Saturday, 13 September 2014

Bountiful Bendigo

Last weekend, we took a little, Sunday drive to an historic town, not far from our place, called Bendigo.  It was a chance to enjoy the drive, take a look at some spectacular architecture, enjoy lunch and the sunny say and bring home some great pottery (one of the things this town is famous for). Bendigo is a major regional city in Victoria, approximately 150 kilometres north west of Melbourne and is the fourth largest inland city in Australia. The discovery of gold in the soils of Bendigo during the 1850s made it one of the most significant Victorian era boom towns in Australia.  So join me now as I show you around this magnificent place and tell you a bit about its history as we go.
Bendigo is well known as one of the major towns of the Victorian gold rush. Gold was found at Bendigo Creek in September 1851.  News of the finds brought an influx of migrants to the city from around the world and transformed it from a sheep station into a major settlement. Once the alluvial gold had been mined out, mining companies were formed to exploit the rich underground quartz reef gold.  Since 1851, about 25 million ounces of gold (777 tonnes) have been extracted from Bendigo's goldmines, making it the highest producing goldfield in Australia in the 19th century and the largest gold mining economy in eastern Australia. The city took its name from the Bendigo Creek.
In mid-December 1851, the rush to Bendigo had begun and by April 1852, Bendigo Creek was regarded as a goldfield in its own right. By June 1852, it is estimated that there were 40,000 diggers on the field – a huge number considering that in February, pre-gold rush Melbourne had a total population of only 23,000.
Our first stop once we arrived, was to have coffee in this magic garden, next to the Bendigo Art Gallery.  Spring has certainly sprung in Australia and here you can see a magnificent display of blossoms.  Bendigo is important in Australian history and the city’s beautiful Victorian architecture and gardens show the wealth and prosperity that this town enjoyed in the late nineteenth century – the period during which this gallery was founded.  Bendigo Art Gallery was founded in 1887 - Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee Year.
After coffee, we wanted to make sure that we made it to Bendigo Pottery, located just outside the town in Epsom. I always enjoy visiting this place and looking at the pottery that is simple, yet very classical and useful.  Bendigo Pottery is Australian owned and operated and is Australia's oldest working pottery.  Established in 1858, the pottery has operated continuously in Epsom since 1863.  Bendigo Pottery has the most significant collection of ceramic wood fired kilns left in the world.  There are 10 kilns in total, with 5 bottle kilns, 3 circular kilns and 2 rectangular kilns. No longer used, the old kilns are now part of the Interpretive Museum with one of the circular kilns having been converted into a theatrette. The last firing of a wood fired kiln on the site was 1989. The kilns are all listed on the Victorian Heritage Register.
On the site is a large factory which continues to make all the Bendigo Pottery product using a range of different production techniques including hand throwing, slip casting, jolleying and pressing. All product is now fired in natural gas fired kilns.  Above is a sample of what the pottery looks like.  This is my collection that I have gathered over the years.
We then headed back into town for a walk and to gaze at the amazing buildings and gardens.  As a legacy of the gold boom, Bendigo has many ornate buildings built in a late Victorian colonial style. Many buildings are on the Victorian Heritage Register and registered by the National Trust of Australia. 
As soon as you arrive in Bendigo, you can't help but notice this beautiful fountain.  It is eye catching and right in the middle of the main road in town.  The Alexandra Fountain would have to be the most prominent monument in Bendigo.  The fountain was officially unveiled by His Royal Highness Prince Albert Edward Victor of Wales on 5 July 1881.  The fountain was made from 20 tonnes of highly polished Harcourt granite and includes dolphins, unicorns and nymphs.
Bendigo has the stunning Rosalind Park, a Victorian-style garden that is quite large and covers a big area in the town centre.  It is a great place to sit and relax.  It features a large statue of Queen Victoria. The gardens are home to many native species of animal including brush tailed and ring-tailed possums, ducks, coots, purple swamp hens, micro bats (small insect eating bats) the grey-headed flying fox, several species of lizard, owls and the tawny frog mouth.
There are many monuments in Bendigo that you can see as you walk through the town.  The Bendigo War Memorial Obelisk, located outside the Bendigo Soldiers' Memorial Institute Memorial, commemorates conflicts after the First World War, including the Second World War, Korea, Malaya, Borneo, Vietnam and Kuwait. The front inscription reads- "This monument has been erected by the citizens of Bendigo & district as a tribute to the men & women who served their country in all campaigns since the Great War 1914 - 1918. World War II 1939 - 1945."  There are more inscriptions on each side of this monument paying respects to others also.
Another important aspect of Bendigo's history and the gold rush, is that many thousands of Chinese people arrived in Bendigo at this time.  Within ten years, the Chinese miners and merchants made up 20% of the Bendigo population. In the 1870s an impressive imperial dragon known as Loong was sent from China. He is now the oldest Chinese dragon in the world and is the highlight of Australia’s oldest event; the Bendigo Easter Festival.  While most of the Chinese gold miners returned home when the alluvial goldfields declined, a small population remained to form the Bendigo Chinese community which has continued to influence the city.
A traditional Chinese Joss House, built in Bendigo, is a reminder of its rich Chinese heritage. It was constructed of timber and hand-made bricks during the 1860s by the local Chinese, who were plentiful on the goldfields. The temple is one of the oldest surviving constructions of its kind in Australia and was painted red - in Chinese tradition this represents strength and vitality.
The Joss House was constructed to worship the god Kwan Gung. Kwan Gung was a Chinese general (AD 221-26) and the miners worshipped him as a judge, guide and protector. The building was restored by the National Trust upon advice received from a Chinese historian and is the oldest Australian joss house still in use today. 
After enjoying lunch, it was time to head back home after a relaxing and enjoyable day.  It had been great to take in the history of this regional centre and feast our eyes on the town's beauty.  I was happy that I could add to my pottery collection too!  With many stunning buildings and wonderful gardens and monuments all through the main city centre, it is a nice place to visit here in Victoria.  You can almost feel the experiences and see the people behind all of the stories that this place can tell.  I highly recommend Bendigo as a great day out to those that live here in Melbourne and for my other valued readers around the world, if you ever come down under to Oz, why not visit bountiful Bendigo :) xxx


Saturday, 6 September 2014

'Getting jiggy with it!'

In the words of the hilarious Austin Powers, I just LOVE 'getting jiggy with it!!'  I am so very fortunate to have many wonderful memories of people and good times.  With the wonders of digital technology, do you have thousands upon thousands of photos stored on your PC and your phone and countless USBs and many other camera chips that you haven't got around to organising yet?  Well, that's me. I really need to get onto storing all of my photos properly for safe keeping.  But in the mean time, I have had a look at some photos that are within easy reach and have selected a few that I like a lot.  They are in no particular order but great to look back on, just the same.  There are many, many, many more but here is just a select handful that really tell a story about how sunnyday397 gets 'jiggy with it!'
What better place to start than with Master Marc.  For his 8th birthday, he flew to Sydney with his Dad for the day and managed to get a seat in the co-pilot's seat on his way off the plane.  Here we have one ecstatic, little boy that had a magical birthday.
We usually have a family dinner on the day of my kids' birthdays and here is a shot of the night of Marc's birthday that I really like.  Some members of my family just hanging out together in the lounge room and the star of the show is our daughter, Julia, doing a great dance move.
Taken recently in August this year, this is us.  My husband and children, together with me, all smiles.  A very natural photo of us all together.
As you may have read in my last post, I celebrated my birthday last week.  Here is a happy photo of some of the people that shared in this celebration with me and it was loads of fun.
I managed to survive last Winter with the help of my open fire.  It gave me enormous comfort and relief from the freezing cold.  As my Face book friends know all too well, I wrote many, many posts on this subject at the time and they will be very relieved to know that it is now Spring (and I have run out of fire wood) so I am hoping that I can move on from this now!!
This one makes me laugh.  Here is 'Vampirella' from 'Planet Draculon' all ready to go to a friend's party.  That was fun, changing my look completely with a wig and funky costume.  Another good night.
My friends know that I thoroughly enjoy getting us all together.  Here is a fondue night that I had at my place.  Fondues are a great way to eat and easy too.  They are always a big hit at my place.
We gobbled up fruit dipped in a warm chocolate fondue and crusty bread smothered in a Swiss cheese fondue.  Yummy!
Our little Marc has a passion for aviation and last year for his birthday, he had a flying lesson in an ultralight plane.  A beautiful shot of his glowing face and his total and utter excitement.
My beautiful boy, Jack, who lived to the ripe old age of 14.  He was a magnificent pet, as was his sister, Kimba and they are both sadly missed.
I love to cook outdoors and here we have a shot of our rotisserie spit.  The aromas when this is cooking, the tastes and texture of the finished product are amazing and very delicious.
This is a classic photo that I adore.  When I get together with the lady, we have loads of fun and can most definitely talk the legs off several chairs!  She shares many of my passions in life and is a very dear friend.  Here you can see how comfortable we are with each other and so happy to be together.
Taken in Williamstown, this is a beautiful photo of me and my brothers who I don't get to see very often as we live far away from each other.  But when we get together, we share a special connection and understanding that I value very much.
This is Awesome Adam, alias the next MGP Scooter Pro.  This boy of mine loves riding his scooter and always enters the scooter competition at Moomba each year.  He's gutsy, confident and not afraid to have a go.
I like this photo very much as it reminds me of a lovely lady that I was fortunate enough to meet a couple of years ago.  We became very good friends.  Just when we were getting to know each other more, she had to return home to live overseas, but I have fond memories of lots of laughs with this lady.  We still keep in touch and I am so glad about that.  I hope that one day we will meet again.
Family gatherings are very special and important.  At my place, no one leaves hungry and always with a smile on their face.
A beautiful photo of my husband and a special friend.  I feel as though I have known this lady forever and she has been a wonderful influence and inspiration in my life.  When we get together, we can talk about any subject, freely and openly.  We analyse, debate and disect many topics, inside and out.  We share an understanding about many aspects of life and living and this gives us a special connection that I am so fortunate to have with her.
My garden, where would I be without my garden?  I have developed a passion for nature, nurturing it and watching things grow.  Great food for the soul.
Friendship is a special thing and here is my husband with an old mate that he has known since he was a teenager.  They are now back in touch with each other and when they met again here, for the first time in many years, it was like no time had passed at all.
Any excuse to carry on is a good one for me!  This is a funny shot of me with my groovy pants on, taken at a party at my place.  Give me a funky tune, turn up the volume and off I go!
 A happy photo with my baby girl who is my little ray of sunshine, each and every day.
I like this family photo taken at one of the dinners at my place.  My kids absolutely adore their Uncle and Aunty who always make them laugh.
 My glowing birthday girl, with her beautiful smile, total exuberance and loving nature.
I always like to have a party and here is a shot of Julia's 4th birthday, where I had lots of fun turning the house into a colourful place full of balloons and streamers.
 My dancing girl who is like my living doll.
And finally, an amazing shot of us in Thailand last year.  This holiday was brilliant as my husband and I had the chance to experience many magic places, people and things.  We hadn't been away together for a long time and we had a blast, from start to finish.

When I look back at the people and good times in my life, for me, it is most certainly all about living a little and loving a lot.  These photos (only a handful of many) sum up in a nutshell what is important to me and give me enormous happiness and fantastic memories.  Oh, and being a little bit zany and loving 'to get jiggy with it', always helps! :) xxx

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Last cab off the rank

By the time it gets to my birthday, I'm usually completely over it and all partied out.  With 3 Winter babies, a husband born in March and a mum born in April, by September, I can't be bothered and am that exhausted that I don't bother much with me.  But, this year was a big exception to that rule, with many thanks to my family and friends who made me feel so very young again.  The last couple of weeks have been that action packed and I am relieved that I do actually have a life and am not totally bogged down in the usual daily grind of work that I often write about.  I haven't had this much fun in a very long time and even though I am the 'last cab off the rank' when it comes to birthday celebrations in my family, I can safely say that I am, and probably always will be, very young at heart with lots of living and loving to do.
When I look back, I guess the fun all started with a trip to Perth to celebrate my brother's birthday with him.  This was months in the planning with my sister-in-law who certainly excelled herself in making sure that my brother had a great birthday.  As we live on opposite sides of the country, we don't get to see each other very much and we made it a surprise.  We didn't tell him that I was going over to visit and he didn't know until the very last minute when I was standing in his living room.  The look on his face when he saw me standing there was priceless and for once, he was lost for words.  That night we all enjoyed a lovely meal with family and friends and it felt so very good to be there with them.  I spent the weekend in Perth and also managed to see a very old friend that I haven't seen in 12 years.  My family showed me around and we spent much time talking and catching up on old times.  I loved to sit in my brother's garden and this in itself was the most amazing time for me, it meant so very much to be there and was a complete success.  But wait......there's more......this is just the beginning......
I mentioned to my sister-in-law here in Melbourne that I usually don't do much for my birthday.  Well, she was right onto it and quickly offered to host a little get together for me at her place.  You'd think that by my age things would be pretty dull and boring, being so very middle aged and a bit too old to party.  Can I tell you that I am thrilled to say that I've still got it!  I have always been a bit of a wild child and I'm afraid in my old age that things really haven't changed that much!  A couple of close friends joined us at my brother and sister-in-laws place and these photos speak for themselves.
It was only a few of us that night, but this didn't seem to matter one little bit.  There was plenty to eat and drink and the 'party zone' looked amazing.  That's my brother-in-law in the kilt, in case you're wondering.  He's a very proud Scotsman and any excuse to 'dress up' is a good one for him. We had such a laugh and thoroughly enjoyed the music, each other's company and being a bit silly, as you do.  We had this get together almost a week before my actual birthday as this was the only time when we were all free.  So my celebrations kicked off very early this year and it just got better and better
After my little shin dig on the Friday night, I was a bit hung over the next day.  My husband sorted that out with a hot cooked breakfast that he made for me and it really hit the spot.  Our kids were at my mum's for the weekend so it was just him and I and it took me back to a special time when it was just the two of us.  I felt loved, so happy and so young again.  After several cups of coffee, I was right again and was thinking back over the night before.  It put a grin on my face all morning and I was so glad to have family and friends that cared.  Better still, I was so pleased that we all had a good time.
So I'm starting to get over my hang over and feeling much better after coffee and breakfast and then my husband tells me that we are going out for the day.  I had planned to do housework, thinking that I could get a lot done without the kids at home, but he insisted that we do something that he always enjoys..........go shopping.........not for groceries, but for a gift for me!  Needless to say, I was slightly thrilled at this point, with a big family and a tight budget it is not often that he gets to splurge like this........and splurge he did!  My lovely man spoilt me rotten and it felt better than Christmas, I was like a kid in a lolly shop.  That night, we had a dinner function to go to in the city and this was another excuse to wear something nice, do my hair and put my lippy on.  I felt alive, I felt so excited and happy, I felt like me again.
The next day was Sunday and it was time to go to my mum's place.  She wanted to cook me lunch and I always love these kind of days at my mum's when the family gets together.  It is also so very nice to have someone cook for me for a change and my mum is a great cook.  We had entree and a main meal and it was delicious. Mum went to some trouble and I was totally over the moon.  Then, it was time for cake and candles and I couldn't believe how much fun this had all been for me.........and my official birthday was still 3 days away!  I was one very happy lady, having had the chance to celebrate my day for once and I couldn't want or ask for anything more.
My actual birthday finally came and I spent it doing something that I love, fluffing around in my garden.  The sun even came out for me and I basked in my good feelings and happiness.  Some of my friends sent me their good wishes and by this stage, I really did feel like the birthday girl.  The crescendo was when my husband came home with gifts for me from the children.  I loved so much to be so loved and there is not much more I can say, really.  I think you get the picture.

It is times like these that I am glad that I have my blog so that I can make a record of special times.  It is not called 'Live a Little, Love a Lot' for nothing and I think you can see why.  In life, nothing and no one is perfect, there are plenty of ups and downs, but we all get through.  And at times like these, the joy and happiness that friends and family can bring is immense.  I'm another year older and another year wiser, as they say in the classics and I thank everyone who has been a part of this time for me, so very much, for without you, I wouldn't have so much to love :) xxx