Monday, 28 October 2013

Happy Blue Melbourne Monday

Welcome to Melbourne, Australia!

We're gearing up for our big Melbourne Cup holiday weekend... Yes the whole city grinds to a halt for a horse race on Tuesday 5th November! And guess what? No-one has told the weather that we're all going to be on holiday next weekend, it is grey and bleak looking all week...

Last week the news was full of dreadful bush fires raging in New South Wales and yet Melbourne residents were battening down the hatches coping with rain, hail and strong wind bursts. 

We were supposed to be playing our first cricket match of the season last Thursday but the pitches were waterlogged...

So let me take you back a few weeks when Spring had arrived with all the promise of a good one and skies were blue... 
SouthBank, Yarra River looking towards the Eureka Tower.
Melbourne struggles to compete with Sydney's wow factor. There is a constant competition between the two places as to which is better. Of course this is a bit of a one sided debate as Sydney'ites refuse to enter into any such discussion, believing there is no debate. Sydney wins!

Sydney certainly enjoys a spectacular setting of the Sydney Harbour with it's iconic Opera House and Harbour Bridge. Here in Melbourne, we do like to think that we are the place to visit for sports (and dare I say it culture?) and of course, we are the world's Number One Most Liveable City  - is it boasting to add for the third time?!

Whilst Melbourne originally flourished on the banks of the Yarra River, in more recent years the city has tried hard to develop another waterfront area, the Docklands. This former swamp turned docklands home to wharfs, heavy rail infrastructure and light industry fell into disuse  with the containerisation of shipping traffic and for a while became home to Melbourne's underground rave dance scene... (C'mon! It's proof that Melbourne's hip and happening..)

Thankfully urban renewal, with the promise of the area becoming a major tourist destination and home to over 20,000 people kicked in. The area attracted the national headquarters of a number of banks and companies, and the area is slowly (very slowly, many Melbournites would argue) living up to the hype.

But breaking news I think it's getting there! This new leisure and retail complex is gradually coming to life.  Many fine restaurants enjoy the lovely water views. You can find Harbour Town Shopping Centre, and my favourite drawcard to the area - Cosco (just call me sad! )

But wait there's more...Have you been to Ice-house? It's Australia's largest ice sports and entertainment area, home of the Olympic Winter Institute of Australia.

Many high rise apartment blocks have now been built taking advantage of the scenic views over the water. You could even berth your boat downstairs in the Victoria Harbour D'albora Marina, although a friend tells me you need $3000 AUD per week for the pleasure.

Melbourne Star Ferris Wheel with cabins under wraps
One of the most visible landmarks in the area since 2006 has been a large ferris wheel. However the wheel which finally opened to the public in January 2009  (two years behind schedule) was closed after only 40 days of operation due to structural defects, including cracks and buckling.

So it has been exciting to watch the rebuild. This wheel was expected to attract 1.5million visitors to the area and it is no surprise that the Docklands traders who have suffered as a result of the inoperable wheel, are calling for the Melbourne Star's reopening as soon as possible.

No date has been announced but it must be getting close! All 21 refurbished cabins of the 120 metre, $100 million wheel have now been installed. 

Melbourne Star seven years in the making!

The Melbourne Star was purchased earlier in the month by Sanoyas Rides Corporation. The word on the town is that the much troubled Melbourne Star will be alright now that the Japanese are involved!

It looks to me like the Melbourne Star is just what is needed to attract more visitors to the Docklands area. I hope is opens soon!

Do you have a large Ferris Wheel near you? Or have you been on other Ferris wheels in other cities such as the London Eye?

Hope you have a good week, I'm off to sort out my horses for the Melbourne Cup. I'm afraid my red hot tip from a few weeks ago Puissance de Lune pulled up lame after Saturday's Cox Plate and has now been withdrawn from the Melbourne Cup. So don't rely on me for any good tips ever again!!!

Linked to Blue Monday
Thank you to Sally! 
Please pop over by to see Sally and the other Blue Monday participants if you can!

Smiling Sally

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Victorian Spring Racing Carnival - Feeling blue at the races.

The Victorian Spring Racing Carnival is a massive nine weeks of horses, hats, and huge cameras. We were thrilled to join 25,000 other keen racegoers for the Beck Caulfield Guineas Day. Not least because the Caulfield Guineas is a top racing day, but especially as our very own Little Miss Hussy is entered for one of the lead up races.

Fashions are a huge part of the day, with strict dress codes for those planning to be in Members'. Whilst the popular 'Fashions on the Field' competitions are not for everyone, it is fair to say that for the most part making an effort in appearance is, in some way or another,  part of the day. 

My own 'What am I going to wear?' fashion dilemmas, have been blogged to death. However today I am sporting a new black and white fascinator which I am very happy  about because it modernises my look by a good ten years, and doesn't give me a cracking headache like  my hats or the hairbands!

Looking around, the majority of women arrive dressed to the nines in pretty, floaty, colourful frocks and various spectacular items of millinery. The men have scrubbed up equally as well in smart shirts, ties, tailored trousers, jackets  or suits and occasionally a hat too! 

It was a perfect sunny October day and it was going to be great to see our horse finally back on track after her interrupted Spring training. Here we are rocking up to our fifth racecourse, having watched our filly win as a two year old at Sandown and Caulfield previously. She came second a few weeks ago at Moonee Valley and third at Morphettville, in South Australia.

Hats, horses and huge cameras at Spring Racing Carnival
Racehorse ownership is full of excitement and definitely you have to take any highs with the majority of lows that you inevitably get. 

Over the years we've had our share of bad luck when it comes to racehorse ownership. We had a horse with ability who became injured, (once after he kicked himself in the stable!) Another horse who never lived up to his full potential, and now we are faced with the situation that the best horse we've ever owned, got a slight sniffle a few weeks ago, right in the middle of her vital preparation for the Spring Racing Carnival. 

It is rather like getting glandular fever (mono) in Year 12, there is not much that can be done about it, other than time and rest, neither of which is freely available when you have race deadlines. So despite the horse being turned out for rest, relaxation and recovery, and clearing all vet's inspections prior to racing, she came a disappointing fifth in her race on Saturday. She is now back out at grass until the autumn enjoying a spell with the spring sun on her back.

Jockeys and TV camera's
We drowned our sorrows at the extremely crowded Connections Owners' Pavilion, which is a covered alfresco area with lounge seating, food and bar facilities, bookmakers and most important to us, huge TV screens so we can watch again and again, the replays of the race. 

We remembered wistfully the last time we were at Caulfield in the BMW Winning Owners Bar, an exclusive area rather different to what we experienced on Saturday. With 55,000 thoroughbred racehorse owners in the State, racehorse ownership is clearly thriving in Victoria! 

Having said that, we were treated to a glass of bubbly and a lovely gourmet barbecue by the Melbourne Racing Club followed by afternoon tea which cheered us up. It is hard not to enjoy the Spring Racing Carnival!

We watched some of the best horses around and the day ended with a concert from Aussie band Birds of Tokyo.

Our lass bottom left and right before and after her race

So that's it! We now
 have our weekends back, no kids sport, no horse racing, It's a while till the Test Cricket and even longer to the Aussie Open tennis. 
What shall we do? Do you fancy coming surfing? 
Here is a photo from our recent weekend at Wilson's Prom.
We do have the whole summer ahead - so life's pretty good here!

Linked with the following blogs:

Alphabe -Thursday
Thank you to Jenny Matlock and her inspiration with the letter V

Jenny Matlock

Favourite Things Blog Hop
Thank you to Katherine

Blue Monday. 
 Thank you to Sally and the other Blue Monday participants.

Smiling Sally

Please pop by to see the other participants of these great Blogs if you can!

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Wilson's Promontory National Park

Whilst most of Melbourne was in the grips of footy finals fever, others of us were escaping to the country for an away from it all weekend break.

The 'Prom' as the locals call it, is the southernmost tip of the Australian mainland. It is a three hour drive from Melbourne and Victoria's oldest, and number one National Park. The park covers over 50,000 hectares and includes pristine beaches, rain forests, huge granite mountains and rugged offshore islands.  
Sunset at Norman Beach
It is easy to see why it is one of Victoria's most-loved places. It's popularity means that the on-site accommodation is allocated yearly by ballot. In January all 484 campsites, cabins, group lodges and wilderness retreats at Tidal River will be full to the gunwales, allowing for a maximum of 4000 overnight guests. The Prom receives around 400,000 visit each year!

We were lucky to be staying at the 24 bunk Arthur Lucas lodge to celebrate a dear friend's  birthday, and what a weekend it turned out to be. We had the full gambit of weather from storms and wind gusts up to 122km per hour, to sunshine and balmy days.

Tidal River's tea tree coloured waters
After our arrival on Friday evening we took a short stroll from our lodge to Norman beach. Initially we follow the brown murky looking waters of the Tidal River, discoloured by the large numbers of tea trees present in the area. The water itself is very clean and clear they tell us!

This beautiful Norman beach offers stunning views of Mt Oberon and returning at dusk we pass a gaggle of wombats, one dressed for dinner complete with red and green earrings.  

The Prom is home to abundant wildlife and you'll never walk for long without seeing or hearing animals. Whether it be the screech of a cockatoo, or the song of the cicadas. Kangaroos, koalas and emus abound and the native birdlife provides a splash of colour.  

Walking back to our cabin we notice unconcerned, lolloping wallabies and even the odd echidna snuffling through the undergrowth.

Stylish wombat with earrings
The next morning the weather turns nasty. Arthur Lucas lodge has an undercover BBQ area, so we are still able to have bacon and eggs for breakfast and watch the wild storm approaching through huge panoramic windows. 

As the tea trees bend and break in the wind, and the rain turns to sleet, we abandon an earlier plan of a long walk with a picnic lunch. We munch on the earlier prepared sarnies enjoying the warm, dry comfort of our lodge.   The Park Rangers have a busy day clearing storm debris as the wind gusts get up to 122km/hour.

Storm watching from inside. 
A break in the weather allows us to explore the Tidal River campsite and facilities. The General Store is well equipped with basic supermarket items, souvenirs and camping gear. There is a Visitors Centre, where the Park Rangers will help you plan your walks and activities, there is even a cinema. 

Just to answer a couple of important questions, yes the whole campsite is plumbed with flushing toilets and yes internet access via mobile phones works

Loving the Blue Wren range of merchandise!
We buy a beanie and head out the brave the elements. The umbrella is immediately inside out. We find some shelter amongst the tea trees as we head off to have a nosey at the Wildness Retreats, making a mental note to enter the WIlson's Promontory ballots for next year - these look fabulous. 

By the afternoon with the worst of the storm behind us, we set off on our hosts favourite Prom walk from Darby Saddle to Darby River, via Fairy Cove and Tongue Point (9.4km). We start by leaving a car at the Darby River end to enable a car shuttle back to our starting point.

Given the wild weather we are forced to clambour over, across and through, fallen trees however, we are relatively sheltered amongst the bush.  On occasions when we get to a look-out, we feel the full force of the winds and hang on tight. 

It's blowing a gale out there, hang on tight!
It is a spectacular walk with a bit of everything, from bush scenery to beach views. We decided not to make the trip out to the exposed Tongue Point in favour of visiting Fairy Cove. A steep winding path finds the beach at full tide with the waves lashing the steps. The walk eventually cumulates in the climb from Fairy Cove over a headland with the winding Darby River below. We descend into the car park, glad to see one of our parked cars to shuttle us back to the start of the walk.

Descending down to Darby River
Dinner for twenty-four is a team effort with our hosts having arrived with a trailer full of delicious food and the best in Aussie wines. The mountain of food is transformed into a delicious roast lamb, potatoes and salad appearing from seemingly no-where.  Catering to be proud of, including gluten free and celiac dinners. Followed of course by a huge array of birthday cakes as dessert.

The Arthur Lucas lodge has a tremendous sitting/dining area so there is ample space for everyone.
Delicious food appeared out of no-where!
Entertainment is provided by some talented group members who compose a moving birthday tribute song which will be long remembered for it's ability to bring the audience to tears, despite the chorus of 'Don't forget to put your Dog Poo in a bag!' 

A couple of the younger members followed with an impromptu concert, their gifted singing and guitar playing a welcome end to a lovely day. 

Picnic Bay - one of the many beautiful beaches as Wilson's Prom
The next day, the weather turns on her charm, and with the sun on our backs, we head off for the short drive and walk to Picnic Bay where the keen and brave enjoy the bracing surf. 

The Prom beaches are known for their excellent surf, but the area has dangerous currents and rips. In the summer months lifeguards are present at Norman beach and learn to surf lessons are available.

The beach is wonderful to walk along and rock formations at both ends of the beach offer a range of rock pools to explore.

Our time at Wilson's Promontory is over all to quickly. It is easy to see why it captures the hearts of many holiday makers who return year after year to enjoy the areas delights. 

Thank you for the invitation for a wonderful weekend. 

Looking forward to a return trip for longer in the future.

Little Wandering Wren

Linked to:

Outdoor Wednesday

Thanks to the hosting group of
Our World Tuesday:
 Arija, Gattina, Lady Fi, Sylvia, Sandy and Jennifer

Wishing everyone a wonderful week!

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Happy Blue Monday at the Races

Melbourne Cup Carnival Preview Day
Saturday 5 October 2013
They don't call Melbourne the sporting capital of Australia for nothing. 
We move from the footy season into the racing season, with barely time to draw breath. 

Certainly you need to be keeping an eye on forthcoming events, otherwise you will find yourself like me, caught short. You see two weeks ago beanies, scarves and a meat pie were the order of the day... 

Now we're into heels, floaty dresses, with something other than a beanie on your head, whilst we enjoy canapés and champagne! 

The orange hat below is mine from ten years ago, to the left and the right were what the girls are actually wearing these days. So to say my hat is a tad over-the-top is a fair summary of the predicament I found myself in Saturday morning...

Added to the pressure is the fact that the invitation comes with the compliments of the Chairman of the Victorian Racing Club (VRC) to attend lunch and afternoon tea in the Members, Committee room in honour of gaining full membership into the VRC. 

Now there is something you should know about Melbourne, membership of the VRC and the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) make certain social events a lot easier. Neither establishments can you walk straight into, indeed with the MCG people often put their kids names down at birth. 

Thank you to those of you who answered my call 
There was encouragement to 
Wear the hat, 
but I bottled, and decided to go for my other hat also from a long time ago, my black hat.
Wrong decision 
as is it turned out, well probably slightly better than 
No hat, 
in the Committee Room but I got the impression I had the look of someone who either Couldn't be bothered with hair - true
Or because it had a veil 
Couldn't be faffed with make-up - not so true 
Or who was off to an upmarket funeral - that's just rude, it's not that old!
I loved this hat, 
in it's day it was great!

Anyway apart from my Fashion On The Field fiasco, we had a lovely day. The champagne flowed freely, we had a lovely lunch and afternoon tea and also got to take a sneak peak at some of the best horses around.

We went to check out the horse stalls and they were posh. Just look at those burgundy fluffy towels in each stalls. Each horse had a digital name plate, and you could almost eat off the floor, it was so clean. Well ok, maybe more if you are a horse or bird, but you get my drift? Here these horses are groomed and pampered to perfection.

This horse below was caught chillin' before the big race & has obviously nodded off...

But let me introduce you to one of the stars of the track at the moment. Here is a sneak peak at one of the hot favourites for the Melbourne Cup, called Puissance De Lune.

Puissance de Lune

Melbourne Cup is the first weekend in November, we even get a days holiday to watch the race. 

The Melbourne Cup Carnival covers several days racing. Saturday is Derby Day, Tuesday is Melbourne Cup, Thursday is Oaks Ladies day and Saturday is Emirates Family day. 

We watched from the back of the stands as Owners cheered when their horses came in a winner 
We are hoping to be back racing with our horse next weekend - time to go shopping to find some more appropriate headwear!
Thank you for stopping by!

Linked to Blue Monday
Please pop over by to see Sally and the other Blue Monday participants if you can!

Smiling Sally

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Orange You Glad it's Friday 5th October?

Well hello, remember me? 
I'm the one who disappeared in the middle of the school holidays without even a polite goodbye... 
I'm sorry. I didn't expect to be gone so long. 
I brought you flowers and a gift to make up. Can you stay for a cuppa?
I'm not quite sure what happened but now I plan to #GetBackOnTrack 
in more ways than one...
How about a nice cup of Malaysian Tea for a change?
It's been revolving doors here... 

Our two Home Stay Year 12 school students from Hong Kong and China have just finished ten days of mock examinations for the International Baccalaureate Diploma. Never in the history of our household, has every exam taken, been deemed  as "very good".  

I'm, of course taking full credit for this. Putting their success down to healthy dinners, and the extra mental boost they get from the copious amounts of lime juice and jelly beans I have supplied!
Some serious studying going on at our place
Our sitting room was offered as a makeshift study hall, where for three weeks they could leave out their books. It has been transformed into a mini library, the exam timetable posted to the fireplace mantle. You should see the books.  They arrived in a minibus, trundling suitcases groaning under an impressive array of literature and past IB exam papers . 

With our open plan living my three teenage kids come bounding down their stairs each morning to be faced with students already hard at work - A perfect example of how it should be done. 

I would put this in your face illustration of how the rest of the world works to achieve academic success, as one of my finest achievements of the September school holidays!!!

Barrots, was one of my lesser accomplishments. 

With a full house I seem to have been cooking a lot, this hols. I haven't done it without help. Above is a perfect example of why you never send your husband to the grocery store to get broccoli. Just look what he came back with...and not a broccoli head to be seen.

It's called a barrot. A cross between beetroot and a carrot, and he hates beetroot! We had a long conversation about whether I should cook it in the same pan as the carrots. But he assured me that carrots don't turn everything orange...

As you know, I get away with a lot on the culinary front because the majority of our house guests have never left their country of origin and I boldly carry it off as 'Australian', whatever my disaster. Well not so that evening.

Everyone was suspicious of my dinner. The barrots were, granted a talking point. But the slightly pink dyed carrots... 

Ermm moving swiftly on, drink anyone?

The Cups Estate vineyard, Mornington Peninsula
Yesterday we enjoyed lunch at the Cups Estate on the Mornington Peninsula. Daughter No 1 took this photo and we love the vines reflected in the wine glass. She's been here there and everywhere this holiday showing her visiting British boyfriend the sights. 

We counted we've had ten trips to the airport this holidays for various family members. I told you it's been revolving doors. 

Daughter No 2 gets back from competing at the Australian University Games in Queensland today. They will come away with the Women's Football Silver medal, after the Grand Final went to extra time. 

We've enjoyed a few parties these holidays, last weekend we were in Wilson's Promontory at the southern most tip of the State. I will blog more about this next week.  But in the meantime here is a teaser photo, It is spectacular.

Picnic Beach, Wilson's Prom, Victoria

Even the dog has had a lady friend to stay, with eight in the house and two dogs, that's it. I put the 'closed for business' sign up on the front door. Full. No space in the Inn.

We are starting to think about the Tennis in January - The Aussie Open tickets go on sale next week and they have just announced the biggest prize money ever, good news for the players! Here is the Crazy Poodle and his lady friend in front of our local tennis courts.

Mutt and Molly

Well can't stop I've got a big invitation for tomorrow. We're off to the races. So I've got my orange hat out to show you, last worn at Melbourne Cup 2003. I'm think of wearing it tomorrow. Well why not? (apart from hat fashions having changed in the last decade...)

Two problems, we've sadly not got a runner tomorrow (our lass is out at grass) and that means no car parking space at Flemington so I might look a tad OTT on the train. AND we're buying a vacuum cleaner on the way, which is a huge excitement, sad person that I am. I will definitely look a tad over dressed in Godfrey's tomorrow with my hat on. They have a sale so it will be a scrum...

I have put a call into a friend to check and apparently there will be hats in the Committee Room at the Victorian Racing Club on Saturday. My kids are doubtful as to whether I should/could carry the orange hat off. They said I should put it out there on Facebook...

Hat - Hot or Not?
Whadda you think?

Do pop over to see Maria and the other OYGIF posts if you have a chance

Orange You Glad It's Friday