Hello! Lovely to see you! Here you will find random posts about living a creative life in country Australia. I am an illustrator. I create, take photos, faff, collect, teach. Watercolour, collage, colour, cheese, travel and dreaming are my faves. And Turkish delight. And cushions. And gardening. And op-shops...

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

#shareaustralia ... my little corner of Australia ( 3 fun family friendly things to do!)


  hanging out at the Japanese Gardens Cafe

 #shareaustralia ... 
 My Little Corner of Australia

Sometimes it takes a little nudge to push us out of the autopilot of the everyday, to wake us up to what is around us.

As you already probably know,I have a pretty busy life, with 3 kids, 2 dogs, 2 cats, a green tree frog and 3 fish, and a husband... and I am small business owner, Instagrammer, blogger, artist and a teacher. We are a loud, crazy, creative, hectic, house of  totally loving chaos, here in Central West NSW, in our lovely home. 

We are blessed to have around us as part of the local attractions big beautiful skies, a distinct set of changing seasons, rolling undulating mountains and valleys, vineyards, pastures and paddocks, amazing granite tors and boulders, rivers and creeks, sheep and bovine beauties.

some of our local attractions

But as we rush around everyday, going to work, getting groceries, paying bills, all the usual, it is easy, way too easy, to forget to appreciate this lovely little corner of Australia that we call home.

So when I read about the Kidspot Challenge to blog or post about 3 fun family things to do in your own area, I sat there coffeee in hand, thinking  "GEE WHIZZ, I...we... should so do that!"

Yep, I thought this will be something to help get us out of the house, get our Wintery, screen-adddicted butts out of the house. Nudge us to take some time. And yep, I am so pleased I did!

Because the next few weekends we spent having fun, exploring our little corner of Australia, as a family.

But hold on, gosh, I should probably introduce where this little corner is! Where are we? What is our corner?

Well, as I mentioned, we are in the Central West of NSW, about 2 hours from Canberra, 4 hours drive from Sydney CBD, and 8 hours from Melbourne. We are part of the Wiradjuri language group of NSW, the largest language group in NSW. In fact, the name of our town is derived from the Wiradjuri word for rocks-Coura. In 1847 it was changed to the name it has today - COWRA.


a little map, showing the location of Cowra

It is not a huge place, but some may know of us because of a quite sad and tragic part of Australian and modern military history which happened just over the hill from my home, The Cowra Breakout.

Because in August 1944, Japanese POW's who were being held here(along with other nationalities such as Italians)staged a mass escape. These men knew it was virtual suicide, with no hope of success, but these men were unable to further endure the shame and disgrace that came with having surrendered to their enemies or being captured by them.

The Cowra Breakout is a significant part what gives our local area a unique history

Hundreds of Japanese died, as well as 4 Australians, with over one hundred others injured and wounded. This was actually the largest mass escape in modern military history.

The amazing thing is, from this terrible event, Cowra and Japan have worked hard to overcome the mistrust and fear, and have formed an enduring and deep connection, based on mutual respect, friendship, the sharing of culture and desire for peace. We have a sister city, youth exchanges, a serene and sacred Japanese War Graves site and the POW camp site ruins are now preserved as a place for quiet contemplation and walking. Cowra even has a World Peace Bell, usually located in major capital cities around the world, and made from melted down coins donated by the U.N.

But the most visual, beautiful, and obvious recognition of these ties are the Japanese Gardens and Cultural Centre, which luckily for me are located just up the hill from our home.

We have always visited the Garden... spent many pleasant hours at the cafe, attended Xmas Carols and outside screenings of movies, had picnics, fed the giant carp, participated in the cherry Blossom Festivals, been to weddings there, and I have even had several art exhibitions in the Cultural Centre. 

The Japanese Gardens, photo by my hubby! 
So I guess I should not have been too surprised, when my kids, asked what the number 1 fun thing to do as a family would be...it was unanimous... "THE JAPANESE GARDENS!"

Proving the point, when we had my oldest friend and her family visit from Sydney, it was a no brainer what we would do to show them a bit of country culture. 

(I must admit, these guys live in Bondi. Yep, stunningly  gorgeous, hip, hep, trendy, happening, world famous, prime real estate BONDI. Designer savvy, skateboard and beach loving, big-smoke street smart, city kids. Would they REALLY even be interested in the Japanese Gardens. Seriously? A tad worried....)

Well, off we went, the 10 of us - 4 adults, 6 kids, ranging from a cuddly, cute as a button 6 month old baby old to a 15 year old, big and hairy and probably  even less talkative than the baby. We decided to walk up to the gardens via the skatepark, because the 2 big city boys and brought their skateboards with them.

Surprise Surprise!I would never have believed a bit of concrete would make kids so happy! Seriously, the kids were in heaven...that skate park won their hearts! They zoomed, and flew, and raced, and flipped, got  "sick airtime", and basically had a hoot. 

Because apparently, all the skateparks in their own corner of Australia, are always jam-packed, and full of hard-core skaters, who do not make newbies and younger less experienced kids feel too comfy, and time and space to skate is precious and hard fought for. Finding this out,and then seeing these guys whizzing about with lots of space and pace was brilliant.




 skateboard antics, having fun, getting air-time... at the skatepark

Eventually though, all that zooming made them famished, and we reluctantly left the skatepark to walk the further 500m to the Gardens.

After gorging on fries, miso soup, wedges, burgers, fairy bread (just because), Devonshire teas, sipping fizzy fire engines and spiders, with appetites well and truly sated, and bodies reinvigorated we decided to explore the gardens.



Yum Yum in their tum...miso soup, cherry slice, ice cream spiders...

Before going any further...confession time. Now, I know as a grown up, and Mother, I am supposed to be mature and sensible. 

HOWEVER, the truth of it is for years I have being eyeing off the golf buggy's that you can hire to get around the Gardens....(it is 5 hectares of greenery, lake and streams). 

Using this challenge as an excuse(I know...right?) and in a moment of spontaneity I hired one of the buggy's for 20 bucks. Me as the driver, the kids as my passengers.     (Yahoo!!!!)


golf buggy shenanigans

TOTALLY BRILLIANT!!! We buzzed around, giggling, snortling, chuckling at my bad driving, bonding over the bad corners, oohing and aahing as we went over bridges and saw ducks. It was worth every penny! Even the teenager had a massive grin on his face. Yep, winner, winner, chicken dinner!


And after we returned the buggy, and the kids had climbed, clambered over massive rocks and boulders, run around with the dog on the grass, the golden afternoon light making everything glow, and the temperature began to drop, we realised it was time to go. A brilliant day, totally family friendly, and totally fab.





 Next weekend, friends back in Sydney,the search was on... finding number 2 fun thing to do, this time with just our tribe.

That Sunday was a glorious crispy blue sky winters day, and our 2 girls came up with their own idea. They decided that they wanted to go for a bush walk, because  we had not been out into the bush for awhile, and they missed it. Lucky for us, we are a tad spoilt, with not just 1, but 4 national parks within easy drive of home....Weddin Mountains NP(Ben Hall's cave...awesome!), Nangar NPGoobang NP, and Conimbla NP.

Conimbla National Park, all good, thumbs up!

A family vote ensued, and we decided on Conimbla NP, because it is only about 15 - 20 minutes drive, and it is a 'bush island', a refuge for native flora and fauna amidst all the farmland, and there are always lots of birds and roos out there. There is also a lovely little walk, the Wallaby Track, which we knew would be about the right length for us to wander about on.






My girls as it turned out, are wise and clever little things, and the bush walk was a perfect antidote to a week of full-time crazy-hectic rushing around. It was chance to just chill, be quiet, and hangout. (Okay..maybe not so quiet, with Miss 8 singing opera..but...oh well)

We found and felt lots of weird and different types of bark on trees, including finding a love heart on one, discovered teeny little mushrooms that fairies would likely dance around, spied the common roos and wallabies, listened to different bird calls, tried to find as many different shaped and coloured green leaves as we could, collected snuggle pot and cuddle pie gumnut skirts,sang marching songs, tried to spot bunyips and drop bears, and told silly jokes.





As the sun went down, the light and warmth disappearing behind the trees, we drove home with the girls saying "We should do this more. All the time. Can we?" Another winner winner chicken dinner! So, number 2 fun family thing to do, all sorted.


Which brings us nicely to the school holidays, and lots of lovely time to be a family. Lots of time to do nice things. It's true, as teachers, we are very bloody lucky that we get precious time to reconnect with the kids, each other and ourselves.It's never taken for granted. 

So I am not going to complain... but believe me, those days still get very full, and time still runs away from us. You still have to set aside time precious and sacred almost, otherwise time gets full of chores and housework and stuff. But due to the weekends before, with our little adventures  proving so good, it was no effort to set aside time for number 3 fun thing to do. It was so easy!  

This time it was decided, by the kids... (in fact it was loudly declared) we needed to go to WYANGALA DAM!

directions to Wyangala, happy doggy, happy tweenie, rock wall of the dam

Of course they would want to go here, because they have spent hours bobbing about in its water, paddling, being dragged along at high speed as they sat on 'biscuits' and 'bananas'(inflatable things for sitting on or in), laughing at epic falls and waterskiing fails, face first kneeboarding fails, having picnics and BBQ's, canoeing etc.

You see, Wyangala Dam is where the locals go, as it is the nearest thing to a beach around here. In fact up to 80,000 peeps a year visit Wyangalas waters. 

Another fun fact...Wyangala Dam is actually 2.5 times the size of Sydney Harbour. 

But probably most importantly, it is our water source, and regulates the flow of the Lachlan River.

Having once been a kid, I know that water is always a temptation, and my kids are no exception. They were DESPERATE to go for a swim. But I reminded them that in the middle of Winter, this is really not wise. In fact, pretty dangerous actually. So with common sense prevailing, we settled on a picnic, and taking the dog, and packing a big bag of painting and sketching things do some 'plein air' art (thanks Monet). Off we went...


30 minutes later, we were gobbling on havarti filled baguettes, olives and drinking tea from our thermos, the dog was happily exploring, and we sat beneath a huge, massive hill of rocks that make up the dam wall, just enjoying being out again.

Later, we moved to a table, and sat painting together, talking about what we were going to create, gossiping about our next holiday and laughing at the antics of our pets. 





We reminisced about the last time we had been at the picnic ground, when we had released our pet yabby back into the river. There were sighs and contemplation as we thought about what yabby might be doing now. We giggled at our silly pictures, and truthfully the art we did might have not been masterpieces, but boy it was great to do!


And as we sat there, I had that wonderful, warm, creeping feeling of contentment. The realisation that as a family, we did not need whizz-bang gadgets, technology, big dramatic gestures, expensive theme parks, bells, whistles and the latest fads to make us smile and enjoy ourselves. That feeling stayed with us as the sun set again, golden light over the dam, and we drove home singing Disney songs. Too good.


All we needed was something so simple - the time and the commitment to get out and be together, to put aside other distractions, and just share.

So thank you Kidspot, thanks for the nudge, for the challenge. 

Because that time we used to think about and discuss what to do as a family, of things to do in our part of Australia, our little corner of our country, well, it kicked off a whole fabulous dialogue about the things we could do.... and it seems that we really actually have loads of stuff we can take time out to do. No need to ask what to do this weekend... there seems to be quite a list!

Yabbying, swimming in the river, going exploring and driving down little back roads, walking the dogs, climbing local rocks and exploring caves, kicking a ball around at the expansive local park, going on a bike ride on our local bike paths, visiting a friend's farm, practicing goals at the netball courts, going to garage sales and farm auctions, walking to the corner store to buy a bag of mixed lollies, making a teepee in the back yard, making a new faerie garden, going to the local library and art gallery, grabbing a milkshake at a little take away shop.....





golden afternoon light as we say goodbye to Wyangala Dam...see you again soon.