Financially Independent, Retired Early(ish) at 57.

Category: Little Adventures (Page 1 of 2)

Little Adventures #16 – Norf Melbourne. August 2022.

Yesterday I had yard duty at the traffic lights on East Boundary road before school, so I thought I’d wear my Oodie to give the kids a bit of a giggle. It turned out to be a big hit with the parents dropping their kids off. I got plenty of laughs and thumbs up.

Not being one to let a good thing go to waste, I also wore it later in the day.

You see, Jenna, Evan25’s girlfriend, is in a play that is being performed in a dance studio in North Melbourne. Both the pre-show email and Evan25 warned me that the room gets very cold, so I decided to rug up in comfort. It turned out to be a wise decision. I was the frumpiest person there, but I was also one of the few not shivering by the end.

That room must have been cold. Even in an Oodie, my hands got slightly cool by the end. I mean seriously – I’m a menopausal woman in an Oodie! But the kids have to find performance spaces where they can.

The day before, I was talking to Blogless Helen and she reminded me that I had to move fast to fit in a Little Adventure before August ran out. Oof. This is why I didn’t start these things until after I retired. When you’re working all week, there’s not a lot of time to set aside to do things like this.

As I drove to North Melbourne to park the car near the dance studio before taking a walk to meet Jenna’s parents for dinner, I realised that despite living in Melbourne for (almost) 59 years, I’ve never been here before.

This is really unusual. When I was a Thermomix consultant I drove all over the place to deliver machines and do demos. So, as I was walking to the pub for dinner, I decided that a walk through North Melbourne will have to be my Little Adventure for this month. Sorry.

I know it’s lame, but at least it isn’t as pathetic as the Little Adventure I had when we were in lockdown and I couldn’t go more than 5KMs from my house! At least this time I’m on the other side of the city! You know, after that Little Adventure last year, I’ve never been back to the other side of the bridge…

A creek near a railway station. I took this on a little bridge while I was still enthused about my 20-minute walk. I hadn’t yet seen the hill that awaited me.

I liked the name of this business.

This reminded me of when we were in Beijing. We saw bikes like this all the time when we were there.

Lots of views like this.

To be honest, I’m not a huge fan of inner-city suburbs. They just look grimy and concrete-y to me. There’s not enough green. I know lots of people swear by living here, but for me? Nah, not a fan. I find them depressing.

By the time I was walking along, most building sites had shut up shop for the day.

The walk was longer than I thought it would be, so I was happy to finally get to Harriman’s hotel.

Jenna’s parents turned up a few minutes after I did and we had a lovely meal together. They’re based in Adelaide and they make it a point to come over for every show the kids do. They’d booked tickets for Saturday night, so we parted company after they (thankfully) dropped me back at the dance studio.

I’m very lucky with the families of the girls my sons have chosen to be with. I get along really well with both sets – which is something that parents have no control over. The heart wants what the heart wants, but sometimes it brings with it the family from hell. So far – touch wood – we’ve avoided this.

Evan25 and Jenna graduated from their theatre degrees nearly 2 years ago. If they want to work in their chosen fields, they’ve realised that along with going to auditions, they have to write and produce their own shows. This particular show was written by a friend of theirs and was produced by the theatre company that Jenna and 2 friends have started.

I applaud their initiative. I don’t think I ever had the degree of get-and-and-go that these young people have.

Dad joke of the day:

Little Adventures #15: Creswick and Ballarat. July 2022.

Finally – the girls’ weekend arrived! Working towards Financial Independence involves a lot more things than money. One of these things is having the means and the freedom to set up experiences for the people we love. The timeshare that I bought many years ago and then barely used is now really coming into its own.

This timeshare runs on points, so I’m not tied to just one place at the same time every year. Since I retired I’ve been on 6 holidays and have used it to give a week away in New Zealand for David28 and Izzy’s honeymoon next year. I’m determined to never waste a point again. Now it was time for the girls’ weekend at the Sebel in Creswick.

I went up to the townhouse in Creswick a couple of days early, as I had to book 4 nights to secure the weekend that we wanted. On Friday, I was sewing on the 5,000+ piece quilt, (hereafter named ‘The Sea Glass quilt’) when I glanced at the tv. A HUGE kangaroo was reflected in it.

Sure enough, on the other side of the driveway was a big old man roo. I didn’t go near him… those guys can tear a hole in your abdomen if you annoy them… but I took some photos.

You know you’re in the country when there’s a roo outside your house!

The girls arrived on Friday evening and we all settled in. Izzy – David28’s fiancee; Jenna – Evan25’s girlfriend; and Ashley and Kate – my nieces. They’re all really great girls, and are all pretty much the same age, ranging from 25 – 22, so they all have lots of things in common.

After a night spent talking and sipping a few bevvies, we awoke the next morning hungry for adventure. Jenna met Evan25 when they were both doing their acting/music theatre degree in Ballarat, so she was our official tour guide.

The first stop was a patch of bush in Blackwood. Apparently it’s Evan25’s favourite place in all the world, which is a bold claim. Then again, he hasn’t seen a whole heap of the world yet, to be fair.

It’s a pine forest with lots of walking tracks/BMX paths through it.

Ash and Jenna decided to race to the top of one of the bike jumps.

We were walking along and someone saw that a cubby house had been built in one of the trees. It had fake grass, a chair and a pole to slide down.

Noice!

I took this photo of Izzy to send to David28, to show him that his beloved was an intrepid woman of adventure.

(In reality, we bonded over how unfit we were. The others were racing around like mountain goats while we were sucking in air and trying not to sound as if we were dying.)

A cave. Jenna warned us that we didn’t want to go in there. I didn’t ask for further information.

The next stop was Ballarat, to a trash and treasure place called ‘The Old Mill’. Next door was an ugg boot shop. Ash mentioned that she was looking for new uggies so we went in.

She found the perfect pair on the bargain table outside.

Kate found a pair of slip-on slippers inside.

Honestly, I’ve never seen anyone so delighted by a purchase. She was giggling and skipping around like a 3 year old! Definitely an awesome souvenir!

Then we ducked into The Old Mill.

As I was wandering around I saw this massive hexagon quilt. It was double sided, with no filling in between.

And hand-sewn. It must have taken some poor woman YEARS to complete.

Jenna found a most fetching hat to try on.

Everyone but Izzy and I bought something. Izzy has a wedding to pay for and I’ve just given all my money to Tom30, (plus there’s Antarctica coming up!) so we were very restrained.

Good on us.

After all of that, we needed some lunch, so we went to a dumpling bar near where Jenna and Evan25 went to uni.

The lunch special. Not bad for $15.

After that, we went back to the town of Creswick to see what was happening there. It used to be a typical country town, but in the years since I brought the boys here for a getaway it’s become a bit bougie and trendy.

We went to a beautiful clothes shop and what was supposed to be a hardware-type place but had the most bewildering range of utilitarian and gift-shop items that you could imagine. It was obviously trying to please both the locals and the tourists.

The sisters and Jenna bought some beautifully scented bath salts. Did I mention that the apartment we were staying at had a couple of massive baths in each room? So big that you could almost swim laps.

Ashley and Kate decided that they were going to have a bath. This is the shot I sent to my sister.

This weekend was NOTHING like the weekends I’ve spent away with my boys. Conversations about eyebrow threading, hairstyles, fashion, home decor… it was a whole new world.

Ashley decided that part of her contribution to the weekend was to make mulled wine in the thermomix. After dinner on Saturday, as we were settling down to a night of card games, drinking and laughter, she revved up the thermie… I made her use the old ‘antique’ version… and she served us a glass each.

It was so good!

Two girls brought soju.

People who’ve read my account of when I went to North Korea will know that we downed many a bottle of soju while on that tour! I used to say that my lifetime of drinking had prepared me well.

Soju in Australia has many different flavours, which tones the original flavour down. Drinking soju isn’t for the faint-hearted. It’s VERY strong. We decided to have a taste test, with Jenna pouring a smidgeon into our glasses and we rated them. Watermelon, pomegranate and peach were the best, though the peach made me think of peach schnapps.

However, I was the only one who could drink the original flavour, which honestly tastes like rocket fuel. The girls couldn’t stand it, but it made me nostalgic. This was the only soju we had back in North Korea. I ended up taking the bottle home with me. No way I was going to let that little taste of the happy times in the DPRK go to waste!

And to finish – here’s one of the games we played. So much laughter and fun!

I decided to try and get the girls together when it dawned on me that despite being part of the family for 4 years, Jenna and Izzy had NEVER had a conversation without some or all of the boys being around.

That’s just ridiculous.

I invited the nieces for a couple of reasons.

First – the apartment sleeps 5, so it made sense. Frogdancer Jones always likes to get more bang for her buck.

Secondly – and most importantly – women are the glue that holds families together. If you’ve been reading this for any length of time, you’ll know that I always have a view for the long game. These four young women are going to be moving the family through into the future. It makes sense for them to get to know each other on a deeper level than merely “meeting for Christmas.”

This weekend turned out even better than I hoped. I mean, I knew we’d have a good time. None of the girls are bitches (thank God!) and they already get along.

It was a weekend of conversations, laughter and bonding. We had so much fun. All 5 of us went home knowing everyone so much better, which made me very happy. Jenna and Kate live near each other and they were making plans to meet for dinner with their partners and to see each other’s houses. How lovely is that?

Now they’re all REALLY looking forward to David28 and Izzy’s wedding, because there’s a deeper connection than just being David28’s cousins.

Kate and Ash got to spend ‘sister time’ together, which is really special once long-term partners enter into the picture. My sister was so happy that they got to do this.

We know that Izzy is a smiling assassin in games of strategy and Kate and I are excellent partners in wordplay games.

We know that Jenna is never happier than when she’s got a task to organise and Ash is that rare breed of sports fan who can actually watch a game of footy with the sound turned down. Thank goodness. I hate the sound of sports commentary.

We also know how much they all love their partners. There was no whingeing about them at all, which is a fair feat seeing as they’ve all been with their partners from 2 – 5 years. They seem to have chosen well… even the ones who chose MY sons!

I knew that we’d all get along, but this was next level. I was so happy to spend time with them all and have time without partners and other family members diluting the mix. I think my family is so very lucky to have them all in it.

They were asking if we could do this again next year. I think that an annual girls’ weekend could be a truly excellent tradition to have…

Dad joke of the day:

What’s the difference between a literalist and a kleptomaniac?

A literalist takes things literally.

A kleptomaniac takes things, literally.

Little Adventures #15: Manly Beach. June 2022.

So this is the photo Tom30 sent me at 4 PM on the first day of my holiday. I was 800kms away in Bowral, checking in. They were there, thinking, “Any moment now, Mum’ll be home from work! She’s been gone ALL DAY.”

Poor babies.

BUT…

… holidays like this one are so special. They’re like retirement on steroids.

Sure, I’m retired and can do what I feel like doing – even doing some CRT work if I want to. But I still have dogs and people relying on me to do things. Here, on holidays like this, I’m totally free to do whatever I want.

This time, I stretched that to the limits by refusing to plan anything before I left. All I had were the accommodation bookings of 2 nights in Bowral and 5 nights in Manly Beach.

Everything else was left blank. I was able to fill these days however I chose.

I did a bit of this over 2 days, just chipping away at it. When I was at Bowral I didn’t even leave the room! I read a couple of books and did some sewing and watched some ‘Better Call Saul.’

One morning in Manly Beach, for a couple of hours, I sat just inside the room with the balcony doors opened and sewed, listening to the sound of the ocean every time the machine paused. It was lovely.

When I’m on these Little Adventures where I stay overnight somewhere, unless I’m meeting people, I always race around during the days and when twilight hits, I make my way back to the room and spend the evening inside. Safety first! As a solo-travelling woman, I have to keep in mind that some people are crazy.

So when I reached Bowral I went to the supermarket before I checked in. I’d already brought vegemite, crackers, a couple of tins of tuna, chips and chocolate from home, so I bought butter, dips and a couple of frozen meals for dinner.

Not exciting, but then, I’m not much of a foodie.

So, once I checked in, I was free to hunker down and be totally self-indulgent. Besides, I’d been to Bowral last year for a Little Adventure so I knew what was around there. Well, it was a Little Adventure BEFORE I started doing them.

However, all bets were off when I got to Manly!

The last time I was in Sydney was 13 years ago when the boys and I stayed for a week at Darling Harbour. We did the bridge climb – which is when I found out that my youngest son is scared of heights, oops! – and raced around to aquariums, Taronga zoo etc.

Never made it to Manly Beach, so this time around I was going to poke around and have a look at the actual harbour and see what Manly itself has to offer.

It was winter (obviously) but it was a sunny day. While I was waiting for my room to be ready I walked along the foreshore, stopping every now and then to read a little from my book, then walking again.

This was a Nippers surfing class. My kids were never involved with the Nippers but my nieces grew up on the beach, so they were heavily involved. They loved it.

I took this shot when I was sitting reading. I looked up and loved the shades of blue.

When I checked in, went to Coles for more supplies and got back, it was twilight and I sat on the balcony and gave Mum a call. She was in rehab due to taking a tumble and fracturing her pelvis a few weeks ago. As I was talking, two lorikeets decided to visit. (I popped my foot there for reference.)

I thought that was as close as they’d come, but I was mistaken. We get lorikeets in Melbourne now – not ever when I was a child – but they’re not as fearless as this!

The next afternoon, after a lazy morning reading and sewing, I decided to see where the Manly wharf was. I was idly planning to jump on a ferry on Wednesday to see Sydney Harbour.

When I got there the water was choppy. I thought, “Bugger it! I’m going to be travelling across the Drake Passage in December. Let’s have a choppy ferry ride today!”

Turns out that it was good decision to make. Fortunate Frogdancer struck again, though I didn’t know it at the time.

I walked around the harbour with the bridge and Opera House for a while. Obviously, Melbourne is bY FAR the best city to live in, but even I have to admit that Sydney’s harbour is glorious. Our Port Phillip Bay can’t hold a candle to it.

Here’s a bin chicken I saw at The Rocks.

I don’t know if my overseas readers know, but Captain Bligh, of ‘Mutiny on the Bounty’ fame, was a Governor od New South Wales in the later part of his career.

If memory serves, he was pretty bad at that job too, but I could be wrong.

I liked how you could be walking through The Rocks and the bridge would just pop up, seemingly out of nowhere. It reminded me of Paris and the Eiffel Tower.

This place has some of the oldest buildings in Australia. I chuckled when I remembered a man in the UK asking me what I was most excited about seeing while I was there. I said, “If you have anything over 200 years old, I’ll be happy.”

He smiled and said, “I think we’ve got you covered!”

Tuesday was a lovely day. I mentioned before that the last time I was in Sydney was 13 years before. On that visit, I left the boys Home Alone for an evening and went to a blog meet of all of the Sydney bloggers in our little blogging circle.

Fifi La Stupenda was one of those women. That was the only time I’ve ever met her IRL, but we’re friends on FB. For the past year or two, I’ve been posting a couple of Dad jokes a day there, and apparently Fifi’s been enjoying them. When I posted a photo of the view from my balcony at the Sebel, she contacted me and suggested we meet for brunch.

Although she lives a couple of bays away, Manly Beach is a reserve and so for someone who swims in the ocean every single day as she does, it’s worth the drive to swim among fish, sharks and other underwater creatures. Far more interesting than just bare sand!

She goes to Manly to swim nearly every day, so we arranged to meet for brunch at a café near the beach.

It was a gamble for both of us – it’d either be a raging success or it’d be a stilted conversation. But, as it turned out, we were there for 3 hours having a lovely time, so much so that we agreed to meet for lunch the following day. That’s where the ‘Fortunate Frogdancer’ thing from Monday applies. If I hadn’t taken the ferry on Monday I wouldn’t have been free to have lunch on Wednesday.

It’s funny how things have a way of working out.

After brunch I walked to the Manly Gallery to see what was there. There were a couple of exhibitions about refugees, which were ok, but I vastly preferred the sculpture of the tree outside:

On the way home I stopped at a shop/gallery featuring indigenous art. Now, THIS was fantastic! Who knows what I might have walked away with, but I knew I was going to be spending around 6K on flights, accommodation and insurance for Antarctica when I got back to the room.

I wasn’t feeling very spendy about anything else.

This is what the water looked like while Fifi was having her pre-lunch swim. I never use filters on my photos – this is what it looked like on the surface. Apparently, she was swimming with the ‘sweetest’ little grey nurse shark under those waves.

She took me to the café near the old Quarantine Station where we saw this magnificent view of the harbour. It was nearly dinner time when she dropped me back at the hotel. Say what you like about blogging, but it certainly draws like-minded people together!

The next day I drove home, accidentally leaving my reading glasses and sewing lamp in my room. What a doofus I am! The service at the Sebel for the timeshare is impeccable though – they’re posting them down to me.

As I said at the start, a holiday like this is retirement on steroids. I had total freedom to do as much or as little as I wanted, with the freedom to grab opportunities as they came up. It was a lovely little break from my regular life, with the added bonus of being able to hear the sea whenever I was in my room.

It was wonderful.

Dad joke of the day:

Little Adventures #14. Mt Buller etc. May 2022.

Many many years ago I bought into a time-share. I used to call it my second-biggest mistake, but now I’m not so sure that it was. (A mistake, I mean.)

I was attracted to this timeshare because of its relative flexibility. It uses points and has about 20 or so properties across Australia, New Zealand and Bali. You can use your points to reserve holidays across any of the properties – as long as they have the vacancies for when you want them, of course.

Mum and Dad have a couple of timeshares in Bali, but these are the old-style ones where you are only able to go to the same property at the same week/s each year. That doesn’t suit me. I want to be free to see new things.

I bought into it back in 2006, just after I took the boys to Bali. I wanted to take them on more trips away and I thought it would force me to do that. I also had the VERY long-term thought that one day… having the points and properties available would allow me to give the boys accommodation for honeymoons to help save them money.

I’ve now found an unexpected benefit. When I bought into the timeshare, I bought into a level that allowed me to use a 3BR apartment for a week each year. I needed the space with the 4 boys. Now that I’m travelling on my own, those 5,000 points a year can be broken up into many more trips. If I feel like being luxurious, a 1BR space is more than ample. A studio apartment is perfectly fine if I want to squeeze more value from the points.

Last week I was THRILLED to be able to book David27 and Izzy’s honeymoon accommodation in New Zealand. I play the long game in a lot of things and so it was incredibly satisfying to have a plan come together.

But when I was on the site, I saw that I had just under 5,000 points that needed using up before June 30 this year.

Yikes! With all of the lockdowns last year, it completely slipped my mind that this could happen. I grabbed a calculator and a calendar, logged onto the website and started reviewing my options.

So far I’ve booked a week in Manly Beach in Sydney at the end of June. Then I thought, ‘What am I doing this coming weekend?’ Nothing on the calendar… so I looked at what was available within driving distance. The Sebel Pinnacle Valley resort at the foot of Mt Buller had a 1 bedder free.

So off I went.

I arrived after dark on the first night, as I picked up a CRT day at school. I brought food (of course – the restaurant on-site is expensive), so I had a relaxed night in front of the tv and rolled into a bed I didn’t have to share with Poppy and Jeff.

The next morning I was woken by kookaburras. I was enchanted. I know I’m in the country when I hear this!

After a leisurely breakfast, I decided to go for a walk around the lake. The air, being up so high in the mountains, was cold and crisp, but it’s not snow season yet so it was pleasant. (Snow. Ugh. So uncivilised!)

As I was walking I heard the kookaburras again, along with lots of magpie song. We have maggies at home, but their song is beautiful. Here’s a clip for overseas people who might not have heard it:

I’m a bit cross with this photo because the kangaroos were far closer than it appears. Anyway, here are some kangaroos!

I finished the lake circuit and headed back, where I saw this:

Remember last year when I collected 9 garbage bags full of leaves for the veggie garden? I had a few garbage bags in the car so I helpfully unblocked the drain.

A short time later I was in the car and driving down the driveway. I decided I’d turn right once I hit the main road. I had a vague idea I’d explore a little country town or something.

I had no idea that the next stop was Mt Buller.

The road is pretty much a one-lane-each-way all the way up the mountain for about 20 kms. I imagine that it’d be pretty frustrating during snow season, but I was literally the only car on the road. I zipped up there, really enjoying the drive with no slow coach in front of me spoiling it.

Same on the way back.

Along the way there were some pretty spots:

When I reached the Mt Buller resort, I decided that I’d park the car somewhere and walk to the summit, then come back and grab some lunch. The place was pretty much a ghost town. There were a few people around, but mostly, I had the place to myself.

I found a track to the top and set off.

It was a cold morning and rain clouds were gathering. I didn’t bring a coat but I figured that I’d be fine with just a jumper. The track was clearly marked, but steep. At first I was walking fast but then it occurred to my mighty mind that I wasn’t racing anyone, so I took my time.

I don’t know if anyone else read the Silver Brumby books when they were a kid? I loved them. As I was walking, I was wondering if maybe there were brumbies hanging around on the mountains.

The chairlifts looked almost sculptural, hanging motionless.

I kept walking. This mountain track kept going up. And up. And up.

At one stage I was thinking about turning back. The clouds were coming closer and I was getting out of breath. But then I saw these signs… taunting me…

I knew I had to keep going. No building was going to taunt me and get away with it!

But as I kept walking higher, the clouds descended. I was so very close to the top, but when I looked around all I could see was this:

And this:

However, soon I had to call it a day. The clouds descended and I couldn’t see more than a few metres in any direction. I was so close to the summit, but I wouldn’t see anything if I got there.

I decided that close enough was good enough – no point busting a gut if I couldn’t see anything when I got there – and walked back down, starting to think about lunch.

To my chagrin, as I was walking down I was passed by a car.

You mean I could’ve driven all the way up??!?

Anyway, I made it back to the car and drove around, looking for a cafe.

My plan seemed like it was about to come undone. NOTHING seemed to be open! The one time I decided to treat myself to a meal and this happens!

Fortunately, I asked a workman and he pointed to two places. One was nearby, the other was up quite a steep hill.

LOL. As if I’d be walking up another steep hill anytime soon!

Imagine this place in a couple of weeks time in the snow season, once the snow has started to fall. A Saturday lunchtime. I’m sure the place would be full.

I ordered my meal and settled down with my book.

I really liked this quote. Just thought I’d share.

The pear and rocket salad was delicious!

After I had lunch, I wandered around the place on the way back to my car.

There was absolutely no one around.

There didn’t seem to be anything left to see here, so I jumped back in the car and headed down the mountain again.

My original plan was to see what was around in Merrijig, the closest little town to my resort, but there’s no actual town, just a couple of pubs. I kept going and hit the next town, Mansfield.

As I was driving through, I saw this cute little cellar door for Ros Ritchie wines. I’ve never heard of them, but the thought of a little wine tasting on a nippy autumn afternoon sounded Just The Thing, so I went in. Sip some wines, buy a bottle to be polite, read my book while I’m doing it.

The joint was jumping. They had a bus tour out the back, with 50 people tasting the wines. There were 2 parties going on and some couples enjoying wine and cheese platters.

The young guy running the tastings sat me by the fire and then gave me a menu.

“All the tastings are free,” he said, which surprised me a bit. Last year when I went to the wineries in South Australia with Jenna’s parents, there was a charge per head to do wine tasting. He asked if I wanted to start with a sparkling wine, but when I said that i still have 8 bottles left over from David28 and Izzy’s engagement party, we started with a white.

This guy was so good at his job. He was racing around looking after everyone inside, but whenever he came back with the next wine for me to try, he’s stay and have a chat about the flavours and aromas. I didn’t feel neglected at all. In fact, it was entertaining watching him keep all those plates spinning! When I got home I sent an email to the winery, commending his work.

I walked out with 5 bottles. It was very nice wine.

It was getting close to 5 PM, so I headed back to the resort. I had a voucher for a free drink at the restaurant, so I settled in beside the open fire with a cheeky shiraz and my book. The autumn colours were able to be seen from every window and it was too early for the dinner rush. I enjoyed the vibe until my iPad ran out of batter and my book died. Home to my room and a ‘Big Bang Theory’ marathon.

I had a plan for the next day to drop in at the Healesville Sanctuary on the way home, but I think I’m the sort of traveller that once the car is pointed towards home, I just want to get there. Is anyone else like that? I saw the turn-off to Healesville but took the turning for Melbourne.

This was a very peaceful, relaxing break. As much as I love my house, it was lovely to get out and see mountains, trees, cows and kangaroos instead of suburbia.

Plus there’s not too many driveways that look like this where I live – ESPECIALLY with the best footie team!

I’ve popped the wine I bought at the winery away. Later in the year, I think it’ll be cool to open a bottle and remember my little getaway.

Dad joke of the day:

To the person who stole my place in the queue – I’m after you now.

Little Adventures #13: Cranbourne Botanical Park. April 2022.

Remember last year, when people from our pasts reconnected on Facebook because we were all in lockdown and had lots of time on our hands? After things eased up, I went on quite a few reunion lunches and coffees.

On one of these, I heard how a school friend’s husband was working at the Cranbourne Botanical Gardens. I’d vaguely heard about this place before, but when Blogless Sandy mentioned that her walking group had been there and really enjoyed it, I decided to use it for my latest Little Adventure.

(Basically, when I retired I decided to take a Little Adventure once a month. I’ll go somewhere/do something that I never have before. What’s the point of freedom if you don’t explore a little?)

When I got there I made straight for the lookout, which was perched on the highest part of the whole area. Here I found a map of the place. I decided to save the top part for a further Little Adventure sometime in the future and to hang a right just after the Perched Swamp and walk along the bottom part of the property.

That’ll be enough for one morning!

So I set off. The track was on a gentle incline. One thing I really didn’t like about this place is that they didn’t allow dogs, so the little woofs had to stay at home. But further up the trail I spotted two labradors. Turns out they were Assistance dogs being trained.

I didn’t want to muck up their training so I held back while they went up the lookout tower first. While they were there I saw this sign underneath:

Phew! Thank goodness there wasn’t a cloud in the sky!

I climbed the steps to the top of the lookout and surveyed my surroundings. The assistance dogs were disappearing down the hill.

I don’t know what’s causing the sparkle on the horizon, but it looked pretty.

It was a bit of a shock to read that on a clear day I could see both Port Philip and Westernport bays from here. Despite having lived here for 6 years, I haven’t yet made the adjustment to realising that I’m far nearer the Peninsula than the city.

Anyway, after a long look around, I set off down the track.

Isn’t this lovely? It’s a little door under the fence so that echidnas can move through.

To be honest, most of the walk wasn’t that exciting, view-wise. This was the usual ‘vista’… fairly boring scrub. But the air was fresh and pure and all I could hear was birdsong and my feet crunching on the gravel.

That wasn’t so hard to take.

Then I got to the turnoff to the Perched Swamp and went down the path. I found this bit really interesting.

If you read the sign, it turns out that this patch of land is like a teacup suspended between the dunes. Water seeps in and it turns into a swamp. Hence the name – the swamp is perched, suspended (in a way) between the dunes.

This hasn’t been filled since 2001, which goes to show how dry this area is. The photo on the sign shows a vastly different view than the one I was seeing.

Two wallabies were having a snack to the right.

If the sign wasn’t there, you’d never dream that you were looking at swampland.

That’s the edge of the ‘teacup.’

A little further along the main track, I saw the sign that told me to diverge and take the road less travelled* to the wetlands.

*Just a little nod to the literature buffs.

Looks inviting, doesn’t it?

All this time I was walking along, totally alone (as I thought), just enjoying the day. I was walking in a shady part of the track, totally alone (as I thought) when I saw a tree with bright green moss on it.

Still walking, I suddenly stopped dead and lifted my phone to take the shot when something moved. For a split second I froze. A woman walking alone NEVER likes unexpected movements near her.

Then I saw…

And something else moved…

They were so close to me! I was so rapt. What an absolute gift.

If I hadn’t have stopped unexpectedly to take that photo and scared the living daylights out of them for a split second, I never would have known they were there.

Here’s the tree with the moss, by the way. Just in case you were wondering.

Considerably buoyed by my wallaby encounter, I set off again. The track turned sandy and then I found the lake.

I walked off the track to get closer, trying to avoid stepping on the wallaby poo that seemed to be everywhere.

Then I saw a duck!

It was even better when she turned out to have ducklings. I stayed there for a while, just enjoying the vibe, then I set off again. My next goal was to get back to the car park.

That quilt isn’t going to make itself.

This part of the walk seemed to go on FOREVER. I was glad I brought my hat as it got quite sunny. I saw a couple of Mums with prams in this section, and I caught a glimpse of the assistance dogs a long way behind me.

Look! Some more duck-like things!

They were a brilliant shade of blue, though it’s only on the left-hand one in this photo that you can get an idea.

I kept walking.

I had no choice…

It was a long track with not much to look at. Fortunately, I had my thoughts to keep me company. I find myself very interesting.

Before you label me as egotistical – just imagine if I didn’t find my thoughts interesting. How awful would that be? You can never escape yourself. You’re always with you, so you may as well enjoy it.

This was quite interesting. When I was walking up towards it I couldn’t make out what these strange little boxes were. Nesting boxes for endangered birds?? Turns out it was far more scientific.

Started wondering if dinosaurs lived in the bush as well as wallabies.

The track had curved and we were back in the trees again. Surely I was getting closer?

I’m a busy woman. I have things to do at home.

Plus, look at how close those trees grew together. Crazy.

There’s no real reason for this shot. I just liked the colours.

Success!!!!

This was a long walk for me because I’m very unfit, but it was easy. The paths are well maintained and there’s no way you could stray off them and get lost.

When I was talking to Blogless Sandy about it, she mentioned that I’d apparently chosen the most untouched part of the garden to explore. This means that when I next choose to go back, I’ll be wandering around a more planned part, which showcases Australian plants.

Should be good.

All in all, I enjoyed this Little Adventure. It’s nice to think that in these modern times there’s some land so close to the city where for a split second wallabies and humans can scare the living daylights out of each other.

Good times.

Little Adventures #12: McClelland Sculpture Park. March 2022.

It’s an absolute bonus when I can bring the Little Woofs with me on a Little Adventure! This month’s Little Adventure was extremely close to home – it only took about 10 minutes to drive there. I’ve been here 6 years and have never taken the time to go and have a look, but yesterday was the day!

Now that I’ve decided to pick up a few days’ CRTing, I woke up Monday and thought, “What if I get work for the rest of March and miss out on my Little Adventure? I knew I had this day free, and though the siren call of the quilt with literally 5,000 pieces was calling, I decided to throw Poppy, Jeff and Scout into the car and go and see this park.

The McClelland Sculpture Park is set on 8 hectares of bushland. It also has an indoor gallery, but because I had the Little Woofs with me, I didn’t bother to go into that. There was plenty to see in the grounds alone.

We wandered around, with only a couple of other people that we saw from a distance.

The photos I’m showing are only a small sample of what’s there – these were the ones I liked the most.

This one is probably my favourite. I rounded a curve in a path and there it was. It’s fabulous.

I don’t know if you can tell in this photo, but the rocks aren’t sitting on the ground.

They’re suspended. So beautiful.

I took a photo of this because it reminded me of the Buddhist burial ground we saw in North Korea.

See? Obviously they’re not exactly the same but there’s a definite similarity. I took this on my walk when I was totally alone on the side of a mountain in the middle of North Korea.

Life offers some surprising things sometimes, doesn’t it?

I wish this came with a soundtrack, because this piece emits sounds.

The sculpture park has a boundary with a busy road, so at first there’s a constant hum of traffic as you wander through.

But as you meander further into the property and the bush surrounds you, the traffic noise fades and all you can hear are birds.

The Little Woofs loved it. So many smells! Kangaroos, wallabies, foxes… you name it, they were sniffing it.

There’s a nice blend of abstract and more naturalistic sculptures.

There are peaceful paths wending through the property, with artwork popping up, sometimes when you least expect it.

This one was tucked in a little glade.

This one reminded me of the Eureka Tower in the city.

See? Practically identical!

They’ve popped this poor guy on an island. Here’s a close-up:

This was a very time-efficient Little Adventure. All up, it took just a couple of hours from go to whoa.

I’m very sure we didn’t see everything that was on offer, but that only means that we’ll have to come back again.

Dad joke of the day:

I used to have a job cutting holes for trapdoors in theatres.

It was a stage I was going through.

Little Adventures #11: Heronswood. February 2022.

Last week my sister Kate rang and asked if she could spend the morning with me, as her car was being serviced and she couldn’t get a ‘loaner’ car. Of course, I made room in my hectic schedule (heh heh).

“We could go and grab a coffee and maybe take a walk around K-Mart,” she said.

Dear God in heaven. Does she not know me at all?!?

I decided to whisk her away to grab a coffee in a place that was far more interesting than sitting in a mall or on a city street. I hardly ever buy coffee when I’m out, but for her, it’s one of life’s pleasures. So we drove to Dromana, to the gardens of Heronswood.

Heronswood is one of the gardens that Diggers operates. It’s perched on a cliff overlooking the sea, with both ornamental and working vegetable gardens and orchards. They specialise in heirloom plants, which means that you can save the seeds from plants you grow and then use the seeds next year.

I’ve been a member for a while now. I don’t mind supporting them because I think they do really important work. Seeds should be able to be saved.

Lots of different sunflowers were planted around one of the veggie patches. Look at the bees in the middle of this one!

Along with the huge gardens, there were also little ideas like this planted around. I still think most succulents are ugly, but over time I’m warming to some. I thought these ones looked nice.

As we wandered around we came across this citrus orchard. The huge terracotta pots have rosemary planted all around them.

Here’s a close-up. I like the way the pots are positioned not in straight lines, but so they look appealing from the steps above.

We liked this espalier – it’s so well-established that the support wires have been taken off and the branches stand outstretched on their own.

The gardens are full of little outdoor ‘rooms’ like this.

Here’s Kate heading to the café for that much-anticipated coffee.

We stopped at the nursery on the way out and I bought some Evening Primrose plants for my hanging baskets. According to the gardeners, this plant is “as tough as nails” so let’s hope they’re correct. Four of the hanging baskets are in full sun all day and the petunias all curled up and died.

I was happy with this Little Adventure. It was only a short one, but it was by far more memorable than a gallop around K-Mart!

Dad joke of the day:

There’s a new music band called 999MB.

So far, no gig yet.

Little Adventures #10: Miss Marple’s Tearoom. January 2022.

Cute café.

I know I said in my last post that I’d be devoting my days to reading the latest Outlander novel, Go Tell The Bees That I Am Gone, but I knew that I was rapidly running out of month. I decided to wait until the kids went back to school on the last day of January and take myself off to Miss Marple’s Tearoom in Sassafrass.

If you’ve never been there, it’s worth clicking on the link and watching the video. It gives a really good feel for the place.

Quaint interior.

I know that the Little Adventures are meant to be places that I haven’t been to before, but Miss Marple’s almost qualifies. I’ve only been here once and that was when I was in my twenties.

I never forgot the scones, though.

Monster scones.

Look at the insane height of these things! I put the teaspoon in there for perspective. I remembered how filling they were, even from decades ago, so after I finished yoga this morning I didn’t eat breakfast. I thought I’d better treat this Devonshire tea as a brunch.

Devonshire tea. But with coffee.

I was starving by the time I sat down – at a table by the window; how delightful! – but I still couldn’t finish them.

So yummy though.

Page 469. Halfway there!

Even though I only needed one seat, I wasn’t there alone. I brought Claire and Jamie Fraser with me. I’m halfway through and I’m loving it.

But ohhh… I’m so very glad that I was born in an age that has discovered electricity. ‘Women’s work’ back then was hard work.

Red lillies in a vase.

The tearoom itself is full of pleasing little details, such as fresh flowers on every table.

Row of teapots above a doorway.

There’s also a row of fat teapots running around the room over the top of the doorways. The music playing was utterly in keeping with the whole vibe of the place, being old WWII songs.

The whole place was charming.

I thought of it as January’s Little Adventure because 2 people on Facebook went there. Both are completely unrelated – one was an ex-student and the other was an old school friend. It was a SIGN!

Outdoor art gallery.

After I’d finished my brunch and waddled out, I took a brief walk up the main drag, visiting a nursery and a couple of art galleries/gift shops. I would’ve liked to walk a little further afield, but I had in the back of my mind that this was Ryan27’s first day at his first job as a myotherapist, so I wanted to be back in time to wish him good luck and see him off.

It was a beautiful day for a drive into the Dandenongs. It was even more beautiful to think that if I hadn’t have found the FI/RE concept, instead of being out in the fresh air and sunshine, I’d be stuffed into a classroom with 28 kids, an air purifier and we’d all be wearing masks.

You know, I’m quite liking this retirement thing.

Dad joke of the day:

Joke.

Strictly speaking, not really a dad joke, but gee it made me laugh!

Little Adventures #9: The most hilarious Little Adventure of them all! December 2021.

The last Little Adventure for the year was a very special one. My son Evan25 and his friend have written and performed in a show. Long term readers of this blog might remember when he went off to study an acting degree in Ballarat, when I wrote a post about what my second-generation FIRE kid has learned about money.

Long term readers of the Frogblog would know that Evan25 was that really interested 11-year-old bobbing around reading over my shoulder as I typed the very first post back in September 2007.

Now, 14 years later, I was travelling into the Melbourne CBD to see his first show. I snuck into the Tuesday night show on my own (and had a lovely long debrief with Evan25 the next morning) and I’d also got together around 15 people, family and friends, to see their closing night.

There’s a special kind of joy that comes from seeing your adult child doing the work that they love. Especially if that child is actually good at what they’re doing. Thankfully, their show was excellent. So very, very funny.

His girlfriend Jenna’s parents flew over from Adelaide on the weekend just to see the show. Both of my boys who are partnered up have been fully embraced into their girlfriends’ families, which is a beautiful thing to see. Jenna’s Dad said to me after the show, “At one point I was laughing so hard I got dizzy!”

The following photo gives the synopsis of the show:

As Evan25 said to us on the day we were all finally able to get together after the lockdowns, “It’s just two silly boys on stage. It’s not going to change anyone’s life.”

I said, “That sounds exactly what we all need right now!”

There was one act where there was a jaded female butcher running through her wares, making lots of food jokes. This was Evan25 in an apron, with a shower cap on his head, miming sucking a ciggie. Then, in the middle of it, I hear, “$18.45 a kilo??? Quoth the raven, ‘Nevermore.'”

The first thing I asked him the next day was, “Did I hear an Edgar Allen Poe joke in there???”

He laughed. He said, “When we were writing it Will didn’t want to keep that joke – he said it wasn’t funny and he didn’t get it. I said, ‘Trust me – my Mum’s going to LOVE it!’ I kept that joke just for you.”

He also had the $18.45 price there because ‘The Raven’ was published in 1845. “It’s just a little joke in there for me – no one will ever notice it but I know it’s there.”

He also played a character called Tim, who is a battered-around-the-edges sweet transvestite. Turns out that my boy can really rock a pair of 5″ heels and has a tuck to die for. He has long legs and they look surprisingly good in fishnet stockings. The audience laughed so hard each night when he emerged from behind the curtain in that outfit – I don’t think I’ve ever been more proud. 🙂

Usually, I bang on about being frugal, but this Little Adventure was the priciest one yet. Performers don’t make a lot of money from ticket sales – the venue takes the lion’s share. Where the people who actually produce the show make their money is from the merch. So, of course, I bought one of everything.

But that’s why frugality is so terrific. I save money on things I don’t care about so that I can spend on the things that are important to me, such as supporting my son and his friend.

The very best thing about seeing the show again on Saturday night was watching my family and best friend really see what Evan25 can do. They know him as the funny guy at family gatherings, cracking wordplay puns and one-liners, but they got to see him in all his glory. It was very special as a Mum to bask in their amazed joy at just how funny he is.

Dad joke of the day:

Did I tell you about the time I fell in love during a backflip? I was heels over head. 

Little Adventures #8: Enough is Enough. November 2021 catch-up.

Hooray! Live theatre is back in Melbourne! Next month my son will be performing in a play that he and his mare wrote together, which I already know will be hilarious, and his girlfriend will also be performing in a musical the following week. So I’ll be Kulture Vultured by Christmas, which is just the way I like it.

As a warm-up, on Sunday I popped along to see this play, Enough is Enough. It was sponsored by my local council and the price was definitely right. (The ticket was free.) It was held in a new-to-me venue a couple of suburbs over, which definitely makes it eligible for the catch-up Little Adventure I needed. (I missed October, due to lockdowns and putting my back out.)

Let’s hope we are never again in a spot where my Little Adventure for that month was taking a walk on the other side of the bridge. Oof. I’m all for living a quiet life but that was ridiculous.

Anyway, back to the play. The blurb said that it was about gambling and was written by an award-winning local playwright called Kieran Carroll, with Tim Costello talking afterwards. Sounds like a worthy way to spend a Sunday afternoon, doesn’t it?

Interestingly, it was worth it, but not because the play itself was fantastic. It was ok, but what really stood out was the talk that Tim Costello gave at the end of it.

One of the things he said was, “We all know how the rest of the world feels about America and its gun culture. We all think they’re crazy. But what we don’t realise in Australia is that the rest of the world regards our gambling culture in exactly the same way… they think we’re crazy.”

Apparently Australia has around 75% of the world’s pokies, and they’re all in local pubs and clubs on every street corner, except for Perth. In WA, all the pokies are at the casino, which is how the rest of the world does it. I’d never thought about it before, because I’m definitely not a gambler, but having the pokies all through the suburbs makes it very easy for a gambling habit to creep up on people. The accessibility is too easy.

Anyway, he spoke for about 10 minutes or so and it was very interesting. Afterwards, I jumped back on the train and took a look at the new stations and was home in time for dinner.

Home-made pizza… mmm mmmm!

Dad joke of the day:

I used to work in a shoe recycling shop. It was sole destroying. 

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