Thursday, December 22, 2016

Christmas karma

Christmas must be do I know?  Because for the first time in over eight years of living here, a Christmas beetle came to visit us yesterday.  We found him on our front porch keeled over on his back trying to right himself.  We turned him over and marvelled at his beautiful metallic green colour before taking turns holding him in the sunlight when he suddenly took off into the blue horizon - go little beetle!  I hope it's a sign of good things to come - apparently beetles symbolise karma, spirituality and creativity.
Our Christmas beetle who came to visit (above)
I feel like I've been waiting a long time for Christmas this year as much as I have been busy right until the very end.  I have friends and family who are working until Christmas Eve and if this is you, then I am feeling for you.  I hope you've managed to buy all your presents and get yourself organised for the big day.

If you've had a good year, then it's time to feel very grateful and blessed for the opportunities that have come your way and all that you have.  If you are in good health, have a roof over your head, enough money to pay your bills and put food on the table and enjoy the love of your friends and family - then you are very lucky indeed.  My thoughts this year are with those in my circle who have lost members of their family, those who've battled life-threatening illness and one poor unfortunate friend who has had multiple woes on a number of different fronts - I think this has been her annus horribilis in the words of the queen.
As for me, I'm going to have a little break to rest, re-charge and re-set for what is looking like a very big year in 2017.  If you're into numerology at all, it's a number one year which marks the beginning of a whole new nine year cycle, which I like the sound of.  I wanted to thank everyone who reads this little blog of mine - readership is currently at an all time high as I've cracked the 10,000 page views mark.  While for me it's never been about how many people read Miss Rosanna but more about the quality of people who read this blog, it's been reassuring to know there are lots of thinking people out there - I hope you've found this helpful (and entertaining!).

I would also like to thank my sponsor this year, the lovely Nikki Ellis from Cinch PT who has recently celebrated her birthday.  Mr Rosanna and I have unfortunately fallen off the exercise bandwagon so will be back in her studio in the new year, if not before.  I will also be back in the new year with a brand new look.  After six years, I thought it was time!  I believe that's a wrap for this year people - have a wonderful Christmas!

Monday, December 19, 2016

In a galaxy far, far away...

Mr Rosanna and I took the kids to see Rogue One: A Star Wars Story on the big screen in 3D at IMAX Melbourne on the weekend and it was Awesome with a capital A!  While The Force Awakens was more a tribute to the past, this prequel story to the original Star Wars (A New Hope) was an entirely different thing incorporating another female lead, a truly international cast including our very own Ben Mendelsohn as one of the baddies, a very funny Droid as well as amazing CGI effects to join all the dots.  We loved it and may see it again at the movies while it's still on - something we've never done before.  If you're sci fi geeks like us, then you'll be in movie heaven.  If you do see it at IMAX, book discounted car parking online before you go in.
The other thing Mr R and I got up to over the weekend was last minute Christmas shopping and grocery buying at Leo's in Heidelberg.  We parked in Burgundy Street and grabbed coffees at Rocket cafe before going in to do a very big shop.  I noticed too that there's a new (old) cafe The Alleyway Heidelberg about to open - it's the old Green Orange cafe in between the Italian tailors and Cafe Matto (before the alleyway to the car park) which suffered fire damage a few months ago and is currently being renovated.
Leo's is more expensive than the other local supermarkets - I daresay because it has more gourmet and premium food offerings than our locals including beautifully packaged imported foods from far away places.  I got sucked into buying this Dutch apple spread (below) just for the container, which reminded me of Christmas - have I ever eaten Dutch apple spread?  No - but I made some of my fellow customers laugh in the aisle as I weighed it all up.  And in case you're wondering, it's actually a sandwich spread which tastes a bit like golden syrup but with a denser consistency.  Still, what about that packaging - hey?

Friday, December 16, 2016

Life is a circus

I'm slowly dragging myself to the finish line for this year and it's not over yet...I'm feeling pretty foggy today after a number of Christmas celebrations this week including dinner out last night at Red Spice Road (McKillop Street not QV) with a couple of my ex-Telstra work colleagues.  I'd been told to have the pork belly which was delicious and we also tried the prawn with coriander and lime starter along with bigger shared dishes that included the ocean trout and mixed greens finished off by sharing a mille feuille with banana and chocolate.  Needless to say, I staggered out close to midnight feeling pretty full.  It was loud and crowded when we got there around 7.30pm - I did love the David Bromley artwork and the retro soundtrack playing that included Simple Minds and Blondie.
I've had a much quieter day today including a visit to my hairdresser in East Kew.  It's a lovely little pocket if you're ever in the area and today I popped my head in to the relatively new homewares shop on the corner called Flatiron Melbourne.  I loved the Art Deco building that it's housed in and there were some lovely clothes and homewares for sale.
Image via Craft Victoria
There are a couple of other interesting markets on this weekend if you're still on the hunt for presents including the Take It Easy Christmas Market in Brunswick and the Craft Victoria Christmas market at 1000 Pound Bend.
Image via Santa's Break Down Under Facebook page
Meanwhile for something different my friend Matt Hills from Urban Cirque is involved with Santa's Break Down Under open air family circus show complete with food trucks at Coburg Velodrome, which starts tonight if you're a local.  There's not long to go and I hope you are getting there as well...
Image via Santa's Break Down Under

Monday, December 12, 2016

Divide and conquer

Mr Rosanna and I actually went Christmas shopping together today - the first time in many years and I know couples who get their kids minded while they do the same together as a unit.  While online shopping can be a real boon especially for those who are time-poor, house bound or live in remote areas - I do prefer shopping in the real world when I have the time.  And while I'm not a big fan of shopping malls in comparison to markets - they do have their advantages and we're lucky to have a choice of Westfield Doncaster, Northland and Eastland if you live anywhere near here.  My hairdresser Vicky used to prefer Eastland before it was renovated as it was relatively quiet however I'm tipping it would be just as busy as the others now!
Speaking of online stores, the amazing blogger and fashionista Estelle Michaelides (above) has launched a new retail venture - the You are your style website and it has some fabulous things from local designers.  You can take the girl out of fashion but you can't take fashion away from the girl!  I hope she gets lots of people dropping by and I'm already in love with a few key pieces like the Imperial Kimono jacket and Mandala bags.
Image via Eltham Twilight Market Facebook page
Christmas is almost upon us - the Eltham Twilight Market is on this Thursday night while the Ivanhoe Makers Market is on this Saturday and the Heide Makers Market on Sunday.  The 2016 Carols by Candlelight Manningham are being held this Friday night while the Warrandyte Community Carols are being held on Saturday.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Are we there yet?

Almost but not quite...while I'm still having to concentrate on work, my body has started winding down and I don't know about you, but I've started to feel pretty weary.  Sickness in our household (thankfully not me this time) has curtailed some of our social activities but I'm actually glad as it's been quite liberating to delete things from our calendar at this time of year!
Image via Tarrawarra Museum of Art
Having said that there are some really lovely things on at the moment.  The Wizard of Oz at the Heidelberg Theatre Company starts today and I think it would be a great show for kids.  The Tarrawarra Museum of Art in Healesville is also holding its Open Weekend with free entry if you're interested in heading out there while closer to home Carols by Candlelight is being held tomorrow night at Ivanhoe Park.  I hope the weather holds given our school carols night was cancelled this week.
Image via Small Axe Kitchen
Besides work, I managed to catch up with my ex-client Pat Mackle from Avant Card earlier this week and we had a fantastic brunch at Small Axe Kitchen in Brunswick sitting outside sharing a couple of sardine and eggplant dishes which were delicious!
Image via Lonely Planet
I really should be finishing my Christmas shopping but have needed to get myself organised on the home front as well as just relax on the back of being quite tired.  Gift vouchers for experiences are always a great idea as well as some of the more arty gifts you can buy at the Heide Store, Montsalvat and Bundoora Homestead Art Centre.  Bulleen Art and Garden are selling living Christmas trees which are a wonderful idea and also have a Christmas exhibition currently showing in their Bolin Bolin Gallery.  Lonely Planet also do some great kids travel books if you are hitting the road, seas or skies this Christmas.
Watermelon bow tie by OTAA
I'm working at the moment with a very stylish colleague Pio and he's given me a number of tips for the men in my life including a number of online men's accessories and bicycle brands including OTAA, Happy Socks and 4SHAW.  As well as this, we've also been buying business gifts from The Daily Edited.  I hope you may be more progressed along the path than me this Christmas!  Have a great weekend...not long to go.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

A local story space

I was interviewed a couple of weeks ago by Jenni Mazaraki who I recently profiled on Miss Rosanna and her lovely post on me is now up on her blog - you can read about my local story space here.  It was an interesting experience to be the subject instead of the interviewer - something that I'm not completely comfortable with given I'm often the observer although I hope you can't tell in my story which is both online and available on Soundcloud as an audiocast. My thanks to Jenni once again for featuring me on her blog - look out for her name on the Creative Women's Circle blog, where she's just been appointed as a contributing blogger.
Local Story Space blog
With family birthday celebrations now out of the way, I've turned my mind to finishing my Christmas shopping.  The Ivanhoe Christmas Shopping event is being held on the 8 & 9 December, while the Sisters' Market in Brunswick is being held the 9 & 10 December with Markit@FedSquare on 11 December.
Markit@FedSquare image via Twitter
If you're in the mood for celebrating, the very popular Puesta del Sol (food, drinks & music poolside at sunset) at Montsalvat starts on 8 December while the Boulevard Lights in Ivanhoe start on 10 December - remember to avoid the Burke Road freeway exit while it's on.
Puesta del Sol image via Montsalvat
I'm now starting catch ups with friends and family in the lead up to the big day and I hope you are taking care of yourself at this time of year - it can be the most wonderful time of year if you're in a good place but a more difficult time, if things haven't gone so well or if you're not happy with where you're life is at.  Remember your own power, and part in things, and try not to compare yourself to anyone else.  In the words of Stephanie Dowrick - every day is a new beginning and not just limited to this time of year.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Down by the olive grove

While it's Christmas season for most of you, it's still birthday season for me and today I took Mr Rosanna out to Olivigna in Warrandyte to celebrate his birthday.  It's been there for a while now and a number of friends and family have visited.  It reminded me a little bit of Montalto at Red Hill or La Campagna/Sillitto at Cape Schanck, perhaps not quite in the same league but still with a lovely feel to it, great food and drink and beautiful hillside views onto the olive groves, vegetable garden and neighbouring paddocks full of horses!  There was a private event going on in the front area with beautiful young things all dressed up 1920s style and a car park full of European vehicles so I think it's definitely popular with well-heeled locals and retired types.
Mr R at the front of Olivigna
While the wineries in the Yarra Valley and Mornington Peninsula are beautiful, it's fantastic to have something like Olivigna so close by - I loved the vintage mint green vespa on display inside, the stylishly attired and professional looking staff as well as the copper piping which added to the industrial rustic feel inside.  Mr Rosanna took me back home via some of the more well worn bike paths that the more intrepid cyclists venture on here in the north east.  Banyule means 'hill' but neighbouring Nillumbik is just as hilly - no Beach Road here.
Main courses - tortolloni and ribiena pasta dishes
I'm hoping after this weekend, I will be able to start winding down for Christmas given the decorations that are now ready to be hung and Christmas events starting to happen around the place. The Twilight Market at the Ted Ajani Oval in Templestowe is on tomorrow night while my friend Helen Webster from Raffal is also holding her annual Christmas sale from 3 - 5 pm at the Uniting Church Hall at 19 Seddon Street in Ivanhoe, which will include scarves, stoles and jewellery.
Side view from outdoor terrace
On a more cultural note, the Heidelberg Symphony Orchestra is holding its Concert 4 'Marimba Fever' tomorrow at Ivanhoe Girls Performing Arts Centre while the Preston Symphony Orchestra is holding its December Concert on Sunday at the Preston Town Hall.  Enjoy your weekend!
Dining al fresco - Olivigna

Monday, November 28, 2016

On the hunt

There's another new cafe in Rosanna called Hunter Lane - on the site of the former Byzantine restaurant which closed a little while ago.  I think a cafe's going to do a lot better at that site near Rosanna station and library.  I'm not sure how long the council offices are going to be there given the plans for a supermarket but I think it's timely that a cafe has landed there.  When I first moved to Rosanna over 8 years ago, there were no groovy cafes so I'm glad our sleepy suburb is slowly changing.
Image via Gumtree
A few quick things to mention today if you are on the hunt for Christmas presents, the Lightly Design VIP shopping Night is on tomorrow and I did buy Mr Rosanna a Willow Swallow made from recycled plates as a present last Christmas.  The Kris Kringle Night Markets at Northcote Town Hall also start this week while closer to home, the OLMC Twilight Community Market is on this Friday.
Image via The Big Design Market Melbourne
The Big Design Market is on at the Royal Exhibition Building from 2 - 4 December and some friends of mine go there every year to buy their presents.  Don't forget too that Star Wars Rogue One tickets went on sale today - we've already booked to go to see it at IMAX Melbourne on the big screen.
Image via State Library Victoria
On another note, the On Air: 40 years of RRR exhibition is currently on at the State Library.  It's been curated by my fellow Bundoora Homestead Art Centre Board Member Angela Bailey - I love a bit of community radio at the best of times and still listen to both RRR and PBS.  Have a great week!

Friday, November 25, 2016

Local profile - Valentina Maxwell-Tansley

I've known Valentina a number of years now.  We first met as members of the Banyule Arts and Culture Advisory Committee and now as fellow Board members at Bundoora Homestead Art Centre.  I've also seen Valentina's work in galleries given she wears a number of different hats!  She is one of the most dynamic people I know - someone who isn't afraid to step up and take on a leadership role, which I really admire.  Read on for more about the lovely Valentina...
Valentina Maxwell-Tansley photo by Janina Revill
Name: Valentina Maxwell-Tansley
Occupation: Artist, Designer and Creative Consultant
Lives/works: Thornbury 
How long have you lived/worked here? I first lived in Thornbury when I was a student at La Trobe in the late 1990s. After a stint working in the UK I ended up back in Thornbury and have been here now for 12 years.
Maxwell-Tansley artwork photo by Janina Revill
Describe yourself/what you do:
I started out as a musician and composer, however I was always the person who booked the gigs, designed the flyers and did the publicity. It’s no surprise that I ended up working in performing arts and venue management for over 15 years. During that time I worked on a lot of amazing projects, however after the arrival of my two boys it was time to take a step back.
Parallel photo by Janina Revill
Over the years I have dabbled in many creative pursuits, but it wasn’t until I was on maternity leave that I seriously started thinking about exploring my interest in the visual arts. Over the past few years I’ve been studying and practicing visual arts and design whilst juggling my freelance work as a Creative Consultant. I mainly work with government and creative businesses to develop strategies and business plans. I also sit on a number of arts advisory panels and am honoured to be the Chair of the Bundoora Homestead Arts Centre.  

Over the past year I’ve really immersed myself in printmaking, specifically monoprinting. I love the organised chaos that comes from monoprinting and my technique of using found objects creates really interesting results. I just staged an exhibition of my work at The Goodness Bureau and am already working on a couple of projects for next year.  

Best thing(s) about living/working in Melbourne’s north-east: 
I love the creative vibe of the northern suburbs. Where I live in Thornbury has really evolved over the past ten years, and I really like being able to do my shopping locally and support the local traders. There are so many great eateries opening up all the time, I just can’t keep up! It’s great to see the love returning to high street.

For more information: 

Thursday, November 24, 2016


This is the name of the new garden-inspired quilt exhibition by members of the Victorian Quilters Inc., that opened yesterday at Bundoora Homestead Art Centre with a special Garden Party Exhibition Launch this Saturday afternoon from 2 - 4 pm at the Homestead to celebrate both Regeneration and Verdant Garden.
Above: Susan Matthews Anigozanthos 5 (detail), 2015 Hand dyed cotton, linocut printing,
silk screen, ink, thread | 35 x 35cm Courtesy of the artist
It is an artistic week in that the 2017 Banyule Arts and Culture Program launch is being held tonight at Hatch Contemporary Arts Centre in Ivanhoe while its Alphington Open Studios this weekend along with it being the second weekend of the Nillumbik Artists Open Studios - there's lots going on.
Image via 2017 Banyule Arts & Culture Program Facebook page
If you're interested in starting your Christmas shopping, the first Heide Makers' Market is on this Saturday and I think would be a great market to go to as it's in collaboration with The Rose Street Artists Market.  It's been in the planning for a number of years now so I'm glad it's finally got off the ground.  Other markets on this weekend include the Sisters' Market in Brunswick along with the Guild Christmas Market at the Guild of Objects in North Melbourne.
Image via Heide Makers' Market Facebook page
If you're more interested in some exercise, the Family Bike Rally Day at Warringal Parklands in Heidelberg on Sunday sounds like fun (just watch out for the snakes!) - it includes a free sausage sizzle and there'll also be a coffee van at Possum Hollow.
L-R - MC Francis Leach, Dr Joanna Barbousas, John Marsden, Rosa Storelli & Professor Anthony McGrew
I'm a little weary after having run my final Bold Thinking Series lecture on the Education Revolution last night at the State Library followed by drinks and a bite to eat afterward with my team at Cookie on Swanston Street.  It was a packed event full of passionate and engaged teachers so the lecture itself went very fast and it was a real thrill to meet writer/teacher/school principal John Marsden who is still encouraging students to be subversive!  He stayed right until the very end and had a queue of people wanting him to sign their books and speak to him.
John Marsden and me - State Library Victoria
The lectures will be returning next year in what is going to be a big year at La Trobe which is celebrating its 50th Anniversary so a year of looking back but also a year of looking forward as it cements its reputation as an innovative university that produces career-ready graduates.  I may also be assisting the 50th Anniversary team promoting some of the launch events they have planned for early March so stay tuned.  I'll be back tomorrow with a local profile.

Nb: Miss Rosanna is a Bundoora Homestead Art Centre Board member

Friday, November 18, 2016

By the light of the silvery moon

I'm not sure if you managed to see the full moon and 'supermoon' this week but it sure was spectacular.  It's the last time the moon will appear this close to Earth until 2034!  There is a magic to the moon light and night time has always had its own special appeal for the night owl in me.
Image via Night Noodle Markets Facebook page
Speaking of which, the Night Noodle Markets at Birrarung Marr opened last week and have been very popular with many of my work friends, who've visited not just once but a number of times to the Asian hawker-style markets.  It's a great idea for balmy Spring nights leading up to Summer finally starting next month here in Melbourne.  Also on this weekend is Broadsheet's Food and Design Weekend market behind the Spiegeltent in Collingwood.
Image via The 19th Australian National Northern Soul Weekender Facebook page
The 19th Australian Annual Northern Soul Weekender is being held from tonight at Thornbury Theatre and if I didn't have kids, this would be a fun one to go to.  Mr Rosanna and I have just finished bingeing on Netflix's Marvel Comic hero Luke Cage and loved seeing some of our favourite soul artists performing in the nightclub owned by the baddies.
Image via Artist Open Studios Facebook page
If you're interested in getting out and about the Nillumbik Artists Open Studios is on this weekend and next featuring the work of some of my favourite local artists and more.  The Annual Love Heide Dinner is also being held tomorrow night at the Sofitel to raise funds for Heide - I was lucky enough to go as a guest last year to this event where participating artists donate limited edition artwork for those who want to bid.  This year's work is by Melinda Harper.
Image via Banyule City Council
If you have children, you may be more interested in the Clifton Hill Primary School Fair being held tomorrow or the Malahang Community Festival being held this Sunday in West Heidelberg.  Sunday looks like being a cracker of a day so enjoy the weekend!

Friday, November 11, 2016

Keeping calm

It's a changed world political landscape since I last posted and while things feel uncertain, there's a lot to be said for staying calm and carrying on with normal life (as per Winston Churchill's famous war time words) while things are left to settle.  I do wonder what the world would be like if we had more female leaders but I also think leadership isn't an easy thing.  I've actually been asked to run a workshop at a leadership summit being held interstate next year so I will reveal more closer to the time.
David Hockney English 1937- Yosemite 1 October 16th 2011 (1059) iPad drawing Collection of the artist © David Hockney

Spring feels like it has definitely sprung today and I've been enjoying my time in the garden and pottering around my house.  There are a few things I wanted to mention in relation to this.  David Hockney has just opened at the NGV, and La Trobe University where I work, has a partnership with both the NGV and State Library Victoria.  A friend of mine went to the launch where 79 year old Hockney was present and his colourful landscapes and garden scenes are just beautiful.
Green Garden 2015 by Elizabeth Nelson image via Bundoora Homestead Art Centre
Verdant Garden opens at Bundoora Homestead Art Centre on Saturday 26 November drawing inspiration from the role of the garden on contemporary life and includes works by Mark Dober, Sarah Hendy, Penelope Hunt, Gina Kalabishis, Elizabeth Nelson, David O'Brien, Alice Wormald and more.  The Homestead itself has a heritage garden which is a lovely place to visit.
The Six Seasons of My Backyard image via Leanne Cole
I did catch Tim Ross' show on ABC 'Streets Of Your Town' on Tuesday night and got a thrill seeing the Rosanna Golf Links Estate (where family and friends still live) featured as some of the Merchant Builders homes have gardens by Ellis Stones.  Locally, fine art photographer Leanne Cole is holding her book launch of 'The Six Seasons of My Backyard' at the Old Shire Offices in Heidelberg on Thursday 24 November.  Regrettably I can't make it to Leanne's launch but will be interested in buying a copy of her book for Christmas and you can buy them directly from her if you are local.

Finally, the annual Strawberry Fair held at Rosanna Uniting Church at Arden Crescent is on tomorrow from 9.30 - 2.30 pm and if the weather is as sunny as today, it will be a great event to go to!  Have a good one.

Nb. Miss Rosanna is a Bundoora Homestead Art Centre Board of Management member

Monday, November 7, 2016

Feeling Funkie

Funkie Brewster is the name of one of Rosanna's newest cafes housed in the former wetsuit shop on Davies Street.  It's a cute name for those of us who can remember the TV series Punky Brewster starring Soleil Moon Frye.  I also like the name of two young boys cafe in Greensborough - perhaps because I have two of my own!  I was also visiting East Ivanhoe Village shopping centre last week and walked past the relatively new Align Pilates Studio, which is great for those of you who practise pilates (or are interested in trying a class) - core strength becomes increasingly important as you get older.
Image via Align Pilates Studio
I had lunch plans today to visit Moroccan Deli-cacy in East Brunswick, which is unfortunately closed on Mondays, so ended up having a nice pub meal at the East Brunswick Hotel, which has been renovated since I lived in the area.  There's a lot of development going on (the hotel had a special tradies' lunch offer as much of their clientele at the moment is workmen!) and I'm kind of glad to no longer be living in such a built up area.  I wonder how I might have felt had I still been local.
Bundoora Nebula Residency image via Arts Access Victoria
On another more cultural note, Bundoora Homestead Art Centre is now seeking applications for 8 paid artists residencies in 2017. The Bundoora Nebula Residency consists of four one month residency periods; each pairing two artists (including one artist with a disability).  If you are a visual artist, performer or musician, then I encourage you to apply as creative opportunities like these are relatively rare.
Image via Sage x Clare Facebook page
If you're planning on hosting some summer lunches or dinner parties, you may also be interested in A Feast for Summer with Stephanie Alexander hosted by Eltham Bookshop and being held next Monday 14 November at St Helena Secondary College.  I love Stephanie's range of garden range and homewares which I think would make for some stylish and practical Christmas gifts.  Speaking of homewares, some of you may be interested in the Plyroom and Sage x Clare Warehouse Sale being held in Northcote this coming Saturday.  I really need to start my Christmas shopping...

Nb. Miss Rosanna is a Bundoora Homestead Art Centre Board of Management member

Friday, November 4, 2016

Local profile - Jenni Mazaraki

Jenni and I first had dealings online with her role at Greenhills Neighbourhood House in Greensborough.  It was lovely to meet her in person at my Bold Thinking Series lecture 'Has Facebook killed the news?' last month at the State Library as she is currently studying communications at La Trobe University.  It's always fantastic to meet other local creative people and she is definitely one to watch.  Read on for more about Jenni...
Name: Jenni Mazaraki
Occupation: Like most creative people, I wear a few hats! I’m an artist, designer and writer. I’m interested in communication in its many forms. I work as a Communications Project Officer at Greenhills Neighbourhood House as well as working on my own projects such as the localstoryspace blog.
Lives/works: I live and work in Melbourne’s north east
How long have you lived/worked here? I’ve lived in the area for almost 7 years.
Describe yourself/what you do:
I often say that I bring words and pictures together. I essentially help people and organisations tell their stories with digital and print media. I write, draw, design, take photos and create audio and video to build a story.

I’ve recently started the localstoryspace blog where I’m writing articles about the amazing creative people in the local area. The blog is about art and culture and I’m particularly interested in the ways that women make time and space for creativity in their lives.

I have a background in fine art, visual communication and art therapy. I love art and design and want to support the local artists and craftspeople who diligently work in their studios, making art, running classes and running their businesses. I’m also particularly interested in community projects that bring people together through creativity. I love the way that local neighbourhood houses such as Greenhills Neighbourhood House run a range of programs to encourage the community to live creative, healthy and socially connected lives.

My design and writing work allows me to bring people’s creativity stories to a broader audience so that we can encourage, support and cheer each other on in whatever we may be doing.

I visit people in their creative space and chat about their creative projects. My recent interviews have been in a pottery studio, a shipping container art gallery and in a craft group in a friend’s home. My next interviews will be in a rambling garden and then in a home office of a certain local blogger (Miss Rosanna!). I have a couple of book projects on the go as well.

Best thing(s) about living/working in Melbourne’s north-east:
The most amazing thing about the north east is all of the wonderful down to earth people who are part of our lives.

For more information:
To read, listen and view creative stories:

To join a group or activity at Greenhills Neighbourhood House:

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Halloween hangover

I'm happy that the sun is starting to come out from behind the clouds although I still can't believe what a cold, wet and windy Spring it's been so far.  I'm glad it was such a beautiful day for any of you who went to Derby Day on Saturday.  We are suffering from Halloween hangover today after going to a neighbour's house party after trick or treating last night.  Halloween is big in our street and while I've felt a bit ambivalent about celebrating it, I think it comes second only to Christmas in terms of excitement for my kids and well, I don't mind a bit of dressing up!  I'm not the only one - the hands down winner this year was a school mum who came dressed as a zombie bride.
Me and my two ring wraiths
The past week seems to have gone by in a flash as I've had friends in town from Singapore and Granny Annie here from Queensland, on top of holding my second last Bold Thinking Series public lecture for the year last Thursday night, which was a fantastic event for those who came.  Both Shen Narayanasamy and Chris Berg were great speakers with a lot of presence and charisma - something you can't manufacture - while La Trobe legal academics Patrick Keyzer and Nicola Henry made up the rest of the extremely strong panel.
The Zombie Bride
The last lecture for the year will be on Education and I'll be excited to meet writer and school principal John Marsden, who is a bit of a hero of mine.  Joining him on the panel will be La Trobe academics Dr Joanna Barbousas and Rosa Storelli who will all talk about the Education Revolution and whether we are the clever country or not.
L-R: Dr Nicola Henry, Chris Berg, MC Francis Leach, Professor Patrick Keyzer, Shen Narayanasamy
& Professor Chris Mackie
The 20th Darebin Music Feast is currently on until 6 November and there are a number of local events celebrating David Bowie and Prince.  There's a Prince Bowie dance party at Preston's Fresh Hood this Friday night while the Thornbury Theatre is holding a Bowie Unzipped tribute concert early next year to celebrate what would have been Bowie's 70th birthday.
Image via Music Feast
The countdown is already on until Christmas and I can't believe my calendar is now full until December.  I thought the supermarkets and newsagencies were starting a bit early this year with Christmas food and Santa letterboxes out before the Spring Racing Carnival.  I've got a couple of local profiles to put up between now and the end of the year so stay tuned.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The art and soul of writing

I feel like I have been away for a while even though it's only been a few days.  I was lucky enough to be invited as a guest to Busybird Publishing's Karma Kinglake Writing Retreat this past weekend, held in the hills of beautiful Kinglake.  Despite the unbelievably cold and wet weekend we had, I had a great time away.
Looking on to main house - Karma Kinglake
Karma Kinglake in and of itself is a beautiful place to stay.  Re-built after the devastating Black Saturday bushfires by the owner Karen - the HIA Award-winning main house is made of locally-sourced stone, concrete and Cypress pine.  That's where you'll find the open kitchen, dining room and lounge area complete with open fireplace.  Karen and her ex-partner used to run safari tours and other travel expeditions so the house has an African vibe which carries though to the accompanying self-contained cottages (or 'nests').  I shared one of these with another writer and her partner - there are separate bedrooms which share a bathroom, kitchen, dining and living space complete with a Coonara wood heater in each apartment.
Little barn - Karma Kinglake
Karen is also a marvellous cook and the meals we had were superb - a Morrocan lamb tagine served with cous cous, pistachio and apricots as well as pork belly with an Asian coleslaw.  Everything is homemade including lunch and dessert making the main house one of the best places to hang out, just for the smells and food alone.  Karen often joined us after meal times telling us her own story as a bushfire survivor, some of which was pretty harrowing stuff such as the number of people who died trying to save their animals.  The re-build in the fire's aftermath was also a long and protracted affair which saw Karen living on site in not much more than a shipping container/shed cooking for up to 15 workmen on a daily basis for over a year.
View from Nest 4
I travelled there late Friday afternoon with Owner/Founder Blaise van Hecke and Publications Manager Les Zigomanis from Busybird Publishing's Montmorency studio but the other paying guests came from all over Victoria and two from interstate.  Just as well we got there late afternoon as the rain started to pelt down and the mountain mist rolled in - it was just like something out of a murder mystery but added to the atmospheric feel of the whole weekend.
Kitchen/Dining area - Nest 4
If you are a writer or think you would like to write a book (fiction or non-fiction/memoir), then this retreat is perfect as the sessions cover a number of different topics including: Why we write, Writing elements, Structure & content, Workshopping, Prose and Submitting & publishing. Even for someone like me, who writes for a living, I found it an interesting challenge learning to write a different way - a style which is more cinematic in many respects rather than journalistic.  Other exercises included writing letters to our 20 year old selves and workshopping other people's writing (we'd each been asked to submit 500 words before going on the retreat).
Bedroom 1 - Nest 4
The women (and they were all female guests) on the retreat were a mixed bunch of some very interesting and impressive people who included an ex-diplomat (and high commissioner), an anaesthetist, a public servant, an editor studying a Masters in Writing, a local social worker (and bushfire survivor), a health care administrator as well as an 87 year-old former journalist and coffee plantation owner who'd spent 25 years living in Papua New Guinea.  The back stories to their lives (which were often discussed at dinner time or around the fireplace afterwards) were just as fascinating as the actual writing skills we picked up over the course of the weekend.
Lounge area - Nest 4
Given the torrential rain, the whole place was a fantastic sanctuary to be in although it got pretty cold at one point when there was a power outage late on Saturday afternoon.  Needless to say I fled to the main house as I couldn't get the wood heater going in my apartment (yes - epic fail as a city slicker) so I sat in front of the big fire by candlelight until the power was restored at dinner time.  It did get very cold at night and I will say that it would be great to have electric blankets on the beds next time as I had to ask for an extra blanket the second night I was there.
Inside Karma Kinglake main house - view from fireplace
Blaise and Les (who is not her husband as many of the guests first thought) have worked together for 10 years and have an endearing brother/sister type relationship as well as being very interesting and talented people who work as writers, editors and publishers. Les has recently signed a three book deal as an author with Pantera Press while Blaise has been writing her memoir, which includes her time living on a commune as a child.  The sessions they co-facilitated were filled with lots of humour and laughter including a running joke about 'Bob' a poor unfortunate character we created and developed as a writing exercise over the course of the weekend.
L-R: Les Zigomanis & Blaise van Hecke in action - The Barn
Both of them took me back to Banyule on Sunday afternoon and I was on a high for a good hour or so afterwards before collapsing on the couch and having a bath - it was a lot to take in over three days (Friday afternoon to Sunday afternoon) but that's why going away to somewhere as peaceful and removed as Kinglake makes a lot of sense.  I think it's only when you do get out of your normal environment that you relax and are able to focus on something completely different and be present. Blaise and Les's biggest advice to all novice writers?  Just write - no more excuses!
Disclosure: Miss Rosanna's was a guest of Busybird Publishing's Karma Kinglake Writing Retreat