve desperately needed some motivation although I did go out for a very brisk run yesterday afternoon and I hope you all had a great Father’s Day – or Mother’s Day to those single parents out there doing double duty.  It’s not always an easy day for those without a father in their life and I have a number of friends and family where this is the case.

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On another note, local artist Rona Green is selling two of her whimsical designs Fritz and Lionel (above) on antique white cotton/linen blend tea towels, which would look great framed and hung on your wall if not used in the kitchen!  Tickets are currently on sale for the Montsalvat Arts Festival in two weeks’ time being held on 16 September.  Their family-friendly HallowSCREAM event on 31 October also looks like a lot of fun if you’re a Nillumbik local.  My children have just celebrated Book Week at school, as most primary school children have, and their costumes will be getting a second airing for Halloween.  It was barely celebrated when I was a child but seems to have become such a big event with the baby boom that’s been going on the past 10 years or so.  Have a great week  and enjoy some of that sunshine.

Farewell Winter

I’m glad to see the back of you.  It’s felt a bit never-ending this year and I know I shouldn’t complain given I had three weeks in the Grecian sunshine but I don’t think I could live anywhere colder than here.  That being said, one of the things that impressed me about Greece was that many of the places I stayed in had powder coated aluminium framed double glazed windows and shutters that made a big difference in terms of insulation and noise.  I’ve had yoga friends also comment on the joys of installing radiant heating and if I can ever afford to do it, I would like it in my ‘keeper’ house as I don’t love the dust with central heating.  I grew up in a house with no central heating and I realise this is first world problems we are talking about.

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Double glazed window with shutter  – Naxos, Greece

I was in the city having a check up today and I think Melbourne has become increasingly polarised in terms of the haves and the have-nots.  It’s pretty heartbreaking walking some of the major city streets including Collins and Elizabeth, going past homeless people in a week that’s been bitterly cold at night to cap off this season.  While you can give people money, it’s addressing the causal issues and actions we can collectively take which I think is much more important to stop people getting to this point in the first place.  Melbourne seems to have grown at such a rapid pace the past 10 years or so and our infrastructure isn’t keeping up but I was glad to hear about the proposed underground suburban rail loop around Melbourne that will connect all our trains lines, Universities and airport.  I just wonder if it will happen in my lifetime!

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It’s been a sad week in the arts world with 90-year-old Mirka Mora passing away although it’s amazing that she lived to such an advanced age and still remained so young at heart.  Heide Museum of Modern Art in Bulleen has been raising funds since earlier this year asking for donations to commemorate her birthday in support of the upcoming Mirka Mora: Pas de Deux – Drawings and Dolls.  I was always happy to see her angel paintings on the windows of the original Heide I homestead building where John and Sunday Reed lived and where Mirka herself visited them as a friend.

Wishing you a happy welcome to Spring tomorrow and Father’s Day to those with Dads in your lives.

 

The F-word

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Image via Bold Thinking Series

Feminism that is.  Details are now online for Embracing the F-word: has feminism had its day? being held on 20 September featuring La Trobe academics – genetic scientist Professor Jenny Graves AO, a Vice-Chancellor’s Fellow who has had a long and distinguished career including winning the Prime Minister’s Award for Science in 2017 and Dr Beatrice Alba, an evolutionary psychologist.  They’ll be joined by musician, actor and broadcaster Clare Bowditch and young feminist writer and editor Bri Lee, who recently released her memoir called Eggshell Skull.  It’s a pretty powerful panel and I’ve already spoken to all the panelists who have much to draw from and contribute to what will be a very timely conversation.

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L-R: Dr Sara James, Natalie O’Brien, Francis Leach, Melissa Browne and David de Garis

I had my Smashed avo: is there a war on youth? lecture last night (pic above) at the State Library and it was a fantastic night with another very strong panel all with different perspectives and professional backgrounds which made for a very diverse discussion on the sociological, economic, business, technological and political intersection that we are now at.  My biggest take outs were that Gen X and Y women need to become more financially literate, Millenials have superannuation (if not housing) and opt in on issues online that interest them rather than swear allegiance to a particular political party or union (and that this generation needs to move from the activist space to policy in order to enact some of the change they want to see happen), Gen X have been largely silent because they are in the middle of juggling careers and family and not all Baby Boomers are out there spending their kids’ inheritance.  Some more creative solutions put forward included more social and co-housing as well as simplifying tax concessions, offering more incentives to downsizers and finance to those on short-term contracts, increasing Newstart and abolishing payroll tax.  I finished my night having a late dinner at Cookie with an ex-work friend and feeling a bit weary today.

It’s been an interesting week in politics given we now have a new Prime Minister and I do despair that young people are becoming more disillusioned and disenfranchised by the shenanigans of both major political parties in Australia.  Perhaps some more bold thinking (and action) required there…

The art of travel

Travelling with children is complicated as anyone who has travelled anywhere with babies or toddlers already knows.  Navigating narrow shop and cafe entrances with prams for the first time is a good lesson in what it must be like for physically disabled people who face these challenges on a daily basis.  The need to bring extra bags, clothes, feeding and sleeping items, transportation and equipment is also no small undertaking.  When the kids were that little we liked Mooloolaba on the Sunshine Coast as a destination given we could get a car with baby seats to pick us up from the airport and drive us straight to self-contained low-rise yet relatively new accommodation with a playground at the beach, an aquarium, marina and main esplanade with shops, cafes and supermarket all in close proximity to each other eliminating the need to hire a car.

With older children, travel has become less fraught physically but still brings other issues.  It’s been a very cold end to winter so now is a good time to book Christmas or other holidays and give yourself something to look forward to.  If you’re lucky enough to be travelling overseas anytime soon, I did want to share some of my travel tips before they became distant memories.

So in no particular order here goes.  Seat selection: it is worth taking the time to allocate and/or pay to allocate your seats well in advance on long haul flights.  If, like the majority of people, you can’t afford to travel business class then make sure you get the seats you want in the same row right next to each other so some of you can stretch out and sleep (although unless you drug your kids and yourselves, I don’t think there’s much sleep to be had when flying overnight).  If your children are over 12, you can be split up as a family as we were on our return flight (middle seats in the centre rows) which was not ideal.  As much as you get the views and perhaps aren’t disturbed as much in a window seat, aisle seats can be more comfortable/practical if you’re someone who likes to stretch their legs or needs to use the bathroom more frequently.  If you do have younger children, keep in mind that airlines generally allocate the first row behind the bulkhead in the middle of the plane to families with babies and toddlers.  If these haven’t been allocated (or there are no babies/toddlers on the flight) – you can try your luck and ask if you can be seated there before boarding the plane if you have extenuating circumstances.

If you have children under 8 and are travelling beyond Asia to somewhere further flung like Europe or the States, I would definitely recommend a stopover to break up the trip.  While this eats into your holiday time, I don’t think the stress of trying to do multiple trips back to back with young children is worth it.  Airport hotels are also a good idea if you just need to do an overnight stay and it’s worth paying more for the convenience of being right at the airport or as close to it as you can be.

Some American Express Platinum Card holders are entitled to two lounge passes per year but again, if you can afford it and your layover is more than 2 – 3 hours, I also think it’s worth the expense of buying airport lounge passes (often now run by third parties) to have a calm and quiet place to escape to where you can all sit down and relax for a period of time and get something to eat and drink.  Standard airport waiting areas can be pretty soul-less places and if you’re exhausted from travelling, any additional comfort you can get while in transit can make a big difference in terms of the whole travel experience.

In terms of packing, if you can fit all your luggage into carry-on you’re doing very well and it means you don’t have the hassle of having to wait after you get off the plane for your stowed luggage to come out.  Business travellers do this all the time but are generally staying locally for only a few days.  You may want to pack your toiletries (in a plastic bag in case of spillage) in your carry-on luggage and a change of clothes in case you get separated from your stowed luggage but this is pretty rare these days. Suitcases with wheels are the way to go or larger back backs with a daypack that can be attached and carried with ease.  We get the kids to take their own small suitcases as carry-ons and pack their kids backpacks flat in our stowed luggage which can be later used by our children if going to the beach or day trips.  At least one light drink bottle is also a good idea to lessen the amount of bottled water that needs to be bought.  Kindles are also great for downloading books rather than packing heavy books and a microfibre camping/travel towel or lightweight Turkish towel may also come in handy, as well as a shawl or wrap of some kind if you’re a woman.  Just be mindful to check your luggage allowance for individual items and remember that you can’t as passengers collectively add your luggage allowance together.  Also try to keep your visa(s) and passports together and I found a Kathmandu zip up shoulder bag with net pockets and other extras more practical to use as much as it wasn’t such a stylish look.  Mr R and I bought North Face daypacks in Vietnam many years ago and we took these on as hand luggage finding them useful when doing our day tripping around the islands to carry towels, bathers and food.  If going to a hot climate like Greece, you won’t need jeans and I found that one set of bathers and pyjamas was enough.

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In terms of first aid, I had gone to our GP to get additional drugs for vomiting and diarrhoea (charming topics I know) as well as a general antibiotic but had failed to pack them in my hand luggage, which I will do from here on in given I came down with a bug while in flight.  While this time around we didn’t need drugs for vomiting, we did collectively use the other drugs we had on our trip so this is well worth doing especially if you are travelling to a second world country but even if travelling to a first world place.  Taking some panadol, nurofen, antiseptic cream and bandaids are also a good idea but most other things can be bought if you need them like sunscreen, insect spray, sunburn cream etc.  Obviously if you are on medication, you need to bring that and possibly your scripts as well.  Don’t forget too to pack glasses, contact lenses, sunglasses, hats and elastic bands if you also need them.

I’ve heard hand sanitizer is better than using wipes but I took both as much as I dislike the alcohol and environmental impacts.  Tissues, ear plugs and eye masks are also handy as well as barley sugar and chewing gum if you get sore ears due to air pressure.  You can also buy a product called ear planes which some people swear by to lessen sore ears.

Whether you use drugs for sleep or travel sickness is a personal decision and I make no judgements.  I have in the past taken pressure bands for wrists and travelcalm (ginger) tablets as well as Bach Rescue Remedy spray and tiger balm to calm my children down.  I also like drinking ginger ale as ginger is a natural anti-nausea remedy.  Mr Rosanna and I also always take Kwells as none of us in our family are good on ferries and boats depending on how rough the water is.  You can buy phenergan over the counter at the pharmacy and use smaller doses for travel sickness and larger doses for sedation for kids bearing in mind that some parents find the side effects have resulted in hyperactive children instead.  I also know some people who are quite happy to take sleeping tablets or valium to knock themselves out (Mr R also thinks a glass of scotch will do the same thing!) but this is for older people only.  We brought neck pillows with us but they can be cumbersome to carry.  Some families keep their kids up the night before they travel so that they will sleep on the plane.  Devices for older kids are also a necessary evil for most parents as well as plenty of food and drink to help keep them all amused.

Mr R and I didn’t get an international drivers licence as most car rentals will accept a country licence although we were refused service at one of the larger car hire places in Paros.  It is also an experience to drive on the other side of the road seated on the other side of the car as we did in Greece although quad bikes are also an option if you don’t have kids and are up for a bit of open air adventure.  We took out RACV travel insurance but there are specific travel insurance companies like Cover-More®.  We also used a Global Currency Card (or travel money card) from our bank and ordered pre-paid international Sim cards from Sim Corner for our mobile phones as well as bought a Korjo travel adaptor to re-charge our many devices.

These tips are completely subjective and based on my own experience as a traveller – I hope that some of them may be useful to you as well.  The weather isn’t doing it for me at the moment so it’s nice to contemplate our next holiday destination as well as re-live some of our recent overseas travel experiences – the good, the bad and the ugly.