We Came, We Saw, We Travelled At Home

Festival Jes Suis PAris So Frenchy So Chic Melbourne Werribee 2016 Travel at Home Many Cha Cha

This summer, we embarked on as many adventures as time and energy would allow. We have attended festivals, viewed parades and danced to live music. We’ve absorbed culture, experienced diversity and had a blast!

It’s only now, as the weather seems to be cooling (I think?) and we are settling into our new kindergarten routines, that we are slowing down a bit. So I thought I would do a bit of a photographic round-up of some “travel at home” adventures from our past few months.

So Frenchy So Chic Melbourne 2016 Many Cha Cha France Travel at Home Festival

In January the “So Frenchy So Chic” festival entered my radar and I didn’t think too much of it until the day of the event, when I woke up with the burning need to attend. It was a risky proposition (and pricey, let’s be honest), because Husband was working and I wasn’t sure if the kids would have the patience or stamina for a full day of Francophilia.

I needn’t have worried. Who could possibly resist the allure of lawn crocquet, gigantic bubbles, delicious delicacies and chic company, all to the live soundtrack of the best that French music has to offer (pictured above  on stage is Lou Doillon, who was great; insert pun about rocking cool jeans and genes). I was very grateful that the stage was audible (and just visible) from the face-painting queue, because that is where we spent a great deal of our time!

So Frenchy Je Suis Paris Melbourne 2016 French Festival France Travel at Home Kids

During February, Multicultural Arts Victoria held a series of concerts in the Fairfield Amphitheatre and we got along to a couple of them. They were a wonderful chance to spend time with friends and inspiring for the kids, who played instruments with one of the bands and danced to music from a variety of cultures.

Festival Multicultural Arts Victoria Thornbury Amphitheatre Concert Music Travel at Home 2016

We celebrated Lunar New Year in a number of ways. Chinatown in Melbourne thronged with people, lions and dragons, and the local Chinese community offered numerous activities for children.

Chinese Lunar New Year of the Monkey 2016 Chinatown Parade Melbourne Festival Travel at Home

And Melbourne Zoo took the opportunity to highlight its monkeys and decorate enclosures with bright red lanterns for the Year of the Monkey.

Melbourne Zoo Chinese New Lunar Year of the Monkey Travel at Home

Melbourne’s Moomba Festival has fallen in and out of favour over the years, but since I grew up with it I have a soft spot for the parade. Luckily, it was just our kind of thing; filled with fantastic music and dancing by local communities representing the world. My kids loved it.

Moomba Melbourne Multicultural Arts Culture Parade India Indonesia Travel at Home

Finally, last weekend we drove in the opposite direction, to Bendigo, to experience its Festival of Cultures.

Bendigo Multicultural Arts Culture Festival Travel at Home

We watched Karen people from Burma weaving cloth on simple looms, ate a fantastic lunch (including masala chips, YUM) from the Dhaba Truck, and enjoyed the live-mixing and layered vocals of Geoffrey Williams (pictured below).

This festival seemed to suffer from a slight lack of participation, which I’m sure is partly because there was another arts event on nearby and the huge annual Easter Festival planned for next weekend.

But it was a reminder: if we expect to have access to brilliant cultural events, live music, international artists and fun family festivals, then we need to get up and GO.

Festival of Bendigo Multicultural Arts Cultures Victoria Geoffrey Williams Concert Music



A Good Seder

I made each of our babies his own reversable kippah (or yarmulke, which is the Yiddish term for the same Jewish headgear) for the first Pesach celebration after they were born. It was a rare success in my ongoing efforts to become a Jewish mother.

This year’s Pesach begins tomorrow and while the extended family will celebrate the Seder dinner on the other side of the country, I am as disorganised as ever. So as we prepare to wish our loved ones a “gut yontif“, let’s not focus on the fact that I will shortly be scrambling around (again) for a gefiltefish recipe, trying to remember which dish is bitter and which should be sweet, and making a mental note to set an extra place at the table for Elijah the prophet.

Instead, let me show you how simple it was to make those kippot for the babies!

Pesach Seder Kippah Yarmulke How To Make Baby Drawing

I used a thin cotton fabric in contrasting patterns, gingham and polkadot. A noodle bowl was just the right size to use as a circle template.

After cutting circles in each fabric, I simply zig-zag stitched the edges together with the right sides out. Then, I cut a straight line to the centre of each, overlapped these edges slightly and sewed along the two lines resulting from the overlap.

Pesach Seder Dinner Home Made Craft Yarmulke Kippot Pattern

This gave the dome-shape required for the kippah to sit neatly on a baby head. The babies looked very cute while they lasted… they slept through most of the Seder dinner.

Pesach Seder Yarmulke Kippah Craft Tutorial Easy Make

Now, I wonder if it’s too late to buy matza online to be delivered tomorrow (we haven’t found a kosher food supplier here in Hobart)… The four cups of wine? That, I can do.

Gut Yontif to you!

Pesach Seder Passover Kippah Yarmulke Head Baby Make Tutorial Easy How To

Pussycat Pussycat…

…Where have you been?

Cat Children Pat Twins Gumboots Boots

We’ve been all sorts of places this past month, enjoying the good weather and festival season of our island home. Here’s a photographic summary:

Taste Tasmania Hobart Street Performer 2014

The Taste of Tasmania Festival, with nosh, nibbles and noms galore (sorry, I was on a roll with the aliteration). Not to mention giant lego, street performances and fantastic buskers.

Mona Foma Hobart 2014 Mofo Tasmania Mac 2

Mona Foma, or MOFO for short; a super cool music festival run by the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA).

Sun Ra Arkestra Mofo Mona Foma Hobart 2014

Highlights for me were the Sun Ra Arkestra, (above) an international, interplanetary stage explosion; The Bombay Royale from Melbourne via Bollywood; the tight-as-a-leopard-leotard punkish rock of The Julie Ruin and a mesmerising machine/music installation called The Ada Project.

Mona Foma Hobart Tasmania 2014 Mofo

The festival precinct, by the Hobart waterfront, was also just a really cool place to hang out with other music fans at dusk and beyond.

Mona Foma Mofo Tasmania Pixar in Concert Symphony Orchestra

We took the kids to see the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra performing music from the films of Pixar and they showed remarkable patience and focus. They are still talking about “the concert!”

Robin Hood Hobart Botanical Gardens Big Monkey Theatre

We also went, as a family, to see a musical version of Robin Hood performed in the Royal Botanical Gardens by Big Monkey theatre company.

Bruny Island Tasmania Beach Sand Child Running

Day trips have included jaunts to the Cygnet Folk Festival and the Middleton Country Fair. We took a ferry to Bruny Island and collected shells and rocks on the sensational beaches.

Bruny Island Beach Tasmania Child Rocks Sand

And in a surprising twist, given my usual relationship with sport generally and tennis specifically, we attended the Hobart International Tennis Tournament (and enjoyed it!). Check out the view beyond the court in the photo below.

Hobart International Tennis Tournament Women Doman 2014

It has been a month of involvement, discovery and new experiences.

(And I should mention that while we’ve been visiting all these different places, and more, it has been possible to find me in one “place” the whole time: Instagram. Look me up under the name manychacha if you are a frequenter of that particular social medium!)

New Norfolk Tree Children Hipstamatic

Lucy, Queen of Light


The story of St Lucy, or Santa Lucia, travels in time and across countries and reminds us of how fortunate we are to simply plug key words into a search engine to seek more information. The modern way leaves us vulnerable to less-than-academic research and “hearsay,” but let’s that not allow that to get in the way of this rambling good story.

Imagine, in pre-Christian Scandinavia, the days becoming shorter and shorter until it seemed like the darkness would not end. It must have been daunting, at the very least, and we can imagine that light itself must have seemed like something to worship.

Imagine, in ancient Syracuse, the powerful Mediterannean city-state (located in Sicily but founded by Greeks), a young woman martyred after consecrating her virginity to god and really annoying the man she was supposed to marry. She may or may not have had her eyes gouged out and is usually depicted carrying them on a golden plate. Even without this gruesome, symbolic connection to the idea of “light”, her name sounds like the word in Latin: luce.

St Lucy Saint Santa Lucia Eyes Plate MArtyr

After the Middle Ages when St Lucy’s story became famous, the festivals that venerated the last of the light on the shortest days merged with the celebrations of this virgin saint. Nowadays St Lucy’s Day is held on December 13 with processions of young girls in white dresses, wearing floral wreaths and candles around their heads (don’t try that at home!). It sounds very picturesque, in a cold and dark sort of way.


Interestingly, the Venezia Santa Lucia railway station, the main terminus in the historic city of Venice, is the site of the church that was built to hold the remains of Santa Lucia. Her body was briefly held hostage in 1476 by a group of nuns from Corpus Domini, who did not want to hand her over to this new resting place!

When the Santa Lucia church was demolished to make way for the development, the relic was moved to the church of San Geremia. She was kidnapped again in 1981, by thieves demanding ransom, and the body was finally recovered by police on her feast day, December 13. Is it just me or does that sound like a bit of a publicity stunt?

In any case, St Lucy is famous and well loved in her own right, and she is the patron saint of the blind. With her compellingly tragic story and romantic symbols, she is a sweet addition to the mythic figures of the holiday season.


Hanukkah for Beginners

When it comes to being a good Jewish mother, I’m a Learner Driver. If only it were as simple as saying “Eat Something!”

Chanukah Hanukkah Toy Children Menorah

Here are a few things that I have learned from my most recent — hopeless and embarrassing — attempt at incorporating some Jewish culture into our holiday season:

1. When it comes to getting the dates right, don’t rely on road-side posters in Caulfield promoting a related event or your “memory”.

2. Don’t use google to find latke recipes. That’s why you have sisters-in-law.

Chanukah Latke Potato Mix Recipe

3. And don’t take any notice of internet people who say “Latkes must be served with apple sauce and sour cream!” because the husband may say he’s never heard of such a thing, what are those funny-looking sauces.

4. Do not assume that by giving the kids some Chanukah toys (fantastic gifts from cousins), they will suddenly get into the spirit of it. They may sing “Happy Birthday to you!” to the Menorah and pretend to fry snails instead of latkes.

Chanukah Toy Play Set Wooden KidKraft

5. Don’t forget to dig out your Menorah well in advance, so you don’t have to use the toy one to undertake the ceremonial lighting of the candles. And don’t forget to buy proper candles, too, so you don’t have to use birthday candles.

Chanukah Menorah Candles Beginners Lighting Children

6. Never stop being grateful that the kids don’t know the difference yet, and that their dad is extremely easy-going about it all. Now, eat something already!

Chanukah Hanukkah Latke Plate Ideal Colour

Hands On Art

Artful Parenting Drawing Festival Toddler Marker

Child art is often as good as any abstract art in a gallery, I reckon (no offence to any abstract artists who may be reading) and I’ve been looking forward to framing work created by my own kids. But anticipating the outcome sort of misses the point of children doing artistic activities, doesn’t it?

For kids, the value of making art is in creative play, exploration and discovery. It’s about the process.

Artful Play Al Fresco Art Nature Painting Children

We’ve been trying out some new art-based activities lately. Collecting natural materials to use as brushes….

Artful Outdoor Painting Garden Nature Paint Children Kids

…and painting al fresco…

Artful Painting Nature Paint Creative Kids Children

…which resulted in more paint on our clothes than on the paper!

Artful Play Dough Child Home

There’s been lots of play dough (or “fray dough” as it is known here).

Artful Play Dough Garlic Press Worms Kids Creative

And yesterday we attended thINK, a drawing festival arranged by Bradfield Dumpleton, who is an arts educator and illustrator.

Artful Parent Bradfield Dumpleton Draw Connect Learn Festival Hobart

We chatted to Jane Brown, who worked with Bradfield to make it all happen, while the kids scrawled all over the paper table cloth and got a grip on the different kinds of drawing implements. Jane explained that the festival was as much about creating connections as creating art.

Artful Bradfield Dumpleton Drawing Thinkubator Festival Hobart

The idea was to get imagination juices flowing by exploring lines, links and the workings of the human brain.

The gallery of drawings completed by (mostly school-aged) participants was cool and inspiring. Better still was the opportunity for our little guys to get their hands dirty and have a go themselves.

Artful Parent Crayon Texta Festival Art Drawing Kingston

Moroccan Match Making

Morocco Lemon Souk Aamor Agdoud N'Oulmghenni

During September, in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco, the Betrothal Feast of Imilchil is held with much colour and fanfare. A story of forbidden love is apparently what led to the creation of this event, officially called Souk Aamor Agdoud N’Oulmghenni.

The legend of Tislet and Isli is like a cross between Romeo/Juliet and Swan Lake (a lovely version is retold at Friends of Morocco). Refused permission to marry, the lovers threw themselves into lakes, or were perhaps dissolved by grief to become lakes, only to be forever separated by the mountains. Their families vowed to gather in remembrance and to never again meddle in the marriage choices of young people.

The festival, also known as the Berber Bride Festival, seems nowadays to largely be an annual reunion for villagers in the region, rather than a match-making exercise, but the romantic roots of the event remain. I love the idea of a festival of courting and eyelash fluttering in Morocco (imagine the spectacle!).

Moroccan Preserved Lemon Recipe Jar Berber Bride Festival

Speaking of match-making, lemon and salt are an ideal pair, aren’t they? I have managed to sneak quite a few vegetables past the lips of my fussy eaters with a squeeze of lemon and sprinkle of salt. And with Morocco in mind, I have preserved the last tiny lemons from my lichen-covered trees.

Morocco Preserved Lemons Jar Salt Pickle

I found a variety of recipes for Moroccan preserved lemons, such as this one from David Lebovitz and another from this lovely blog called MarocMama. As usual, I took hints from a few different recipes and then improvised.

And now that I’ve married my lemons with so much salt, I need to find the perfect partner for this preserve. There are lots of suggestions on both of the above blogs, and more at A Recipe for Gluttony and Globetrotter Diaries.

Once the preserve has brewed for a month or so, I look forward to making a Moroccan feast for my own “betrothed”.

Morocco Preserved Lemon Berber Wedding Festival