As winter sets in in the Northern Hemisphere, I thought I’d dig out some photos of the Blue Mountains I haven’t posted yet. We have on puffy coats and leaves are falling and it all looks very autumnal. This is just to serve as a reminder, it does get chilly in Australia. So try to remember that when you get mad at me next week for posting up photos of our recent excursion to Byron Bay and Noosa. It’s late spring here now and all about the beach. Forgive me (unless you live in Florida or Texas).
But, back on our first trip to the Blue Mountains in June, it was cold and we stayed in a charming bed and breakfast called Llandrindod. The two hour train ride into the mountains deposits you into a town called Leura with lovely shops and pretty places to eat. Quiet and quaint, it’s reminiscent of a romantic ride on Metro North into upstate New York.
Of the few attractions not involving spectacular views of the Blue Mountains, there is a Museum of Tea Pots and a Toy and Rail Museum.
But we never made it indoors during daylight hours since there were so many of these types of views to take in.
On our second trip we decided to visit a town called Blackheath, which is a little more off the beaten path than Leura and its more well known counterpart, Katoomba. Since the Blue Mountains go on for ages just west of Sydney, are compared to the Grand Canyon and are one of UNESCO’s protected World Heritage Sites (along with almost everything else in Australia), the surrounding towns draw a large amount of tourism with various ranges of accommodation. We opted for Blackheath as it has a bit more of an understated, local vibe. We found a great house on AirBnB called Magpie Blue with a hostess who gave us wonderful tips on where to go, what to see and when to see it.
She also said to us, “Judging by your accents, I assume you are coffee, not tea drinkers.”
This made us roar with laughter, since she was obviously correct.
“Give me the weekend to turn you into tea drinkers,” she said.
With that she showed us her beautiful tea services stowed away in drawers for us to use as we wished.
“Here is an English Service,” she pointed into the drawer.
“This one is French,” she continued,
and Dutch. We also have a terrific company here called T2. This wooden box,” she closed the drawer and gestured to a medium sized antique wooden box with a golden keyhole, “was used in the Georgian era to store tea since it was so rare.”
The key to unlock it was draped over the side attached to a silky blue tassel. She flipped open the lid to reveal dried black tea leaves mixed with tiny blue flecks of dried flower petals.
“This is the Blue Mountain breakfast tea from T2, it has tiny cornflowers and smells like vanilla, give it a sniff.”
It smelled so lovely, I drank it every morning we were there out of each tea service. Then I went to T2 and bought a whole canister of it, but also discovered they have hundreds of teas including Sydney, Melbourne, New York, Brisbane and even Perth breakfast.
So, she turned me into a tea drinker, and I’ll happily take orders for anyone state-side who’d like to become a tea drinker too. Just put on your comfies and peruse here—>T2Tea
Now that G is four and a half, I might as well get around to some of the books we added to our lives when he was three. There were so many favorites.
If you love kid lit in the kind of weird way I do, there are more books above in the FOR KIDS link.
Around the World with Mouk by Marc Boutavant seemed fitting for G’s 3rd birthday as we were still on tour in the US and knew Australia was next. But on the page where Mouk goes to Australia there are a lot of big sharks, so that wasn’t super.
Fox in Sox by Dr. Seus is the best. There’s nothing else to say. It’s impossible to read and makes you trip over your tongue and everyone involved laughs and laughs.
George and Martha: The Complete Stories of Two Best Friends by James Marshall is so ridiculously sweet. This friendship primer teaches valuable lessons about how to treat your friends and how to expect them to treat you. Plus it’s hysterical.
Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie happened while we toured through Canada. It was our first official chapter book. A bus ride through the plains of Saskatuan never saw so many pirates and crocs.
Many Moons by James Thurber is a book I had as a girl about a princess who wants the moon and her father goes through all of his advisers to try to get it for her. It is laugh out loud funny for kids and grown ups alike and especially entertaining for anyone who has ever been asked to deliver the moon.
Should I Share My Ice Cream by Mo Willems is a classic Elephant and Piggie Book. These books are great early readers since Mr. Willems is so stinking good at depicting emotions through his illustrations. Elephant gets some ice cream in this one and he wants to share it with his friend, but he also wants it all for himself. What to do? I want to squeeze Mo Willems for being so awesome.
Paddington by Michael Bond is one illustrated chapter of his original book, A Bear Called Paddington. It is delightfully English. Paddington’s love of marmalade and tea has not been lost on G. Plus, every major city in Australia has a district called Paddington in it somewhere.
Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy by Lynley Dodd is our favorite New Zealander children’s book discovery. Lynley Dodd is outrageously talented and everything about her books—from the stories to the rhythm to the illustrations to the names of all of Hairy Maclary’s friends—is perfect. The dachshund from around the corner is named: Schnitzel Von Krum with a very low tum. Perfect.
Hairy Maclary’s Bone by Lynley Dodd is just as great if not better than the first Hairy Maclary. All of his friends try to get his bone, but Hairy’s too smart for all that.
Diary of a Wombat by Jackie French was a book I just had to investigate. Before we moved to Australia I didn’t know what a wombat was. I didn’t know, but now I do. If you need a refresher on the cuteness of the wombat, here is a three minute video of one eating grass.
The Diary of a Wombat is almost exactly the same as this video. In his diary he sleeps and scratches and sleeps some more, and yet, you just can’t take your eyes off him.
This is New York by M. Sasek was delivered to G from Santa because all the wombats and marmalade are great, but let’s keep it real.
Somewhere in the late nineties, incessant talk of the benefits of yoga and meditation were thrust upon the western world. Ellen DeGeneres did a bit about what sort of things pop up in all the silence meditation creates. For her it was: Mama keeps whites bright like the sunshine. Mama’s got the magic of Clorox 2.
This has always resonated with me as a long time yoga practitioner because while meditation has tremendous benefits, sometimes just before I’m about to drift into a blissful silence something will pop up into my brain that makes me want to giggle.
Matt Damon, for example, on the Colbert Report dancing in a confetti booth to Daft Punk’s Get Lucky. BuzzFeed’s John Travolta-ized version of Benedict Cumberbatch’s name: Bento Timberbox. The scene in Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds when Tippy Hedren so breezily operates an outboard motor until a bird puppet sort of awkwardly bumps her in the head.
Now I know the latter seems to belie a darker part of my subconscious, after all getting attacked by a bird isn’t funny, but I can’t help it. The thought of that scene has always made me giggle. In fact, I always felt the whole concept of The Birds was cartoonish at best. Who’s afraid of a bunch of birds?
Well. Leave it to Hitchcock to wait until we moved to Australia to avenge his film and forever change this image of Tippy in my mind from giggly to terrifying. He began slowly and unassumingly, a hallmark of his work. When we arrived in Sydney last year, he revealed to us only this sign in Darling Harbor.
Roughly nine months later we arrive in Brisbane and spot several people riding by with helmets that look like this <—-
“Hm,” I said to Michael, “what’s the story with all the festive hats?”
Then the stories from work began to roll in:
~The Company Manager said someone told him today not to take a certain route to work because there was a swooping magpie.
~The Assistant Stage Manager burst into the office today on the verge of tears because he was swooped by a magpie on his bike three times. It followed him.
~The Dance Supervisor was supposed to come over for a glass of wine tonight, but she was swooped by a magpie today. She’s ok, but it was so terrifying she decided to just call it a night.
Then one day Michael came home with a pile of zip ties and two huge laminated drawings of eyeballs.
“What’s happening here?” I asked.
“The ASM sent us home with these today. He said if we stick them onto the back of our bike helmets they will scare the magpies away when we’re riding. AND! That’s what these zip ties are for! People tie them onto their helmets so the birds can’t land on them.”
“What?? Why are birds trying to land on them? Is this Hitchcock’s way of getting me to think his silly Birds movie is scary? Because, it’s not going to work.”
“From August to October,” Michael said very seriously, “the magpies lay eggs. They think anyone or anything passing by is a threat to their young. So they attack them.”
“Oh,” I paused with the realization I know what that feels like, “that is terrifying.”
“Look at this,” Michael says.
“And this,” he adds, “is the Australian version of Anderson Cooper covering a Hurricane.”
So now when I finish my yoga class a thought bubble of Tippy Hedren no longer makes me giggle, but the thought of G with eyeballs on his helmet does a little bit. Just a little.