The Babinda Boulders

Usually when I travel for work I see the airports, the clinics and the hotel. However, on this trip I ended up with a spare day. I needed to be in Cairns for the Friday and Townsville for the Sunday. I could have just flown from Cairns to Townsville. However, then I probably would have worked until I went to the airport, caught a plane and worked at the other end. So I decided to drive and see part of the country.

It is a 4 hour drive and I had the whole day to complete to get to Townsville so that meant I could stop off along the way. Usually I would pre-plan everything but this time I decided not to be so pre-planned. I had a couple of ideas of places I wanted to go but thought I would also just wing it a bit. Not like me at all but hey- always good to try doing things differently. To start off my plan of taking things as they come, I decided that rather than grabbing breakfast at the hotel, I would find somewhere along the way.  So off I went. I must admit, I was tempted just to pull into McDonald’s along the way but that would hardly be finding something new as I don’t think a McDonald’s I haven’t been to before really counts! So driving along I saw a sign for a bakery in Babinda near Cairns followed by a sign to a tourist attraction called the Babinda Boulders. I pushed aside my need for pre-planning and turned off the main highway into Babinda. I grabbed some breakfast at the bakery and with a quick enquiry I found out that the boulders were not far up the road and a lovely spot. So off I went to the Boulders to eat my breakfast.

It was definitely worth the detour! The Babinda Boulders was a lovely spot. It was large boulders in a water setting. Although there was a swimming hole right at the beginning the truly spectacular sights were further along a walkway where swimming is banned but the views were awesome.

I could not have asked for a nicer breakfast spot or a better start to my day. Now however, it was time for the next adventure.

Beautiful Cairns

Today was a busy day for work. It was one of those days where it got to mid-afternoon and I was starving as I had eaten an early breakfast and had not yet got as far as lunch. However, today I was in Cairns so I decided to find somewhere nice for lunch.

Rather than just duck into a local café I took the opportunity to pop up the road to the beautiful Palm Cove and find a place to eat with some scenery. Well, not only did the scenery not disappoint, but the burger I had was awesome. I am not always a burger person but this was one of those burgers where every element is delicious and the quality bread really just helps to hold it together rather than being an overriding element- perfect! Top that off with some great views of the beach and the ocean and it was a rather enjoyable late lunch.

By the time I finished lunch, the work day was drawing to a close but I still had some daylight left so I set about seeing what I could squish into see before it got dark!

I darted up to the Kuranda Markets to discover that they were closed for the day, but saw a sign for the nearby Barron Falls. I decided to take a chance and check them out. It was well worth doing so. Apart from providing some much needed exercise in the form of a walk through the rainforest, the falls themselves were beautiful. It would be great to spend more time there but I was on a schedule so it was a quick visit.

Following my exploration of Baron Falls, I headed home, taking a quick stop off at a look out point that was quite beautiful. Cairns and its surrounds is definitely a place I could spend more time.

I also couldn’t quite resist a quick stop off at Yorkie’s Knob. A beautiful little town with an unfortunate name. It was here that I saw something I hadn’t seen before- a first aid point on the beach with Vinegar for people to use if they happen to encounter stingers in the water. Great idea, I just hadn’t seen it before. I suspect there are not too many places in the world you would find this but Australia does have it’s unique features!

For only a couple of hours of daylight I managed to squish in a lot exploring the surrounds of Cairns and then it was back to the hotel for a quick bite- afterall lunch was so late I didn’t need much dinner. Then it was time to catch up on some work and to grab some sleep before trekking from Cairns to Townsville the next day!

Colouring-In – Now an Adult Pastime?

I recently went into a local bookshop and was surprised to discover that there was a plethora of adult colouring-in books. As an adult, I had thought I had left colouring-in books well and truly behind me. However, this appears to be a growing craze. I asked the bookshop owner and he said that initially they only had a couple of books but growing demand meant they had increased their supply in numbers and types of books, and were still struggling to keep up. A quick look at the Amazon website’s current best seller’s reveals that three of the top 10 books are in fact adult colouring-in books. Adult colouring-in books are not the same as the ones aimed at children. They tend to be far more detailed meaning they are more challenging for adults.

So that left me wondering, why? Why are adults returning to an activity from their younger years and engaging in something I would have thought was aimed at children? At that point I turned to good old google to see if I could work out what was behind this craze.

It appears, in a day and age of fast-paced lives and lots of technology and screens, adults are becoming increasingly stressed. Colouring-in books can provide adults with a mechanism where they can give themselves a bit of time out from technology and switch off for a while (Ford, 2015).  For adults who are juggling multiple activities at once or moving from one thing to another, colouring-in allows them to de-stress and be more mindful (Kohli, 2015). It is also thought that as people enjoyed colouring-in as children, returning to this pastime brings pack happy childhood memories (Ford, 2015).There has actually been research that has examined the effect of colouring in on brain waves. It is found that the effect is similar to mediation but there are people who don’t like meditation who are willing to try colouring in (Brown, 2015). This suggests that there may be some scientific basis to the positive effects people claim colouring-in provides adults.

There are certainly some sceptics of this craze. Certainly there are objections to calling it art therapy and some people believe it is simply the latest fad (Ford, 2015).However, as a fad, it is certainly popular and providing a tidy income stream for the creators of the more popular books.

It is probably no surprise in this day and age that there are now apps aimed to tap into this craze. The apps include Recolour and Colorfy. The apps mean that budding colourists who can’t drag themselves away from their screens can still participate in this growing craze. However, it is thought that tapping a screen to change its colour may not have the same effect as physically colouring something in, and of course, colouring-in on your digital device means that distractions of social media, text messages and emails are all at your fingertips meaning maybe this doesn’t provide the same mental break that physical colouring-in books provide (Dredge, 2015).

I must admit, I am sceptical. Therefore, I decided that the only way I could see for myself was to try it. So I bit the bullet, went to the bookstore and bought an adult colouring-in book. There are so many that choosing one book was difficult in itself. I then dusted off my colouring pencils and gave it a go. It is certainly different to colouring-in as a child. I hold myself to high standards and want to make sure I stay in the lines making it as slow process and it takes time to colour anything in. Furthermore, using the colouring-in books designed for adults requires patience! The spaces you are colouring in are tiny so it takes a long time to complete anything. Patience is something I tend to struggle with but maybe this will help and be an added benefit. So what do I think? Do I think it is a magic bullet to solve stress for all adults? Probably not. However, I do see that there is benefit in having this as a tool for stress management for the adults it appeals to. It is relaxing and it takes one away from all of the screen related activities we engage in. So, since I have a whole book now that I have not made much of a dent in, I guess I have the tools I need to try it a bit further and see if its effects continue.

References

Brown, S. L. (2015, August 29). Colouring-in books for adults started with love affair for Melbourne student. Retrieved from ABC News: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-07-02/love-leads-to-adult-colouring-in-book-boom/6589906

Dredge, S. (2015, August 29th). Adult Colouring Books? Inevitably, there’s an app for that. Retrieved from The Guardian: http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/aug/27/adult-colouring-books-app-recolor

Ford, E. (2015, August 29). Adult Colouring-in Books Not Art Therpay, Professioanls Say. Retrieved from ABC News: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-08-06/adult-colouring-in-books-not-art-therapy-professionals-say/6675634

Kohli, S. (2015, August 29). Colouring books are suddenly catching on with adults. Retrieved from SBS News: http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/2015/06/30/colouring-books-are-suddenly-catching-adults

How to get opposite seasons in one day.

So this morning I went for a run in below freezing temperatures in Canberra. However, then I needed to travel for work and luckily, I was due to go to Cairns. Whereas it was freezing in Canberra, I landed to nice, warm, tropical weather in Cairns. Perfect for defrosting. How do you get opposite seasons in one day? While some areas of Australia are known for providing multiple seasons in one day, travelling to a different part of the country is also a way this can be achieved.

It has been many years since I was in Cairns and the last time I was there it was on a Contiki tour. So while there was a lot of drinking on that trip, there was not a lot of independent exploring. While I was determined to squish in some exploring if I could around work, when I got there today there was just enough time for a quick walk before it got dark.

One thing that is apparent in Cairns is that it is quite a touristy area. Even the hotel itself is much more geared towards tourists than to the business traveller. That means, a nice pool and a swim up bar. Unfortunately, being there for work, I did not have the opportunity to indulge in the swim up bar. The other thing about Cairns is some beautiful plants and flowers. Being a fan of the colour purple, I quite liked the purple flowers near the pool.

A quick walk along the boardwalk showed that while the beach near town was maybe not the best, there were still nice views out to see and there was even a free Zumba class taking place in a local park! I loved this plant, the green with the pink was striking and I liked the way that from the front of the leaf there was a pink border to the green.



Working up an appetite I found a place where I could sit back and relax and enjoy a steak for dinner while sitting outside without a jacket on (somewhat of a novelty in August when one lives in Canberra).

Upon returning back to the hotel I did discover that the nice looking pool looked even better when it was all lit up at night. Fingers crossed I get time for some exploring tomorrow.

Cold Running Mistake

After getting out for a run earlier in the week in what was a warm Canberra winters morning, today I made a mistake. Usually I check the weather before I even get out of bed to go for a run, and if it is below zero degrees, I stay in bed. Today however, I was feeling complacent after the warmer weather earlier in the week and I failed to check t what the temperature was. So I put on my running gear and out the door I went.

It didn’t take long for me to realise it was cold! Bitterly cold! There was frost on the ground and the air was so cold it hurt to breathe. A quick check of the weather revealed it was -4 degrees. Oops- I should have checked the weather before getting out of bed! I quickly debated the options:

1)      Turn around and go straight back home

2)      Continue my run and hope that once I warm up a bit the cold is not so bothersome.

Turning around and going back home to bed was tempting. However, getting out of bed to go running is always a battle and today I had won the battle, so decided to keep going. I pulled my sleeves down over my fingers so they were not exposed to the cold and put my hoodie on. Then by occasionally warming up the air by breathing through my sleeve, I managed to kept the cold at bay long enough to allow me to warm up.

Once I got a bit warmer by generating some body heat, the cold was not too bad and I was glad I had persevered despite the chilly temperature. The good thing about continuing the run is that there is something about going for a run with the frost around. It is a good time to venture off the path and feel the ground under your feet. Furthermore, seeing the frost on the ground and on the individual clumps of grass has something refreshing about it.

On the way home I was also rewarded with an awesome view of the frosted soccer fields. The edge near the path had started to defrost showing the comparison of the soccer field itself. With the frost coverage it looked untouched.

Now however, the question is, having survived a run in the cold, should I revise my cut off temperature that keeps me in bed? On second thoughts- I think not. Bed is just too snuggly when it is that cold outside!

Put on your shoes

Over the worst of winter, it is freezing (literally) in the mornings in Canberra. Getting up and going for a run is somewhat difficult when it is dark outside and it is well and truly below zero degrees. I am also one of those people that can struggle to get out of bed to exercise even when the weather isn’t objectionable. I know that I will enjoy the run once I get up and get going and that I will feel good afterwards. Once out the door and going, I enjoy the feel of putting my body through its paces and the release of endorphins that occurs. Yet I still struggle to get up, put my running shoes on, and get out the door.

Today was a warmer morning of about three degrees and with the earlier sunrises now, it was daylight early enough to squeeze in a run before work. So against the odds, I extracted myself from under my cosy doona, put on my running shoes and off I went into the beautiful Canberra morning. It was pleasantly warm and thew sun was streaming through the trees.

I would like to say that it was a beautiful morning and once I was outside I hit my stride and off I went. But as all runners who haven’t run in a while know, the first run back is always awful. I think I made it about 300 metres before I walked the first time and in reality I probably walked more than ran. The only advantage of going so slow was that I had time to stop and have a look at the wattle along the way. The wattle was in full bloom and its bold yellow flowers against its green background is simply stunning. I don’t think the photos from my phone really did it full justice but it was definitely well worth getting out of bed for.

Despite the substantial walk element of this morning’s ‘run’, I still enjoyed it once I got going and felt better for it. So now my first run in ages is out of the way. Hopefully the next one will be better, provided of course that I can get out of bed sometime in the near future to go again. I just have to manage to put on my shoes.

The Joy of Cooking

I have never been the world’s most enthusiastic cook. I cook to feed myself but have never understood the joy that people get out of cooking. To me, cooking dinner is a chore that must be undertaken. However, about a year ago I started baking. Baking was different to cooking. Maybe it is the pure self-indulgence of baking something that I don’t need in order to survive, or the achievement of creating something. Whatever it is, baking relaxes me. I get lost in the process of finding a recipe of something I want to make, gathering the ingredients, measuring everything, following the recipe and even in cleaning up afterwards. I even tend to wash the dishes by hand as that is part of the process for me (my partner thinks this is a little crazy given we have a perfectly good dishwasher!). In the last year or so I have made numerous batches of chocolate chip cookies (a favourite in our household), chocolate cakes, banana caked, slices, muffins and even an apple pie one day. One of the cakes I have made in the past that I really liked from both a cooking and eating perspective was a Raspberry Swirl Cake. Last time I made the Raspberry Swirl Cake, I didn’t ice it because it didn’t last that long before it got devoured. Yesterday however, there were strict orders that it could not be touched until I had a chance to ice it and therefore make it complete. It turned out pretty well.

When I started baking, one of the dilemmas I encountered was that my partner and I are not able to eat everything I bake if we have any intention of not ending up putting on large amounts of weight. While I do get enjoyment out of eating a little of what I bake, most of the benefits of the process for me is in the cooking itself. Therefore, over the last year, we have worked out which of our friends enjoy home-made cooking, some of whom are far too busy to indulge in baking themselves. This means, we can turn up to people’s houses or invite them over for home-made whatever and earn some serious brownie points. Not only do they think we are great but it means the baking gets put to good use without us having to eat it all. Perfect! Today we were helping some friends who have been moving house. I ducked home and grabbed the almost complete cake I made yesterday and took it around for afternoon tea. Everyone took a break and enjoyed the cake and it got mostly demolished. I left the remainder of the cake there for their kid’s lunchboxes tomorrow. The cake will get completely eaten, we didn’t have to eat it and I got the enjoyment of baking it.

So another weekend has passed and another cake successfully made and eaten and I suspect the Raspberry Swirl Cake will be requested and made again in the not too distant future.

Education as a life-long process.

As a 16 year-old, I was looking forwards to the end of school. The end of tests, exams and education. Then I decided to go to university. Okay, so three more years of education it was to be. In reality I spent four and a half of the next five years at university. But what then? My basic degree didn’t qualify me to do anything I really wanted. So, I took a year off and then embarked on another two years of university education to complete a Graduate Diploma and a Masters degree.

So by this time I had my VCE (Victorian Certificate of Education or year 12 qualification), two Bachelors degrees, a graduate diploma and a Masters degree. At this point I swore, never again. Never again would I embark on more education.

A few years later, I had moved into an area of my profession that I didn’t really think I had the qualifications to handle. I could just go back to what I was doing or I could embark on further study. I had also start to wonder what would happen if I wanted to change professions during the course of my working life and the consequences that having a very specific Masters degree would have on my options. Enough time had passed and my thirst for learning had returned. So, I decided to take the more challenging option and returned to study a further Masters degree. This time, doing so while juggling a job that was highly demanding and involved far more hours than your average full time job. Luckily, my job also involved lots of travel and I soon discovered time on airplanes was valuable study time. I finished that Masters degree a few months ago and this time knew that it was not a case of swearing I would never study again. I knew it was pointless to say I would never study again, not just because I have a thirst for learning but also because I view education differently now to when I was sixteen years old.

When I was sixteen, I thought education was something you did when you were young, but then you finished. Now I know, education should be a lifelong process. Even within my profession, things change over time. Our professional governing body requires we embark on continuing professional development in order to keep up and offer services which are up to date. This is a sign of the world we live in.

Our world does not stay still. It changes all the time. Things progress very rapidly and to not learn is to get left behind. The kids graduating from high school and university now are far more knowledgeable in areas that are currently in demand from the job sector that I was when I graduated high school all of those years ago. If I was not to study, I would quickly get overtaken by the newer, up and coming generations. They would be the ones that get the good jobs and I would be left with the scraps. Like many people, I have no desire to be left behind by the younger generations which means I need to study and embark on further education. In a world where things change so quickly, learning is key for everyone. If you think about it, this is not just true for our work lives.

Look at the members of the older generations and who are unable to use computers and other technologies which form a key pillar to all aspects of our lives. Have you ever wondered how they let that happen? How did they not keep up? Truth be told, we are also at risk of ending up in a similar situation. With technology changing so quickly, it is easy to be left behind. If we want to continue to use the technology that we value so much in all areas of our lives but which changes so quickly, we must continue to learn and educate ourselves in how to use the latest and greatest tools and gadgets. Training, learning and education is the key.

The need for education, however, does not mean that everyone must embark on multiple higher education courses. We are lucky enough to live in a world where learning and education are at our finger tips. The internet means there is almost unlimited information that can be readily accessed. This information can be easily accessed simply by looking up topics of interest. If you don’t have internet or a computer, there is always the local library. With free access to internet and computers in most libraries around the country, accessibility to information is at an all-time high. Of course once does have to be careful about what they read on the internet and the quality of information but for anyone who is unsure, there are also a plethora of courses run through various institutions that are free to access.

In the few months since I have finished studying, I have done a chemistry course, a physics course and a course about the social side of changes in agriculture. All of these are free. I found something that interested me and I put aside the time to learn. I am sure that it won’t be long until I start something else because the one key thing I have learnt above all else over the years is the value of continuing to learn. Education in one form or another is not something that we should view as a process that occurs and stops, but rather a key element of our lives that is a lifelong process.

Wollongong

Today I headed to Wollongong for work. I have only been to Wollongong for work once or twice before and not in my current role, so not for a number of years.

Wollongong is an interesting place. There are beaches, a golf course, light house, significant industrial areas and lots of cafes. While serving as a local hub, it definitely also has the vibe of a beachside town. In the past it was a significant coal mining area that was also known for its steel industry. Today however, it has moved away from a dependence on heavy industry and now incorporates contributions from industries such as information and technology, business, finance, heath and aged care, education and research, and a significant tourism element.

The first time I went to Wollongong was in 1994 for the Australian University Games. I was playing Rugby Union and that trip was as much about partying, the atmosphere and what happened when tent city blew down, as it was about the sport.

Today’s trip however, was about work. While a 10:30am meeting made for an early start it meant it was over by lunchtime. Usually when I travel places for work I go in, do what I need to do and get straight back in my car and go home or on to the next location. Given the weather was meant to be nice today I packed my lunch and after my meeting finished, I headed towards the beach and sat and ate as I watched the water in the sunshine.

Not a bad way to take a break before heading back to Canberra really. The good thing is it looks like I will get to go back again in a couple of weeks. Think I might pack my lunch again…..

It snowed!

Living in Canberra we get a lot of cold weather. However, it does not very often snow. Today was one of those days where it actually snowed in Canberra (well parts of it anyway). When it snows in Canberra, it is an exciting event and seems to unleash the inner child in many people. The snow today was not forecasted but late morning the temperature dropped and white flakes started falling from the sky.

As soon as the snow started, social media feeds became swamped with reports and pictures of it snowing and the news websites hastily filed reports detailing where the snow was falling, how long it may last and how much snow may fall. Things came to a standstill. Children were let out of class to look at the snow and adults displayed child-like excitement as productivity came to a grinding halt while workers stepped outside to look at the snow. There was not enough snow to build a snowman and in most areas it didn’t even settle on the ground. However, the excitement and buzz was definitely present. People who live in areas where it snows regularly would be unlikely to understand the excitement generated by such a small amount of snow but to Canberrans, the excitement was contagious.

For the rest of the day, the first thing people asked was “Did you see the snow?” I went to a meeting tonight and the conversation was dominated with talk about it snowing today until everyone settled enough to concentrate on the task at hand.

It is unlikely to snow again in Canberra this year. Tomorrow it is forecasted to be a standard Canberra winters day complete with a morning frost and sunny skies in the afternoon. So our inner child that was unleashed today when it snowed gets put away again. Until next time the white flakes fall from the sky.