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

Friday, October 21, 2016

I'd rather be a sparrow than a snail

The weather is unfortunately looking a bit less than perfect this weekend.  There are a number of events on including Motor Classica at the Royal Exhibition Building in Carlton where you can take refuge indoors and admire all the beautiful cars on show.
Image via Little Sparrow Market
The Little Sparrow Market is being held on Sunday at Fed Square so I hope the sun comes out for this event.  There's also a Breakfast with the Birds free event being held in Banyule on Sunday morning although funnily enough with our backyard, we have feathered friends who visit us every morning for breakfast who like to tap on our window to let us know they're here.
Our friend Tappy the Cockatoo
Speaking of which, the Aussie Backyard Bird Count is currently on and finishes on Sunday if you want to have a go at counting the number of birds you get visiting in your backyard.  It must be the weekend for wildlife as the La Trobe University wildlife sanctuary is also holding its first family fun day on Sunday.
Sweet Mocha Macleod
The rain has started and I'm glad I got my exercise in early today.  After a packed class at Cinch PT in Macleod, Mr Rosanna and I dropped in to the newly opened Sweet Mocha which had a very beautiful display of sweet treats although we only had coffees.

The On the Hill Festival in Panton Hill is also being held on Sunday and speaking of hills, I am also heading past Panton Hill and beyond this weekend for a special retreat away...I will reveal more next week when I return.  Have a great weekend!

Monday, October 17, 2016


It's been a while since I caught up with my best friends.  While I've never been to Mamasita, we were happy to go to their new outpost - Hotel Jesus - in Smith Street, Collingwood on the weekend.  The whole street was jumping as usual on a Saturday night and we got there early so weren't waiting long for a table.  The interior is a bit in your face with lots of white tiling and a fairly lurid shade of blue for the chairs and banquette seating - think 1970s style Mexican diner and you'd be on the money!
It all makes for a a great experience and we had lovely, attentive staff who made sure we understood how the ordering system and dishes all worked.  The girls and I shared some freshly made guacamole (delicious!) and ordered a couple of tacos each - I had one beef and one seafood and they were both good.  We also each ordered the barbecued corn cob which comes on a stick with black mayonnaise.  It's actually more of a squid ink blue and leaves traces everywhere!  It's extremely tasty but maybe not something you'd want to eat on a first date.  At one stage, the girls and I looked like zombie brides with black lipstick all around our mouths, on our faces and fingers.
Still, it was fun and service was fast, which is what you want when you're hungry.  We went across the road past Panama Dining Room on to Gelato Messina, which was like walking in to a night club.  It's pretty dark inside, which makes it hard to work out what the flavours are, and the music was turned up loud!  I couldn't believe how busy it was.  I've always been a bit skeptical about dessert bars and gelaterias as I wonder how they maintain business during the seasons but this place was packed out.  While we were there, we had other friends and family walk in by coincidence so it's definitely popular.  I tried the coffee (creamy and smooth) but there are lots of different flavours on offer and it's very good, as you would expect.
Hotel Holiday mocktail
Speaking of all things South American, the Hispanic Latin American Fiesta is on next month in Johnston Street and I remember going on the zipper ride there one year with my friend Jules and we screamed our heads off!  I have a couple of friends who have a great passion for all things Spanish and South American in particular and they love this festival.
Image via Johnston Street Fiesta

Friday, October 14, 2016

Glory days

I am loving the sunshine today after a few pretty miserable mid-week days where I got rained on twice (!) while going out to lunch.  I spent this morning at Heide Museum of Modern Art with my good friend Paula and it was so busy there today, we had to park at Banksia Park and walk up to the Central Galleries at Heide where the Making Modernism show is currently on.  The place was packed!  But it was fantastic to see Margaret Preston's work in particular, along with Grace Cossington-Smith and Georgia O'Keeffe.  O'Keeffe's work is so modern in nature, it looks like it could have been painted now and I wonder how her remarkable art would have been received in 1930s America.  While all three women never met, all of them have been influenced by nature and all lived to ripe old ages!  Their passion for art must have kept them young...
Paula and I stopped in at the Heide Store, which is also selling some beautiful products including a limited edition Margaret Preston tea towel and a recipe book (above) by Lesley Harding.  The store is also currently selling some gorgeous nature-inspired ceramics by Yvette De Lacy from Mountain Clay in Kinglake.  It's always very difficult to go there and not buy anything!
Finders Keepers featured book by James Gulliver Hancock
There is so much on this weekend, I'm not sure where to begin.  The Finders Keepers market starts tonight at the Royal Exhibition Building in Carlton and one of my new work friends Jen is working there all weekend.  Closer to home, the Ivanhoe Makers Market is on as well as Interlaken kindergarten's 50th anniversary from 11 am tomorrow.
Image via Montsalvat
If you're wanting to hit the road, Open Cellars of the Artisan Hills in Nillumbik is on all this weekend while the Montsalvat Arts Festival in Eltham and Practically Green Festival at Edendale Farm are also being held on Sunday.
Image via Spring Fling Street Festival
For something different, there's actually a special Star Wars reading event at Eltham Bookshop being held tomorrow while if you're heading closer to the city, the Spring Fling Street Festival is on in North Melbourne where my mum and her family all grew up.

Lots to choose from this weekend!  I've been really busy working on my next Bold Thinking Series event 'Free speech - how far is too far?' featuring La Trobe's legal experts Professor Patrick Keyzer and Dr Nicola Henry along with GetUp!'s Shen Narayanasamy (who was on Q&A on Monday night) and free speech advocate Chris Berg.  This discussion on revenge porn, decency and the law promises to be an interesting one!

Monday, October 10, 2016

And company

I hope you had a great weekend.  It's birthday season in my household so we we actually spent Saturday at Latitude Trampoline Park in Heidelberg West.  I remember going roller skating as a child at the Heidelberg skate rink but trampolining and rock climbing seem to be the new thing, which is great if you have active children.  We drove past what looks like a brand new cafe (from the outside) aptly called My brother and I on the corner of Dougharty and Bamfield Roads but I couldn't find anything online about them.  Hopefully my friends who live in Heide Heights as they call it, can tell me.
Image via Melbourne Festival
The Melbourne Festival opened last week and runs until 23 October - it's a fantastic event that has been running for many years now and really cements Melbourne's reputation as the arts capital of Australia.  Closer to home, I am hoping to make it to Heide Museum of Modern Art in Bulleen to see the Making Modernism show opening this week.  I'm a fan of print maker Margaret Preston but I think it will be great to also see fellow female Australian artist Grace Cossington-Smith's work as well as American artist Georgia O'Keeffe - all the artists were quite influenced by the environment.
Shilo patchwork bedcover image via Sage and Clare
Speaking of which, it was lovely to read about Melbourne homewares label Kip & Co launching the Snugglepot & Cuddlepie range of bed linen in celebration of the 100 year anniversary of May Gibbs' books! You might put them on your wish list if you have children in your life.
Miann & Co rug image via Cocoon Living
As for me, this beautiful 1970s and Moroccan-inspired patchwork bedcover by another Melbourne label Sage & Clare is on my wish list along with this handmade crochet rug by Miann & Co - perfect for a more feminine-inspired nursery, bathroom or bedroom while this middle-eastern inspired cushion (featuring birds!) from Linen and Moore has also caught my eye.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Four seasons

Image via First Year @ La Trobe blog
What a schizophrenic week it's been in Melbourne weather-wise.  From high winds to bitter cold to brilliant sunshine - I can't quite keep up.  It's made dressing for work an interesting exercise every morning trying to work out what to wear and whether or not to take a jacket and scarf (yes!).  I've been enjoying the La Trobe University Melbourne campus at Bundoora and was thrilled to see a couple of kangaroos the other day when going to grab some lunch.  There's also emus in the Wildlife Sanctuary although I've yet to see them.  And I'm really hoping not to see the snakes...apparently there was a tiger snake last Summer sunning itself near the moat, but that's all part of working in such leafy green surrounds.  There is a market held every few weeks at the University and I've found it hard to resist the hot jam donuts from the donut van.

Image via Bundoora Homestead Art Centre
Speaking of beautiful green places in Bundoora (and snakes!), there are four fantastic shows opening today at Bundoora Homestead Art Centre in Snake Gully Drive, Bundoora featuring the work of different artists - Stephanie Hicks, Deborah White, Anna White and Betra Fraval & Ben Taranto taking the form of images, performance-based videos, abstract oil paintings on perspex and other various forms and materials.  Submissions are also currently open for exhibition proposals if you're a local artist.
Image via A boy named Sue
Given I've been eating donuts, I'm glad to have returned to exercise this week and I'm feeling a lot better for it although I'm wondering how I'll pull up tomorrow after going to training at Cinch PT this morning.  I couldn't believe how sore I was the first time I started training given the sessions are only 45 minutes, which pass very quickly.  You do get over the initial soreness and it means you're actually strengthening your body so no pain, no gain as they say.  My trainer Nikki Ellis was talking about turmeric lattes now being on offer at Miss Marie Cafe in Rosanna - I've yet to try one but apparently turmeric's very good for the prevention of dementia.  My Indian pharmacist Barty has turmeric every morning.
Image via Postino
Hopefully the weather will stay nice this weekend as both the Wadambuk Makers Market out in St Andrews is on as well as the Eltham Farmers Market.  Some local friends have been asking us to go to the St Andrews Market with them and grab pizza at A boy named Sue.  I'm catching up with my besties next weekend but they did have a catch up at Postino pizza bar in Balwyn (next to Snow Pony) while I was convalescing and said that it was good.  I have had pizza closer to home too at Four Leaves in Greville Road, which now also has live music on Thursday nights.
Image via Hoppa & Joe Facebook page
Hoppa & Joe in Fairfield is now open and has received a write up in Broadsheet, as well as Gellibrand in Reservoir (pronounced 'Reservor' by locals and not like the body of water) where a number of my current work colleagues live.  Mr Rosanna and I also walked past dessert bar Sweet Mocha on the way to Cinch PT this morning, which is just about to open in time for the warmer weather...bring it Melbourne!

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

Monday, October 3, 2016

Game on

Wow - what an exciting game it was on Saturday and I'm not even a football fan!  I was really happy for the Western Bulldogs and we know a number of families who were at the big game, which looked amazing.  That's it for another year...
Koorongong image via All Homes
I've now got family birthdays and other events ahead of me in the lead up to Christmas but it was nice to finally have a breather this weekend after such a busy past couple of months.  Spring has definitely sprung, although it could still be a lot more warm and dry.  Mr Rosanna and I made it to Bulleen Art and Garden nursery over the weekend and while we're a little late this year, we've bought our herbs and other plants for the garden.  It's worth signing up as a member to receive discounts on their products - they've currently got Moroccan lanterns, African baskets and rusted metal wall mounted pot hangers (great for a herb garden in courtyard or deck) as specials this month.
Woburn Cottage image via Marshall White
The spring real estate market is hotting up too and these two beautiful houses in Ivanhoe have caught my eye - Koorongong at 314 Upper Heidelberg Road and the magnificent Woburn Cottage at 6 - 8 Redesdale Road.  They're both packed with stunning period features, but I think you'll need deep pockets to buy either one.
Image via Light Space Yoga
I was in Ivanhoe over the weekend and noticed Light Space Yoga has just opened on Upper Heidelberg Road - it's run by a mother and daughter (with other teachers) who also have studios in Mitcham and Balwyn.  While I go to Action School in Ivanhoe with Pamela Speldewinde as I've long practised Iyengar yoga, it's nice to see some other local studios opening up around the place offering different styles of yoga.  There's also Eve Studio for women in Thornbury and Yoga for Writers classes starting at Busybird Publishing in Montmorency, which is a great idea as I suspect a lot of writers like me practise yoga, or would be interested in yoga and all the benefits it brings.  They are definitely a busy bunch at Busybird Publishing, holding open mic nights, workshops, art exhibitions and writing retreats.
Image via Eve Studio
The Ivanhoe Spring Shopping event is being held this Friday and will hopefully encourage more people to the strip - sadly a number of my favourite shops have closed but I'm sure new ones will replace them.  There are also a number of fantastic art exhibitions opening this week.  Return to the city at The Johnston Collection in East Melbourne opens tomorrow night featuring the work of local artist Irianna Kanellopoulou, while Botanica featuring the work of Melbourne Polytechnic visual arts students opens on Wednesday at Bundoora Homestead Art Centre.  I've also been invited to the opening of Making Modernism this Sunday night at Heide, with the public able to attend from 12 October.  This show has been two years in the making and features the work of three female artists - Georgia O'Keeffe, Margaret Preston and Grace Cossington-Smith - one not to be missed!
Image via Melbourne Polytechnic (NMIT)
Nb. Miss Rosanna is a Bundoora Homestead Art Centre Board member