Apart from my student days in London and a stint in the Cotswolds, I have always lived near the sea. I’m not much of an open water swimmer (‘fraidy-cat) but I love cycling and running along the shore. The smell, the sunlight glittering on the water and the waves when it’s stormy, all make me feel much more alive after a day hunched over the laptop.
Melbourne isn’t giving us a great start to the summer, but I went and bought a hammock anyway. Naturally, I’ve been in it about three times, thanks to inclement weather and two boys who love lying in it as much as I do, but I plan include some reading and sky-gazing in the hammock over Christmas.
Our new babysitter
The Saint and I have been neglecting date night of late, but with the finding of a new super-ace babysitter whom the boys adore, we’ve thrown ourselves into getting out as much as possible. The week before last we saw Muse (nanna found it loud but thought the lights were pretty), last weekend we over-ate at Milk the Cow and this week is still in the planning stage. We don’t know ourselves!
Maybe it’s an act of rebellion against my grandmother who often pursed her lips at people and whispered “Red shoes, no knickers”, sometimes even “Red Hat, no knickers”. So maybe she just hated the colour red.
These shoes have been on my mind for a while (sad, I know) as I first saw them when I went to buy these babies. I almost bought them then, decided I couldn’t justify two pairs of shoes and regretted it ever since.
Then, on a bit of a down day last week, they popped into my head again. I raced off to the shop (Merchant 1948 – GORGEOUS SHOES) and they were still there.
A short breath-holding moment later (we had an issue with sizing) and they were mine.
Night Noodle Markets, Melbourne
Or in our case, day noodle markets.
When I told a friend this is where we were heading last Friday evening, she laughed and proceeded to tell us horror stories of 45 minute queues for food and general over-busy-ness.
Of course, I panicked. All family members are known to get hangry at the best of times and queuing for anything is not Boy Wonder’s forte.
But ultimately the lure of dumplings was too much and I decided to take the boys to meet their Dad earlier and hope for the best.
We arrived a little after 5, and queues were already forming around the popular stands (Chin Chin et al) but we moved straight through to the main area and spied some tasty looking dumplings.
The Saint had the foresight to wait in a separate queue for noodles and 10 minutes later we were chowing down – we even found a table!
We began to relax enough to let BW wander off and scout out some other stalls and buy on our behalf, which he loved.
I definitely don’t think we would go after dark (mosquitoes would ravish me) as it was manically busy by the time we left at 6.30pm and I’d be fearful of losing the boys, but it’s definitely manageable for families so don’t be put off, just go early!
The Color Run
This has been on my radar for a while. I missed out last year (it books out very quickly) and was really keen for us to do it as a family.
It’s a 5km run (walk/dog/push a stroller) punctuated by stations where powdered paint is thrown at the runners.
There were 22,000 people registered to run and inevitably there was a lot of hanging about, queuing for loos and waiting, which BW found VERY hard.
So as soon as we got over the start line I let him sprint off with his Dad, while Cheeky Monkey and I decided to run/walk. I was so impressed that he wanted to run so much of the way. Especially as he wanted to hold my hand too. So sweet.
It was so much fun! The atmosphere was wonderful ~ It really is the happiest 5km.
Once we finished we were handed more packets of coloured paint to throw around and the a party started over by the main stage.
I was sorely tempted to get in there, but as I had a business meeting on Monday morning I avoided the mosh pit. Next year, I’m IN!
Choosing how to spend a family day now the boys are older is often fraught. Although there is only a 3 year age between them, the on-set of teen-hood for Boy Wonder makes the gap feel much, much wider.
We don’t necessarily want to do kids stuff ALL day either, so I try to make sure that everyone’s needs are catered to.
The Yarra Valley is a favourite place of mine. Not least because it is where my ‘happy place’, Tarrawarra Gallery and Restaurant is. I think the rolling, green hills that remind me of Wales (and possibly the abundance of wineries) make it so appealing to me.
There are lots of places to choose from, but here are 3 to get you started:
Healesville Wildlife Sanctuary
Not long after we arrived, Cheeky Monkey had a school excursion at Healesville. The journey time seriously ate into the kids day and it was more of a whistle-stop tour, so we promised to return as family.
It’s a beautiful place to walk around, whether you are into wildlife or not. You can get nice and close to the Roos and the Koalas and there are opportunities to feed Roos or Dingoes. We didn’t feed the animals (an additional charge) as the times didn’t match our plans. However, we were able to feed some the birds (free), which the boys really enjoyed.
The wildlife hospital was another highlight, showcasing the wonderful work the sanctuary does. They are currently looking after a beautiful baby Tasmanian Devil as part of the Save the Tasmanian Devil campaign.
I thought it was very well laid out and good value for money at $61 for a family ticket.
Giants Steps/Innocent Bystander
We stopped here late afternoon for a bite to eat. It’s a large venue featuring a restaurant, wine tasting area, cheese counter and a shop selling cakes, bread and wine.
It ticked all the boxes!
The boys opted for pizza (what a surprise) and these were freshly prepared and cooked to order.
The Saint and I chose to share a cheese board and I ordered a glass of the Innocent Bystander Pinot Gris.
The service was quick (I imagine it might be longer at lunch time) and friendly.
The food was delicious and well priced. Obviously I wanted to buy ALL the cheese, but TS dragged me away before I emptied his wallet. I made do with a bottle of the Pinot Gris to take away…poor me.
We definitely want to return to eat more cheese and to buy some of the portuguese custard tarts!
The chocolaterie opened last year in a stunning location, surrounded by hills, with plenty of room for kids to run around. You can view chocolates being made, sample chocolate buttons, buy ice cream or try one of the delicious desserts on offer.
Bats and balls are available outside which I thought was a nice touch ~ we got caught up in an Au v Eng cricket game.
However, the main part of the building is devoted to the shop where there is a great range of chocolates, chocolate bars, and gifts available.
It’s not a patch on the Chocolate Factory on Philip Island, which has made a massive effort to create a brilliant visitor experience (and was a finalist in the best tourism attraction category in this year’s RACV Victorian Tourism Awards), but hopefully the Yarra Valley Chocolaterie will expand into something more appealing than just a shop/restaurant.Have you been to the Yarra Valley? Where are your favourite places to stop?
Have you been to the Yarra Valley? Where are your favourite places to go?
There was a minor lip quiver when we realised only the diesel train was running (this stuff matters apparently), but the lovely volunteers showed CM the steam train having “a rest” and all was well.
The 45 minute round trip between Moorooduc and Mornington was blissful. The sprung seats, beautiful interiors and the gentle sway of the carriage as it flowed through the peninsula scenery was so relaxing I didn’t want to get off.
Cheeky Monkey is now compiling a list of other railways for us to visit and honestly? I can’t wait (so long as they are steam engines!).
I have a confession. As a Gin Queen, it’s a tricky one to make.
Until this week I had never had a gin martini.
(I had tried a vodka martini during a trip to the bar in Boston where Cheers was filmed (hey ~ name drop why don’t ya!) and it was fair to say it blew my head off, and wasn’t very pleasant at ALL.)
My fellow Queens of all things Gin, Louise and Naomi have long extolled the virtues of a good martini. As I am preparing to relaunch the Gin Queens website, I knew I had to rectify this terrible oversight.
And, Oh, I am SO glad I did. It didn’t taste how I imagined and was actually a beautifully smooth, refreshing drink.
My beautiful and clever friend, Jane, shares her thoughts and her self-care tips this week.
Sometimes life is shit. Sometimes I am shit at life. In both instances, there is often a need to switch on the coping machine in order to get through the day/week/month.
Feel the emotions
I like to try to be mindful about what is actually going on emotionally. I think we are always in such a hurry to change our negative emotions into positive ones, that we sometimes fail to recognise the value and even the necessity, of negative emotions. In a sad situation, sadness is ok. It is normal. In a worrying situation, worrying, or anxiety is ok. It is normal. In a high pressure situation, stress is normal. These feelings help us adapt to our circumstances. Like swelling around an injury. Transient negative emotion is normal. The key thing here in feeling the emotions is in knowing that they will pass. In the meantime, the goal is to not be swept up in too much of an emotional thunderstorm.
Ok, this is slightly more challenging, particularly if I am in the eye of an emotional thunderstorm. I know that there are many things in this life that provide pleasure untold. Some of them are highly adaptive & healthy activities, some are not. When I’m having a bad day/week/month/year, I know all I need to do is step up the ‘good’ pleasures, and within a very short time, I am feeling so much better. So what are my ‘good’ pleasures you say?
1. Listening to / playing music
I grew up in a very musical household, there was always music/noise/laughter, and plentiful chaos. So it’s no surprise that in adulthood, listening to favourite music, and discovering new music is one of my most favourite activities. I have particular songs that I play (either on my computer, or myself on my piano) that I know will set my mood on a whole new trajectory.
In periods of high stress, I find that I try to convince myself that it’s ok to stay up late because it’s ‘my time’ in the evening. It’s actually not ok. Sleep is one of the most important things we can do for ourselves, especially in times of stress. If I know I’m on the downhill slide, I will often tuck myself off to bed with a book, knowing that just that one move will result in a better me tomorrow.
3. Good food
Ever been run down & stressed and simultaneously realized that your diet is crapolla? Yep, me too. Often a quick stocktake of what you are putting in your mouth, followed by a lovely big shopping trolley full of goodstuffs will make a big difference. Sometimes I even find the activity of meal planning and then stocking the fridge and pantry rewarding in itself, before I even get to the eating part!
4. Physical intimacy
No this is not all about sex (the relationship between mental health and sex is a whole blog post in itself); no, this is larger than that. I’m talking about physically connecting with your loved ones. Hugs. Holding hands. Warm kiss on the cheek with your best girlfriend. Physical intimacy is so very important for us humans, even when it is just eye contact and an authentic smile. I know that just one hug from a loved one is the absolute quickest way to feel better. Group hug everyone.
This is quite personal for me, and although I have a prolifery of social channels to put my writing out there, I do also keep a personal diary that is just for me. Sometimes when it is difficult to shake an emotion, I write it all out. All of the feelings. A full emotional purge. It is quite rewarding actually! I have always kept diaries & journals for exactly this activity. I like to imagine it as an emotional transplant. I’m taking my thoughts and feelings and putting them in my diary for safekeeping. It is also amazing to read back on past entries, and also very reassuring that some of the very tough times in my life where despair started to take a stranglehold, I not only managed to make it through, but I made it through to times of absolute pure joy J
6. Get outside
THIS IS KEY… for me anyway. It’s a combination of things, the sun, the smells, the sights, and of course the physical activity that it involves. Feeling crappy? Walk on the beach for an hour: look at the immense ocean, notice beautiful things, what do I have now? Perspective. Feeling sad? Bike ride along the bike track: go fast, feel the wind whip your face, feel your heart pumping, and your adrenaline coursing through your veins. What do I feel now? Alive. I know that if I just put my body out there in our beautiful natural world, it is almost guaranteed that I will feel better.
When self-care & coping aren’t doing the job over the course of a week or two, I usually try to revisit what the problem might be. If things aren’t going so well, I usually realise I need to change something. Sometimes this might call for a big change, which can be anxiety provoking in itself! There is a very important factor to consider with change, and that is that we can either change the situation, or change the way we think about the situation. Most of the time, we have little control over external events, but we can control how we think about them, and how we respond to them with our behaviour.
On that note, I’ll finish up. Gather in everybody, group hug.
Jane Cocks is a research psychologist, a wearer of far too many hats and a student of life. She is addicted to epiphanies, red wine and long walks on the beach. You can read her blog or find her on twitter here.
Please remember this series is not designed to replace professional medical advice regarding depression and anxiety. If you need help, please call one of the numbers below:
No matter how stuffed you are from dinner, there is always room for cheese. (Legend has it, that there is actually a separate cheese chamber in your stomach.)
My love for cheese is up there with chocolate. (Gin wins over both) so when Brand Meets Blog organised the new networking event The Drawing Room at Milk the Cow I was in HEAVEN.
Over 100 cheeses are stocked at Milk the Cow where they knowledgeably pair cheese with wine, beer or spirits on their “Cheese Flights”.
We sampled the wine flight and the gorgonzola was so good I almost wept.
If you love cheese, skip dinner and head there!
All things digital
I attended Telstra’s Digital Summit (the them being Making the Most of the Digital Economy) on Tuesday mainly to hear Brian Solis speak. I’m no tech head (creative with a side of geek) but I couldn’t fail to be excited (and a little afraid) about how the leaps in technology are going to impact on me as a consumer and business. You can read a summary of the event here.
Brian was great, charismatic speaker and if you have an interest in business and the future….Digital Anthropology anyone? Then follow his blog.
Once again nerves got the better of me, the closest I got to Brian was our name badges sitting next to each other on an event board (top right hand corner of the picture ~DOH!).
The mental health series I recently started “Things I would tell you” has had a great response. No individual is the same, so it’s been great for me to look at everyone’s self-care tips and cherry pick those that suit me.
After sharing her post, Yvonne Adele created #20mMBS (20 minutes, Mind, Body Spirit).
The idea is that we all take 20 minutes out of our day to do something that nourishes ourselves. It can be anything you want from a walk along the beach, to a soak in the bath, to a nice cake. We then share pictures of our #20mMBS on Instagram.
I love how this has motivated me and the positive impact it has on my day. Feel free to join in!
So tell me, what are you loving this week?? Share!
(Note: I bought tickets for the Digital Summit and Milk the Cow Events)