Sunday, 7 January 2018

NGV Triennial

Every week Andy and I have two “days off” - days that Ella is in daycare and we are free to do whatever we want for the day. Now, I love my daughter very much, and I (mostly) enjoy spending time with her (tantrums aside). But these two days are heaven. It’s like a small glimpse into what our school holidays were like when we didn’t have a child. If only I’d appreciated the freedom we had then! 

Last week, on one of our days off we went to the National Gallery of Victoria to check out the latest exhibition, the NGV Triennial. The exhibition is a free event, and spread across the three floors of the NGV. It’s huge, so huge that we didn’t end up seeing all of it, so a second visit will be in order. It is open until 15th April, so plenty of time to go back. From the 19-28th January the gallery is open late, from 6pm-midnight, with the addition of DJs, bars, food and dancing so that could be a fun option. 

The Triennial features the work of 100 artists and designers from 32 different countries and is an eclectic mix of sculpture, design, architecture, fashion, tapestry, performance, painting, drawing and film. There were a lot of interactive pieces which I really enjoyed. I am by no means knowledgeable about art and design, but I do like a good wander around a gallery and stopping by the pieces that catch my interest. Here were some of the highlights for me - some I got pictures of, but some you’ll just have to check out for yourself!

Xu Chen, China - Eternity-Buddha in Nirvana (2016-17)
This is the enormous sculpture that greets you upon entering the NGV. A reclining Buddha covered in replicas of Greco-Roman Renaissance and Neoclassical sculptures. From the artist: “I have always been curious about the differences between cultures and the alienation between them. And yet, misconceptions can be the beginning of awareness and understanding”.

Pae White, USA - Untitled (2017)
Colourful graphics and mirrors combined with installations of acrylic yarn give the illusion of space. Lots of fun to walk through.

Nendo, Japan - Manga Chairs (2015)
This was probably my favourite work. A series of metal chairs all with a slightly different design features, inspired by Manga comics. There is also an animation where you can see the transformation of the chair from one design to the other. Very cool! I was so engrossed in this one that I forgot to take a picture.

TeamLab, Japan - Moving Creates Vortices and Vortices Create Movement (2017)
An interactive digital work in a large, dark space surrounded by mirrors. On the floor is are large, vortex-like swirls that respond to movement in a way that mimics water. Only a limited amount of people are allowed in the room at a time. A pretty trippy experience!

Richard Giblett, Hong Kong - Sump System (2015-16)
An set of three industrial landscapes of chimneys, funnels and pipes set within inky black oil, depicting the consumption of resources in cities today. If you look closely you can see some big brands within such as McDonald's, IKEA and Louis Vuitton. The pictures look digitally produced, but if you look closely you can see that they are actually paintings.

Ron Mueck, Australia - Mass (2016-17)
This work starts with one large skull sculpture, in the middle of one of the rooms with a permanent collection of Renaissance paintings. The difference between the two is quite stark! Continuing on, you are lead to a room full of 100 large skulls. Breathtaking, in a kind of horrible way. “Mass” is an interpretation of the catacombs in Paris and of more recent human atrocities in places such as Rwanda, Cambodia and Iraq. It also serves as a reminder of our own mortality.

Yayoi Kusama, Japan - Flower Obsession (2016-17)
Another interactive work, this is a reconstruction of a normal looking apartment, visitors are given a flower sticker to stick anywhere you want. The theme is “obliteration”. Day by day the apartment will become obliterated with flowers.

This doesn't even scratch the surface of the variety of works to see at the NGV Triennial. If you’re in Melbourne between now and April, I highly recommend checking this exhibition out!

Friday, 5 January 2018

Scienceworks ground up exhibition

As teachers, Andy and I both have free memberships to the Melbourne Museum, which also includes
entry to both Scienceworks and The Immigration Museum. We regularly visit the Melbourne Museum,
it has a fabulous children’s area and is very easy for us to get to from our place in Brunswick. We haven’t
really taken advantage of visiting the other two museums though. We visited Scienceworks once before,
in our pre-Ella days, but haven’t bothered since she was born as most of the exhibitions are geared
towards older children. However a few months ago they opened a brand new permanent exhibition for
children under 5 called Ground Up: Building Big Ideas, Together so we decided to check it out.

The day we went was pretty busy, it was the week between Christmas and New Year, so many people
were still on holiday. Regardless, Ella had a great time checking out the STEM-themed exhibition. Some
highlights were:

A wind-tunnel, where kids could put together flying contraptions made of felt and watch them fly up the
tunnel and then be spit out the other end:

A wall of light up switches. Ella loves turning the lights on and off in our house so this was a big hit:

Wall spinners with various materials in them:

3D puzzles and building blocks:

Giant blue car wash spinners that can be turned with cranks:

Ella had a fabulous time exploring and as a maths teacher I was pretty happy with all the ‘learning’ going
on. Once we were done with the Ground Up exhibition we went outside to eat some lunch. One of my
goals this year is to pack a lunch to take to places like this so that we don't spend a fortune in overpriced
cafés with sub-par food. I had a quick look in the café at Scienceworks and I can tell you, this was
certainly the case here! (The café at the Melbourne Museum is actually pretty good though.) Anyway, I
did pack a lunch for this outing and we even managed to distract Ella from the ice lollies she saw the
other kids eating, so it turned out to be a pretty cheap day for us!

Outside the main building there is a garden with 3 different playgrounds and lots of space to run around.
We thought we might explore more of Scienceworks after lunch, but Ella was getting tired and cranky so
we took her home for her nap.

Unfortunately Scienceworks is not located particularly close to us, it’s on the south-west side of the city
and about a 25-30 minute drive. But it kept Ella amused and we didn’t even scratch the surface of areas
to explore, plus entry is free with our membership, so we will definitely be back for another visit soon.  

Sunday, 31 December 2017

Currently... December

It’s New Year’s Eve! And currently looking to be our least eventful one yet, haha! We had a few friends
invite us round to their houses for some celebrations, but have opted to stay home. The main reason
being that two days ago I started having some cramps and stomach pains on and off. I first dismissed it
as regular pregnancy discomfort, and after googling found out about Round Ligament Pain, which is
caused by a growing uterus. But after more than 24 hours of near constant pain I called the on-call nurse
who recommended going to the hospital to get checked out. So off we went last night to the Royal
Women’s emergency care. I felt like it might have been a bit unnecessary, but I guess you never can be
too careful when you're pregnant. Luckily they weren’t very busy and I was seen almost right away. The
good news is the baby is fine and the doctor put it down to some good old food poisoning! They gave me
some anti-nausea medicine and I'll hopefully feel better in the next few days. Andy has headed over to
the neighbour's house to have a few drinks this evening, but I don't even think he will make it to midnight.
It's all very rock and roll over here this year!

Other than that, there isn’t a whole lot going on in our house, which is a good thing. We’ve been enjoying
a very relaxing, low key summer holiday so far, full of many trips to the local pool, playing at the park,
visits to a few Melbourne attractions, and catching up with friends. Here is my currently update for

Reading so many books since we’ve been on summer holidays! It’s great. I went through the top books of
2017 on Goodreads, and then reserved the ones that sounded interesting to me at the library. My first
summer read was Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng, and I’m not exaggerating when I say it was the
best fiction book I’ve read in a long time. Clearly a lot of people agree, as it won best Fiction book on
Goodreads. The second book I read was The Girl Before by JP Delaney, a psychological thriller that was
a page turner and I couldn’t put down. I'm now halfway through Into the Water by Paula Hawkins, who
also wrote The Girl on the Train. This book won the Mystery & Thriller category on Goodreads, and I can
see why. It's another one that I can't wait to get to the end of.

Watching season 2 of The Crown. Like the first season, I find it a bit slow at times, but it is really
interesting to learn about the political and historical events that have happened in England during Queen
Elizabeth’s reign, through the lens of the royal family. Also, there is a lot more scandal around the royals
than I expected. We also watched The Sinner this month on Netflix which was very good, although
incredibly dark and hard to watch at times. Looking for a new series to get stuck into together, Andy and I
settled on The Killing. We actually watched Season 1 of the Danish version years ago, when we were still
living in the UK. Lots of people have recommended watching all three seasons of the American version
on Netflix, so we’ve started right at the beginning of season 1, even though it’s the same storyline.

Enjoying summer holidays without any travel plans. I love travelling, but it is nice to just enjoy a whole
Melbourne summer without a 24 hour flight, packing/unpacking and jet lag to deal with. I’ve also been
enjoying swimming again after a first trimester where I felt too tired to do any exercise. It’s the perfect
pregnancy workout as you don’t feel the weight of your growing belly. One of my favourite things about
Australia is that you can pretty much find a 50m heated outdoor swimming pool in every part of town,
and swimming lengths in an outdoor pool is just so much better than in an indoor pool. The heated
aspect of these outdoor pools is key, as I am not great at getting into cold water. When we lived in
London we were near an outdoor pool but it wasn't heated, which meant it was unusable through the
winter and still pretty freezing even in the summer - we would actually wear a wetsuit to swim in it

Loving this new water bottle from Lululemon that Andy gave me for Christmas. In my attempt to not buy
bottled water anymore I’ve tried out quite a few different reusable water bottles, and this one really ticks
all the boxes. It can be used for both hot and cold drinks, and is double-walled stainless steel so actually
keeps your drink hot or cold. It’s been lovely in this hot weather to have ice cold water with me all the
time, in my other plastic water bottles my water would get warm very quickly. The push top lid makes it
easy to drink from - the water flows out at the perfect pace. That seems like a weird thing to write but I
got annoyed with my last water bottle as the water didn’t flow out fast enough to quench my thirst. (Yes,
I know, first world problems.)

Wearing maternity clothes. I haven’t been able to fit into most of my “regular” clothes now for about two
months, which has meant scouring ebay and ASOS for deals on some summer maternity clothes. It has
cost me a small fortune, but I feel so much more comfortable in clothes that fit my expanding belly,
especially throughout the hot summer.

Eating/cooking a few new recipes this month. One of my favourites is this Thai Peanut salad from
Cookie and Kate. The peanut dressing makes it feel indulgent but it’s also loaded with veggies. I also
made this Roasted Red Pepper soup which Andy said was the best soup he’s ever had. Perfect as it
was super simple to make.

Drinking only one coffee a day, which sucks big time. I really miss my second coffee… not so much for
the caffeine anymore, as I think I’m used to less of that, but the social aspect of going out for a coffee. I
love cold brew and iced coffees in the summer, so I miss having that treat. I’m having lots of smoothies
and juices when we go out to brunch instead, which is probably healthier anyway, though it does mean I
always have to share my drink with Ella.

Wanting to go on some sort of trip before the baby number two is born. Either with Ella during the Easter
school holidays, or without while my mom and dad are here to look after her. Or both! We will probably
have to stay within Australia due to the pregnancy (oh how adventurous I was in my first pregnancy,
travelling to Vietnam at 24 weeks!) but I can take a short flight somewhere. Two places on my Australia
bucket list are Kangaroo Island and the Blue Mountains so I might start to investigate those as options.

Considering starting potty training with Ella. I'm so not looking forward to this stage of parenthood!

Looking forward to the rest of the summer… there is a lot coming up for us in January. One of my best
friends from London is coming for a visit in about 10 days, my parents arrive on the 16th, and of course
there is our favourite Melbourne event, the Australian Open, starting 15th January.  Fun times ahead!

Pic of the Month Ella trying out her main Christmas present... watch out everyone!

Friday, 22 December 2017

Raspberries & Waterfalls

We are well into our first week of the summer holidays and I can’t tell you how amazing it feels to know
we don’t have to go to work for another five weeks! Yippee! Since July, Ella has been in daycare full-time,
but we’ve dropped her down to two days a week for now. She loves going to daycare but equally I think
she has enjoyed having a bit more time with us at home over the last week. We have spent a lot of time
at the local pool, Brunswick Baths, as we’ve had some very hot (over 35 degree) days here in Melbourne.
On Wednesday it cooled off a little, so we decided to do something a little different, and headed north of
the city to Kinglake Raspberries to do some raspberry picking.

Andy was a bit skeptical about this idea, and I’ll admit I was not entirely sure Ella was old enough for fruit
picking. Andy also reminded me that this is the work that travellers on working holiday visas do so they
can extend their stay in Australia, ie, why would we do this for fun? But I remember going strawberry
picking as a kid and so it seemed like a fun family thing to do. In the end, we didn’t need to worry, as any
activity where Ella can eat unlimited fruit is a good activity in her eyes! There were rows and rows of ripe
juicy berries, and we did about 45 minutes of picking, getting just over 1kg of berries. I’m not sure how
much we actually
picked if you count the amount Ella ate… when we first arrived she was putting berries into her mouth
nearly as fast as I was picking them, and our basket seemed like it would never fill up. But we finally
convinced her to pick the “really, really red” ones and put them in her basket without eating them. At
$18/kg, they were a great price compared to the current price in the grocery store, which is $32/kg.

We then headed to the nearby Kinglake National Park, where there are many different walks,
picnic areas and camping sites. The closest picnic site to Kinglake Raspberries was at Masons Falls,
so we drove there to have the packed lunch we prepared at home:

After lunch, we did a 1.4km (return) walk to Masons Falls through the tall gumtrees and lush ferns.
This area was badly affected by the bushfires in 2009, but there has been a lot of regrowth of the forest
since then. The waterfall was pretty spectacular, my picture doesn't really do it justice!

The walk was very easy, but Ella was getting tired by then so Andy and I had to take turns carrying her.
By that I mean mostly Andy carried her, as she is getting way too heavy for me.  She is learning how to
be carried piggy-back style though, which is helpful.

We’ve been eating a lot of raspberries over the past few days, in our cereal, with yogurt and in smoothies.
I’ve also made raspberry chia seed jam, raspberry and white chocolate muffins, and
raspberry chocolate brownies. All three are great recipes.

Friday, 8 December 2017

Some News!

It’s been a looooong time since I wrote on the blog, so I thought a little update/explanation post might be in order.

The big news around here is that Andy and I are expecting baby number two in June 2018! So that is all very exciting (and a little scary). I am about 15 weeks along now, and am super happy to be out of the first trimester. Pregnancy has been much harder this time, or at least harder than I remember. Before I launch into this “poor me, pregnancy is hard” post, please know that I  feel extremely fortunate that so far the baby seems to be developing normally and all of my early screening for chromosomal abnormalities have come out “low risk”. I had more in-depth screening tests done this time, as my age (I will be 37 when baby two is born) puts me into the “geriatric mother” category. What a label!

Anyway, back to me shamelessly looking for some sympathy. Andy and I found out very early on that I was pregnant. As we were “trying”, a late period signalled time to pee on a stick, and low and behold, two pink lines appeared! That was during our September school holidays, right before we went to the Sunshine Coast. For a good six or seven weeks after that I felt nauseous ALL.THE.TIME. Not just in the morning - apparently the whole “morning sickness” thing is a myth, and can actually last all day, as I found out. I was simultaneously very hungry, so a lot of the time I would look at food feeling like I wanted something to eat, but the thought of eating anything made me feel like throwing up. For someone who usually looooves food, this was pretty annoying.

I was also exhausted… there is no downtime with an active 2.5 year old! After work I would just crash, feeling like I wanted to do was lay on the sofa. I wasn’t doing very much exercise, and I felt like I gained a lot of weight very quickly. I was so unhappy about it that Andy starting googling, and would try to assure me that it was normal to gain weight and look pregnant quicker with your second baby. That didn’t stop me feeling gross and frustrated when I couldn’t fit into most of my clothes by the time I was eight weeks. I’ve since spent a small fortune on maternity clothes from ASOS and ebay. I did dig out my bag of maternity clothes from when I was pregnant with Ella, however I seemed to manage to get through the whole summer last time in my “normal” sized clothes as I could only find winter maternity clothes. Not helpful when we were going through the hottest November in over 100 years here in Melbourne! (On the plus side, I got the most gorgeous maternity dress from Ripe Maternity on ebay. I would never have spent this much on maternity clothing normally, but buying it second hand on ebay made it a steal and I feel just lovely in it when I wear it! Win!)

On top of all this, I’ve felt really stressed about work lately. I was promoted in July to a position that started in November, and to accept the promotion I had to return to work full-time. I was initially told I could work at 0.9 and have one day off each fortnight, and then that was retracted. I’m not sure how I feel about that… On one hand I understand, as it is difficult to be in a leadership role in a school and not be there everyday. This is simply because it is not done regularly and so people expect that you will always be there. You end up feeling like you are constantly inconveniencing people when you can’t meet on a certain day because it is your day off. For the last two years my school has supported me in working part-time, so I suppose I can’t really complain. But on the other hand, schools are not really as family-friendly as people think they are - at least not during term time! I do know that when my children are school-aged we will be lucky to have the school holidays off with them and not have to search for childcare, so you can’t have it all I guess!

Anyway, the timing of going back to work full-time wasn’t great when combined with the stage of pregnancy I was in. I felt really negative about work and was regretting taking the promotion, wishing I had decided to take a step back and “just teach” for a little while. I know, how very un-Lean In of me. But seeing mummy friends of mine who have stayed off work for longer, or who have been able to work the ideal “three days per week” makes me feel like I am missing out on Ella growing up. She spends about 50 hours per week at daycare and so probably has more awake time with her carers there than with Andy and me, which makes me feel really sad and guilty. She does love it there, which somewhat helps. When having these thoughts I can totally understand why there is still an unbalance of men and women in leadership roles in society… your career progress starts to feel a lot less important when you start a family.

Side note: I have been listening to a four-part series on the podcast “The Longest Shortest Time” about mothers in the workplace (episodes 141-143 and 145). The podcast is recorded in the USA, where maternity leave and discrimination of mothers in the workplace seems to be a much bigger problem than here, but there are still a lot of parallels. If you are a working mother, or someone who works with working mothers, I’d encourage you to listen!

Anyway, I did know that deep down these feelings of dissatisfaction with work were partly due to the hormones of pregnancy. And I’m glad to report that I’ve come out the other end of the dreaded first trimester and am feeling much better. I’ve started doing some prenatal yoga videos at home on a regular basis, and I’m trying to go for walks in the evening once Ella has gone to bed. I am looking forward to my mom and dad getting here in January so that I can have a walking partner in the evening!

Ella knows that “mummy has a baby in the tummy” and I think we are going to get some books for her for Christmas that talk about becoming a big sister. I am looking forward to her first Christmas where she really knows what is going on. She is obsessed with our Christmas tree and her first job when we get home from daycare is to turn on the Christmas lights. Her second job is to take a look inside the two tiny stockings hanging on the tree to find her daily “treat”... our version of an Advent calendar for her. Sometimes there is a strawberry in there, sometimes a little chocolate, and I’m glad she is still just as happy with fruit as she is with a “real treat”!  Yesterday Andy went all out and put a Kinder Surprise in one of the stockings, which I thought was going overboard… but I ate half of the chocolate egg so she didn’t get too much of a sugar high!  With only four days left of the school year, summer holidays are in sight, so things are definitely looking up!

Soon we will be four!