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.

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!

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!

It's Christmas...!

Last week the Astra well and truly got into the Christmas spirit; ornaments and tinsel were bought, the step-ladder was brought out of storage, and decorating began in earnest. We decided on a blue/green/purple theme for the foyer area, in keeping with the bluey-green architraves and other heritage features. This year we were fortunate to have a second Christmas tree donated to us, so we put our 'new' tree in the window area, for people both inside and outside to see. With coloured lights and baubles a-plenty, it definitely has made our days feel merry and bright. With tinsel and baubles hung from the reception desk, and baubles and a wreath on the fountain, our Bondi Beach wonderland is complete.

We decided on a red/yellow/green theme for the lounge area, with tinsel hung from the ceiling and wound around the pillars. The effect was finished off with another Christmas tree, standing next to a table with Santa and his reindeer taking pride of place. Now all we need is some carol singing and a big Christmas party and we're all set for the big day celebrations!

Melbourne Cup 2017

What a day for the races! It might have been a little cold down in Melbourne, but here at the Astra we had a picnic BBQ in the comfort of the communal lounge. The sun was shining in the courtyard as Aaron fired up the BBQ and got to work on the sausages. I put up some last minute handmade racing-themed decorations, whilst Patricia and Adele made salads, chicken, roasted pumpkin and baclava in the kitchen. 

The festivities began at 1pm, with drinks, food and general catching up. I set up a table in the corner with $2 and $5 sweeps, and we managed to fill one sheet apiece. After lunch we called the sweeps, and everyone settled down in front of the projector screen to watch the opening TV coverage.

3 o'clock was the time we were all waiting for, and as it drew near there was a definite feeling of anticipation. From Melbourne Cup newbies (i.e. me!) to true aficionados (having been to the live event on a number of occasions), we gathered together to enjoy the race that stops the nation. Our most recent resident, Fiorella, won the $2 sweep, and Aaron won the $5 sweep: Rekindling (22) was the horse to beat this year, with Johannes Vermeer (7) in second and Max Dynamite (9) in third. I can't honestly say I had any idea of which horses would do well, but as the sweeps were drawn randomly it was all to play for. Despite the majority of us not winning anything, we had a great time. It was a lovely opportunity to catch up with friends and family, and to be a part of a viewing audience that was watching all around Sydney, and indeed the country. I feel really inducted into this key Aussie tradition now...and long may it continue!

Christmas in July

The evening began sedately enough; tables were re-arranged and supplies were sought. As the time grew near, however, the buzz became more noticeable. Slowly, yet surely, the residents began to gather – one, two, a few, half a dozen, a dozen and finally almost half the village had arrived! The mood was merry and bright as we kicked off the proceedings with drinks and chat.

After drinks, we walked next door to the Bondi Tratt for a scrumptious meal of turkey, ham and all the trimmings. The atmosphere was festive, the conversation lively, the laughter infectious. Having had our fill of the feast, we retired to the Astra to continue the fun. Music and entertainment was provided by the lovely Keff. Having eaten more dessert than you would think possible after such a huge meal, there was excitement as the raffle was drawn. The prizes were provided by Sam, and the Social Committee worked tirelessly to put the whole shebang together. Festivities continued with dancing and singing to Keff's smooth tunes (even Sam and Aaron joined in the silliness!). 

Finally the music faded, the plates were washed and Christmas in July was all wrapped up for another year. The weary Astra folks put their heads on their pillows, happy and joyous and full of good cheer.