Monday, July 22, 2019

Going Solo - Collector and Crookwell.

The last Sunday of winter hols was a day for going solo. 
A day to leave all my chaps at home while I traipsed along back roads to meet up with new friends and discover new towns. I truly love the little adventures I have with my kids but sometimes I long for the freedom to explore a region without having to consider the needs of anyone but myself. That freedom to slow down and take a longer look at the things that have captured my attention without that nagging guilty whisper telling me I must be boring them to distraction and need to get a move on. My boys are incredibly patient but I'm mindful that even they have their limits. 

I've always looked at things through a mental frame. Everywhere I go there are scenes and moments that my brain aches to capture with my camera. These solo adventures help recharge my creativity, hone my photography and remind me that I have long held dreams that I am capable of realising. So...Sunday began with a drive north to Collector where I was greeted near the entrance of the village by a herd of the most deliciously curious cows. The morning sun bounced off their fuzzy white winter coats and their warm breath visibly curled up into the chilled air. 

To warm myself up after such a friendly hello, I stepped into Some Cafe. Sitting by the window with a coffee, I listened to the crackle of the wood fire, watched travellers stop in for take away coffees and locals gather for a lazy Sunday brunch and gazed at the lovely old building across the road.

 Coffee and lemon bar safely stored away in my belly, I wandered around the back of the cafe for a lovely catch up with Naomi in her farm shop Collector Fresh. I met Naomi at a recent insta-meet in Gunning and was keen to say hello again. I was greeted by Gorgeous George...this kid...oh the freaking cuteness! He was just yummy, wanting to hang out with his Mumma and living his best life with cake and toy trucks. There were serious conversations to be had about lambs and baby cows and vehicle colours and little sisters.

Naomi is the kind of person you can chat to with complete openness. She is warm and generous and funny. She awes me with the way she manages motherhood, a farm and her farm shop. I tell you, the space that she's created, stocked with seasonal market garden produce, flowers and locally made goodies is just brilliant. I've decided to make a regular habit of popping up to Collector to fill a basket with that beautiful bounty. Why on earth wouldn't I make the most of it?

After a lovely chat and with the promise of a farm visit and a coffee sometime soon, I bid farewell to Master George and left Naomi to her customers. Feeling adventurous, I decided to take the dirt road west to Gunning. It was surprisingly smooth for the first 20kms, then a little knobbly for the last five but the views were beautiful. Gunning was a busy hive of weekend activity with people chatting in the street, having coffee in the sun and perusing shops and sidewalk fruit stalls. To my delight I got to venture into the antique stores whose windows I had only been able to peer through on previous weekday visits. Oh what a treasure trove! 

I ordered a coffee to go and made the decision to keep travelling west to see what the town of Crookwell was like. Such a pretty drive winding up the range, with rich pastoral land on either side, dotted with cattle and sheep. Crookwell has a great mix of victorian, federation and art deco architecture. I took an easy stroll up and down the wide main street, popping into stores like Arcadia Crookwell, an inviting space full of pop up shops and antiques. I stopped for lunch at Cafe Zestt and thumbed through an old copy of Australian Country Style while I drank my peppermint tea. I'd love to come back in Spring for the Garden Festival, perhaps spending a weekend at one of the local farmstays.

By mid afternoon I was ready to head home. I had hoped to see another lovely friend on my way back through Gunning but best laid plans went asunder and I had to leave it for another time. was a glorious day to myself and I'm so glad I took the opportunity to do it. Feeling excited about what other adventures will unfold in the second half of this year. For now though, I'm ready to dive into another school term with these kiddos. 

xx Em.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Winter hols - Dino hunt.

After Thursday's big drive, it was great to be able to properly stretch our legs with a long walk through the Australian National Botanic Gardens. It was sunny and calm and cool, perfect for tromping through rainforests and fern filled gullies, red deserts and eucalyptus lawns in search of dinosaurs.

Almost time for the boys to go back to school. 
It's been a lovely winter hols hanging out with these two.

xx Em

Here we go a-wandering - Junee.

I'm sat here at the dining table with Elton John blaring through my headphones to drown out the squeals of a tickle-fest emanating from the other end of the house. The first five minutes were funny, the last twenty...not so serene in this tiny little cottage. I think tickling is torturous but my kids seem to love it and go back for more. Weirdos!

On Thursday the boys and I dropped the Husband off to work a little earlier than usual and continued west for our day trip to Junee. Our first port of call was Jugiong for a coffee at the Long Track Pantry. It was buzzing with tourists and locals, all finding caffeinated sanctuary from the icy winds blustering about outside. I snavelled myself a lovely Rare Rabbit necklace from Long Track's home wares store and we popped across the road to the playground where the boys hit up the swings and flying fox with a rambunctious rabble of kidlets. Then, it was onward south to Gundagai where we took a turn off the highway and wound our way along the back roads through a landscape of green rolling hills dotted with sheep and cattle. We arrived in Junee just before lunch and headed straight for the Junee Licorice and Chocolate Factory housed in the town's old Flour Mill. It was bubbling with the sound of humans happy and high from chocolate induced endorphins. We decided to sit in the courtyard of the cafe and have lunch before diving into the cacao laced fray. Not a good idea to peak too soon when it comes to chocolate! 

After a belly warming feast of chicken pot pie and fish & chips, we made our way inside to have a go at making Rocky Road. With hair nets and gloves donned and my camera at the ready, we were welcomed by a lovely staff member and shown into the chocolate room. At one of the cool metal benches decked with tubs of delectable toppings, we portioned out marshmallows onto our plates, added a couple of scoops of nuts and fruit, covered it all with melted chocolate, mixed it up with our hands then gave a last flourishing sprinkle before they were transferred to another bench to set. Willy Wonka eat your heart out!

With about twenty minutes to kill before our confectionery masterpieces were ready for collection, we wandered within the building, peeking through windows to watch conveyor belts lined with long strips of raspberry licorice being sliced into bullets and large copper kettles filled with shades of light and dark chocolate. Jack had a tinkle on the old piano, we stocked up on an array of chocolate supplies from the shop and then, before we knew it, our rocky road was ready to pick up and it was time to start heading home. We popped into the train station for a few minutes on our way through the town so that Harry could get his loco fix. To his delight there was a team doing track work just near the platform. The old railway cafe was open so we ducked in to have a look. With it's immensely high ceilings, giant mirrors and a roaring fire in the fireplace, it was easy to imagine what it had been like back in it's hey day. We grabbed a coffee then jumped into the car homeward bound.

The drive home was filled with more of Stephen Fry's audio tales of greek mythology as we wound our way past paddocks and villages. The sun dipped below the hills and we arrived back in Canberra just in time to pick the husband up from work.

Til next time...xx Em.