Monday, 30 December 2013

Our Aussie Christmas!

Hello there, 
I hope you had a lovely Christmas? 
We did! 

An Aussie Christmas takes some getting used to for those of us born and brought up in colder climes... 
'It just doesn't feel like Christmas!' 
we used to cry... 

It is crazy busy towards the end of November and early December. Whoever planned Christmas and end of the school year together, had to be not thinking straight...

My Aussie friends go for very few holiday decorations and minimal fuss. Why bother decorating the entire house when you leave for your summer holidays on Boxing Day or shortly after, and don’t come back till school starts at the end of January?

An Aussie Christmas and the beach beckons!
We start getting into the Christmas spirit mid December by arranging to meet the neighbours in a local park, BYO chairs, wine and nibbles. The whole street is invited, over thirty houses, and no-one has to clean up before everyone arrives. We are lucky that we have three parks at all ends of our street AND to have the weather that allows for this with a reasonable degree of certainty!

2013 Street Party
 It did get more exciting than pretzels and coconut water I promise,
but I was chatting so much I forgot to get the camera out!
Christmas Carols In The Gardens is another must-do local event. Everyone brings their picnics and enjoys a good sing-a-long and as the sunsets we light candles and wave them around...Luckily nothing ever seems to catch on fire and we go home singing... 
'We wish you a Merry Christmas'

Everyone turns out for carols in the Gardens!
The Christmas tree lights twinkle away but if it doesn't get dark to 10pm then you hardly notice...In fact there is a whole sorry tale to tell about 'Our bare and wilted Christmas Tree' (Post December 22nd) which is still looking a tad sad, after Australian quarantine impounded half our Chrissy decorations as a threat to National security...

There is something about warmer weather, combined with this Aussie laid back style that gives an Aussie Christmas a relaxed feel... Says the woman who didn't cook the turkey this year... Lucky us, we were invited round to a friends house, it was one of those lovely invites with an Aussie twist: 

"Come for Christmas and bring your bathers'  

The pool beckons on Christmas Day...
Well call me old fashioned, but I would probably rather cook turkey for the entire city of Melbourne than get into my swimsuit on Christmas Day. That puts a whole new meaning to the 

'Are you ready for Christmas?' 

question... And such was the concern about such a prospect that I think I was the only one in town secretly hoping for lousy weather on December 25th.

Well I obviously had been naughty this year as Santa ignored that request. The day was bright and sunny and probably the nicest Christmas Day weather that we've ever had since moving Down Under.

St Kilda foreshore
Boxing Day we headed to Melbourne's most famous beach at St Kilda for lunch on the foreshore. St Kilda is a bohemian seaside resort and there is always something interesting going on there. We watched fascinated as paddle boarders paddled on past and people with jet packs on their backs were blasted out of the water, it looked a lot of fun, but hard to get a decent photo of!

Luna Park - St Kilda
It was lovely down at the beach and quieter than it may otherwise have been on account of nearly 92,000 people, a world record number heading to the 'G to watch Australia V England for the traditional Boxing Day Test

Cricket is booming here and everyone keen to see Australia win on home soil following the disastrous European test series. This sudden turn around of events could have Australia winning all the Test matches Down Under this summer. You've got to admit Australian's love their sport and Melbourne makes a great sporting capital!

The Boxing Day Test is part of an iconic Melbourne Christmas!
Our Family Christmas tradition is to go to the cricket on Day Two of the Test match. Usually to avoid the crowds, but we were not alone on Friday, there were 76,000 people at the Melbourne Cricket Ground…

A world record cricket crowd at the MCG to see Australia v's England
Thank Goodness we didn't go to the Cricket today! It has been 38 degrees, we were hot inside with the blinds down and the aircon on. The gingerbread house, glued together with melted white chocolate, collapsed by 10.30am!

The gingerbread house is not the only thing to collapse in the heat!
And then before we know it Christmas is over, the Test Cricket is into the final day but we have plenty to look forward to, the beach beckons and the reason were not going anywhere Melbourne is gearing up for the Australian Open Tennis. Never a dull moment here!
Linked to Blue Monday
Wishing all the Blue Monday bloggers a very Happy New Year!

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

Smiling Sally

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Our bare and wilted 2013 Aussie Christmas Tree

A very nice Argentinian fellow blogger who now lives in Canada, asked for a picture of our Aussie Christmas tree for his 'Christmas around the world post. 

An Aussie Christmas - surfing and seafoodMoi
Oh dear I thought. 
He, or we are going to regret this... 

We are not a good example of an Australian Christmas, 
but may score highly on taking the relaxed approach to Chrissy...

The Tree...

Well anyone who knows us well, will know that I am still bereft of half our Christmas decorations, on account of the Australian Government Customs and Excise (Border Protection, as it's now known) impounding them as illegal imports.

We lost most of our European Christmas tree decorations on arrival... Made in China was OK!
Yes, it's true! They refused almost anything that said 'Christmas' on the box as a threat to national security. Anyone who is planning on moving to Australia in the foreseeable future, here's some advice. You're better off writing 'explosives' or 'Mummy's cocaine stash', on the carton, than the Ch word. I can tell you the jingle bell alarm rings big time, to any mention of Christmas. 

All the kids beautiful hand crafted Christmas gifts from Europe - binned for the crime of including a pine cone. 

Our tree decorations are a wonderful eclectic memory of people and places we have known
The wooden stable nativity scene with moss on the roof and a hundred different wooden characters kings, donkeys and a baby Jesus. That's right, a baby! Jettisoned into incineration...

And the artificial Christmas tree - poof! Disappeared in a flash. 

One of the rare remaining kids decorations - the clothes peg reindeer!
I reckon our old tree looks lovely in some Australian Government Office somewhere. What are they? Santa's Little Helpers? Look forgive my rant and rave, but clearly the hurt runs deep. I have not really forgiven them for any of this... 

Although there is a slight concern that I may be being a bit harsh. I do suspect my DH, never a lover of as he calls them 'plastic' Christmas trees, who hated my Aussie no sneezing, no wilting but very nice never-the-less artificial 'save the environment' tree, may have done a deal... Collusion and collaboration at the highest level:
'Take the gorgeous Christmas tree for your office and while you're at it help yourself to a couple of bottles of nice Beaujolais in carton number 62 and just let my golf clubs through. Sorry about the mud, got caught short on the fourteenth hole..."
A massive tree arrived at our place this year!
We're often away for Christmas and for the past two we've been overseas. Not even in Australia, no need to get a single Christmas decoration out. So this year it was a novelty when DH and son hauled back a humongous Christmas tree, as if to make up for all those trees we never had over the years. 

I had to admit, it was a beauty, one to admire, until I started sneezing...

I now remember why I prefer the artificial trees; hay fever and the wilt! 

Argh - the smell of all that fresh pine...
It's really no good. The first hot December day, which always comes before Christmas, the tree starts to drop it's needles and look really sad... As happened last Thursday when temperatures in Melbourne reached 40 degrees Celsius (105 degrees Fahrenheit), hotter elsewhere.

So unlike in other families when dressing the tree is a family ritual and everyone gathers round to the oohs and argh's as Christmas tree decorations and ornaments are unwrapped and placed with love on the tree... It went like this in our house.

Me to Kids: Can you dress the tree for me?
Kids:           What????
Me to Kids: I'm doing a blog on our Christmas tree and I want it to look nice       for the rest of the world to see.
Kids:          Do we have to?

So here it is
I probably can procrastinate and give excuses no longer. 
I don't think a drum roll is really necessary, not even a Christmas drum...

I give you our Aussie Christmas Tree, half decorated and already wilted
Happy Christmas!

Aussie Tree - December 2013
Wishing you all a wonderful festive season, 
as we now call in it multi-cultural correct Melbourne 
Whereever you may be celebrating!

With love 

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I am linking this post to Mosaic Monday and Wednesday around the World. Thank you to the fabulous hosts. I hope you'll be able to click on the links below to see the brill contributions from around the world - enjoy!

Mosaic Monday
Wednesday Around the World  

Friday, 20 December 2013

Venus Bay...VB...Very Beautiful and great for Squid!

Looking for a good place to holiday? 
Look no further than VENUS BAY...

If you have just wandered in from the other side of the world
 I hope you'll enjoy visiting this spectacular Victorian small coastal resort.

We love Venus Bay

We very nearly bought a holiday house there a few years ago, before deciding on a closer location on the Mornington Peninsula, and being the unadventurous types, opting for a town on mains drainage! However for many, the pristine surf beaches make it worth going the extra mile. Venus Bay is a two hour drive, being 170km's South East of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.

The town is on a narrow peninsula of land, so it offers the holiday maker the choice of the wild, open sea of Bass Strait, or the calm waters of Anderson Inlet.  

Being just that bit further than many of the other more popular South Gippsland holiday destinations it is less crowded. A greater distance than the favoured Melbourne escapes of Cape Paterson and Inverloch and well down the coast than Phillip Island, famous for it's tiny fairy penguins and for when Miley Cyrus visited her then boyfriend, Liam Hemsworth there. Venus Bay remains unspoilt and is certainly not 'wrecked' by tourists.

Having said that, this sleepy pretty town with a winter population of around 500, can surge into the thousands in January. Word has got out amongst anglers, surfers and families about what a great holiday can be had here... 

Well apart from the fisherman who posted the following comment...

'It's a great place to catch whiting and squid, but there is nothing there'.

'You can park your 4wd on the beach while you launch your boat. Great fishing, but as I said there is nothing else there...'

Number One beach - Venus Bay
Yep, that's exactly the point. If you love endless unspoilt beaches, and striking scenery then this is the place for you. The weather changes the landscape here. One minute you will find the rugged landscape and golden sands peaceful and relaxing, the next minute you will feel exhilarated by the squally, choppy waters! 

Whatever the weather, you will find delight in VB, as the locals call the place, at every turn. Well, except maybe not if you are a fisherman after riotous party weekend. Or if retail therapy is on the agenda...

There are no flash shops here - in fact in agreement with our friend above, there is not much here at all, which is definitely part of the charm. Indeed the nearest supermarket is 5 kms away in Tarwin Lower.

Although, I must give a special shout out to the lovely gift shop hidden in the Venus Bay Caravan Park on the main drag. A couple of years ago I had bought some some presents (jewellery, scarves and general beachy gifts), all very reasonably priced. So I headed straight there on this visit and happily find the same helpful owner, and the shop still as attractive as I remembered! 

Did I tell you there is even WIFI Internet to be had at the Venus Bay Caravan Park?! 
Great choice of superb surf beaches in an unspoilt setting
Erm, how did I get onto shopping, we are here for the beach...?! There  are no less than five surf beaches to choose from, which have the rather uninspiring names of Beach 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5. But this is typical of Venus Bay, this place is not out to impress. Indeed if you are in need of being impressed, the locals would say 'go elsewhere'!

However, as you will be holidaying you will be pleased to know the Venus Bay Surf Livesaving Club located at the No. 1 Beach. This is the only patrolled beach, although during the busy summer period surf patrols regularly make their way up and down the beaches to just beyond No. 5 beach. The beach is exposed with strong rips and they call it 'high energy' which means dangerous, swim between the flags!

In keeping with the Beach 1, 2 etc. The town is split into three estates. The First Estate is where you'll find the few shops, situated on Jupiter Boulevard at the Centre Road junction. Here you can grab a decent coffee at the General Store, enjoy breakfast, lunch or dinner at the food outlets, grab some more WiFi at the Caravan Park and check out a number of speciality shops. 

Tarwin Lower - Venus Bay
It is appealing for families to have the option of the calm waters for swimming and fishing at Anderson Inlet, the state's longest sand spit which is rather like a large lake and ideal for boating and fishing. This large body of water extends extends all the way from Inverloch to the mouth of the Tarwin River at the small township of Tarwin Lower.

There is a certain old world charm to Venus Bay, which has been protected because it is that little bit further from Melbourne and because it doesn't offer all mod cons - you still need to take your rubbish to the tip before you leave. There is no refuse collection here. 

On arrival, your host will gently remind you, that water is from a tank and to be used sparingly. The locals reckon mains drainage is at least 30 years off. If they have their way it will stay like this. They know as soon as water, sewerage and weekly rubbish collections appear, so will more people!

Friday Night Paella at Cavity
Arriving on a Friday night there is no better place to head than Cavity in the main street (no need to give you the address, you can't miss it!) Here we found Friday Paella, $5, with a glass of bubbly at $3 before 7pm. Us Townie's were impressed!!! The Friday night unwind here is a great mix of locals, holiday home owners and tourists just passing through. Everyone is welcome and there is a nice camaraderie and the locals are really friendly. 

Venus Bay is central to many natural attractions in the South Gippsland area, including Wilsons Promontory National Park, (check out my earlier post here) which is just under an hour's drive east. The coastline from Venus Bay to Cape Liptrap offers visitors the chance to see an old lighthouse and native Australian plants and wildlife. If you like bushwalking you'll be busy!

Tarwin Lower – Venus Bay
A favourite activity for holiday makers is scenic and easy bike ride (or walk) between the two towns of Venus Bay and Tarwin Lower that follows the banks of the Tarwin River on a gently undulating shared pathway.

Distance: 5km one way
Track: Generally smooth dirt or gravel track
Grade: Level 1 – No experience required, suitable for beginners and children
Start: Long Table,Tarwin Lower
Finish: Town centre, Venus Bay
Sunset - Beach Number 1 - Venus Bay
So if you are after a holiday retreat where you are at one with nature, 
with bush walking, fishing and swimming and surfing,
where Kangaroos lollop around the streets in the Third Estate, 
with fabulous 20km's of beaches
and everything from 
'nothing to do' and everything to see,
 then check out Venus Bay. 
See you there... 
but don't tell too many people!

I am linking this post to :
Our World Tuesday

Thank you to the hosts.

Sunday, 15 December 2013

And Doggie comes too!

Saturday Critters 
We’re ALL going on a summer holiday! 
But are we mad to take a dog along too?

Hooray school's out, it’s summer. 
Time to pack up and drive off into the sunset... 
We’re off to explore some of the lesser known parts of Victoria. 
We have our seventeen year old son at the wheel, 
with only fifteen hours driving experience, AND the crazy poodle.

On account of the car being full, Mutt has scored an upgrade to First Class. Used to travelling in the rear on an old cushion, he finds himself on the back seat with his bed! We have a special dog seat belt to ensure he is safe on the roads!

Mutt sits there very smugly in his element. He knows there was much debate about whether to take him and risk, in the words of DH, sleeping in ‘grotty doggy places.’ 

But things have changed, tourism has woken up to the fact that people who love their pets, want to holiday them with. Google shows a surprisingly good selection of pet friendly accommodation to be found...

Given that our Crazy Poodle has to look at his best for his hols, and we’re not about to share endless hours holed up next to a grubby, smelly dog, we’re off to the dog wash before we leave. $10 AUD for a ten minute bargain wash, condition, flea rinse and a blow dry. 

We follow up with a home flea treatment and a worming tablet, am I acting like an over protective parent ? Well, we don’t want to come back from holidays with more than we bargained for!

First stop is two nights at Ferntree Cottage, Tarra Valley rainforest, Gippsland which offers dog friendly accommodation, a fully fenced back yard, and a garden beside a river which is a dogs paradise, and we think it’s pretty cool as well.

Exploring the gardens at Ferntree Cottage

The next morning we visit Best Friend Holiday Retreat Park, Tarra Valley which is a themed dog friendly park close by with options from fully fenced camp sites to cabins both simple and deluxe. Snoopy’s cabin was a step too far for my DH, who if you remember was firmly in the ‘leave the dog at home’ camp. We are greeted by a warm welcome for a look-see for future trips. 

The cabins are clean and appealing and the holiday park has many fenced dog enclosures for off-lead fun, including one doggie playground. Mutt is decidedly unimpressed with the tunnels and jumps, but races around happily wagging his tail, and does take a drink when offered...

There is a free dog hydrobath for a quick wash after the beach, and even doggy day care. A luxury day kennel with a fenced run, and indoor area with a sofa and TV great if you want to visit the National Parks which are not open to dogs. We take a walk along Poodle Drive searching for koalas and watching the myriad of bird life. 

Woodside Beach - an off leash paradise for any fly obsessed crazy poodle!
Then it’s off to the dog friendly beach at Woodside, which is at the start of ninety mile beach and off leash all year round. There would be hours of fun to be had at this endless beach. Mutt is happy. He loves nothing better than searching out and chasing flies, as this is a big year for flies over here, this is never ending fun!

It’s back in the car and the crazy poodle exhausted happily sleeps.

We take the dog everywhere, luckily the weather is warm enough to eat outside. It’s always delightful when the cafes and restaurants make a special effort for our four legged friend. 

Take Vibez Cafe (575 Esplanade, Lakes Entrance) who bring fresh water and a dog biscuit in a bowl. The proprietor explains, 'look after the dogs and it’s a sure way to get their owners back time and time again'. Apparently, the dogs remember the dog biscuit, and drag their owners in!

Clever marketing - give the dog a biscuit and a warm welcome!
We stay at two further holiday parks - Harbour Lights in Mallacoota (an absolute bargain at $70 AUD per night) with a one bed cabin, new bathroom and full kitchen and Stratford On The River Tourist Park $105 AUD for a small cabin with again a new bathroom . All welcome dogs in the cabin.

It was a great trip and yes, taking the dog with us, involved some extra planning but we’re very happy the Crazy Poodle came too! 

Sorry I'm a tad late posting this week, 
we have been without phone and Internet connection for most of our trip.
Thank you to Eileen for hosting, do pop over and see the other posts at Saturday Critters.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013