Posted in Sydney sparks

We are Village people

Yesterday was a perfect summer evening in Sydney. After a hot day, a light breeze appeared from nowhere and the sky was that beautiful deep blue, without a cloud. (Apologies if you’re reading my summertime ramble and you’re battling through the northern hemisphere winter.) We had arranged to meet at the Sydney Festival Village for drinks – part of the amazing Festival that takes over our city in summer. The Village is in Hyde Park and it is such a fantastic place to visit. It is open in the daytime, but it really comes to life after 4.30pm.

Yep, everyone is welcome.
Yep, everyone is welcome.

The atmosphere was incredible and the people-watching (one of my favourite hobbies) was fantastic. Such a diverse mix – young and old, heavily tattooed and corporate suits (maybe hiding the tattoos), hipsters, glamours, alternative dressers, lots of kids – and smiles all round as we enjoyed the late afternoon sunshine. Mostly with one of the 73 flavours of cider on offer. (Ok, not 73 flavours exactly, but did you know that orange & ginger cider is a thing?)

Chillaxing with the early crowd (around 6pm).
Chillaxing with the early crowd (around 6pm).

Anyways, it was such a lovely experience – and we didn’t even go on the giant inflatable Stonehenge jumping castle (the lady said it’s the only inflatable Stonehenge in the world and I believe her), or try the bizarro sweet tricks that Messina Gelato have crafted for the Village, or see a show at the very cool theatre they have built. So, we’ll have to go back!

We didn't try this, but it's pretty unique: one person at a time steps into that cargo container sort of box and gets a 1:1 concert (well, song) from a musician!
We didn’t try this, but there were quite a few people in the line and I can see why – it’s a pretty unique concept: one person at a time goes into that cargo container sort of box and gets a 1:1 concert (well, song) from the musician sitting in there!
Nothing says 'festival' more than a hipster selling jaffles from a bright yellow kombi van. Love it!
Nothing says ‘festival’ more than a hipster selling jaffles from a bright yellow kombi van. Love it!
Not a great pic of the inflatable Stonehenge, but you get the idea...
Not a great pic of the inflatable Stonehenge, but you get the idea…
The City of Sydney set up a very cool library - giving away books. Lots of people sitting around reading too. Such a great idea!
The City of Sydney set up a very cool library – giving away books. Lots of people sitting around reading too. Such a great idea!
Aiyaiyai, Gelato Messina.
Aiyaiyai, Gelato Messina.

If you’re in Sydney and can check it out before 26 January, I strongly suggest that you make a visit to the Village! More details about the Sydney Festival can be found on their website here. At the risk of being sappy, festivals like this make me so proud of our town – lots of people getting involved, a lot of the activities were free, and the sun’s shining: we really are very lucky!

A village in the heart of the city. With beach balls. Life is good!
A village in the heart of the city. With beach balls. Life is good!
Posted in Sparks in the wild

Roaring and Snoring at Taronga Zoo

On Saturday night, a wonderful tradition continued for me here in Sydney. Actually, I think I have written about it here before, but that was a while back, so I’m sure it’s ok if I tell you about it again. It all started almost six years ago, when my eldest niece turned eight. Given that her birthday is in December, I gave her a combined birthday-Christmas present of a Roar and Snore adventure at Taronga Zoo.

(If you’re not familiar with Taronga Zoo, it’s in a fabulous location with some of the best views in Sydney (especially if you’re a giraffe) and they have a really strong commitment to ensuring that the animals are well looked after – which makes for some large enclosures and interesting activities.)

Life is good, especially at Roar and Snore. [image from Taronga Zoo website]
Life is good, especially at Roar and Snore.
[image from Taronga Zoo website]
Anyways, last weekend it was finally the turn of the youngest of the three sisters in the family to head off for our overnight excursion to the zoo. LG was super excited about it – I know that for sure because she had written I AM SO EXCITED! on the gift voucher in giant letters. She had also started a countdown on her calendar and her whiteboard some time before we were due to go and had written a long list of things that she needed to pack in her bag – she’s an organised gal, alright.

The view from our tent. Uh huh.
The view from our tent. Uh huh.

And so we headed off to the zoo on Saturday evening in perfect weather. Arriving around sunset, we settled into our glamping accommodation – the large ‘tents’ have wooden floors, nice beds (with electric blankets) and two layers of zipped material doors to keep the pesky possums out. Over drinks and nibbles we had a close encounter with some new friends – including a snake, blue tongue lizard, leaf insect and a few others. And then after dinner, we went on a fantastic night tour of the zoo, when a lot of the boring daytime animals become very active creatures indeed.

Our new lizard friend. Did you know that lizards have ears and snakes do not?
Our new lizard friend. Did you know that lizards have ears and snakes do not?
LG makes a new pal - the Children's Python (named after a guy called Children, not because it eats kids...apparently)...
LG makes a new pal – the Children’s Python (named after a guy called Children, not because it eats kids…apparently)…

Overnight, we heard some roaring and some snoring (not from within our tent, I swear) and then it was an early start for breakfast before heading off for more behind-the-scenes interactions. Feeding the tall and frankly bizarre-looking giraffes their carrot breakfast was an incredible experience – some people even got a bit of a slurp from their loooong blue tongues. And then a close-up look (while staying dry) at the leopard seal being trained – amazing stuff. After that, we said goodbye to our new friends (humans and animals) and then spent the morning wandering around the zoo.

She looks lovely, but we were grateful for the extra thick glass between us, just in case...
She looks lovely, but we were grateful for the extra thick glass between us, just in case…
Yeah, yeah, hello everyone. Now hand over our breakfast.
Yeah, yeah, hello everyone. Now hand over our breakfast.
Hello, possum.
Hello, possum.
A tortoise (I think). Shows its age through the rings on its shell, like the rings on a tree trunk. Just in case you were wondering...
A tortoise (I think). Shows its age through the rings on its shell, like the rings on a tree trunk, apparently.
Up close and personal with the amazing leopard seal.
Up close and personal with the amazing leopard seal.
Show-off.
A beautiful show-off.

One of the highlights (which I wish I could’ve captured better, but it was actually pretty scary at the time) happened when we were checking out the chimps on our early morning tour. The guide was telling us about the male boss chimp and, right on cue, he came to the front of the enclosure (you can hear her in the video advising not to make eye contact). He was right up at the glass and started tapping on the ground in front of us. The guide suggested that we could tap back at him.

And then he went a little bit nuts and hurled his large self at full pace right up against the glass and ran towards us. Thankfully, the $10k per pane extra-thick glass did its thing – but it definitely woke us up first thing in the morning!


I really can’t recommend this experience highly enough – for adults and kids alike – especially as a great gift idea for visitors or people who might be tricky to buy for around Christmas-time… If you’re interested (and you really should be, according to LG, her sisters and me), you can find out more at the Roar and Snore website here.

Posted in Sparks in the wild

My first parkrun

I’m not sure if you’ve heard of parkrun – I hadn’t heard of them until I read an article in the local paper last week about one starting in our area. Such a cool idea – I’ll let the parkrun people explain it: parkrun organise free, weekly, 5km timed runs around the world. They are open to everyone, free, and are safe and easy to take part in. These events take place in pleasant parkland surroundings and we encourage people of every ability to take part; from those taking their first steps in running to Olympians; from juniors to those with more experience; we welcome you all.

Mosman parkrun, Balmoral Beach. [image from Mosman parkrun Facebook page]
Mosman parkrun, Balmoral Beach.
[image from Mosman parkrun Facebook page]
Sounds pretty good, yes? And when they launched a parkrun at Balmoral Beach in Sydney, a picturesque part of the world not far from where I live, I thought I would go along and see what it was all about. As an aside, I haven’t been running for over 12 months after being scared off by a couple of big injuries in quick succession. And I wanted to avoid going back to the physio’s torture chamber and putting on those horrific communal short shorts (which I wrote about here last year).

I was in there somewhere! [image from Mosman parkrun Facebook page]
I was in there somewhere!
[image from Mosman parkrun Facebook page]
Saturday was a lovely day in Sydney and I arrived at Balmoral about 10 minutes before the 7am start. There were an assortment of people there – almost all of them looking like super fit and fast runners, sponsored by major sporting brands. I started to suspect that the parkrun promise – encouraging people of all abilities to take part – had not quite reached glamorous Balmoral.

I skirted the edges of the group, still thinking I could skulk away and get a coffee and just watch them, but then summoned up the courage to speak to a volunteer in a fluoro green vest. Meg was a parkrunner from Curl Curl on Sydney’s northern beaches and had come to help out with the first ever Mosman parkrun. She assured me that there would be lots of ‘normal’ people there, even some walkers, but as we looked around the group, I think we both doubted whether that was true. Then I saw some people with prams and a few older ladies and thought I might as well give it a go.

Flagging the end of the run.  [image from Mosman parkrun Facebook page]
Flagging the end of the run.
[image from Mosman parkrun Facebook page]
And so I did. I ran the whole way – more of a shuffle than a run, mostly – and when I was tempted to walk, the words of my Camino buddy Shane rang in my head: DO NOT STOP. And so I didn’t. The atmosphere was lovely and there were lots of smiles and high fives from the 102 runners – the fastest ran past like a blur and finished in half the time it took me, but I was very happy just to get to the end and find the earlier finishers hanging around to clap and cheer the slower peeps.

Some Mosman parkrunners. [image from Mosman parkrun Facebook page]
Some Mosman parkrunners.
[image from Mosman parkrun Facebook page]
So, that was a great start to Saturday morning – exercising (for free!) in a beautiful place with nice people – and all done before 8am. Everyone was nodding and smiling and looking forward to building this little community that had just formed.

Now I don’t want to get political, but this story has since taken a bad turn. By yesterday, Mosman Council had squashed the new parkrun community like a bug – cancelling the Balmoral run because of blah blah blah. An annoying setback, but hopefully the organisers will be able to come up with a different route that doesn’t upset the precious people and lets the parkrun community thrive. If only so I can try and beat my first run time and feel like an Olympian with a new PB!

Posted in Sparks in the wild, Sydney sparks

Friday Foto – At the zoo

This week, with some Irish friends visiting for the rugby and a burst of some incredible springtime weather, we spent a lovely day at Taronga Zoo. Definitely one of my favourite spots in town and quite appropriate for the Lions fans.

Anyways, no pics of the animals today – but the tree trunk that I saw in the reptile exhibit. I was so taken with it, I almost didn’t notice the giant boa constrictor that I was meant to be checking out.

So here it is – the Taronga Zoo Tree Shark…

20130705-104315.jpg
Oh and some large toy animals in the Zoo shop wearing booties. Just because.

20130705-105935.jpg
Have a great weekend!

Posted in Sydney sparks

A day at the Fair

On Wednesday, I went to the opening day of the Craft & Quilt Fair here in Sydney. I met up with my sister-in-law and her super-talented friend (who, in between running a family with four kids and baking, quilting, photographing, cooking, sewing also writes a blog: Bea Spoke Quilts). For the record, my sister-in-law is also super-talented, but doesn’t have a blog. In fact, she doesn’t even read this blog on a regular basis, but let’s not get in to that now…

CraftQuiltLogo

So, back to the Fair. A huge queue to get tickets, where the demographic meant that the ‘Seniors’ special was the best seller by about 50:1, I would estimate. It was very crowded and the Exhibition Centre at Darling Harbour was packed with all kinds of crafty and quilty wares. There were the many different versions of the expected stalls: sewing, fabrics, quilting, cards, scrapbooking etc. And then there were the niche stalls: doll making, sock monkeys, teddy bear making and my favourite stall, selling kimono fabrics. Its name? KimoYES. Genius.

CraftFairCrowd

I stocked up on some cool card making things and was enjoying a tutorial on glitter butterflies (yes, really) when the stall holders uncovered a crime: the $77 hot glue gun had been stolen. Brazen as you like, some old biddy had walked in to the stall & swiped it – the boss man said he had seen her, but when his wife asked if he could identify her, he just shook his head and looked around helplessly at the scene: hundreds of almost identical white-haired ladies in grey cardis and sensible shoes. It was the perfect crime.

Other than that drama and the shock of incredible quilts made by 11 year olds, it’s well worth a visit if you’re looking for crafty inspiration this weekend. The website is here. Just hold on to your valuables (and your glue guns) – the world of craft & quilts is not for sissies.