Sunday, 14 January 2018

Christmas in Ballarat - Part Two

Well would you look at that. I thought I was the chief reporter on all things to do with "exploring" but no, my mum beat me to it.  So I thought I'd just add a few things that she may have missed.

Been a bit busy since my last post - even turned the BIG 1 2!! That's like a whole lot of human years, so you'll have to forgive me if I've been a bit slow.  Like a fine wine, I'm getting better with age, albeit slower.

So yep, we went back to Ballarat.  Back to the lake - heaps of swan and duck poo which is super tasty and great to roll in. First lunch stop (after the swan poo snack), I got some tasty salmon.

The house we stayed in was nice.  I had a big back garden to explore, but it had a lot of prickles.  There was also a very noisy possum in the big tree.  Aitana was scared, she thought it was a sheep making noise outside of her window (because you find a lot of those in suburban back yards).  I wasn't scared one bit.  Well maybe a little bit 'cos he sounded like a grumpy old fart of a possum.

Went to other places.  Like another lake where we went hunting for worms.  And to a farmers market where I got more snacks and Christmas presents.  Christmas!  Wow now that was a fun time.  So much super tasty food.  As soon as I got back to Melbourne I had to go on a diet! 

This was in Clunes
Me checking out the botanical gardens
Anyway, it was lots of fun and we did lots of walking and exploring. In-between, I did lots of sleeping and relaxing and got lots of cuddles and scratches on my belly.  Life is good.

Stopping to smell the roses

I was NOT trying to open my Christmas presents before time

Christmas in Ballarat

You're either a Christmas person or you're not, and I fall into the latter category.  Don't know why, it just seems an awful lots of stress, money and bother. So this year, we decided to head up to Ballarat. Why?  No special reason - well other than Romancing the Skull was on at the Art Gallery and it seemed as good a place to go as any. 

Now between getting sick in Warnambool, stuffing up our Eildon booking (my boo boo) and catching colds in Marysville, we were all set for 5 perfect days. Not so fast. Day before, car decides to call it quits - is the universe trying to tell me something??  Well f&*k you, I'm not listening.

Still crap at taking selfies!
So Friday 22 December 2017, we collected a hire car, packed and headed off.  Ballarat - 110km NW of Melbourne, population of approximately 102,000 people, 3rd largest city in Victoria. Gold was discovered on 18 August 1851, and news quickly spread attracting gold diggers from all over.  The Ballarat fields experienced a "rush" for many decades, which shows in the city's gorgeous architecture.  At one stage it was the richest place in Oz.

The city is famous for the Eureka Rebellion, the only armed rebellion in Australian history. As such, Eureka is interpreted by some as the origin of democracy in Australia. The rebellion's symbol, the Eureka Flag, has become a national symbol and is held at the Museum of Australian Democracy .

Settled into our home for the next few days and enjoyed lunch and a stroll around Lake Wendouree (pronunciation noted - Wen-duree, not Wen-dow-ree).  That evening, noodles clutched in hand, Aitana and I set off on our Ghost Tour amongst the beautiful Gothic architecture, through underground buildings, back alleyways and through the remains of the old Ballarat gaol, the site of the highest number of executions in Victoria outside of Melbourne. No ghosts, but our guide, Mr Keating was a charming chappy and full of interesting, albeit slightly gruesome stories.  Survived "Fight Night" as the night when the tradies all break up for Christmas is so called.

Dinner at Meigas was muy bueno
I'd heard about this Spanish restaurant and wanted to check it out, so we went there on a warm and balmy Saturday night.  Meigas. Delish, lovely staff and probably the best Spanish food we've had in a restaurant in Australia!  Yep, I know big call, but it was excellent! Agua de Valencia went down very nicely as well. Would go back just to eat there again.

Skulls Galore!
I put together an article on Romancing the Skull at the Art Gallery of Ballarat for WN earlier. Don't know where I picked up my fascination for the skull, but I'm not alone!  The whole city had embraced this exhibition and there were skulls everywhere.   Appears that the skull has intrigued generations of artists, so the Romancing the Skull exhibition takes a look at why we continue to be so enamoured with this iconic symbol. Skulls are an important symbol in Mexican Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebrations, a Mexican holiday celebrated throughout Mexico. Running from 31 October to 2 November each year, the holiday focuses on gatherings to pray for and remember friends and family members who have died.  Fabulous tradition and thoroughly enjoyed the visit.

Emi whipping up a fine gravy
Christmas Lunch
Between shopping and eating, a couple of games of Simpson's Cluedo along came Christmas Eve, a quiet but delish night at home.  Wherever you are, there will always be too much food!

Christmas Day we had decided to volunteer.  So off we set at 9am and got to work.  After all the prep, greeting people and serving up, we sat down and had lunch and a chat with the guests.  A wide range of people from families, to couples and plenty of people on their own.  Finished around 3.30pm, tired, but very rewarding and humbling - we are truly blessed.  Might need to make this a new tradition.

Do yourself a favour and go and see Coco!
In traditional Boxing Day style (no not sale shopping), we went to the movies. In keeping with the skull theme, we went and saw Coco and what a magical movie.  Disney Pixar have done it again with the colourful and beautiful story of young Miguel who despite his family's generations old ban on music, dreams of becoming a musician like his idol Ernesto de la Cruz. Desperate to prove his talent, Miguel finds himself in the stunning and colorful Land of the Dead. After meeting H├ęctor, the two new friends embark on an extraordinary journey to unlock the real story behind Miguel's family history.  Along the way, it tells the story behind the Dia de los Muertos traditions and this may be an animated movie, but there was plenty of sobbing.  Loved it. Take tissues.
Lake Wen-doree

Fishing, throwing in the line and reeling it in, strolls around the city, a drive out to Lake Learmonth, a visit to the neighbouring towns of Clunes and Creswell rounded up the rest of our holiday. 
Bittersweet memories as it was the last place we travelled to with our beloved Lucas earlier in the year.  But blessed to be able to spend Christmas with my Sweetie-Pie, Aitana and my Lola the Explorer. 
Friendly Natives

Thursday, 28 December 2017

Magic Lamp wanted

Back in June, we went and saw 1984 and can't really say we enjoyed it.  So it was with eager anticipation that we went along to see Aladdin at Her Majesty's. Aitana came along and had never been to a large stage production and really wanted to see "a musical". Boy was she in for a pleasant surprise (understatement).

This stage musical is based on the 1992 Disney animated movie. We all know how it goes, cute but poor thief falls in love with a Princess, finds a magic lamp, out pops a Genie and they all live happily ever after. 

Ah the Genie. Michael James Scott steals the show from the very first scene and you can't wait for him to pop out of that bottle and make magic.  Aladdin (Ainsley Melham) and his trio of thieves are fun and fabulous and Princess Jasmine (Hiba Elchikhe) has a great voice.

The whole stage is filled with wild colour and the scene in the Cave of Wonders where Aladdin finds the lamp is simply breathtaking.  That and the magic carpet ride whilst singing A Whole New World are just amazing and my two fave scenes.  Well those and every one where the Genie appears. 

The Genie, is sassy, sexy and hilarious (where can I get me one of those)? His rich voice singing a "Friend Like Me" is perfect and he had us all in stitches every time he opens his mouth.  Even the baddies are good - Jafar, the evil Grand Vizier and his funny, little henchman, Iago.

The whole show is just one big story of love and magic winning in the end and the colour, song and dance routines are highlights. A fabulous show that makes your cheeks hurt from smiling the whole time.  Absolutely loved it. It's just one of those things that you leave feeling good and even writing this I have a smile on my face.  Aitana was also blown away - what a perfect first musical to have the pleasure of seeing.  5 Stars and in my top 3.

So what type of a theatre goer am I?  Most definitely the funny, comical, musical, brightly coloured enjoying type and most definitely not the deep and meaningful 1984 type. I'm just not the philosophical, thought provoking seeking type.

The very funny and talented Genie (Picture: Deen van Meer)

Aladdin finds the lamp - I need to get myself one of those! (Picture: Deen van Meer)

Fabulous Fun! (Picture: Deen van Meer)

Saturday, 2 December 2017

A goal without a plan is just a wish

Wow, December and 2017 is fast coming to an end and I thought it was time to start thinking about 2018.  Soon it will be time to review all my lists!  Ooh what new and exciting things can I add?

A couple of weeks ago, B and I went to a session on goals – how to set and stick to them.  Got me thinking about what are my life goals?  Maybe it’s the big things on my lists?  Not sure.  Procrastination. Instead of spending the time thinking and working towards life goals, why do we procrastinate and watch mindless TV or scroll through Facebook?

So, what do I still want to accomplish?  Is it ever too late to set goals – no way!  What are my life goals?  What do I truly want? And how the fuck do I work it out? 

1.     Brainstorming list
  - What’s important?
  - Where am I at today?
  - Where do I want to be?

2.     Life goals
  - What couldn’t I live without?  Narrow that sucker down
  - Set specific targets

3.     How do I get there?
   - Start with the last step and work backwards.
                - Focus on the main ones – rank them?

       4.   Get shit done
                - Pick a goal, break it down, stop procrastinating and get started

Right then.  I’m off to think and right those suckers down.  Because as they say, a goal without a plan is just a wish. 

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Back to School

I have a few slightly odd things on my list, but one thing I didn't have on there is "do a stand-up comedy routine."  So how is it that a couple of weeks ago when Belinda asked me if I'd do a course with her, I found myself saying yes?  The surprising thing is that I didn't even really hesitate.   I found it rather an exciting, if slightly daunting prospect!  Maybe it had something to do with the website saying for "bucket-list tickers."  That's me, OK I'm in, where do I sign.

So there we have it.  We've signed up for the 5 day course starting on 21 January 2018 with The School of Hard Knock Knocks.  Yep, 5 days of making fools of ourselves on purpose and paying for the privilege. Some would say I make a fool of myself on a regular basis anyway, so I guess it's not really stretching reality in any way. 

So how does it work?  How do you go to school to learn how to be "funny?" Is it something that can be taught or are you born funny?  Am I funny? I'm crap at telling jokes, so I certainly won't be going down that route. What the fuck will I base my routine on then?  Life.  Life is funny enough. And sometimes if you can't laugh at life, you'll just end up crying.

Now I've got to come up with some material.  Thought about just winging it, but that my fail completely flat.  Might be able to base the whole 5 mins around B's boobs.  I know that sound a bit odd, but let's face it there is a LOT to work with there.

Anyway, this is how the course goes - just in case anyone else reads this and say "yeah I wanna do that!"

Day 1 – The Basics & Finding yourself
Introduction to the basics of stand-up comedy and the jargon of the comedic industry before launching into the deep end with your very own mini set.

Day 2 – Your Audience and Taboos   
Learn to gauge your audience and how to recognise and manage taboo topics while learning confidence building/ fear smashing techniques.

Day 3: The opener
Learn to write a strong open to your comedy set. Tonight students will also have the opportunity to refine some of their own writing with our guest comedian.

Day 4: The Heckler and The Closer 
Practice delivering your set as well as building skills to deal with the dreaded (or welcomed - I actually think I would welcome) heckler before polishing a strong close to your set ready for the graduation ceremony.

Day 5: Graduation Night and Performance 

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Back to Baconsville

I began my reporting career earlier in the year when we first visited Baconsville. And would you believe it, we're back again.  I knew something was going on that morning (Sunday 5 November) and sure enough we were off.  This time with the lovely B and my new human sis, Aitana.

Quality Control
Having extra people in the car is the best - I get scratches and cuddles all the way.  Stopped at Boat O'Craigo winery in the Yarra Valley for lunch.  Mum and B went wine tasting and looks like they couldn't make up their mind 'cos they had to then bring out a full bottle of the pink one to make sure that they had properly tasted it (Ed note, we did particularly enjoy the chilled Rose).  The winery's name comes from the town of Craigo in Scotland.  The water was OK.  I thought we might be partaking in some Haggis, being Scottish and all, but no, we had pizzas.  Very tasty - especially the bits I got with some rather delicate semi-soft fresh Fior Di Latte mozzarella - buonissimo!

On we drove up the gorgeous Black Spur and there we were - back at the Vibe Hotel! Same smells, this time, they even took my picture - probably for their monthly cutest guest report. Same same, but different room.  My bed was smaller, but I had already eyed off the bed and couch.  We went for a nice long walk around the town and park and YES! That delicious stream water was still there and was still delicious! I rolled, waded, scratched, sniffed, peed and did poo.  After all that I was pretty pooped so dinner and to bed to dream of bacon.  Didn't even miss the humans when they went out - OK, I did a little bit.

The Girls
Brilliant dream - a whole bowl of bacon and sausages and brilliant because it came true!  After my morning constitutional, I had a nap and when I woke up mum and dad had returned with a whole bag of food for moi. Off we went.   Back to Steavenson’s Falls.  I stayed with Dad guarding the car.  Then the girls went back to visit Bruno at Bruno’s Art and Sculpture Garden.  Been there, done that so was happy to head off with Dad checking out the local fishing spots.  We all had a lovely afternoon stopping along the river.  Back to the hotel for a rest and wine drinking (I stuck to water, someone needs to remain vigilant).  For dinner, I got yep, you guessed it - more bacon and sausages.  I really did try and keep my eyes open to remain on guard, but my belly was full, it had been a long day and the couch was calling me.......

I got my own sign for the door!
 My dad and the rodo rhododren rhododendrons - the pink flowers
Can you ever really have too much bacon?  I was packed and ready to go after saying goodbye to my new friends.  We had a walk around Healesville on the way home and stopped at Four Pillars distillery.  B and Mum drinking again!  They seemed happy and I got more scratches all the way home.  Love and Licks Lola the Explorer xx


Aitana and I pretending we were in a scene from Tom Sawyer
Me keeping a close eye on my dad

Me looking gorgeous

Gin - I'll stick to water

Saturday, 4 November 2017

Mirror Mirror on the wall......

A warm, windy Sunday in Melbourne - time to be tourists.  We'd (B, Kaz, Claire, Aitana and I) booked tixs to go do the Art Centre tour, but decided we'd get there early and check out the House of Mirrors which has been set up just out the front of the Art Centre.  So between sneezes (shocking hay fever - it was actually quiet amusing hearing everyone coughing, sneezing and spluttering), in we went.

House of Mirrors is the creation of Melbourne artists Christian Wagstaff and Keith Courtney (no idea who they are, got it from the promo). What do you get when you put 40 tonnes of steel and more than 15 tonnes of mirrored glass together?  A simple looking labyrinth - how hard can it be?  Surprisingly, much harder than it looks. 

Shadowed - so can't see the snot dripping
Looks simple, isn't
The reflections are deceiving and you quickly become disorientated and find yourself walking around in a circle.  Not that I particularly wanted to take a photo of 10 times my butt, but if I had wanted to, I could have.  As for double chins - they were everywhere I looked.  Not a good place for your self esteem, but interesting all the same.  And we made it out.

Too early on a Sunday for that many views of my fat arse
Next, our Backstage tour of the Art Centre.  Starting at 11am and running for around 90 minutes, we learnt a little about the history and visited some of the backstage rooms, hidden passageways and learnt how some of the technical contraptions work.  No whistling allowed on stage, because a sandbag might fall on your head - superstitious lot these actor sorts. Interesting chat from one of the costume guys and was particularly enthralled by the vomitoriumNo not a room to go and have a spew, it's a passage below the seats for actors to enter and leave the stage.  From the Latin word meaning  "to spew forth". All up, very interesting, a tick off the list and well worth the $20.  Tours are available every Sunday.  
Checked out MPavilion across the road in the Queen Victoria Gardens.  Part stage, part space - it even has a bar.  Anyway, the musicians due to perform were running late and we had a lunch date with a trolley of goodies at Secret Kitchen, so will need to check it out another day.  Hadn't been for Yum Cha in ages. Yum.  Tried to show some restraint as we had a dinner to get to. 
Pleasant day with an added stroll through Chinatown. Always so much to see and do in this fair city of ours. Love it.  Thanks girls xxx

Claire and Aitana give the tour a thumbs up

Cute little custard filled piggies