Playground Tour 2021: Finally Complete

June 1, 2021 at 2:05 pm (Uncategorized)

I promised my kids last school holidays that we’d get to John Knight Park sooner or later. That was six weeks ago. The days are growing colder, and I’m so easily tired.

Yesterday was a public holiday and a friend was at my house. She mentioned she was taking her kids to the park, and I asked if we could tag along. She said yes.

Not sure what number playground this was, but ten seemed a good bet.

Of course, everyone who grew up on the North side of Canberra remembers this particular playground as “The Snake Playground”. It is now several playgrounds, but the one with the snakes has been rebuilt. . . and they kept the snakes.

I was really glad to catch the kids playing on this roundy-roundy thing, as an echo of a photo from way back on the original playground tour (which I can’t currently find but oh well).

John Knight Park is gorgeous, with waterfalls and pools and the lake and ducks and trees. It is an excellent end to this second and final playground tour. And an excellent end to Autumn, too.

I’m so glad I took my kids to all these playgrounds while they were still (moderately) interested. Of course we’ll still go to playgrounds now and again for a while, but a big part of their childhood ended while I wasn’t looking. That’s parenthood for you.

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May 19, 2021 at 10:01 pm (Uncategorized)

For various reasons, I never actually read the fanfic that people write about any of my stories (mostly so I can never accidentally steal someone’s ideas!) but I ALWAYS love hearing that it exists.

So here‘s a FanFic ending for “Choices That Matter: And Their Souls Were Eaten”. I believe it may not be safe for work so proceed at your own risk. Judging by the tags, it’s gay friendly (YAY).

An entry without an image is boring, so here’s a pic of my cat Zipper looking appalled at my rudeness (she always looks like this):

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Playground Tour 2021: 3 in 1

April 11, 2021 at 6:37 pm (Uncategorized)

Today we went to the Commonwealth Park Playground, also known as the Castle Playground (by me) and the Mouse House Playground (by some).

It is mostly made up of interconnecting tunnels, making it extremely hard work for parents of clingy toddlers (“Mummy come too!”) but a gorgeous location for those who take way too many photos. In unrelated news, I took eleven photos just of the rocks. Rocks are pretty.

This time, I remembered Lizzie’s tiara.

We parked at CIT (deserted on a Sunday), walked under the underpass (which I hope will have murals painted in it again one day), and turned right towards the Castle.

Here’s Lizzie signing “seven” in Auslan, and looking regal at the top of the slide.

On to Playground #8!

This is Yerrabi Pond Playground, in Gungahlin (and “eight” in Auslan):

Today was super windy again, and cold, and I forgot to bring jackets and beanies. I took a coupla pics and then let Chris run up and down fetching the flying fox while I sat in the car and ate popcorn (which was precisely why we went there on a weekend, with Chris).

Yerrabi Pond Park & Playground is good value, and it’s a real shame we forgot to take our scooters because it has a really good scooter area suitable for beginners.

Now, Questacon was meant to be one of our playground tour destinations, especially as Tim is 6 (for another few months) so only barely young enough to still go into Mini-Q (which is AWESOME) but it turns out Mini-Q is closed until further notice due to covid.

However, the National Zoo and Aquarium has an awesome new playground now, at the very top of the zoo near the rhinos (and rhino bistro) and big park area (which contains this artificial waterfall):

We went to the zoo very recently, with the refugees we’re mentoring (an epic day!)… so here’s Lizzie signing “nine” with as little context as possible.

Here’s a real tiger most definitely daring me to pat it on that gorgeous soft underbelly. . . something I would definitely fall for if there wasn’t major fencing in the way.

Here’s my son casually eating an ice cream while sitting on a giant snake. . .

And here’s a puma patiently waiting for YOUR child to come and play.

The zoo playground is, once again, a little too young for my two, but the animals hidden throughout are incredibly cool, and anyone under 5 (or old enough to be silly again, which the refugees certainly were) will love it. There are several different areas separated by plenty of greenery, so I recommend it for parents willing to either let their kids wander off into the jungle or to chase after them the whole time.

One more playground to go!

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Playground Tour 2021: Sculpture Garden

April 10, 2021 at 9:03 pm (Uncategorized)

Yes, I know it’s not a playground. At all.

Lizzie is making the Auslan sign for “six”.

I pointed out the National Carillon to Qusay, who already knew what it was since he used to live in Kingston.

My favourite sculpture is this one, because it’s so simple and dramatic and the shapes are so satisfying (as is the noise it makes when you tap on it), plus the contrast of the smooth metal and detailed trees is gorgeous, and all the more so as the natural surroundings reflect in the mirrored surfaces.

We took Qusay (our artist friend from Iraq), who was delighted by the sculptures, and delighted again when the mist sculpture switched on. It put him in mind of European style fairy tales, just as it does for me.

I was so busy filming the mist I forgot to take a photo, but this is a nice screenshot from one of the videos (ignore the scooter, of course).

Lizzie especially liked the sculptures of women:

It was very windy today and I thought it would be awful, but the gardens provided shelter. Tim and I went home while the rest continued into the gallery (which is currently ticketed, although still free except for special exhibitions). OF COURSE Qusay was especially excited excited about the Dali sculpture and abstract artists. Check out some of his work (which is all for sale in his shop, which I run for him).

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Playground Tour 2021: Boundless

April 9, 2021 at 9:46 am (Uncategorized)

Boundless is the name of an all-ability playground just up the hill from the bridge to the National Carillon (and yes, you can hear the carillon from the Playground without it being loud enough to be annoying). You have to approach the playground from the correct side of the Kings Ave bridge (heading northeast). Parking for the playground has been expanded and we easily found a spot (a disabled spot).

Boundless is very popular, but also very large. When Tim, Lizzie and I arrived around 11:30 there were probably 100 people there, but it wasn’t crowded. There are only two toilets, but they’re centrally located and since a lot of the kids were young enough to be in nappies the toilets were sufficient. By 12:30 about half the people had gone and it was a lot easier to scan those that were there when I was trying to keep track of my own kids. Most of Boundless has reasonable line of sight, which is handy, and the whole playground is fenced which is GREAT.

There’s a reasonable amount of seating and shade (and lots of picnic tables and even some bbq facilities just outside the fence), but at 11:30 the seating and shade didn’t align so a lot of people were sitting on the (wet) grass in order to be out of the sun.

In our original playground tour, this was #6, after the art gallery as #5, but our scheduled visit to the gallery yesterday was switched to Saturday so Boundless became #5. Savvy?

We’ll also leave out Questacon this time, as the Mini-Q section is closed due to covid until further notice.

I once again struck the issue that it’s difficult to take photos of a crowded playground without accidentally including other people’s kids. Ah well.

As usual, the roundabout (ie the fastest and most dangerous thing in the whole playground) was a favourite for my kids.

This whole playground tour is touched with melancholy, as I am witnessing the end of the ‘playground’ era for my children. Even Boundless didn’t hold them for long (as mentioned elsewhere, climbing frames and flying foxes are what it’s all about at the moment playground-wise).

Tim was very clingy as a baby and I distinctly remember that when he was nine months old he was interested in actually exploring playgrounds for the first time—starting with Boundless.

Yep, that’s my 6 year-old spurning the playground to read a book. A beautiful sight, but a little heartbreaking at the same time.

As usual, Lizzie is more open to enjoying what’s placed in front of her (in this case, a playground) and she made some friends while we were there. As a girl on the spectrum, she often struggles to make friends but tends to instantly connect with kids younger or older than herself. Another shot of melancholy as I remember how easily she made friends as a preschooler (and a baby and toddler). Things were simpler then. At nine years old, she’s on the brink of hitting puberty. A wonderful and terrifying moment. She is so very eager to please and willing to do anything to spend time with me. That is about to change.

In conclusion, this is definitely our last playground tour—and not just because I’m allergic to the outside world. My little ones aren’t little any more.

Those five fingers might as well be waving goodbye.

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Playground Tour 2021: The Arboretum

April 5, 2021 at 12:56 pm (Uncategorized)

The Arboretum is sprawled across several rolling hills close to Canberra’s heart. It has several monocultural forests of rare and endangered trees, building up a living seed bank. And it is very, very pretty.

The Bonsai and Penjing collection is rightly famous, and that’s where we began our journey, with our refugee friends suitably impressed by both the bonsai art and the stunning views across Canberra. They also explored the Discovery Garden, recognising many plants since Iraq is another somewhat desert-inclined country.

Then the kids went to the playground and I told the Iraqis to go explore on their own, which they did (after, as per usual, unloading food and chocolate on us and the kids).

So how was it?

The Arboretum’s famous Pod Playground is #4 on our list of playgrounds.

And it sucked.

It was super duper crowded, and hot, and noisy. There’s very little shade or seating around the Pod Playground, and the best part of the playground is a single-file journey through several pods and rope tunnels to the top of this epic slide:

The problem, of course, is that it really is single file. And very high. So kids get stuck partway all the time, delaying everyone and being incredibly difficult to extract.

Anyway, here’s Lizzie. Ish. You can see a tiny bit of her hat peeking out from the left-hand pod.

I lost patience real fast and hustled everyone home asap. There was screaming.

Thus endeth today’s journey. Hopefully things go better at the Art Gallery Sculpture Garden (not really a playground, but shut up) this Wednesday.

There’s a 60% chance of rain.

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Playground Tour 2021: The Cotter Reserve

April 2, 2021 at 5:41 pm (Uncategorized)

The Cotter Reserve Playground is a little young for my kids now, but it was really the river we were there for.

She’s not really rolling her eyes, honest.

When I sat down and looked at the ten playgrounds on my list, I marked four as being interesting to the (adult, childless) refugee couple that we’re currently mentoring as part of the Castle of Kindness Refugee Sponsorship Group. This, being a gorgeous natural setting near the Cotter Dam with lots of great walks in the area, was one of them. So we had our family of four + another family that is joining the Castle of Kindness (and has a toddler with strong opinions) + two Iraqis.

One of the major challenges for this location is that the internet tends to drop out a few kilometres before you get there. That means that GPSes don’t work, and neither does Google Translate (which we rely on heavily with the refugee couple). So it was a relatively complex plan that actually came together rather well. I forgot to check the water quality (which, now that I look at it, was rated yellow—it passed 60%-90% of the time, apparently), but none of us fell over in it so I’m sure we’ll be fine. The Cotter Reserve is a paddling spot rather than a swimming spot.

We took sausages to cook but luckily the others had plenty of yummy food to share because there were heaps of people around and the BBQs were very much taken. The playground was popular too, but I did manage to take this picture of Chris and Tim without bothering to get up from my spot near the water.

The refugees really enjoyed exploring up and down the river, and I had a little paddle myself.

It’s common to see wildlife there (including brown snakes) but there were far too many people today.

Lizzie’s holding three fingers up because this is playground #3 of 10. The next on the list is the Arboretum, which will feature the exact same crowd, an incredible playground, and amazing views across Canberra.

Here are the maps I shared with various people to help us find each other. It’s a big area so we used the playground as a meeting place.

Casuarina Sands (which you can see on the top map, and which we passed on the way) is much better for swimming. So there are lots of ways to enjoy the area, which is gorgeous without being inaccessible.

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Playground Tour 2021

March 27, 2021 at 11:06 pm (Uncategorized)

Today we tackled Playgrounds #1 and #2.

  1. Point Hut Playground, Gordon

The tower is much scarier to climb that one would think.

Lizzie took this picture of the view:

I misspoke six years ago, largely dismissing this playground. It’s definitely one of the best in Canberra, and richly deserves to be on this tour. There were several parties happening there today but there was still plenty of space for everyone. It’s really five or six playgrounds in one big grassy area (and a basketball court, and a brilliant picnic spot), and has enough range that my kids cheerfully bounced from one place to another. I’ve noticed they’re starting to outgrow playgrounds (even if they haven’t realised it themselves) but there was a great range of climbing stuff which is at a perfect level for them—both fun and challenging.

After that, a not-very-surprising spanner in the works: we could not go to the George Gregan Playground, because it’s in a hospital. Given the lack of cases in the ACT (for many months) I thought we’d be okay so long as we sanitised like mad coming in and out. Of course I was wrong. There’s a pandemic on.

So instead we went to the new playground in Ginninderry, which of course wasn’t there six years ago. It’s maybe half the size of Point Hut, which is still a very respectable size, with lots of different things to do.

That’s a combination soccer/basketball field behind the merry-go-round. And very pretty mountains.

This climbing frame set up (there are others as well) was definitely a hit with the kids.

Spinny thing.

It also has a pretty pond nearby, with a bridge over it. I love a good pedestrian bridge (that’s not it, but another climbing thing).

We have a week of school to go, but soon we’ll be on to playground #3: At the Cotter Reserve. Hopefully with a bunch of friends along too.

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Ten Playgrounds in One Day

March 25, 2021 at 7:16 pm (Uncategorized)

Yes, I’m a teensy bit manic depressive. Some days I barely move. Other days I’m ON for hours and hours and I act like nothing hurts and nothing is hard.

This was one of those days, back in 2015 when Lizzie was three and Tim was just one year old. Overwhelmed with life and with all I couldn’t do with my children, I decided to throw common sense out the window and have an ADVENTURE. This is how it went:

  1. 1. Point Hut, Gordon. We arrived around 7:00am, ran across the playground, climbed the tower, and ran back to the car. The top floor of the tower is tilted.

This is the tower. As you can see, we started when it was still dark.

2. George Gregan at Canberra Hospital. At this point my adorable social butterfly was saying, “I want some kids here.” (I recommend GG because it’s super awesome, but also because it’s quiet.)

We always make sure to take some jumps off the crocodile. Oh! I forgot to mention that at this point it was six degrees outside.

3. Cotter Reserve Playground (just after the second bridge) although we barely touched the playground. She’s in swimmers and a towel jacket.

…and water shoes. My crocs went really well, but I refused to go deeper than (her) knees.

4. Arboretum Playground. I promised Louisette there’d be kids there, and I was right. She made two completely unrelated friends in the 40 or so minutes we were there – just enough time to go down all the slides a few times, then promise her a surprise at the next one. (I had of course a series of useful rewards planned out for the day; it was a test of her endurance as much as mine.)

At every playground, I asked, “Did you like this one or the last one best?” She always said emphatically, “This one!” until just after Questacon, and then said, “Questacon” for the last two. Then I attempted to get a definitive answer this evening and she was back to insisting that every playground we mentioned was her favourite. (PS You can see mountains in the background of this photo.)

5. (Somewhat easier for the pre-schooler hand to shape than 3 or 4.) The National Gallery Sculpture Garden, cunningly timed for. . .

The 12:30 fog sculpture. We sat beside the water waiting (I told her something surprising would happen at 12:30 because of a machine) and then hissssss, and suddenly fog rose from the ground before us. She was suitably impressed, and when the wall of white sent Evil Magician-style clouds right at us – blocking out the world – she stepped back. It was really eerie! After a bit we walked through it – cold and subtly wet – to the car.

6. Boundless! Directly across the lake (timed so we’d hear the Carillon play, although the Sculpture Garden would have done just as well). Those are water cannons. . . and swimmers.

Being there at lunchtime there was a single school group on their way out and then it was emptier than I’ve ever seen it. Louisette practised jumping on and off the merry-go-round, which was definitely something we need for the future – it goes seriously fast.

7. A water dragon (and two turtles not visible here) at Questacon’s Waterways exhibit. We also saw caged lightning and the earthquake centre – but deliberately avoided Mini-Q this time! Mum’s catch-cry was “Quickety-Quick!”

All kids love being able to manipulate large objects (including TJ), so this has always been a favourite. Plus I like photos of round things.

8. Commonwealth Park Castle. I had her crown in the car and forgot it! Ah well. She was reluctant to leave, but I promised a sleep in the car plus Nanny and TJ at the next one.

New umbrella 🙂 You can see the castle down the path. (Other people call it the mouse house.) I love taking photos and having picnics here, but it involves a lot of crawling and very little visibility. (The crawling tends to tire kids out fast too – unless of course they make a friend. We had it to ourselves today, or it would have been very difficult to move on.)

9. Yerrabi Pond Adventure Playground. She’d had enough of taking photos with her hands in difficult number positions (I’m surprised she lasted as long as she did – changing locations is exhausting, but surprisingly helpful for preventing melt-downs – especially when there are snacks in the car.) I’d decided en route to save TJ for last, but Louisette didn’t mind because I still had one deux ex machine up my sleeve. . .

A bubble gun! It’s operated by blowing in the end and cost the princely sum of $4. (And she even modelled the crown I forgot at the caslte.)

10. John Knight Park Snake Playground. Poor Louisette is trying so hard to follow directions (as my mum holds tiger TJ steady on her lap) – ten fingers, and her face, and the snake at the top right.

Looking down from the top of the snake tower on TJ and my mum. After that we fed some extremely enthusiastic birds and then went home! 

I love my special Lizzie time, and I love a good adventure.

Total cost: About $10 in parking (Arboretum, Sculpture Garden and Questacon – which can work with one ticket); Two days physical recovery if I don’t exercise (Thursday and Friday are writing days, so that works). We have Questacon membership so that was “free”.

Total time: A bit under 12 hours.

Worth it for me? When I can do something that is difficult but within my range of ability – and I know it’s something I do better than most – that has a value that can’t be measured. Even if/when it’s a manic episode. It generally only happens a few times a year, which is not enough.

Worth it for Louisette? She likes adventures, but would usually rather spend a day with a friend (although her ability to play nicely breaks down noticeably after an hour or two). We got to know each other better (I love how much fun it is to just talk to her these days), and I definitely feel that Boundless is the biz for the not-that-healthy parent of a moderately-sensible preschooler (although the shade and the seats were very far apart at noon). We went to several places that we wouldn’t normally attempt without Chris, and that was rewarding for Louisette, plus of course she’s once again the star of a unique family story. Although everything was her favourite sooner or later, I think paddling in the Cotter River was the most special, and the surprise fog and/or Questacon were the most immediately absorbing.

In summary:

  1. Point Hut Playground, Gordon. Cool tower; otherwise it’s only included here to be nice to South-siders.
  2. George Gregan Memorial playground. AWESOME and so photogenic, but inside a hospital so there’s a risk of infection maybe—and the parking is awful.
  3. Cotter Reserve Playground. If you’re going there, check the water quality here and keep an eye out for brown snakes. And of course water shoes are a good idea, but/and those underwater rocks are super slippery.
  4. Arboretum Playground. Super awesome and stunning views across Canberra but the main part involves a long and scary trek through large tubes and pods, followed by a pretty intense slide… if your kid needs reassurance, you’ll have to work hard to get them out.
  5. Sculpture Garden. Not technically a playground, but super cool, especially when the mist is on. And within hearing of the National Carillion.
  6. Boundless. Disability-friendly (including toilets) but parking isn’t great. Also near the Carillion (closer, actually; you can walk across the bridge to its island).
  7. Questacon. Expensive (and currently you need to book in advance) but really cool and educational. There’s a gallery especially for littlies called “Mini-Q” which is only open to those 6 and under and their families. Even when there’s not a pandemic on, you need to book for Mini Q as numbers are limited and it’s super popular.
  8. Commonwealth Park playground/mouse house. Very pretty, very hard on the knees. A fair walk from the nearest car park.
  9. Yerrabi Pond Adventure Playground. Lots to do.
  10. John Knight Park. Everyone who’s grown up in Canberra loves the snake playground, but it’s one of three playgrounds next to each other, and the waterfall, ponds, and lake are pretty (assuming your kid isn’t the kind to immediately hurl themself into the nearest body of water).

I reckon we’ll try to arrange to visit these ones with our refugee mentees, because they’re interesting to adults as well as kids.

Cotter Reserve Playground, for the nature.

Arboretum Playground for the views, and for the Bonsai Garden Exhibit.

Sculpture Garden. It’s part of the National Art Gallery so OF COURSE we’re taking our artist friend! We’ll try and time it to enjoy both the mist sculpture and the Carillion’s bells across the water.

John Knight Park. Including a BBQ, probably.

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How to post a painting

March 15, 2021 at 8:18 pm (Uncategorized)

The Marhaba Arts Etsy shop is shaping up nicely (still bits and pieces missing, but most of the important stuff is there). Qusay asked me to take a commission, which is ethically tricky because I’m a volunteer… but I don’t think Qusay is the type to efficiently run a shop, so my organisational skills are going to be useful for far longer than our official mentorship 6 months. I agreed to take 5% (the standard is 10-20%). And I’m doing a LOT to earn that. I’ve spent the last three days figuring out how to post a painting interstate. There’s a lot of specialised material involved, so I’m going to blog about it for those who find this kind of obscure knowledge fascinating. Almost all my knowledge is from the UPS.

Qusay uses acrylic paint on stretched canvas (on a wooden frame) in a wide range of sizes.

Step 1: Gather Your materials

The stuff you probably have:


Tape Measure (unless you’re super confident of your ability to measure by eye)

The stuff you probably don’t have (and where I bought them):

Glassine/Acid Free Paper $2.95 per sheet (Eckersley’s Art Shop)

Painter’s Tape $8:90 per roll (up to half a roll per painting I reckon; Bunnings)

Cardboard Corner Protectors (Couldn’t find them so bought a small box for $1.80 and made them with box cutters and special Painter’s Packing Tape.. yes, there was blood)

Bubble Wrap $20 for a giant roll. I used half of it for a single A2ish size painting and could easily have used the whole roll. Bunnings.

Foam ($6.95 A3 size; $8.95 A2 size; $10.95 for A1 size OUCH) Eckersley’s Art Shop

Outer Box, should be bought new, $4.00

Painter’s Packing Tape: $1.70 per roll; I used about half a roll.

‘FRAGILE’ stickers, $3.40 for a pack of 50 (I used one each for front and back)


Corrugated cardboard 0.5cm x 64cm x 90cm $3:95 (I reckon I’ll use THAT instead of foam in future, especially for the back of the paintings).

Here’s the pretty pretty picture that has been sold to an acquaintance in Sydney for $300 + postage & packaging:

Step 1

Wrap it in glassine paper, secured with painter’s tape (the thinner blue tape, not the thicker painter’s packing tape).

And now, let’s see that picture with a cat because the more protective I am of something, the more interesting it becomes to my local hoard of beclawed goblins. (Note to self: warn buyers that the house contains cats as they may suffer allergies.)

2. Cardboard Corners, THEN Bubble Wrap, THEN foam. Like a foam sandwich. I put foam first because I liked the neatness. I’ll do it right next time.

NOTE: Keep the ‘flat’ side of the bubble wrap inside, so you don’t get indentations of the bubbles on your painting.

Also, don’t wrap any of it too tightly. At any point.

3. After you’re made your bubble wrap and foam sandwich, wrap the whole sandwich in more bubble wrap. Multiple layers of the stuff.

4. Time to shape your box. I think you can get custom boxes but either way there’ll be adjustment to do. It’s best to buy new boxes; they’re both prettier and stronger. I used the scissor handle to indent where I wanted new folds to go.

5. Fill in any gaps in your box with more bubble wrap, and reinforce every edge and seam with Painter’s packing tape (the clear stuff—it’s stronger than the blue painter’s tape).

6. Put fragile stickers on both sides.

So that cost $45, including two crazy expensive pieces of foam.

Tomorrow, I take it to the post office. My guess is that it’ll cost another $50 to post.

Edit: It cost $40 to post, including registering it and insuring it for $300.

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