Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Easter

I can vividly remember how shocked I was when I first landed in the UK to find that pretty much all the shops were open on Good Friday. I was surprised, but not quite so shocked, to note that virtually all the shops were closed on Easter Sunday.  Being closed on Easter Sunday made a kind of sense (Sunday trading was still in its infancy 20 years ago) but being open on Good Friday just seemed wrong.

It must be said that my British new arrivals in various bits of Australia were equally surprised to discover that almost all the shops are closed here on Good Friday and open on Easter Sunday (Sunday trading, particularly in Victoria, is definitely not it its infancy. Shops can open for whatever hours they choose on Sundays in Victoria).  On Good Friday, however, they are emphatically closed. (Likewise Christmas Day, and in the morning of ANZAC Day.)

Consequently, we had a fairly quiet day on Good Friday.  Unless you were Ian, who spent the better part of the day preparing an amazing Paella for Good Friday dinner.  Or Emily who also didn't have a particularly quiet Good Friday. She was working but joined us for the Paella.

Lindsey was working on Saturday.  I came down to town with her and moseyed on out to Mount Martha to collect Stella and Tony, who were joining us for the Easter Feasting.

Many other people also joined us for Easter Feasting.  I think we ended up with 17 people sat around the dinner table.  And we had a mighty feast indeed.

Thanks to Lindsey and Ian for the photo - and the feast!

Lindsey and I took Stella and Tony back to Mount Martha on Monday afternoon, cleverly avoiding the traffic delays on the Western Highway.  Ian came down later and his Sat Nav took him on a merry drive all around the countryside - the traffic delays had got much, much worse.  Jim stayed at Mount Helen to look after Sam and to recover from all the feasting.

Things I saw over the Easter weekend:






In other news, the very annoying woman who was planning to buy our house in Tupton has, at the eleventh hour, pulled out of the sale.  I can't say that I am surprised.  Despite the fact that she has had pretty much every survey done that it is possible to have done, I have felt almost from the beginning that she wouldn't finalise the purchase.  If nothing else, I don't think the house particularly wants fussy and frustrating people living in it.  So.  Back to Square One.  Anyone fancy buying a lovely little house in Tupton?

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Birthday Weekend

It was Jim's 75th birthday on Sunday and we decided to make a weekend of it.

First, though, on Saturday morning we went with Lindsey to inspect a new to us garden nursery in Haddon. It was a lovely morning for a country drive, and we enjoyed the nursery very much.  We headed back to the garden so Jim could plant the new arrivals in their new homes.

While he was doing that a huge, enormous, dark, dark black cloud headed towards us, bringing with it rain, wind and thunder.  Jim and I escaped to the station and took a train into Melbourne.

The storm cloud followed us!!!

We managed to get from Southern Cross station to the flat without getting too wet, but decided to abandon our plans to tram into Carlton for Pizza or to walk up Smith Street for Japanese or Chinese, or down Victoria Street for Vietnamese food.  We stayed snug and dry in the flat and had birthday pizza from the pizza bar beneath our feet!

We were both woken at just before five on Sunday morning by a very bright lightning flash followed almost immediately by an enormous thunder clap.  We were quite pleased that Sam wasn't with us.  It would have given him a heart attack!  Although Ian and Lindsey reported that the extended storm overnight in Ballarat meant that Ian had spent quite a lot of the night sleeping on the couch, stroking Sam.

Fortunately, the storm had subsided by the time we needed to leave for Jim's birthday/Christmas treat.  At Christmas Freyja and Simon had given us Red Balloon vouchers.  We had used Jim's half towards this treat and I had bought the rest for his birthday lunch.  We made our way to Central Pier in Docklands and boarded the Lady Cutler for a Seafood Brunch and cruise around the Docklands area


No sunshine but at least there isn't a storm in Docklands

The Lady Cutler, formerly a Sydney ferry and now a dining venue
The boat went out under the Bolte and Westgate Bridges, along the Yarra and out into Port Phillip Bay where we toured around past Port Melbourne and then back past Williamstown.  The crew brought us lots of very tasty seafood morsels, including smoked salmon and cream cheese sandwichettes, sushi, prawns, fried things, barramundi pieces, oysters, lots of very tasty things.  Then they had a buffet for the main course which I have to say wasn't as delicious as the seafood things.  It suffered from having been kept warm for a long time.  They would have been better to have replaced it with two or three extra seafood morsels and a bowl of chips.  The tiny desserts where as delicious as the seafood had been. The crew were charming and all in all we had a great day. It was an excellent Christmas present, and definitely a good start to a 75th birthday













We arrived back at the pier and took a tram back to the flat, narrowly dodging a band of rain that had come to see what we were doing.  Fortunately, the rain cleared before we headed out in the evening with Lindsey and Ian.  We went up Smith Street to The Noble Experiment where Lindsey and Ian treated to the Chef's tasting menu.  We've been once before, with Lindsey but not Ian, and thoroughly enjoyed it.  This time the food wasn't quite as experimental as the first time but it was equally delicious.  I think the first time we had a couple of courses where I had thought "I wonder what on earth made them to think to do that" (smoked carrots, for example) whereas this time there were courses where I thought "Ooo, I wonder what made them think to do that" (Orange flavoured dashi, anyone?).


Believe it or not - Lindsey is drinking a cocktail!


We did get wet on the way back to the flat, but that didn't really matter.  It was quite late and time to change into our pyjamas.

It was a great day.  Jim enjoyed his celebrations enormously. Thank you to everyone who was involved.



We had a visitor last Friday afternoon:



I don't think the magpies or rosellas were quite as delighted by its presence as we were :-D

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

We went to the monthly Bridge Mall Farmers' Market on Saturday morning. It was cool and grey and drizzly - which made it almost compulsory to treat ourselves to hot sausage sandwiches for lunch. We came back with lots of tasty thing for the fridge and the freezer.

We thought about going to Castlemaine on Sunday to see if their alleged monthly Farmers' Market was really on but decided that we couldn't be bothered trekking all the way out there just on the off chance.  We'll go on another First Sunday of the month.

Our clocks went back to Eastern Standard time early on Sunday morning.  This has hugely confused Sam the Dog who can't understand why we are being so slack with his mealtimes, and particularly with his breakfast. It doesn't help that he is wanting his breakfast very early, even if we were still on Summer Time.

It has been apparent for some time that there has been at least one mouse in the pantry. We could smell mouse.  Jim has seen mouse. There were mouse droppings. We have also seen dead or dying mice in the kitchen and in the car park. Lindsey and Ian have been away, in Far North Queensland dodging cyclones and in Japan hunting for cherry blossom and Lego. I decided to take advantage of my four day weekend to clear out the pantry. It was a bigger job than I had anticipated but it is now done.  I have put loose food into  containers and am awaiting a supply of labels. There are definitely no mice in there now!

In other news, we have FINALLY had word from our removalists that our possessions are FINALLY on their way. At the moment they are sailing through the Mediterranean towards the Suez Canal.  Lucky them!  There hasn't been very much movement on the sale of the house.  I understand that the buyer is having the local searches done.  I can't think what can be left to do before she coughs up the dosh and takes possession of the keys - but I'm sure she'll think of something. She's taking a very long time over this sale.

Autumn evening in Mount Helen





Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Lunch

We have been enjoying lots of lunches recently.

Last Thursday we headed off to Alfreton in Ballarat to meet our friend Pat for lunch at her place.  We haven't seen her since her birthday lunch last December. I do play Scrabble online with her so knew she was about, but that's not absolutely the same as meeting for lunch 😋 She had prepared us a lovely lunch and it was good to catch up and have a proper chat.

On Sunday, which quite coincidentally was Mothering Sunday in the UK, Jim and I drove down to Mount Martha to have lunch with Stella and Tony.  With us we took potatoes, zucchini, silverbeet/chard, carrots, Chinese cabbage (all from the garden) and some wagyu beef which we had liberated from the freezer in the flat in East Melbourne - and a small, tiny frog, whose presence we knew nothing about until it leapt from the trug carrying the vegetables into the sink full of water in which Jim was washing the potatoes!!!  It was quite determined to escape from the sink into the kitchen.  We were equally determined that it should not.  We caught it in yet another plastic pot and took it out into the garden.  Frog was not on the menu last Sunday!




Yesterday we came down from Ballarat to Melbourne and took a tram out to Carlton to meet Robert for lunch on Lygon Street.  Our first choice of eatery doesn't open on Tuesday lunchtimes.  Our second choice has closed down.  So we went to DOC Espresso for a very fine lunch. I hadn't been in there before.  I might very well go again.

Tuesday lunch


There has been, you may have noticed, a rather large cyclone in Far North Queensland.  That is about 2500 km from here and hasn't really affected us (apart from the fact that Lindsey and Ian were in Cairns; fortunately the cyclone was a little further south than that). We did have a rather startling cool change on Monday afternoon, when the temperature dropped by around 15d in about five minutes, and we were treated to BIG wind, BIG rain and BIG thunder, which didn't absolutely delight the dog.  Apart from that, though, we've had some lovely weather

St Paul's Cathedral, Melbourne.  We were waiting for a tram in the sunshine

Jim and I were stood outside in Mount Helen on Saturday afternoon, admiring the vegetable garden and pondering where to put things next spring.  All of a sudden there was a kerfuffle in the paddock next to us.  The magpies were making a huge racket and suddenly fell silent.  Then a wedge tailed eagle flew up out of the grass clutching what I think was a rabbit in its claws. We do see the eagles from time to time, but not quite that close.  It was all very exciting.  Unless, of course, you were the rabbit.

It's been very noisy in East Melbourne this morning.  There have been sirens blaring since about half past four. My emergency alert tells me that there has been a fire in some flats in Fitzroy.  No danger for me, but I assume that explains the sirens. The downside of having been awake so early is that it is now just after seven and I am not getting ready to go to work because there was, after all, so much time in hand 🤣  But I really must get on.  No lunching for me today.  I must go and play with my scanner friend

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Time Passes

On the 24th of March last year I wrote a post entitled "Time Passes".  It was  my last working day at SHU. I didn't officially finish until March 31st, but with the Easter holiday and a couple of days off, it was the last day that I sat at my desk in the office. It was also the last day I went into the University as its employee. I've been in a couple of times since, but after March 31st.

In that post I said that the time between my leaving date being agreed and it actually arriving had passed very, very slowly.

I can't say that the time since then has passed slowly.  It's positively whizzed by.  It hardly seems possible that a whole year has passed by since that day.  It barely seems credible that we have been in Ballarat for seven months.

I expected to miss working at SHU. After all, I had been there for nearly 20 years.  But I haven't.  I've missed some of the people but I haven't missed working there at all.  A job was advertised recently which was almost exactly the same as my job at SHU.  I met every single one of the selection criteria. I thought about applying for it - and then decided that I really, really, REALLY didn't want to go back to working as an academic librarian and deleted all the information.  I like my little job at the surgery. The scanner never yells at me.  It doesn't ask me difficult questions. It doesn't not turn up for class. It doesn't turn up late for things.  It just sits there and scans.  And from time to time I get to go out and play on the Reception Desk, so I get to talk to real people.  I think I might just keep going in and doing the scanning for as long as there is scanning to do, and for as long as they want me to do it.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

A good few days

We had really rather a nice weekend.

The sun shone all weekend.

Lindsey, Ian and I took Sam for a Saturday morning walk in the park in Buninyong.

Ian and Jim built a chook shed.

Lindsey and I hit Bunnings and the garden centre.

Lindsey, Jim and I took Sam for a Sunday morning walk along the wetlands bit of the lake.

Sam's tail got caught in the boot of the car and nobody noticed (even Sam) until he realised that he couldn't move it, which meant that he couldn't move his bum, which meant that he couldn't sit down properly in the back of the car. And Lindsey and I thought Jim was asking for Sam's towel (which we didn't have, and why would he need it?) until Sam started whimpering and we realised that Jim was saying we had caught Sam's tail. Fortunately Sam's tail wasn't hurt and he could sit down properly in the back of the car again.

Lindsey and Ian went to Melbourne to a barbecue.

Jim and I went to the Ballan Autumn Festival

There may have been some food and some wine.

The Ballan Autumn Festival was quite cute.  Jim was a bit disappointed that there wasn't much in the way of produce - he had assumed that it would be a Harvest Festival sort of fair. Really it was more like a proper village or small town fair, with rides for the children, music, food stalls, craft stalls, activities, all sorts of things going on. They had blocked off the main street for two blocks for the stalls and most of the shops were open.  I enjoyed it. We bought a few things. I was most pleased with a new vegetable peeler which has a normal peeler at one end and a julienne peeler on the other.  I hadn't realised how much I had missed my julienne peeler until I acquired this one and started using it!

I headed to Melbourne on Monday afternoon, leaving Sam and Jim in charge in Ballarat.  I met up with Lindsey and we pootled off to Kew where we bought lots of fruit, lots of salad things, lots of veg, and a few other things.  We took most of the fruit into the surgery on Tuesday and divided it up so there was some for me for my breakfast, some for Lindsey to snack on and a platter for the table in the staff kitchen.  The Diabetes Educator nurse was delighted when she came in and found the table filled with fruit instead of biscuits, cakes and chocolate!

I cam back to Mount Helen on Tuesday evening by tram, train and bus. It was actually quite a pleasant trip. I read an actual, proper book, then part of an e-book. I walked directly up the hill from the University without getting mislaid and avoiding the flooding on the concourse outside the University library - which a couple children were thoroughly enjoying playing in!  The only issue was that it took three and a half hours.  This wasn't a big issue for me yesterday but I wouldn't want to do it in both directions every day!!!

The sun isn't shining anymore.  The rain over the last 24 hours has filled the rain gauge completely.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Going to Work

I had been asked to cover on the reception desk yesterday morning, starting at 9.  No worries, thought I.  I'll be in Ballarat overnight, but I have access to Ian's car. I'll drive down first thing.

It usually takes about an hour and 40 minutes to get from Mount Helen to the surgery.  I left at 6:45, thinking that that would give me lots of time to get there, with time to eat my stewed plums and yoghurt for breakfast and have a cup of coffee before I started.

It was a beautiful morning for a drive.  Slightly on the chilly side, but a clear day and the sun wasn't shining directly in my eyes. Well, not most of the time.

I was slightly surprised when the sat nav took me off at Bacchus Marsh.  Usually it takes me off at Melton, or takes me directly through down towards Melbourne before turning off.  It depends entirely on the traffic.  But I was only slightly surprised. It's a route that we take sometimes anyway, depending on our mood. And I knew that there were roadworks up ahead towards Melton and the road was marked red on the sat nav.

So off I came at Bacchus Marsh and headed off towards Diggers Rest, assuming that the sat nav would take me onto the Calder.

It's a pretty drive between Bacchus Marsh and Diggers Rest. The sun was still shining, and still (mostly) not shining in my eyes.  There wasn't very much traffic until I approached the Calder.  I was quite enjoying my journey.

I was astonished, when I got to the Calder, that my sat nav didn't say "in 500 metres turn right, then take the Calder" but "in 500 metres go straight on".  My experience is that when the sat nav departs significantly from its usual patterns, there is usually a good reason for it.  It had never before said to go straight on at that intersection.  I decided to trust it.

So off we trundled towards Sunbury, beyond Sunbury, then turned right onto a country road that I don't remember having been along before (though I may well have; it would have been a route I might have taken when I lived in Beaufort and Ballarat and Lindsey and Ian lived in Cottles Bridge.) However, I really didn't remember it.  It was a twisty, winding, narrow road with single lane bridges, hairpin bends, humps and dips - and the sun shining in my eyes when it would have been very useful to have been able to see clearly!  It was apparent that everyone else's sat navs were taking them along this route too.  Traffic was very heavy along a road that I suspect hasn't seen nose to tail cars ever before in its history.  The route was beautiful and I would have thoroughly enjoyed the detour had it not been that my ETA had moved from 08:20 to 09:10.

Slowly, slowly, slowly we made our way to the far side of the airport, trundled around it and joined up with the Tullamarine Freeway, whereupon the traffic resolved itself and started to move freely.  I got to the surgery at bang on 09:00, meeting Lindsey, who had come from East Melbourne, in the carpark.

It's just as well I trusted the sat nav, though. It bypassed the Calder because there had been a massive accident in the inbound lane, which had closed it.  It didn't take me to Melton or towards the city to drop me onto the ring road because there had been two separate vehicle fires which had caused chaos.  It seems it had plotted the best route to get me from where I was to where I wanted to be under the circumstances.

I might try and drive that route again when there isn't traffic chaos on the freeways and when I am not more pushed for time than I had expected!

I had my stewed plums and yoghurt as dessert after my lunch :-D

Thursday, March 16, 2017

And we did indeed have a magnificent feast on Monday evening.  Emily came over and we all sat outside admiring another glorious Mount Helen sunset.  We dined on beef with mushroom sauce, salad boats using supermarket lettuce for the boats and some of the beans, carrots, tomatoes and cucumbers from the garden for the filling, together with roasted potatoes (not from the garden) and zucchini (from the garden).




We have been getting some mighty harvests from the vegetable tubs and garden.  We are almost overrun with tomatoes and are doing very well for zucchinis and cucumbers.  I have taken to munching on cucumber much like other people munch on apples!  We are also filling the freezer with things to make winter stews and soups

Carrot thinnings
One day's harvest from the vegetable tubs

We have one lonely sunflower growing in with the sweet corn.  We planted four seedlings, but three got eaten before we realised that the feral rabbits were going to be a problem!




This is not the first harvest of potatoes.  We dug up one root early in February when we went to lunch for Stella's birthday.  We knew that was a bit too early but took them anyway. This is the harvest from two roots today.  We can leave the potatoes where they are for now.  It's still quite warm overnight and the plants are looking fairly healthy.  We aren't growing varieties that will store well so best to dig them as we need them.



As well as some lovely sunsets, we have also been having some beautiful sunrises. We woke up on Tuesday morning and it looked as though we had acquired an inland sea in the plains



Fortunately for the people who live there - we had not

I've been doing my bit for wildlife this week.  Jim mentioned that he had seen a skink run across our bedroom floor and under the bed.  I didn't worry about this too much. They are entirely harmless and are very small. Earlier this week, however, it ran across my foot while I was getting dressed and tried to hide under my shoe.  This wasn't a very successful manoeuvre on its part - I could see its tail 🤣  So I grabbed a plastic pot, put it over the skink, slid a postcard underneath and took it outside.  Mindful of Lindsey's story of once catching a mouse and putting it outside, only for it to be immediately eaten by a magpie, I took my skink and put it in some long-ish grass on the other side of the garden.  It ran away into the grass and we haven't seen it again.

Today we came back from the shops to find Sam sleeping soundly - and a small field mouse cowering in the passageway.  Jim stood guard over it while I went to get the plastic pot and postcard to take it out to the skink releasing place.  I don't think the mouse was particularly well. Mice don't usually sit and cower in passageways. They usually run away and hide.  It didn't run away when I put it in the long grass. It sat there and cowered.  It's gone now though. We will assume it recovered from its terrifying encounter with two giants, an enormous dog and a plastic pot and postcard, and left.  A much better outcome than being eaten by a magpie!

I do hope, however, that I don't encounter a kangaroo in the house.  I'm not sure that I have a plastic pot big enough to cover a kangaroo!!

Monday, March 13, 2017

Mostly Feasting (Again 😋 )

On Thursday we went out to Chris and John's place at Macedon for lunch.  We had intended to go by train but there was a replacement coach service last week. This actually didn't inconvenience us at all.  The coach we were on was express to Gisborne, where John picked us up.

We had a mighty feast indeed.  The vegetables were mostly from Chris and John's magnificent vegetable garden. The eggs came from their chooks.  I don't think they grew the ham that was in the quiche though 😄 Megan came over to join us.  The children came when they got back from school and nursery. We ate lots and lots of food and drank lots and lots of wine - and Megan's husband Mark drove us back to the station. He had not been feasting, nor had he been imbibing. Many thanks to everyone for a fantastic afternoon.

Magnificent vegetable garden in the sunshine

I might need one of these champagne glasses!
On Friday, Lindsey and Ian headed off to the final dinner of the international conference that Ian had been organising. Jim and I took ourselves up Smith Street and dined in Pabu.  We didn't feel that we needed the full Chef's Tasting Menu, so ordered a few selections of our own.  It was extremely delicious.

We started, as is our habit, with edamame


Then we munched our way through Chicken teriyaki sticks, gyoza and fried oysters. Then we finished with one plate of King Island lamb cutlets.  We didn't feel that we needed a whole main course each!


And then we walked home.

Saturday started with a stroll up Smith Street, in search of a birthday present. Then we ambled through the Fitzroy Gardens on our way into town.  Jim had never noticed or properly looked at the model Tudor Village so we stopped to  admire it



We met Ian for lunch.

Then Matt, Belinda, Sage and William arrived from Warragul.  We had dinner together in the pizza and pasta bar under our feet, then all headed off on the tram to Bethan's 21st birthday bash.  It was a great evening.  There were lots of people, including most of our family and Bethan's mother's family. There were tasty nibbles. There was lots of wine. The speeches were made by young people and were very funny. We headed back to the flat much later than I had expected!!

Sunday started with brunch in the coffee shop under our feet. Then Lindsey, Jim and I took Belinda on her inaugural visit to Costco and the rest of us went book shopping before people headed back to their country residences. You might think that the feasting had finished after our Sunday brunch - but no.  Ian took himself to the David Jones food hall and brought back the makings of a fine Mount Helen Sunday evening feast, which we ate outside on on fine Mount Helen Sunday evening.  Roasted pork belly, roasted vegetables, stuffed onions and a mighty asparagus and apple sauce.

You might think that that would conclude the feasting, today being Monday.  But today is a public holiday in Victoria and I notice that there are ingredients in the fridge that promise a Public Holiday feast later in the day!

Sunday, March 05, 2017

Mount Martha

We had a nice little holiday down with Stella and Tony.

The weather was lovely, absolutely ideal for a short break by the seaside.

Tony went in for his tests with no dramas. Stella had a couple of visits to her specialists, that Tony took her to.

We had lots of delicious food (I particularly enjoyed the King George whiting 🍴😋)

Jim and I walked down to the pub on Friday afternoon and had a drink sat up on the top deck, looking at the sea.  We saw an eagle floating around over the bay.

I went for a lovely walk in the sunshine, down to the Dava shops, across to the Esplanade, along the top of the cliffs and then back to the house







We trundled back to East Melbourne on Saturday by bus, train and tram.  I get free public transport within the Melbourne Metropolitan area at the weekends (using my senior's Myki card) so it cost me absolutely nothing. It only cost $3 or $4 for Jim.  Good value!

We started the week last Sunday feasting for Tony's birthday.  We finished the week feasting at Mount Helen, sat outside in the warmth of the evening