Weekend Getaway to the Blue Mountains

For my final #painthetownford challenge, I decided to go on a much needed weekend getaway (computer in tow as working was still required). In the typical fashion of the Murphy's and their silly laws, the day before we were due to depart for a little weekend away to the Blue Mountains, newsreaders across Sydney declared it would be best to stay indoors as "Rainmageddon" was upon us. I don't know about you, but a little apocalyptic rainfall was not going to get in the way of my break. If there's anything that makes the mountains more romantic, it's rain and mist.

I've always wanted to stay at The Carrington Hotel, it carries a decidedly "The Shining" vibe about it, and there's something about the slightly off-kilter grande old dame atmosphere that draws me in. Unfortunately it was fully booked out, so we opted for something on the opposite end of the spectrum, an eco resort called "Old Leura Dairy". There are various styles and sizes of accommodation to choose from at the dairy, we decided on the Milking Shed, which had a lovely fireplace and loft bedroom. The interior is a mish-mash of recycled building materials and found objects which gives it a lovely eclectic homey feeling. I especially loved the entryway, a couple of huge old barn doors that swung open to reveal our cosy cave for the weekend.

As we drove into the mountains from Sydney, I watched the temperature indicator on the car drop, approximately 1ºC for each town we passed through. By the time we arrived in Leura, it was a chilly 7º. Thankfully the Ford Kuga Titanium has built in seat-warmers, so we were none the wiser in our toasty cocoon-on-wheels. Despite the rain, we cobbled together another short film of our trip - I'm thinking of making this a more regular thing! It's such a fun way to preserve your memories.

Kitty & Buck | Mountain Escape from Kitty & Buck on Vimeo

Since we were unable to have a sleepover in The Carrington, we opted for a quick pre-dinner drink instead. It's the perfect way to soak up the ambience if you're just in Katoomba for a day trip, or prefer a different type of accommodation. The ascent to the front door is accompanied by the most delightful wafts from the flower garden. The only way to make the ground more appealing, would be to install a hedge maze, taking it one step closer to Stanley Kubrick's vision. The barmen were extremely obliging with my unusual request for tea instead of a gin and tonic, and my questions about the VIP room (a very appealing balcony that was built for the Duke and Duchess of York's visit in 1927 - it was never used by them and is now relegated to a structurally unsound temptation, rather than a functional sitting area).

The following day, as tempting as it was to play scrabble in our 'shed', we decided to indulge in one of the best activities to do on the mountains, rain or not: Antique hunting. Oh, and book hunting. Our first stop (always) is Mr Pickwick's on Katoomba Street, home of antiquities, a wide range of amazing vintage clothing, and around 60,000 books. We were lucky enough to find Mr Pickwick himself behind the counter, who kindly obliged our request for a photo (complete with mischievous glint in his eye). I scored a first edition of Alp by William Hjortsberg. If you love kid's books, there is an absolute goldmine of vintage children's literature in the basement book cave.

The lovely township of Leura called us back from lunch, where we shoehorned ourselves into the extremely popular Red Door Cafe. Bellies full, we trundled around the main street of Leura, taking in the sights. We discovered a Japanese Ceramic store which was disappointingly closed. It's bookmarked in my brain for a future investigation.

Since it was early afternoon and the mist was showing no signs of clearing, we decided to brave a wander down to Sublime Point. It's a little more secluded than the big Three Sisters lookout, and we hoped, less exposed to the elements. It was raining, cold and windy, but quite spectacular to see the vague shapes of the mountains in the white void. We didn't linger as the wind was doing it's best to whip our umbrellas into the great beyond and we didn't fancy following them.

Our final stop on the way back to Sydney is the best bookstore I've found in Australia and only second to the incredible backyard shed/shop full of first editions we stumbled across in Woodstock, VT. If you're in the Blue Mountains area, be sure to check in at Lamdha Books. It's a small shop, but packed full of gems. I managed to score a Flann O'Brien book that I haven't seen anywhere else and C grabbed a copy of Fantomas. We had a lovely conversation about jazz with Michael, the friendly owner and prolonged our return home as long as we could. Eventually we couldn't postpone the inevitable and we had the Kuga carry us home one final time before I was relegated back to my vintage Mazda. Thanks for the good times Kidspot and Ford, we had a blast!



I'm participating in the #paintthetownford challenge as part of the Kidspot Voices 2014 competition. Ford has provided me with a Ford Kuga Titanium for six weeks as part of this challenge. This is the final post of three in my series, you can read the previous posts here:

Post 1: Market Dreams

Post 2: Rural Escape

All opinions expressed in this post are my own. You can follow along with the other bloggers participating by searching the hashtag #paintthetownford and #voicesof2014.

On the Farm - A Rural Escape

You know when you just have one of those weeks? Months? Years? The best medicine for a hectic and stressful moment in life is an escape to the country, wouldn't you agree? With the intense work schedule I've been keeping lately, a rural escape was on the cards. While the best I could do was a single night away, I fully intended to make the most of it! Kangaroo Valley is a picturesque spot just south of Sydney, a mere 1-2 hour drive from the city. It fit my 'quick' escape criteria perfectly. Browsing the wealth of farm stays available around Sydney, I spotted a wooden yurt on a horse breeding farm called The Cedars nestled amongst the Budderoo and Morton National Parks just south of Bowral.

We captured some moving images of our adventure, and there's a bunch more photos below, so if you're having a tough day at your desk, take a small break to the country with us.

Kitty & Buck | Rural Escape from Kitty & Buck on Vimeo.

After ploughing through our work for the day, we were off to a regrettably late start on the road. It wasn't until we started out descent through the hairpin turns into Kangaroo Valley that I started to leave the city tension behind. We arrived in the valley as the long shadows began their descent from the ranges above. A quick inspection of our yurt yielded some ooh's and ahh's from me. The timber-lined interior and pot belly stove were suitably cosy for a winter's night.

We boarded the Ford Kuga Titanium once again and set out to hunt for some dinner. Thank goodness for the built-in GPS as phone reception is scarce and country roads have a habit of getting me lost. We zeroed in on the local supermarket, which was actually a petrol station, and stocked up on supplies (a frozen pizza, some chips and hummus, chocolate and soda - you know, grown-up food).

Back at the yurt, the sun was making it's final descent and we were completely alone in the middle of nowhere. After building a fire, defrosting our gourmet meal and pouring a glass of complimentary wine, we settled in with a BBC production about an incredible Dutch painter named Schalcken, a student of a student of Rembrandt. I feel like perhaps the BBC took some liberties with his story, as it included some creepy parts about a vampire. Suitably spooked, I prepared to turn in for the night when there was a very loud scratching on the window next to where I stood. Accompanied by a couple of squeaks, it occurred to me that, yes, this is a rural escape and we were going to have some (hopefully non-vampiric) company for the evening.

The following morning I woke up with the birds and it took all of my willpower to leap out of bed and stuff some logs into the fire. Sufficiently alight, I attended to the loaf of complimentary sourdough while C worked on the farm fresh eggs. Sated, we headed out for a little hike to the creek. First stop was the paddock by the yurt, which contained a herd of cattle and two magnificent Shire horses. The lady horse is with child and was extremely friendly. Covered in horse hair, we pressed on towards the creek, printed map in hand.

Somehow we became completely lost and it took much longer to reach the creek than expected. On our detour we encountered not one, but three echidnas! I've never seen an echidna in the wild before, so getting lost was definitely worth it. When the echidna heard us coming, he poked his head under some leaves with the dedication of a toddler who covers their eyes and is convinced they are invisible. After a few minutes he squinted up at us and decided we were no longer there (though we clearly were) and continued on his way. It was so adorable! I realise why echidnas have spiky spines now. They are the least graceful creatures and make about as much noise as a bear barging through the woods.

The valley lived up to it's name with several kangaroos and many wallabies hopping around. We also encountered a fox burrow where I imagined the foxes were having breakfast and Mr. Fox was all dapper in a suit like The Fantastic Mr. Fox. Eventually we reached the cool climate of the creek, which was encompassed in a rainforest section of the national park. The moss covered rocks and quiet babbling of the creek provided the perfect counterpoint to the previous day's hustle.

It was sad to wave goodbye to the Cedars after such a short visit, but we tempered our return to the big smoke with some antique hunting in Bowral, accompanied by a delicious vegetarian Croque-Madame at Raw and Wild. Book stores explored, antiques drooled over, we programmed home into the Kuga's GPS and allowed him to guide us back to reality. The afternoon traffic upon our return did it's best to erase the benefits of our rural escape, but we didn't let it win! I'm so happy to know that the babbling creek and rolling pastures of Kangaroo Valley are just down the road whenever I need them.



I'm participating in the #paintthetownford challenge as part of the Kidspot Voices 2014 competition. Ford has provided me with a Ford Kuga Titanium for six weeks as part of this challenge. This is the second post of three in my series, you can see the first post here. All opinions expressed in this post are my own. You can follow along with the other bloggers participating by searching the hashtag #paintthetownford

Getting Married in Japan (as an Australian Foreigner!)

As you probably know by now, I'll be getting married in just over 3 months in the beautiful location of Kyoto, Japan. C and I chose Japan as we have family spread between Australia and the USA and we didn't want people to feel left out, so we opted for a very small ceremony with our immediate families in a place that we love. Instead of spending money on a big ceremony and reception, we thought it might be nice to have a holiday with our families!

Making the decision was the easy part. After booking our airfares and accommodation, I started looking at the legal requirements, thinking it would be fairly straightforward. Unfortunately most of my internet searches resulted in very negative attitudes towards the whole idea of foreigners marrying in Japan. I'm not sure why, but there's a lot of "it's too hard, why bother" and "you're wasting your time" to "why on earth do you want to get married in Japan anyway?! Just go to Vegas." I was close to giving up, when I found a post on a forum from Shandii. I got in touch with her and she has generously provided me (and anyone searching) with a step by step guide on getting married (legally) in Japan, written from her personal experience.

Marriage in Japan is not officially conducted at the ceremony like it is here in Australia. The official 'marriage' will occur in a Government office, devoid of any fancy dresses and romance. The ceremony itself is purely for show and is not required, or a part of, the legally binding 'marriage'.

I'll hand over to Shandii now, and she'll explain the nitty gritty of this elusive Japan wedding business.


As Australians to get officially married in Japan you will need to submit paperwork to an Australian Embassy in Japan and then submit paperwork at a City Office in Japan.

Please note the following:

  • This process is for Australians only.
  • You will either need to know how to read and write Japanese or hire a translator to speak and write for you.

Paperwork you will require before submitting paperwork:

  • Passports
  • Translated (to Japanese) copies of your passports (photo page).
  • Birth Certificates
  • Two completed Certificate of No Impediment marriageforms (1 for yourself and 1 for hubby/wife to be)
  • 2 witnesses to come with you to the City Office and their passport

FIRST STOP: Australian Embassy

You need to submit the applications of Certificate of No Impediment marriage at an Australian Embassy in Japan. Australian Embassies can be found in the following cities:

  • Tokyo
  • Fukuoka
  • Osaka
  • Sapporo

Addresses to the embassies can be found here:

Please note some Embassies have strict times and days when they will allow you to come in and submit the applications.

What the Australian Embassy requires:

  • Passports
  • Birth Certificates
  • Two completed Certificate of No Impediment Marriageforms

The No Impediment form will provide you with the No Impediment Certificate which the City Office needs to officially marry you. With the forms there is an English page and Japanese page and both are required to be completed.

As you may have guessed the Japanese page does need to be completed in Japanese. You won’t need to sign the Japanese page. You only need to sign the English page. When you submit the applications to Australian Embassy in Japan they will ask to see your passports and birth certificates and may take copies. It will cost around $89 each to process the applications and have the certificates made.

The Embassy will take up to 5 working days to process the application. They do ask for a Japanese address to have the certificates posted out but you can request if you can return to pick them up (We had ours sent to our hotel). You can post the applications to the Embassy but from what I remember there is a strict list of Japanese residents that need to certify the form (i.e. Japanese Policeman).

The Certificate of No Impediment will expire after 3 months and then you will need to submit new applications.

Once you've obtained your Certificate of No Impediment you can go to the City Office to get officially married!

SECOND STOP: Any City Office

You can choose to get married anywhere you like in Japan as long as there is a City Office.

I was officially married in the city of Okayama.

What the City Office requires:

  • Passports
  • No Impediment Certificates
  • Translated (to Japanese) copies of your passports (photo page).
  • 2 witnesses and their passport

The paperwork can take some time to complete and all needs to be done in Japanese. (It took us an hour and a half to complete with a translator and we also did this the day before our wedding ceremony)

Unlike Australia, in Japan you do not have to say vows.

The bride will be asked the following question:

"Do you understand that you will be marrying ‘Insert Husband’s name here’ in the City Of ‘Insert City name here’?"

Once the question is answered and the last of the paperwork is completed you’ll be officially married!

You’ll be asked to return in a couple of hours to get the completed marriage certificate. This will only cost you around $3 for the certificate. If you want another certificate to have as a spare it will be around $7 for two. This may vary from City Office to City Office.

On your return to Australia your marriage in Japan will be seen as an official marriage here in Australia however your Japanese marriage certificate won’t change your last name. You will need to complete a Deed Poll if you wish to change your last name to your husbands.

We used a company called Chris Poole Translation based in Melbourne, we did everything via email/mail and they also had translators based in Japan who we also hired to help us complete the paperwork at the City Office in Okayama.

Chris Poole Translation

For any enquiries, feel free to contact us on the number below 24 hours, any day of the year.

Address: 24 Greenwood Street | Abbotsford VIC 3067 Australia

Telephone: (61 3) 9391 0899

Facsimile: (61 3) 9391 0099



Thank you so much for sharing your experience, Shandii! You can say hi (or ask questions) to Shandii over at her blog, Shandii Crafts.



Travel Budget Tips | Holiday Ideas For Any Budget

Once you've figured out your budget (planning and saving), and how long you can take away from work, you can start looking at the kind of holiday that is going to work best for your circumstances. It's easy to see holidays as something in a glossy advert, but there are so many options. I remember a great vacation C and I took to the Hunter Valley, which is an expensive winery district north of Sydney. I managed to save up enough points on a grocery store loyalty card to score a free a one night stay at a winery, so we hopped in the car for a little adventure. Aside from gas money and food, the trip was free. It was only one night, but we set out early in the morning and left later in the evening the following day, so we squeezed in 2 full days for our overnight trip. We both felt like we'd had such a good break afterwards, I was pleasantly surprised.

Try to make the most of your holiday time by maximising it in smart ways.

If you are flying overseas, be conscious of jetlag. I try to make sure that I land at my destination in the afternoon or evening, so no matter how many hours I've been awake in transit, I pass out from exhaustion at a fairly 'normal' sleeping hour for where I have landed, and therefore wake up at a 'normal' time to start my day. Let's face it, Australia is really far from anywhere (aside from maybe New Zealand), so we generally have to deal with long flights and this method is incredibly helpful for us!

Weekend Getaway

Whether you work Monday to Friday or irregular hours, the 'weekend' getaway (whenever your weekend falls) is the perfect way to take a trip without needing any time away from work. If you have flexible working hours, consider a mid-week getaway as accommodation is cheaper, and if you're driving, there is probably less traffic heading to the holiday destinations.


Once again, this could be a short term or longer term vacation. If you have your own camping gear, or can borrow some, this is very budget friendly as well. Different campsites have different levels of facilities, so choose somewhere that suits your needs (i.e. do you want a shower/toilet, or are you cool to be a nature child for a few days?). Camping is generally a great option if you love nature and you're on a smaller budget. Even if that's not the case, it's a lovely opportunity to 'switch off' and re-connect with your family/friends (or yourself!) around a nice campfire. Boardgames, anyone?

Road Trip

I think road trips might be my favourite. There's just something about the freedom of an open road. On a road trip, you can find the places less traveled, like the motel we found in Maine with the 'Jesus' pattern in the woodgrain of our bathroom door. If you like adventure, eating car-snacks and discovering new places, a road trip is a brilliant option. Budget will vary depending on if you own or rent a car, and what kind of accommodation you choose. My dear American friends, please don't talk to me about gas money. You guys have it SO good. Trust me. (But don't forget to budget for gas!)

Charity/Volunteer Break

Have you ever considered turning your vacation into a positive experience for you, and for someone else? There are so many charitable options, from volunteering to assist residents in areas damaged by natural disaster, to building homes for people less fortunate. My sister took her first trip out of Australia to build houses in Mexico and she had an amazing time! It can be a really rewarding experience, and one definitely worth considering.

Whatever your budget, consider the kind of activities that you and your travel companions enjoy and make sure you head somewhere that accommodates these. If you love shopping and culture, maybe a city break suits you best. Or if you like nature, somewhere that has great hiking trails. If you have kids to entertain, make sure there are plenty of fun activities to make the experience memorable for them. If you enjoy sightseeing, plan ahead so that you can find the attractions/locations in the area you'll be traveling. There are so many options, all you need to do is head out there into the big wide world!

What's your favourite kind of vacation? Do you have any other tips to share? Tweet me or leave a comment below.


Found #96

Continuing with the travel theme, this week's Found is all about wanderlust. How adorable is this Bon Voyage Card from My Dear Fellow Co?! I'm not sure why I always associate the saying with travelling by ship, it simply means "have a safe trip" or "have a nice journey".

Sometimes it's difficult to keep all of your important papers together. While I've been known in the past to have a random stash throughout random pockets, I think something like this passport case from Kikki-K is a great idea. You can keep your passport, boarding passes, cards, cash and itinerary details (hotel booking sheets, luggage collection tags etc) inside one handy wallet.
via: Kikki-K

I've been looking for a world map to chart my travels for some time, but I never seem to find one I like very much (that doesn't cost the earth). But this one! Maybe I've found a solution. You can choose from a range of colours and you can write on the map too! I love the idea of marking off places I have been, seeing how few places I've seen will definitely motivate me to find new places to visit.
via: Glassnam

Just a cute reminder to go out and see the world.

When I saw this travel box DIY on A Pair and a Spare, I couldn't believe I haven't done something like this. I have a paper drift from my various travels, I just might need to organise it - DIY time over here!

If there's something I can recommend for anyone who is thinking of travelling, it's a decent bag! Once you stash your suitcase and start exploring, you're probably going to have a camera, maps, water bottles etc. While a handbag looks cute, it gets heavy perched on your shoulder. A good quality backpack like this Camera/Laptop Bag from ONA is the best way to carry all that stuff around, plus it keeps your hands free for exploring :)
via: ONA

A cute gift for your explorer friends.

If you're fairly new here, or missed my travel posts in the past, here's some weekend reading for you, perhaps it will inspire your next trip!

USA Summer 2011 - Montana, Toronto, Buffalo to Miami! An epic road trip that I'd love to do again!
(we also visited New Orleans LA and Tucson AZ but I didn't blog about these... I think I ran out of steam - let me know if you're interested!)

Australia - Various trips around Australia including Queensland, the red centre (Northern Territory), the Blue Mountains, Melbourne, Canberra and the Great Ocean Road.

Japan Spring 2013 - Cherry Blossom season in Japan! We started in Tokyo and travelled all the way to Yakushima, an island off the southern tip of Japan's southernmost main island, Kyushu.

Japan Fall 2013 - Tokyo, Tokyo, Tokyo!

More travel advice tips, including packing light and planning your trip.

Travel Guidebooks - I hope to expand this section, but for now, you can see my Craft Shopping in Tokyo guide if you're heading to Japan (or love craft supplies, it will make you swoon!)