Adventures into subdivision #2

Today, I’ve been contemplating our beautiful silver birch trees in the midst of their autumn splendour.

Will this be their last autumn?

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Downsizing is all about letting things go.

If we go ahead with our smaller footprint plans, our trees will have to go to make way for a new build in our backyard.

And where the f!@k are the bikes going to fit?

Which all seems kind of back-to-front. I’ve decided downsizing is a totally back-to-front process.

Those following along will know that we’ve been considering an option to subdivide our house block. It’s one of several downsizing alternatives we have.

It’s very early days, but we’ve had a small win: VicRoads has granted us permission to put a crossover at the front of our property. The road our house fronts is technically a highway so VicRoads needed to give approval for an added driveway crossing.

Knowing we can provide off street parking at the front of the property means we don’t have to include a driveway from the rear to the front block, meaning we have more square metres to play with in the proposed rear block. Yay! That means either more living space in the proposed townhouse at the back, or more outside yard space. Either way, it makes the whole project much more inviting and do-able.

Now we’ve moved on to the next step: we’re deep in due diligence. And I mean DEEP.

We’ve had a parade of real estate agents marching through, providing their expert opinions on the value of our property as is, plus the likely value of the various “what ifs” we have in mind.

Our subdivision consultant, Adam, has been working furiously in the background costing up the options. There have been visits from engineers, demolition specialists and builders.

We’re looking at options for European laundries, courtyards, decks, driveways and landscaping … and that’s just for the existing house!

We haven’t even begun on plans or any real ideas for the proposed townhouse on the rear block, though we’re slowly building a “must-have” list.

Whatever path we decide to take, we know we’ll be living in a smaller home. So it’s begun … the inevitable task of sorting, stashing, trashing and treasuring a mothershipload of possessions. Another back to front process: ridding yourself of the things you’ve spent decades gathering around you.

It’s all waxing and waning, reshaping to fit the next stage.

You  get wiser with experience and understand the value of simple living (only after years of living it up).

You grow spirited, independent children who head off into the world to live their own lives, meaning you get the chance to reshape your own.

And you plant and nurture beautiful trees that need to be sacrificed to build a smaller, more eco-friendly life.

Back-to-front. Front-to-back. Left leg in. Left leg out. That’s what it’s all about.

Mamasita … corn cobs and picklebacks

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“At least 15 minutes wait, guys.”

Will we?

Won’t we?

Will we?

Won’t we?

We’re not used to queuing for restaurants in our corner of the world. But this is Melbourne and this is Mamasita. And we’re told it’s worth the wait.

We is me, Mr P, Boy Wonder and Ms K. It’s Friday night and we’ve already had a cocktail at hole-in-the-wall, up-a-laneway, smaller-than-your-kitchen, but fabulous-in-every-way Bar Americano. Now we’re in search of dinner and Mamasita is calling.

So we wait. And we’re not disappointed.

As promised, within 15 minutes we’re beckoned up the stairs and into the dining room. It’s a slick seating process: coats cloaked, menus in hand, water poured and drinks ordered (a bottle of brisa chardonnay, valle central, chile $52).

It’s dark and lively. I pretend I can see the menu but there’s not enough light for these old eyes. We let Boy Wonder order (a delicious fifty-something privilege).

Our first round of food arrives swiftly, mostly on wooden sharing paddles. There are tiny two-bite tortillas and quesadillas.

(Quesadilla de Chorizo: 4x Wheat tortillas filled w/ chorizo, potato & mexican cheese, queso fresco & jalapeño crema $15; Tostada de Pollo: Fried single tortilla topped w/ blackened chicken, achiote, avocado & lime $12; Tostaditas de Pato: 4x Fried tortilla chips topped w/ duck carnitas & pineapple, blackbean puree & habanero crema $15)

It’s fresh mex, not stodgy and cheese-laden. It’s crisp flavours and crunchy textures.


Next, it’s picklebacks, also served on wooden sharing paddles. Picklebacks? I’ve not heard of them either: a shot of Herradura tequila served with a shot of jalapeño pickle juice (the brine from the pickle jar) $11ea.

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Picklebacks (apologies for the flash photography)

We simultaneously chink our picklebacks to a toast of “Na zdrowie!” [naz-droh-vee-ay], because it looks like vodka, one of us is Polish enough to pronounce it correctly, we can’t think of any Mexican toasts other than Ole!, and we’re saving Slainte! for a post-dinner whisky bar adventure. It works a treat and we’ve created a memory that will stick.

For food round two, we have an interesting discussion about whether we should order the goat tacos. Who knew that between us we’d know so many snippets of goat-related trivia? It’s unanimous, we’ll have the goat. Only they’re out of goat, so we have the lamb substitute instead, but none of us cares.

(Tostaditas de Cabra: 4x Fried tortilla chips topped w/ braised goat, corn puree
& pickled onion. $15)

What we really, really, really care about is the Elite callejero (Streetstyle chargrilled corn, queso, chipotle mayo & lime $4.90ea). Hands-down, it’s the best corn on the cob I have ever tasted. Ever.

So, is Mamasita worth queuing for? Absolutely. The service is superb and the food impressive. The vibe is upbeat. And, whatever you do, don’t miss the corn on the cob.


Level 1 / 11 Collins Street
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Ph: +61 3 9650 3821

Monday to Thursday: 12pm – 12am midnight
Friday: 12pm – 2am
Saturday: 12.30pm – 2am
Sunday: 12.30pm – 10pm

And a final word from Bar Americano:

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Skin Cancer Early Detection Tool + a little giveaway

Disclaimer: Skin Patrol provided free product for review and giveaway.

G I V E A W A Y   N O W   C L O S E D: Winners have been notified and will be announced shortly. :)


THE WINNERS ARE: Jacky (Queensland) and Ruth (Tasmania). Congratulations … your prizes are on the way.


Being fifty-something, I remember life before the Slip! Slop! Slap! campaign of the eighties, when we didn’t really get the dangers of sun exposure. As kids, we let the sun burn giant blisters on our shoulders and then delighted in peeling back the layers to expose the fresh pink satin-skin below.

We didn’t know any better then, but we do now.

We know that, In Australia, the incidence of skin cancer is one of the highest in the world (two or three times the rates in Canada, the US and the UK).

We know that melanoma is the most common form of skin cancer in Australia.

And we know that 95% of melanoma is treatable if detected early.

Then the big question becomes: what can I do to spot a deadly skin cancer before it’s too late?

As I age, my body is throwing up all sorts of fresh skin spots, dots, moles, speckles, freckles, bumps, blemishes and skin tags. Almost weekly, there seems to be a new patch of territory on my body landscape that needs investigating. In the last few weeks I’ve noticed a stippled, raised patch on my forehead and there’s been a red blemish niggling on my thigh for a couple of months.

Nothing can substitute having a specialist check out any suspicious spots you have (or, indeed an annual full body skin check by your doctor) but, if you’re between doctor’s visits and have a blemish, there’s a new skin cancer early detection tool designed for your own use, in the comfort of your home.

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The clever people at Skin Patrol sent me one of their detection tools to trial (and another couple to give away … more about that later).

The Skin Cancer Early Detection Tool guides you through analysing a spot on your skin for characteristics of skin cancer (asymmetry, border, colour, diameter, evolution, focus) and provides nifty little pocket-sized tools (magnifying window, diameter measure, colour chart) to help you along the way.

Skin Cancer Early Detection Tool, Skin Patrol, Melnamoma Australia, melanoma Early detection

This video explains how it works, and how it takes the guesswork out of skin checking.

I’ve used the tool to work through the analysis of both my new blemishes (forehead and thigh) and am confident neither requires immediate medical review (though I’ll be showing both to my GP at my next scheduled visit in a few months’ time.

I found the process (five YES/NO questions to answer) easy to understand, the tools simple to use and the supporting website very helpful. And I know that the people who created this tool are specialists in the area of early skin cancer detection. Straight up, I trust them more than heading to a random Dr Google. And, if the tool does help you decide you need a medical follow-up, the website provides a list of accredited skin cancer doctors across Australia.

The Skin Cancer Early Detection Tool is available online for $20, or use the code ‘savelife’ for a 25% discount for two or more (+ P&H).


Or, if you live in Australia, you could be the lucky winner of one of two Skin Cancer Early Detection Tools I have to give away. Just leave a comment below this post to let me know you’re keen. I’ll close off entries at 5pm (EST) Friday 22 May and announce the two winners the following day. I’ll post the Early Detection Tools out to the two winners (at no cost to you). NOTE: Giveaway is only available to readers with an Australian address. Good luck!





Kennett River, Great Ocean Road, Victoria … and a path less travelled

Being fifty-something doesn’t mean I’ve learnt to enjoy the chilly-ness of autumn weather, especially when the temperature dives dramatically like it has this past few days. I’ve been dreaming of warmer climes and my mind keeps wandering back to a little break we took at Kennett River a couple of months back. Just the memory warms my heart a degree or two.

We headed off on a Friday in the little campervan that could. We reached the Kennett River Holiday Park and were set up just in time to take refuge as a belting thunder storm moved in from the west.

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It soon passed and we had a chance to have a look around this gorgeous little park, which is right on the Great Ocean Road.

The park backs onto bushland and has a lovely green, treed vibe and a feeling of space. There are even koalas munching on gum leaves, high in the trees above the camp sites.

The birdlife is prolific with colourful parrots swooping through, kookaburras laughing from nearby branches and duck families waddling by.

The surf beach is just a short stroll across the road. It’s uncrowded and fringed with explorable rock pools.

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We spent hours in the surf over a couple of days, giving our boogie boards a serious work out. Such fun (even though I couldn’t raise my arms above head height for a few days afterwards).

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At the entrance to the park is Grey River Road, a popular stopping off point for international tourists to check out the koalas nestled in the trees above. We wandered along the road and were rewarded with a couple of koala-in-the-wild sightings.

Then we discovered something even better … a path less travelled.

Beside Grey River Road is the Kennett River General Store (well worth a stop) and to the east of the store, is a quieter, lesser known walk. Just a few metres past the car park, you’ll find the river. Turn left and follow along side the waterway.

At first, the pathway is wide open, snaking along between the river on one side, and the rear of homes on the other. Soon, the bush closes around the track and you leave the road, the buses, the store and the people far behind.

We found giant waterbirds, black cockatoos, wrens, ducks, parrots and more. We found more koalas hidden high in the treetops, far away from the crowds of Grey River Road. There were ferny glades, rocky river crossings, giant trees and fascinating bush sounds.

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kennett river, kennett river holiday park, grey river road koalas, great ocean road, visit victoria, visit great ocean road

We walked for several kilometres and saw not another person.

We scrumped wild blackberries along the riverbank (later enjoyed atop pancakes for our dinner).

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kennett river, kennett river holiday park, grey river road koalas, great ocean road, visit victoria, visit great ocean road

We paused to rest on leviathan trees, left where they’d fallen to regenerate the bush.

We found a couple of picture-perfect picnic spots, where the path widens out to a clearing; enough space to stop and take in the surroundings, hear the sounds, watch the waterbirds swooping in over the river.

And we’ve hatched a plan … to come back more prepared, with a daypack stocked with food, water and binoculars, so we can spend an entire day exploring this remarkable, hidden treasure: a little path less travelled on the Great Ocean Road.

Mother’s Day + a fresh flowers giveaway to WIN

Disclosure: This Mother’s Day musing and giveaway is brought to you by

G I V E A W A Y   N O W   C L O S E D . . . W I N N E R   A N N O U N C E D  S O O N


For flowers this Mother’s Day visit Fresh Flowers.

“There’s a story behind everything. How a picture got on a wall. How a scar got on your face. Sometimes the stories are simple, and sometimes they are hard and heartbreaking. But behind all your stories is always your mother’s story, because hers is where yours begin.” ~ Mitch Albom

Like many fifty-somethings, I no longer have my mum around for me to phone when something fabulous happens (or not so fabulous), to ask for sage advice on life’s biggies or to share my everyday moments with.

And, she’s no longer here for me to spoil with fresh flowers.

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May 10th will mark my eleventh Mother’s Day without Mum and I’ll be thinking of her, as I do every day, meandering through memories and wishing I could send her a bloom-a-licious bouquet of fresh flowers.

I love to remember Mum like this …


… as a stunning young woman with her life in front of her.

I wear a signet ring, given to her by a boyfriend before she met Dad. It’s not a betrayal of Dad; it’s acknowledgement that Mum was more than someone’s mother, or wife or daughter … she was her own person.

I also love to remember the mum who was always there for me, the mum who was inexplicably ironing in the kitchen each day when I returned home from school. I picture her wearing a tweed skirt, hand-knitted cardigan, slippers and white anklet socks.

That curious “ironing smell” takes me straight back to our little kitchen. Mum would down iron to organise a cordial and three (always three) biscuits for me to snack on while we chatted about my day at school.

In my mind’s eye, there’s just me and Mum chatting. In reality, there would always have been one or two (or more) sisters milling around in the kitchen with us. It’s a measure of how Mum made me feel that I recall our conversations as intimate, one-on-one chats.

Mostly, I love to remember Mum at my niece E’s wedding. She looked a million dollars in her sparkly, beaded, teal blue outfit and she shone bright, even though she was well into her cancer treatment by then.

Her outfit reminded me of the glorious ball gowns she wore in the fifties, when she’d dance the night away at a country ball, often in the arms of Dad.

As children, we dressed up in Mum’s ball gowns, delighting in the shiny fabrics and colourful beading embellishing them, and the incredible costume jewellery that matched each dress.

For us, it was a window into another world, a world Mum loved to reminisce about.

I hope she, too, was reminiscing about those glory days when she slipped into her sparkly beaded outfit for E’s wedding.

Within a year, she was carefully slipped back into that same outfit for her final journey.



I’d love for you to spoil your special mum (or someone else in your life, maybe even yourself!) with a beautiful bouquet of blooms for Mother’s Day.

Thanks to the kind folk at FRESH FLOWERS you can WIN a bouquet worth $70.

Because Mother’s Day is all about love (and not likes), I’m not asking you to jump through any follow, like, share hoops. Neither is FRESH FLOWERS.

All you need do to be in the running is visit FRESH FLOWERS, check out their Mother’s Day range (eye candy galore) and let me know in the comments below which arrangement you’d choose for your mum.

Oh, and tell me why. Because “why” is where the stories live.

And, if you want to share the comp, go ahead. Maybe you’ll get lucky, and someone will send you a glorious FRESH FLOWERS bouquet!

Me? Mmmm … it’s so hard to decide, but if Mum were here, I’d send her this …

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Tulips – Serendipity in Glass Vase (which includes the vase and bloom box). Because, well, tulips (and Mum would have loved that she didn’t have to go rabbiting in the cupboard for a vase).

Good luck!

 Competition rules of engagement:

  1. The prize is a bouquet of blooms valued at up to $70, from the Mother’s Day Range at which the winner can send to their desired address (see 2)
  2. Check that FRESH FLOWERS delivers to the postcode where you’ll send the bouquet if you win: visit and click on the Do we deliver to your area? Link at the top of the page
  3. You must be an Australian resident
  4. To enter, comment below and tell me which bouquet you’d love to send and why
  5. The competition will run until 5pm (EST) Thursday, 30 April 2015.
  6. Winner will be chosen, notified and announced on Friday 1 May 2015.
  7. Winner must respond within 36 hours, or I reserve the right to choose a new winner.
  8. The prize is not transferable for cash
  9. Once notified, the winner must provide the following details: Name, Mobile Number, Address Type, Address, Suburb/Postcode, Delivery Date and Card Message

Dirty Dancing, the classic story on stage

Me: (excitedly): I won tickets to see Dirty Dancing! Woohoot!

He: To see what?

Me: The stage show of that movie, Dirty Dancing.

He: What movie?

Me: Dirty Dancing. You know … with Patrick Swayze.

He: Patrick who?

Me: You know … nobody puts Baby in the corner.

He: Whose baby?

Me: We can make a night of it in Melbourne. Dinner and show.

He: Can we go to Whisky and Alement after the show?

Me: Sure. Why not?

He: I’m in.

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And so it was that we headed off to the big smoke to see Dirty Dancing – the classic story on stage, having won tickets via a social media competition run by Robbie at King of the Castle Cafe. (Thanks, Robbie!)

Now, I admit that I didn’t mention the word “musical” during the above conversation.

Nor did I seek to elaborate on what Dirty Dancing was about. I figured I’d let Mr P leap to his own assumptions. No wonder he was surprised when we headed to the beautifully historic Princess Theatre in the top end of Melbourne’s CBD (rather than than some seedy dive in the other end).

We collected our A-Reserve tickets at the Box Office and I noted (with delight) that we’d be seated in the Grand Dress Circle.

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“Just follow the marble stairs,” directed the staff.

And so we did, climbing the beautiful old marble and brass staircase up to the elegant upper bar area then up another flight of stairs where we were ushered to our seats.

Below us, the stage was bathed in blue and above us was the intricate and ornate ceiling and this grand chandelier.

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The show began and we were transfixed (yes, even he).

I’d been intrigued to see how the movie’s narrative would translate to the stage.  Turned out, it was brought to life with an abundance of talent, on stage and off.

All the familiar characters were there and they danced (boy, did they dance!), sang and acted their way through an almost-true-to-the-movie script.

The stagecraft was crazy with a rolling turntable, drop-down screens and micro-second moves synchronising the scene changes.

The dancing was amazing. Their legs went on forever and executed contortionist-worthy moves.

The two lead characters didn’t sing but those who did were awesome, filling that theatre with astounding, tingle-inducing vocals.

The dancing was a little dirtier (in an arty way, of course) than I remembered. All in good taste, and beautifully executed … but not ideally suited for young children, I’d have thought. I was surprised to see some families there with primary school aged kids. There are some very adult themes in the Dirty Dancing script and this production didn’t hold back on them. I fancy those families had some interesting conversations in the car on the way home. Their call.

We didn’t have any of those conversations to worry about. So it was a joint selfie (just for the blog) …

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… and then a nightcap at Whisky and Alement to top off a perfectly entertaining evening.

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Adventures into subdivision #1

Being fifty-something often means change. Physical changes, outlook changes, family changes, housing changes.

For us, Boy Wonder’s recent shift to the big smoke signals that we are (like it or not) empty-nesters. Just me, Mr P and Jack Sparrow (Pirate Cat) remain aboard the Mothership. This house is a far heavier footprint than we need (or want).

We’ve been hokey-pokeying around the downsizing dance for a while now. And here. We’ve thought about selling up and moving to a smaller place nearby, renting out the lower level of our house, perhaps even jumping on the air B&B bandwagon. We’ve even considered selling up and “rational renting” to taste-test some other living locales.

And then the universe delivered us another option. I started working with a new client, a specialist in residential property subdivision. As I took the brief at our initial meeting (asking about ideal clients, demographics, key messages, value propositions, what’s different?) it dawned on me that we were smack-bang in the demographic and that we might have an opportunity to subdivide and unlock the equity in our backyard.

We live in a high-demand area and our block’s reasonably large (628 square metres) with front and rear access. The main part of our home (to the front of the block) is an Edwardian beauty with original period features. On a lower level to the rear is a seventies extension, a triple garage and some decking.

We’ve had a follow-up meeting and site visit with the subdivision specialist and an architect and we’re looking at an option to demolish the non-original buildings to the rear of the property and subdivide the space into two titles.

There are lots of hoops to jump through and a motherlode of what ifs to consider. If it’s possible to subdivide, do we sell both properties? build ourselves a townhouse on the rear block? live in the front property? keep them both as rentals?

We have a whole lot more hokey pokeying to do.

For now we have this:

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It’s a rough plan created to go with an application for approval to put a crossover (driveway) at the front of the property. That’s our first stumbling block. A yay or nay there will help us decide what our real options are.

Wish us luck as we put our left leg in and shake it all about on this down-the-rabbit-hole adventure into subdivision.