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

 

Kitsch and kooky

Miss Jane’s Retro Retreat in Rosebud is exactly that – kitschy, kooky but most of all comfortable and we had a great time staying there this long weekend.  If you’re a fan of all things 50s, 60s and early 70s then you’re in for a treat.  Mr Rosanna and I particularly liked the parents’ annexe at the back of the house which comes complete with your own bar.  The house is also pet-friendly for well-behaved animals and I loved the fact that Miss Jane has supplied everything so you don’t need to bring or buy condiments, glad wrap, foil, soap, shampoo, laundry powder, towels, sheets or toilet paper!  It’s all those little touches which makes things so much easier when you go away.

Old school delights include a record player with vinyl records, electric organ, vintage crockery, board games of every description plus outdoor games for the backyard like shuttle cock and totem tennis.  The outdoor dining area with BBQ has distant views to Arthurs Seat and it was all very quaint and idyllic.  The house has air conditioning (and fans in bedrooms) and wood fireplace so would also make a cosy place to visit in winter and we would stay there again.

There was a lot happening down at the peninsula this Labour Day weekend including the spectacular Rosebud Kite Festival, Red Hill Show and Tyabb Air Show all in close proximity.  IMG_7108

Given we’ve been pretty tired in our household, we were happy to spend the warmer days hanging out at the beach and looking at the kite festival being set up on the foreshore on the Saturday.  I was also able to further indulge the retro theme of the weekend by spending an afternoon at the Rosebud Vintage Bazaar – a great place to go particularly for vintage clothing.  I came out with an Isabel Marant shirt as well as got my 70s boho on with a handmade knitted vest and some Brazilian leather wedge sandals in mint condition.img_7117.jpg

Autumn is upon us and there are many festivals and events on, over the next couple of months, which I will be posting about. I also love the trans-seasonal fashion and have discovered a number of Melbourne labels with clothes all made locally in small batches including Iko Apparel, FME Apparel and Caves Collect.  I’ll be back with more later this week.IMG_4101

The last hurrah

Mr Rosanna and I booked a last-minute holiday at McCrae a couple of weeks ago for this Australia Day long weekend and boy, we’re sure glad we did.  It was our first time using Airbnb and we booked 1A on McCrae located right behind the Blue Bay cafe (popular with cyclists and dog owners) in the little strip of cafes and restaurants off the service road near the Nepean Highway.img_5404Our accommodation was pretty simple and basic but what it lacked in style it made up for in terms of convenience being right across the road from the beach and walking distance to the shops and cafes including the very groovy Merchant & Maker, pop up pizza restaurant Zero 95 (whose flagship restaurant is in Templestowe!) and the stylish and upmarket modern Greek restaurant Alatonero (above).  We had pizza and gelati the night we arrived in McCrae at Zero 95, both of which were very good.

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Gelati sign at Zero 95

We spent Australia Day morning on the beach in front of the bathing boxes before treasure hunting at the Rosebud Vintage Bazaar where I found a vintage Chinese silk jacket and Japanese dress.  It’s a great place to while a few hours away and has a retro cafe attached to it if you get hungry.  If you like 50s style fashion, you might also like the clothes from local label Pretty Parcel.

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Rye Carnival

In the evening, we joined the throngs of people at Rye who’d come to enjoy the carnival rides, live music and fireworks on the beach, which were spectacular.  We were so close we could feel the ground vibrating and if we held out our hands, it was like we were touching the fireworks (below).  It was well worth it just for the experience as much as I missed out on coffee from the Woodland Folk van as we dashed across to the beach from the Ferris Wheel ride at the carnival.

The next day we joined my cousins, who happened to be down on the peninsula at the same time, at the Ashcombe Maze.  Our kids had a great time running around trying to find the hidden gnomes around the place.  If you have bigger kids, the nearby Enchanted Adventure Garden where you can tree surf looks like a lot of fun but allow 2 – 3 hours for it if you go.  That night we took our kids to the Dromana Drive In to watch Moana which was also a great experience for Mr R and I re-living our childhoods complete with Aussie rock music playing in the background.  It felt even more 1970s when a blonde surfer couple, both with long hair and faded jeans, pulled up in their van beside us and then walked to the nearby playground pulling some pretty rad moves with their white frisbee.

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Ashcombe Maze Fountain

We spent Saturday morning trying the new Eagle Skylift at Arthur’s Seat, which has replaced the chairlift and has only been open since November last year.  It’s not cheap ($78 for a family of 4) for a 15 minute ride up and 15 minutes back, but you can buy single trip tickets and the views are stunning.  The cafe is up the top if you’re wanting a bite to eat while there’s only a kiosk at the bottom.  Go early to avoid the crowds, heat and wind but remember they do make you get off at the bottom and re-queue even if you have a return ticket.  The complimentary water and sunscreen is a nice touch as well as the entertainment (busker and balloon artist) at the bottom.


While we didn’t get the opportunity to visit Marlene Miller Antiques in Sorrento, we did drop into the Marion Rosetzky Gallery in Red Hill, which is located in a beautiful bushland setting where you can buy Marion’s Persian-inspired tiles in various forms.  There’s also a selection of jewellery, Buddhas, glassware and Fair Trade products from Africa and other places.

On our last night in McCrae we went to the early dinner sitting at Alatonero, which was empty when we arrived before being packed out within a matter of 5 – 10 minutes.  The food was sensational – we had the saganaki, chargrilled octopus and pan-fried calamari as starters followed by the 18 hour slow-roasted lamb with a Greek salad.  There is also a kids menu and choc tops on offer for them for dessert.  Drinks service was a little slow but we found out later that they were down one staff member, who’d called in sick.

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Mr R and me – Alatonero

We spent our last day on the peninsula at Point Leo as we met friends who are surfers.  We grabbed a bite to eat at the Point Leo General Store next to the Trigger Brothers surf shop before entering Raw’s Reserve where it’s $4 to go in.  Make sure you use the toilets at the camping grounds before you go to the beach because unless you’re a Point Leo Boat Club member, there are no toilets at the beach!  The little cove on the right side of the boat club is perfect for novice surfers and boogie boarders while the left side is better for sunbathers as there are less rocks to step on.  Sun shelters are a good idea as I managed to get sunburnt despite wearing sunscreen, hat, sunglasses and cover up.img_2983We’re back in Melbourne and I’ve been busy not only working on the Bold Thinking Series lectures but also the 50th Anniversary communications for La Trobe University, which I will post about soon.