Sunset from Hill House, Mount Helen. February 2024

Saturday, December 31, 2016

The InterFest

On Boxing Day most people went home quite early.  Christian, Cassie and Josh went exceptionally early.  They had a puppy to pick up.

Austin, Kaori and Tatsuki went to Torquay overnight to visit the Frangoses

Lindsey, Ian, Jim and I started the post-Christmas clear up.

Tuesday was a public holiday, to make up for Christmas Day being on a Sunday. A nice quiet day for us. Lindsey and Ian went to Torquay for afternoon tea with the Frangoses and to bring Austin, Kaori and Tatsuki back.

We came down to Melbourne with Lindsey very early on Wednesday.  She was going back to work.  There was no real point me going in - I had cleared up all the scanning last Friday and no one much had been in since then to generate any more.  Jim and I had breakfast in the shopping complex and came to East Melbourne on the tram and had a gentle, quiet day.

When Lindsey came back in the evening we ambled up Smith Street in search of somewhere to eat.  The places we had in mind were closed for the InterFest but The Noble Experiment was open. It's a place that does interesting, experimental food (hence the name!).  We had the Chef's menu: six courses of tasty, unusual dishes.  We enjoyed all but one course, not being big fans of creamy goat's cheese (but that's a risk you take when you choose to have a surprise menu in a place specialising in innovative food!). On the other hand, the lamb buns were amazing. I am not sure that I would ever smoke carrots, which I tend to use for sweetness, but it was an interesting idea.  However, the dessert course was a real tour de force.  Watermelon marinated in gin; yoghurt parfait; a granita of mint, lime and cucumber.  Fabulous!

On Thursday, Lindsey, Jim and I headed to Southbank to an enormous factory outlet area that I had no idea existed.  In the event that we ever get a place of our own it would be a great place to stock up on household necessities. We hopped on the tram to come home - and the heavens opened.  We managed to get from the tram to the flat without getting soaked. Then the heavens opened again

You can't actually see the rain.  It was like a sheet!
Then we swapped Lindsey (who drove back to Ballarat) for Austin, Kaori and Tatsuki (who drove down from Ballarat)

We took Tatsuki to the local park on Friday morning

And then we all drove out to Robert and Susan's place for a magnificent lunch, catch up and chatter.

There has been a lot of very delicious food this InterFest!!

And now we are poised, ready to tumble exuberantly, or to slide gently into whatever 2017 has in store for us.  But first I should probably get dressed.  And we need to get to Warragul. We're supposed to be greeting the New Year from there. In day clothes rather than my (admittedly rather beautiful) new pyjamas.

(Somebody recently said, I think on Facebook, that it said a lot about them that they had more clothes for sleeping in than for going out and about in.  I thought this was a fine ambition that I was unlikely ever to achieve. I think I might have almost got there!!!)

Tuesday, December 27, 2016


Austin, Kaori and Tatsuki arrived from Japan on Friday afternoon.

Lindsey and Ian came back from Townsville on Saturday

So did Emily.  She diverted down to Mount Martha to pick up Stella and Tony.

We were all in place for a nice, leisurely start to Christmas Day.  We had a small mountain of food waiting for us, and an enormous lake of alcohol, soft drinks and adult soft drinks (Japan does a mighty fine line in non alcoholic cocktails and other drinks for adults who choose not to take alcohol.  Austin had brought some with him).

We had a leisurely exchange of presents.

We made a leisurely breakfast.

Some of us went to church.  Some of us made a start on food preparation for the evening. Some of us were pottering about, playing with our presents, enjoying the morning.

Then the septic tank at the south end of the house decided to block.  This took out one of the three toilets, one of the three bathrooms - and the only kitchen :-S

Ian spent a large proportion of Christmas morning into the early afternoon sorting that out.  We could manages without the toilet and bathroom if we really had to, but we couldn't manage well without the kitchen!! Imagine trying to wash the dishes caused by 25 people for dinner in Lindsey and Ian's bathroom sink!!!!

In the meantime, some of us put up the tent

Some of us prepared food

And we set the table

Jim peeled a mountain of potatoes. Stella podded a mountain of peas.  We topped and tailed green beans.  We sorted out asparagus.  We had coleslaw and salad.  And Ian managed to get the septic tank sorted out before the evening guests arrived.  He also had time to barbecue the turkey, roast the pork belly and to prepare the delicious seafood that was awaiting our attention.

It was a great evening.  Much delicious food.  Much merriment.  But no photos.  Too busy eating and making merry!!

A Christmas Elf

Monday, December 19, 2016

Birthday Celebrations

No.  Not mine.  Our friend Pat's.  It's her birthday this coming Thursday but the chances of getting a load of people out partying during the day on a Thursday, and particularly a Thursday three days before Christmas are quite slight.

So her family and many of her friends gathered at the Lavandula Swiss Italian Lavender Farm for a birthday and Christmas celebration.  It was lots of fun.  There were people there that we had met before, some who we had not met but had heard a lot about, and some who were entirely new to us.  We sat outside to have lunch and admire the beautiful views.  We went for a wander in the gardens.  We had a lovely browse in the shops.  It was a great afternoon.

And here's the Birthday Girl.
A very happy birthday on Thursday for Pat

Lindsey, Ian, Ant, Jess and Emily are gathering in Townsville for Emily's graduation on Wednesday. Stella and Tony had hoped to go too, but Stella isn't really well enough yet for flying - and her legs, which are quite swollen, might not like the tropical heat and humidity.  So they haven't gone.  They'll go somewhere in the autumn when we hope that they might both be fit enough to enjoy their holiday.

Jim and I are clearing up, tidying up and generally getting ready for Christmas.  Once again, I am in charge of collecting the Christmas meat and seafood.  This year I also am responsible for the Christmas desserts.  The responsibility is awesome :-S

Monday, December 12, 2016

Not a bad weekend

Friday was the Practice Christmas Party.  Lindsey and I finished early and ambled back to the flat, ready to head out and party.  Jim and Ian got ready too.

Poor Sam can't go with us!

We were all off to the zoo for an evening of food, wine and much merriment.  There were about 30 in our party.  There were other groups as well.  We started off at the giraffe enclosure, where a zoo keeper gave us lots of information about giraffes and we were treated to wine and canapés:

I would credit the photographer - but I don't remember who it was!

He looks a lot like Sam does when there are none of the expected treats!

Then we all moved off to an indoor area where there was music and dancing, pretty much unlimited red wine, white wine, beer and fizz, more canapés followed by cones of fish and chips and little fried chicken sliders.  It was a great evening.

Beauty and the Beast. The Beast won the prize for the best costume  of the night

We had had the foresight to go by public transport, so no need for a designated driver, apart from the tram drivers. The city was buzzing still when we got into the CBD at around midnight.  I don't think many of the pre-Christmas revellers were ready to go home!

We were, It was half past midnight before we got to bed.  I am usually in bed sometime between 10 and 10:30!!

It therefore came as something of a shock when Sam gently put his cold wet nose on my sleeping cheek at about 6 on Saturday morning and suggested the it would be a fine and lovely time for a walk.  I ignored this suggestion so he went and slept on Lindsey and Ian's bed.  I took him out for a lovely, quiet, solitary walk in the park at about 7:30.  We didn't meet any other people or dogs until we were nearly ready to come back to the flat.

Sam and Ian spent most of Saturday in Carlton:

I don't know who took this picture.
It wasn't Lindsey, Jim or me - we weren't there

Lindsey, Jim and I took ourselves off to Costco.  Not our regular Costco.  The one in Ringwood.  This had us heading vaguely in the direction of the Mornington Peninsula.  So on we went.  As we arrived in Mornington itself we observed signs alerting us to a Farmers' Market that morning.  More signs told us which way to go to get to the market.  We followed the signs until we reached one that announced that we had arrived.  And there it was.  It's a lovely Farmers' Market, held once a month in a small park by the foreshore. We bought lots of lovely things, including a magnificent boned leg of lamb for Ian to play with on Sunday.  Then we thought, given that we were so close, we should probably go and see Tony and Stella (who had escaped from the Rehab Centre that very morning).  They seemed slightly surprised to see us!

We had lunch with them and then headed back to Mount Helen, via the Santa shop and the fruit and veg shop not far from Mount Martha.

On Sunday Lindsey, Jim and I headed to the Ballarat Showgrounds to have a potter around the Sunday Market.  I have been once before, but that was about 15 years ago and my memory is that it was a very quick visit.  We had a more leisurely amble around yesterday. Then we headed to Blackwood, to the Garden of St Erth where we met our friends Chris and John for a very delicious lunch and a wander round the garden.  Jim, Lindsey and I shared a warm salad of roasted vegetables and a plate of sausage, herbed potatoes and broccoli.  I think we could easily have eaten more but there was that magnificent piece of lamb waiting to be consumed for Sunday dinner.  Chris and I have been trying to arrange to meet pretty much since Jim and I arrived last August but events have prevented it.  Finally our plans came to fruition!

Some of the garden at St Erth:

And the house:

It was a fabulous weekend.  We really enjoyed it.  Though poor Lindsey had to do a huge lot of driving.  Just as well she has a lovely new car to do it in :D

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Birthday Week

It is very disconcerting when you are heading down the driveway in your brother-in-law's car - and something bounds out in front of you.  The first thought is: "What the hell was that???" Then you realise it is not one but about half a dozen kangaroos who had been peacefully minding their own business in the trees and shrubs to your right, until you passed by in a car (mercifully very slowly!!) and disturbed them all.

Then they zig-zagged their way down the driveway, only bouncing over the fence into the paddock at the very bottom of the driveway!!

We followed them down very slowly, didn't leap over the fence into the paddock, and took ourselves off, about our business, into Ballarat.

We were quite careful coming back up the driveway on our return, but they were back in amongst the trees at the top of the the driveway and stayed put as we went slowly, slowly by.

They weren't there when Sam and I went out for our late afternoon walk, although Sam was remarkably interested in the spot where they had been!

Monday night Steak, Mount Helen style

Tuesday I got up early and set off to the surgery to resume my scanning career.  Fortunately the scanning backlog wasn't too bad.  Someone had been keeping up with it while I had been away.  Then I trundled into East Melbourne and left the car in Lindsey's car space before catching a tram into town.  I was due to meet Wendy in Federation Square for a coffee and cake.  Although in fact we had a bowl of chips instead of cake.  And I might have had an iced chocolate instead of coffee.  And Wendy might have had a beer :-)  

What I hadn't expected was the consternation that ensued when I collected the car and drove it back to Ballarat.  I didn't realise that Ian had noticed his car in Lindsey's car space.  He thought it odd that I had left it there and gone back to Ballarat by train, or by some other means of transport but didn't really think very much about it - until the following morning when it wasn't there any more!!  Fortunately, a quick phone call to me sorted that out.  I had indeed come back to Ballarat in it!!

And so to my birthday.  We had a fairly quiet day, Jim and me.  We did head into town to see if we could do any Christmas shopping but alas hadn't found anything suitable.  Lindsey and Ian came back just before 8 in the evening and we headed out to a Japanese restaurant for a very tasty birthday feast

I got several lovely presents, including a cat book from Wendy and a coffee machine from Ian.  And these from Lindsey:

I wonder if I'll ever dare use these for their intended purpose

And now we segue into Christmas.  Lindsey has started decorating the house

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Left in Charge

Lindsey and Ian went to Melbourne on Sunday morning, to go to a luncheon party, leaving Jim, Sam and me in charge back at Mount Helen.

So we did this:

Runner beans and dwarf beans planted along the fence.
There are raspberries still to go in further along

A lavender plant, zucchini plants and some tiger ella tomatoes

Another lavender plant, cucumbers and black cherry tomatoes.
Oh, and two parsley plants and a capsicum

Jim has weeded, swept and cleared along the front of the house

Looks great, doesn't it
Jim has also planted a row of peas alongside the potatoes.  There are still celery seedlings to pot on and some more seeds to be planted.  We have started planting up the third tub with silverbeet (chard), and kale, then the celery can go in there too when its a bit bigger. Then we need to fill the last of the tubs so I can sow the carrots, beetroot and other small seeds.  I also need to weed and mulch the herb bed.

Sunday, December 04, 2016

We went down to Mount Martha, as planned (!), last Sunday afternoon.

On Monday we took Tony to the pain clinic in Glen Waverley.  We visited Stella in hospital a couple of times.

On Tuesday we took Tony to the GP in Rosebud.  And visited Stella a couple of times.

After that there were no further medical trips for Tony.  Stella moved into the Rehab centre.  So far so good.

Tony made quite a good recovery.  Stella  is making a fantastic recovery

Stella in the hospital, walking with her new hip 
Moved upstairs to the rehab centre

Tony has come to visit - bruises starting to fade
Back at the house, it's dinner time :-)
To say that we spent most of the week doing not much more than hospital visits and trips to the shops, the time passed remarkably quickly. So much so that there wasn't time to update the blog or do anything much.

We came back to Mount Helen, via East Melbourne on Saturday.  We dropped off the car and had a bit of a wait until Lindsey joined us at the flat.  So we took ourselves up Smith Street to Pabu for lunch.  It seemed slightly extravagant to have the full tasting menu for lunch, so we made our own, much smaller tasting menu of edamame beans, gyoza, crumbed oysters and chicken karaage.  It was very delicious

And now here we are, back in Mount Helen. Emily is back from her visit to the States. Ian made us an excellent dinner, which we ate outside - the first time it's been warm enough to eat outside in the evening.