Imagination, Nature and Coffee (don’t forget coffee)

Hornby lighthouse || cityhippyfarmgirl

Can I let you in on a tiny secret? Lately I’ve fallen completely in love again, in love with the city in which I live. I’ve always had a soft spot for it, but lately? Lately it’s been something a little different. Utter city love.

So what do I put this down to? To be honest, I think it’s coming up for some air after years of intense little people parenting. There are countless joyous, beautiful moments that have shaped the person I am today and I’m incredibly grateful for, but there are also moments when it’s a bit of a slog.

While my kids are still pretty young and certainly still need me a lot, things have become a bit more flexible these days. With that flexibility, opens up a more doors in what I can do with my kids, (five hour car trips for weekends away are no longer the prison sentence they once were.)

So what’s this got to do with falling in love with my fair city? Well with the kids, we’ve been playing. Mostly during the weekends but occasionally we also cut loose the military precision of a week day afternoon as well. They are the perfect age for having little adventures fuelled by imagination and nature around them, and living in this stunningly beautiful city by the sea that I’m totally in love with? Well we don’t have far to go.

Here are 3 of some of the best family friendly places to visit in this fair city.

1. Centennial Park

Why you should go? Nature calls

Cost? Nothing

cityhippyfarmgirl

It’s well established by now that kids often don’t get outside enough, Nature Deficit Disorder, it’s most certainly a thing. Antidote? A really simple bike ride or scoot around Centennial Park. Climb a tree, let growing young bodies drape themselves around the top branches of a tree. Go wandering through the swamp, look for possums and marvel at the fruit bats. Run down hills, leap from rocks to rocks, play soccer, fly a kite, collect things, tip toe through the forest- if you are quiet enough you might see a tiny fairy.

Ignore the designated kids playgrounds in Centennial Park, the whole 189 hectares is one beautiful playground just waiting to explored.

2. Kitchen By Mike, Rosebery

Why you should go? Social outing

Cost? Whatever you choose to eat, or just go for a little wander around the medicinal garden that is part of the grounds.

cityhippyfarmgirl

Cafes. We live in a very cafe culture time. Whether you have kids or you don’t have kids, there’s a good chance cafes factor into your life. Coffee obsessed some might say. I’d say well yes, yes I am! Sydney is lucky in that there are countless different types of cafes to choose from. From tiny holes in walls with stools to perch on, to family friendly places with resident animals to entertain the kids. Whatever your coffee cafe wish is, Sydney is bound to grant it.

Cafes also play an important part in being an almost extension of the increasingly decreasing back yard for many families. I could go on and on about the social importance of cafes in big cities, however lets stick to the what’s what, and Kitchen by Mike it is. There’s cake, there’s coffee, and there’s lovely tables overlooking the garden, which is perfect for the kids to explore in.

3. Hornby Lighthouse, Watsons Bay

Why you should go? Imagination kick starter

Cost? nothing

Hornby Lighthouse is located in the Sydney Harbour National Park, this place doesn’t feel like you are in the city of Sydney. I’ve always had a soft spot for light houses (thank you Enid Blyton) and if this place with its old fortress, cannons, red and white light house, and rocks to leap from, doesn’t ignite a multitude of possibilities for the kids imagination, I would say go seek out some Enid Blyton books quick sticks.

Perfect place for family picnic, a swim at one of the nearby beach coves and a cracking spot to watch the sun go down.

Three very different places to hang out with your family in this beautiful city of Sydney. One for the banishing of any Nature Deficit Disorder niggles, one for a social outing (importantly added coffee for the adults) and one to kickstart little imaginations.

Now the question is…what shall we do next weekend?

**********

This post is part of Voices 2015 and #shareaustralia

taking stock

domestic sunset || cityhippyfarmgirl

Sometimes you just need to pause a little moment, see what’s what and take stock, (thanks Pip.)

Making…. A crocheted black scarf/shawl thing that is possibly the slowest project I’ve done. Just finish it!!
Cooking…. Always.
Drinking…. Herbal teas, chai, kombucha, and spiced coffee
Reading…. The Residue Years… have you read it? Incredible writing.
Wanting…. more time to read
Looking…. at dogs…I want a dog…or a cat…or maybe, both?
Playing…. music, loud
Deciding…. on what to cook for dinner, really does that ever stop?
Wishing…. on stars when they first come out. Hopefully I’ll get to 80 years old and still do this.

quince jelly || cityhippyfarmgirl

Enjoying…. road side bought quince jelly.
Waiting…. for my tiny potted garden to dry out a little before I plant anything again.
Liking…. the fact that it’s now school holidays
Wondering…. Cat or dog, no really? (Trying to ignore all the small people guinea pig pleas)
Loving…. lots of tiny moments
Pondering…. life
Considering…. making lemon curd, (I generally suck at it for some reason- got a favourite recipe for me?)
Buying…. Who Gives A Crap
Watching…. The light bounce around the sky at sunrise and sunset
Hoping…. something will happen and wondering what will instead if it doesn’t
Marvelling…. at strong intelligent women who aren’t afraid to do….just do.
Cringing…. At our Prime Minister. Every bloody word he utters.
Needing…. some think time
Questioning…. myself
Smelling… the inside of a cut into, cooled loaf of sourdough. That’ll never get old.
Wearing…. looped scarves
Following…. nearly 700 people on instagram, love it.
Noticing…. a single nasturtium
Knowing…. never enough, and hungry for more
Thinking…. about far flung places

nasturtium || cityhippyfarmgirl

Admiring…. soft wintry sunsets
Sorting…. clothing, (they grow like weeds they do)
Getting…. a second coffee, hey it’s Sunday why not
Bookmarking…. inspiring permaculture gardens
Coveting: raised vegetable gardens
Disliking…. cold coffee, (was the second cup ambitious?)
Opening…. and closing my book, with not enough reading in between
Giggling…. at the lines a 3 year old can come up with. Hilarious.
Feeling…. lucky
Snacking…. on raw almonds and dates
Helping…. when I think I can
Hearing: black cockatoos flying overhead in the early mornings and evenings. Such a beautiful sound. (Click here to hear it.)

Pumpkin goodness- Know Your Basics

pumpkin: know your basics || cityhippyfarmgirl

Although you can buy pumpkin for a fair chunk of the year here in Australia. Now is when you will be seeing rather a lot of it. Autumn and early winter is a great time for the humble pumpkin. It’s a cheap and easy basic, that really does pay to know a few different ways in which to cook it. Team it up with the forever versatile fetta and you are away. Meal times never looked so simple.

 

Now if you are lucky enough to grow your own pumpkins, they can be stored for several months in a cool dark airy spot, especially so if they have been cured beforehand. This can be done by leaving them out in the sun for a while first, for the skin to harden and the stalk to dry out.

Then there is the eating. I really like using pumpkin as it’s cheap, and can be turned into a whole list of easy dinner time meals… Or snacks… Or desserts. Actually the humble pumpkin is rather impressive with its array of pumpkiny meal options.

KNOW YOUR BASICS: Find a couple of basic ingredients and really get to know them, what they can do, what they taste well with and most importantly, how on earth to cook them.

First up, roasted. This can be done either with skins on or off depending on your time, strength and taste buds. I normally peel them, as they are generally going into a soup, dhal or bread kind of dish.

Now once you’ve peeled, chopped and roasted you are left with the scooped out, fleshy, stringy and seedy bits. Separate all the seeds and leave them in a bowl to soak over night. The next morning dry them off and spread them out in a frying pan gently roast- watch them, they POP!

Pumpkin: know your basics || cityhippyfarmgirlpumpkin: know your basics || cityhippyfarmgirl

Whether you are roasting, steaming, eating cold, eating hot, the pumpkin is a great one to be bought locally, seasonally, frugally, and importantly tastely, (surely that can be a word?)

What’s your favourite way to serve pumpkin?

A few more ideas on what to do with your wonderful pumpkin

Make a Pumpkin and Fetta Tart

Pumpkin and Fetta salad with chickpeas was delicious

Pumpkin and Fetta sausage rolls always a winner

Pumpkin and Fetta foccacia

Pumpkin Spiced Cake– everyone loves cake, especially pudding kinda cake

Pumpkin and Jerusalem Artichoke Soup, cool nights, hot dinners

Roasted pumpkin seeds (pepitas)

Indian Spiced Pumpkin Scones– easy for lunch or afternoon tea

Pumpkin pie

Pumpkin Dhal- frugal and seasonal cooking

and my go to Thai Style Pumpkin Soup

pumpkin: know your basics || cityhippyfarmgirl

loving

P6130022 copyP5290041-2 copyspelt brownie || cityhippyfarmgirl

Loving…

The long deep cries of black cockatoos flying overhead, they stop me, I look up, I’m paying attention.

Giggles. Ripples of laughter that start at your belly.

Seeing one of my photos hung on a wall in a exhibition. It was there briefly, but it was there, and I saw it.

Coffee. Good hot, take it slow cup of coffee. I am not a coffee gulper. (I’m especially loving coffee with cardamom and ginger in it at the moment, have you tried it?)

Being a part of the Voices of 2015 top 100. That’s a bit special.

Brownie.

Getting to hang with someone that makes me laugh, makes me think and is always happy to go chasing light.

***********

What are you loving at the moment?

[“Often life’s pleasures pass us by simply because we don’t take a moment to focus on them… Make a point of noticing everyday something that uplifts your spirit or tickles your heart… Stop to breathe in the joy of this moment and then tell someone about it. Share your joy and revel in it. When your joy is savoured, and then shared, it is magnified…” ROBIN GRILLE]

Gold in the sky, Hill End

Hill End || cityhippyfarmgirl

The clocked slowed down, I’m sure of it. Somewhere over the Blue Mountains it gained time, (or lost depending on which way you looked at it.) There’s no other explanation for it. How else could you combine climbing through an old gold mine, historical street wanders, bush walks, long hot coffees, games of cricket, museums, river explorations, meandering meal times and copious amounts of rock scrutiny? This is what happens when you spend a long weekend in Hill End, you gain time, by going back in time.

If you hadn’t heard of Hill End, you probably wouldn’t be the first. It’s a tiny old gold rush town that used to boast 10,000 people living within it’s gold encrusted hills. Not now though, now it has a whittled down community of about 120 permanent people apparently.

Along with gold, Hill End has also been a draw card for many artists. Peter Adams did an incredible photographic series (and stories) of all the long term locals that had lived in the area. (This book is absolutely divine, and I’m kicking myself for not getting it when I was there.)

Russell Drysdale and Donald Friend were also regulars going back a bit further, with the iconic Australian painting- The Cricketers (R. Drysdale) set there.

The tiny township has (and is) being preserved for its historical past as a part of National Parks and Wildlife. What this means is that, you can walk down the street, and really imagine how it all used to be. Signs and photos help bring this old gold town to life again. You can imagine the muddy streets, the noise of the mine work and the smell of the days that once were. Amazing stuff.

Hill End || cityhippyfarmgirl

Another thing that makes this town a bit special is that I have family buried here. For someone who thinks quite a lot, my brain got quite a work out imaging the lives of some of these people while wandering through the old graveyard.

Hill End || cityhippyfarmgirl

Hill End || cityhippyfarmgirl

Orange, reds, brown and blue. There were many trees still with their autumnal colours in the tiny town. A most vivid of blue sky, and stars, so many stars.

You can easily forget just how magnificent the stars truly are when you live in a big city. Sitting out in the pub’s beer garden on one of the cold nights, all rugged up and eating our food, I quietly wondered whether the gold seekers over the years had ever looked up.

I hope so. Looking up at the sky on our last night, it looked like the night was littered with all the gold specks that the miners themselves had been so desperately seeking. It seems it was there in the sky all along.

****************

Hill End

A wonderful place to visit if you want a tiny snapshot of Australia’s gold rush history. 

Celebrate, it’s Thursday (Iced Vovo Cupcakes may be needed)

cityhippyfarmgirlcityhippyfarmgirlOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I was still a bit unclear of what we were celebrating the next day. Requests had been made though, and when the requests are asked in a small, considered voice, hope dancing in her eyes…well it’s hard to say no.

It seems we were going to celebrate the fact that it was Thursday, and that alone was reason enough to make some celebratory cupcakes. Cupcakes of the marshmallowy, Iced Vovo Cupcake kind. What ever you are up to this Thursday, I hope it has a little something to celebrate in it.

Iced Vovo Cupcake recipe here.

cityhippyfarmgirl

Music loud enough to soften butter

cityhippyfarmgirl

When you live in a city surrounded small abode, cranked up music doesn’t seem to happen quite enough for my liking. I’m a considerate neighbour and as much as I might enjoy listening to Paul Dempsey on endless repeat. I’m not sure my neighbours do.

And so I’m selective on when the volume reaches double digits. Not so selective in the car however. The car and I don’t quite often don’t meet for weeks on end, so when we do, I like to celebrate that reunion with a chorus of loud singing and music loud enough to soften butter, (I’m sure this could be a thing.)

What’s wonderful about this scenario is that the three small people in the back, well they are well and truly behind that cranking up of tunes, (due to music being in their DNA you see.)

Song requests, loud family singing, air guitar solos, drum beats, seat dancing and lip syncing are all soul filling, de-stressing regulars for the car. It’s pretty amazing to see how a single well-chosen song can completely change round cranky arguments, bad moods and distract from a seemingly endless long car journey.

While the tape deck in our family car from my childhood didn’t quite have the same speaker range, I am thankful to my parents for giving me a well rounded eclectic background in great music. From INXS, Midnight Oil to Pavarotti. Lou Reed, The Sex Pistols, Edith Piaf and Vivaldi, music always played a big part.

cityhippyfarmgirl

Pip recently wrote about associating food and memories together, and while I certainly do this a lot, it’s music that I also associate with great chunks of time passed.

* Laying on the childhood couch, learning all the words to Crowded House’s albums.

* UB40 backpacking in India with my family as a kid.

* Beastie Boys and Violent Femmes teenage parties on empty cold beaches.

* Jeff Buckley’s soulful tunes sitting snugly inside, and it gently snows outside in Germany.

* Odd goth flatmates that introduce me to Marilyn Manson, (whether I liked it or not.)

* Friendly neighbours that exposed me to the soft Frenchy tunes of Air.

* Less friendly neighbours exposed me to the Numa Numa song and frequently at 3am. (Never the less it still remains a musical chunk of time as this continued for at least six months.)

Byron Bay road trips will always be attached to Midlake and Empire of the Sun was my first year of becoming a parent. I could go on and with specific songs or whole albums representing a tiny snapshot of my life.

So will my kids have the same sort of memories? Will they remember the loud family singing, the lip synching and intense seated dance moves on our car trips?…who knows. What I do know is, music is important to them. I know the excitement factor triples whenever a song gets cranked up, and I know when I see those happy faces singing their hearts out? Well this is a wonderful chunk of time, that I’m going to remember for a long period from now.

*************

How about you? Are there any musical chunks in your time line? Do you play loud music in the car, and what are you listening to at the moment?

Seasonal Eats- The Winter Edition

brussel sprouts || cityhippyfarmgirlbeetroot || cityhippyfarmgirl

The eggplant and basil have slowly slipped away and been replaced with potatoes, brussel sprouts and beetroot. Meals are being planned around pumpkin, mandarins are being snacked on and kale? Well kale is fairly consistently there.

I’ve said it before, but I will say it again. I feel that we are incredibly lucky living in an area that has such abundance in food varieties, despite the different seasons. The cooler seasons where in some parts of the world, the eating would start getting incredibly restrictive, here just gives us a different array of colours, tastes and still we get to keep it relatively local. That right there, is pretty damn wonderful.

Some delicious things to look out for coming into the winter season

beetroot (roasted and turned into dip)

broccoli (served olive oil and awesome salt)

cabbage (sauerkraut yes please)

cauliflower 

daikon (pickled)

kale (sausage rolls yes indeed, recipe to come for that one)

leek (leek and potato soup)

potatoes

carrots

limes

mandarins

quince

***************

What’s cooking in your kitchen at the moment? Is it now the beginnings of Winter or Summer for you?

If by chance you live in Sydney and you would like to try out a seasonal-delivered to your door fruit/vegetable box- OOOOBY is offering any readers $15 off your first box if you type in CITYHIPPYFARMGIRL as a referral code. 

What’s happening to my bees?

dead bees || cityhippyfarmgirl

It was happening again. Hundreds of tiny dead bee bodies littered my shared courtyard once more.

I had been watching the blossoms from the overhanging gum slowly appear and open. With the soft scent of gum blossom in the air, also came the steady drone of bees… and then they would fall.

All around me would lie dead or dying bees. I wasn’t surprised, this happened twice a year. Every time the gum would start to flower, the bees would drop, (Autumn and Spring without fail.)

This time I wanted to have more of an idea of why though. I posted the question to instagram and facebook, getting flooded with different ideas. So many possibilities people!

But which is it? What’s the reason behind my courtyard being a death pit for so many bees? (And I’m sure no one is spraying anything.)

It’s been happening for as long as we’ve lived here and that I’ve been paying attention. My three children have all been introduced to the sting of a bee from dead ones on the ground over different time frames, (and yes they can still sting when they are dead.)

We don’t run the gauntlet in bare feet when it’s blossoming season, as you really can’t go 30cm without another bee body.

dead bees || cityhippyfarmgirl

So what are the most likely possibilities?

– The bees could be dying in flight, flying themselves to death, being such a concentrated area for the blossoms, they are just falling out of the sky?

– They are getting drunk (this Guardian article explains it a little further.)

I’m still not sure exactly what the cause of my bee problem is, but I’m working on it. So to be continued people.

****************

Now there is a huge array of bee knowledge out there in the internet community. Some of whom were suggested to me, in which I in turn will pass on. As really, knowledgable bee people, they are pretty damn important and we’re lucky to have them, (Aus only.)

Doug Purdie

Tim Malfroy

Jerry Coleby-Williams

Flow Hive