I had a moment yesterday when I stopped to think about something for a minute and realised that life is pretty perfect at the moment! Lots of little things clicking into place, working out, and finding their rhythm. Times like this need to be celebrated!
My chicks have settled into the school term well, and my boy has managed to attend school for full days on a number of occasions now. This is massive!! All the hard work that has gone into building stability for him, helping him to develop strategies to cope, working with the teachers and executive staff, and his doctors, is paying off. (And while part of me is touching wood that it continues because we have had these ups before, followed by big downs, this is definitely something to celebrate!!)
The younger two chicks are also happy to spend time with their father more often, so we are slowly, slowly, working towards a regular routine for that too. Another milestone! (The fact that he has a new puppy at his house is certainly helping in that regard!!)
And, wait for it, it looks like we might have ADSL broadband internet within the week! After four months on mobile broadband and constantly measuring out little packets of data for the kids, and keeping enough to keep working (and then having the kids completely shape the plan with a Youtube session and paying premium for the rest of the month – $10 per 1GB!!) this will give us all the ability to breathe out! Homework research can be done, TV viewing can be caught up on, and life can return to it’s 21st century first world normality!
I have also had a busy couple of weeks socially – tickets to shows, dinners, and amazing behind the scenes peeks at a show about to start. I have to pinch myself – all of this has come about because of my decisions to apply for the Human Brochure last year. My circle of friends and contacts has grown, and I have been able to experience things I would never otherwise have been able to do.
Even better, we are falling into a routine at home that sees me having one to two days a week where I can focus on my business! I have been developing new products, designing pieces I have wanted to make for years, and starting to build up stock. Absolute bliss!
I also have a wide circle of friends who are creative, generous, and talented. I can now recommend awesome craftspeople to my friends when they ask for a referral to have a chair fixed, a lampshade made, a dress designed, a website built. I love being able to share the love!
The irony of this is that in an exchange with my ex-husband last week he told me that those who read my ‘internet stories’ tell him that I make it appear that my life is hard and that I am a victim. As this couldn’t be further from the truth, I hope that anyone reading this appreciates that I am delighted that all the hard work, difficult choices, and rearranging of priorities over the last few years is paying off, as I always hoped knew it would. The challenges that my children and I have faced over the last few years were tough, but we were never victims – we are and always will be, if I have anything to say about it, survivors.
I hope that your life is clicking into place for you this week too, and that you have something to celebrate.
Things have been a little quiet here on the blog for a while, but my life has been very busy The second explains the first. If I try to share everything in one post you will be reading for days, so I thought I would start with some highlights.
Over the school holidays the chicks and I got stuck into our garden and created four vegetable patches – well, one herb garden and three vege patches. Between chickens, birds and possums we were quickly down to two vege patches and one herb garden, but they are thriving well. I was particularly proud of our efforts in recycling and repurposing in order to protect the gardens! (These are old junior hockey pop up goals).
A couple of weeks ago the chicks and I hosted some very long term friends for a weekend to experience Canberra as part of the Human Brochure. I will write in more detail soon, but can report that the weekend was more wonderful than any of us expected! Some photographic highlights to whet your appetite include:
Kids amazed that they can move a stone at Questacon
My boy tempting a giraffe at the National Zoo and Aquarium
Sienna feeding a lion – as you do – at the National Zoo and Aquarium
My parents came to visit for a week about three weeks ago and are still here. We decided that I needed to sell my house and move to somewhere that cost a little less to maintain, so have spent the last few weeks working flat out to spruce up the house. All those little jobs that I have been meaning to do for the last few years have been done and the house looks wonderful! At the time of writing we are re-thinking the decision to sell, so stand by for developments in that area over the next few months! If I stay it means that I get to enjoy all our hard work, which will be great!
I haven’t managed a large amount of sewing, with everything else that has been going on, but have been creative in other ways, including making some gifts for my guests using some great quotes from an article about Canberra.
This might be the briefest update in my blog’s history, especially given all that is going on, so I will have to provide more detail and more photos over the next couple of weeks. In the meantime I have to share my latest hair colouring adventure with you. My father asked me if it was ‘designed to attract or repel?’. When I responded that it was ‘to amuse’ he informed me that it had done it’s job!
I hope that you are all well, and being kind to yourselves!
Our two weeks of school holidays start today! The children definitely need the break, and their mother isn’t complaining either! While we have a camping trip planned for the second week of the holidays, for the first week I thought we might explore a bit more of the city we live in, rather than sitting at home with eyes glued to screens. (Wish me luck!)
There are some amazing classes, programs, and activities available during the holidays, and my children have a long wish list. However money is a little tight, and I realised that it was probably time for us to craft a list that focussed on things that don’t cost a lot of money, but will be really enjoyable.
These giant snails next to a floral wall spelling out Floriade are beautifully colourful!
1. Floriade. Yep – it may be clichéd but the huge floral displays are open throughout the holidays, are free to enter, and provide lots of different opportunities for being involved. There is a different program of activities every day. The tips I gained from head gardener, Andrew Forster, were to check the program first thing each morning before planning your day. There are great things in the ‘Fun for Kids‘ section, including potting their own plants, attending Bunnings workshops, a circus playground with workshops, and more! (And Bindi Irwin will be at the inspiration hub giving talks one day.) If all else fails, take a picnic and let the kids run around on the big grassed areas.
2. Arboretum. The national collection of plants is free to enter, and roam around. In addition to the wonderful wooden pod playground, there are also open spaces for picnics and running around, and amazing photographic opportunities. There is a free creative corner during these holidays, plus a program of workshops ranging in prices from $10 – $30. My personal plan is to pack some food and take the kids there with their cameras/iPods etc and run a family photo competition. If it works I will publish their entries here for you to enjoy!
3. National Archives of Australia. You might remember that I enjoyed a tour of the National Archives as part of the discovery phase of the Human Brochure. I have been wanting to take the children there ever since, and with the opening of the Waterhouse Natural Science Art Prize this week, the timing is perfect! Entry to the archives is free, and there is a great range of exhibitions that I think my children will enjoy exploring – including one of ‘banned’ material that I think will appeal to my son!!
Industrial remnants installed at the National Gallery of Australia Sculpture Gardens
4. National Gallery Sculpture Gardens. I suspect that taking my active children (well, let’s be honest, my son) into the Gallery could be a recipe for stress, but I think that exploring the Sculpture Gardens, with reflective sculptures, floating heads, and my favourite, the James Turrell installation “Within Without’, could be much less stressful! I might even include that in our family photo competition!
5. Geocaching. We have been a little slack in our geocaching for about a year (oops) but the upside of that is that there will be lots of new caches around town that we haven’t discovered. If you aren’t aware of geocaching it involves looking for hidden caches/containers that contain a log book, and occasionally swap-able or track-able items, using GPS coordinates. You can download a free version of the app to your phone, or use the GPS from your car (or go really rustic and use a compass!) and search for different caches hidden in public spaces, and logged on a website so that others can look for them. I like to pick a geographic area, park the car and then go for a walk with the kids to find as many as we can before someone gets tired and complains!
6. National Museum of Australia. The museum is always great for an interactive experience with kids, and these holidays they are running free drop in workshops in their Discovery Space, including one where you can make your own wire sculpture. (Wonder if the kids will realise that I am there to do it for me, rather than to entertain them?!)
7. National Library of Australia. On 2 October the Library has a story time session and a movie for children, both of which are free. But the thing that appeals to me for my children is the Library detective – a free ‘find it’ trail of discovery.
Plus one more. Handmade Markets. Entry to these amazing markets (no I am not at all biased) is free! Of course it won’t end up being truly free as the temptation to buy so many of the beautiful products there is hard to resist, so I haven’t included it in my list of 7 – but wanted to remind you that it is a great day out! 4 and 5 October at the National Convention Centre! (I won’t have a stall there but will be there helping out anyway!)
There are many more things to do in Canberra over the holidays, but this list will keep us going I think! What ideas do you have for free activities these holidays?
The air is lighter, the breeze is warmer and everything seems just that little bit easier with Spring finally kicking into gear. (Of course the grass is also longer and I need to buy a lawnmower, but let’s not let practical facts get in the way of the enjoyment!)
I have been busy, but not with anything I can show you here. Filling out paperwork. Paperwork about my son’s special needs, paperwork about child support and why I think I should receive it on behalf of my children, paperwork about how I would like my children to be supported by both their parents. Numbers, facts, dates, numbers, and histories. My brain is full of it, and my bench is covered in piles of papers sorted into piles (until I realise that one supporting document from one pile is needed to support the issue another pile is addressing, and then chaos reigns supreme.)
It isn’t getting me down too much, but it does mean that all sewing, creating, etc is on hold while I address it all, and still try to be present with the kids. That is a bit dangerous because it means that I have time to order……fabric, notions, bits and bobs. As little packages of zips, of fasteners, of webbing arrive my kids roll their eyes at how boring it all is. and I get excited at the possibilities that each little package holds. I have so many things I want to be making!!
Webbing and key fob notions….. so many ideas!
I am using the time productively though – I have finally started a products and prices page (you can see the link at the top of this page) so that those of you who want to place an order now have some reference points to do so! I still plan on re-stocking my Etsy shop, but this can help in the interim!
However the two most exciting things to report are that I now have an iPhone 6 which means that my photos are so much clearer, and that it arrived in time for a behind the scenes tour of Floriade, our annual floral celebration. It was beautiful being there before the crowds arrived, with the morning dew on the flowers and the air so clear. I may have got a bit carried away with photos…….
These flowers were planted after a Floriade spectacular a few seasons ago by apprentices who used a bull dozer to plant them randomly along the shores of the lake.
These giant snails next to a floral wall spelling out Floriade are beautifully colourful!
Tulips, tulips, everywhere!
The theme of Floriade 2014 is Passion. This is the automotive garden reflecting the passion people have for their cars!
The view from the Ferris Wheel allows you to see the plantings from a different perspective!
Passion for fashion reflected in the argyle and houndstooth patterns, while art is reflected in the garden of coloured pencils!
The family, with all it’s wonderful diversity, was represented in this garden, and the plantings are surrounded by figures representing different family groups.
The family garden from a different perspective!
I have also started on a fitness and health campaign, and, although I am still struggling to get out of bed each morning, am starting to enjoy the benefits of eating healthy, tasty and nutritious meals and regular exercise. (I know! Who knew that the experts were right?!)
We have a few days left until our two week school holidays, a camping trip, some birthdays, and hopefully some time to get out and about and have fun with my chicks. I hope that your Spring or Autumn has started some new habits or new joys for you too.
Last week I made an attempt at keeping up with blogging about all the amazing adventures that I have been having during the ‘discovery phase’ of being part of the ‘human brochure’ for Canberra. And now I am behind again! The human brochure blog is up and running, so I will put my detailed posts in there, and instead share my personal highlights here!
Last Friday night we were invited to attend a restaurant called Poacher’s Pantry, which is about 20 minutes outside Canberra, for an evening hosted by a group called Poacher’s Way. This is a group of businesses who have joined together to promote the food, wine and tourism of the region. This is one of those places that I have always heard about….. and never been to.
The delightful line up of Eden Road wines – all of them quite delicious!
The delight of not just attending, but attending with all of the Poacher’s Way group represented was infectious! I didn’t get to see and taste everything on offer because there was just so much goodness to be had – but did managed to strike up a conversation with one of the most flirtatious members of the group who happened to be offering tastings of his wine. So I tasted the full range…… and it was a very good range! I am going to have to do a cellar door visit to Eden Road Wines to sample a few more I suspect!
There were beautiful handmade chocolates, beautiful baked goods and cheese, suitably firey chilli oils, a dessert garden that included chocolate ‘soil’, delicious duck pancakes, and a coffee cocktail that was superb! The baristas from one of Canberra’s great coffee houses, Two before Ten, prepared a cocktail using cold brewed coffee (steeped for 18 hours), freshly squeezed Granny Smith apple juice, and tequila. (They told us that they came up with it while messing around one day. Sure……) Anyway – it was a beautiful and surprisingly fine blend of flavours!
The ‘101’ cocktail from Two Before Ten baristas
We had to be ushered out in the end as I think we would have stayed for hours otherwise! Adding it to the list of places to go back to under my own steam!
The next event that I made it to was an evening at the newest brewery to open in Canberra, Bentspoke Brewery. I am not a big beer drinker, but thought a tour would be interesting. It wasn’t just interesting – I learnt a lot about making beer, and cider, and was educated on how to properly taste beer! One of the beers has oregano added to it, rather than a sweet herb, and it was light, fragrant and delicious! The cider, however, was the winner. Made with local apples it was made with brewers yeast so that the fermentation process didn’t remove all the sugar and flavour, so had no added sugar or concentrate – and was crisp, fresh and tasty! (Oh – and the bar snacks were amongst the most delicious I have ever tasted!)
On Saturday I spent the whole day hanging out with the humans from the ‘Family Fun’ group and being shown around Canberra looking at ‘family fun’ options. The first stop was the Australian Institute of sport where we were able to access parts of the AIS that aren’t on the ‘normal’ tour. That was quite interesting. We were told that a particular swimming pool as a high tech as they come.
Hi tech pool at the Australian Institute of Sport
The delightful Tom Edgar with one of our ‘humans’ Jemma, who is a good sport too!
I was internally scoffing because really, how high tech can a pool be? Turns out it can be very high tech. Oops! In addition to all sorts of interesting things around how the water is filtered (using diatomaceous earth), and the length of the pool can be adjusted, it is also fitted with underground cameras and cameras that run on tracks along the bottom of the pool, which mean that 3D images can be created of the swimmers so that they and their coaches can study their stroke, etc, to see what can be improved. Pretty fascinating! We also got to watch the Commonwealth games gymnasts training, see fencing, basketball, and to hang out with a very cool, and very tall, olympic volley ball player, Tom Edgar. And the icing on the cake? They gave us water bottles full of water!!
The miniature figure on the toilet with a newspaper!
The rest of the day was not quite as exciting as we re-visited Cockington Green and the Dinosaur Museum. However it was good to see things in daylight and to be able to look without children to chase – and I did manage to get a better picture of the figure on the toilet that I wrote about, plus Freddy Kruger and Jason from Friday the 13th (I was corrected about my confusion over horror movies!!)
Freddy and Jason duelling it out in the sunlight
We also went to Questacon, the National Science Museum. I have been there many time, but not recently and it was interesting to see new exhibits and to see old favourites. Our guides conducted experiments for us – including spraying our tongues with food colouring so that we could see our taste buds to determine if we were supertasters or not. Mine was strangely close to my hair colour!
Blue tongued Aussie?
There are a few more events to attend, and I am looking forward to them, but am also looking forward to focussing here on my normal posts about life in the nest and sewing!
If you are interested in reading my more detailed posts on my ‘human’ experiences around Canberra, and those of my fellow ‘humans’ then check out the website – Human Brochure.
Although I have plenty more to tell you about and share with you about my human brochure experience (which continues to be quite awesome) it is time to return to regular programming and talk about sewing, or not sewing, family, growing, learning, etc. All the fun stuff that makes being alive interesting!
The last two weeks have been a bit tumultuous in the nest. We tried a change in the boy’s medication and it was less than successful. While we seem to be back on the right path now, it has been a rough road for him, the school, and the family. He has been at home with me most days for the last fortnight, and has needed a lot of support. And that means very little sewing. I have custom orders cut out and ready to go…. but haven’t quite got to the machine. Luckily I am keeping an eye on all my time lines and don’t think any of them will be late……. if all goes to plan! Instead of sewing he and I have built some impressive indoor forts.
The first indoor ‘fort’, including bedroom area. (Lasted one day)
Second indoor fort built with better engineering, having learnt from the first. This one has ‘office spaces’ and has lasted 5 days so far. (Its days are now numbered.)
However, once again, the stress and trauma have provided life lessons and room for growth. I was very stressed, and felt under pressure in dealing with the boy’s father, worrying about my inability to work (and therefore earn income), and not being able to keep up with other commitments. I let it get to me, and felt that the sky was falling. Strangely enough this was not helping the situation at all. (Yes you can imagine me rolling my eyes at my self at this point.) Unfortunately I let the eldest chick (the one who carries all our worries on her shoulders despite my best efforts) see my stress, and become a part of it. It has weighed heavily on her when I have calmed down and moved on. Big lesson there about not catastrophizing, and keeping some perspective!
I also sat down with the boy and talked to him about how he and I needed to work together to help each other to find a way through these problems. It gave him and I a new perspective, and we have spent the last two days celebrating the good in each other, and helping each other to deal with things going wrong. He has been coaching me in kicking a football (so supportive and encouraging with his non-sporty mother) and I have been helping him with strategies to stay calm when he feels frustrated. Between the two of us we have had some good days. The house is chaotic, I have done no work, and I am behind in all sorts of things, but my stress levels are much lower, and he is much happier. Big reminders for me about focussing on the important stuff, and letting go of the small stuff.
Through all of this there have been some wonderful moments. I had a meeting with one of the owners of Handmade Canberra (you know – the place where I sell my bags and bibs, the people who organise the markets that I attend, and the place I rave about) and have agreed to do some work for them. A bit of admin work, background stuff, and advertising pieces. All ‘stuff’ that I enjoy, and a nice little piece of steady work to help balance the books with the bank! I am very excited about the possibilities that this work will bring, and working with these lovely ladies, so am doing little happy dances up and down on the inside! Plus it still leaves me time to sew, to grow my business and have flexibility to be with my family when they need me.
I was also fortunate enough to accompany the eldest chick on her interview to attend the high school that we have chosen for her. She spoke with poise, grace, intelligence and a nice level of humour. The principal who was interviewing her was warm, intelligent and caring. I am hopeful that our application will be successful as I think this school will be very good for her.
The artist in residence has attended her first school camp this week and returned dishevelled, tired and very happy with her adventures!
I also made it to one human brochure experience at a new boutique brewery that I will write about in more detail soon, but which was a delightful experience (and this from someone who doesn’t really drink beer).
Two beers and one apple cider as part of our taste testing and experience at Bentspoke Brewery – more to come on this!
Spherical sculpture outside the National Gallery of Australia
Then tonight I was able to have a last minute RSVP to an amazing experience at the National Gallery of Australia in an outdoor installation called ‘Within Without’ by James Turrell. We had a talk from the curator, with background on the artist, the installation, etc, then were able to watch dusk through the skyscape.
The top of the entrance to the Within Without installation. You enter a stoop, then the skyscape chamber. Beautiful!
Walking into the installation “Within Without” at the National Gallery of Australia.
The gardens and ponds surrounding the Within Without installation are beautiful pieces of art in their own right. With ducks.
I am going to do more research on this installation and then write more about it, as this will rate as one of the best visual experiences I have had in my life. Photos don’t do the experience justice – it is something that you need to see for yourself. It was calm, peaceful and moving. Just what I needed to help recentre myself.
While this week has been less than fun on many levels, it has also shown me that my decision to forgo a big salary and ambitious career, and to instead be self employed and not very wealthy, but to have the flexibility to have time with my family, to support them, and to make a new path for us was the right one. Now if I can just manage some sewing……..
Warning – Images that I have included in my photographs include images of Indigenous Australians now deceased
You may find a bit of a theme appearing in my posts about the Discovery Events I have attended as part of the Human Brochure. Me thinking that something I was about to attend might be a little ho-hum, naff or dry, and then being more than pleasantly surprised and quite blown away by how awesome it has been in reality. It does mean that I have been gushing a bit about my experiences to anyone who will listen. It also means that I probably need to raise my expectations a bit! The next event definitely falls into the category of me gushing about it afterwards.
The National Archives of Australia (NAA) occupies an old building in the Parliamentary Triangle (as the precinct is known), along with various concrete bunker type buildings in the various light industrial areas of town. My main experience with the National Archives has been applying the archiving rules to my work as an employee of the government, so that my files are saved, destroyed or a combination of both, in accordance with the rules set down for such things. In the back of my mind I guess that I had thought that the NAA was in charge of all those files and bits of paper, and that it involved lots of dry and dusty paper piles. Of course, as usual (it appears) I was wrong! (Seriously, how much humble pie can one blogger eat in a series of posts?!) What hadn’t occurred to me is that government records are more than just paper files produced by public servants. Government employees have taken photos and videos, items have been owned by the government that form part of the records, and our country’s history, from the very beginning, is held in government records.
Talk about a light bulb moment! This means that the exhibitions at the NAA are rich, diverse, and unique. To have a private tour of two of the three current exhibitions was a very special privilege for me. I think that all of us who attended were touched in different ways by the exhibits that we saw, but my reactions were definitely based on my own personal experiences.
We could choose two exhibitions to see during our visit. I decided that I didn’t need to see the exhibition on researching my family, given that I am the immigrant in my family (which I may have told people a few too many times on the night!). Instead the first exhibition I saw was the permanent exhibition, Memory of a Nation, with the extremely wonderful privilege of also being able to visit the Federation Gallery.
In the Memory of a Nation exhibition I saw video taken by ASIO of the Communist Party, a whale tooth, the briefcase carried by Harold Holt, (an Australian Prime Minister who disappeared while swimming in the ocean and was never found) and the contents of the briefcase. The original Larrakia treaty is on display, as are the travel documents required for non-white Australians to travel.
The good, the bad and the ugly of our past is on display. The application of the White Australia Policy, the way we as a nation treated the indigenous owners and inhabitants of this country, our involvement in war, the development of political parties, and government photos of people with no names, dates, or locations recorded. I need to go back and spend more time looking at the displays in more detail. Each new case I looked in had me shaking my head in wonder. I want to take my children there to show them the history of the country they live in, to see the full story.
One of the interesting aspects of this exhibition is that there is a wall full of black and white images, called ‘Faces of Australia’. These are all images taken by government photographers, mainly in the 1950’s and 1960’s to show Australia as a prospering nation. Members of the public are invited to examine the images and identify themselves, family members, locations etc. We heard a few stories of people who had done that and once again, the personal entering the story made it easy to connect with the items on display.
For me, with no real history in Australia other than my own, the section of the display that really captured my attention was the bit that I could relate to personally the most. There is a section devoted to the justice system. It includes photos of the members of the High Court, a wig worn by one of the judges, and various other documents and images. I was able to share with my group that wigs are still worn, and that when I first started out as a lawyer in the 1990’s there were Supreme Court and District Court judges in Sydney who would refuse to allow a female solicitor or barrister to appear before them while wearing trousers. A couple of women I was speaking to were quite shocked by this and it reminded me just how far we have come in some regards in a relatively short time.
The highlight of this exhibition, though, was being able to enter the Federation Gallery and examine the documents that are housed there. These are the documents that establish Australia as a colony, and as a nation. They have Queen Victoria’s signature on them, and bear her seal. I had never previously contemplated that bearing a seal might be more than a stamp on a piece of paper. These seals are large medallions made of silver, with the rope coloured and woven symbolically that attach the medallions to the paper. They really do ‘bear’ the seal – if it was all held up the weight of the seal would rip the paper I suspect! For the purposes of conservation photography of these documents is not allowed, but the NAA staff had very kindly arranged for a facsimile of the main document to be available for us to photograph. (just in case you thought I was being very disrespectful!)
Curator Amy Lay
After that wonderful experience we moved on to the second exhibition of the evening. I had chosen to visit the exhibition called “A Place to call Home”, and we were very fortunate to have the curator of the exhibition, Amy Lay, to talk to us about how the exhibition came to be. This collection tells the story, through photographs, of the migrant hostels in Australia from the 1940’s through to the 1980’s. The images were all taken by Immigration Department photographers during that time, and again, most did not have the details of the locations, people, or dates recorded. Given that this was the time that my father’s family migrated from Europe to New Zealand, the images certainly struck a cord with me. Amy explained that many had been taken as a form of propaganda, to show the Australian public that the migrants were ‘just like them’, and to encourage acceptance of them. Many of the migrants were displaced people following the wars in Europe. Many of us commented on the differences with how the current arrivals of displaced peoples are treated, and how the expectations of the Australian public are managed. (For the record, my personal opinion is that our government policies (from this and the previous government) that address the treatment of people claiming refugee status are inhumane kneejerk reactions to a problem that is nowhere near as dire as the media would have us believe. But that is just me.)
There is a larger exhibition planned for later in the year that will include items from the migrants and the hostels in addition to the photographs. I will be visiting that exhibition too. Migrants are an important part of this country’s history, and how we treated them in the past, and treat them now reflect on our society in important ways.
Do you get the feeling that this event roused all sorts of memories and emotions in me?! It really did. I can’t believe that prior to this the closest I had come to the building was to use the carpark if I had a meeting at the Attorney General’s Department or Prime Minister and Cabinet, and had forgotten to book a car-spot! So much richness sitting just metres away!
What I didn’t see, and what I want to go back to examine a bit more, are the collections of items that were previously banned in Australia under censorship etc. Now that should make for some interesting tales!
One of the things that I didn’t expect with this whole ‘being a human’ thing was getting to meet and hang out with all the other ‘humans’, and being introduced to people who are experts in their social media fields in order to learn from them. (Okay, so I really didn’t think any of this through at all did I??)
The highlight of the experience for me so far has been meeting the other humans who are part of the Human Brochure. It is because of their company and contributions that I have been able to enjoy the Discovery Events so much. We are an eclectic bunch, and bring different strengths and levels of engagement to the event. Which means that it is fun getting to know other people, but also means that I am now viewing everyday life around me in a very different way. There are some extremely talented and dedicated photographers in the group. As a result I look at the spectacular sunset out my back window each day and know that it will be captured, and captured beautifully, by at least 3 or 4 of my fellow humans. Following them on Instagram is a delight! People with a passion sharing their passion in beautiful images is a wonderful way to spend some time each day!
A brochure of humans reflected in a sculpture at the National Gallery of Australia Sculpture Garden
I am sure to leave someone out if I try to recommend photographers to follow from the group, so instead will recommend that you look at the feed on the website to see the daily amazing images these people post!
Humans collaborating on an Instawalk with Lauren Bath
There are amazing food bloggers, elite athletes, mummy bloggers, people who can manage to be using social media for instant responses while still holding down their day jobs, Uni students, fashionistas, and the list goes on. Some have a massive social media following, while others are smaller and more ‘niche’. What we all have in common is that we use social media, and we love living in Canberra!
Some human profiles!
The organisers of the Human Brochure arranged two different sessions for we 101 to spend time with experts in the field of social media. The first session was held with two travel writers, Kerry Heaney and Christine Pfieffer.
It was interesting hearing their advice on using social media from the travel perspective. Some of it doesn’t translate well to those using social media for business etc, and some of their experiences were quite different from mine, but it was certainly a privilege to hear their perspectives. Kerry is a food and travel writer, while Christina specialises in travel video blogs. Her list of photographic equipment certainly had a few members of the audience getting animated!
Floating head installation at the National Gallery of Australia Sculpture Gardens
The second was an Instawalk with Australia’s top Instagrammer, Lauren Bath. I didn’t really know what to expect of an Instawalk, but soon realised that whether I learnt anything about using Instagram more effectively or not, it was a great way to meet more of the ‘humans’. We had a rainy grey morning, but with the Sculpture Gardens of the National Gallery close at hand, the conditions made for some awesome pictures! And we did get to pick Lauren’s brain about the most effective ways to use Instagram to promote Canberra (our aim in the brochure) and generally.
Industrial remnants (my interpretation) installed at the National Gallery of Australia Sculpture Gardens
The interesting aspect of all of this, however, is that many of the ‘humans’ are in fact experts already, so learning from them has been of benefit to all of us. The photographers have been sharing their tips, lenses and shoots with each other – professional and non-professional, and many a discussion has been had over twitter vs Instagram, how to manage a number of platforms, and various other aspects of social media. Which means that the learning isn’t confined to the two workshops – it is ongoing and collaborative, and really quite inspiring! I know that I am going to walk away from this experience with a whole lot more than just a deeper knowledge of the town that I live in. New friendships and new skills are the absolute icing on the cake!
Sculptural plants and curved concrete in an installation at the National Gallery of Australia Sculpture Gardens
The reality of being a parent meant that I haven’t been able to attend all of the Discovery Events provided by our local tourism industry as part of the Human Brochure experience. I had been very keen to attend the event at the National Portrait Gallery, but had to enjoy it through the photos, posts and tweets from other ‘humans’ who attended. I also missed a night tour of the National Botanic Gardens – but did discover that such things exist, and am keeping that outing up my sleeve for one weekend with the children as something a bit different to do!
The next event that I was able to attend was one where I was allowed to take the children. The boy has been quite on edge recently so I was very unsure how a public outing would go, but was very pleasantly surprised. The outing was a night time tour of Cockington Green, a miniature world based on one with the same name in England, and of the National Dinosaur Museum. This is where I have to confess that I had not visited either of these places during either of my periods of living in Canberra, and that I thought they would be a bit ‘naff’ I was happy to attend as a treat for the children but was not really expecting very much from them. I am happy to report that I was wrong! Very wrong! (And look – my admission of ‘wrongness’ is even in writing as proof that it does happen sometimes!)
Our group started at Cockington Green, and after two of the younger and single ‘humans’ decided that they needed to adopt a child for the night, in order to fit in, my boy was renamed ‘Jamiroquai’ and ‘adopted’ by them for the night. Against all my predictions he behaved beautifully for them! (of course!) I have since had a conversation relayed to me where he said “Excuse me adopted-mother, I need to have a conversation with you.” On reflection, giving him two adults who were just interested in him was the perfect ploy to guarantee no stress! If only I could magic them into other scenarios on a regular basis!
The detail on the miniature exhibits was impressive, as were the humorous additions such as an outhouse with an open door showing someone reading the paper on the toilet, and two figures who, on closer inspection, turned out to be Freddy Kruger and the Chainsaw Massacre-ist (or whatever you call the main character of the horror movie!)
Nightmare on Elm Street meets a Chainsaw Massacre? Lucky they are in miniature!
We also had a train ride around which gave us a different perspective, but to be honest the highlight for all of us was having the chance to speak to the model makers themselves. The time, attention to detail, and ingenuity they show is amazing and hearing their stories about how different pieces came to be was very interesting. Again, the privilege of being able to have the ‘inside story’ and the personal touches that it brings really made the experience very rich. The whole site is a family business, started after a trip to a miniature village in Cornwall, and the owner/guide for the evening was telling us that he had just returned from his first trip back to that site in the week before our visit. He had been a child with his parents for the first trip, and this trip was about 40 years later, so he had been fascinated to see what they had translated into the Canberra version, and the differences that had developed along the way. Of course the kids were most impressed by being allowed to have a free icecream at the end of that tour!
Motorbikes parked outside the pub in a tiny town!
We then walked across the road, crossing paths and swapping places with the other 50-odd ‘humans’ and ‘children of humans’ who had started at the National Dinosaur Museum. I had met the curator, Phil, at the Human Brochure launch event, so knew that he was personable and had worked at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, but really didn’t know what to expect. It had been billed as a ‘torch light tour’ so my kids were thinking ‘Night at the Museum’ and that was in fact one of the first questions Phil was asked. He responded by saying that the animals wouldn’t come alive, but that he would bring them alive with his stories. He wasn’t lying. His knowledge, delivery, humour and timing held the whole audience enthralled.
A whole group of enthralled mini-humans learning about dinosaurs
Phil asking the question – When is a mammoth not a mammoth?
They even have movie cells from ‘A Land Before Time’ on loan and display!
The eldest chick had tried to get out of attending the evening, thinking she was too old (at eleven) for such things. She loved it! There was enough interesting scientific information to get her attention, and enough humour to capture her imagination.
The artist-in-residence also enjoyed it, and loved working out puzzles and finding that her answers were correct. She has been studying geological formations at school so was fascinated with the fossils in particular.
More amazing fossils
Prehistoric lobster perhaps?
As for the boy? He was in his element! He found another child equally as interested, and they declared themselves the ‘experts’. It was really a very fascinating night out, and a place that I will be taking the chicks to visit again. The range of exhibits was amazing – fossils, bones, dinosaurs that come alive on sensors (and give middle-aged blue haired bloggers a fright) and objects that can be touched and interacted with.
Four rows of teeth on the jaw of the Megladon (aka a very big shark!)
The next ‘discovery’ event that I attended was another where the children could also attend. This time it was the Royal Australian Mint, where all the coins in Australia, and quite a few around the Pacific, are made. Although the staff here put on a wonderful evening, this one did not go quite as smoothly for us. The boy was hyped up and wanting to amuse and entertain everyone and was escalating all evening to the point that I thought we were about to see one of his melt-downs. Luckily (?!?!?) the eldest chick fell ill and we had to leave in a hurry.
Watching the dancing robot Titan, and the busy robot Penny hard at work
Before we left we did get to see the robots on the factory floor (a huge highlight), hear ghostly tales from the CEO, and hear of forgeries and the history of currency in Australia. We also were able to press our own $1 coin as a souvenir which was a great way to end the tour. I think I would like to go back without a hyped up child, and without a crowd, and just wander slowly through and take in all the exhibits, as there were some really interesting things to see, if you weren’t trying to head off a child who was asking whether the robots could become weapons in the hands of psycho killers, telling the CEO how to deal with his employees (suggestions that included machine guns and money) and hugging the story teller who was meant to be a statue.
Spooky tales of forgery at the Royal Australian Mint
In between trying to calmly control the boy I did learn some interesting things. I had always assumed that the Mint produced our bank notes as well as our coins. Turns out that I am wrong (again!!). Not only are the notes produced by a different agency altogether, the responsibility for producing notes and the responsibility for producing coins are managed by two separate branches of government – one through the Reserve Bank and one through the Department of Treasury. Another of those great bureaucratic anomalies that has historic significance, but perhaps not a great deal of economic efficiency in this day and age?! It was also interesting to hear that the Mint has to produce a certain number (that my brain has already lost unfortunately) of coins each year in order to maintain the number in circulation. I think it was around 300,000 a year that disappear – down the backs of couches, in the bottom of bags, etc. That is quite a lot of money when you think about it that way!
The highlight was definitely the robots – so I am going back for a visit, even if it is just to see them again!
I wrote a couple of weeks ago about the kick-off event for the Human Brochure, and how everyone was worried about meeting each other, what to wear, etc. And I haven’t really written much since. Partly because I was flat out preparing for the markets, and managing family issues, but partly because at some point we will have a separate blog for our ‘brochure’ blogs. But if I leave it much longer, as usual, all my words of wisdom and wit will have dissipated. (And probably have a bit already!) However if I write about it all in one post it will be pages long as our experiences have really been quite wonderful – and varied – so I am going to write a series! (Wahoo – so professional!)
The launch was really quite wonderful. It was held at the Nishi Gallery, in the New Acton precinct of Canberra. This is an area that has been developed/re-developed over the last few years and it really is quite different from any other part of Canberra, and is very special. I haven’t spent a lot of time there of late. When I first found myself single again, a few friends and I would meet at the very lovely Parlour Wine Room. It was one of those places where I didn’t feel daggy and old, even when surrounded by pretty young things, and where the wine, food and atmosphere was sophisticated but fun. In short I loved it. Then there was a terrible fire and the bar was badly damaged. It reopened recently but I haven’t made it back since then. And of course in the intervening period I have had major life changes which have meant that I have really become quite hermit like. It is ironic really. At a time when I am growing into my own skin and feeling more comfortable about where I am in life, I have also been battling a feeling of not fitting in socially anymore. So the opening event was an interesting challenge for me on several levels. Would I feel out of place, would I hate socialising again, and would I wonder what on earth I had signed up for.
The answer to all of that is ‘no’. The other ‘humans’ selected to take part in this adventure are lovely, warm, and open. The opening event, held against a backdrop of an exhibition “Straight Face” by the artist Luke Chiswell, was wonderful. A great atmosphere, beautiful food, interesting talks, and a chance to meet and chat with some of the other 101. While all the photographers were whipping out their cameras and phones were taking selfies left right and centre, my phone stayed in my bag all night, and I was okay with that (until I came to write this post and realised that I had no images to attach to it!). My words are my strength and I didn’t want to be missing any of the action by fumbling around trying to take a picture that wouldn’t work as well as the many others that were being taken. (well – that is my justification now – but don’t worry – I learnt my lesson and have pictures for the other events I have attended!)
We had a welcome speech by the head of ACT Tourism which made me realise that this whole adventure is really quite big. Unique. Pretty awesome. And I get to be part of it! I truly hadn’t appreciated the depth of time, effort, planning and industry involvement that was going into this until that night. Here I was thinking about whether they thought I was doing an okay job using social media to talk about where I live. What I hadn’t appreciated was that Industry would be working so hard to make sure that I had amazing things to write about. The launch event really showed the high calibre of organisation – and of expectations – involved. Very humbling to be included once I understood a bit of that side of things!
After the event was over we were invited to go to the bar at Hotel Hotel, just next door, where the bar staff had created a cocktail in our honour. Called ‘Fog at Hive No 6’, it involved honey collected from the Hotel’s beehives near the lake (hive number 6 of course) and pashmak to represent the fog on the lake. I declined a taste (which I still regret) as I was driving and needed to get home to respond to multiple missed calls from the chicks who were ringing to complain about various things happening at their father’s house (!!) Hotel Hotel is an amazing building and experience. I am going to take up their offer of a tour and write more about it because I am a little bit in love with it, so take this as a place marker!
After that, there has been no more discussion about what people are going to wear to any function! We been provided with two sessions/workshops on using social media, and we have attended Discovery Events. These are events designed by our local tourism industry to showcase what they have to offer. We were able to RSVP to as many or as few as we liked. I wanted to attend them all! Reality, and children, and life meant that I had to pick and choose, and have had to cancel a couple that I thought I could attend, in order to address reality, children and life. But the events that I have made it to so far have been amazing. Stand by for the next instalment in my ‘series’, which I promise will include photos!!
If you would like to see amazing photos I recommend searching #humanbrochure on Instagram or Twitter, or looking at the website Human Brochure as there are some very, very, very talented photographers in our group and their images are just beautiful.