International Puzzle Day

It was International Puzzle Day on Tuesday 29th January, and in recognition of that we held our very own puzzling event here at the Astra. We had a variety of puzzles set out in the common areas for people to pick at throughout the day. Popular were the jigsaws and the shape-based puzzles, but we also had wire and wooden puzzles as well as a range of sudokus, wordsearches and brain teasers. Everyone who joined in had fun and kept their minds active and engaged in coming up with solutions to the problems. We rounded a very enjoyable day off with afternoon tea and cake and admired our handiwork.

Australia Day 2019

The sun was shining and it was a beautiful, warm evening as Astra residents made their way down to the lounge for a relaxing and fun-filled Australia Day celebration. There was food and drink aplenty, with many healthy snacks and lots of lovely fresh fruit to enjoy throughout the evening. All the residents and friends who came had a lovely time, and said it was a night to remember.

Thanks to everyone who helped out and made the event possible - the planners, shoppers, cooks, cleaners and other helpers. We couldn’t have done it without you!

What a Way to Bring in the New Year

It didn’t seem the most auspicious start - with thunder, lightning and rain threatening to be the talking point of this new year’s eve - but this didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of the dozen or so hearty souls who braved the elements to take part in a fantastic New Year BBQ. The food was great, drink abundant, and fun was had by all. What a wonderful way to bring in the new year, with friends by our side and laughter ringing in our ears. Roll on Australia Day and the next courtyard culinary extravaganza!

Flickerfest 2019: 11th-20th January

Flickerfest, in its 28th year this year and renowned as Sydney's first beach-side cinema, kicks off the summer cinema season outdoors under the stars at our very own Bondi Beach, screening the best short films from Australia and the world in a unique and relaxed environment. After the Bondi festival, Flickerfest tours to 50+ venues around Australia.

Flickerfest’s Academy® accredited short film competition and special showcase programmes celebrate the latest in cutting edge shorts from around the world.

Visit their website for more information and to take a look at the programme of events for this year.

Merry Christmas!

We had a wonderful Christmas party last week, full of good food, fun and company. The event kicked off in the lounge with some pre-dinner drinks and chat (and a couple of games of snooker for Sam). At 5:30pm we made our way next door to the Bondi Tratt and were treated to a beautiful Christmas meal on a beautiful spring evening in Bondi. The beach looked stunning and the food was very tasty. Most people had turkey and ham for their main course, along with seasonal veggies and potatoes. The Brussels sprouts were amazing - I’ve no idea how they cooked them but they tasted delicious.

After dinner we returned to the Astra to a sumptuous dessert and the dulcet strains of John Campbell on the guitar and trumpet. Residents were encouraged to dance the night away to a medley of Christmas songs, classic rock numbers and well-known folk tunes. John did a fabulous job and everyone had a great time singing and dancing, or enjoying the music with a glass of bubbly and a dessert in hand. Excitement came halfway through the evening when we drew the raffle prizes - we had lots of individual prizes as well as the traditional big hamper. Jo was the lucky hamper winner, but many of the residents that attended went home with something.

The festivities went on well after I had left, and the music was still going when I did finally go home. Everyone had a lovely time and said how good the food and the music had been. Sam, Aaron and I really enjoyed ourselves too, and it was nice to see the Astra community spirit in action again.

We wish all Astra residents and their friends and families a very Merry Christmas and a happy start to the new year.

Sculpture by the Sea 2018

This October/November saw the coastline between Bondi and Tamarama beaches transformed into the world’s largest free to the public sculpture exhibition. The 22nd anniversary event involved sculptures from more than 100 artists in Australia and across the world. As this is right on our doorstep, Astra residents took the opportunity to see some of these amazing artworks in their stunning natural settings. The day that I went was stinking hot, but made for beautiful pictures full of blue sky and sunshine. And it meant that I was really able to appreciate the Harris Farm stall giving out watermelon for a donation - I’ve never been so happy to see a slice of watermelon!

I really enjoyed the sculptures this year - I thought they were the right mix of interesting and fun, and as ever the hill above Bondi was chock full of art (and people!) Some of the installations along the coast blended perfectly with their surroundings, and others stood out glorious against the backdrop of cloudless sky and rolling seas. Here are a selection of my favourite sculptures from this year’s offering:

Melbourne Cup 2018

What a lovely Melbourne Cup day we had, and what a great turn out from the residents! With racing-themed decorations galore, more hats and fascinators than you could shake a stick at, and some seriously scrummy food, we were fully into the carnival spirit even before the big race itself.

With $2 and $5 sweeps up for grabs there was everything to play for, and this year we were able to run two full sweeps of each value. So more prizes than ever were won and the stakes were at an all-time high!

Everyone was on fine form and when it came to the race that stops the nation, there was shouting and cheering and encouragement on all sides. A fun-filled party, with great food and great company…that’s what it’s all about.

Christmas in July

What a night this was! The tables were decorated, the raffle prizes displayed and the dance area primed, as we gathered in the lounge at 5pm for a drink before making our way to the Tratt for Christmas dinner. Alasdair and his staff were friendly as ever, and there was a nice selection of meats, veggies and potatoes, not to mention white and red wines. I had the ham, and I can say it was lovely, especially with the wonderfully tasty beans and potatoes roasted to perfection. And the red wine wasn't half bad either!

After dinner, we headed back to the Astra where our entertainer for the night, John Campbell, was setting up. John was new to the Astra, but we were very happy to have him to sing and play the night away. During and after dessert, we were treated to a mixture of Christmas, swing, folk and rock n roll tunes. There was a goodly amount of dancing and silliness all the way along, with only a short break to draw the raffle and give thanks to the residents who had given their time to help organise the night.

It was lovely to welcome back former long time resident Margaret Keen for the night, and everyone relished the opportunity to catch up with her over the course of the evening. All in all, a wonderful night and a great chance to celebrate with friends old and new. Happy Christmas in July!

Getting ready for Christmas in July

You'd better watch out...it's that time of year again! July is now in full swing, and we are looking forward to our Christmas in July celebration next week. Behind the scenes, the elves are busying themselves organising the food, the wine, the music and the raffle prizes. This year the Bondi Tratt will be offering us the option of turkey and maple-glazed ham, roast veggies and potatoes. The wine will be flowing, and the conversation must surely be merry and bright.

After-dinner entertainment will be provided by comedian and singer John Campbell on the trumpet and guitar, playing all the rock n' roll, swing and folk classics. Before we get stuck into the dancing, we will have a beautiful dessert prepared by our very own residents. The raffle promises to be bigger and better than ever before, so get in quick for tickets to win some amazing prizes. This truly is the year for coming along to a rockin' Christmas in July party - sign up in the office now if you haven't already.

Technology Workshop - Creating Documents

This month we continued with our technology workshops by discussing how to create documents of all sorts. We first looked at word processing documents like Microsoft Word, Apple Pages and Google Docs, and Aaron showed everyone how to make and edit a Word document.

Microsoft office documents

Microsoft office documents

Next we looked at making spreadsheets in Microsoft Excel, Apple Numbers and Google Sheets, and we played around with making a budget in Excel. Finally, we examined the programs available to make presentations, such as Microsoft PowerPoint, Apple Keynote and Google Slides, and began to format our own PowerPoint presentation.

apple iwork documents

apple iwork documents

Everyone learned a lot from this session, including Aaron and Anna who were presenting!! There were handouts to choose from at the end, and just time enough for a cup of tea and a biscuit before lunch. It was lovely to see so many people there, even though it was a cold, wet and miserable day outside. 

google suite documents

google suite documents

If you missed the last few workshops, please do still consider coming along to one in the future - we will continue once a month to discuss a different topic and to answer any questions you have relating to your devices. The workshops are free and open to anyone over 55, so do watch out for upcoming events. We are running these sessions in conjunction with the Be Connected government initiative (see their website for more information and for lots of helpful tutorials). 

Special Movie Screenings! Summer of the Seventeenth Doll and Beautiful Bondi

What an event this was! Lots of residents and friends turned up to see some recently-released footage of Bondi circa 1926, as well as the iconic Australian tale 'Summer of the Seventeenth Doll'. The lounge room was full of excited chatter and the wafting scent of popcorn as we settled down to an afternoon of movie magic. Beautiful Bondi is a silent movie showing aspects of Bondi and the surrounding beaches from the 1920s. The swimming costumes, hairdos and fishing suits (the full suit, hat and pipe whilst fishing caused more than a few laughs!) were wonderful, and the footage of the Astra (then the Hotel International) being built was really interesting. Amazing to see the foundations of the building we live and work in being constructed, and an artist's impression of what it would look like when it was finished! 

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The main event of the day was a classic movie based on the play by Ray Lawler about two sugarcane cutters who come south to visit their girlfriends in the off season each year. Roo brings with him a Kewpie Doll for Olive, which makes it her 17th doll. This summer, however, is destined to be different from the others - Olive's friend has got married and things just aren't the same. The two male characters, Roo and Barney, have also had a falling out about work. 

The movie had a nice feel to it, although the plot differed from the play in places. 'Summer of the Seventeenth Doll' is a pioneering Australian play written by Ray Lawler, first performed in November 1955. The play is almost unanimously considered by scholars of literature to be the most historically significant in Australian theatre history, openly and authentically portraying distinctly Australian life and characters. It was one of the first truly naturalistic Australian theatre productions.

Great fun was had by all watching the drama unfold. In places it was very funny, and this contrasted with the serious themes of lost youth and evolving passions. I enjoyed the feel of the movie, and it was lovely to see footage of Bondi and the Sydney harbour. Some scenes were filmed at the Astra, and it was interesting to see the inside of what would have been a very grand hotel. We wrapped up our afternoon with some tea and cake, and chatted about the images we had just seen. Thanks to Aaron for finding the movie, and I hope we can have some similar events soon.

Day Trip to Berry

The sun was shining and the Astra was a-buzz with excitement as we waited for our bus to arrive early on Tuesday morning. Although the bus was stuck in traffic and turned up a bit late, we were still underway before 9am, and hoping to beat the traffic to the highway. It was a nice and relaxing journey down - we each had plenty of space to stretch out on the bus, and some of us even fell asleep for a while! Unfortunately for me, this time there was photographic evidence! When we weren't sleeping, we were singing along to the radio and marvelling at Ann's ability to pick the band out whatever the song!

When we got closer to Berry, we were treated to sights of rolling hills, small country towns and sheep grazing contentedly by the side of the road. We arrived in Berry in time for an early lunch. Some of us went to the local pub for seafood, salads and chips, and others went to Thai restaurant to satisfy their cravings for good Asian cuisine. After lunch, we broke off into groups and went for a stroll.

Most of us wandered in and out of the little artisan shops and had a lovely time browsing the local crafts and gift shops. Several of us treated ourselves to a yummy gelato or frozen dessert as it was such a beautiful sunny day. There were also some nice parks and places to sit and take in the scenery.

At 2pm we trouped back to the bus and got ready to head back to Sydney. There was much swapping of stories and showing of purchases as we travelled back...and perhaps a few more sleeping beauties! By the time we got back to the Astra we were all tired but definitely happy with our successful day out. Everyone had fun and felt refreshed from breathing in the country air and spending some time with friends and neighbours. Now we are all looking forward to the next one...ideas on a postcard please!

Technology Workshop One - Cyber Security

This month we had our first technology workshop on the important issue of cyber security and safety measures to take when using computers, phones and tablets. We are running these sessions in conjunction with the Be Connected government initiative (see their website for more information and helpful tutorials). The workshop was well attended and was a definite success. We began with a video on what to watch out for with viruses, scams, spam and other aspects of security (click here to watch it for yourself). We then talked about what makes a secure password, what to look for when using a website, different types of anti-virus software, and how to avoid viruses, scams and spam.

We had plenty of time for questions and comments as we went along, and everyone got involved with the discussions. Afterwards, Aaron and I were on hand to help with individual issues on the attendees' personal devices. For a first session it went excellently, and we are now well on our way to getting the thirty signups that we need to get our grant to invest in some new communal computers. We will continue to have sessions once a month for the rest of the year, so watch out for upcoming events. The workshops are free and open to anyone over 55.

Our Oldest Resident Turns 97!

Huge CONGRATULATIONS to Marie, who turned 97 last week! She celebrated in style at the Astra on Sunday, where she was joined by family and friends and many of the other residents. There was food aplenty and drinks galore, and the occasion really served to give a fitting tribute to this wonderful lady. Testament to the family atmosphere, everyone had a lovely time talking to new people and making new friends throughout the day.

Marie has had a fascinating life - working as a nurse for many years, she has so many stories to tell and experiences to pass on. Still living in independent accommodation at 97, she is truly an inspiration to us all. For she's a jolly good fellow, and...Hip Hip Hooray!

One Day in the Life of a Village Manager

8:30am: Aaron arrives at the Astra bright and early to start his day at the Bondi Beach Astra. He opens up the office, switches the lights on above the lift and the seahorse statue, and opens the downstairs windows and doors to let the sea breeze flow through the ground floor. 

9am: The office officially opens and Aaron, having gone through the important emails for the day, greets residents as they go out for their morning walk/swim. One resident comes down to ask Aaron for help with sending some pictures to a friend from her phone, another needs some printing done.

9:30am: There is a momentary lull, so Aaron takes advantage of this to conduct his first walk round of the week. Checking that everything is ok in the building after the weekend is all in a Monday's work - making sure the lights are all working, toilet rolls are in plentiful supply and there isn't too much mess anywhere. As this is the start of another month, 'The Senior' newspapers have arrived, and Aaron leaves a pile on each floor for residents to flick through. 

10am: Back to the office and time to reply to the rest of the emails that have been piling up over the weekend. 

11am: Some prospective residents arrive for a showround of the building. Aaron takes them through the available units and into the common areas, answering questions along the way. Towards the end, he shows them artist's impressions of the renovations that we are hoping to start this year in the communal spaces. We are all excited for a new and refreshed Astra... While this is happening, a call comes through that the NBN engineers are here to do some work on connecting up the Astra to the new network. Aaron takes them to where they need to be.

12pm: A number of new notices need to be put up for the week, advertising bingo and a movie night. Once designed and printed, Aaron goes round each of the three notice boards and adds them to the mix. Any out-of-date notices are removed.

12:30pm: It is a constant battle in the office to keep plants alive! The ones in the foyer area do not get as much light or air as they should, but Aaron continues to water them dutifully. The plants in the courtyard area fair better, and also need to be given a drink after the weekend. After the plants have had some food, Aaron can take some time to have his own lunch before the afternoon tasks get into full swing.

1pm: Aaron has collated forms for the residents for the week ordering meals from next door Trattoria. By 1pm he needs to take this information round to the Tratt so that they can be prepared.

1:15pm: The building Maintenance Manager, Nick, comes by to fit window locks in the building that are required by new regulations. He needs access to some of the units and Aaron has to liaise with the residents to make sure they are able to let him in. 

2pm: Aaron checks the mail. Throughout the day he has had a number of parcels delivered by couriers for various residents, but now he is checking the main Australia Post delivery. Some residents are away at the moment, so he checks the notice on the office whiteboard so he knows whose mail to pick up. Some residents like their mail to be put out for them before they get back, others will pick it up when they are next in the office.

2:15pm: A resident comes down to ask if Aaron can change a light globe in their unit. He goes up to do so, and has a chat with a few different people on the way. Throughout the day people are coming and going through the Astra; residents, friends, family, postal workers, healthcare professionals and more...

2:30pm: More emails have come through, some with news about the Retirement Village industry. Aaron likes to keep up-to-date with what is going on in the aged care sector, and especially in the local area. It is always good to know about changes to the industry, and to have awareness of the competition!

3:30pm: A new resident is moving in today and she comes by to collect keys and ask questions about the village. Aaron gives her a tour of the major areas of note; the lounge room, pool and gym area, garbage rooms, courtyard and so on. It's always lovely to welcome to new people to the Astra, and we love to show off our wonderful, friendly Village.

4pm: The cleaner arrives and Aaron has to ask him to make sure he has cleaned certain areas that have got dirty over the weekend. The residents like to keep us informed about the state of the building, and it is helpful for us to have the perspective of someone who is living here all the time.

4:15pm: As it is the start of the month, the monthly newsletter is due. The comparative quiet of the final 45mins gives Aaron enough time to start writing some articles and compiling photos for this edition. It will get printed, folded and put into everyone's letterboxes tomorrow, so anyone who wants to can follow what's going on at the Astra in the coming month.

5pm: It's home time! When things have been happening constantly throughout the day, 5 o'clock can come around pretty quickly. Closing the office up is as simple as turning out the lights, closing the windows and locking the doors...that is, if you don't get a last-minute straggler come down to ask you something right on 5! It's all part of the service though and Aaron, being the consummate professional that he is, is happy to help whenever he's needed. Roll on tomorrow...!

Australia Day 2018

Well the sun was out and shining on a nice warm Australia Day Friday, and the Astra had its usual good attendance at this evening of great food and great company. Aussie flags were out in decorative force, and there was plenty of food and drink for everyone who wanted it. Sandwiches, sausages and chicken were enjoyed by all, and the picnic style provided a nice laid-back change from the usual BBQ event. A contingent of tennis fans adjourned to the TV area to watch the men’s semi-finals of the Australian Open, preceded by a special Australia Day ceremony. Sadly the match was cut short with an injury for Chung in the third set, but nonetheless it was an interesting mix of styles and Federer played in his usual majestic fashion. A real Aussie tradition, the tennis rounded up a relaxing celebration of Astra friends, Bondi weather and Australian spirit.

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New Year's Eve BBQ

On Sunday afternoon, New Year's Eve, Jim got out his BBQ tongs and Patricia filled two bowls with salad in preparation for the celebratory BBQ in the courtyard. On the menu were prawns, sausages, salads, wine and soft drinks, as well as desserts for anyone who still had room after. We had a good turn out of residents and guests, and spent a very pleasant few hours chatting and enjoying spending time in community together. The weather wasn’t too hot and it was a truly lovely evening for a BBQ.

After a few hours, live coverage of the city fireworks was shown in the lounge and everyone enjoyed watching the displays. Thanks to all those who helped to make this event happen – shopping, cooking, cleaning and hosting – it was very well received and much appreciated. What a great way to start off the new year at our beloved Astra.

The Astra's Christmas Party

I can honestly say I have not had this much fun in a long time! What a fantastic night. The festivities kicked off at 5pm with drinks and chat in the lounge before we headed over to the Tratt next door for a beautiful meal. I had the ham and it was delicious, and those who had the turkey said that it was wonderful too. The potatoes and veggies were lovely, and the wine was excellent. All in all, everyone agreed that it was the best Astra Christmas meal we've ever had. Thanks to Alasdair and his team at the Tratt for a wonderful time.

We strolled back home full of food, wine and good cheer, and arrived to hear the dulcet tones of Keff McCulloch coming to us from the lounge. Amazingly, there was more food to eat - piles of mince pies and homemade baclava, bowls full of Chris' famous trifles, and more! Once we had topped up our wine glasses and refilled our dessert bowls (yes, somehow I did manage to have seconds!), it was time for some short speeches and to draw the raffle. Thanks to Penny and Cleo for all their hard work over the course of the year, and of course to Patricia and the Social Committee too - many rounds of applause were received and thank you gifts exchanged. I drew the raffle and we all waited with baited breath to see who would win a prize. In the end, Jo's friend who won the hamper asked for it to be split among the Astra residents, so it felt like everyone had won!

With the formalities of the evening out of the way, Keff started up again and people began to dance. Having done some of my share of the cleaning up, I was happy to join the group on the "dance floor". It's been a while since I've done any dancing, but it was such great fun to join in...especially once he started playing some good old rock and roll. We boogied, did the twist and I even got in a bit of air guitar! As I said, I can't remember when I've had so much fun. Keff is a superb musician and a great guy, and we all thoroughly enjoyed his set. I hope we can encourage him to come and play at the Astra again soon.

I left for home around 10:30pm, as Keff was packing up and things were generally winding down. I'm told some residents didn't get to their beds for another few hours after I left though - good on them! Roll on the next party, that's what I say...and Merry Christmas to everyone.

Carols Evening

Last Tuesday evening was the Astra's inaugural carol singing night, and what a success it was! We sang a mixture of traditional carols and more contemporary Christmas songs, as well as some well-known folk tunes. Gathered round the piano, we tucked into nibbles and drinks and took advantage of the opportunity to chat in between songs. Tables were decorated and there was a real festive spirit in the air as residents, friends and family members all joined in with gusto. Patricia and I hosted the night, making sure everyone had food and drink, encouraging them to come to the Christmas party this Thursday, and announcing the songs. 

Jeannine played piano, as well as providing us with some fantastic desserts; a beautiful chocolate wreath cake topped with fruit, and cream-filled profiteroles. Thanks to her for giving us both music and sweet treats - two of my favourite things! Noni and Jo sang solos, and everyone joined in with an impromptu rendition of 'Waltzing Matilda'. It was agreed that we should do more sing-a-longs in the future, and I for one look forward to that. Thanks to everyone who came along and made it the fun event that it was...and Merry Christmas to all!