Australia Day 2017

You might recall that last year we indulged in a full tasting menu for Australia Day. Yes, 8 courses that took us on a culinary tour around the Country – celebrating fresh, local and seasonal produce.

And while this year was much more ‘low key’, we still filled the day with family and food, and a favourite pastime – a morning hike!

Needless to say after the morning’s outdoor adventures, we were quite hungry when the afternoon rolled around. Our family joined us for an early dinner – and with the temperature exceeding 30 degrees outside, a BBQ seemed to be the most logical, if not sanest, choice.

On the menu?

Some homemade sausages by our local butcher. Served with a few “Aussie-themed” sides.

Starting with a mango macadamia salad – comprising of salad leaves, fresh mango, avocado and macadamias. Dressed simply with a mixture of lime juice, seeded mustard, oil and sliced red chilli.

I also turned on the oven for 20 minutes or so, in order to make another iconic Australian side…damper! Flavoured with camembert and cracked pepper (and these turned out very moreish indeed).

For dessert we kept things pretty simple. Instead of a large pavlova, I went with mini versions instead. Topped with cream, lemon curd and a fresh raspberry.


And to keep us hydrated, we served a fresh fruit cocktail.

Akin to a punch – I guess you’d say – made with vodka, coconut rum, cooled tea, pineapple juice and ginger ale – finished with some frozen honeydew balls, mint and raspberry.

And so another Australia Day came to pass  – and we retired to bed with full bellies and fond memories of the day.

What about you? What did you get up to this Australia Day?

My words for 2017

I’m not one for resolutions, but I do appreciate the freshness of a new year. The chance to sit back and reflect on the year that was – what worked and what didn’t – and make some goals for the year to come.

We’ve worked hard over the last few years to get more balance back in our family life. And while it still remains a work in progress, it’s something that we think about, and talk about, often. Time always seems in short supply, and with two littlies in the house I don’t see that changing anytime soon. But making the most of the time we do have, filling it with fun and adventures, well that seems like a pretty good goal to me.

This year I sense that we are again going to be busy. Our calendar is already filling up – and the first half of the year is on its way to being pretty full. Miss C starts big school shortly, and Little J moves into an extra day at daycare, and I’m a bit unsure as to how we are going to fit in all the drop offs and pick ups, the other activities, fitness, family…..

And while I don’t have any resolutions for the year, per se, and I’m reluctant to commit to any firm “plan” (at least until I work out what the new normal is going to be) I do have a few words that I am going to give a little more attention to this year…

  • Create – I’ve missed writing, and creating in the kitchen, and its about time I got back into it. Starting with a more regular blogging schedule and perhaps a few other creative outlets. More recipe experiments, and expanding my knowledge of international cuisine too.
  • Capture –  I love photography, and want to make the conscious effort to grab my ‘good’ camera more. For the memories captured are always so special to me.
  • Focus – On the present, and the small. More moments spent cherishing the little things. Reading more books and writing more letters.
  • Adventure –  Continuing to embrace my love for the outdoors, and sharing this with our girls.

So, just a few words to get me started -on what I am sure is going to be a magical year!

What about you? What are your ‘words’ for 2017?

2016 – A Year in Review

I’ve heard a lot of people lamenting 2016 – and bidding it a quick and eager farewell. For us, though, 2016 was a good year. Sure, there were some less than stellar moments dotted throughout (but that’s generally the case isn’t it?) but for the most part, we finally managed to strike an ok work / life balance. We also made it through the year with good health and in good spirits, such that we enter 2017 with a sense of anticipation for what the new year might bring.

But before I turn to our hopes and aims for the year to come, it seems only fair to recap the year that was. 

January 

Summer holidays continued in full swing. We celebrated a late Christmas linner, devoured a 8-course Australia Day ‘tasting menu‘, and spent time playing tourist in our home town.

February

Josie turned ONE(!), Charlotte started Pre-School(!) and we took a week-long cruise around New Caledonia (see here, here, here and here).

March

Charlotte turned FOUR, we celebrated Easter and took lots of family hikes.

April

We took more family hikes, cheered on the Brumbies, went camping and got all dressed up for a costume party!

May

We celebrated Mother’s Day, took more hikes,  and had lots of little adventures – both indoors and out.

June

With the Canberra Winter having arrived, we had lots of fun indoors. We also took a girl’s road trip down to Melbourne to catch up with family and visit the zoo!

July

We had dance classes, visitors in town and lots of good food.

August

We celebrated Book Week, took a quick trip to Melbourne and then a family holiday to Fiji!

September

We celebrated Father’s Day – Italian Style, painted, created a fairy garden and flew a kite.

October

We took another trip to Melbourne, the girls dressed up for Halloween and the husband and I went on a “Bloody Long Walk” for charity.

November

We baked, we went to the Circus, we visited the Show and we celebrated our dear friends’ wedding in Thredbo (where we played in snow!).  

December

We ate, we drank, we partied.  We took a quick trip to Melbourne to celebrate my nephew’s 1st birthday. Then we had lots of family arrive into town, and celebrated Christmas accordingly.

And so our 2016 came to a close. Filled to the brim with new memories, time spent with family and a seemingly better balance between work and play (well better than in previous years, that’s for sure!!).

Here’s to an even bigger and better 2017!

Random Ramblings

I had all good intentions of posting a ‘5 things Friday’ – but here we are on Saturday and no such post was written. But there have been a lot of little happenings of late, and I just returned from a lovely facial + massage combination (cashing in a Christmas gift certificate, thanks Amanda!), and am feeling particularly relaxed. So a sneaky little blog post it is…

Adventuring? We had a great time at the Circus last weekend. Little J was enamoured with the lights, sound and action from the very first minute (and we discovered that she is a huge fan of popcorn too!)

img_1076Oh and the clowns were a big hit also – so much so that we are now the proud owners of a slinky and a cheap necklace…

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Creating? We finally finished our family photo wall! It has been on the to-do list for years now, and I am so chuffed to see it come to life. The idea being that we add a new family portrait to the line up each year.
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Feeling? Very much like this year is slipping by all too fast. We had an activity evening at C’s pre-school last night, and little J wasted no time in joining in the fun. It seems like only yesterday that I was wheeling her to the preschool in the pram, and now she is out running around with all the big kids.

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Smiling? At Miss C’s ever-developing art and writing skills. Not a day goes by where she doesn’t pull out the textas and create us a masterpiece. On this occasion it was a ‘get well soon’ drawing for her Nanna, complete with self-portrait, her grandparents, two horses, a pig, a bull and a lion!
img_1128 Baking? Two big batches of rocky road with my little ‘helpers’. Although I think they did more bowl licking than anything else….
img_1064Missing? My sunglasses. If you know me, you know that I am never without them.  I remember taking them off as I walked into work on Friday, and putting them in my bag, but they are now nowhere to be found. And I’m well and truly feeling as though I am going (sun-squinty) crazy!

Indulging? In addition to the facial + massage I got this morning, I also got my nails painted. I saved the beautician from the horror that is my runner / walker’s feet – and opted to have my fingernails painted instead. Something I almost never do – but I must say I’m quite loving the look.

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Although I suspect kids + chores = they will be chipped in 6 hours!

But now, time to enjoy the rest of the weekend (and keep looking for my sunnies….)

5 things Friday

Oh Friday, how happy I am to see you! Time for a ‘5 things Friday’ I think!

  1. This weekend we have a lot of fun things planned. A trip to the Circus and the school Fete being two. Although I suspect the weekend will involve a lot less walking than last weekend, when Mr BBB and I tackled the “Bloody Long Walk”. A 35km charity walk that took us just over 6 hours to complete (and I think my legs are still feeling it…)

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2. Another reason I am feeling tired at the moment? One word….

Josie.

Yes we have well and truly hit the tantrum phase, coupled with the independent phase. Getting dressed, meals and generally trying to get out of the house has been routinely frustrated by our spirited 21-month old.

This photo is a good example. For not even two minutes after it was taken, she was horrified, HORRIFIED, when I stopped her from throwing paint on the ground and deteriorated into an all-consuming tantrum that lasted a good 25 minutes!

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3. Her big sister, on the other hand, is in a wonderful stage. Filled with lots of role-play and arts. We bought this costume for her daycare Halloween party, and she’s pretty much been living in it ever since.

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4. Tantrums aside, there is another thing I know for sure about J and that is her absolute adoration for her big sister. Wherever C is, J won’t be too far behind. And whatever C is doing, well J will give it a go too. Sure, they have their moments, but for the most part they are great buddies.

img_0596 5. Another recent favourite moment? Having “Jonpa” in town on a particular splendid Canberra weekend – which turned out to be perfect kite flying weather too. Needless to say a lot of fun was had at the Arboretum!
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What about you? What are you up to this weekend?

Reminiscing…

School holidays have arrived, as have a couple long weekends, so a trip to see my family in Melbourne was a must! The girls and I headed down the Hume, and I’m pleased to report that both have been amazing despite living out of a suitcase and bed-hopping between motels, and various family members’ houses.

It’s always fantastic to head to the town I grew up in, and show the girls my old  “haunts”. But a recent find while clearing out our garage – brought back lots of memories for me too. A box filled to the brim with old photographs and holiday memorabilia, that I had no idea I’d kept.

What a find indeed!

Cue: Hours of reminiscing as I scanned the best photos into my computer (while thinking that I will have to put together a photo album sometime soon).

But in the meantime? Here are some pictures that brought back particularly fond memories…

img_0010-4Dad and I, circa 1983 (?) at the Botanical Gardens in Melbourne. This photo makes me laugh as it was obviously taken before my irrational fear of birds kicked in. I can almost 100% guarantee that you would never see me standing this close to a bunch of birds these days.

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Yarrawonga circa 1982. I’ve always been a horse lover – and it seems our girls are too!

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I can’t remember where this was taken, but I loved all the little adventures our family used to take.

img_0021Twinning at Kindergarten. I definitely remember this jumper – and am left wondering why legwarmers are no longer in fashion.

img_0023-3I see so much of Charlotte in this picture, that I think was taken at my 6th birthday party(?). I’m also loving the fancy wine glasses (that were probably filled with Sunkist), and the awesome 70s curtains in the background.

img_0003-2I have no idea who my bike buddy is, but we are definitely looking like kids of the 80s! Girly-mullet for me and all…img_0004Our Bear. The stinkiest Rottweiler x Alsatian rescue dog that you ever did meet. But with a heart of pure gold.

img_0048-2This would have to be one of my all-time favourite photos of my little brother. Though I suspect it was taken not too long before he attempted a BMX jump and knocked out his two front teeth !?

img_0126Mixed doubles tennis champions! Tennis was my sport of choice throughout high school and taking home the “flag” one year was definitely a highlight. As were the colourful parachute tracksuits that my Mum used to buy me…

img_0005And finally, Miss Tess. Proving that she is, and has always been, one weird cat!

Family time in Fiji

IMG_9117If you follow me on Instagram, you might have noticed that recently my feed was filled with all things sunshine, palm trees and beaches. For our family fled the cold Canberra winter, and took a holiday to Fiji. Our first time to this amazing country, and one that we will no doubt return to again.IMG_9088 I managed to fill a whole memory card with photos, but here’s my best attempt at keeping our story ‘condensed’.
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The girls travelled really well – even when we discovered that the Virgin flight over offered no in-flight entertainment (?!) and the hostess would not even give me a pillow when Little J fell asleep on my lap (and therefore and so did my arm!). Thankfully the flight back with Fiji Airways was far more pleasant – with lots of entertainment to keep us occupied during the 4 hours flight.

After arriving in Fiji, we took a private transfer to what would become our home away from home – The Warwick Resort. Located on the Coral Coast, and a 2 hour drive from the Nadi airport.

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We were given a warm welcome, and the generous and kind hospitality only grew from there. I’d heard that the Fijians love kids, and this proved so true. Every staff member we passed greeted us with an energetic ‘Bula’, but the real warmth came when they interacted with the kids. For most often they scooped Charlotte and Josie up for cuddles or gave them a high five as we passed. Needless to say, the girls loved the attention!

IMG_9375 IMG_9156 IMG_8962It didn’t take us long to settle into a holiday routine. Generally I would get up before the kids, and take a walk along the beach. Most mornings I had company in the form of a dog (or dogs) from a nearby village, who were quite happy to trot along beside me as I explored the area.

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From there – we headed off to breakfast at the Buffet. A decent selection of all the usual breakfast items – with hot and cold selections on offer. Perfect energy for the morning ahead, which usually consisted of swimming and exploring.

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The Resort also offered a Kids program (for ages 2 and up) – which Charlotte LOVED. Filled with lots of activities – including fish feeding, arts and crafts, cooking classes, games, face painting and the like.

IMG_9085 IMG_9090 We usually ate lunch by the pool, where a Bar and Grill offered a variety of meal options. From burgers, to salads, or heartier meals for bigger appetites – there seemed to be something for everyone.  Washed down with a cocktail, or two.

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The Grill also had ‘kids meals’ – a lunch box including a hot treat (toasted sandwich, fish, chicken etc), plus fruit, vegetables, crackers and cheese.

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IMG_8992As Josie still has a lunch nap, we used the middle part of the day to rest and relax. Most days Charlotte fell asleep too, and we savoured the quiet time.

After lunch, however, the adventures continued.  We spent time at the beach, paddling in the water and building sand castles.

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Although Josie was too young to go to the Kids Club, the Resort has a Nanny service (for a modest fee) which we took advantage of most afternoons for a few hours. During this time Mr BBB and I headed off for a game of tennis or squash,  or out kayaking, and indulged in another cocktail in the lounges overlooking the beach.
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And while we certainly loved the resort-life, I couldn’t help but book a few extra things for us to do during our stay. The first was a horseride with Charlotte – something I had been promising her since her last birthday. A hut next to the resort had beach rides on offer, so one morning we did just that. An hour spent riding along the beach together, chatting with our local guide about all things Fiji. (ps. he was horrified to learn that we live 2 hours from the beach!)

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Another nearby business also offered a ‘Waterfall tour’ and a visit to the nearby Biausevu village. We booked this for our final day – and it turned out to be one of the highlights of our trip. We were collected from the Resort in the morning, and driven to the village, where we were met with big smiles, participated in a kava ceremony and language lesson.

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From there, we hiked up to the Waterfall (about a 30-40 minute walk), making 9 shallow river crossings along the way. Realising that the walk was probably a little far for Charlotte, we accepted the offer of a horse ride, and she rode the entire way up and back with a young villager – smiling the whole time!

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The waterfall was gorgeous, as promised, and we wasted no time in cooling off with a swim. We also feasted on freshly picked wild grapefruit and coconut.

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After our afternoon adventures, we usually freshened up and headed to the pool-side for a pre-dinner drink and to watch the beating of the ‘Lali’ as well as the torch lighting. This was definitely a highlight for the girls, who got to have a go at beating the drum.

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Then it was off to dinner. Some evenings we dined at the Buffet – which usually had a theme (Fijian, Tex Mex, Indian etc). One night we went to the on-site pizza restaurant, which was rather delicious, while another night we indulged in an enormous seafood platter at another restaurant on site – the Wicked Walu.

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Most evenings had some sort of entertainment on offer too. Be it dance and song demonstrations, or games on the beach, lots to fill in our time before we fell into bed to get some rest before doing it all again the next day.

Some other highlights from our trip?

* Watching the Fiji Sevens take Gold at the Olympics – particularly as many of the players were from a nearby village.

* Being disconnected from the pressures of work and home life, and spending some great quality time together as a family…
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* Managing to somehow miss the heavy rain from the week before, and be blessed with gorgeous sunsets over the water every evening.

IMG_9261 IMG_9217 IMG_9089 But as they say, all good things must come to an end. And it was definitely with a touch of sadness that we said goodbye to this beautiful country and made our way back home. Bringing with us, though, so many memories and a yearning for more overseas travel.

I’d certainly say that Fiji is a “family friendly” holiday destination, with lots on offer for all ages.

But a few tips we picked up along the way:

* Fiji time is definitely a thing. There is no sense of urgency, so be prepared to wait a while for meals and drinks etc.

* Reef shoes were really handy – as the beach was quite studded with rocks and dried coral.

* Snacks and drinks are available were available for purchase at the Resort – however they were quite expensive. Next time we would probably stock up with water, snacks, beer etc from a supermarket on the way.

5 things Friday

I think its time to bring back an ol’ favourite series. To capture the happenings of late, without the need for an entire blog post on each. For while blogging with regularity is proving to be a bit of a challenge at the moment, there certainly has been a lot going on!

  1. Little J has become quite the climber. People, chairs, tables, dishwashers…you name it.  Generally with a big cheeky grin while she makes her ascent. Needless to say, we are constantly on the lookout for what she might climb next.

IMG_7429 2. Climbing aside, it is so very lovely to see our girls’ friendship blossoming. Sure there are the occasional spats, if C tries to take something from J, or vice versa, but for the most part they seem to really enjoy each other’s company (and I’m pretty confident they are already conspiring against me!)
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3. After two ‘rained out’ sessions, and despite a cranky 15 month old, we managed to get our annual family photo session done for another year. I am completely in love with how the pictures turned out, thanks to the talented (and patient) Melissa Ellis Photography.  Some favourites…

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4. We are really enjoying the opportunity to explore our local region lately, by taking lots of hikes and family walks.  I headed along the Cooleman / Chapman Ridge the other week, up to the Mt Arawang trig, and will be sure to post about it soon!

IMG_0314 5. On the agenda this weekend? STAYING WARM! I knew Winter was coming, but it feels as though it arrived overnight. The beanie and gloves are out, and the sandals have been retired. Being the Summer-lover that I am…..well let’s just say I am not a fan.

What about you? What are you up to this weekend?

Walk Canberra – Kambah Pool to Pine Island

IMG_0234Growing up, my family spent many weekends camping and exploring. My Dad would arrange various hikes and bushwalks, with every detail meticulously planned and mapped out. We’d often camp out overnight, carrying all the essentials for the few days on our back.

I don’t really remember what we talked about on those long hikes, or whether we even talked at all. Although knowing Dad, he would have been full of groan-worthy ‘dad-jokes’ and probably broken into song as we marched along.

I do, however, remember loving the fresh air. The trees, the wildlife, the peacefulness.

And while my girls are still quite young (and longer hikes are not on the cards just yet), our little family has really embraced living in the Bush Capital and its abundance of local trails.

Some of our favourite trails are quite popular (Mt Ainslie, Mr Taylor..) while others are a little more hidden.  Some are definitely kid-friendly, others not so.  And then there are some whose online information is quite out of date, or just plain wrong.

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So as a reference tool for myself, and also for any like-minded wanderers out there, I’d love to cover some of my favourite trails as we continue to explore this gorgeous Canberra region.

A “Walk Canberra” series.

Starting with – Kambah Pool to Pine Island

This walk is part of the larger Murrumbidgee Discovery Track – a 27km trail between Casurina Sands and Point Hut Crossing that runs alongside the Murrumbidgee River.  I tackled it last weekend by myself – as a bit of a reconnaissance mission to see whether it would be suitable to bring the kids along (my thoughts on that later).

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The skies were grey, but the threatened rain held off. And, on reflection, the overcast weather was actually rather perfect for this relatively ‘exposed’ trail.

I parked my car at Kambah Pool, with a view to being collected by Mr BBB at the other end at Pine Island. However, the walk took far less time than I had expected so I ended up doing an out-and-back walk / trail run combination.

Distance / timings

I should start by saying that the  TAMS website information for this walk  is rather inaccurate. It indicated the walk was 7km one way, when signage at the start of the trail (more accurately) confirmed it was 9.2km.

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The suggested timing of 3 to 4 hours (one-way) is probably too conservative and I think you could quite comfortably complete the one-way trip in around 2 hours (although I guess it depends on how fit you are feeling and how many stops you wish to take along the way.)

All in all, I covered around 8km out, and 8km back, walking some – running some – in around 2.5 hours.

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The trail

The trail itself was quite varied, changing between grassy paddock paths and rocky bushland sections. It was quite exposed in parts, which I imagine would get quite hot in the warmer months, so BYO water, sunscreen and a hat!

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For the most part, the trail was quite well sign-posted – with lots of the Centenary trail markers guiding the way. There were a few points of confusion closer to Pine Island, but it was more a case of needing to be vigilant so as to not miss the next marker.

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Another thing that confused me was the listed gradient, with signs suggesting the trail had a moderate to steep gradient. Perhaps I am more used to mountain climbing as I found the trail to be quite flat with only a couple small hilly sections along the way. Certainly nothing I would describe as steep!

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In fact, I saw more mountain-bikers than walkers – and quickly promised myself that I would return to also explore the trail by bike soon!

Highlights

A big highlight was definitely Red Rock Gorge – with a look-out a short distance off the trail about 2kms in.

 

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And the view when approaching the gorge from the other direction was pretty spectacular too – with the red-rocked cliffs seeming to pop into view out of nowhere!

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I also loved the old stone wall – which was apparently built in the 1860s to mark the boundary between two early rural properties.

 

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Another big highlight was how quiet it was. I crossed paths with a few walkers, a few more mountain bikers and one other trail runner. And aside from the hundreds of kangaroos I encountered, I had the trail pretty much to myself most of the time.

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Kid Friendly?

Normally when we take hikes as a family, I carry Miss 1 In the Ergo, and Mr BBB carries Miss 4 in a hiking backpack (for around half the walk, or until she decides she’s had enough). While I think this would be a suitable walk in terms of gradient / terrain to take the girls, I suspect they would lose patience pretty quickly given how long it is (an hour being their general tolerance limit). In saying that, I’m really keen to take them for a walk to the lookout (about 4kms return from Kambah Pool) and I am pretty confident that Miss 4 could probably walk at least half of it.

IMG_0263And, if all else fails, I think the abundance of kangaroos we will inevitably spot along the way should keep her entertained!

All in all, I really enjoyed this walk. It was quiet, well sign-posted and covered a lot of terrain variety. I’ll definitely be back – and hope to perhaps bike an extended version of the route too.

Kambah Pool to Pine Island – in Summary

  • Start? Kambah Pool Road, Tuggeranong (the trail is well sign posted as you enter the carpark,  on the left)
  • Distance? 9.2km one-way (18.4km return)
  • Time? Allow 4 hours return (moderate pace)
  • Terrain? Mixed dirt paths, bushland, exposed paddocks
  • Gradient? Some rolling hills, but nothing too steep
  • Difficulty? Easy / moderate
  • Mobile reception? I had mobile coverage the whole way (Telstra)
  • Water? BYO
  • Toilets ? At Kambah Pool and Pine Island. None along the trail itself (aside from the ‘bush’ toilet)
  • Bike friendly? Yes
  • Run friendly? Yes
  • Kid-friendly? In parts, yes. The walk from Kambah Pool to the lookout would definitely be do-able.

 

 

Easter 2016

IMG_4327I feel as if Easter snuck up on us this year, even though the chocolate eggs have been on the  shelves since early January…

But despite the surprise arrival of the 4-day weekend – we managed to fill the time quite easily. Actually, in all honesty, it was rather nice to not have a lot planned. Rather, the lack of  firm plans meant we could lounge in our PJs while deciding what to do, and head off for little adventures when motivation arrived.

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Good Friday was, as normal, spent with Mr BBB’s family – indulging in all things seafood! A relaxed afternoon grazing on various dishes – including prawns,  tuna and salmon sashimi, calamari and more prawns. Washed down with some fruit-filled wine and entertained with a game of Pictionary.

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Our contribution this year was a rather impressive side of ocean trout – that we picked up from the local fish shop. Cooked by Mr BBB on the BBQ then dressed with a garlic, parsley and chilli dressing.

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We followed this recipe – and the fish turned out beautifully (although we did reduce the cooking time a little to save it from being overcooked).

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And as for the rest of the weekend?  We pottered around – crossing a few things off our “to-do” list along the way.  We coloured, we went on an Easter egg hunt, we played and we organised. We got some exercise in too with a bike ride one day, and a family mountain climb the next!

Oh and did I mention that thanks  to family and the Easter Bunny –  our chocolate supplies have gone from ‘modest’ to ‘plentiful’?!

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Overall – it was a rather lovely weekend – with a nice balance of ‘activity’  and ‘downtime’.  Here’s to another short week too!

What about you? What did you get up to this Easter weekend?