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



Magic is Free

We made our own magic wands using materials from around the house and it was very satisfying.

Magic Wand Toys Children Craft Natural Sticks Paint

I drew star outlines, using cookie cutters as the template, on plain cardboard (it was the backing from a notebook).

Magic Homemade Toys Child Art Create Confetti Watercolor Paint

The kids painted the card with watercolour, then when it was dry they added some oil pastel scribbles.

Magic Toy Make Star Wand Natural Free Craft Children

Sprinkling confetti is like hitting a saucepan with a spoon: parents loathe it and kids adore it.

Magic Wand Toy Star Cardboard Craft Kids Art

The stars are a bit wonky, but if we wanted perfect we might have chosen plastic ones from the shop.

Magic Wand Toy Kids Create Art Natural Washi Tape Spots

Finally: some spotty washi tape, reinforced by a spot of glue, to hold the star to the sticks that we had we collected at the park.

Sim Sala Bim!

Magic Craft Wand Make Free Play Art Craft

A Week for Positive Thinking

During a low moment the other day, not long after we abandoned our smoking car and walked home, I made a mental list of all the rotten things that have happened around here lately. It felt like a long list.

Positive Thinking Feeling Lucky Magnolia Grandiflora Flowers Hobart Botanical Gardens

In addition to the terminal vehicle, we have had a skin-crawling saga with a resident rodent and a smash-and-grab in which our house was burgled of all the little, valuable gadgets. Most notable amongst the stolen items were my DSLR camera and an antique iphone containing all my music and phone-numbers (with technology so obsolete that my best option to back it up was a pen and paper). On top of all this have been other life stresses that when piled up, can really get you down.

Then I noticed the date: August 4, the 100th anniversary of the beginning of The Great War. It was an opportunity to put things into perspective. Yes, it’s an extreme example of Positive Thinking but I still think it’s worthwhile to consider the larger picture when things seem too much. So the family car broke down! Well, at least we’re not embroiled World War 1.

I’m really not being flippant about the horrors of WW1. All those soldiers who suffered and perished purportedly did so to keep us safe and preserve our way of life, so I think it’s quite correct to think of them — and the folks who held it together back at home — and to fiercely, gratefully, embrace our fortunate lifestyles.

Positive Thinking Magnolia Flowers Winter

Or to put it another way: it is a reminder to keep looking for the positive in our own situation, because it could be worse. And really we’re very lucky.

At least the car died half way between our house and our trusted mechanic, and not in the bush at night or up a mountain; both of which were recently possible. And at least there was only one rodent, it seems, now dispatched. And at least my camera was plugged into the computer when it was pinched, so I can still share these photos that I have taken with it.

The story of these photos is: only during the cold depths of winter can we enjoy the magnificent, luminous blooms of the Magnolia.

That’s Positive Thinking!

NB: Many years ago I undertook a four week, free course in Positive Thinking at the Brahma Kumaris centre in Fitzroy. I was mourning the loss of a family member at the time and not only did it help me get through that, but I think it improved my life. I can recommend it for anyone whose thinking needs a switch and no, it’s not religious.

Positive Thinking Feeling Lucky Magnolia Flowers Tasmania Winter

An Outdoor Room

Outdoor Room Outside Autumn Porch Garden Rug Couch

The idea of an “outdoor room” has always appealled to me; a room where the outdoors can creep in just a little bit, or perhaps a slice of nature that contains some homely comforts. This little dream of mine usually features balmy weather, tropical fronds, aromatic blooms… and so it has seemed a bit out of reach for day to day life.

However, I decided to attempt one for the opposite conditions, using our front porch as a protected outside space which we can enjoy even in frosty weather. Because it has been increasingly clear that my energetic offspring couldn’t possibly be cooped up for the duration of the Hobart winter that is coming soon. (Tumbling and jumping, tricycling and ball-chasing are currently favourite activities).

When the cold and wet weather sets in, they are likely to be climbing the walls and running circles around me. Actually, literally.

Outdoor Room Outside Autumn Porch Garden Couch Child

Our outdoor room features lovely light; dappled as a result of the many trees that surround it.

Out Door Room Outside Autumn Porch Garden Rug Couch Play

I added some rugs for a cosy feel, but I suspect that the little bikes will prevail in the end and the rugs will be rolled away…

Outdoor Room Outside Autumn Porch Garden Rug Couch Read Books

We have enjoyed eating lunch out there, waving hello to the postie as he delivers the mail and waiting for the kids’ dad to come home.

Outdoor Room Outside Autumn Porch Garden Japanese Maple Tree

At the moment the autumn colours are delightful but soon many of our trees will be bare and it will feel like a different space indeed.

Outdoor Room Outside Autumn Porch Garden Mobile Shells

I hope our “outdoor room” is as inviting when the weather is chilly and damp and dark.

Outdoors Room Outside Autumn Fall Porch Garden Rug Couch Play Out Door

Kyoto Art and Design Scene: A Glimpse

Kyoto Art Design Scene Dragon Sculpture Clay Shrine

One of the joys of Kyoto — and indeed Japan — is that the locals apparently approach all aspects of life artfully.

So even though my experience of Kyoto art and design was largely restricted to toddler-accessible locations, it was still possible to enjoy many examples of visual creativity around the city. (In addition, I escaped on a bicycle during nap time one sunny afternoon, armed with a Kyoto Art Map, which can be found at galleries and cafes around town).

Here are a few glimpses of art that I saw, with a slight emphasis on contemporary work. Having visited many temples and traditional gardens on my last visit to Kyoto, ten years ago, I decided to focus my attention this time upon a more modern version of Japan.

Having said that, it’s not really possible to untangle the old from the new!

Following the images are a few of my suggestions for an art and design experience in the inspiring city of Kyoto.

Kyoto Art Design Scene Cafe Drawing Painting Aframe Sign Sidewalk

At top: a chunky dragon figure dominates a footpath display or shrine. Above: a simple line drawing on an A-frame advertises hot drinks.

Kyoto Art Design Scene Akase Mifusa Gallery Exhibition

Bold animal paintings by Akase Mifusa are displayed in windows above a row of retail stores, creating an outdoor gallery of sorts.

Kyoto Art Design Scene Street Art Sticker Paste Up Graffiti

I love the sticker on the electrical pole: conceptual art on the street, perhaps?

Kyoto Art Design Scene Kokeshi Shop Window Traditional Junk Secondhand

A sweet, kokeshi-style painted doll in a junk shop window.

Kyoto Art Design Scene Dohjidai Gallery 1928 Building Exhibition

An exhibition at the Dohjidai Gallery of Art, which is at the centre of a creative hub in Kyoto.

Kyoto Art Design Scene Japan Obi Tie Kimono Colourful Rainbow

A display of obi/kimono ties, yet another visual treat.

Kyoto Art Design Scene Cat Sculpture Clay Beckoning Maneki Neko Modern

A contemporary take on the beckoning cat called maneki neko. (Unfortunately I don’t have a record of who created these beauties, I admired them through the window of the gallery).

Kyoto Art Design Scene Department Store Sfera Italy Milan European Style Homewares

Marvellous use of natural materials and pared-down style at Sfera, a rarefied design department store in which I was the only browser. Weird! But wonderful.

Kyoto Art Design Nijiyura Chu Sen Dye Traditional Technique Dyeing Japan Osaka Textiles

An old fashioned dying technique called chu-sen is used to create modern textiles in the shop, Nijiyura, pictured above.

Kyoto Art Design Scene Dog Sculpture Clay Florist Shop Flowers Plants

Colours and textures from nature are regularly a feature of artful displays around the city.

Listed below are some names and locations that I discovered while exploring Kyoto, and this is without even venturing towards some of the bigger arts institutions:

  • Gallery Morning Kyoto is a small gallery space featuring solo exhibitions that seem to be by emerging artists. I was happily surprised, when I visited, to be introduced to the artist whose work I was admiring.
  • Gallery Kei masters a sublime combination of traditional Japanese materials and modern display sensibility. Mindblowingly beautiful (for more images, see images by Rios).
  • Tomohito Matsubara is a jewellery artist who can capture the essence of a cherry-blossom in a precious metal.
  • Hori Nobuko creates whimsical worlds in pastel colours, and Ayaka Ogawa is also an artist specialising in cute characters. They were both showing work in the building that houses Cafe Independants.
  • An exhibition by Komorik of air plants and other dried flora was very lovely.
  • If you’re looking to buy art and design books and products, the super-cool store called Angers is the place to go.
  • Cafe Independants is an underground cafe/bar for-and-by creative types. It’s in a building with galleries and artists (some mentioned above), and well worth a visit, even if you can’t get down the stairs because you are pushing a double-stroller. But the entrance to the cafe is artistic, too; see below.

Kyoto has long been a hub for artisans, so it’s no surprise that it has a thriving art scene today. To connect with it, I highly recommend you get hold of a Kyoto Art Map… or simply roam the streets and keep your eyes open!

Kyoto Art Design Cafe Independants Indepenents Japan Underground Stairs Gallery Artist Hub

Ease on Down the Road

Day trips are a fantastic way to introduce your family to a travelling mindset. There’s not much to lose when you are only an hour or two from home, but there is much to be gained.

Roadt Trip Kids Children Thermos Prepare

Become Explorers

Importantly for me and my family, small journeys are a way to develop an understanding of our surroundings and an appreciation for our environment. They encourage us all to remain curious and observant, and we all learn new things when we are out and about. In a nutshell, short trips help us learn to open our eyes and minds in the way that grander travel does.

Learn About the World Around You

It’s all very well to sing about Old MacDonald with your toddlers, but what on earth is a farm anyway? Or a bridge, ship, petrol tanker, mountain…? It’s so exciting for children to gain first-hand knowledge about the things they see in books, and they can also gather understanding by seeing things in context and discussing them. Seeing and talking about new objects in the real world also seems to help their language develop. Experiential learning is certainly very fun.

Bond as a Family

We continue to talk about our experiences afterwards, we look at photos and recall the moment, including our feelings. (One of our kids regularly refers to a “scary” incident with a person dressed up in a gorilla suit that gave him a fright, and the other talks about his happiness at seeing a bubble-blowing stilt-walker at a festival). We are gathering a collection of shared family memories.

Practice Your Travel Preparations

Short jaunts are a great way to rehearse for your future family adventures, on smaller scale. I recall being child-free and leaving all my packing until the last minute; on one occasion I packed after a big party (I threw a bunch of clothes into my backpack and sang Queen’s Don’t Stop Me Now! all the way to the airport before a month-long trip). Sadly, I cannot be so blasé these days and I need to write lists, gather supplies and consider contingencies for the whole family. These things did not come to me naturally, so I appreciate the opportunity to make my mistakes when we are not far from home.

Plan For Future Outings

You can’t see or do everything when you are taking small trips. There are always signposts hinting at interesting diversions and antique shops spilling onto the footpath, calling your name (perhaps that’s just me). Rather than worry about what you’re missing this time, make notes of intriguing detours that you notice, and make plans to revisit at a later date.

Just Start

If no particular destination seems immediately obvious for a day trip, just start small and see where you end up. Drive for an hour and see what catches your attention. Talk about what you notice while driving, point out new things, sing together. With kids in the car, it always helps to end up at a playground, field or public garden. Run off steam, have a picnic and then head home. There, you’ve had a mini adventure!

Small trips in your region are all it takes to start developing the spirit of exploration within your family. There’s a lot to gain, even if you get lost.

If you need some further inspiration I recommend checking out the great outing suggestions at Be A Fun Mum and the fantastic follow-up activities on Childhood 101.

Road Trip Children Toy Car Thermos Lunch Box Family

Festive Wrap

Merry Christmas Crochet Tibetan Lights Vintage Postcards

A compilation of snaps from our small Christmas: we were festive, we feasted and since then we’ve rested.

Merry Christmas Crochet Doyley Antique Postcards Children

Our Christmas decorations with an antique twist. Green beans and buckets of water on the doorstep for reindeer sustenance.

Merry Christmas Leave Beans Snack Water Drink Santa Claus Reindeer

Ducks and seagulls arriving to join our picnic Christmas lunch at the first sight of the tablecloth.


Playing ball by the Coal River, Richmond.


Old Christmas toffee tin, handy for a picnic.


Merry Christmas Richmond Bridge River Hobart Tasmania

Enjoying a walk at Richmond Bridge.


Salads are fine but star biscuits are stellar!


We offered the ducks some Christmas sweet corn but they seemed a bit fussy.

Merry Christmas Feed Ducks Richmond Bridge Tasmania

Pretty wrap and dotty pillow cases for lucky kids with new, big pillows.


The advent calendar, reminding us of the busy time that we have just successfully, happily, negotiated.

Merry Christmas Crochet Doyley Vintage Postcards Advent Calendar Chanukkah