Day Trip to Throsby Park

It was a beautiful sunny autumn day on Wednesday, and there was excitement in the air as we piled into the bus waiting to take us to the Southern Highlands for the day. We had a full bus of residents and friends, and the atmosphere was cheerful as we headed out. The drive down was smooth going and we made good time, arriving at Moss Vale Macca’s for a pit stop at 11am. Several coffees, cakes and ice creams later and we were back in the bus driving to Throsby Park.

Throsby Park is a beautiful colonial-era rural estate set on around 180 acres of land. Noni, one of our residents was brought up there and it was her paternal relatives that were originally granted the land in 1819. We were fortunate indeed to be shown around the house by someone with such an intimate knowledge of its history and with a personal experience of living there. Noni gave us some general information about the homestead and then showed us each room in turn and filled us in on more details as we went around.

What a trip we all had! Everyone had a great time and really enjoyed looking round the homestead. Although it was nice and warm outside, the house itself was very cold (I wouldn’t have much enjoyed having a bath in winter there!) so some of us went and sat outside to wait for the stragglers when we were done. Then we posed for a group photo before heading to lunch in nearby Berrima.

Lunch was a casual affair, with people going off to different places to eat. Most of us enjoyed a meal at the pub, however, which has the notoriety of being Australia’s oldest continuously licensed inn! The food was tasty and I think more than a few of us were feeling very full and contented by the time we got back on the bus to start the journey home to Bondi. We arrived home just after 4pm, reflecting that it had been a very pleasant day. Thanks to Noni for all her tour guiding and for making sure we didn’t lose anyone along the way!

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!

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.

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.

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!

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!

Bus trip to Riverside Gardens

It was a bright sunny day and the sky was a brilliant blue. We all piled into the bus, provided by BBARV, and were quickly whisked away on a journey of discovery. This journey was to take us all the way to North Richmond to visit a retirement village called Riverside Gardens. The name comes from the village's location near to the meandering Hawkesbury River.

The residents of Riverside Gardens were very welcoming and put on a lovely morning tea for us. We traded stories and asked many questions about how their village operates. The discussion on the differences between our respective villages was fascinating, and I'm sure encouraged everyone to think about things in a new light. After morning tea had been cleaned up, we were taken on a guided tour of the village. We were impressed with how spacious and new it all was (though what can you expect of a village still in the process of being built with lots of land to spread out into?).

After the tour had built up an appetite, we decided upon lunch. We had planned to go to the North Richmond Panthers Club across the road, but their kitchen renovation was behind schedule and they couldn’t accommodate us. So we jumped back on the bus and headed into Richmond for some lunch. Having been fed and watered again, it was time to make the journey home. We compared notes of our experience at Riverside Gardens. One thing we did agree upon is that it was all so different to Bondi. There was no high-rise, no traffic and the country air was fresh – There’s no place like home! 

Murray River Cruises Presentation

Today Astra residents experienced a fun, informative morning presentation on the splendour of cruising the Murray River and the wonder of the scenic Indian Pacific Train trip. Ably led by the Proud Mary host, Adriana Malan, she talked us through what to expect, where to go, how it all works, and the prices involved, in making a journey along the Murray River. The spread of food and drink that came along with the presentation was splendid and well received by all who attended.

Adriana painted a picture of the scenes we could expect to see, the cuisine we could taste, the fresh countryside aroma we could smell and the sounds of the native wildlife we could hear. This was all to be a part of the experience of being on the magnificent and luxurious MV Proud Mary. With only 18 cabins, the personalised service is second to none. If you missed the presentation and would like to know more about the river cruise, please see the office or check out the Proud Mary website.

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.

Fitzroy Falls Day Trip

Great fun was had by all on our day out to Fitzroy Falls on 6th June. Our numbers may have been a little smaller than usual, but we more than made up for it in noise and good spirits…just ask Mark our driver! The outlook for the weather in Sydney wasn't fantastic, but the further south we drove the better it became. Despite the forecast, we had mostly sunny weather (albeit with a misty view once we got to the falls). After a short stop at Mittagong Maccas for a coffee, we arrived at Fitzroy Falls and strolled up the boardwalk to look at the falls. Due to recent rain, there was a spectacular amount of water flowing down into the depths. Standing at the top of this 81m high waterfall, this was not a view for the vertigo-prone!

Having had our fill of the wonderful bush-fresh air, waterfall lookouts and retail therapy in the gift shop, we went for a lovely pub lunch. The Burrawong Hotel is a beautiful bistro-pub with an open fire and sweeping views out over the local countryside. We managed to get a quiet corner area with big windows and lots of space to spread out and enjoy our food. The food was excellent, the bar well-stocked, and the company superb. In my first role as official ‘Trip Photographer’ I insisted on taking group shots at every available opportunity!

Once we had all eaten and drunk our fill it was time to get back onto the bus for the journey home. Former local Noni directed us on a wonderful country route back to the highway…much to the frustration of Mark! We all loved seeing the rolling hills, lakes and resident animals (sheep, cows and yes, even horses!) though, and we were not late home at all, despite Mark’s gloomy predictions. We serenaded the landscape with our own Astra versions of Advance Australia Fair and Pub With No Beer to while away the time. Some of us may have fallen asleep on the bus…but as there are no photos to prove it I’m claiming ignorance! Back home at around 4pm, just in time for a cuppa and a rest (well, that’s what I did anyway!) Bring on the next trip, I’m already looking forward to it…