Thursday, June 21, 2018

Hellenic Republic

Lindsey's friend, Sandy, is over from Perth for a couple of weeks.  Sandy, Lindsey and I are going on a Girlfriends' tour of Japan later in the year and, although I have know of her for many years and we have been friends on Facebook for a couple of years, I have never actually met her.

Sandy, Lindsey and a few other friends arranged to meet for dinner and Sandy and Lindsey decided that it would be good if I went too. After all, it would be unfortunate if we set off to Japan for a fortnight only to discover on Day 1 that we couldn't stand each other!!!  Fortunately I don't think she did take violently against me. The trip to Japan is still on :-D

They had arranged to dine at the Hellenic Republic in East Brunswick. The Hellenic Republic has long been on my hit list so I was not unhappy with the choice.  And I very much enjoyed it.  It mostly does sharing menus.  We decided not to have the set menu but to go freestyle, with a main course and several sides to share.  The food was lovely.  It was all delicious but I especially enjoyed the roast beetroot in pomegranate molasses.  I must see if I can replicate it.  And a special mention must also be given to the pita and tzatziki.

You can't fault the staff who were lovely.  Our booking for 8 was reduced for various reasons (and at very short notice) to 4.  No worries at all - they just shifted the second table, set for 4, away from us and gave it to some walk ins.  All good!

You also can't fault the price.  Trip Advisor has some people complaining that it is too expensive, but it worked out for us at about $34 per person, which included a chicken main for 3 and a spinach pastry main for 1, plus the sides.  Granted we didn't have wine - three of us were driving and Lindsey had to observe a webinar on the way home.  But even so, I think that represented very good value.

If Greek food is your thing, I would thoroughly recommend it.  There are other locations as well, in Kew, Brighton and Williamstown, should East Brunswick not be convenient.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Rain, wind, fog, hail

My goodness but it was dramatic getting to Mount Martha on Sunday.

It didn't look as though it would be when we left Mount Helen. True, it was misty and drizzly and you couldn't possibly say that it was hot, or even warm.  But the weather wasn't doing anything noteworthy to say that it is June.

As I drove past Gordon, the mist turned to fog, the drizzle turned to rain and it got darker and darker and darker.

The roads got wetter and wetter. The wind picked up.

We stopped at the Ballan services for fuel - and both got soaked as the wind blew the rain in under the canopy.

It was horrible driving down over the Pikes Creek Reservoir bridge, but fortunately there was a roadwork truck emblazoned with lights ahead of us, so we could at least see where we were going.

Then it all lifted a bit and was much easier driving by Bacchus Marsh and Melton, down past the Western Ring Road and onto the Westgate Freeway.

Until we got to Footscray, where it got very, very dark, the heavens opened, hail came to join the party and it was almost impossible to see. They've been doing roadworks along there and in the rain it is impossible to see which road markings you should be following. The traffic had slowed to a walking pace. We all inched along and took very great care.  Except for the idiots who decided that they didn't need to put their headlights on and so were very difficult to spot. Made merging lanes an even greater challenge than it would have been anyway.

We all inched our way over the Westgate Bridge, heading towards the city.  It didn't look as though there had been a storm in the city and when we emerged from the Burnley Tunnel everything was pretty much dry.  All we encountered from then on were patches of drizzle.

We had a good time at Mount Martha. Stella and Tony both seemed to be in reasonably good form. We had beef and rosemary pie with roast potatoes and veg, followed by apple pie for lunch. We looked at some old photos and postcards. It wasn't a long visit but we enjoyed it.

Heading back home again we had reasonable weather and good driving - until we got back to the Ballan/Gordon area where once again the heavens opened and we had to drive with even more care than usual.  I am coming to think there is a permanent weather system tethered to that bit of the world.  The last few times I've been through there with Lindsey it has been pouring down.

We had dinner and then stayed over at Lindsey and Ian's place on Sunday night. Lindsey and I left early on Monday morning to go to work. Ian also left for Melbourne. Jim, Rupert and Hugo were left in charge at Mount Helen until later today when all three of us, but separately, will return.

This was my view from East Melbourne this morning:

Friday, June 15, 2018

And a quiet week

And we did indeed have a quiet couple of days at the end of the weekend.  I made soup and cooked a lamb backstrap for Sunday and Monday evenings.  We dropped down to our place to check up on it and to make sure it remembered us. I made stew for Rupert and Hugo for the week.  Otherwise we didn't do anything very much.

I went down to work on Tuesday morning and stayed over in the flat.

Lindsey and Ian came back from their exciting trip to Canada.

Lindsey reclaimed her car ;-(

She and I came back to Mount Helen late on Wednesday afternoon, leaving Ian languishing in Melbourne.  Rupert and Hugo seemed mildly pleased to see her :-D  Rupert behaved as though he had springs on his feet and their tails wagged and wagged. They were quite pleased to see me too, but I had only been away overnight so my reappearance wasn't quite as exciting as Lindsey's return after almost three weeks.

We stayed at Hill House overnight and then moved all our stuff back down to Tani no uchi yesterday morning.  It was surprising quite how much of our stuff had made its way up there. Last night we abandoned Lindsey to her own devices, and ate and slept at our place for the first time in three weeks.

For mysterious reasons I was awake at 4:30 this morning.  This was slightly annoying because I really needed to be up between 5 and 5:30 and it's hardly worth lying in bed trying to sleep for a mere 30 minutes.  It seemed a bit odd not to be greeted by sleepy Great Danes when I went to put the kettle on, but it was quite nice to get dressed ready for work and not to get muddy marks all over my clean clothes!

It's been a quiet-ish week.

So.  A cup of coffee, I think, and then Lindsey and I will head back to Melbourne for a day in the surgery. I must remember to take the lunches I prepared yesterday evening!

Oh - and after I published this I noted that this is my 1600th blog post. I completely missed the 1500th. I was slightly surprised to note this milestone. When I started the blog, largely by accident, I wasn't expecting to write more than a dozen or so posts.

Right.  Must get ready.  Lindsey will be here soon to pick me up.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Peace and Quiet

It is early on Sunday morning, halfway through my personal long, long weekend.  It is true that it is a long weekend in most of Australia for many people. Tomorrow is a public holiday in most states.  My long weekend is even longer than that, because I worked on Thursday  last week rather than on Friday, so I got a four day weekend.

Not only that, it was a long weekend for which we had no plans at all.  A rare and unusual event!

And we haven't done all that much.

We went out to the Delacombe shops on Friday, to visit the butcher, the fruit and veg shop and the supermarket.

We went to Lake Wendouree yesterday morning to visit the farmers' market

We have sorted out the carrot tub and potted on some cabbage and cauliflower seedlings

We dropped down to our place to see how it was getting on without us.

I had an online Japanese lesson

We have played with the dogs and kept them fed, watered and entertained.

We have taken things slowly and gently and done no rushing about.

So far it's been lovely!

I did spend the better part of a morning trying to unblock Lindsey and Ian's Dyson vacuum cleaner - with no success.  I think I know where the blockage is but I can't get to it. I had more success unblocking their Dyson dust buster but it took ages.  I understand that Dysons aren't supposed to block up but I can't say that that has been my experience at all. And when they do block up you often need to take them apart with a screwdriver to fix it. I am emphatically not taking Lindsey and Ian's expensive vacuum cleaner apart with  screwdriver!!!!!  We ended up bringing our not-very-expensive Vax up from our place and using that. We bought it when we moved into Tani no uchi so we've only had it three months but so far it hasn't got blocked.  If it does I don't think we will need a screwdriver to fix it.

My plan for today and tomorrow is to be relatively lazy, to prepare meals for the coming week,  to take advantage of the sunshine, to potter and meander.

So nice to have a few days in which there is nothing very much to do.

Sunset, East Melbourne from last week

Tuesday, June 05, 2018

Vikings and a bit more feasting

It was a lovely morning on Sunday.  Jim and I set off to stroll across to Carlton, through the Exhibition Gardens to the Melbourne Museum.  The museum is another relatively new building.  It was opened in 2000 and was another building that I have walked past many times but have never been in.  This is partly because I was living overseas when it opened and almost entirely because I have been walking past on my way to Lygon Street or other parts of Carlton.  Every time I walked past I marked it as somewhere I should go. Recently I noticed that there was a Viking Exhibition on.

Wendy and I have been trying to arrange to get together for lunch or for coffee since December! We have seen each other at various family gatherings but finding a time and, more specifically, a location that suited for lunch or a drink was quite difficult. I suggested to her that we should do it this weekend when Jim and I would be in Melbourne. She juggled her diary. I bought tickets for the three of us to the Viking Exhibition.

We enjoyed the exhibition. Not so much Jorvik as British Museum in style. Lots of things to look at. Lots and Lots of panels to read. A few things to play with.  Then we went out to look at the rest of the museum. It has a forest in the middle of it.  No, really it does:

It has dinosaurs:

It has a hippo:

It has fishes and seals:

We did about half of the museum, I think.  The natural history side of it. Next time we'll have to look at the other half.

We walked across to Lygon Street and had lunch in Toto's. Then Wendy wandered off back home and Jim and I walked back to the flat, picked up the car and drove back to Mount Helen where Rupert and Hugo were very pleased to see us.  It was a good weekend.

And now you find me back in East Melbourne.  I am working Monday to Thursday this week and I had to be at work yesterday by 9:00.  I left Mount Helen just after 6:30 yesterday morning and will base myself in the flat until I finish work on Thursday.  I seem to have spent an awful lot of time on the Western Freeway over the past couple of weeks!

Monday, June 04, 2018

Feasting on Saturday

Jim and I drove down to Melbourne on Saturday morning, leaving Rupert and Hugo to look after Ross, who had stepped in to house sit while Jim and I went gallivanting for the weekend.

We took the tram from the flat in East Melbourne to the Melbourne Conference and Exhibition Centre.  For the avoidance of confusion, this is not the Royal Exhibition Building, which is a Victorian edifice in Carlton. The MCEC is a relatively new building in Docklands, by the river. I had not been in it before, though I have noticed it and even walked past it once or twice.

Some weeks ago I had an email from the Maggie Beer Newsletter, which I subscribe to, offering me a heavily discounted ticket to the Melbourne Food and Wine show. So I bought it.  I also bought a (not discounted) ticket for Jim.  In many ways it was similar to the BBC's Good Food Exhibition, which Jim and I went to a couple of times at the NEC in Birmingham.  Smaller, of course, but similar.

I enjoyed it.  I like pottering around, looking at things you don't find in the supermarkets and shops, and often not in the markets. I agree with Jim that there might have been more food tasting (there was LOTS of wine tasting). And next time we go we will go on the Friday, not the Saturday (a lesson I should have remembered from our Birmingham experiences; we only ever went once on a Saturday!). It was getting very crowded when we left. I will also book us into a masterclass or two and into one of the lunch experiences.  Having said that, we very much enjoyed our Wagyu beef and mashed potato, with a glass of wine in one of the not-booked lunch areas.  We had only had a couple of wine tastings so felt that we deserved a proper glass with our lunch.

We left the show and wandered down along the river, in the autumn sunshine, to the Factory Outlet centre.  I know that officially we have moved into the winter but the weather thinks it is still autumn. It was sunny and relatively warm, the deciduous trees are still wearing their autumn colours and the days are autumnal with misty/foggy mornings clearing to sunny days. Saturday was a lovely day for wandering around the Yarra in Docklands.

There is a pub across the road from the flat called the Prince Patrick.  We went there several times when we came visiting from Tupton. We drifted away from it simply because there're so many eating choices within easy walking distance from the flat.  Lindsey and I went in once, many months ago. It had changed hands and we felt no need to make a return visit. Last week there was a flyer in the flat's letterbox announcing that it had new owners, a new chef, a new menu and had been refurbished.  Jim and I decided to risk it for dinner on Saturday night.

I'm glad we did. We walked in and there were people sitting about. This was an immediate improvement on my last visit with Lindsey :-D  The menu is a classic Australian pub menu, but there is nothing wrong with that.  Our food was delicious. They make their own chips. My chicken parmigiana was beautifully cooked. Jim demolished his fish and chips with appreciative pleasure.  We will definitely go again - although there are, as I said, many, many eating choices around us.

We will simply have to come to Melbourne for the weekend more often.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

The plan for Thursday was that Lindsey would go to an early piano lesson and then take her car to be serviced.  She would then come back in a courtesy car and get herself ready to go on holiday.  When her car was ready to pick up she would collect it and then drive to Melbourne for a dinner engagement. Following that she would come back to Mount Helen and she and I would leave, in her car, for work at a little after 06:30 on Friday morning.

That was the plan.

At some point she remembered the existence of the train. No need for all that dashing about. She would go to Melbourne on the train for her evening engagement and stay overnight, then I would drive down to Melbourne in her car on Friday morning (and not quite so early!)

And that is what happened.

It was a beautiful morning for driving to Melbourne.  I settled back into Lindsey's Car Which Almost Drives Itself.  Just after I had gone past the last opportunity to do a u-turn to go into the service station at Warrenheip, the car sounded an alarm.  Your tyres are under-inflated it yelled. Check the tyre pressure immediately. Alarm, alarm, alarm.

It seemed unlikely to me that the tyres were under-inflated. I was more than certain that the Audi people would have checked the tyres the day before. But I pulled into the service station at Ballan and checked them all.  And they were perfectly inflated.  But the alarm didn't go away.  Fortunately it only yelled briefly, but thereafter the alarm light came on and stayed on.  We rang the Audi people when I got to work and he talked us through the way to turn it off.  I am relieved to tell you that it hasn't happened since.  I wonder if the car's computer system was a bit bored, or feeling under-appreciated.

At the end of the day Lindsey and I went to the airport and Lindsey set off on her two week trip to the US and Canada.  I took her car back to Mount Helen, following a route that I suspect would have been beautiful in daylight.  I must do it again one day when the sun is up.

So now Lindsey and Ian are both away and Jim and I have possession of their house, their dogs - and Lindsey's car.

It's a beautiful morning.  We are off to the Lakeside market.  We won't take the dogs :-D

Thursday, May 24, 2018


All right.  Who stole my week?  How did it get to be Thursday already?

We had a busy weekend, it is true.

We went to see Stella and Tony on Saturday, taking with us a proper shepherds' pie (the apostrophe is in the right place - this would have done several shepherds ). I made it in a very traditional way, with lamb mince, a proper mirepoix (finely diced onion, carrot and celery, gently sautéed) with stock and Worcestershire sauce plus, of course, buttery mash on top.  It was very much the way my grandparents would have made it, and Jim says it tasted exactly like the ones his mother used to make.  A win for me, then :-D

It was quite exciting trying to get to Mount Martha. Multiple people tried to kill us.  The one that would have been the most likely to succeed was the one who pulled straight out in front of us from the emergency stopping lane with no notice, no warning, no indication, while I was doing 110 km on the freeway.  I am happy to tell you that the car brakes work and I can still do an effective emergency stop.  Fortunately, this was also true of the car and driver behind me!  No one else came even close to success but I did have to concentrate quite hard to avoid mad drivers.

We had a good visit. We enjoyed the shepherds' pie for lunch. There was a good bit left to I packaged that up and put it in their freezer for other occasions. We had a good natter.  Everyone seemed fairly cheerful and in not too bad health. We didn't stay too long because I really wanted to get back before it went properly dark.  So, we had 2.5 hours driving there, 2.5 hours there and 2.5 hours driving back.  The weather pretty much held so that helped with the driving.

We had considered the possibility of going to the Talbot Market on the Sunday. But it's a large market and we would want to buy things.  Sadly I had taken the "Market Budget" out to play in Costco the previous weekend. There didn't seem to be much point in driving all the way to Talbot if there wasn't the budget to buy things.  So we had lunch with Lindsey instead, and then went to the vegetable farm gate shop and then to the Elaine farm gate shop.  It was a very pleasant way of spending a Sunday.

So a busy weekend.

And then I had a busy week.

I went with Lindsey to Reservoir very early on Monday morning, leaving Jim all tucked up in bed. I don't usually work on Mondays but a couple of the receptionists are away and I am helping to fill in for the next few weeks.  I had three rostered reception shifts this week, plus there is all the usual stuff to do as well. I'll go back down tomorrow with Lindsey. Then she heads off on holiday for three weeks.  Alas, I do not.  But I've got out of the habit of working four days a week. I feel as though it should be the weekend already.

It was Simon's birthday on Monday so Lindsey and I joined him for dinner.  Lindsey made spectacular roast potatoes to go with our steak, salad and veggies.

We came back to Mount Helen yesterday evening.  I think Jim was quite pleased to see us.  He had been on his own since 06:45 on Monday morning when I had left him snuggled up in bed.  He had moved up to Hill House after he got up and had been here with no company but the dogs ever since.  I had thought that he and I would go down to Tani no uchi for the night but Lindsey and I didn't get back until 8:30 and the stew I had prepared for dinner was here, so here we stayed.  And here we will stay until Lindsey and Ian get back in mid-June.  Fortunately our place is only a few minutes away so we can drop down and keep an eye on it.  In fact, I will probably go down later this morning.  I don't seem to have any clothes up here :-D

Ian is playing in Baltimore this week. He will meet Lindsey in, I think, Chicago on Sunday..

Monday, May 14, 2018

Mostly weather

I was stood in Lindsey and Ian's kitchen on Thursday,  gazing idly out the window.  Goodness, I thought.  That rain is very thick and fluffy.  You'd almost think it was snowing.  Well that was because it WAS snowing!!!  It wasn't settling but it was definitely snowing.

Rupert and Hugo were a bit nonplussed by it and were quite keen that we should have it removed :-D

It didn't snow for long and then the sun came out.  I went outside a bit later to do something, looked out over Ballarat and saw this over the mountains behind Ballarat, slowly heading our way:

Fortunately, by the time it got to us it had transformed into rain rather than snow and wasn't, quite, a storm.

We stayed up at Hill House on Thursday evening. Lindsey had bought in chicken kievs for dinner and Annie the vet was expected at some point to trim Rupert's claws.  Rupert HATES having his paws touched.  So Annie had prescribed a sedative to make him sleepy enough so it wouldn't be so dramatic for him.

Sleepy?  The sedative obviously made him feel a bit peculiar but it didn't make him sleepy.  Far from it.  He was positively hyperactive.  When Annie arrived it took both Lindsey and Jim to sit on him to allow Annie to do his claws.  I almost had to sit on Hugo who clearly thought that Rupert was being attacked and wanted to rescue him.  Alternatively, of course, he might have thought it was a great game.  Whatever, it took all my strength and cajoling to keep him at a distance.  No one knows why Rupert is so sensitive about his paws.  As far as we are aware no one has ever tried to hurt his feet. He's been with us since a tiny puppy and we definitely haven't.

On Friday the weather was horrible.  It was raining fit to burst and it was windy.  Rupert dashed out for his morning wee as fast as he possibly could.  Hugo flatly refused to go outside.  Flatly.  And when a Great Dane digs all four paws in and refuses to move there isn't much you can do about it.  If it is a small dog you can pick it up and move it.  You can't do that with a Great Dane!  Jim reports that Hugo retired to our bed and eventually went outside when the rain had dropped off at about 10:00!!!

It was Lindsey's birthday on Friday so Jim and I once again stayed at her place overnight and I cooked a birthday tea of beef wellingtons, proper thrice cooked chips and Lindsey's favourite vegetables.

Sunday was Mothers' Day.  Plus, of course, it was still Lindsey's birthday weekend.  She had had breakfast with Emily on Saturday morning and dinner with Ian, who had returned from Sydney, on Saturday evening.  The rest of us rocked up to Stella and Tony's place on Sunday for a "picnic" lunch to celebrate Lindsey's birthday and Mothers' Day.  I took party pies and party quiches.  Suzie brought her apple and fennel sausage rolls.  There was smoked salmon, chicken burgers, salads, vegetable spring rolls, buttered potatoes, all sorts of picnic style food.  There were also 17 people and 5 dogs.  It was a boisterous celebration.  Having a picnic was a great idea.  Nothing like the amount of work that a "proper" Sunday lunch for 17 takes.

Lindsey's son Ant made her a birthday cake:

Inside it was a rainbow layered cake with a centre filled with smarties. It was very beautiful.

Lindsey took this photo

We were very fortunate with the weather.  It was gloomy, cold and drizzly when we left Mount Helen but the weather cleared the closer we got to Melbourne and by the time we got to Mount Martha the sun had come out. There was a lot more traffic than I had been expecting for a Sunday morning - I was glad not to have to tackle grumpy weather as well as lots of Sunday traffic.

Jim and I went to Costco on the way home. I haven't been for ages. It was seriously busy - at one point I wondered if we would get a parking spot!  I hadn't expected it to be quite so busy but I guess lots of people had had the same thought as me - it's not an enormous detour to go there when en route between the two Mounts.

This morning we have blue sky and the sun has just got up. The new week beckons.  I suppose I should consider getting dressed and go out to meet it.  I hope the weather won't be quite as exciting this week.  I know we need rain but gentle rain rather than flooding rain would be better.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

A good few days

We went to the Bridge Mall Market on Saturday morning with Lindsey.  It was smaller than usual - the spice lady wasn't there, which wasn't an issue for me because I still have lots of spice mixes.  I found some more when I used my steamers and woks!  The pork people weren't there either, which was a bit disappointing. No bacon and egg sandwich for breakfast.  And I had hoped to buy some of their bacon.  Oh well.  Next time. Fortunately the egg, the mushroom and the vegetable stalls were there!

Lindsey headed off to Mount Martha and Jim and I hit Bunnings, then the supermarket.  I was quite excited to discover that you can buy wonton wrappers in Woollies. Not even frozen ones.  Fresh ones.  I had thought I might need to find a Chinese supermarket. I assume there is one in Ballarat.  I had bought some frozen ones in the Japanese supermarket in Smith Street in Fitzroy, but I have left them in the freezer in the flat.  They are not much use there!

On Sunday our friend Pat made her first visit to Tani no uchi.  She is on a restricted diet for various reasons and, in any case, can't eat large quantities of food at a time.  Japanese food is fairly low in calories and you don't have to eat much of it. The Japanese generally don't. I had decided to go down that route.  Lindsey also joined us and we had butternut pumpkin and ginger gyoza, prawn and lemongrass gyoza, karage chicken "nuggets" and, of course, rice and salad.  It was good to see Pat.  I think she liked our new place :-)

This week, so far, has followed almost a routine pattern.  We headed up to Hill House on Monday after lunch. I went to Melbourne, as usual, on Tuesday morning and stayed over.  I came back after work yesterday.

The only excitement was when I lost Jim on Tuesday evening.  He had been around just after lunch when I spoke to him by phone.  When I got to the flat at my usual time in the evening his phone was telling me that it was unavailable.  I assumed he was talking to someone else.  But it continued to say it was unavailable.  I tried the house phone.  He didn't answer that.  If he is at the other end of the house he doesn't get to the kitchen phone before the answer machine kicks in. But usually if you try a few times he goes and waits by the phone, or rings me.  Nup.  I tried FaceTime and Viber and Facebook.  Nup.  By the time it got to 6pm I was beginning to get a bit worried.  I contacted Lindsey.  We decided to wait for a bit and then send in reinforcements to check if he was OK.  You don't want him lying on the floor or in the garden unable to get up, or unconscious. If nothing else it would mean Rupert and Hugo wouldn't get their dinner :-D

Fortunately, before we called out reinforcements, he answered the house phone. He had indeed been at the other end of the house, had heard the phone ringing but had assumed that it was the Cold Callers being particularly active that evening - until the phone started ringing incessantly, when he decided someone possibly did want to speak to him.  But what was wrong with his mobile phone?  Turned out he had accidentally set it to flight mode so, of course, it wasn't receiving anything.  His laptop was turned off.  He was out of digital range!!  His phone is off flight mode now.  But I think I need to set up a code for the house phone so he knows it's me and not the Cold Callers.

I treated myself to a souvlaki for tea from the take away shop downstairs, after all that excitement.  It was very nice but I must remember next time to get them to hold the onions. People who make take away souvlaki are always a touch over enthusiastic with the raw onions.

We are definitely heading towards winter.  The deciduous trees are still doing autumn and looking beautiful. But the temperatures are forecast to plummet in Ballarat over the next few days. And I think we are forecast wind and rain.  I've dug out the winter clothes.  And turned the heating on.