Sunset from Hill House, Mount Helen. February 2024

Monday, January 30, 2017

An Unusual Weekend - it contained a lot of food!!!

Freyja and Simon gave Jim and me a Red Balloon voucher for Christmas.  This was very exciting.  So many things to choose from.  We decided  that we had to choose fairly quickly.  It is much too easy to put vouchers aside and then to forget about them until close to or, even worse, just after the expiry date.  So I sat down and had a trawl through all the options.

In the end we decided that I would go on an Asian dumpling course and that we would put the remainder of the voucher credit along with some real money for a Christmas/Birthday treat for Jim, a Sunday Brunch cruise around the Docklands harbour on his actual birthday.  We have to wait until the beginning of April for that.

My dumpling course, however, was on Saturday which, quite coincidentally, was the Chinese New Year.  The course was in Richmond, a 25 minute walk from the flat.  So I came down with Lindsey on Friday and stayed over.  Lindsey also stayed over, not because she was doing exciting things on Saturday but because she was working.

The course had about 12 students and was taken by a Vietnamese chef. We learned how to make our own dumpling wrappers.  We made Japanese style gyoza, although he also showed us how to fold money bags and chefs hats and Italian ravioli and we discussed the various fillings you might put in them.  The recipe he used for the gyoza wasn't exactly the same as Kaori's but it was interesting to see how you could make subtle or even quite substantial changes to the taste of your fillings.  We assembled our gyoza and then steamed them and then had them for lunch, along with a bottle of tiger beer or a glass of fizzy wine.  It was a splendid way to spend a morning - and we got to take our left over gyoza home with us!  I might have called into the Chinese supermarket on the way home and bought a small rolling pin, suitable for rolling gyoza wrappers.  I might also have bought a couple of bamboo steamers :-)

Waiting for the other students to arrive

It was a beautiful morning for a walk
and I was glad to be given a glass of lemon cordial
with watermelon, mango and mint on my arrival

Prawn gyoza and money bags waiting to be steamed

Chicken gyoza steamed and waiting to be eaten

Lunch time!

The leftovers came home and were eaten as part of our dinner

After Lindsey had finished work we dropped by Costco (which was filled to bursting with people getting provisions for the Chinese New Year feasts that they were all clearly planning) and then sent to the airport to collect Rachel, a medical student from Manchester who will be shadowing Lindsey for four weeks.  Then we trundled back to Mount Helen where we had the gyoza (properly reheated) as an entree, followed by slow cooked roast lamb with a positive mountain of vegetables for our dinner.

Sunday dawned equally glorious.  Lindsey, Rachel and I went to Buninyong to look at the craft market. Jim and I went last October and didn't find anything that we were tempted to buy.  This time it was smaller, I think, but more interesting.  We did find things to buy!  Then we drove up Mount Buninyong and climbed the fire tower.  Mount Buninyong is an extinct volcano, about 5000 years overdue for an eruption.  Fortunately it showed no signs of erupting while we were there.

Jim and I went up the tower at the very beginning of 2006.  

Lindsey took this photo

This is what it looked like yesterday:

Much better, I'm sure you'll agree!

We went back to the house, collected Ian, Jim and Sam and then headed off to the lake for a stroll and a small spot of lunch.  We sat outside at Pipers and indulged in delicious lunches.  I had a beautiful plate of barramundi, steamed vegetables and a moderately healthy potato cake.  Rachel, on the other hand had a mighty steak sandwich and chips.  I must make sure I have that the next time I am there. My barramundi was absolutely delicious, but Rachel's steak sandwich looked awesome!

The Lakeside was absolutely buzzing.  There were people out having parties and barbecues.  There was a festival of some sort going on.  Even the paddle steamers had people partying on them.  It was all very festive (not Christmassy festive, just lots of people out having fun and enjoying the sunshine)

There's no sunshine today.  We are back in Melbourne and it is overcast and keeps trying to rain!

Friday, January 27, 2017

Australia Day Evening, and the day after

We had a lovely Australia Day evening. The weather was glorious, if a little on the chilly side for late January. But we sat outside with light cardigans on and had a fairly traditional, old school Aussie barbecue for tea.

This was made slightly more complicated by the fact that Lindsey and Ian's gas barbecue had been borrowed before we had thought that it might be nice to have a barbecue ourselves.  There is a second, briquette fired one, but it hadn't been used for some time and was a little on the rusty side.  And its inner things that hold the cooking grille on have disappeared, along with the grilles themselves.  No matter.  Ian cobbled together a means of holding up some oven racks and a griddle.  Lindsey had acquire fire lighters and barbecue briquettes.  Now then.  Where are the matches?  No matches???? Then we might have to revert to Plan B and cook inside.  Ah - but how will we light the gas stove which requires matches?  Ian went to the Buninyong store and came back with matches :-D

In the meantime I made a bowl of thrice cooked chips (should have made a bigger bowl!) and some slightly spicy (with ginger and paprika) rissoles ready to rock and roll.  We remembered not to let the magpies think all this was for their benefit. We didn't take the salad that Lindsey made outside until we were ready to sit and eat. And we dined on home made chips, sausages, rissoles, lamb chops, salad and garlic bread.  And there was a glorious sunset.

Jim, Lindsey and me, after being well fed and watered.
With thanks to Ian for the photo (and the food!)

A lone, quite young kangaroo in the bottom paddock

The sun is setting on the day

There was a fireworks display by the lake in Ballarat.  We didn't drive in to watch it there.  Instead we stood on the side of the hill that Lindsey and Ian's house lives on and watched in from there. It might have been in the distance but it was beautiful to watch.  And a surprisingly good illustration of the difference between the speeds of light and sound.  The lake is only a fifteen or twenty minute drive away.  There was a noticeable lapse of several seconds between us seeing the fireworks and then hearing the booms.  Sam apparently did not hear the booms.  He can sense the presence of thunder several states away; the fireworks perturbed him not at all!!!

I came back to Melbourne with Lindsey fairly early this morning.  I wouldn't normally have bothered but I have an appointment in Richmond at about 9:30 tomorrow morning and it would have been difficult to get there on time if I left Ballarat tomorrow morning. I could have come down by train later today but that seemed a bit extravagant when there was a car heading down this morning. So I dropped into the surgery and did a few hours work and then I went into the city and spoke to my bank.  I went for a wander up Bourke Street which was very busy; people have not been deterred from going there by the events of late last week although there is an enormous pile of floral tributes by the former post office, and smaller piles of tributes in other places on the pedestrian walk. There were lots of people looking at the tributes. There were chaplains and Red Cross workers wandering around. And there was an unusual number of police cars and ambulance cars dotted about.

I, however, had not gone to look at the tributes.  I was just going for a potter in town. Then I saw a tram heading out to Docklands and jumped aboard.  I had a lovely amble around the Harbour Shopping complex, and then a lovely walk by the marina and along the esplanade.  I may perhaps have had an ice cream :-)

I quite fancy one of these apartments, though I fear I would need more than one Lottery win to be able to afford to buy and then maintain it!

And then I took a tram back to the city, hopping off at Parliament House, from where I walked back along the park to the flat in East Melbourne.  It's been a lovely, sunny, gentle day

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Australia Day

It's been a while since I updated the blog, largely because I've been a bit busy and, ironically enough, also because I haven't had anything very much to say.  Things have been trundling along.  I am surprised by how quickly the weeks are passing!  We have a sort of a routine to the weeks, but it's a variable routine, if you see what I mean :-)

I've been doing a few extra hours at the surgery, helping out with a few things that needed doing but which people didn't necessarily have time to do.  And I am learning how to do reception. They don't need me on a regular basis for reception, but they were very short one day last week.  I was available and could easily have got to the surgery for part of the day - but there's no point going if you have no clue what to do when you get there. So I am being trained up against future emergencies and a sudden shortage of receptionists.

Today is the Australia Day public holiday. Jim and Ian came back to Ballarat yesterday afternoon but Lindsey wasn't finishing work until quite late (they have a shortage of doctors at the surgery, the result of a couple of retirements and the summer holidays). So she and I stayed in town overnight.

We woke up to this:

View from the balcony, while I was drinking my first cuppa at 06:30

After our morning cuppas, we took ourselves off for a walk fairly early in the day.  I don't think we had been intending to have breakfast while we were out, but we passed by a few eateries where people were out eating Australia Day breakfasts.  By the time we got to Fed Square, the thought of eggs and bacon on toast was becoming quite appealing.  So we indulged :-D

The city was quite empty as we started our walk, but was definitely filling up as we moved on.  We saw the Australian military out in force which, in the light of recent events in the centre of Melbourne, was quite worrying until we noticed that they were in dress uniform and were preparing for a military march rather than military force.  There were obvious preparations for a parade along Swanston Street later in the day. Along the river there were swing ball games, actual swings, machines exhorting us to be more active.  And loads of people heading to the Rod Laver arena for a morning or afternoon or day at the Australian Open.  The city was happy.

St Paul's Cathedral from Federation Square

Flinders Street Station from our breakfast table, Federation Square
Walking along the Yarra River

Tennis anyone?  Rod Laver Arena

 Now we are back in Mount Helen, Ballarat.  We have taken Sam for a walk. Ian and Jim have been assembling shelves for the greenhouse and the garage.  We have done useful things and relaxing things.  And now Ian is trying to light the barbecue and I am making chips and it is a lovely, lovely evening

Happy Australia Day

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Getting Better Penguin

A couple of years ago, Cally had to go to the hospital or to the doctor for a number of reasons.  She had to have tests. She had fallen off the trampoline. She had chicken pox. A number of times she had to go. And each time she took her penguin with her.  And everything always worked out OK because the penguin was looking after her.

When Stella had to go into hospital shortly after all this, Cally thought that it was reckless to the point of incomprehension that Stella would even contemplate going into hospital for an operation without taking her Getting Better Penguin with her.  She was aghast to discover that Stella didn't have a penguin so couldn't take it with her. Her mother and I were despatched, post haste, to acquire a penguin and send it over so Stella would have a penguin to look after her. (We sent one for Tony as well)

The penguin arrived, was taken to the next hospital visit and all was well.

The penguin doesn't always accompany Stella when she goes to hospital, but it usually turns up at some point during her stay.

You may remember that Stella went back into hospital last week to get her legs sorted out.  She had unpleasant oedema and her legs hurt and they were getting infected.  All seemed to be going ok.  Tony went into hospital on Friday for an overnight stay to have a Watchman inserted (no, I didn't know either; look it up!)  Wendy took him in.  Jim and I headed down to their place so we would be there to let the cleaner in and to help out.  Tony was due back on Saturday morning. Stella hoped to come back on Saturday morning too.  Wendy, Jim and I all stayed over for the night

Alas, although Tony came home as planned, Stella's legs had flared up a little bit so she had to stay where she was.  I was pottering about at their place on Saturday morning when my eyes caught sight of the Getting Better Penguin in a basket with other soft, cuddly toys!!! No wonder Stella hadn't got any better.  When Jim and I called in to visit her on our way home in the afternoon we took the penguin with us. We took Farley too:

Photo taken by Wendy

By Penguin Power and Farley hugs, Stella was better enough this morning unexpectedly to Go Home.

We should all listen to Cally and her perspicacity.  You need a Penguin if you are going to get better!  If you don't have one, you had better head to the shops urgently :-D

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Stella went back into hospital last week, to have her legs sorted out.  You may remember that a few weeks before Christmas she had a hip replacement done.  That seems to be settling in quite well.  However, she has had quite bad swelling in her legs and went back into hospital to get that fixed. So far the treatment seems to be working quite well.

Lindsey, Jim and I went down on Sunday to visit her.  We got there at about lunchtime. Tony also arrived while we were there.  Somehow, we were diverted from our intention of visiting Stella and ended up in a nearby pub!

It was a pub very much like the Dava in Mount Martha (except that was Beretta's in Langwarrin near Frankston) and the food wasn't bad at all.  I enjoyed my chicken parma.  Jim and Tony enjoyed their barramundi and chips. Lindsey enjoyed her fishy tacos.

We did go back and visit Stella again after lunch. We didn't take pub food back for her - she had already had barramundi (but no chips).  We took  her a lovely fruit salad though, with mango, nectarines, apricots and blueberries :-)  (As an aside, I must say that the food in the Peninsula Private hospital looks much more appetising than the food did in the Beleura hospital where she had her hip operation done. She reports that the food in Beleura tasted ok - it just didn't look very enticing and you need food to look enticing when you are giving it to poorly people with little appetite!!!)

It was quite a foody weekend, all told.  Which was all very delicious but didn't absolutely help the 2017 ambition of losing 10kg!  Ian made us an amazing Indian banquet on Saturday night.  Tandoori chicken, tandoori lamb cutlets, many equally amazing side dishes

Tandoori chicken.
Lindsey took this photo - I was too busy sampling the pea and  asparagus risotto!

He also made us a chicken stir fry on Sunday night. No photos of that. We were all too busy scoffing to stop and take photos.  (That's scoffing as in stuffing our faces, not as in making fun of it!)

And so we sailed on into the week.  Lindsey was working yesterday (this is unusual; she doesn't normally work on Mondays), so I went too.  Jim and Ian finished putting together the timed watering system to keep the veg tubs and beds going when  we are not there and came down later in the morning. Simon, Jacob, Noodle and Christian came for dinner, along with a friend of Lindsey's and Ian's.  Normal service is once again restored.  For now :-D

Friday, January 06, 2017

Continuing as we mean to go on

I emptied the scanning box at work twice on Wednesday. I had it empty at lunchtime and was just about to embark on another job that had come my way - when two of the doctors brought another third of a box of scanning in.  I abandoned the extra task and emptied the scanning box again. I expect it will be well and truly full by the time I go in next week.  There might even be enough to keep me gainfully employed for three days instead of two!

Yesterday we met Emily at her beautiful new house, which she is sharing with several other people and which is a very short walk from her new job which she is starting next week.  In pursuit of Lindsey's and my ambition to walk 750 Runkeeper km during 2017 we walked around Lake Wendouree, which is about 6 km.  We were a bit worried about the thunderstorms which were circling Ballarat but although we heard thunder and saw lightning we were spared the rain.  We stopped for coffee half way around but managed the walk quite comfortably.  It is several years since I last walked right around the lake so  I was pleased that it wasn't too arduous

The storms had passed by the time we got here,
though we could still hear thunder in the distance
I easily managed to get my 10k steps in yesterday.  The walk around the lake contributed a lot, but walking around the DIY stores and the supermarket also helped quite a bit. Plus you get lots and lots of steps in if you are tidying, clearing or simply moving around Lindsey and Ian's enormous house. It's 50 steps from our end of the house to the laundry door. It's quite easy to rack up 3 or 400 steps in the course of an hour without even trying hard.

The vegetable project is going quite well (so far!):

Mostly herbs in this one with just a few veg.
There are more herbs and veg to go in

Cherry tomatoes and cucumbers

Standard tomatoes and zucchini/courgettes

The potatoes are thriving

Carrots and beetroot just germinating

Corn also just poking through
However, the beans are not much enjoying their home down along the fence.  They are being beaten by the wind and are definitely not thriving.  Either we won't plant them there again next season, or we'll have to find a wind break of some sort.

Nor are the raspberries thriving.  Something has stripped them all out ;-(

And here - our first harvest:

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Mostly Feasting

We had a lovely time at Matt and Belinda's place on NYE.  Matt had made a slow roasted lamb shoulder and Belinda some lovely salmon.  We had those with gravy soaked vegetables and roast vegetables, and perhaps a glass or two of wine. It was a very merry evening.

We greeted 2017 by taking the three dogs for a nice walk, starting the year as we mean to go on.  I don't have New Year Resolutions.  It never really seems worth it to me. After all, how long does the "New Year" last?  How long do I have to maintain these resolutions before the "NewYear" Simply becomes "This Year"?  No.  What I have this year is Ambitions for 2017.  Three of them, although the third one isn't properly formed yet.  I have some work to do on it before it is implemented.

My ambitions are:

(i) to walk 750 km as measured by the Runkeeper app. So proper walking, not incidental pottering around.  A 3km walk on the first day of 2017 seemed an appropriate start to this ambition (although disappointingly it said I had achieved 0% when I logged it :-( )

(ii) to lose 10 kg over the course of the year.  This should be achievable without much actual effort; it's less than 1 kg a month!!

(iii) to be more structured and focused in my Japanese learning.  I need to think about this a bit.  At the moment it's just an amorphous aim and certainly not SMART.

Anyway.  Back to New Year's Day.  After our walk we went to visit my friend Jan who recently moved to a place about ten minute's drive from Matt and Belinda's. We haven't seen her for ages; we have been in the habit of lunching with her when visiting Melbourne but didn't when we were here last December/January and there hasn't been chance to visit since we got here in August. It was good to catch up.

Lindsey and Ian made their way to the flat. So did we.  Austin, Kaori and Tatsuki arrived. And we all spent the evening together with Christian, Cassie, Simon and Jacob munching on a Chinese Banquet in The Builder's Arms.  It was Austin, Kaori and Tatsuki's last full night in Melbourne and feasting seemed appropriate.

The 2nd of January was a public holiday.  Lindsey and Emily hit the shops.  The rest of us hopped on a tram and headed into the city.  I don't think Tatsuki had been on a tram before.  He was quite intrigued

Ian is hiding behind Austin's hat!!

Jim and I separated from the rest when we got into town. We had different errands to run. But we ran across them again in the David Jones Food Hall.  And Ian says that they had lunch in the same complex that we did, but in a Japanese rather than a Greek cafe and probably about 20 minutes later.

And for Austin, Kaori and Tatsuki's final Melbourne dinner for this trip we all gathered at Simon's place, along with a few extras for steak, roast potatoes and salad.  I don't think Tatsuki has had roast potatoes many times before.  He thoroughly enjoyed them

Photo by Lindsey
And then suddenly, they were gone.  Ian took them to the airport.  Lindsey, Jim and I headed back to the flat.  The holidays were over.  Time to get back to work and to "normal" life

Sunday, January 01, 2017

Happy 2017

New Morning

New Day

New Month

New Year

May they all be filled with joy, happiness and adventure for us all

New Year Morning, Warragul: