Sunday, February 25, 2018

A Pink Saturday Meet-Up With Little Wandering Wren

The most delicious lunch of my trip to Australia, the acai berry smoothie at The Chicken or the Egg Cafe, Maling Road, Canterbury, Victoria. Yes, it was as delicious as it looks. 

I shared this fabulous lunch -- food, conversation, company and setting -- with my blogger buddy, Little Wandering Wren. Wren is from Melbourne, but has been living in Bangkok for the last while. To my great fortune she was in Melbourne at the same time I was visiting and our schedules worked perfectly for an afternoon meet-up. 

If you asked me how I first "met" Wren I would be unable to tell you. In the world of blogging our blogs crossed paths and we started commenting on each other's blogs. After awhile Facebook was added to the mix and then Instagram. I love following her travels, but I also love seeing her homey photographs, especially of "the crazy poodle," who is one of the sweetest dogs anywhere.

I was delighted to accept Wren's invitation to come out to one of the towns outside of Melbourne. It felt like a little adventure outside the regular tourist stops. I made my way to the beautiful Flinders Street Station. Built in 1909, it is the busiest station in both Melbourne and Australia. Thanks to very helpful customer service staff I figured out the fare and made my way to the right track.
Flinders Street Station

My view waiting for the train on the Belgrave Line
I've never met a blog buddy and found the meeting awkward. Never. In most cases we've spent years getting to know each via our writing and our photographs and Wren was as lovely as I expected. We had a great lunch and then window shopped on Maling Road as the two friends we are. We browsed clothes, books -- of course! -- housewares and pressed our noses, proverbially, against the candy store window in the picture below.  

 It was the loveliest of afternoons and one of the high points of my trip to Australia. Thank you, Wren and dear Crazy Poodle, for a wonderful visit.

On the home front, it's still winter in New York, despite the almost 80 degree weather on Wednesday. Today was cold and so dreary and after a quick walk in the afternoon I have been unmotivated to head back out into the rain. I filled the day reading the New York Times, baking muffins and chatting with Verizon about my ailing television service. They agreed that my cable box cannot be fixed remotely and part of tomorrow will be spent waiting for the Verizon person. It does mean skipping yoga, but I want my television back.

As ever, thanks for visiting. Please stop by and visit the bloggers of Pink Saturday for a little fun on this rainy Sunday night. Take good care and have a great week.  

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Thoughts on No Spending January

The beautiful Esplanade Lagoon in Cairns, Australia

When I scheduled my trip to Australia, No Spending January wasn't even a tiny thought. By the time I left New York in late January I'd done well not buying any extras. My one major exception was a guide book for Australia. I realized that no spending wasn't an option while I was away, but decided in the spirit of the month and my financial health I would plan out my spending for the trip.

I started by making a budget for the time I would be away. The major cost for my time in Australia was food that wasn't included in the tour. All of our breakfasts were included and a few lunches and dinners. I did, however, have five days on my own when I needed to budget for meals. I estimated sixty dollars a day for food, including coffee -- a real item in my budget -- and snacks. Even though Australia was more expensive than I expected and more expensive than New York, this was a realistic number. My traveling buddy, K, was in line with my thrifty thinking and we splurged for dinner once. We found fun alternatives to big dinners, including picnics on two nights in Cairns. We shopped at the grocery -- great deli counter -- and ate outside at the Esplanade Lagoon. The weather was lovely and we loved being outside in a beautiful park. 

My second budget item was transportation. I needed to get to Newark Airport and then to my hotel in Melbourne, and would need to get from hotel in Sydney and then home from Newark Airport. I also added in taxis in both Sydney and Melbourne -- as I was switching hotels. I didn't figure my one trip on the suburban rail commuter line in Melbourne, but that was still inside the budget I estimated.

My last category was souvenirs. I try to be organized about things I buy. As a good friend once said, "When you're traveling you get the fever (to buy), and I definitely didn't want the fever. I made a short list of a few things I wanted to get for myself -- t-shirt, snow globe, hand cream -- and a few gifts I wanted for others, as well. I also planned to buy a new tote bag if I could find it in duty-free and it was less expensive than in New York. The exceptions I bought for myself were a pillbox and my stuffed penguin, Ophelia. I bought Ophelia early in the trip and I know K was concerned I'd be buying koalas and kangaroos all over Australia. I also bought a new baby gift, a first birthday gift, a new house gift, two get well gifts and several house presents while I was away. I enjoy picking up gifts while I travel. The shopping is a lot more fun than Amazon or New York stores and I found some very unique things.

Now I'm home and finishing No Spending January in February. Food is not part of No Spending, but I find I'm spending more than usual since I'm home. I used up just about everything in the refrigerator and made a big dent in the freezer supplies, too. I don't include going out in my No Spending, but I am this month. Morning movies will be okay and very low cost theater tickets, too, but I'm holding off on any major ticket purchases.

 I've stopped myself from buying any number of things that I think I "need." I've got lots to read, a gym membership, a museum membership and wonderful friends to spend time with. I've really put my focus on things I enjoy doing that don't cost (additional) money. It's gone so well that I'm thinking of No Spending March.

I hope I haven't been too long-winded, but I also hope that this is useful for anyone else doing a No Spending month or thinking about doing a No Spending Month. Is anyone thinking of jumping in for No Spending March?

As ever, thanks for visiting and take good care.


Sunday, February 18, 2018

I'm Dreaming of a Twin Wash System

I learned several things on my trip to Australia. I need more than an hour to make international connections in a major airport. I will be delighted with places and events that were barely a blip in my consciousness before the trip. Any trip that includes 108 degree weather will guarantee a mountain of dirty clothes when I get home.

As much as I love my apartment, it's one major flaw is the lack of a washer/dryer. Yes, there's one in the basement, but it's not the same as doing wash whenever you like without leaving my apartment. When I moved into this apartment over twenty-five years ago our building didn't accommodate in-apartment washers. That has changed and now I would need major renovations to permit access to water. Instead I dream about having a washing machine and a dryer.

I have now found my perfect choice -- the LG Front Load Twin Wash System.  I especially like the ability to do a small load in the Sidekick Pedestal Washer while doing a larger load up top in the LG Front load washer. Like my LG air conditioner, the system is energy efficient, cutting down on electric bills. It's still a fantasy for me, but not for everyone. From now until April 25, receive up to $500 off an LG laundry solution for your home. With this beauty I might even plan another trip that would produce a mountain of laundry. It would be easy/peasy.

The reviewer has been compensated in the form of a Best Buy Gift Card and/or received the product/service at a reduced price or for free.

As ever, thanks for visiting and sharing my laundry dreams. I hope you're having a great weekend!

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Pink Saturday Goes to Bondi Beach

This is good advice every week, but especially at the end of this week.
This mural by the wonderful Amy Peel is part of the Bondi Beach Graffiti Wall

The weather outside is frightful and my fantasy that I wouldn't see snow again this winter has now joined fantasies past, gone in a drift of snowflakes. Since I'm in no mood for hats, boots and scarves I'm proposing a Pink Saturday  getaway to perhaps the most famous beach in Australia, Bondi Beach. Bondi Beach -- from the aboriginal word for water breaking over rocks -- is in a suburb of Sydney and only four miles from the center of Sydney.    
The day that our group visited was rainy and overcast, but the sky and beach were lovely. It was only 9:00 in the morning so it was still quite empty.  

There was no activity in the water when I was there, but cloudy skies didn't deter these two surfers from coming to the beach.

One of my favorite parts of my visit was seeing the Bondi Beach Graffiti Wall. The art is constantly changing and I would love to be able to return to see the next set of murals. I took a lot of pictures here, so expect that a few more of my favorites will be featured.
Hello, Sun! Can't wait to see you again.
I hope you're still enjoying our visits to Australia. I have several more ideas for posts that I hope to do during February. Life in most aspects is returning to real life with walking, the gym, laundry, cooking and the Olympics. Alas, sleeping is not quite where it should be, but I'm optimistic I will turn a corner this week.
As ever, thanks for visiting and have a great weekend! 

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Happy Valentine's Day

Bouquets of happy wishes on Valentine's Day
 and every day!

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Would Kiki/Tas/Roo Be Happy?

Does this cute-as-can-be koala want to live in New York City?

One of the questions I was asked a number of times was "Can you/will you bring home a koala?"  Forgetting the fact that koalas are endangered and have a protected status in Australia -- which eliminates the possibility of bringing Kiki and friends to New York -- I asked a different question, "Would Kiki be happy living in a New York apartment?" Sadly, I don't think Kiki would be happy in my apartment.

Kiki and friends -- these pictures were taken at Featherdale Wildlife Park outside of Sydney -- live in large enclosures and spend most of the time sleeping in trees. I do have high ceilings, but keeping alive the trees that Kiki prefers would be more than a full-time job, especially for me who has trouble keeping the simplest house plant alive. Kiki's menu includes a variety of gum tree leaves, narrow- leaved peppermint and southern mahogany, all in short supply in local pet stores. Even after I converted my apartment to a koala habitat, I think Kiki might miss her koala friends. I've read enough Mr. Popper's Penguins/Paddington to entertain the thought of bringing a koala home, but have decided the practical -- could I also turn out to be allergic to koalas with more exposure to them? -- has to prevail.

One of the signs at Featherdale. I turned left for the koalas, of course!

I was at Featherdale in time for penguin feeding. One of our excursions from Melbourne was a visit to Phillip Island to see the little penguins. No pictures were permitted, so I was very pleased to get this photograph to share. 

An unexpected favorite of mine was the Tasmanian Devil. This hyperactive carnivorous marsupial would definitely not be happy in an apartment, and I don't think he would make a good house guest.
I would be remiss not to include a picture of kangaroos. This was my only kangaroo sighting outside of the wildlife parks we went to. I definitely don't think Roo would be happy in my apartment, even with frequent walks outside. Roos need a lot of room to jump. 

But I did bring home a new friend, Ophelia, who is actually about the size of a little penguin. Ophelia is a perfect addition to the crew. She needs no special diet, enjoys dressing up and is very friendly. She ably assisted Pep and Opus in choosing the winner of the Blogaversary giveaway, Susie at She Junks. Susie, I will be in touch with you to send you a surprise from the Outback. Congratulations!

I hope you've enjoyed our time with Kiki, Tas and my roo friends as much as I have. Happy early Valentine wishes! We'll be back with a bigger celebration tomorrow.

As ever, thanks for visiting and take good care! 

Behind the Scenes at Koala Cuddle Time

Please have your camera ready and don't forget to smile!
Despite what some may think I didn't fly 10,000 plus miles -- each way -- just to cuddle a koala. I wanted to see the Sydney Opera House, spend time in the Outback and at the Great Barrier Reef and learn more about the history and culture of Australia. But I would be misleading if I didn't add that I wasn't going all the way to Australia and not cuddle a koala. I joined members of our group for a train ride to Kurunda -- a town that looks like Woodstock, NY, if Woodstock was situated in a World Heritage tropical rain forest. A smaller group went on to Kurunda Koala Gardens for our thirty seconds with a koala. 

A number of friends have asked about koala cuddling. Was Kiki -- the koala our group cuddled -- soft? Was I afraid of Kiki's nails? Was it extraordinary? Maybe, no and yes, but it flew by a heartbeat. Was it worth it? Yes! When we arrived our group got into the koala line and prepared for our time with Kiki. It was very structured and permitted large numbers to go through quickly without stressing the koala. The photograph above shows the background for the photographs. When my time arrived I stood as instructed, gave my ready camera to a member of the staff and Kiki was given to me to hold. There are a few additional photos in the series, but I thought these two would show the process leading up to my final photograph.

Staff member hands me Kiki, making sure that Kiki will not fall. I so did not want to be the tourist who dropped the koala. Would I be on the first plane out of Cairns if that happened?
Without a doubt!

Kiki and I settle in. She is totally at ease -- based on body language -- but I am still concerned abut dropping her.  

Me and Kiki -- koala love!
After I washed my hands and collected my belongings I spent time seeing other animals. It was a great time -- though very hot -- and meeting Kiki and friends was a high point of my trip. I finished my visit to Kurunda with a stop at Fruibies, an organic tropical fruit bar and -- fresh, local, organic, vegan and delicious -- and had a Dragon Fire smoothy. It consisted of a dragon fruit, ginger and mango and it was perfect treat for a day in the rain forest.

After the visit to Kurunda we rode in the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway over the rain forest canopy. The ride was beautiful and anticipating questions, not scary. The only tricky part for me was getting in and out of the cars while they were moving.   


This was part of the scenery going and returning from Kurunda.
We continue the animal theme tomorrow with the question "Would Kiki/Tas/Roo be happy? Please stop by for further animal adventures in Australia.
As ever, thanks for visiting and take good care.  

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Pink Saturday Spends Sunday in Sydney

The Sydney Harbour Bridge

I'm happy to rejoin my friends at Pink Saturday for a sunny Sunday in Sydney. How's that for alliteration? I had the good fortune to spend five days in Sydney -- and I happily would have spent 55 days in Sydney. It was beautiful, people were friendly and there was so much to see. I switched hotels during my stay and spent the last two days at a hotel in The Rocks. This neighborhood is the site of the first European settlement in Australia and it reminded me of the downtown area of Manhattan. 
On weekends a crafts market takes place and I had a great time looking at very creative things. I'd been looking at t-shirts throughout Australia and wanted something a little "different." I found a shirt with an emu feather, unlike any I'd seen during my trip. I also had a great time talking with the talented designer. 
I enjoyed looking at the hats at this booth, but as I'd already bought a new hat -- my old small brimmed hat just wasn't working in Australia -- this was a strictly looking stop.

I returned to the area on Monday morning for breakfast and coffee. It was a beautiful summer day and I enjoyed my al fresco meal and lingered to take in the morning and the historic buildings across the street. As a coffee fan Australia was close to paradise. I never had an average cup of coffee -- maybe once -- and there were a number of times I had great coffee. There was a fabulous place in Cairns, on the Great Barrier Reef, where I spent enough time to get a "frequent drinker" card.  
I've had several requests to post about my "koala cuddling" time and I'm putting together a post about my visit with Kiki, the koala. I will be posting it in the next few days. 
I can't say I'm over jet lag, but I'm able to get more accomplished every day. I'm not quite ready to book another far-away trip, but the thoughts of jet lag and flights should fade totally by March and all that will remain will be very happy memories.     

As ever, thanks for visiting and have a happy and healthy week. 

Thursday, February 8, 2018

It's All Over -- Except for the Memories and the Jet Lag

A Panorama View of Sydney Harbor
After months of planning and expectation, as well as a measure of anxiety, I have returned home from Australia. The trip and the sights far exceeded my expectations. The group K and I traveled with were terrific -- punctual, easy going and enthusiastic. Australia was beautiful and despite scorching temperatures in the Outback, the weather was ideal for travel. I brought back wonderful memories and many photographs I hope to share in the future.
My iPad blogger app was decidedly uncooperative, which explains the lack of posts and the brevity of the entries that I was able to post. I would post a photograph and start to write copy and the app would close, again and again. By the last week of the trip my frustration overcame my resolve. I plan to do a number of posts in February to share the trip, so all is not lost. My only problem is choosing the photographs I want to share. 
For the last two days I have been on Sydney time -- waking at 2:00 a.m. after a nap in the afternoon. Miraculously I have stayed awake all day today and accomplished a lot of what I hoped to get done. I still have a long to-do list and I'm optimistic that I can make good head way on it. Biggest chore for tomorrow is definitely laundry, another souvenir of every trip.
I appreciate the comments and good wishes on the posts I did during the trip. In the next few days I will choose the winner of the Blogaversary giveaway. February is going to be a fun month. Valentines, Australia, books and an update on No Spend January. Please stop by often.
As ever, thanks for visiting and take good care.