Photo101 Day 1 Home

Today is day one of Photo 101, and this is our assignment:

Home is elusive. When we think about this word, we might picture different physical locations. And while home is often found on a map, it can also be less tangible: a loved one, a state of mind.

Anyone who has been reading this blog for some time knows what home means to me. It is Australia, and for some reason, the first thing I think of is the gum trees.

Gum Tree

Gum Tree

They come in many varieties and I love them all. Some have stunning blooms, some have flowers that infuse the surrounding air with the scent of honey, some have thin leaves, some have fat leaves. Generally, they are messy and drop twigs, bark, and branches often, but still, I love them.

Gumnuts

Gumnuts

The gum tree that frames most of my sunset photos.

The gum tree that frames most of my sunset photos.

They provide a home to many of Australia’s unique birds and animals, species that can’t be found elsewhere in the world; cockatoos, kookaburras, rosellas, and koalas.

On the rare occurrences that I found a gum tree when I was living in Florida and Scotland, I’d always pick a leaf, scrunch it up, and hold it to my nose to inhale the eucalyptus scent. I’ve always loved it, and in my time away, it was my favourite reminder of what ‘Home’ was to me.

Gum leaves

Gum leaves

One of my goals for this year was to brush up on my photography skills before I leave on my next big adventure, so I jumped at the opportunity to do the WordPress Photo 101 course.

Since returning to Australia nineteen months ago, I’ve been reluctant to leave again. My husband loves to travel and thankfully, he likes to take me with him most of the time, which was great until we moved back home. I guess I’ve been feeling a little guilty about not travelling with him, which was why I told him I’d found the one trip that would induce me to leave the country again – an arctic cruise.

The trip is now booked, our departure date is September 2nd, and I’m excited. I’m hoping that taking a photo a day for Photo 101 will force me to learn more about my camera, perhaps become a little more creative with my photos, and help prepare me for the stunning images I hope to take on my arctic cruise.

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Returning to Australia, One Year Later

Twelve months ago today, we stepped off the plane at Melbourne Airport to begin living in Australia again after ten years abroad.

I’ve chosen a few random photos from each month over the past year, and posted them below to mark the event.

September

McCrae Beach with kids.

McCrae Beach with kids.

Weird Weather in Somers

Weird Weather in Somers

October

Gumnuts

Gumnuts

November

Visiting family in Barkers Creek

Visiting family in Barkers Creek

Barkers Creek Garden

Barkers Creek Garden

Birthday Parties!

Birthday Parties!

Home

Home

December

Wonderful Sunsets

Wonderful Sunsets

Housewarming Gift

Housewarming Gift

Watching the ships sail by.

Watching the ships sail by.

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Beautiful Skies

January

Dinosaur Park

Dinosaur Park

February

Visiting Cockatoos

Visiting Cockatoos

March

Dinner time for magpies.

Dinner time for magpies.

Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree...

Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree…

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More beautiful skies

PS Zeva and train

Train ride!

April

Sherbrooke Forest

Sherbrooke Forest

May

The View from Seawinds

The View from Seawinds

Early morning moonset

Early morning moonset

Seawinds Flower

Seawinds Flower

June

Tasmania

Tasmania

July

Melbourne from the Shrine of Remembrance

Melbourne from the Shrine of Remembrance

Another sunset

Another sunset

August

Reflections

Reflections

One of the old Gundagai bridges with cow.

One of the old Gundagai bridges and a cow.

One sister at the Blue Mountains, NSW

One of the Three Sisters at the Blue Mountains, NSW

Waterfall, Blue Mountains, NSW

Waterfall, Blue Mountains, NSW

Coffs Harbour, NSW

Coffs Harbour, NSW

Wild weather at Coffs Harbour

Wild weather at Coffs Harbour

Kiama, NSW

Kiama, NSW

Bateman's Bay

Bateman’s Bay, NSW

Lakes Entrance

Lakes Entrance, Victoria

Lakes Entrance

Lakes Entrance

Lakes Entrance

Lakes Entrance

And that brings us back to September again!

Do I Need a Coat?

It’s cold!

July 12, 2014

July 12, 2014

Until about two weeks ago, I could be heard saying that winter in Melbourne is just like summer in Scotland.

Overall, I still believe this to be true, apart from those periods when the extremes happen in either city — like now.

Currently, we are having a cold snap. And Glasgow is having a warm spell.

July 12, 2014

July 12, 2014

This is my first winter in Australia for nine or ten years, and I’ve been making comparisons between the cities. The greatest difference between a Glasgow winter and a Melbourne winter is in the plant behaviour.

Gardens shut down in Glasgow’s winter.  The worms hibernated, the weeds died, the gardeners put their tools away, and nothing flowered. This has been normal for me for the last five years, so I was surprised by the abundance of native flowering plants I see on my walks around my neighbourhood.

Red Hot Pokers

Red Hot Pokers

Winter flowers 013

Although, there was one special kind of winter ‘flower’ in Glasgow — snow blossoms.

Snow Blossoms

Snow Blossoms

I loved the snow and hoar frosts  that transformed the city on rare occasions.  They totally made up for the general drabness of Glasgow’s winter, but weren’t something you could count on.

Queens Park

Queens Park

It would be most unlikely to see snow blossoms where I now live, but I’ll settle for the Australian wattle trees which are currently bursting into bloom, and spreading a splash of bright yellow across the land.

Wattle

Wattle

My biggest problem with the Melbourne winter, is the inconsistency of the weather.

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The forecast can be wet, windy and cold, but then the sun will shine, the wind dies down, and I have to peel off the layers of clothing to be comfortable.

Winter flowers 011

Donning hats, coats, scarves, and gloves in Scotland was commen sense, but if I venture out here rugged up like that, it’s just as likely to suddenly warm up, and I’ll end up carrying the extra layers.

Winter flowers 010

I wish there was a reliable way of knowing whether I’ll need a coat today.

Home Among the Gumtrees

This time last year, in a post titled, What a Difference a Month Makes, I blogged about appreciating the Scotland I would leave behind when we moved back to Australia.

The approach of summer meant we’d be having more visitors, but I also eagerly anticipated my daughter’s upcoming visit to make her movie, The Pull in our house. The exciting news this month is that her movie will be included in the Female Eye Film Festival in Toronto this June.

The Pull poster

The Pull poster

On reflection, it’s clear that twelve months ago was when I became very busy – a busyness that lasted well into this year, but life has settled again. I’ve readjusted my time to factor in small bites for writing, which has given me the freedom to embrace the wonderful breadth of my life here.

We have been here nine months now, and I’m amazed out how much pleasure I still get from the little things, like waking to the laughter of kookaburras,

Kookaburras and cairns March 2014 003

the warbling of magpies – they sound far prettier than Scottish magpies – listen here, and even the raucous screeching of the cockatoos bring a smile to my sleepy face.

I feel my transition is complete, but life is a continuum of changes and that’s certainly true for what’s happening to our home at the moment. We have begun the process of creating a new garden, one I hope will attract some of the small, timid birds that live in the nearby gully, as well as continuing to provide food and water for the varieties we already have, such as this one – the crimson rosella.

Crimson Rosella

Crimson Rosella

In the meantime, I continue to enjoy the way the light affects the bay, changing it’s hues from silvers, to pinks and various blues, Full Moon Jan 2014 469 Full Moon Jan 2014 672 January 2014 001 the magnificent sunsets,

May sunset 2014 004

the light show at night,

Night Lights Photo by Cindy Townsend

Night Lights
Photo by Cindy Townsend

and the early morning moonlight reflecting on the sea.

Full Moon Jan 2014 680It’s good to be home among the gum trees.

Desert Magic

I found this timelapse video by Jody Brown on Stumble Down Under’s blog, and loved it so much, I’m sharing it for my American and UK friends.

Photographer Jody Brown lives in Warburton, WA, one of the most remote communities in Australia and he spent six months documenting the amazing scenery of Central and Western Australia for this video.

The best holiday I ever had was a three month drive around Australia in 1985 with my husband and three of my children. I loved the entire journey, but Central Australia, the northeastern, and northwestern parts of the country were my favourite parts of the trip.

The desert fascinates me, the colours, the changes, the waterholes, the wildlife and the crowded starry skies. It truly is a magical place.

I hope you all get to go there one day.

A Walk into History

I like to explore my local environment, and now my life has settled into a less hectic pace, I’m spending more time walking around my new neighbourhood.

There are many miniscule moments that give me a buzz of pleasure because they remind me that I’m really here, living in Australia again. I planned to list some of those magic moments in this post, but then, another blogger I follow – An American in Norway – blogged about a walk she took one day (Click here to read her blog), and it inspired me to head off on one of my walks armed with my camera.

We live close to the Arthurs Seat National Park, and I often walk along it’s bush tracks to explore. The very first time I ventured into the park, I was rewarded with laughing kookaburras, cockatoos nesting in a hollowed out old gum tree, and an abundance of small birds in the densely wooded gully.

Kookaburra

Kookaburra

On another walk, I came across a kangaroo and an echidna.

And always, there are the gum trees, – or eucalypts as they are known in America – the she oaks, and wattles.

I love that when I wander through this park, it is blatantly obvious that I am in Australia.

Our bush is unique.

Southern Australian Coastal Bush

Southern Australian Coastal Bush

This time, I took a turn along a different path in search of something new to photograph and was rewarded with a pleasant, but unexpected discovery – a cairn which was built to commemorate the place where Matthew Flinders stood and surveyed Port Phillip Bay way back in 1802, over thirty years before Melbourne was first settled.

Kookaburras and cairns March 2014 023

Kookaburras and cairns March 2014 024

I stood where he stood, looked over our beautiful bay, and wondered how difficult it was for him to reach this spot.

There would have been no cleared tracks for him to follow. I imagine he needed tools to help hack his way though the thick undergrowth, and large rocky outcrops would have made his climb even more difficult.

Perhaps the local aborigines guided him to this place with the great view?

What wildlife did he see? Snakes, wombats, koalas?

What were his thoughts?

Was he missing his cold and green land? Or the new wife he’d left behind against his wishes?

My Australian history lessons have faded from memory, but Flinders is commemorated with many statues and cairns around the country, and there are many places (towns, islands) and streets named after him.

Despite knowing some of these places well, I’m ashamed to admit I’d forgotten his significance to our country, so when I returned to my home, I Googled him.

He was born in England in 1774.

When he was a young boy, he read Daniel DeFoe’s novel, Robinson Crusoe and was inspired by the story to live a life of exploration, so at fifteen, he joined the Navy.

Here is a list of the facts I found most st interesting:

  • He made three journey’s to Australia, each lasting longer than the previous one.
  • On his final trip, he circumnavigated the continent, successfully proving that Australia was also an island.
  • It was also on his final voyage that he went ashore in the newly discovered Port Phillip Bay, and climbed to the top of Arthurs Seat, on April 27th, 1802.
  • Drawing on an old British custom of marking historical points with a cairn, he left a scroll with his ship’s name on it in a small pile of stones at the the peak.
  • He later reported back to Governor King that the land had ‘a pleasing and, in many parts, fertile appearance.’
  • He campaigned to have our country called Terra Australis (the Great South Land)and eventually he referred to it as Australia.
Three ships in the shipping lane in Port Phillip Bay

Three ships in the shipping lane in Port Phillip Bay

My walk was very different to Cindi’s stroll through the Norwegian woods, but I was well pleased with where it led me, none-the-less.

I was impressed by what I read about Flinders, his diligence, intelligence and high morals. He had reputation as a man who treated his crew and the local aborigines well.

We should be proud to have such a man in our history.

I think that, like me,  he enjoyed Australia.

Kookaburras and cairns March 2014 034

Kookaburras and cairns March 2014 032

Thank you Cindi, for leading me to a history lesson.

Fire

Fire Jan 2014

Photo by Cindy Townsend

I’ve often wondered how I would react if I lost my home in some natural disaster – hurricane, tornado, or fire. It’s one of those questions which fortunately, most people will never know the answer to, but whenever I’ve watched news reports of people who have been evacuated because of a natural event, I’ve always been able to relate to how frustrating it must be for them to be unable to get to their home and discover if it is still standing.

Yesterday, I found myself in that position.

It was the first of four days of predicted high temperatures, and true to form, there were many fires scattered around the state and country. One was very close to our home, but I was not home at the time and the first I knew about it was when my brother called me to ask if it was near me.

By that stage, all access roads to the area were closed as there were multiple spot fires resulting from the main one. I was stuck at my daughter’s home, wondering how big the fire was and if I should be concerned. My niece alerted me to the Country Fire Association’s great Fire Ready App where warnings and alerts are posted. It advised that residents around the area should evacuate.

For a couple of hours, I kept checking the site, as well as Facebook where locals were updating us on what they could see of the fires, until eventually, the CFA site informed us that all the fires were contained and the roads would open within the hour.

Getting home was slower than usual, as some local roads were still blocked, but I’m very glad I had a home to get to. I knew when we moved into our lovely home, nestled on the side of a hill and backed by a national park, that the fire risk would be greater than it has been in any other home I’ve lived in. I was, and still am willing to take that risk because it is a beautiful place to live.

Unfortunately, the initial blaze sparked another large fire in the wonderful restaurant at the historic Heronswood Property a little further down the hill from us. The Thatched Cafe was destroyed, but thankfully the Homestead is okay.

I hate to think how their magnificent heritage gardens fared.

Today, I packed a bag with my old non-digital photos and a few other documents to keep in the car so I don’t have to worry about being caught off-guard like that again. I also wandered around the streets near where the main fires were and have to add that I’m incredibly impressed that the firefighters managed to save the houses that were right next to the flames. They do an incredible job and I’m very grateful for their service, along with the constant updates I received on the  CFA Fire Ready App. I’d highly recommend everyone living in a fire risk area to download it.

Today, throughout Australia, there are still many fires burning. My thoughts go out to the hardworking firemen fighting them, as well as those who have lost their homes and those who wait for news, unsure of the fate that awaits them.

I’m very aware how lucky I am.

 

House Sitting

A visit from a family of Cockies

A visit from a family of Cockies

Before we returned to Australia, I searched for another house sit to give us a base to work from as we house hunted and re-established ourselves here. We had a positive experience with house sitting last December, (click here to read that post)  and knew it was a cheap and comfortable option worth pursuing, far better than expensive short term rental choices, or depending too heavily on family and friends.

Lorikeet

Lorikeet

This time, we again found something near to perfect for the dates we needed. The home we are currently ‘sitting’ is nestled between a koala sanctuary, a beautiful beach and The Coolart Homestead and Wetlands on the Mornington Peninsula. Gardens in the area are largely native, and there is an abundance of eucalyptus trees, banksias, wattles and she oaks, plus plenty of local fauna and bird life to fulfill my need to immerse myself in Australiana.

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Warratah and Echium

Gum Nuts

Gum Nuts

An added bonus is the lovable dog we have to care for in this beautiful and comfortable home.

My Fun Companion

My Fun Companion

I’d recommend house sitting to any expat returning to their homeland, or even if you’re at the other end of the adventure and have an upcoming move overseas, or interstate, or anywhere unfamiliar. House Sitting is a great way to experience an area and discover if it is right for you before you buy.

IMG_3589

My brother and his wife also House Sit as an inexpensive way to holiday somewhere new and different. They’ve House Sat in Queensland, Tasmania, and England and are currently looking into another UK experience, as well as one in America. Each Sit has been a positive experience for them as well.

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About House Sitting:

  1. There are many House Sitting sites online to choose from, so the best option is to Google House Sitting along with any specifics you want, such as a particular area.
  2. Depending on what your needs are, there is a fee for House Sitters to join these sites and I imagine those fees vary from site to site. We needed two separate House Sits within one year, so happily paid the annual fee of $95.00. Considering what the alternative cost for ten week’s accommodation would have come to, the fee was great value for our money!
  3. Naturally, there are safety measures to protect Home Owners and House Sitters. References are usually requested from House Sitters, and a profile of yourself is necessary. Understandably, if someone is going to entrust their home and pets to you, they want to know as much as they can about you before handing over the keys.
  4. The benefits work both ways. For Home Owners, the service is free and you have the security of knowing that your home is being lived in and cared for while you’re away, but it also eliminates the need to find suitable care for pets, something that can be both a trial and expensive. I imagine an even bigger benefit for the Home Owner is the reassurance they must feel leaving their pet/s in their own home which no doubt would reduce the animal’s stress levels.

House Sitting Sites (Click on the name to be taken to that page):

The first three focus on Australia, but I accessed them all from the UK. I’ve no doubt you will find many other sites unique to the country you live in, where ever that may be.

Walking Among the Wattles.

Walking Among the Wattles.

We chose Happy House Sitters mainly because we found the house we ‘sat’ in December via the email notifications I received of homes available in the area we were interested in. It’s free to join and receive email notifications, but the fee applies when you wish to connect with a Home Owner.

Galahs

Galahs

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If you give it a try, I hope it works as well for you as it has for us.

Are You Having as Much Fun as I am?

Are You Having as Much Fun as I am?

If you’ve already tried House Sitting, I’d love to hear about your experience. Please comment below.

Hello Australia!

Gum Trees by the Dam

Gum Trees by the Dam

I AM HOME!

It is just over two weeks since we arrived in Australia, but it feels more like two months. We’ve really jammed things in, especially considering how exhausted we were after the last few days in Glasgow.

What a month we have had!

But now we are home… and homeless… but not for long! We’ve been living like like gypsies without a van, moving from home to home so as not to overstay our welcome anywhere, but this week we moved into the house we’re minding for the next six weeks. It’s lovely to finally unpack the suitcases and know I don’t need to pack them again for a while.

After landing and reconnecting with family, my next priority was to find our future home. I threw myself into the search, spending hours scouring online real estate sites, making appointments and then viewing properties. However, five days of intensive searching and viewing, left me at the point of despair. Prices seemed to have risen dramatically in the last two years, something I didn’t expect. House after house was a disappointment.

On day six, all that changed.

We inspected another property that I thought looked interesting when I drove by it the day before, and our first impression lifted my spirits immensely. But, it seemed too good to be true, so we had to go back for a second viewing two days later before we made up our minds and the deal was clinched. On Tuesday, we made an offer, on Wednesday, it was ours!

Our first visitors

Our first visitors

It doesn’t fulfill every requirement I wished for, but it comes close enough, and suddenly those other things I wanted seem unimportant, or we’ll find ways to manage them. My main wish for any house we bought, was to be able to look out the window and see gum trees, and thankfully, this house gives me that, but…

It has more!

It has sea views!

Sea View

Sea View

I’m amazed we managed to find a home within our budget that has magnificent sea views.

More sea

More sea

Am I dreaming?

Apart from finding such a wonderful home to live in as we settle back to life in Australia, coming home has held endless pleasures for me –

  1. Spending time with my children, family and friends,
  2. Driving through the magnificent countryside (everything is very green!),
  3. The blue skies (sometimes interrupted by clouds and rain, but not for long),
  4. Warm days with temperatures in the high teens and twenties,
  5. Soft white sandy beaches with glistening water in various shades of blue.
  6. The Australian native trees,
  7. The noisy and colourful birds,
  8. The people who smile and say g’day when we pass in the street,
  9. The shops filled with the old familiar foods,
  10. The ease of buying my favourite black goods – Vegemite and Darrell Lea Licorice.
  11. The wonderful familiarity of the way everyone speaks.
  12. However, an unexpected bonus that I hadn’t thought of before is the feeling of permanence. I don’t have to worry if something I buy is perishable, or if it will fit in the suitcase because this time… I am not visiting.  I am here to live.
Vegemite and Darrell Lea Licorice

Vegemite and Darrell Lea Licorice

Beach

Beach

Garden

Garden

Wattle

Wattle

Bottle Brush

Bottle Brush

I LOVE being HOME!

Scenes from White Night Melbourne 2013

Melbourne put on a stunning show last Saturday night. It made me even prouder of my city than I already am.

I now know what I want to do on February 24th, 2014 – attend Melbourne’s White Night and experience it first hand.

Click on the link to Stumble Down Under’s blog to see her stunning photographs of the night. I had to share:

Scenes from White Night Melbourne 2013.