a last-minute flight to perth…

The other night we received some sad news: we had a death in the family. This wasn’t unexpected but until it actually happens you never know how the news will hit you. This family member lives Perth (a three-hour flight from us) so we have booked some last-minute tickets to fly over on Sunday.

As sad as it is, it will also be a new experience: this will be Baby’s first time on a plane and with that comes our first time flying with an infant. There’s so much more to travelling with a bub than I ever imagined (checking in the pram, feeding him on take off so his ears don’t hurt, making sure the hire car has a car seat, booking a hotel room with a cot), but seeing his little name on the ticket puts a huge smile on my face.

This will be the only time we can get away together for a while and it’s obviously the first time the three of us are travelling together so, even though we’re flying over for a sad occasion, we’d like to have one day to do the touristy thing and have some family time.

So, dear readers, for those of you who have been to Perth, what are your must-do activities for someone who only has one day free? (hint: we’ve been before and are confident with the roads, but have never had the chance to properly explore) And for any one with kiddies, what hints or tips would you offer for a first-timer like me?

xx

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how will history remember Gough Whitlam?

One day in high school my friend and I were being naughty and listening to an iPod during Maths class. Our teacher tapped us on the shoulder and pointed out this poor behaviour and, being cheeky, we replied “but this band is named after our favourite politician”. When our teacher asked about the band and we told him they were called the Whitlams, he was so excited. Gough, he said, had saved his life. You see, the day Gough Whitlam was elected (the 2nd December 1972), our wonderful Maths teacher was due to be shipped off to Vietnam to join the most unpopular war effort. Number one on Whitlam’s agenda as Prime Minister was to withdraw our troops, and he did.

I read more about Whitlam and his time as leader of our country but of course at the height of my interest I was only 16 or 17 years old and hardly able to comprehend the complexities of his term and the time period in which he was leading our country (he was elected 16 years before I was born and dismissed three years later). I once brought him up in conversation with my grandparents, staunch Liberal voters their whole lives, and learnt that our relationship would be better off if I never spoke of the despicable Gough Whitlam again. He was a mongrel who nearly ruined us all.

Two generations of people with totally different opinions, and yet they really do represent the divisiveness of Whitlam’s term. Mired by scandal, intrigue and possible corruption, I can now understand where my grandparents were coming from. However as an admittedly left-leaning individual myself (not far left, just a little!) I do still have a lot of admiration for the reforms Whitlam and his government implemented, particularly with regard to the working environment they had to do it in.

His legacy includes so many turning points in our nation’s evolution but the ones that speak to me are the ones that show a degree of humanity: introduction of universal healthcare, improved access to tertiary education, abolition of conscription and the death penalty, the introduction of no-fault divorces and welfare payments for the homeless and disadvantaged. Some of these social justice issues are currently in Australian political news again as they are under threat and I can only hope that, upon reflection of Mr Whitlam’s life, we are reminded of why his Government brought these policies in to begin with.

A few years ago I read an interview with Mr Whitlam in the Sunday paper where he was asked where he wanted to be buried when he died. His answer? “It doesn’t matter – I’ll only be in there for three days.”

A funny bastard too – that’s how I’d like to remember him.

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image courtesy of SBS/Getty

haters gonna hate: why I love RADelaide

There’s a common misconception about my home city. It has this reputation for being dull and lifeless, full of murderers, dole bludgers and all manner of other misfits the normal person would have nothing to do with. Frequently the butt of many a joke by interstate stand-up comedians looking for a cheap laugh, Adelaide cops more than its fair share of mis-informed city-bashing.

I find it baffling that such a pretty, friendly, cultured city cops so much criticism. Why all the negativity?
Is it because we’re “small”? With a population of 1.2 million people, we’re on par with the likes of San Diego, Dallas, Prague and Montevideo. Definitely not the biggest cities in the world, but big enough to have a lot going on and small enough to keep its friendly vibe.
Is it because there’s nothing to do? Surely not. There’s always a concert, musix festival, fashion show, food and wine festival, pop up bar opening, EP launch, or some other event to head along to. I hear complaints that anything good only happens in March and yes, while the Clipsal 500, Cabaret Festival and Adelaide Fringe occur then, they aren’t the only events Adelaide has to offer. Plus, take a short drive and explore the Fleurieu Peninsula, the Riverland or the Barossa Valley. Head a little further afield and you could be four wheel driving in the Flinders Ranges or on the Eyre Peninsula.
Is it because we have no culture? Impossible. South Australia, the only state to have been founded by free settlers, has always been a melting pot of many amazing cultures and traditions. We embrace all of these and have developed our own unique versions. For a taste of German-Australian heritage, head up to the Hills, particularly Hahndorf. For Asian flavour, head to Chinatown (even better during Chinese New Year). Or for a fun day out, try the Croatian Festival, the Glendi Greek Festival, the Carnevale Italian Festival or my personal favourite the OzAsia Festival. Speaking of favourites, another event close to my heart is WOMADelaide. The whole world’s worlds best music played in a beautiful garden.
And the food! Every place I’ve mentioned has an amazing variety of foods to try and some of the country’s best wines and beers to go with it. Cheese Festival anyone? Schutzenfest? It’s all here.
 
When you’ve eaten too much, drank too much, partied too much and generally exhausted yourself, head down to any of our white, sandy beaches for some R and R. A dip in the clear, glassy waters and you’ll be refreshed and ready to go again.
 
These reasons, among many others, are reasons why I live in this beautiful city and why I love it so much. I might take any opportunity to hop on a plane but you’ll always see me coming back home to Adelaide.
 

Why are we so happy? Because we’ve spent the afternoon at Tennyson, one of my favourite beaches.

my quest for the perfect gnocchi

I have a bit of an obsession with gnocchi. It’s the perfect meeting of my two loves: potato and pasta. My waistline wishes my fondness was for protein shakes or celery or whatever but no, its gnocchi, and I’ve been in love with these delightful little dumplings since I was tiny.I always preach about trying new things but when I see these little parcels of heaven on a menu, I can’t resist. I would love to try them everywhere, Sam I Am. I’ve been lucky enough to have gnocchi in Italy (not everywhere but in a few places, such as Venice) and each region of Italy has it’s own interpretation so I’d love to go on a Grand Gnocchi Tour of Italy one day.

The best I’ve ever had though was in Croatia. I actually thought this was bizarre but it’s not; it’s an extremely popular dish in coastal Croatia (such as Split, where I had the best one); they call it “njoki” (sounds the same, I guess). It was in a tiny little port-side cafe where I sampled this best-gnocchi-dish-of-my-life-so-far. So simple, perfect little morsels tossed in a Gorgonzola sauce. I didn’t even like blue cheese at the time, but after this dish I became a convert, which tells you a little something about it’s power.

Anyway, unfortunately I am not currently overseas on gnocchi-consuming adventures. I did however have a lovely weekend in South Australia’s very own McLaren Vale, sampling the local produce (particularly the wine!). I absolutely love living in Adelaide because McLaren Vale, the Barossa Valley, the Clare Valley and the Adelaide Hills region are all so close, and the Coonawarra is a few hours’ drive away. These amazing regions are home to some of the world’s best vineyards and microbreweries and the freshest produce.

We went to a restaurant called Au Pear (so cute, check it out here) and I had, of course, the gnocchi. The menu reads: “house made with confit artichoke hearts, caprino fresco and olive cream”. Now, strictly as a gnocchi traditionalist, it wasn’t what I expected. I have to day though, it was delicious. So delicate, so balanced, so fresh – and just enough on the plate to start feeling full without feeling heavy. Maybe that was the idea – we ordered the lemon souffle for dessert!

So, if you want a relaxing afternoon in the sunshine, head down to the Vale for some beautiful food; if you’re somewhere else in the world right now, keep me up to date with the gnocchi on your plate!

Gnocchi, Au Pear restaurant, McLaren Vale – sorry, I dug in before I remembered to take a photo!

how I nearly got banned from the river

Murray River in flood, Teal Flat, South Australia

My partner’s family have a property at Teal Flat, which is right on the Murray about an hour and a half from Adelaide. We head up there quite a lot because it’s nice after a busy week to feel we “got out of the city”, especially because we’re saving up for the wedding and honeymoon so we haven’t been on a proper holiday for a while.

Teal Flat is a private gated community type of set up; it has an Association which set the rules you need to follow if you build a house and spend time there. It keeps things nice and orderly so everyone can have a good time. Most people who have places here come up on the weekends but there are a few (like my future in laws) who live here permanently.

Last weekend, Logan decided it would be a great idea if I hopped on the ride on lawnmower and took it for a spin. I said no, of course, because bad things tend to happen when I get involved with heavy machinery. “Don’t worry, it’ll be fun!” he says (famous last words). It was decided that I would sit on the seat and my foot would control the throttle, while he stood on one side and did all the steering… seems logical.

So off we went to mow the lawn. Once we had done our own lawn, we went across the road to mow the common land because we’re such great citizens and we were having way too much fun. We were having a great laugh, making jokes about how “the couple who mows together stays together” until mister steered too close to a small tree. “Stop!!!” he yelled, but of course by this stage I had completely forgotten I actually had my foot on the throttle and he had stopped steering because he thought I would stop the mower. We literally went straight over the top of this poor tree.

Quick! we thought. We can put this tree back together before anyone sees (?!) but then we heard someone yell “now you’re in trouble!”… It was Logan’s mum, standing with the head of the Association (who happens to be very fond of those trees) and his wife. We found half the stake to tie the tree to (the other half went through the mover, and thank God the mower was okay) and destroyed the rest of the evidence. Still… I suddenly feel much less welcome.

SHARK!

I was, to be perfectly honest, completely freaking out. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it really and as much as I made jokes about being gobbled up limb by limb I wasn’t really finding it all that funny. The two and a half-hour boat trip out to the Neptune Islands gave my brain plenty of time to do some thought backflips and I jumped from being thrilled to scared to happy to anxious to wanting to vomit.I managed to keep my breakfast down though, unlike most people on the boat. The long ride from Port Lincoln, on the Eyre Peninsula, to the islands is really choppy and when you’re that nervous it’s worse. Once the cage goes in and you’re given the safety brief, that’s when the gravity of what you’re about to do really sinks in.

As I slowly climbed down into the cage, I realised my fear actually had nothing to do with the feared Great White Shark, rather it was the ocean itself I was afraid of. I never used to be scared, and when I was a teenager I would have been the first to get in that cage, but lately a switch has gone off in my head and I’ve been finding myself feeling frightened of things I never used to be afraid of, like heights and open water. Maybe it’s just part of being a responsible adult, maybe it happens when you stop pushing yourself, I don’t know. Yet hopping into that water brought me face to face with that fear.

The first dive I just had to focus on being in the water, using my regulator properly, and calmly breathing in and out. Eventually it got easier. However, after a while I had had enough and had to get out. We hadn’t seen a shark yet. After a hot coffee and a breather I psyched myself up to get back in, but I told myself it would be the last time, and if I didn’t see the shark, so be it. I stayed under for a good 45 minutes, until my face went blue, my ears hurt from the pressure and I had a heache. I was so determined to see that bloody shark! Eventually though, I had to get out. I was freezing!

Of course, as soon as the next group of divers got in the cage, the shark came, Stuff it, I thought, I’m getting back in! And it was so, so worth it.

These amazing creatures really command our respect. They are so calm and graceful; even though I was struggling with the dive they made me feel peaceful. They have such a gruesome reputation but to see them up close was just the most awe-inspiring experience. We saw two sharks a male and a female from what I could see, both about 4-5 metres long. The male even had a bunch of fish swimming along with him! He also had a few scars.

We were so grateful to be able to see the sharks in their natural surroundings, doing what they would normally do without us there. It was really important for us to be able to see them in the wild without upsetting them, as they deserve our respect. Adventure Bay Charters in Port Lincoln really looked after us and the sharks, and we couldn’t have had a better day.

the lucky country

(slight language warning)
Today I was lucky enough to hear about the journey one of my clients had been on before he reached Australia. It’s disjointed, it has big holes where I didn’t pry to get further information, and I have no proof of any of it. I don’t care. I consider it a privilege that he told me.
Born to a Turkish father and an Iraqi mother, he was born in Iran but denied a birth certificate or passport in Iran because of his mother’s nationality.
At age 12, his parents passed away in an accident.
He travelled through Turkey to Malaysia, who sent him to Thailand, who sent him to Indonesia. He then ended up on a boat headed to Christmas Island.  It was a 12 day voyage but after seven days, all the food and water supplies were gone. People died on the boat, and many were ill.
When he arrived on Christmas Island, he repeatedly asked for water, but his request was denied until processing was finished. He then remained in detention for nearly three years.
He’s here now, working hard and studying to make a better life for himself. He’s friendly, funny and a little bit flirty too. Yet a lot of the time, the reaction he gets when he strikes up a conversation is “We speak English here, so fuck off until you can talk properly”.
So many things about this story break my heart.  I guess the main thing though is that after everything, this young man was bounced around from country to country like a pinball only to be held like a prisoner in a country that values freedom as highly as ours – and that doesn’t sit right with me. I also hate that we are lucky enough to have political stability, a bicameral parliament with representatives of all citizens sitting in it, and an unalienable right to vote, yet we have a bunch of clowns running our country who are incapable of doing anything about this issue.
I find it incredible how opposite the two of us are. He spent his whole life travelling, trying to find a home, while I continually leave my home in search of something greater. I hope I can continue to remember this next time I have my passport stamped (after all, I’m one of the lucky ones just to have a passport).

freakin’ hippies



It’s time for a getaway a bit closer to home.

This afternoon I’m heading to the sunny Byron Bay with Boyfriend and four awesome girls who I didn’t even know six months ago, but who I’m growing to love.

It’s “Team Trip” time, where we pool the funds together for an office getaway where we can get to know each other, bond, hopefully have a few too many drinks and explore somewhere new.

I wasn’t sure about Byron at first. I don’t subscribe to the hippy lifestyle and, although I hate to be judgmental, all that came to mind at first was tie-dye, dreadlocks, vegan menus and stoners… oh and people who reek of patchouli. BUT I’m expecting this place to prove me very, very wrong and I can’t wait to see what it has in store for me.

Apparently, Byron is in the caldera of an ancient volcano which of course excites me a lot and will not excite anyone else on this trip, guaranteed. No matter, I accept myself as the nerd that I am and will get my happy juices flowing by reading this while everyone else “smashes tins” on the plane.

And back to hippies.

I am all about rules, I think we need “The Man/The Establishment” and I don’t know how I feel about randomly hooking up with all sorts of people: I’m not really a “Free Love” subscriber because I think you need to work hard for that! But I will concede that  it’s nice to love one another and just be free from judgment and negativity and that’s what I really need this weekend. So Hooray For Byron!

…Somehow though, I don’t think a trip to Nimbin is on the cards!

“Peace Out”.