News headlines this week shouted that we Aussies have accumulated extreme credit card debt in 2015… and will continue to do so during Christmas, breaking credit card charges since the GFC. So, why did’ Kochie’ (David Koch Chanel 7) wait until December 15 to break the news?  Guilt rolls in along with the biggest thunder, hail and rain storm to hit the Sydney area in months (16 Dec).


If you have overspent and are guilt laden (and burdened with credit card interest) we would like to help you enjoy the summer months without breaking the bank. Spend less! Seems obvious, perhaps? Not so easily done!


We’re suggesting you do something outrageous.. . go on the cheap!  A tank of petrol, a shop for picnic goodies at your local grocer, a ground cover, sun screen and bottles of water-- take plenty of water -- and you're on the road! Alert: mobile and GPS availability is inconsistent in some areas: pick up a map at your nearest Visitor Information Centre.


 Rouse Hill House & Farm Open Day


Get out in nature, picnic, sit alongside the river, or fish from a pier.




  • Ride the free Wisemans' state ferry and drive out to Spencer, affectionately known as the 'Hub of the Universe'. The drive is gorgeous -- sandstone ridges, dense forest and the Hawkesbury River nudging along a winding road.  The attraction in Spencer is a general store, a waterside pier for fishing and a picnic table designated as the oldest pub in all of Australia. Ask a local for this folklore.



   Blue Mountains Botanic Garden, Mount Tomah


  • Hang out in the cool Royal Botanic garden of the Hawkesbury side of the Blue Mountains. Picnic tables and barbeques are available and are  protected from the sun. During the holidays, a free photo exhibition of birds native to the Central Tablelands of NSW is on display.The view out from the exhibition hall is stunning.





  • Trek one of the trails in the Blue Mountains National Parks in the Hawkesbury -- the Great Old North Road -- now a World Heritage site is a bit strenous, but the engineering feat of our convict ancestors is amazing. The entrance is just a free ferry ride from the village of Wisemans Ferry. The National Park signage along this road is some of the best we have seen anywhere -- you will be proud ot your heritage!  Choose an overcast day with moderate temperatures.



  • Take in an exhibition at the Hawkesbury Regional Galley (air conditioned, of course)



  • Stop by Purple Noon Gallery in Freeman’s Reach for a new exhibition of Aboriginal art of the tiny art community Papulankulja in WA, "From Sunset to Sunrise, From Us to You" along with the permanent collection of local artists.





  • Sip from the vine on the Sydney Wine Trail --  three wineries, Jubilee Estate, Tizzana, and Bull Ridge Estate are located in Ebenezer and open for tasting each weekend from 12 noon to 5pm.



You won’t need an airline ticket or a passport to hang out in the Hawkesbury. And, you can have fun – guilt-free!  Just after Christmas, we'll highlight some activities where the fees are quite modest. Until then stay safe and a happy yule to all.



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As a recently minted Australian resident, I discovered a trip that takes one away for three months seems like a very long trip.  Yes, avoiding much of the Australian winter and flying into the North American summer is a pleasure. Yet the longer one is away, the more one reminisces about the beauty of Sydney, of stunning Australian beaches and Sydney’s proximity to the wilderness of Hawkesbury and the Blue Mountains.


Rehab, after surgery in Virginia (USA) for my new titanium meniscus was long and to keep my mood light and to avoid bouts of homesickness, I turned to Bill Bryson’s Down Under, In a Sunburned Country.  Screamingly funny from the first paragraph, this is a travel story everyone could love, but Aussies certainly.


Tuesday, after landing in Sydney on Sunday (22NOV), I took my first exercise/walk – if you can call 25 minutes exercise. It is that time of year when those pesky little swift flies swarm and I remembered Bryson’s hilarious comments on those little pests. If you haven’t read Down Under, it will warm your heart and also make you laugh. He loves Australia and isn’t shy about saying so, along with making us laugh at ourselves.


When I first immigrated to Australia ten years ago, I had observations similar to Bryson’s. However, I learned (from Bryson) that Australia is the 6th largest country and the world’s largest island, but then my American geography education was sorely lacking on any location ‘outside the U.S’.


Here is a brief excerpt from the Bryson's book cover:


‘It was as if I had privately discovered life on another planet, or a parallel universe where life was at once recognizably similar but entirely different. I can’t tell you how exciting it was. Insofar as I had accumulated my expectations of Australia at all in the intervening years, I had thought of it as a kind of alternative southern California, a place of constant sunshine and the cheerful vapidity of a beach lifestyle, but with a slightly British bent – a sort of Baywatch with cricket . . . ‘




Of course, what greeted Bill Bryson was something rather different. Australia is a country that exists on a vast scale. It is the world’s sixth largest country and its largest island. It is the only island that is also a continent and the only continent that is also a country. It is the driest, flattest, hottest, most desiccated, infertile and climatically aggressive of all the inhabited continents and still it teems with life – a large proportion of it quite deadly.






In fact, Australia has more things that can kill you in a very nasty way than anywhere else. This is a country where even the fluffiest of caterpillars can lay you out with a toxic nip, where seashells will not just sting you but actually sometimes go for you. If you are not stung or pronged to death in some unexpected manner, you may be fatally chomped by sharks or crocodiles, or carried helplessly out to sea by irresistible currents, or left to stagger to an unhappy death in the baking outback.



Ignoring such dangers – yet curiously obsessed by them – Bill Bryson journeyed to Australia and promptly fell in love with the country. And who can blame him? The people are cheerful, extrovert, quick-witted and unfailingly obliging; their cities are safe and clean and nearly always built on water; the food is excellent; the beer is cold and the sun nearly always shines. Life doesn’t get much better than this.




FROM THE EDITOR: Bryson is on target: Life doesn’t get much better than this. It only takes a trip to the U.S., chaotic with the U.S. presidential primaries, frightening with frequent gun incidents and frustrating with massive traffic congestion in California to open my eyes—life doesn’t get much better than in Australia. 




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