2023 'New Things' Challenge

Do you ever get into a rut and do the same things all the time? Same cafes, same meals, same music, same movies, same floral jumpsuit and platform clogs? There’s nothing wrong with doing the same things, as they can provide comfort and familiarity. You know you’ll enjoy them. But if you never try something new, you could also cut yourself off from finding some other things you like. Last year, I challenged myself to go on a walk in a new location in every week of the year. I didn’t quite make it every week, but I did exceed the overall number of walks for the year. You can read about it here.

This year, I challenged myself to get out of my comfort zone and try 52 new things. That was ideally once a week, but I didn’t stress if I missed a week or two and caught up in another week. 

So how did I go? Well I made it to 52 with time to spare, though there were a few hiccups along the way. I lost both of my beautiful dogs this year. Our sweet older dog Molly passed away in February, which was sad but expected, as she had been ill for some time. She was 14. But our little rascal Holly had only just turned nine in August when she was diagnosed with a rare aggressive cancer. She died in September, just after new thing #31 and I lost my pizazz for awhile. I really miss my beautiful fur kids. I also twisted my knee in October and it took a couple of months for it to recover, so some of the more adventurous and active things I had planned will have to wait until next year. You’ll notice a lot of quieter activities, like art projects, board games and cafes from September to November, but I still enjoyed trying new things.

You might want to scroll to the bottom and start reading from No. 1, as there are occasionally a few things that go in order, but it’s up to you! Thank you for following me on this journey and for encouraging me along the way. I really appreciated it.

#52 - Riding an Electric Bike

I decided to finish off my new things with a bang. My friend Majella let me borrow her electric bike for a spin. It was my first time on an e-bike, and I was a bit wonky to begin with, but I was okay once I got into the groove. There are a lot of hills in Toowoomba, and it was almost effortless going uphill. You still have to pedal, but the motor really helps things along. It’s definitely going on my bucket list, but I might have to save up for the adult trike. My balance and flexibility aren’t what they used to be, but it was fun to give it a whirl. Thanks Majella! (17 December 2023)

#51 - Mosaics

A new thing that’s been going on for a while – Learning to do mosaic. My friend Janelle is a brilliant mosaicist, and she has been showing another friend Carolyn and me how to do it. I thought I would start with a very simple trivet that I could knock out quickly, but it has taken three sessions so far and I still have to finish the sky and grout it. We’d be quicker, but chatting and eating are also important! I’m enjoying it, but it’s a lot harder to score and cut the tiles than I thought. Takes quite a lot of oomph and probably not the best thing for my back and shoulder. Janelle has jumped to the rescue a few times and cut bigger pieces for me, and then I’ve been able to cut them up from there. If I made something else, I would maybe try some pre-cut tiles or at least ones that weren’t as hard to cut. But I’ve enjoyed seeing it come together and you can’t beat the dazzling company. (Aug-Dec 2023)

#50 - Seven Nights of Takeaways

Okay, so this one is a bit decadent, and please don’t tell my doctor who thinks I’m losing weight. But we decided to have a break from cooking while on holidays, and had takeaways every night. We did buy groceries for breakfast and lunch, so that counteracts it, right? It helped that we were staying near some great eateries. The big winner was Hello Harry, a burger place that also has gluten-free buns. I tried three different burgers (on three nights) and they were all great. If you have sweet potato chips with them, that makes them healthy! We also enjoyed a Chinese takeaway from Penang restaurant (enough leftovers for the next night) and pizzas from Amici (and yes, they could do gluten-free crust). We also had fish and chips one night, but it was the only disappointing meal. I don’t want to name the restaurant, but they mucked up our order and the fish was dry and awful. But otherwise, a great break from cooking. Also a shoutout to Gluten Free 4U, a fabulous bakery where everything in store is gluten-free; Cafe Twenty One, for their separate gluten-free cabinet; and the Drift Bar for their almond-milk cappuccinos. (4-10 December, 2023)

#49 - Bubble Tea

They have a fabulous street market every Sunday in Bulcock St, Caloundra. I didn’t count that as a new thing because I have a feeling I went last time we were here. But I rendezvoused with my friend Adele, who was there for the weekend, and she convinced me to try bubble tea from the Bubble Tea Betty stall. There are many different varieties, but I opted for the Leonardo de Lychee, which consisted of iced tea, lychee syrup and lychee pearls. The pearls are made from tapioca and add an interesting texture, especially if you accidentally suck them up through the straw and swallow without eating them. I only did that with one and wouldn’t recommend it. Chew them first! Very sweet and an interesting taste sensation. I’d be game for another. Thanks for introducing me to this exotic beverage, Adele! (10 December 2023)

#48 - Japanese Art Show

I popped into the opening day of this art exhibition at the Caloundra Regional Art Gallery. It featured prints from ten Japanese artists who had ‘expanded the range of expression in contemporary art using the print medium in the 1970s’. Most of the prints were abstract in style, and some very minimalist. Perhaps not my favourite style of art on the whole, but I did like some of the works. It’s always good to see something new and how different artists use various media. It’s on until 24 January 2024 and you can read more about it here. (8 December 2023)

#47 - Bicentennial Park, Caloundra

I picked this park simply because it was a piece of green on my map, and it turned out to be an interesting little spot. It runs from Bowman Rd to Nutley St, and has a path running through it on the Omrah Ave side. The side with the path is fairly open parkland, with large trees. But in the middle is a waterhole with almost a rainforest appearance. I say ‘waterhole’ because it didn’t seem to be flowing anywhere, but there may be a creek there somewhere. My knowledge of different habitats is amazing!? Some of the trees further over in the park, had above-ground roots that ran all the way over to the waterhole. I looped around the other side and came across a couple who were camping, which was unexpected. Not sure if they were tourists who were free-camping or if they were doing it out of necessity due to the housing crisis. I didn’t feel I could ask them, as they were trying to look inconspicuous. So an interesting little park for different reasons. (8 December 2023)

#46 - Golden Beach Coastal Walk

There’s a lovely pathway that runs along the Esplanade at Caloundra from around Happy Valley, through Bulcock Beach, Golden Beach and up to Pelican Waters. I walked various sections of it, but did most of the Golden Beach pathway. The beach is always on your left (if heading south), but there are also a lot of trees and shrubs, birds, playgrounds, seating, BBQ and picnic areas, public toilets etc. There’s also supposed to be a boardwalk through mangroves, but try as I might, I couldn’t find it. The friendly tourist info ladies said I couldn’t miss it. They were wrong! But it was still a lovely walk. Tim found a nice shady spot to read his book while I tried in vain to find the mangrove walk, and then I foraged for takeaways and we ate them at one of the picnic areas. Great views across to Bribie, and accessible by walking and a short swim at low tide, but we were there the wrong time of day. A pleasant way to spend a couple of hours.   (7 December 2023)

#45 - Atlantis Escape Game

There’s a great puzzle and games shop at Caloundra called Amazen! We bought a Quadrillion Puzzle there on our last trip and enjoyed that, so I couldn’t resist checking out the store for more treasures. I bought this Atlantis Escape puzzle that has 60 challenges ranging from easy to dastardly. For each challenge, you have a set place to put the tower piece and you are told which other pieces you can use (ranging from 2 to 5). The aim is to make an escape route from the tower to the exit. Not too hard to begin with, but gets tricky as more pieces are added and some solutions require stacking. Tim and I got up to about No. 32 on holidays, and there were a few times when I thought, ‘What diabolical mind has invented this torture?’ But it was fun. Now for the other 28 challenges! (6 December 2023)

#44 - Walking from Caloundra to Bribie Island

Bribie Island is a beautiful holiday destination and nature reserve just off the coast of southeast Queensland. You would usually access it via bridge or boat. When we were at Caloundra about eight years ago, I remember watching people kayaking the short distance across the Pumicestone Passage to the island and thinking how much fun that looked. However, the geography of the area has drastically changed in the last couple of years so that the northernmost tip of the island is now separated from the rest of the island by a channel and there is a sand bridge at one end. You can now walk across the passage to the island at low tide, and you can go across the permanent sand bridge any time. I did both walks, starting at Bulcock Beach, but you can also do them from Golden Beach. It’s amazing to be able to get to the island so easily. Great for tourists, but I guess not so great for boaties who used to be able to sail through that end. You can read more about the phenomenon here. (5-6 December 2023)

#43 - Belaire Place Apartments at Caloundra

We enjoyed a week at the Belaire Place Apartments, just 50 metres from Bulcock Beach at Caloundra. One of the drawcards for us was that they had a disabled-friendly unit with railings in the bathroom to make things easier. A wheelchair could wheel straight in, though you might need to bring your own shower seat. The room is on the first floor, with a large balcony overlooking the saltwater pool. I enjoyed the pool every day, though it’s not suitable for people with mobility issues as there is no ramp. But there is an ocean pool at Caloundra with a ramp if you want a swim. There’s a lift from the underground car park to the room and no steps to get onto the street. Though there is a sloping footpath down to the beach, which was a bit hard to negotiate with a walker. Lots of cafes and shops nearby. Very friendly and helpful staff, so check with them first if you have any special needs. We would be happy to stay there again. (4-11 December 2023)

#42 - Lookout Cafe at Kilcoy

Tim and I were very excited to head off to the Sunshine Coast for our first holiday in 4.5 years. We drove the back way from Toowoomba and stopped at the Lookout Cafe in Kilcoy for lunch. It’s an interesting retro-styled cafe, decorated with rock and roll memorabilia. We got there quite late for the lunch rush, so they were out of a few things and not much in the way of gluten-free options for me. Not the best nachos I’ve had, but the almond-milk cappuccino was good and Tim enjoyed his burger. Worth a look if you’re passing through. (4 December 2023)

#41 - Book Launch at 'Savour This Eatery'

It was fun being the MC at the launch of my friend Adele Jones’s new book ‘Immortal Mistake’. I’ve been MC at Adele’s three previous book launches, so that wasn’t a new thing, but the venue was. It was held at Savour This Eatery, a cafe in the Abbey Lane complex on the New England Highway at Highfields. It was a lovely setting, with an indoor section, a wide verandah and some outdoor seating. There were also some other arty and creative shops in the complex, which I would love to come back and explore. You can find out more about Adele and her new book here. A great read.  (2 December 2023)

#40 - Dabbling With Procreate on iPad

I got a second-hand iPad and Apple stylus for my birthday in September, and had been wanting to try an arty program called Procreate. You buy it as a one-off thing (not too dear), and it allows you to do all manner of arty things. I bought another Domestika course on Procreate for Beginners, and also sussed out some YouTube clips which were a bit more user-friendly for rank beginners. I’ve only just started dabbling, but it has lots of possibilities and I’m looking forward to exploring it more. In the meantime, here’s Super Bunny! (23 November 2023)

#39 - 95 Mary Street Cafe

It’s either very clever or very unimaginative to call your cafe by it’s street address, but that’s exactly what they’ve done at 95 Mary Street in Toowoomba. I’ve been meaning to try this one for a while, so took a friend for morning tea for her birthday. Lovely setting and good assortment of gluten-free treats, which is always a bonus for me. The lunch prices are a little dearer than some cafes, but the yummy morning tea was on a par price-wise. Great for a special occasion. I think this was once the old butcher shop in Mary Street, but they’ve done an amazing job on the renovation. Would go there again.  (17 November 2023)

#38 - Domestika Watercolour Course

I was enjoying my Domestika sketching course so much (see #35), that I decided to buy another one while they were on special. (Actually, they seem to be on special all the time.) This time I opted for  ‘Creative Watercolour Sketching for Beginners’ with English artist Laura McKendry. Although I’ve done a lot of watercolour workshops, there’s always more to learn and I really love her style. Very encouraging and freeing. The picture shows an exercise where we had to drop blobs of watercolour onto wet paper and wait until they had spread into random shapes and dried. Then we had to go back with a pen and try to make something of each one. I really enjoyed this exercise and have tried it a few times since. I see a lot more Domestika courses in my future, but should probably finish the two I have before buying any more. Really I should. Probably. Oh look, they’re still on special. (6 November 2023)

#37 - The Revised Cafe

I’ve been meaning to try this cafe at Wyalla Plaza in Toowoomba for a while, so took the opportunity to take a friend there for her birthday.  Great variety on the menu, but we decided to be good and each have a different salad. Really tasty and big serves for a reasonable price. They also have some Himalayan items on the menu, so I’ll have to be more adventurous next time. The decor was a bit old and the ambience wasn’t sizzling, but they were very friendly and you can’t beat the value for money. I’d definitely go there again if I was in the area. (And after being ‘good’ over lunch, we skipped across the carpark and had some decadent desserts at Pump. You can’t be good all the time.) (19 October 2023)

#36 - Shelling and Cooking Fresh Peas

Hold onto your hats for the most exotic new thing since my Kinder Surprise in July. When I was growing up, we always used frozen peas (or so it seemed to me). So when I moved out of home, I carried on the tradition of frozen peas. When I came across some fresh peas at my local fruit and veg shop, I thought I would take the plunge and try shelling and cooking them for a change. Took ages to shell and longer to cook than their frozen counterparts. Added them to a roast dinner, which was very nice. But I’m not sure the taste warranted all the extra effort. It will be back to frozen peas for me. You can’t live on the edge all the time! (14 October 2023)

#35 - Domestika Sketching Course

I’ve done many in-person art workshops over the years, but I’ve never tried an online one before. I came across a site called Domestika which had hundreds of short video art courses at fabulously reduced prices (under $10), so decided to give it a burl. I think the company is based in Europe, so many of the audios are in other languages with English subtitles. I decided to start with an English-speaking one though, so found a course by Dutch artist Sarah van Dongen called ‘Exploratory Sketchbook – Find Your Drawing Style’. Once you pay for the course, you have access to all of the videos and materials and can work through at your own pace. I found her style liberating. It’s more about having fun and expressing yourself, than worrying about whether you’re turning out a masterpiece. After years of watercolour workshops, I think I finally understand colour mixing. This colour wheel was constructed from just one red, one yellow and one blue. I would definitely recommend Domestika if you’re interested in different kinds of art, from beginner to advanced. I’ll be doing more of these. (4 October 2023)

#34 - Orongo

I love a good board game, so we asked our friends Wayne and Christine to bring over one of their games that we haven’t played yet. They chose Orongo, an Easter Island themed game. Each player starts with five Moai (the Easter Island statues). The aim is to link the right spaces so that you can place your five Moai facing the coastline, then be the first to place the final feathered doozy (can’t remember what it’s called). It took most of the first game to get the hang of it, but we were more in the flow in the second game. I liked it enough that I would be happy to play it again, but not enough that I would want my own copy. An enjoyable afternoon with friends. (1 October 2023)

#33 - An Abridged Bard

I headed off to the Toowoomba Repertory Theatre with a couple of friends to see ‘The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)’. Five actors, lots of costumes and props, plenty of laughs, and all done and dusted in under two hours. They spent a fair bit of time on Romeo and Juliet and also Hamlet, and whizzed through most of the others at lightning speed. That was probably good because as they said, some of those were the bad or boring plays! A lot of it was scripted, but there was also some improv. Must have been a lot going on behind the scenes for all of those props and costumes to appear on time. Wasn’t quite as hilarious as I was expecting, but still a fun night. (29 September 2023)

#32 - Toowoomba Studio Art Trail

This year, Toowoomba held its inaugural Studio Art Trail. Each weekend in September, artists opened their home studios to the public. There were eleven artists in all, and I managed to get to all of them over three weekends. There was a range of different styles and media, including watercolours, oils, acrylics, pastels, mixed media, textiles, jewelry, printing, pottery, sculptures and more. I only knew of one of the artists before, so it was a great way to meet others in the arty community, have a chat and view their wonderful works. Lots of inspiration and well worth the visits.  (9-24 September 2023)

#31 - Building a Model with Dad

My Dad has been in a nursing home the last four years and it’s often hard to think of something to get him, as he’s never been one for indoor hobbies. Inspired by a friend who did something similar for her father, I bought Dad a Lego set for Father’s Day. ‘You might think this is a strange present,’ I said, ‘but I thought we could make this model of the space shuttle sometime.’ ‘We can do it now,’ Dad said. So we did! It had a surprising number of pieces and I had to help a lot (and scratch my head a few times too), but we did it. The sides also open up and you can raise an antenna. Dad seemed to enjoy it. From the same kit, you can also make an astronaut and a smaller spacecraft, so we’ll have to do those too. Dad and I have never sat down and made something together before. He’s almost 91. Never too old to try something new. (3 September 2023)

#30 - Meccano

We’ve had a Meccano set lying around here for years and somehow never got around to opening it up. I’d never played with Meccano before, so today was the day. I chose the model with the fewest steps, and set out with enthusiasm and optimism. ‘This will be a heap of fun and a lovely relaxing way to spend 30 minutes or so,’ I thought. Three hours later … who designed this game of torture with micro parts that are too small for my fingers and diagrams that are not synced to my brain? I more or less finished it, but one part still didn’t seem to be sitting right. Oh well, at least it sort of looks like a motorbike. I’m glad I tried it, but I think I need something with bigger parts. It’s now found a home with a friend who hopefully won’t pull his hair out as much as I did! (26 August 2023)

#29 - Omega Brisbane Showcase

Omega Writers is a national Christian Writers group that I’ve been part of for many years. However, this is the first time they have run the two-day Showcase event. The idea was to showcase the work of Australian Christian writers and also enjoy some great speakers and fellowship. I’ve presented many workshops over the years, but this was my first one on how to make zines (i.e., mini homemade magazines). It was a lot of fun and seemed to spark people’s imaginations. It was great catching up with old friends and making new ones. It was also my first time staying at the Cooper’s Colonial Motel at Acacia Ridge, and first time on a mini road trip with my friends Janelle and Mazzy. (11-12 August 2023)

#28 - St Alban's Garage Sale

St Alban’s Anglican Church, corner of Hill St and Anzac Ave, has a garage sale on the first Friday and Saturday of every month. I went along expecting outside tables, but I was pleasantly surprised. There was an outdoor section that sold plants and larger items. They were also having a barbecue on the Saturday I was there. However, the church hall was also packed with goods, which made it more like an op shop. Lots of books, DVDs, CDs, craft supplies, crockery, clothes and so on. They also had some tables set up for Devonshire teas. I bought a retro comic and a big bottle of buttons. Why? Because I love retro comics and I can use the buttons for craft. Definitely worth checking out. (5 August 2023)

#27 - Jumpers and Jazz Festival, Warwick

The annual Jumpers and Jazz Festival has been running in Warwick since 2004, but this is the first time I’ve managed to get there. It goes for a week, but my friend Barbara and I headed up on the first Saturday. Beautiful weather to enjoy all the arts and crafts. Wonderful exhibition and markets at the art gallery, a spinners and weavers exhibition, an art show, a very inventive Alice in Wonderland display where even the food on the Mad Hatter’s table was knitted or crocheted. And of course all of the yarn-bombed trees. It seemed that every restaurant and shop window had some crafty thing displayed. Also enjoyed the street jazz. Definitely worth the trip. (22 July 2023)

#26 - Art Therapy Workshop

In conjunction with an exhibition at The Write Gallery, Sarah Hazelhurst from Momentum Mental Health ran a free community art therapy workshop, and I couldn’t miss the opportunity. I was expecting to sit at tables and do some doodling, but we laid on a piece of paper on the floor while someone traced an outline round our body. Lucky my friend Linda was there to do the honours. I didn’t post the pic of that because it looked like a crime scene photo – LOL. Then we drew, painted and/or collaged our body map. I didn’t get mine finished, but we were able to bring them home to keep working on them. Then at the end, we looked at what everyone had done and could share the stories behind them. A really interesting exercise. (19 July 2023)

#25 - Kinder Surprise

Hold onto your hats for my most adventurous ‘new thing’ yet. My first Kinder Surprise! I’ve never opened one, tasted one or assembled the little doodads. So I bought two of them to try. Nice milk and white chocolate egg, though a little on the sweet side for me. Couldn’t work out how to open the plastic capsule and Tim had to help. Turned my back for two secs and Tim had put the wolf together without me. Had trouble getting the car together. The excitement was so much, I had to lie down for a nap afterwards. Apparently they’re banned in the United States. Could I be living any more on the edge? Stay tuned for more exciting escapades! (16 July 2023)

#24 - NAIDOC Week Art Exhibition

NAIDOC is short for National Aboriginal and Islander Day Observance Committee. In conjunction with this year’s NAIDOC Week, I visited a wonderful display of indigenous art at The Write Gallery in Toowoomba. Lots of beautiful paintings and crafts, with some of the crafts being modern-day interpretations of articles that indigenous people would have used on the land, such as bowls made from gourds and wonderful examples of weaving. So much talent on display. (8 July 2023)

#23 - Davidson Arboretum, Highfields

When I mentioned that I’d been to the labyrinth at St Luke’s earlier in the year, a couple of people mentioned that there was another one at Highfields. So I trekked out to the Davidson Arboretum to check it out. It’s a bit hard to see in the photo, but it starts at the star in the centre and winds around a more or less circular pattern. The arboretum itself has lots of varieties of trees and shrubs. Not a lot of flowers at this time of the year, but a lovely peaceful setting. (30 June 2023)

#22 - Comic-Geddon, Toowoomba

The Toowoomba library held a mini Comic-Con a few years ago, but this is the first time Comic-Geddon has come to town. It was basically a market, with a theme related to comic books, superheroes, fantasy, and sci-fi. You could buy everything from Pokemon cards to Dr Who’s sonic screwdriver. For those who don’t know, I’m a big fan of retro comic books, so I got there when the doors opened in order to snap up some bargains. I was a little disappointed there weren’t more comic books there, but I did pick up a couple of great finds from the 80s so I was happy with that. Apparently, there were more people in costume a bit later in the day. Perhaps not surprisingly, I was the only one in a retro Archies T-shirt. Hopefully they’ll have it again and it will be bigger next time. (25 June 2023)

#21 - The Barn & Scotty's Garage

I’ve been meaning to visit the Barn and Scotty’s Garage, down Flagstone Creek Rd, for ages. I finally took the plunge with a friend who was visiting from Western Australia. The open Barn serves delicious and hearty homemade meals. There is a lot of old memorabilia to check out in the Barn itself and in the grounds. If you want to also look in Scotty’s Garage, there’s a cost of $10, but it was very much worth it. The garage takes up half of the shed and has some beautifully restored cars and motorbikes, including this sensational Indian, and tons of petrol station memorabilia including pumps, signs and much more. The second part of the shed is decked out like a 50s diner, complete with soda counter, jukebox, Elvis, a dodgem car and much more. Check out more photos on their website. Only open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, and absolutely worth the trip. (23 June 2023)

#20 - Lockyer Foothills Art Show & Markets

Another week, another art show. My first time at the Lockyer Foothills Art Show and markets at Postmans Ridge, about half an hour from Toowoomba. I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of the art. Some truly beautiful and original paintings and sculptures. I also enjoyed looking through the wonderful crafts at the market. Definitely worth the trip. (28 May 2023)

#19 - Facets Art Exhibition, Fairholme College

Apparently Fairholme College in Toowoomba has been running an annual art show for the last seven years. How did I not  know about this? Well, I finally made it this year. A great mix of artwork in all different media, quirky sculptures, stunning photography and impressive student works. Also entertainment from some of the students while I ate my gluten-free pie. I’ll definitely be adding this one to my art roster, along with the Grammar and Downlands shows. (21 May 2023)

#18 - Thermomix Lesson

My fabulous friend Aileen offered to give me a cooking lesson on her Thermomix, but it was a bit more spontaneous than I’d expected. (Which I guess is the definition of spontaneity!). I turned up at her house for home group, and she greeted me by saying, ‘You’re cooking lunch’. So with the guidance of Aileen and the instructions on the Thermomix, I made yummy Apricot Chicken Risotto for the eight of us. It certainly is a fab all-in-one cooker. Probably can’t justify the price for just me and Tim, but would be great if you’re often cooking up a whole mess of vittles. Thanks for the lesson, Aileen. (10 May 2023)

#17 - Camp Somerset Writer's Retreat

After a hiatus of a few years, it was great to be able to gather again for our Omega Writers Retreat, organised by the Toowoomba Chapter. It was held for the first time at The Lodge at Camp Somerset, near Somerset Dam. Beautiful surroundings, beautiful old friends and new, great input and food. Our keynote speaker was the fabulous Meredith Resce, and there was also a publishing workshop with the amazing Rochelle Stephens (from Wombat Books and Rhiza Press) and the phenomenal indie author and publisher Jeanette O’Hagan. There’s a slight possibility that I may have spent more time in the pool than writing, but self-care is part of writing. It was great to revive and refresh. Thanks especially to the main organiser, Adele Jones, and her team. It was indeed a memorable weekend. (5-7 May 2023)

#16 - Paint and Stitch Workshop

I thought I’d better redeem myself after my failed attempt at paint pouring, so I took a chance on a ‘Paint and Stitch’ workshop run by local artist Sarah Walker. We started with a simple outline on watercolour paper and then added an abstract pattern of acrylic paint to the background. I chose a pear in case you can’t recognise it. Once the paint was dry, with the help of some trusty hairdryers, we added some stitches in wool. I was happy with my first attempt, and am keen to try it at home with embroidery cotton. It could be just the thing to add some pizazz to the greeting cards I make. For more inspiring paintings, check our Sarah’s art page. (22 Apr 2023)

#15 - Acrylic Paint Pouring

I’ve seen ‘Sip and Pour’ workshops advertised where you sip on drinks and pour acrylic paints to make interesting effects. So when I found a cheap ‘Paint and Pour’ kit at one of the bargain stores, I thought I’d give it a go. I’ve included a picture of my second attempt, because the first was an unmitigated disaster that resembled a cow pat more than it did the lovely picture on the box. That one went straight to the wheelie bin. This one wasn’t as bad, but I think it would definitely be better to go to a workshop rather than try to follow the instructions at home. Oh well. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. At least I tried something new. (10 Apr 2023)

#14 - Dawn Service for Easter Sunday

St Barts Anglican Church has had an Easter Sunday dawn service for years, but I’ve never managed to make it. This year, I hopped out of bed at 4.30 am and got there in plenty of time for the 5.30 start. I live in a town that is situated on top of a mountain range, so it made for great views over the valley. It was wonderful to see the sun come up as we celebrated the Son rising from the dead and bringing new life. A meaningful start to Easter Sunday and definitely worth the early start. He is risen indeed! (9 April 2023)

#13 - Royal Bull's Head Inn, Drayton

I’ve driven past this heritage-listed building many times, but have never had a good look through the building and grounds. When I saw they had an open day and art exhibition, I thought it was time to pop in. It was established in 1847, with the second storey being added in 1859. It apparently had the first indoor bathroom of any inn at that time in the colony, and would have been quite flash accommodation for its day. It was sold and became a family home, but a post office still operated from the building from 1892 to 1952. The rooms are furnished with things from the period, and the gardens and grounds also include a number of historical features. Well worth a look, but check the website as it has limited opening times.  (2 April 2023)

#12 - The Boy From Oz

The Boy From Oz is a musical based on the life of Australian entertainer Peter Allen. Although it was first performed in 1998, I’ve never seen it. A friend and I headed off to the Empire Theatre in Toowoomba for this revival, and it was well worth it. Although the actor who played Allen did a great job, my favourite scenes were actually the ones that featured Judy Garland, played by Lucy Williamson. I’m a big Judy fan, and the actress had the mannerisms and voice down pat. The show was fairly upbeat, but there were some surprisingly poignant moments too that had a few of us reaching for the tissues. An interesting showcase of the ups and downs in Peter’s career. (26 Mar 2023)

#11 - Fortitude Music Hall

When I heard that my favourite band, Clannad, was returning to Australia for a farewell concert, I was thrilled. I’d seen them more than 10 years ago at City Hall in Brisbane, but this time around they were playing at the Fortitude Music Hall. I grew up in Brisbane, but this venue only opened in 2019 and is supposed to be Australia’s largest ballroom/theatre-style venue. Well, I’ll have to take their word for it, but it was a great venue and Clannad’s performance was brilliant. I had a completely unobstructed view of lead singer Moya Brennan for the whole concert (pictured). Wonderful Celtic music and a fitting farewell to a band that has been performing for more than 50 years. If you haven’t heard of them, check out I Will Find You and Harry’s Game on YouTube and you’ll see what I mean. (18 Mar 2023)

#10 - Sushi Train

I’ve eaten sushi a couple of times before, but it’s always been a pre-packed takeaway. I’ve never had the sushi train experience where plates of sushi whizz around on a conveyor belt and you keep taking little plates off the belt until you can’t eat anymore. So a friend and I headed off to Sushi 3.5 at The Ridge Shopping Centre and gave it a try. I think I sampled four or five different types. It was quite good, though probably not my favourite cuisine. I love rice and most of the ingredients, but I’m not a huge fan of seaweed. I had teriyaki beef there once before with hubby, and I think I like that type of meal better. But it was good to try. (14 Mar 2023)

#9 - Foiled!

Although I’ve been getting my hair coloured for 27 years, I’ve never had foils. So why this sudden change? Well, I’ve finally decided to bite the bullet and go grey. My hairdresser said that the best way to do it would be to use foils to lighten my hair, and then the grey would blend in more while it’s growing out. I also had it cut fairly short so it won’t take too long to grow out. I’ll probably need another couple of treatments, but then I can kiss colour goodbye. Less money, less time, less hassle! So how did it turn out? I was quite happy with it, but stay tuned for more photos over the next couple of months as I morph into my natural colour. And a big shoutout to Chloe at Pure Hair on West (at Westridge shopping centre) (6 Mar 2023)

#8 - Photo Scavenger Hunt

I went on the third annual Hike to Heal at Mount Peel near me, which raises awareness and funds for  mental health and suicide prevention programs. They have an activity sheet you can do on the way, which includes taking photos of 10 things in a Scavenger Hunt. I didn’t do the Scavenger Hunt last year, so I made that my new thing. I managed to do all but one of the pics and that was because one thing I had to find wasn’t on my part of the walk. The pic shows me hugging a tree, preferably with both feet off the ground. Well I cannot tell a lie. My right foot was on the ground, but at least I tried. The other things included me jumping in the air (2 cm counts, right?), me doing a yoga pose (it looked more like a dance move), a piece of natural art created from fallen objects, a selfie at their Insta stand, some animal tracks (horse hooves in my case), something I was grateful for in nature (a kookaburra in a gum tree), a fractal pattern (a flower if you use your imagination), and three things starting with the same letter as my family name. A fun idea, thanks to the Hike to Heal organisers. Check out their website here. (18 Feb 2023)

#7 - 'Australia in Space' Exhibit

We have a fabulous Cobb and Co. museum here in Toowoomba. As well as the permanent historic coach collection and some other exhibits, they also have some visiting exhibitions. I’ve always been a space buff, so when I heard they were doing ‘Australia in Space’ , I had to pop in. There were a few hands-on activities, some models and lots of photos with info to read. I didn’t realise that there was a relay station at Cooby Creek, not far from Toowoomba, that played a part in relaying the first images of the Apollo 11 landing, as well as being part of some of the world’s first live satellite broadcasts. There was also a Mars exhibit. It’s on until 14 May 2023, so well worth a look. (17 Feb 2023)

#6 - Zine Workshop

What’s a zine? I’m glad you asked. It’s a little homemade mini magazine. There are no rules. It can be as simple or as complicated as you like. It can be about anything–reviews, recipes, how-to, comics, art, photos, collage, community notices, your deepest thoughts, topical, gardening tips, rants, jokes, devotions, poems. There’s really no limit. I’ve dabbled in zines before, but this is the first time I’ve been to a hands-on workshop. The fabulous Bianca and Bronte showed us how to make an 8-page zine from one A4 piece of paper. It was great getting some new ideas and sparking off each other. I decided to go with a couple of light-hearted themes for my attempts. Will definitely be trying more of these. (4 Feb 2023)

#5 - Machine Embroidery

I have never used an electric sewing machine in my life. So when my friend Majella suggested that she could show me how to do something on her machine, shock waves rippled through me. Majella is the Queen of Sewing and she has a state-of-the-art machine with more controls than the space shuttle. But she assured me we’d pick something easy and all I had to do was turn up with a hand towel. So I picked out one of the preset designs. There was a little bit of rigmarole at the beginning to get the right bit of towel clamped into a frame with some plastic backing thingy. Then it was a matter of sliding the frame into the brackety thingy and doing the embroidery in five stages because there are five colours. So for each one, we just had to thread the colour around all the gizmo doozeys and then press a button and let the machine do its work.  I was really pleased with the result. Thanks a bunch, Majella! (23 Jan 2023)

#4 - Arty Party

One of my friends came up with a novel idea for her birthday party. She bought some cheap pre-printed canvases, and other friends brought art and craft supplies. Then we had the choice of either painting the design on the canvas or making a picture by gluing buttons onto a pre-painted canvas. I opted for the button picture, as I hadn’t done one of those before. I was going for a stylised heart, so hopefully that’s what it looks like. It gave me ideas for trying a more adventurous design sometime. It was amazing to see all of the wonderful artworks. A great way to catch up with friends and do something a bit different. (14 Jan 2023)

#3 - St Patrick's Cathedral, Toowoomba

I’ve lived in Toowoomba for 34 years and have never been inside St Patrick’s Cathedral (corner of James and Neil). I just recently found out that you can pop in and do a self-guided tour, so that’s just what I did. If you go through the door on the Neil St side, you’ll see a table with a handy brochure that points out what you’re seeing. There are some lovely art works (including Mary of the Southern Cross), a sculpture of the Pietà (different to the one in Rome), beautiful stained-glass windows, a pipe organ, the grave of a former priest, stations of the Cross, and more. Outside, you can see the bell tower and some beautiful stone architecture. Well worth a look if you like religious art. (13 Jan 2023)

#2 - Toowoomba City Labyrinth

My only previous experience of labyrinths was the 1986 David Bowie film of the same name, so imagine my surprise when I discovered we had one right here in Toowoomba. It’s at the back of St Luke’s Anglican Church (crnr Herries and Ruthven) and was established in 2015, though I’ve only just found it. The idea is that you walk slowly around the path and pray, meditate or reflect as you go. I decided to make it a prayer walk, and I prayed for the upcoming year as I followed the path. I was fortunate to have it all to myself, so it was a lovely peaceful walk. I’ve since discovered that there is an Australian Labyrinths Locator, so I’ll have to be on the lookout for others. (9 Jan 2023)

#1 - Learning Some French

I have a little confession to make. I actually started this one a few weeks ago, but I put it first because it’s going to continue throughout the year and maybe beyond. Kind of like a ‘challenge within a challenge’. I learned German at school, and only had the most basic of French phrases in my head, so I thought it was time to learn a little more. It helps keep my brain active, and it also has some relevance for the novel I’m currently writing.  I’ve explained all in more detail in a blog post, and you can read it here. (1 Jan 2023)