Friday, 2 December 2016

No music, no dancing, no alcohol!

1. Welcome to our Aussie Summer!

Yep we're officially in Summer and it feels good.
The house is quiet. With University over, the kids are away,
and this empty nester is free as a bird!

2. Daughter Number Two has been in Cuba this week celebrating the end of Uni life. This is her latest text: "Cuba is amazing, but has become a strange place as they are mourning the death of Fidel Castro. No music, no dancing, no alcohol'

How many of you are like me, worry wart parents, when your kids are travelling? Well, doesn't this just sound perfect to you? It did to me!

Gold Coast Summer, Queensland, Australia
3. I would love to travel to Cuba, if we can get there quickly! She writes: "You must come to Cuba, it is fascinating and I keep thinking you would all enjoy it. It is safe and everyone is friendly and until Fidel's death there was a fun Caribbean vibe. Lots of history, pretty and an interesting way of life."

Of course we wrote back "no music, no dancing, no alcohol, no way!"

4. We're not doing too well with our travel recently. Some of you may know that we are moving to Bangkok, next year. Mr Wren turns up in Thailand just as King Bhumimibol Aduladej of Thailand died. A year-long period of mourning was subsequently announced. 

Our Australian Foreign ministry has advised us to:

"Refrain from any behaviour that may be interpreted as 
festive, disrespectful or disorderly" 

I did ask my husband whether we could delay moving, just for a few, ok ten months. I mean "no music, no dancing no alcohol" ... a year, is a long time!

5. I have some very dear American friends who are not happy about recent political events. On hearing that our family has been in Thailand for the death of the King, in Cuba for the death of Fidel Castro, they asked hopefully "you're not planning a holiday in Washington DC by any chance on Friday, January 20th, 2017?" Sooo disrespectful, but it did make me smile!

Well, as we are still living in Australia, 
here's to a fully festive, disrespectful and disorderly Christmas.  
Can someone pass me a drink please?!

Linking with Thanks to Amy at Love Made my Home

Friday, 18 November 2016

A extraordinary education… the greatest gift

It's been a big week in our house as University is out, roll on Summer! Our kids have had a privileged, global education. For this we will be forever grateful. It is put in context through my work with refugees and people seeking asylum with no work or study rights. Education is truly a gift.

We weren't sure Daughter Number Two would ever make it through school, let alone graduate with two degrees. You see she was expelled from her first school after only ten days. This week she graduates from the University of Melbourne with a Masters degree.

Melbourne University - Open Day.
She's been to a few schools, way more than you can count on two hands, her education has been conducted on six continents. In her first twenty years of life, she had the opportunity to learn French at schools in Belgium and France, pick up Chinese in Hong Kong and to even get a smattering of Spanish in South America.

She chose the International Baccalaureate at school in Australia and went to Tanzania with World Challenge. At University she studied on exchange at New York University and completed an internship in Chile. As a Post Graduate she worked as an intern in Amsterdam. She was due to go out for dirty martinis with her fellow students yesterday but she finished the final exam with an hour and a half spare, so she came home to pack.

Yes you're right, she's not going to spend the summer hanging around in Australia when there is still much of the world to explore. Of course her Mother made sure she had a head start in life. Given that she moved to Belgium at ten days old and that there is free schooling from the age of two and a half years, I of course ensured that we had her name down to start school the day she was eligible. Even though that was only two weeks before the break up for the long summer holiday. We wanted her to settle in, before her brother was born in August.

It was all going well, or so I thought. I was just getting the hang of putting my make-up on before the school drop off - oh those French Mums, they were so elegant even at 8.15 am! Of course we threw her into the same French Ecole Maternelle de Stockel as her Sister. Sure, it was a bit of a struggle linguistically for her Mother, but we were coping.

Until the day I was called into the Principal's office, along with my French dictionary. Remember this was waaaaay before Google translate. I still remember it well, the shame, embarrassment, the confusion - was she being kicked out or what? The word termine sounded familiar!

I appears, that we started her early. You see maths was never my strong point, which is why we are super pleased to have two daughters who have graduated. Bless! She was only two years and five months. Termine. Come back in September.

Oopsie, I hope she realises how lucky she's been to have extraordinary education. They do after all say the difference between ordinary and extraordinary is that little extra!


Monday, 14 November 2016

Meanwhile out on the Bay!

I'd like to say I've had a lifetime messing about in boats, but I haven't. So it sure was nice having Steve Ross, of Riptide Charters to design our perfect boating escape on the Mornington Peninsula. 

Blairgowrie Marina - Photo credit S Johnson
We weren't asking for much. I have international visitors staying, so the brief was to take us out for a few hours, show us some sights, a bit of wildlife and a few dolphins! 

What we got, was an unforgettable morning cruising on the stunning Port Phillip Bay. We loved the history, the birds and seals galore, with the opportunity to take some great photos!

The Blairgowrie Marina is a great place to start and play that game "when I'm rich and famous I'll buy that yacht there", and oh, how the other half live, as our own private chartered boat is ready and waiting. We clamber aboard and off we sail. 

RipTide Charters vessel Photo credit S Johnson
First stop is the picturesque octagonal South Channel Pile Light. Originally built in the 1870's as a lighthouse, with the original drop toilet - a hole in the floor. You read stories of  the passenger ferry would deliver the keeper a daily paper. It is now no longer used as a lighthouse and has to be one of the best bird houses around. 

Photo credit: S Johnson
We don't stay long as Steve has arranged a packed itinerary, which he sadly notes does not include the fishing option. Looking wistfully at the ships instruments he shows the shadowy outlines of plenty of good fishing to be had; snapper, whiting and squid. We could have had the best BBQ dinner ever had we wanted! Stephen will even do all the prep work for you.

South Channel Fort Jetty Photo credit S Johnson
We're off next to the South Channel Fort. For those of us who have visited Point Nepean National Park know the importance of the area as part of the defence lines for Melbourne. It is fascinating to add to this knowledge by exploring the man-made island, home to the South Channel Fort.

We almost have the island to ourselves, just two other small boats and a hundred million birds! It certainly feels pretty special to be exploring the antiquated gun emplacements tip-toeing amongst the squawking nesting seagulls, who are not best pleased to have their peaceful island invaded.

Even better, when Stephen licensed by Parks Victoria, produces a key and we are able to enter inside the fort through a series of tunnels to explore further. As we motor off, we are pleased we are not in fear of the mines (now thankfully long gone) set to attack ships of yesteryear coming through the Heads.

No time to linger, as we're off to Chinaman's Hat, home to the cutest Australian fur seals ever. Now if you thought the South Channel Pile Light was a great birdhouse, you should see what home the seals have. We are greeted by playful seals swimming around the boat and the odd bit of barking seal fisticuffs, one well placed slap of a flipper and a big seal topples of with a massive belly flop into the water!

Warning! As you circle round and get downwind it is pretty stinky. We could have stayed watching them frolicking for ages, those seals are so cute. But we're on a dolphin hunt and we head off to The Popes Eye.

Photo credit S Johnson
This island is about 5km north east of Portsea, is another artificial construction build for defence purposes. Although never finished, it is now a marine sanctuary and is a great area for swimming, scuba-diving and snorkeling. The shallow approximately one meter deep crystal clear blue waters in and around the horseshoe have large numbers of protected fish.

All to soon, we are heading back to land. No dolphins are to been seen, but lots of other 'wows'. The journey back passes the luxurious bay side houses of Portsea and Sorrento. We spot infinity pools, private jetties, sandy beaches and even a helicopter. What a nice way to live.

Thank you to Riptide Charters for a ripper of a day out on the bay!

Linking with thanks to Jeanne at Blue Monday
and all the hosts at Our World Tuesday


Thursday, 3 November 2016

We have to talk!

So what would you do when your husband comes home from work with a question? 
"Singapore or Bangkok, do you have a preference?!"

a. Respond with an empathic "not on your Nelly, I love living in Melbourne!"

b. Ask for a look-see to make an informed decision.

c. Whoop, whoop around the kitchen dancing to the tunes of
"Happy' and/or "I will survive"

So here I am living in the world's most liveable city, Melbourne, with the most amazing (and part-time work) in the rewarding not-for-profit sector
being asked to make a life changing decision...

What would you say?

Sunday, 30 October 2016

I'm leaving on a jet plane!

Oh my golly gosh there is so much going on around here.
I'm sorry I've not been around much except on my @LWWren Instagram.
 I hope you've got time for a cuppa and I'll fill you in!

Big news! 
We've had our first day of warm, sunny weather.
It is an absolutely glorious weekend for the first start of
 Melbourne Cup's Spring Racing Carnival.

Phew, it's rather a relief as we wondered whether we were going to be stuck in Winter forever. Melbourne is looking lovely. Never better in fact. All that rain has left our parks and gardens looking unusually lush and green. 
Oh Melbourne, you're making it tough to leave...

It's been fabulous to take in a lungful of that Aussie fresh air and
to ponder what's ahead.

Next big news: I've finished work! 

I have for the past few months been in a temporary role with Australia's largest provider of aid for people seeking asylum. I leave with very mixed feelings.
I've loved this job. I've worked with some incredible people and whilst I will continue as a volunteer for as long as I can, it is not something I was able to do longer term... Because, I'm excited here's

Even bigger news...
We're moving!

The 'For Sale' signs are up, and we're heading off
 in favour of a country known for it's tropical beaches and 
opulent Royal Palaces...

Now do you know where we're going?
Here's a clue...

It's going to be busy.

Monday, 17 October 2016

Ch… ch… ch… changes (turn and face the strain!)

Hello Dear Blog
I'm not ignoring you
There are some big changes going on around here and life is crazy busy...

I wonder if you can work out what it might be?

Saturday, 1 October 2016

Grand Final Weekend!

It's a big weekend here in Melbourne
It's our Australian Football League Grand Final weekend.

Melbourne Visitors Centre - Flinders Street
Now our team Hawks (Hawthorn FC) were knocked out in a preliminary final
 by everyone's second favourite team the Western Bulldogs 
known locally as the Doggies!

Footscray Bulldogs Street Art
The Dogs have not made a Grand Final for fifty-five years.
Their opposition the Sydney Swans are no strangers to a Grand Final 
making for a fantastic Melbourne-Sydney tension. We love that rivalry!

If ever there was the time to use the expression the underdogs, 
it's this weekend. Go the Doggies!
The Western Bulldogs herald from Footscray where I work
It is such a great week to see the place decked in red, white and blue.

We have had overseas visitors this weekend and after a hectic week of travel ourselves, we are all happy for Melbourne's public holiday yesterday to celebrate Grand Final Eve. 
As we say only in Melbourne do we get one holiday to celebrate a horse race,
another for a footy match. Woof Woof!

We take our visitors into the city to see the sights and to watch the Grand Final Parade. Melbourne looked fantastic, it was a perfect spring day, warm and sunny and everyone, including all puppy dogs are in good spirits.

Grand Final Street parade, Wellington Street
Sport is central to Melbourne life, 
it is a wonderful way to bring people and dogs together. 

I am sure that every Bulldog in Melbourne 
was brought out for a special guest appearance!

Unfortunately, we left our crazy poodle at home
and for that, we're in the doghouse!

Go the Doggies!
Best of luck for today's Grand Final!

Linking with Saturday's Critters - Thanks Eileen
Blue Monday - Thanks Jeanne
Our World Tuesday - Thanks Lady Fi and all the hosts

PS What a screamer of a match - I think the whole country was in tears, one way or another when the Doggies won on Saturday. Brilliant match well done the Western Bulldogs!

If you have enjoyed this you may like to see the previous posts written about the Aussie Rules Footy

Happy Blue Ribbon Monday (2013)


Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Beautiful Bangkok

Yoga on the Helipad!

We've just had an amazing weekend with dear friends in Thailand.
We stayed at The Peninsula, Bangkok
Which is a bit of a splurge, but they look after Little old Wren rather well 
and we end up in the most amazing Grand Deluxe Suite
Thank you Peninsula, Bangkok.

The Peninsula, Bangkok
It really is an extraordinary place to stay
and when I saw that they offered complimentary yoga on helipad
Well I'm there with a big fat Namaste!

We meet at the Fitness Centre, whooping 36 floors below
a mixed ability group of those who look like they know what they are doing, 
to destination yogics!
Destination on top of the world!

  We sign a massive disclaimer.
This probably says - does anyone actually read these forms -
that if we pop our clogs on the helipad it's not their fault.
Oh, but what a way to go.

Either that, or don't expect a complimentary air ambulance 
to rush you to the nearest hospital!
Ha ha.

So we are escorted by a lady dressed in black who all but mumbles 
into her walkie-talkie or cell phone, I forget,  
to a lift to the penthouse Paribatra room. 
We are already excited by what we are about to witness.
This is how the other half live indeed!

We are shown a small lift, you'd have to know, but then I'm guessing if you arrive or depart by helicopter you probably always 
have a nice lady with a walkie talkie to push your lift buttons!

The lift rises up through the final floors of the hotel till our feet are level with the ground, very James Bond like. 
You can just see it in the background above with the stripey roof.

We emerge blinking in the daylight onto the rooftop to the wow of 360 degree views of Bangkok's skyline. It was pretty amazing. 
You can't help but notice the large H on the floor
 H for help? I presume.

I needn't have worried, the instructor was skillful with her mixed-ability group.
Anyway you know what they say:
Yoga, is not about touching your toes
It's about what you learn on the way down!

That was some awesome yoga class and a memorable Bangkok experience
Thank you Peninsula, Bangkok!

Linking with thanks to the hosts at Our World Tuesday

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Saturday, 17 September 2016

Problogger 2016 conference takeaways

It wasn't the best lead up to my first ever blogging conference...

Unprepared, overworked and knowing no-one, I rocked up Thursday evening to survey the scene at the RACV Royal Pines resort full of nervous trepidation.

Whilst experienced bloggers packed their conference essentials: cameras, computers and copious amounts of sparkling talent. I travelled light.
 Just little old me

Except that, I came with 20 kilos of addition baggage just in case, AND two non-blogging friends, happy to be my roomies for a girls Gold Coast weekend away. There was always that thought that I could always join them if required...

Not that I needed a blogging bolthole as it turned out, happily we all survived. Me with a big grin. My girlfriends got a much-needed break and I made some great new connections in the Aussie blogging world. Woo Hoo!

A billboard advertising the Australian Survivor TV show seemed rather apt!

Lesson One: Work out who you are and why you're of interest?

Leading a life where I'm often the new kid in town, I'm not adverse to the 'take a deep breath and introduce yourself' malarkey. But this time, It's not all about me and I'm not quite sure what to say.

I'm a crazy soccer Mum on Twitter, with a crazy poodle on Instagram, living in a Melbourne madhouse on my blog, but with enough emotional intelligence to sense this may not be exactly endearing to a room full bloggers searching for great social and professional connections... 

I had a few false starts, where I seem to remember describing myself rather rudely as a ditsy blogger, with the memorable utterings of 'my blog is just about my life' 

Before I gave myself a serious 'get a grip' talking to, and perfected my spiel to:
Hi, my name is Wren & I'm a personal blogger
Writing about my wanderings here, there and everywhere!'

I figured that gave me enough to say to sound like I knew what I was talking about, whilst giving the listener not the foggiest clue. Perfect - why does that quote on surprising, mystifying and misleading comes to mind?

Thanks to all the amazing sponsors: Principal sponsor Olympus 
Lesson Two: If you don't know 1 above, let others do the talking!

Some politely asked where I wandered, whilst others moved smoothly onto taking the safer ground of talking about themselves.  

Both responses I considered wins!

I listened to who they were and what they were wanting from their blogs and lapped up all the words of wisdom from the speakers before I came away with a list of inspirations a mile long.

Surfing the web at the Gold Coast
Lesson three: For virtual travel at it's best, 
dine with the travel bloggers!

On Friday night I ate pizza with the travel bloggers and met some awesome Mummy bloggers. A more impressive bunch of women you will never meet. Full of stories of travelling around the world with their families, juggling homeschooling, airports and a whole heap of affiliate links and appropriate sponsors with ease. 

Whilst we flitted from Colombia to Calcutta to Coolangatta without a single yell of 'Are we there yet? Or 'I need to poo' I smiled at their confidence and charisma and remembered when I arrived in Belgium twenty plus years ago, with a ten-day-old baby, a toddler and without even a 'Bonjour' of Flemish.

A quick flashback to my giant green double buggy that wouldn't get through the security barrier of my local Delhaize Supermarket, and I'm in awe of these Super Mums. 

Where was blogging back then, when I needed it? 

Keeping quiet about my roots in the crazy soccer mum world, I was happy to be flanked on either side by strong American women who'd landed on these distant shores having fallen for their Crocodile Dundee Aussie men. 

I'm more at ease with fellow first generation Aussies who can talk about their love of life and their love-life Down Under whilst in the next breath talking wistfully of their motherland.

Thank you to Problogger for a wonderful conference
Lesson Four: You don't need to have a perfect blog, or to have a well-formed plan, you just need to get your (excuse me for this) arse into gear,
and at the very least have your back end under control!

Ha! Such an Aussie approach to it all, which I loved. The kind of bottom line message was a 'no worries' approach meets 'Crickey! Get a grip.'

The greatest thing about attending Problogger was (unlike at other conferences) it is pretty difficult to tell across a crowded room, who are the most successful bloggers, or who has the words Top Influencer on their business cards.

I love the messages of the likes of Emilie Wapnick from Puttylike, that some of us are a little bit complicated and that it's ok to do, and be many things.

Indeed the written and technical skills needed to produce a beautiful blog do not transfer necessarily to amazing public speakers. But nor do they need to be, if you have a passion, a belief or something unique to say, your on-line audience will love you for this. 

Attendees at Problogger 2016, were primarily newbies and indeed from the one's I spoke to quite a few who were yet to start a blog. Which meant far from being the underachiever, the fact that my blog had survived the two-year mark, was an achievement. I'm giving myself a pat on the back for this ;)

I do need to get my design and my backend under control. I did not meet a single Blogger blogger. So at some point Word Press here I come... when I have figured it out  and when I have the time. If you have done this and have any tips for me, please let me know how you did it!
Bloggers find a possible post in everything!

Lesson Five: Create evergreen content

Only once did I get the unexpected response of 
'Oh how lovely, you must have a load of fantastic evergreen content with that?'
Of course, I agreed, making a mental note to do more gardening posts if the evergreen content is seen as desirable!
Evergreen view from our room

Ha Ha what a laugh ... oh well it seems I have quite a few things to work on 
Wish me well... Does anyone out there in blogland have their backend under control?! Silly me, of course, you do!

Linking with Blue Monday thanks to Jeanne at Backyard Neighbor
and the wonderful hosts at Our World Tuesday