Tag Archives: visit canberra

The benefits of social media

Instameet |a little bird made meLate last week I received an invitation to attend an Instameet.  ‘A what?’ I hear you say.  An Instameet is when users of Instagram gather to take photos of a location, or a scene and then share them on social media.  Sometimes it is for fun, sometimes it is to promote an issue, place or occasion.   This particular Instameet was a sneak peek at the preparations for the opening night of Le Noir, the Dark Side of Cirque. It opened at the Canberra Theatre Centre last night, so our invite was for the night before, where we saw the cirque performers doing their tech run, watched a couple of strong men perform some of their act for us, and got the lay of the land.

Le Noir |a little bird made me

Jeronimo and Jessica, two of the stars, whirling around really fast on roller skates on a table top sized platform, during the ‘tech run’.

Tech run|a little bird made me

The tech run stage set up – and yes she is hanging by her feet as he twirls her around very fast on rollerskates.

Valeri and Yani, the strong men, showing us just how strong they are.

Valeri and Yani, the strong men, showing us just how strong they are.   

Yep – this is the upside to using social media. You have doors open that would never have been thought of before!  And you get to share amazing experiences with people all over the world.  (I am still a little mind-blown about how this all happens,to be honest, but am happy to keep seeing where the ride takes me!)  Of course, I take all these photos using my phone.  Some turn out well, while others just give you a ‘general impression’. (Which means fuzzy, out of focus but ‘hey I was there’ sort of shots!)

To say that it was an amazing experience is a little trite.  But the best was to follow, as we were also given tickets to the opening night show – which was a sell out.

The atmosphere was electric before the show started.

The atmosphere was electric before the show started.

It was a truly entertaining spectacular.  The costumes, the comedic timing of the clown/MC, the hair raising stunts they performed, and the breath taking moments when you thought that maybe, just maybe, something would go wrong!  It was sexy and sultry,and fast and loud, and everything in between! I didn’t dare take photos with my phone during the show , but luckily a friend of mine attended the media call and allowed me to share his shots with you.  See – this is the difference between a camera shot by a great photographer, and a shot with a phone!  (The photographer is Vishal Panday, who you will find on Facebook and Instagram as Wanderlust73.  I highly recommend checking out his work – he is amazing!)

11174699_738215429624667_1487939938612510674_o 11159883_738215792957964_6167385320952702210_o wanderlust73 | a little bird made me

It appears that we are the end of the Australian tour, but there are shows on here in Canberra until Sunday, and I suspect they will perform in other countries,so if you get a chance to see them I highly recommend it.

The interesting thing was that although we were invited to the very small, intimate after party where the stars of the show joined us for a drink and a chat I was too nervous/shy/not-wanting-to-be-a-groupie to go up and talk to them! Talk about a missed opportunity!  Next time – boldness is the order of the day!

In the meantime, life returns to normal for the day.  Sewing, teaching a workshop at my son’s school on making freezer paper stencils, and buying new feed containers for the chickens. Mundane after the highs of last night, but necessary!!

Film stars

This morning, for something completely different, the chicks and I took part in filming a promotion for Canberra that focussed on the Shop Handmade. Normally for such a big deal I would stress about what to wear, my hair, makeup etc. what the chicks were wearing, how their hair was, etc…. However this morning was so cold I abandoned all fashion selections and went for warmth instead, in my own slightly different style. (Seriously, when you have turquoise coloured hair you don’t look traditionally fashionable anyway).

My eldest chick decided, quite adamantly, that she didn’t want to participate, but the younger two loved it! I heard the middle chick telling the director that she just wanted to ‘be a star’. The joy of being 10 years old and confident! Even better my boy, my beautiful boy who faces so many challenges, held it together and had fun all morning.




As it turns out, the success of the morning had to be paid for. Tonight involved meltdowns of the proportion we haven’t seen for a while. A reminder that I can never take the good stuff for granted. I had started to get complacent and plan social activities for us as a family. One of those lessons that I, apparently, need to learn again.

However it did confirm something else I had already worked out. Having my parents living ‘next door’ meant that the girls could go there for respite while I handled the drama. And we ended the night calmly. Which meant I sat on the couch and finally watched the movie ‘Pitch Perfect ‘. (A friend had threatened to de-friend me if I didn’t watch it!! And we have tickets to a preview of the sequel as a fundraiser for breast cancer research, so I gave in to the emotional blackmail.) As someone who normally doesn’t sit and watch TV, it was just the break I needed! Even better, the copy I have includes the singalong lyrics! Danger, danger!!



Tomorrow is a new day.  The weather forecast is still dire, but the school holidays mean that we will find friends to keep everyone busy, and I will try to remind everyone to be kind – including to themselves. (And will do my best to apply that advice to myself!)


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!

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 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!

These giant snails next to a floral wall spelling out Floriade are beautifully colourful!

Tulips, tulips, everywhere!

Tulips, tulips, everywhere!

The theme of Floriade 2014 is Passion.  This is the automotive garden reflecting the passion people have for their cars!

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!

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, 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!

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.

More human brochuring!

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 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

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

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!

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 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

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?

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.

Being a brochure – Part 5 – National Treasures

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.

Larrakia Treaty

Larrakia Treaty

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.

01071b43cb4995f14f459bf72ce240aea5f536e6e1One 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.










01dd156ee6f4f7279bc5eff7cb5dbaaeae95fb6b0e01f5f7345d655b4ad6f284f42a258aaf226fc29807For 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, 0110cc65ef4646241f8708ba035cd9dcbb3a9a446dand bear her seal. 01a7b2cc481c7f6839b74e0bccb47912b8f8581da7 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”, 0120404c3130bb7c443064973c008a4ed6cc3587e4and 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.  01f3bc3c99d4ce183023bc54b0830e1a97cf57de57Many 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.)01ab0f20cf7f9dbb8dd5ae7ecd7ce4615eb1ff1cce

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!



Being a brochure – Part 4 – getting social

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

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

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!

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. 01951d571adf3051d665e71771bc08d752870dfae2


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

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 installed at the National Gallery of Australia Sculpture Gardens

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

Sculptural plants and curved concrete in an installation at the National Gallery of Australia Sculpture Gardens

Being a brochure – Part 3 – taking the kids along for the ride

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!

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!

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

A whole group of enthralled mini-humans learning about dinosaurs

Phil asking the question - When is a mammoth not a mammoth?

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!

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.

Fossils galore!

Fossils galore!

01dcdbd373a34e402014b133133f0be9e166dc2f87The 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

More amazing fossils


Prehistoric lobster perhaps?

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!)

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

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

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!