Nanna knits are so very special. I clearly remember how thrilled I was when I received my first Nanna knits. I was 8 weeks pregnant with my first child and in the throes of terrible morning sickness when a box arrived in the post. Nestled within were 12 pairs of booties in four different colours featuring 12 different patterns. They were so small and so adorable! As I touched each one, I’m sure that baby Christian could already feel his Nanna’s love.
And so I’m following family tradition and knitting with love for the grandchildren. When it’s for little ones, there’s a real sense of anticipation when you cast on the stitches for a new project. You’re excited because you’ve found the pattern and chosen that special yarn and can’t wait to see how it knits up so your little one can wear your hand crafted creation. But there’s always a little bit of trepidation as well. Especially if like me, you’re not an expert knitter. Will the pattern prove too challenging? Will there be painful unraveling and re-knitting involved? And if I’m using a yarn I’ve never knitted with before, will I like it and will they like it when it’s finished?
I think that everything’s mostly worked out this knitting season. After all, little ones run here, jump there and shake it all around, making everything they wear look good. Luckily, the patterns I chose for my projects were also relatively straight forward so there wasn’t too much unraveling involved and my yarn choices pleasantly surprised me. Naturally, as I now have three grandchildren, there were three Nanna Knitting Projects.
Project 1: Francesca’s baby blankets
Baby Francesca arrived in March. Christian and Kelly wondered if I could knit her a super thick, closely knitted blanket. Normally, I would choose to knit a baby blanket in Australian merino wool but thought that a super thick woolen blanket might be too heavy for a baby. So for the first time, I put aside my prejudices about synthetic fibres and chose a super bulky acrylic yarn. I found a pattern on Ravelry that was free and sourced the yarn, Lion brand super bulky premium acrylic, from Loveknitting.com. As it was knitted on a big circular needle, it knitted up very quickly.
Because it was finished so quickly, I had time to knit another just for fun. This time, instead of an acrylic yarn I used a bulky cotton yarn, Elenna, which I found in my local Spotlight store. Deciding to experiment, I created a simple garter stitch, unisex blanket knitted on the diagonal. It too, was finished in no time. I could become a fan of bulky yarns and super fat needles.
Project 2: Huddy’s Knits
And of course I had to knit an item or two for Hudson who turned one in June. However, because we enjoy a mild winter here in Byron, I decided to knit in cotton. Again I sourced my yarn from Loveknitting.com. For his cardigan I chose King Cole 4ply bamboo cottonand for his jumper, Sonora, an8ply cotton yarn by Bergere de France.
But then I saw this pattern online by an independent designer, Oge designs, and just had to knit it. (I fell in love with the owls) I knitted it in Paton’s superfine merino 8ply.This yarn is also a delight to knit with and I was really pleased with the result. And luckily, we have had enough cooler days for Hudson to wear it.
Interestingly, the designer has used reverse stocking stitch to make the little cabled owls pop. I would like to try using stocking stitch as the right side next time to show off the beautiful stitch definition of this particular yarn.
Project 3: Genevieve’s cardigans.
And I couldn’t forget Genevieve who dances her way through the day. Her cardigans are still a little big!!! Oops! While I did knit them to the pattern and yarns recommended, that’s the way of it sometimes. Hopefully, they’ll fit her properly next year.
Oh and I nearly forgot. I’ve knitted a couple of beanies for some of the grownups, reducing my stash of wool in the process. I might have to go shopping to replenish it. After all, you never know when inspiration will strike for next year’s projects.
It’s been ‘Birthday Season’ of late for the young and not so young in our family. I love how whether you’re one or ninety one, it’s all about the moment: watching glittery balloons float around above us as our fingertips rustle and rifle through layers of wrapping paper, carefully or not so carefully unveiling our presents. Inhaling the scent of flowers so prettily tied up with string and of melting candle wax, the aroma of wishes. Listening to the good vibrations of “Happy Birthday!” and savouring the last, chocolatey, gooey morsel of a special cake. What’s not to love? But this year, there’s been so much more. The little ones’ wonder and joy allowed us to see the world through their eyes as they experienced many of these treats for the first time.
As Pooh bear noted, ‘It’s hard to be uncheered with a balloon.’ Hudson who turned 1 last week was captivated. They were so big and so shiny and there was a Thomas the Tank Engine! He couldn’t wait to pull them down to cuddle them.
And the delight that two year old Genevieve felt in the early morning light as she took her first bounces in her new trampoline! A dedicated balloon lover, as the balloons took flight, so did she.
I love the way little ones unwrap their presents, sometimes with a little help from Mum.
But then take off to test out the working capabilities of particular gifts.
And what would a birthday be without flowers Genevieve loved hers as much as I loved mine. Must be a girl thing.
And of course, there’s the birthday cake. When my children were little, this was a very important part of the celebrations. As they got older, they would pore over the Women’s Weekly Birthday Cake bookand put in their requests. After some negotiation, I would bake the cake and Kenn would decorate it. So keeping with family tradition, Melissa was determined to make Huddy’s first birthday cake memorable and she certainly succeeded.
Not only did the cake look good, it tasted great. Huddy was amazed. This was the first time he had been allowed to eat a smartie, chocolate icing and mud cake! It was a revelation! Huddy’s taste buds will never be the same again.
I even love singing Happy Birthday. Really no matter how musical or unmusical it sounds, it is the sound of love. Christian, Kelly and girls couldn’t be in Byron for my birthday this year, but for the very first time, when they face timed that morning, Genevieve sang Happy Birthdayto me and included four very enthusiastic hip hip hoorays. An unforgettable serenade.
The thing about firsts is that they keep coming. It can be as simple as taking Huddy for a walk along Main Beach in Byron. Even when it’s a perfect day,
a boy has to do what a boy has to do!
And you never know when you’re going to strike it lucky and for the first time get to use the special toddler swing at Main Beach.
You just have to be ready to lose yourself for a time in the world of the young.
Last week I found myself on the Manly ferry as the sun was setting. I took in the familiar sights of the Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House,relishing the taste of fresh, cold sea air.
I love that it was beautiful but different from home, for it has been lovely in Byron Bay of late. Perfect winter weather, perfect walking weather.
Even walking around the lake closer to home has been lovely.
But back in Sydney, as the ferry steamed towards Manly, all too soon, the sun set and clouds gathered.
As I watched the moon break through stormy clouds and ripple its light across the harbour, I thought about Uncle Neil. Last week, aged 92, he passed away. At his memorial service, family and friends remembered a quiet, clever but always loving man who had lived a really good life; a life that like the moonlight, softly touched so many for the better.
While I mourned the reason for our reunion, it was good to see my city and country cousins. Life is always an adventure when they are around. Travelling back into the city from Sutherland, I was able to appreciate my cousin Beth’s advanced driving skills at close range. Exiting the Eastern distributor and swinging a right across a couple of lanes into Macquarie St, Beth spotted a park and paralleled parked her 4WD in under a minute. All this in the dark, in peak hour traffic and in the midst of a festival! It was a maneuver beyond my wildest dreams and all under the watchful eyes of a police car which just happened to be parked behind us!
Soon we were making our goodbyes and I headed down Macquarie St to Circular Quay to see some of the fantastic Vivid lights on my way home. Vivid Sydney is a festival of light, music and ideas. Beautiful light and laser shows illuminate, interpret and transform Sydney’s urban spaces with a unique creative vision. These lights transform Sydney into a wonderland that is free for all to enjoy. As well there is an innovative contemporary music program.
Earlier, my son Christian and his family had gone to Vivid at the Zoo where young and old alike were entranced by the light sculptures and the laser display.
So I was very keen to see the Opera House and the foreshore which serves as the heart of the festival. I was not disappointed even though I couldn’t really capture it with my camera phone.
But this was a fleeting, family visit. We are definitely going to plan a Vivid holiday next year.
All too soon, I was back on the plane, headed for home. I had a window seat and as I took one last look at Sydney, I thought that it was fitting that Uncle Neil should leave us in the middle of festival such as Vivid, surrounded by light, never to be forgotten.
Autumn is a delightful time of year. Here in Byron Bay, it brings warm sunny days and cool evenings that invite you to snuggle down under a doona. While it is still warm enough to swim in the bay without a wetsuit, it’s the season for beach walking.
Lovely as Byron is at this time of the year, there is something missing. I can’t walk through drifts of red, yellow or orange leaves and breathe in the scent of wood smoke. I can’t see avenues of claret and golden ash trees or bright yellow poplars blazing against bright blue skies or taste the tang of early morning frosty air.
Road trip time!
First stop was Sydney and a family celebration. Little Genevieve was turning TWO! And there was the added bonus of spending some quality time with baby Francesca, the cutest little nine week old poppet one could hope to meet. Was it really only two years ago that we joined that wonderful club: Grandparents Inc? So much joy!
Birthday celebrations over, we took to the highway in search of ‘that season of mists and mellow fruitfulness.’ Thredboin the Snowy Mountains, where we hoped to climb to the summit of Australia’s highest mountain, Mt Kosciuszko was our first destination. Autumn was all around us as we stopped for brunch at the Magpie cafe in historic Berrima.
After a short stop in Jindabyne to gather supplies, we were soon settling into our delightful studio at Snowgoose Apartments. From our balcony we watched as the sun began to set behind the mountain and the mist started to rise. Yep, we were in “Man from Snowy River” country, ready for some high country adventures.
The following morning dawned as perfectly as one hopes a morning will dawn in the mountains. However, we had been warned that the weather is very changeable on Kosciuszko, so we dressed accordingly: walking boots, merino thermals, waterproof jackets, gloves and beanies. Yes we did indeed resemble Yetis out for an afternoon stroll!
Unfortunately the main chairlift, the Kosciuszko express was out for maintenance and we had to take the Snowgum chairliftto the top of the mountain. This meant that our trek to the summit begun with a very, and I mean very, steep 500 metre climb to the beginning of the Kosciuszko walking trail. Bleating like an injured mountain goat, I scrambled over rocks and protruding snow gum roots eventually finding myself looking up at the Eagle Nest Restaurant, ready to begin the real trek!
To protect the delicate, alpine environment, National Parks have constructed an elevated walkway for the 7 or so kms to the summit. It really is a very pleasant, easy climb. We noticed that many of the small streams that meander across the plateau, had frozen over during the night and that there were still tiny delicate flowers and mosses snuggling between the rocks.
Soon we had to take off beanies, scarves and coats, it was so warm. And there was hardly another person in sight. We were alone, just us and the mountains and the sky. Coming to a fork in the track, we saw the sign for Charlotte’s Pass. A trek for another day?
Approaching the summit, the views in every direction were fantastic. Although there was no snow where we were, we could see the snow capped peaks of the Victorian Alps to the south.
Soon we were at the summit, celebrating with others enjoying our picnic lunch.
An easy downhill stroll saw us easily meet our rendezvous with the chairlift and we enjoyed our half hour descent. The beautiful weather continued as next morning, we enjoyed the river walk which follows the Thredbo River and Golf Course.
Following the call of the road, we resumed our trip, stopping for morning tea at Lake Jindabyne.
Not only was the lake looking wonderful but there were poplars lining the shore.
Our road trip took us along the Snowy Mountains highway to Yarrangabilly Caveswhere we stopped for lunch and a swim in the thermal pool. Again, we would have liked to stay longer. Caves House, which has very competitive rates, looked very inviting. Although we have explored the caves before, we would have liked to do so again.
The beautiful town of Tumut awaited us. I knew that the town had just celebrated ‘The festival of the Falling Leaf’ so was hoping that the autumn colour I had been hankering for would still be on display. It was! As we strolled along the Tumut River Walk in the late afternoon, I couldn’t have asked for more.
But our road trip was not finished. From Tumut, we traveled to Cowra via Gundagai and Young. Here we were catching up with family and friends. We enjoyed a memorable lunch at the Cowra Breakout, a lovely coffee shop located in Macquarie St and perused the lovely shops nearby. Cowra, too is full of autumn colour.
A visit to the Japanese Gardens is particularly beautiful at this time of year.
That night, we enjoyed a special country dinner. My sister Jenny cooked the best roast lamb dinner I have tasted for ages. It was so tender and so full of flavour that I wanted to be like Oliver in ‘Oliver Twist’ and ask for more! It was of course, Cowra Lamb, a brand that is finding a lot of fans around Australia and overseas.
But all good things have to come to an end. It was time to return home. Usually the thought of the 1000 km plus drive would be a trifle daunting. But the countryside as we drove from Cowra across the Central West of NSW and the Liverpool plains as we headed north was just stunning. Full to the brim with mellow fruitfulness; shining with the colours of the fall.
Sometimes, when you least expect it, something wonderful happens. My friend Annie decided to celebrate a special birthday in Singapore and invited us along. We were delighted to accept and looked forward to a week of fun filled days as we explored this jewel of the East.
Flying out of the Gold Coast airport to Singapore on Scoot Airlines, the new budget offering from Singapore Airlines, was so much better than we expected: the new dreamliner was reasonably comfortable, the service good and best of all, we arrived at a civilised time in the afternoon. A celebratory drink and delightful dinner was enjoyed by all at our hotel, the Pan-Pacific at Marina Bay.
A brief foray into the immediate surroundings brought unexpected delights, including an indoor aquarium constructed entirely from balloons.
But it was time for birthday shenanigans. Taking full advantage of the beautiful weather, we lazily drifted about the pool and reclined on day beds sipping champagne, while we nibbled the first of two birthday cakes (courtesy of the hotel).
celebration day 2
Soon we were celebrating by the pool.
We were resting, preparing ourselves for the birthday feast: the seafood buffet at the Edge Restaurant in the Pan Pacific.
Lobster, prawns, chilli crab, sashimi, prawns, oysters. salmon … what to choose? We took it very slowly, pacing ourselves, savouring each morsel, each of us designing our own perfect combination. A special feature of the buffet were the live food stations. You could just go and request a particular seafood speciality and they would cook it to order and bring it out to you. Magical.
After such a meal, it was time to explore Marina Bay. Singapore’s skyline is amazing and a photographer’s paradise.
It was lovely to see how children are catered for in these open public places. While we were in Singapore, an inflatable Art Zoo, a kind of floating, giant, jumping castle was installed beside the helix bridge and the kids and their parents had a ball.
We enjoyed walking around the bay to the Merlion park where we found a cafe that was actually open for breakfast.
The views across the bay in the morning light were wonderful.
It was time to venture further afield. Becoming real tourists, we boarded the wacky duck, a remodelled WWII amphibious vehicle to explore Singapore’s landmarks by sea and by land. It was great to view familiar sights from the water but we made the mistake of sitting down the back and much of the commentary couldn’t be heard over the roar of the engines.
And in the evening dusk, as torchlight beckoned and the fire dancers performed, we met some of the residents of the Night Zoo.
Mastering the MRT, we wandered through the crowded alleyways of Chinatown. I was looking for toddler pyjamas. I remembered how adorable Christian had looked in his pale green, Chinese pyjamas and how much he loved them, so wanted to find something similar for Genevieve and Hudson. I bargained hard! And super cute silk pyjamas found their way into my bag. Looking back though, I don’t know who came out on top; the shopkeeper or me … a number of other items suddenly seemed essential … and the shopkeeper was smiling as she took my money.
We couldn’t resist the novelty of the Gourmet Bus either.
This was an indulgent way to see more of the city including a quick taste of the Gardens by the Bay where the dinosaurs, who were visiting for the school holidays, said ‘hello’.
We returned later that afternoon, to explore the two giant glasshouses and watch the light and sound show in the Super Tree grove. The Flower Dome features plants from temperate, alpine and desert regions of the world. It was cherry blossom time and the bottom floor of the glasshouse was awash in blossom.
I particularly liked the English garden where favourite characters hung out.
And here and there were sculptures created out of natural materials and a 2000 year old olive tree!
But the Cloud Forest was even more spectacular and far less crowded. Here, the Singaporeans have created a mountain complete with waterfall, inside a gigantic glasshouse that you can meander down.
It gives a whole new meaning to a vertical garden! You walk around the base of the mountain, pass a garden constructed out of lego to a lift which takes you to the summit of the mountain. There you can gaze back over the gardens towards Marina Bay.
There was so much to see as we walked down.
A reflection pool complete with dragonfly,
an amazing array of plants,
framing all sorts …
a crystal cavern
and a secret garden.
But the best was yet to come. We found ourselves a spot in the Super tree Grove to watch the free light and sound show. It was wonderful.
Sentosa Island was our destination for the following day. We caught a taxi to the island and used the free public transport to get around.
The luge was on the agenda. I remembered my previous encounter with the luge in Queenstown, New Zealand. Driving my sled in a suitably safe manner, I was shocked when an overtaking six year old told me, not too politely, to shift it. This time I was determined to find my inner formula I driver. And I did … on the third and final run!
Then it was time for a dip in the South China Sea before a delightful lunch overlooking the sea, complete with Singapore slings. A cable car ride to Mount Faber followed. A delightful way to see the city.
It was time to say goodbye to the birthday party for a day or so. Kenn and I were lucky enough to spend a couple of nights with our nephew, Ben, his lovely wife Deanna and beautiful baby Lewis. Has it been your experience, that where ever you go in the world, you run into someone from your past? This time, we shared a lovely evening with Kenn’s Aunty Norma and his cousins, Pat and Lynn who hail from Condobolin and Parkes in the Central West of NSW. They were visiting Pat’s son Raymond who coincidentally lives in the same complex as Ben and Deanna. It’s definitely a small world. It had been over 20 years since last we’d yarned but it seemed like yesterday. Family is like that. Guided by Deanna, we explored the beautiful Singapore river like an expat: Robertson Quay, Clarke Quay and Orchard Road. Beautiful by day and by night.
All too soon, our final day arrived. We visited some of the colonial buildings: the Art Gallery, Raffles, the Museum and Canning Park where we had farewell drinks.
Canning Park was very interesting. We didn’t have time to see the battlebox … maybe next time.
What is your favourite memory of Singapore, the lion city?
Too often, Singapore is seen as a stopover destination – a place to spend a few hours on the way from Australia to Europe. But I think that you need more. After a week, there was so much we didn’t see or experience. On our next trip perhaps?
Have you noticed how popular bike riding has become? And how seriously many take a recreational ride on the ‘treadly’? Not content to just ‘get back on the bike’, some are even willing to don padded lycra which enhance their posterior curves! While such dedication is not for us, Kenn and I have got back into riding in a low key, purely recreational manner. We have uncovered a series of short, easy yet scenic bike rides, in and around Byron that we, very much tongue in check, like to think of as the ‘Tour de Byron.’
We were inspired to buy new bikes and hit the bike trails following a visit to Rottnest Island in Western Australia, where bikes are the transportation of choice. The island is only 11km long and 4.5km wide, making it easy to explore with a number of great trails to follow.
Soon, we were zooming up and down car-free, paved tracks exploring beautiful bays, jetties, beaches and a beautiful Lighthouse. Even the pelicans said ‘hello’!
I had forgotten how exhilarating it is to roll along with the wind in your hair, putting in a bit of effort here, gliding along there. We even spotted a couple of quokkas and a great pub. Perfect for a well earned refreshment after such strenuous activity.
Back on the east coast, we set about getting ourselves some bikes. This was not an easy task as there are ‘bikes’ and then there are ‘real bikes’. Not wishing to remortgage the house, we decided on fairly basic, comfortable models. Mine is a lovely grey and white number with a retro feel, complete with basket. It also has a lovely padded seat; no need for lycra! I will admit to finding the gears a trifle challenging … a work in progress.
With bikes sorted, Kenn and I explored the bikes paths and rides in and around Byron. We thought that like the famous tours, we would allocate a stage to each ride, beginning with the easiest.
Stage I of the Tour de Byron: the Suffolk Park Bike Track
This is a great track for beginners and one of my favourites. I can roll down the hill from my place to the Soccer Grounds.
A little bit of cross country riding and I am at the roundabout in front of the BP service station on Broken Head Rd. Here I have to dismount and walk my bike across the road, but it’s no hardship because I have time to admire the waterlilies beside the path.
Having crossed the road, I remount and ride around the Pub and past the Suffolk shops. I resist the urge to stop at the Bakery for a coffee and cake. I tell myself, I haven’t burnt enough calories yet. I weave through Suffolk Park until at the far end of Alcorn Street, I reach the official beginning of the bike path. There are various exit points on this part of the path which lead directly onto the beach as well.
It is a lovely feeling riding along the path with the scents of the bush and the sounds of the surf and birdsong all around.
Occasionally, I encounter someone walking along the path, usually with their dog. I haven’t run anyone over … yet. I’ve noticed that people tend to move very quickly when I call out as I ring my bell, ‘ Beginner bike rider coming through!’
My favourite part of the track is crossing Tallow Creek. The light on the water is always changing, always beautiful.
It’s also a test of my riding. A certain amount of speed is necessary to stay steady and not wobble on the wooden bridge.
Over the bridge, I leave the beach behind, following the track back to Broken Head Road. Here I could turn right and ride into town or turn left and ride home. I choose to ride home. A 6km ride is just perfect for this beginner!
There are various bike rental shops in Byron if you don’t have your own or you’re visiting offering reasonable rates. It’s a great way to see more of the Bay than the main street.
I hope that you will join me on the next installment of my Tour de Byron, as I discover more easy rides, putting pedals to the test in and around this beautiful town.
Until relatively recently, Byron Bay could offer locals and visitors a choice of two cinema venues: a Palace multi-plex, located adjacent to the Woolworths supermarket in Johnson St and the more eclectic Pig House Flicks which is snuggled into the Byron Brewery at 1 Skinners Shoot Rd, Byron Bay.
However, the Palace complex is currently being expanded and rebuilt and won’t be open for some time. So, unless you want to travel to Ballina or further afield to catch the latest block buster, Pig House Flicksis the place to go.
Although Pig House Flicks shows the latest releases a week or two after the main release, it offers a unique, relaxing cinema experience. Check out what’s on offer at https://www.pighouseflicks.com.au. In air conditioned comfort, you can pop a cushion behind your back as you lean back in your two seater lounge for an unimpeded view of the big screen. Soon we were immersed in the sound and colour of La La Land. I now appreciate why it is in the running for the Oscars. We loved it.
And how many cinemas do you know are located next to a micro- brewery? Fancy a beer after the show? And how many offer a wonderful space for a bite to eat or a funky beer garden where there is always live music to enjoy?
One more thing to note. The cinema is relatively small so if you are hoping to see a popular film, you might like to get there a little early. Pig house flicks have some pleasant waiting areas.
While I miss some of the films that Palace Cinemas had access to, I really enjoy seeing a film at the Pig House Flicks. I think you might too.