Another year is behind us; seems they go by faster every year, a feature that I’m not a particularly big fan of. However, turns out quite a bit happened this year as well – leaving aside the world events for a while, here’s a recap of some memorable personal moments from 2011:
January was the height of summer here, and our first-ever vegetables were beginning to bear some fruit. The tomato plant was a success, but unfortunately some unknown animals (most likely possums) thought so, too, and ate a bunch of them. This year we are better prepared with nets.
Summer inevitably brings with it some critters, and it must be said that despite Finland having lots of forests etc, nature comes closer to you in Australia, even in the cities. Many people are not particularly fond of spiders, such as these pretty big huntsman spiders captured here on our fence in February. You may not learn to love them, but you do learn to live with them – and, as far as spiders go, the furry huntsmen are sort of beautiful, aren’t they?
I spent half of March working in Europe, in Brussels and Paris; over the weekend there, I think I exhausted most of Brussels’ interesting sights, from the Atomium pictured here to breweries and museums. While early March is not a particularly pleasant period to visit either city weather-wise, with spring yet to arrive, I do like Europe a lot, though Paris much more so than Brussels – even the ubiquitous crepes in Paris win the ubiquitous waffles in Brussels hands down
In April we went on a road trip, touring to Lakes Entrance, Buchan Caves, Snowy River National park (the edge of which is pictured here) and Canberra. Canberra turned out to live up to its reputation – clean, orderly, uncrowded, and somewhat boring. The kids, however, loved the wonderful science museum there, Questacon, and the War Memorial was pretty impressive as well.
Over the past couple of years, we’ve gotten to know and love the local farmer’s markets, like the closest one at Sir William Fry Reserve, a couple of kilometers from where we live – pictured here in May. The quality & selection of the produce is excellent, supporting local farmers is crucial and you can get some things you can’t easily find elsewhere; stuff like like venison, which makes for a very passable substitution for reindeer when making poronkäristys.
In June, for the first time in Melbourne, I hired a set of studio flashes for a photoshoot gig I did for a friend. Testing the equipment at home, our kids were the natural guinea-pigs and made for supremely cute subjects.
Late July we set off for Singapore for a couple of days’ stop-over on our way to Finland. Singapore is a great place to visit, particularly if you like good food or shopping – really all there is in the city are shopping malls and restaurants, or at least that what it seemed like. I wouldn’t want to live there, though – the climate is too hot & humid, people often not very nice and it’s not what you’d call a family-friendly city either. And I don’t like shopping. It was, however, good to catch up with some of the friendlier people in the city with our friends as guides.
After Singapore, we spent the entire month of August in Finland; it was the first time we went back after moving to Australia in 2009. I took some 7,000 photos during the month, many of which still need to be sifted through, selected and sorted, but the best moments were spent with family and friends; like this one, where me, my father and my son – three generations of men – are going fishing. Perfect, like many moments. Even the weather co-operated, with a sunny and warm August pampering us.
Some three days after returning from Finland, at the very beginning of September, I was off to San Francisco / the Bay Area for a business trip. What made this trip particularly great was that there are now some three good friends living in the area, and that I got to spend a weekend there which meant lots of hiking at various National, State and County parks.
By October, summer (by Finnish standards anyway, the official one starts in December) was in full swing in Melbourne, and many of the warmer evenings were spent on the beach – the kids never get tired of water and sand, and hanging around at the beach is not an entirely unpleasant way to spend time for adults, either One of the highlights was when Amanda found a bunch of live starfish from our local beach.
In November, we spent some time at the local botanical gardens; this flower is from the Royal Botanic Gardens Cranbourne that has great picnic areas and interesting tasks for kids, whereas the Melbourne version has some great water features in the summer, like water vapor fountains, artificial rain in the “rainforest” section of the children’s garden and a small artificial river for wading in.
At the end of December, we went on a vacation for a week to a destination that raised quite a few eyebrows here; we were going to Canberra. Again. Most Australians are generally perplexed why anyone ever bothers going to Canberra, let alone twice within a year – but really it’s not all that bad.
The primary reason for going back was that ever since our visit in April, our kids had been begging to go back to Questacon (the great science museum). And since a) science is a good thing to be excited about, b) one of the best sources of joy is seeing kids happy and c) it wasn’t a good time of the year to visit other destinations on our to-do list (Uluru and Cairns), off to Canberra it was. To be fair, we did include a few other places in the itinerary, too – wonderful experiences like seeing kangaroos in Tidbinbilla, good food in Canberra and quite a few good sights in Cowra (of all places!). We finally made it to a couple of cave tours at Jenolan Caves, too, which were simply awesome:
It felt like 2011 was a year when I did very little traveling in, but looking back it seems I’ve been traveling abroad or domestically in Australia for over 20% of the year, most of it on vacation, which doesn’t feel so little after all. Anyhow, it’s been mostly a great year for me personally (I’ve learned a lot) & our family, and despite the alarming emerging macro trends I’m hoping that streak will continue in 2012.
As for the first day of 2012, I am writing this on January 1st, 2012 and it’s a scorching ~+35C outside with the UV index at 11. I’ve raked a couple of hundred liters of flowers from our driveway (this is a daily exercise this time of the year, as the 20m tree generates a near-infinite number of flowers), the kids have had their water play in the balmy morning weather, and are now enjoying some downtime. A siesta would sound attractive, as would hitting the beach – but probably won’t do that until later in the day after some of the heat dies down. Tomorrow the temperature is forecast to head beyond +40C, but luckily it’s a day off to compensate for January 1st falling on a Sunday – so it’s shaping up to be a rather relaxed start for 2012. Maybe I can even read some of the books that I meant to read on our vacation this past week, but didn’t even open