Spring shoots

Today is the May Day Bank Holiday in the UK and after a basking in some long overdue Spring sunshine yesterday, it’s time for me to keep my word and share my last two months of gadding about (which, with Mum’s 3-week visit smack-bang in the middle, pretty much disappeared before I knew it).

There have been a few highlights of the stage-and-screen variety since February starting with a ‘goosebumps all-over’ moment as Glenn Close filled the London Coliseum with her performance of Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard. The BBC ran a gripping six-part adaption of John le Carre’s The Night Manager that starred Hugh Laurie – in fine and menacing form – and Tom Hiddleston which had me transfixed on Sunday nights. (For those of you who don’t know Hugh, think House and Black Adder.)

And I saw a couple of really great movies – Spotlight and Eye in the Sky, the latter being a charity screening at my local cinema, The Phoenix. In his pre-film talk, director Gavin Hood explained that the technology featured in Eye in the Sky is real and out there as we speak. Mind-blowing stuff.

There were also some things I expected to love more than I did. The Maids at Trafalgar Studios was edgy and well-acted but a little too crazy for me and Immortal Tango contained patches of thrilling Argentine Tango but was brought low by too much tinkering with the quintessential drama and passion of the dance. Based on how much I loved The Night Manager, I had another stab at reading le Carre’s novel only to remember how convoluted and unwieldy I find his writing. And reading Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None was spoiled by knowing ‘who dunnit’, having seen it on TV earlier this year (another brilliant adaption from the Beeb).

There have been some firsts as well.

I attended my first political debate on the EU referendum at the London Palladium. It was chockers with people and points of view and while it didn’t really help me to make a more informed decision, I did leave with my view of politics and politicians intact – grandstanding and emotive argument just don’t do it for me.

However what did do it for me was Painting the Modern Garden, an exhibition featuring artists from Monet to Matisse (and many in between) on my first sortie to the Royal Academy.

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I also visited Poole, site of the second largest natural deep-water harbour in the world (after Sydney).

sunny poole

Dorset Quay, Poole

Last but not least, April alone has meant birthdays galore. It started with my two favourite little dudes turning 3 with Mum, Seattle-A celebrating a week later. And on the 30th, my good friend of more than 15 years, Swiss-S, finally turned 40 on the same day that high school friend, Aussie-J, marked her slightly more advanced passage through life (although she’s still younger than yours truly).

And the great Bard himself, Shakespeare celebrated his birthday on April 23rd, the same day as he popped his clogs 52 years later. There’s been much ado about this and for my part, this Bard-themed week has been book-ended by  Shakespeare Live! last weekend and a Shakespeare’s London walking tour on Saturday just gone with the Museum of London.

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Memorial to John Heminge and Henry Condell, the two actors who published Shakespeare’s First Folio in 1623 in St Mary Aldermanbury’s Garden.

In other news, I was very excited by the Monopoly-themed loos at Marylebone Station…

monopoly loos

I had to wait for everyone to leave the loos before taking these pics so no-one thought I was being weird or creepy (she says, posting them for all the world to see.)

…my fabulous new shoes…

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…and that fact that Spring finally ‘sprang’…

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Delicate Spring flowers  lined my street for about two weeks before they dropped to leave leafy green boughs behind them.

And I think that’ll do. Just as well that the month ended with a 3-day weekend…but the batteries are recharged and I’m ready to go again…

…come what May.

(Geddit? I just couldn’t resist a play on words.)

Victorian vista – benvenuto!

When last I posted, I was sitting at Heathrow Airport waiting for my flight to visit Seattle-A in – yes you guessed it – Seattle. A couple of busy weeks have elapsed since my return and I have finally sorted the photos and stories enough to warrant a ‘what I did’ post. Suffice to say that in ten days we did many things – weekend excursions, a girls night out, hanging out with the little dudes and considerably more ice cream consumption than I am used to (just as well I got a swim in!)

We also took a trip up to Canada to celebrate a certain person’s significant birthday last month so on a very rainy Tuesday morning (the only rain of my 10 day trip), we boarded the clipper and cruised north to the harbour city of Victoria.

We had decided to add a trip out to The Butchart Gardens to our clipper and hotel package and before we knew it, we were through immigration and on the bus for the 45 minute drive out to Saanich.  Seattle-A was quite excited…

Seattle-A Butchart-bound

Jennie Butchart created her first project, the Sunken Garden, in the exhausted limestone quarry on the family’s property during the early 1900s. Between 1906 and 1929 she then went on to cultivate the Japanese Garden by the sea, the Italian Garden on the old tennis court and the Rose Garden. Today, the Gardens remain a family enterprise and are visited by more than 1 million people each year – with over 22 hectares of public gardens (on a 54 hectare property), I suspect there is probably plenty to keep them busy.

And so we spent a good couple of hours breathing in the fresh clean air and gaping at the extraordinary beauty that greeted us around every corner.

Red white & yellow tulips

An advertised feature of the gardens are the tulips. They were absolutely everywhere and in every conceivable size and colour – this display was right at the beginning as we walked in.

We headed for the Sunken Garden first…I had a little chuckle to myself at the irony of going up to reach them.

Sunken Garden

The Sunken Garden was spectacular and the going up was definitely worth this view of it. Following the gently curving paths brought us face to face with all sorts of permutations of colourful foilage, fragrant blooms and calm stretches of water.

Red and white

This was such a pretty display and having never seen these red and white striped flowers before, I had to a) take a photo and b) include them in this post. I do not know what they are…do your worst people.

Pale pink

Even though I had seen these before, they were just so pretty I had to take this photo. (I have also forgotten what these are called…green thumb I am not.)

Curly yellow roses

We thought that these were roses but the curly petals lent a more unorthodox prettiness.

White daffs

Daffodils are my favourite flower and while their bright yellow sunshine-iness is a big part of their usual appeal for me, I was struck by the simple delicacy of these pure white ones.

Water feature

This water feature was at the far end of the Sunken Garden and quite spectacular. In posting this photo on Facebook to announce brag about my travelling exploits, I received four different replies in quick succession from people who had been ‘here’ before (obviously a more famous ‘gardens’ than I had given them credit for). One of these was from Dad who posted the ‘same’ photo taken when visiting a few years ago.

Leaving the Sunken Garden, we headed up to the concert lawn…

April on carousel horse

Here’s Seattle-A demonstrating that inside every grown woman, there remains a little girl wanting a pony

Pink & Purple tulips

More tulips…especially for Lil Chicky.

Me and totem pole

This one is to prove that I was there too: the totem pole shows Eagle with Salmon, Orca, Bear with Salmon…and moi.

'Aussie' trees

We were struck by how much these looked like Australian paperbarks. They are not Australian paperbarks – we asked – but for the life of me, I cannot remember what they were. Yet another horticultural #fail.

Rare Mongolian PoppyWe were keen to see these Himalayan blue poppies as they only flower for about 6 weeks each year (and we had missed the ‘rose’ season…more on that next). There was a whoop of discovery upon finding a smattering of these bright blue blossoms.

Rose(less) garden

This is the archway through the rose-less Rose Garden. Timing is everything – if you like roses.

Next it was down into the Japanese Garden…

Japanese garden

Stepping stones

Weird white flower

There was some strange flora in this garden. This one was definitely one of the weirdest flowers I’ve ever seen (and which still remains a mystery)…

Bubble tree

…and clearly there’s nothing like keeping oneself busy with a spot of topiary, tree-shapery, pruning. Because 54 hectares is not enough…

Red Bridge

Of the many amazing photos I managed to take, I think this one is my favourite – it looks so beautiful that it seems not real (but it definitely was!)

Nature's window to the cove beyond

We came upon this in a back corner of the garden. I know. This looks like nothing special but if you look through this little window of nature…

The cove 'beyond'

…you’ll see the cove beyond it that backs onto the Butchart property.

We wandered out of this oriental lushness towards the main buildings again to be greeted by another expanse of tulips…

Pink tulips

Apricot rose…and a raft of sunset-coloured roses.

The Italian GardenWalking through the gap in the hedge, we found ourselves in the Italian Garden, the most formal and the smallest of the gardens we’d seen.

At this stage we’d been meandering in the fresh air for a couple of hours so we were delighted to be met with an opportunity for refreshment…

Ice creamBenvenuto indeed! The Maple Walnut Gelato was delicious.

And with that, it was time to return to the bus for the snooze ride back to Victoria and to our hotel where the view from our balcony turned out to be this…

From the Inn at Laurel Point

And as we relaxed on the balcony at the end of our first day ‘abroad’, we sighed contentedly and wondered at the hardships we had been forced to face together…and planned 24 hours of foodie forays to keep us entertained for the remainder of our visit.

More(ish – see what I did there?) on this soon…but if you are venturing out BC way, make a note-to-self – The Butchart Gardens is a ‘must-see’.

A Town Called Snohomish…

I have been travelling this week and with work taking me to the US of A for a few days of meetings, I decided to add a few days more and pay a visit to Team-M in Seattle

It’s been eight months since I last saw Seattle-A and all of her boys and while I turned up ready for an intensive cuddle top up, as far as the little dudes went, well young memories are not so long it seems and it’s taken few hours before screaming and suspicious looks were replaced by a cuddle (O) and cheeky grin or two (R).

Today was crisp, cold and clear so we bundled everyone into the car and headed off to the small historic township of Snohomish. Yes, it is a real town, founded in the mid-1800s with a population of less than 10,000 people (2010 census). 

Anyway I felt the afternoon was already looking promising when we crossed paths with this Waffle Wagon on the way there…

…so as soon as we arrived it was off to the Snohomish Bakery for a spot of lunch.


We then meandered down the main street, lined with antique shops and stores exhorting passersby to ‘buy local’. The flat-fronted buildings really gave it an old frontier town feel and I particularly liked these two.

A short stroll off the Main Street gave us a different perspective on the town, surrounded as it was by stark and beautifully pristine scenery…

...while this totem by the water presumably gave a nod to the local Native American tribe, sdoh-doh-hohsh, for whom the township was named.

And just as we were heading back to the car, we came across the Snohomish Pie Company. It would have been rude not to pop in, so we did emerging five minutes later with a bag of goodly vittels and some words of wisdom…

…and yes, yes it did. That chocolate pecan pie did indeed fix everything (including fixing a few more lifetimes on my hips!)

So that folks was my afternoon in Snohomish. Now, back to Operation Cuddles…

Let The Festivities Commence…

Today is December 1st and that can mean only one thing:

It’s been a hive of festive activity at Gidday HQ today. First order of business was the construction of the Mum’s traditional seasonal supplement, the advent calendar…


It took me a while to find today’s window, hidden as it was in a back street…


Then there was a spot of present wrapping to make sure I could get some Seattle-bound goodies into tomorrow’s post (Seattle-A, look out for Santa-Kym’s delivery very soon.)

Then it was time for that favourite of all my favourite Christmas things – decorating the tree.

I missed out on this last year between lounging about in Langkawi and meandering around Melbourne – and since Christmas 2011 I’ve travelled to Krakow and Amsterdam (among many other places) and have added a few more objets d’Christmas to my horde. 

Needless to say I spent a happy couple of hours laying out all of my carefully wrapped ornaments and awarding them their leafy homes for the next month…


And last but by no means least, Alfie Bear has a new Christmas hat…


So it’s all systems go here at Gidday HQ.

Let the festivities commence!

Salutations From Seattle…

Salutations from Seattle peeps!

While we’ve been managing to get out and about each day during my Seattle sojourn, this has been somewhat limited to shorter outings that we can manage with the babies in tow, who by the way, have been rather busy melting Aunty Kym’s heart. And needless to say blogging has taken a back seat while I soak up as much Seattle-A time as possible while I’m here. 

But as the boys had a hot date with the paediatrition last Thursday (and Mummy and Daddy had the whole deal covered more than adequately), I decided to make myself scarce and get into Seattle for a day of sightseeing and shopping.

Seattle is a relatively ‘new’ town having been founded in 1851. That’s more than 70 years after the First Fleet sailed into Australia’s Sydney Cove, so this is an unusual position for an Aussie, used to being the youngster in the global village, to be in. It is also reasonably compact and very walkable, the streets are wide and tree-lined and there are coffee shops absolutely everywhere where you can rejuvenate. And despite my general aversion to Starbucks, the coffee, service and free wi-fi were both excellent and eminently helpful.

All up I spent six hours and only covered the Downtown area. Arriving at Westlake on the express bus from Overlake Transit Centre (near Husband of Seattle-A’s work and a bargain at only $2.50 for a single 20min trip), I picked a few choice morsels from the guide book and just wandered around in between (more on that in another post). 

And the highlights? Well the weather was absolutely glorious but I have a feeling that was more good luck than good planning and quite frankly there’s not much anyone can do about that. But for spectacular views no matter the weather, take the express lift up to the Chinese Room on the 35th floor of the Smith Tower just around the corner from Pioneer Square.


The 36-42nd floors are occupied by a penthouse (yes, just one penthouse) but the 360 degree observation deck around the 35th floor is fantastic. Let me show you what I mean.

Here’s a shot of the ‘other’ observation deck, the Space Needle. According to my Frommer’s guide, you get to pay about $17.50 for the privilege of being rotated (versus walking around the 35th floor of the Smith Tower for $7.50).

The Mountain is out! Mt Rainier looms through the clouds, an apparently unusual occurrence so I was thrilled to get this ‘on film’.  

A glorious view over Elliott Bay to the Olympic Mountains and Puget Sound.

After you’ve had your fill of amazing views, it’s just a couple of blocks down the hill to Pioneer Square and into Doc Maynard’s to take the 90 minute Underground Tour of Seattle ($17.50 per person). Filled with historic sound bites, this unique tour takes you beneath the streets of Downtown Seattle to explore this outpost of the Pacific Northwest’s seamy past. And me being, well me, I bought the book that forms the basis for the tour, Sons of the Profits by Bill Speidel. Absolutely fascinating stuff.

School buses lined up in Pioneer Square.
 
Doc Maynard’s: your underground tour starts here!
 
Heading underground…

 …to see the city from another perspective.


And a visit to Seattle wouldn’t be complete without a wander through Pike Place Market.

There’s plenty of fish to buy (among other things)…
 
 …but don’t forget to give a nod to the original Starbucks. These happy buskers were playing a few tunes when I wandered by.

Speaking of nods, being back in the States reminds me just how wonderful it is to be served. From the locals in the street to the staff in the stores and restaurants, people cannot do enough to help and want to make sure you have an amazing time in their city. Something that the rest of the world could take a few notes on.

And finally it was time for a spot of shopping at Macy’s who were having a sale – God Bless America I say!


And after finding some great bargains and nothing less than exceptional service, I only had a short block to walk to take my tired feet and satisfied smile back to the bus for the ride ‘home’.

ps…You may have noticed that I didn’t race around to try and squeeze everything in (as I am usually wont to do). Well I figure this might just be the first of many visits – presuming Team-M will have me – so I thought I’d leave some stuff for next time!

Cupcakes and champers…it’s lush!

It’s the last day of my little staycation before I go back to work tomorrow.  It’s been grey and drizzly, a perfect recovery day after a Saturday of champagne (and a few other alcoholic beverages), chocolate making and cupcake decorating with friend, A-down-the-hill (she of the emergency handbag adventure).

Yes peeps, champers, chocolates and cupcakes. On a Saturday afternoon. I think the word that the youngsters use nowadays is ‘lush’ (or is that to describe my drinking habit??)

Anyway, we met at the train station in the gorgeous sunshine and before we knew it we had arrived at The Peacock Bar – 30 minutes early (not excited – much!). Being the resourceful Aussie girls we are and having always been taught to entertain ourselves, we perused the cocktail list, read up on the Burlesque portion of the club’s entertainment offering and did a little reconnaissance on our preferred position at the chocolate-pots.

(I’d like to point out here that this was purely for the chocolate-making, not the burlesque, although there was a boobs chocolate mold and another that looked alarmingly like a woman’s…well…bits.  But this is a family blog – hi Mum – so let’s move on to less fruity tales!)

Serious dipping, dribbling and chocolate mold-filling was the first order of the day (oh sorry wait – it was the second: champers was the first!) and before long, our creative efforts were whisked away to ‘chill’ before our departure. Come to think of it, I am now wondering how on earth those little bundles of cocoa joy knew that they needed to prepare for a stressful trip home.

Then it was on with the cakes – and some rather nuclear coloured icing that kept melting a little in the heat.  But with perseverence (and a few nips outside for a hormonal flushed yours truly to un-flush cool down), I managed these little beauties:

A’s were pretty good too but she was quite speedy about it all and hers were boxed up for taking home before I got around to whipping out the ol’ HTC for happy-snapping.

So there was nothing left to do but have a(nother) drink and sample some more of the expert/organisers’ wares while our chocolates continued to get suitably chilled (remember, we did the chocolates bit before the cupcakes bit.)

 

 

After three hours or so, we were issued with our little bundles of chilled cocoa joy and, placing our boxes of iced splendor carefully into carrier bags, we set off in search of the local gbk (all hail gbk!) and a savoury snackette (a chicken and avocado burger, chunky fries and smoked chilli mayo between us) to take the edge off our sugar rush before heading home, comfortably ensconsed behind our fashionable sunglasses at 5.30pm.

(Imagine, if you will, two grown-up and determined-not-to-stop-yet children after substantial quantities of red cordial, followed by the inevitable post-cordial slump, the slavish search for carbohydrates and a doze-y train ride home.  The walk (me) / cycle (A) home from the station was never going to go well.)

Just for the record, the cakes did not really survive the trip home…

These are A’s – mine weren’t much better!

…but the chocolates were delicious.