Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Proving she's not just a once in a blue moon horse...

She did it again, our Little Miss Hussy won on the weekend. This was despite drawing barrier one, being boxed in from the start, and receiving a hefty bump on the turn. For one dreadful moment it looked like she could either lose her legs from under her, or her jockey, or both... Phew good pick up!
That gritty determination that the stable hand had admired previously came to the fore, and with a look of 'Don't mess with me' she thundered home a triumphant winner in a listed race at Caulfield ...

It is a bucket list dream to own a horse that could win at a Melbourne metropolitan track. Our Little Miss H has now done that twice in two weeks! At the winners presentation, they announced the last horse to win this race with two out of two starts was Black Cavier, but let's not get ahead of ourselves...




Caulfield racecourse is one of Melbourne's best known and respectable race tracks, only 8 kms from the CBD... Holy Moly I'm pinching myself as I write this. It was not that long ago that we were packing up a family picnic for the six hour drive out into Woop Woop (our Aussie slang for somewhere in the middle of nowhere... in case you were wondering...) In search of a racetrack that no-one else wanted to go to, where we might have a half decent chance to win, and then when we didn't, well, it was an even longer drive home.




After collecting our Members' Reserve Owner badges we trot off to find our girl. A special assistance buggy stops to give us a lift to the stalls, which were all of 100 metres away...We are not sure of the etiquette here, is this special treatment for VIP owners, or should we be offended? We hop in anyway...




We find our filly looking relaxed in her favourite blue slippers, just having her hair done for the big event - well a gal's got to look good...she may have beaten the girls last time, but this time she is racing with the boys.

In the stall next to her is a rather plain Jane pony friend she has brought along for company on the trailer. A punter comes up to get a sneak peak and takes one look at plain Jane and comments very rudely 'I don't like the look of that one!"

There is a gathering of admiring owners and a general consensus about how brilliant the Sandown race was and how good she is looking...

We're off to find a bookie, it's such a shame that news of her first win has spread and we're hard pressed to find a turf accountant that doesn't have her as favourite... I put $5 on to win at the Tote for each of the kids and we race off (yes it's exhausting just keeping up) to watch her from the mounting yard. She is on her toes but she is not on her hind legs like the show off male behind her. She looks good, very good.




Our champion jockey Glen Boss comes over for a chat with the owners, we get the plan but can they execute? Boss, a current leader for the Melbourne Jockey's Premiership is looking for his 58 win of the season - she couldn't be in better hands...

Oh those butterflies in the stomach... A combination of shaking with excitement and a bloody fast horse results in the 'that's a good 'un' photo below...




We take our seats at the front of the glass members stand... She's won, we all hug, everyone is smiling at us, we rush back down to see her come in. Bless, she is still on her toes, with nostrils flaring and her glistening bay coat catching the last of the warm autumn sunshine. She looks every inch of a champion.

$72,000 not a bad day in the office and this is no spit and sawdust race either, this is Catanach's Jewellers Stakes, the posh jewellers in town. The cheque comes with a $500 silver cup. Whoo hoo...




The owners are invited to have a photo with the horse, can't wait to see a copy of this. We all gather on the lawn, those with heels are sinking fast into the soft perfectly manicured lawn of the winners enclosure. We are directed to leave a gap in our midst for the horse. She is now Little Miss Popular and with sixty million owners who have appeared from no-where this is no mean feat for the photographer...

We are told to stand, smile and what ever happens look at the camera - with a young inexperienced horse our trainer Michael Kent, has done well with the on track work, but horsey media appearances and PR clearly come in the three year old training program. Little Miss Hussy comes storming through the middle of us. Click, click, click, it's a wrap...

Madam makes it quite clear the audience is over and she's off for some oats...
Next it's time for the official presentation of the Cup and the winners cheque. We were rather embarrassed to admit that in the heady excitement of winning at Sandown last week, we completely forgot about the awards presentation. Instead we had skipped off to the Owners bar, to watch the replays on the TV and celebrate with a free diet coke and a party pie...


There are speeches and lots of clapping and sticking closely to the other owners we are escorted down to the BMW Winners Bar for champagne and chicken sandwiches. Awww very nice. A lovely man from Melbourne Racing Club invites us to have complimentary membership until the end of the season... Double very nice...

We watch the race on the big screen, again and again, more champagne is on offer. Could easily get used to this!

Little Wandering Wren

Friday, 26 April 2013

Beware of the Scorpio Full Moon Eclipse

On Monday, our Yoga teacher declared that the Scorpio Full Moon on Thursday would be dominant in a turbulent week ahead. To prepare for this I worked extra hard in class, but still failed to master anything more than a downward dog...I exaggerate, I was probably more like a floppy puppy...




Nevertheless, it was reassuring to learn, that those of us who'd taken time out of our busy week to practise our yoga techniques, would be better wired to cope with the intense period of instability that was coming our way. I'm liking this class already...

....Perhaps the diagram below is not quite reflective of where I would like to be with my yoga...I would prefer my Earth to be closer to my Live...but you get the general idea...and it's hang on tight for the week ahead...




However despite all the potential for doom and disaster, it's been a good week, at least on the sporting front! Emlin won a beer mug (all the champagne glasses had gone) when her mixed doubles team won the Grand Final for Waverley and District Tennis Association B Division Senior Tennis league, Tim did his best ever round of golf, I went to Book Club having actually read the book, Man U won the English Premier League (only important to one person at our house) and we had the day off on Thursday for Anzac Day...




But there was also some other weird stuff going on and as I started telling my friends to beware the full moon on Thursday, everyone had a comment, or a moody friend or family member who was being difficult and even the nurses in hospitals were gearing up for a busy night...
So I did some more research just to check that I hadn't had one sun salutation too many, and came across the following by Elaine Kalantarian. For the full report see the following THE SCORPIO FULL MOON & LUNAR ECLIPSE
Agent 111 – Elaine Kalantarian
Thursday, April 25, 2013 at 12:57 pm PDT / 3:57pm EDT / 19:57 UT
Moon and Sun Opposed at 5.51 Scorpio/Taurus
We are headed for the first eclipse of 2013...a show visible over parts of Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia.
Full Moon in Scorpio conjunct Saturn opposite Mars
From a vibrational perspective, eclipses disrupt the normal pattern of day and night, and mark intense periods of instability. The week prior to the eclipse and for several days following, we often feel the effects most acutely. The sign in which the eclipse falls indicates the theme and message inherent in this process of recalibration of light, as well as contacts to other planets. While this week’s event is only a partial eclipse, it packs a good punch nevertheless, as the Scorpio Full Moon will conjoin Saturn and oppose Mars — a double opposition of Sun and Moon plus Mars and Saturn.
Saturn often makes things seem worse than they are, and we are in for a rather large dose. So you may already be feeling “Saturn ickiness,” possibly building since late last week. Saturn can really do a number on your self-worth — and doubly so with this Mars-Saturn opposition conjoined the **Scorpio** Full Moon and Lunar Eclipse! OY! A lunar eclipse is like a super-hyped Full Moon. Mars-Saturn in particular can bring supremely frustrating obstacles, roadblocks and delays on top of this being the Full Moon — the “emotional high tide” of the month. These are very difficult waves to surf well – it requires the patience, kindness and self-restraint of a saint. Try to remember you are not the sum total of your screw-ups and failures. You are loved no matter what, even if it is only your dog who makes this obvious. So be especially patient with yourself and others, a little love and kindness will go a long, long way this week.

Well I was kind of wary of even leaving the house this week after reading this, until I remembered there was nothing wrong with my chakras, my wiring had been fixed and after a large Ommmmmmmmmmm, off I went to brave the week...

In the end after a big build up, it was a cloudy night and our moon was a little shy. When she did appear behind the clouds she covered our garden in a bright light. Mutt went out and raced around, barking madly which we normally put down to the possums but now we are not so sure...!!




So it was good to get back to yoga today, I was looking forward to telling the teacher how my wiring was working, but unfortunately there was a replacement teacher. A grumpy yogic full of Saturn ickiness at that! "Come out from behind the post", she barked at me...ommm I muttered 'Isn't that the whole point of having weird columns in exercise classes, so that you can hide from the teacher...??'
And later in the class "Did I say right over left and twist, or left over right? You're all going different ways...What is wrong with everyone today??....IS anyone listening to me...??"

Ummm she has obviously got her full moon knickers in a twist about something, she should have come to Mondays class!!

.....Namaste...




Little Wandering Wren

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Black Caviar more than a horse!

You've heard of the Melbourne Cup right - the horse race that stops the nation? Have you heard of Black Caviar, our horse that stops the nation? Well I can't resist staying with the horse racing theme, and BIG news here in Melbourne...

Black Caviar, Nelly to her friends, won an unprecedented 25th race from 25 starts...Oh to be those owners.... And when I say our horse, I'm sadly speaking as a local, not as an owner...

That was followed by the shock, emotional press conference by her owners and trainer, Peter Moody announcing her retirement. On Saturday Caulfield racecourse gave free admission to allow adoring fans a chance to bid her a final farewell from the racetrack...




Black Caviar has her own website, Facebook page and website!
 
There are a variety of reasons why people get into horse racing as owners. For us we had grown up around horses. Tim's father, the local vet trained the odd racehorse in his spare time... most of them bigger on personality than on winnings... But it was always a dream to have an Australian horse. This followed years of owning a part share in a British racehorse "Dot Com" - the name tells you how long ago that was...!

Dot Com did win, and the excitement of those wins kept us owners going, funding vet bill after vet bill. At one time we were spending more money on swimming hydrotherapy for the horse, than we ever did of the kids swimming lessons! In the end after a final third place, and many disappointments, Dot Com was given away to retire at a millionaires estate in the Shires.




Horse No 1: Dot Com won three out of thirteen races and was third twice...
 
Having been part owners of racehorses over the years we know that finding a winner is something that you dream of, but to find a horse that never loses, well that is blooming' incredible.

The reality is that most owners don't own a winner, the stats are stacked against you - we were told that only one in seven thoroughbreds ever win at the racecourse.

We have been on a high this week from our horses' win on Wednesday, imagine what that would be like if your horse always won? We'd need tranquilisers!




Horse No 2... Four races, no wins came third before being sold on...




The packed grandstand at Moonee Valley Racecourse for Black Caviar's 24th win  22nd March 2013

With Black Caviar there was a sense of history in the making and all horse-racing fans have been keen to be part of it... She is truly one of those one-in-a-million horses that is bigger than her sport. Black Caviar has been taken to the hearts of Australians.

We were part of the sell out racecrowd of 30,000 in March to see her win her 24th race. You could not get into Moonee Valley Racing Club for love nor money without a ticket that day....




The ticket booths at Moonee Valley racecourse for BC's final race...
 
The atmosphere was electric, there was talk even then that this would be her last race ever on Victorian soil... The racecourse was decked out in Black Cavier racing colours of salmon and black dots. The crowd were given sun vizors and fans with I💛BC... She even has her own range of merchandise...




Nelly was racing in the last race of the day at 9.50pm, a time that was carefully scheduled to allow for TV coverage at half time of the Australian Football League's first round clash of Essendon vs Adelaide. This alone shows the public interest in her, I can't think of many things that would be allowed to interrupt the half-time footy commentary...

This leaves the punters plenty of time to get a bet on, although it's hardly worth it. The nation's favourite was the Bookies $1.05 favourite that day...

Black Cavier enters the race track and canters up along the rails so everyone can get a good view. Everything they do with her is designed to share her with the public...The public go wild, everyone cheers loudly...

The race was over in less than 90 seconds but in those few seconds BC showed her class as she effortlessly galloped home well ahead of the pack...building a record beyond compare... To an explosion of salmon and black confetti and everyone was happy, well maybe not the owners of the losing horses...

The story of Black Cavier is more than a horse. Last weekend Black Cavier made her first appearance as a retired horse at Caulfield racecourse, Victoria. Not that this will be a quiet retirement....This will be the first of many public appearances and not to mention the string of stallions queuing up...

The owners have won nearly $8 million AUS and still counting... No need to give this one away to the local millionaire, they have become the local millionaires'. It is the end of an era before BC or after BC... We can but dream with our Little Miss Hussy... It's one out of one and everything else is a bonus!




Horse No 3, one win out of one and all fingers crossed for the next race...
 
We're unlikely to see such a super star racehorse on these shores for quite a while...Congratulations Black Cavier and everyone involved with her, enjoy your retirement!

Caulfield Race Day: Saturday, 27 April 2013

Little Wandering Wren

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Cor Blimey - our Nag won!!!

It's about time I introduced you the newest member of our family, Little Miss Hussy. Today we're on the road again, but don't worry only with hand luggage... to travel a short distance to Sandown Racing Club, a pretty racecourse 25 kms from Melbourne's CBD.
...but before I do so, I must issue the following warning:
Horse Hazard... horses are unpredictable and powerful animals capable of causing serious injury to persons ... and extreme damage to their wallets...





Little Miss Hussy kind off snuck into the family...We were on the rebound, still recovering from the last horse (see below) who had all the breeding and loads of potential...but was a crazy nutter, who never quite took the racing seriously...




The psychology behind it was they suspected he had been duffed up in the paddocks by an alpha mare as a youngster. The result of this early years trauma and bullying was that we had a horse that didn't like to get up alongside the others, let alone pass them and win.... After three years of trying to figure him out, he was sold to new owners who, we hope have the time, patience and money to find out what makes him tick...




Somehow....we ended up with a tiny, weeny "interest" (half a tail) in a 2yo brown or black filly (female) from AUS. We called in one Sunday afternoon to meet her a couple of weekends ago at Michael Kent's fabulous stables at Cranbourne. If you've never been to a racing stables you will be blown away by the facilities. I mean these horses are so well looked after. They have access to a swimming pool, and can train on the beach!




When our horse was led out we were impressed. Our stablehand was very complementary, which was encouraging as this filly already had a bit of a reputation in the yard for her pesky nature... (Here we go again...) Apparently if any horse gets too close, she kicks 'em hard.... "I like to see a bit of grit, they need to have a bit of fight in 'em"...
"Oh Ok... How is she around humans?" we ask, keeping a good distance away.... but. We needn't have worried, she was calm as all get-out...




I'm telling you there wasn't a calmer horse in the stalls at Sandown Racecourse today. In fact so laid back and relaxed was she, that we wondered whether we should slip her some 'Up and Go' energy drink...
Here she is in number 121, already drawing a crowd from the pack of excited owners, most of all we'd never met before, and all of whom had nicked off for a late lunch at the races....




As our Miss Hussy makes her way out to the starting stalls there is just enough time to pop a quick bet on... she is well down the form guide behind the bookies favourite Bella Arella, so we get decent odds of $8.5 and I treat the kids to a $5 each way bet...
It might not be Royal Ascot or Melbourne Cup but we are pleased to see the TV cameras out for that well know race... the Browns Sawdust and Shavings Handicap...




There is a hold up as a horse is checked for blood in it's mouth and we don't even have time for butterflies in the stomach, as the Owners gather over three rows of seats in the Members stand for the Off...




And they're racing.... And OMG she's coming up on the outside and double OMG SHE' PASSING EVERYONE and treble OMG she's actually won!!!!
There is a frenzy of owner jubilation, we're all hugging and kissing eachother - well that's one way of getting to know eachother...!!!




There is a mad scrum around her as she is led into the Winners enclosure, the TV Commentator interviews the trainer and jockey and we're off to enjoy the replays in the Owners bar. It's flash in there, party pies and ketchup all round, and a coke or a coffee...but it's fun to watch and re-watch the replays




Now remind me, why did we go for such an incy, wincy, tiny, weeny share?
Little Wandering Wren

Location:Sandown racecourse, Melbourne, Victoria

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Penang is different.... and a great place for a holiday.

Penang people like to think of themselves as different. They live on an island and are happy with the separation from mainland Malaysia. They have an opposition state government and like it that way - "more open and less corruption".




They will resist all attempts to make Penang into the city life of Kuala Lumpur or Singapore. They are extremely multi cultural and everyone lives harmoniously..."We are ok with eachother, in Penang everyone lives altogether, side by side." This diversity and rich cultural heritage, gives the visitor much to see, experience and enjoy...



City buildings in downtown Georgetown
So we are excited to go and explore Georgetown, Penang - the Pearl of the Orient with Michael from Ocean Jupiter tours. There can be no better combination than a foodie, ex-monk, turned DJ to show us around Penang...He had the kids attention when he talked about his dream to attend the Tomorrowland pop concert in Belgium, and when he promised to show us where Jimmy Choo started out. Vowing to get us eating street food, we knew it would be no ordinary tour...



Typical street food we ate at the famous Penang Road Teochew Chendul, a bargain at less than RM 3 per bowl
The history of Penang is dark... 1941 Fall of Penang to the Japanese...The Brits leaving Penang without notice... It's useful having dual nationality at this stage "err umm - Yes we're Aussie's"... There is a story of the cycle rickshaw drivers (called a trishaw in Penang) heading for the hills, leaving their trishaw handles pointing skyward... The Japanese bombing lasted 8 days, pounding Penang and mistaking the upright rickshaw handles as artillery... the Japanese invasion and 'chop & kick' brutality towards the Chinese... chop (off their heads) and kick 'em into a hole... I won't go on, as the past is brutal...




Penang was honored as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site in 2008. This has led to renewed interest in the old colonial heritage buildings which are gradually being renovated to their former glories...too gradually some say looking at some of the sad, dilapidated old buildings. We start at the beautifully restored Pinang Peranakan Mansion. This former home of Kapitan Chung Keng Kwee, showcases over 1,000 antiques and collectibles.



Pinang Peranakan Mansion 29 Church Street, Admission RM 20.00 including the Straits Chinese Jewellery Museum, The Chung Keng Kwee Ancestral Temple and the Nyonya Kitchen

This would normally be a big yawn to some in our family, but with Michael bringing the house and it's people to life, we wander around fascinated by the lives of the Peranakan Straits Chinese...Like their multiple wedding ceremonies to various wives lasting 30 days...
We can understand how the Penang born Jimmy Choo started out when we see the cases of elaborately hand embroidered shoes...



...and are blown away by their jewellery. The jewel collection reflects the family's wealth and status and is designed to give as much pleasure to the owner as serving to delight the audience...



After our tour which includes a cup of famous Kopi Luwak coffee we have a brief but delicious stop at The Chocolate Boutique Mansion ( 22, Leith Street, Georgetown). They were very generous with their samples from more than 60 different chocolates on offer. There are various chocolate themed rooms, and boy did we enjoy this...!!




In Cannon Square one of the oldest parts of Georgetown, we find the courtyard of Leong San Tong Kongsi. One of the largest Chinese clanhouses found in Penang. It was built in 1851 as a gathering point for the Khoo clan members migrated from China. There are more than 60 terrace houses and shop buildings, a temple and opera stage, beautiful architecture, well worth a visit.




Leong San Tong Khoo Kongsi, Penang
It's all go, as we whizz off to the Dhammikaram Burmese Buddhist Temple and across the road to the Thai Buddhist temple Wat Chayamangkalaram with the world's third largest reclining Buddha. This is where Michael's previous life as a Buddhist monk, not only brought great honour to his family, but gives us great insight into the religion we know very little about.
We bought a pink lotus flower candle and said our prayers, were blessed by the Buddhists monks and sprinkled with holy waters and all given orange hand-made friendship bracelets...We bought an extra pink candle to take home for extra good measure...




With the clock ticking we have put pressure on Michael to complete our Penang tour in four hours as Uni work, school holiday homework and company e-mails are pressing. Normally this would be an all day tour and include the Penang Butterfly Farm and either the Tropical Spice Garden, or the Tropical Fruit Farm and Penang Hill.




On a previously OJ tour we had enjoyed the steep ride to the top of Penang Hill and would have benefited from going up there with Michael, as we wandered around and admired the view, but without being really sure what else to see and do....




On the same tour we had also visited the Tropical Fruit Farm which we found ok, but it was low season and not much to see (click here for Trip Adviser review). The farm is a nice drive up in the hills of Teluk, 800 ft above sea level. We had a tour of the fruit farm and then enjoyed an all-you-can-eat fruit buffet and freshly squeezed fruit juice.




In the short time that Michael has left he takes us to the Batik factory, where we see the process of Batik and have the opportunity to buy some pretty sarongs and gifts.








Finally we end up at we go to Teluk Bahang fishing village, at the northern tip of Penang Island to see where the local fish we have enjoyed comes from. Almost every family in this humble village makes a living from fishing the water around Penang...







Penang is a relatively small island with lots to see and do, we loved our day exploring and know we have only just scratched the surface, there is still lots more to see and do...
Little Wandering Wren

Location:Penang, Malaysia

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Dear Penang, your coffee tastes like sh...1T.

Long regarded as the food capital of Asia, Penang has much to rave about in regard to it's F and B offerings... But it is perhaps the drinks that will form part of our lasting memories of this holiday...
Firstly, there are the Happy Hours which in some hotels in Malaysia (Royale Chulan in KL) extend to all day... Secondly, much to the delight of some in our group there is no legal minimum drinking age here....argh these kids are growing up.
Then there was the chance to try out the world's most expensive coffee... Ok coming from Melbourne's coffee culture, I am spoilt for coffee choice, and can be critical of coffee in places that we stay at...as my Trip Adviser comments will attest to...
I go through phases with my coffee... At the moment I am back on my regular - a decaf skinny cap - or a decaffeinated cappuccino coffee with skimmed milk, if you want it translated into the Queen's English. "What's the point"? My friends ask... I HATE it when my cappuccino arrives without the sprinkle of chocolate on the top....that's the whole point of a cap, right?




Just to show you how brill Melbourne's coffee is, just look at what arrived the other day when I was out walking with a friend and her grand daughter - it's a babyccino, too cute...




But what's all the fuss about the Cat Poop coffee? The Luwak (or Asian Palm Civet ) from Java, Sumatra and Sulawesi, eats the ripest coffee cherries and unable to digest these beans graciously deposits them on the jungle floor where they are eagerly collected by the locals... Mum to Son "Off you go and don't come home until you've collected me a big bag of Civet poo...")




The stomach acids involved in this unique fermentation produces the worlds rarest coffee beverage - it can sell for up to $50 per cup in the poshest restaurants in the US!!




Our brewing process is precise. The coffee beans are ground and smell rich and delicious, the water is carefully boiled and cooled to just the right temperature.. 97 degrees...
We are told to take four sips... "Don't give up after the first one which is a bitter shock in the mouth. Sips two onwards will taste of pure caramel.... "Yeah right..
The marketing department tried hard with their "Good to the last dropping....", but can't say we agree. It tastes even worse when you google Cat poop coffee and find claims of animal abuse...
So mine's a flat white...yeah no worries about the chocolate on top...
Little Wandering Wren

Location:Penang Island, Malaysia