Sunset from Hill House, Mount Helen. February 2024

Monday, December 31, 2018

The InterFest

I do not usually work in the week between Christmas and New Year, although last year I did work on one of the days.  I don't remember having worked on New Year's Eve, pretty much ever.

This year I worked on Friday. And I am working today.  It has been very hard to remember about working today.  In my head it is a holiday!

We did do holiday things, though, during the strange time that is the interval between Christmas and New Year.  Stella stayed up at Hill House until Saturday and on Thursday she, Jim, Ian and I went out for lunch.

"Let's go to the place where blossom falls on your head," suggested Stella.  I was just thinking that Japan was a long way to go for lunch (and is in the wrong season) when she explained that she meant the place where we had sat in what had once been an outside area and blossom had fallen through the rafters.  Ah yes.  Webster's.  No where near as far as Japan.  And open for lunch.  So that is where we went.  We didn't sit outside this time. It was very hot and there is no air conditioning in the outside area.  We sat inside in the coolth.  (Lindsey couldn't join us.  She was working.)

Jim and I took Stella home on Saturday and stayed over. We went to the Dava for Sunday lunch, then left her on her own at home and returned to Mount Helen.

I must say that I was very impressed with the amount of space you get in Ziggy's boot when you put half the back seat down.  We had been a bit worried that we wouldn't fit two small suitcases, a walker and all the Christmas stuff in. But we did.  With ease.  We could have put lots more in with some judicious packing.  And Jim wasn't squashed in the remaining back seat.  We would easily get two Great Danes in if we put both back seats down.

Speaking of Great Danes, today is the first anniversary of Hugo's arrival at Hill House. He came on New Year's Eve last year as a 10 month old puppy.

Happy Gotcha Day, Hugo

Hugo, December 2017
Hugo, December 2018

Saturday, December 29, 2018


I am reminded that we have been in Tani for over a month and so far there are no photos.

So let's go for a walk through the house.

You enter through the front porch and straight into the lounge room

View from the kitchen

 which leads into the kitchen and dining area


Jim's Christmas jigsaw underway - it's more advanced now

 Then up a long corridor to the rest of the rooms

The door at the end leads to the garage
Walking up the corridor, to your right there's a small study

As you see, I haven't sorted out the desk yet

there's a laundry, with loo

 and a separate bathroom

On the left there are two bedrooms

This is ours

View from the bed

This is yours, when you come to visit

Outside, beyond the fence, there's a walkway which leads from the back of Mount Helen down to Eilish court and then down to the main road and the bus stop. It's the most direct way on foot from the houses at the back of the reserve to the bus or to the University, Technology Park and government buildings.

If you walk down the lane at dusk 

this is the view of the back of our place. Cosy, isn't it

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Christmas Day

Jim and I went up to Hill House late in the morning.  I had spent the early part of the morning making tiny ginger biscuits and then attempting some shortbread. I really must try and get hold of my mother's late friend Bertha's recipe. Her shortbread was amazing.  Mine was OK.  And I need more practice with my new embossed rolling pin.  I'm not getting the picture on my biscuits.  YouTube says I should thoroughly flour the rolling pin before using it.  I'll give it a go next time.

People started to arrive for the Christmas Night festivities at about 4. Everyone was there by 6 and we had our present exchange. I must say that I did very well out of it.  Lots of new kitchen gadgets, amongst other things.

We sat down to eat at around 8, and a merry, festive feast it was.  Very much delicious food and wine.

Wendy, who doesn't drink much and, incidentally, whose birthday it was, drove Jim and me back to our place. She became the first person to sleep over at Tani. Lindsey and Ian had fewer people than normal sleeping at their place. Freyja and Simon went back to Ross' place. Various nieces and nephews went home or to other relatives' places. Jim, Wendy and I were, of course, at our place.  Still, what they lacked in overnight people guests, they made up for in doggy guests.  Two of the dogs who had been there for dinner went home with their people. That left 6 dogs overnight, two of whom live there and one of whom is a three or four month old puppy.

When Ant and Jess got married a couple of years ago, Lindsey took a lovely photo of Stella and Tony.  Stella asked for a copy of it but then everyone forgot all about it.  For Stella's Christmas present this year, Lindsey had it made into a canvas portrait.  It was propped up against the television in the lounge room for most of yesterday.  I have to say that it was a bit disconcerting - it looked very much as though they were sat inside the tv watching us!

Jim bought me a toasted sandwich maker for my birthday.  It had its first outing for lunch today.  I do like a nice toasted sandwich 🍞

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Christmas Eve

It was warm and sunny - although fortunately, not too hot.

Jim and I went up to Lindsey and Ian's place at half past nine and Jim and Stella stayed and looked after the dogs while Lindsey and I went out for a few last minute things.  I knew we had to collect the seafood, and I knew there would be a long queue.  I hadn't thought about going into the supermarket, although I needed rice flour and Lindsey needed light globes.  I thought we would get them in the IGA. Instead we went into Coles - which I have to say wasn't as busy as I expected. We came out with more than rice flour and light globes!  We bought some mattresses (not in the supermarket!!!) for revellers who will be sleeping on the floor at Hill House.  We will not be among them. Wendy, Jim and I will be sleeping at Tani. Wendy is not a drinker so she will drive us down after the festivities and stay in our spare room.  She will be the first overnight guest in the new spare room.

We went to Pipers by the Lake for lunch, and very nice it was too.

Lindsey, festive and waiting for lunch

though this is a more typical pose when Lindsey is waiting for something :-D

Frannie and Jim
Frannie and Stella

This was a nice bottle of wine. Nice and light, suitable for summer
Also vegan friendly and gluten free. How often is there gluten in white wine, I wonder

We all went out to the Avalon nursery so Lindsey could buy a bird bath, and then out to the Elaine farm shop to see what they had.  Then Jim and I went home and Lindsey and Stella went back to Hill House.

Jim and I had a seafood curry for Christmas Eve dinner. I had intended to watch the Kings College carols, or possibly even Carols by Candlelight, but was diverted by Festive food programs and forgot - until I was just off to bed and Austin sent me a message asking if I was watching carols.  Oops!

Even so, it was a good Christmas Eve.  Calmer and more peaceful than Christmas Day is likely to be!

And now it is early on Christmas morning.  The sun is shining. The day looks set fair.  Merry Christmas to you all

Monday, December 24, 2018

Preparing for Christmas (and other things)

Apart from a bit of baking, I think I am ready for Christmas.  Which is just as well, seeing that it is tomorrow!

I have all the presents.  I hope!

Yesterday morning Lindsey and I went to Wilson's for the veg, and to Coles for the supermarket shopping. There should be plenty of food for the Christmas feast.  We have even catered for Boxing Day breakfast.

We went to Bunnings for a number of things, mostly not Christmas related.

Today should be relatively relaxed.


We have had our first proper Sunday lunch at Tani.  Stella was at the last one we had at the old place, and she was here for the first one at the new place.  Lindsey, Freyja and Simon were also here. The omnivores had roast beef. The vegetarian and vegan had a plant based "meat" loaf that I got from Woolworths.  It tasted nice but I think I would slice it and fry it next time, rather than baking it.  I also made Yorkshire puddings for the first time in this oven.  They turned out quite well

First Sunday lunch at Tani.  Freyja is behind the camera

On Saturday, Jim and I bought a push mower for Tani.  I had thought that lawn mowing was something we wouldn't need to worry about until the autumn, but the recent rain has encouraged the grass to grow.  We don't have enough grass to warrant an electric or petrol mower, but it's too much for a pair of shears.  A push mower seemed to be the way to go.

Then Jim decided that he needed a rake. He had run the push mower over the grass but was hampered by lots of twigs and leaves.  Plus, there was all the cut grass. He's raked it over now and it's looking good.

After several cool, cloudy and wet days, yesterday was glorious.  Warm, not too hot, sunny, fairly still. Jim and I sat out on our front verandah in the early evening, making plans for our front garden. We've made  a start in the bed under the windows. We dug out the grassy plants and replanted with lavender and flowers

Now we are thinking what to replace all these agapanthus with

We know this is a rented place and we can't make major changes, but the condition report says that the front garden is stocked with plants.  It doesn't say what kind of plants!  It also says the back garden is stocked with plants.  Apart from grass, there's not a plant to be seen.  There will be though.  We are thinking of making this triangle into a little picnic area and will put some shrubs in to make it pretty

We have bought some wooden boxes made from old crates and have started filling them with herbs and little shrubs, plus we've got one ready to plant some green beans in.  They were $20 rather than the $160 the herb trug cost.  We will contact the box maker after Christmas and see if they've got any more. They make good flower and veg raised beds.

I really hope we get to stay here longer than 12 months.  I think our little garden is going to look lovely.  But most of it will be in relocatable containers, so if we do have to move the garden can mostly come with us.

Friday, December 21, 2018

Christmas Lights

It very rarely happens, but on Tuesday Lindsey and I found ourselves at the flat in the evening.  I am often there on a Tuesday evening and also, often, is Ian.  Lindsey usually works through until 8 or 9. Last Tuesday, however, Lindsey had had the day off and Ian was up country somewhere.

It was a lovely evening, so Lindsey and I hopped on a tram and went into town to look at the Christmas lights.

First, a spot of dinner to fortify us.  We found a Japanese barbecue place, hidden behind a sushi restaurant.  The sushi restaurant had people from all cultures.  The diners in the barbecue section were almost exclusively Japanese.  This augured well :-D

The server was worried we wouldn't know what to do so showed us.
We didn't tell her we go to yakiniku restaurants in Japan!!

Then out through The Emporium

and out on to Bourke Street

to look at the Myer Christmas windows. Alice in Wonderland this year:

The Cheshire cat, chatting to Alice
The final window is always a nativity scene

We went down to look at the Town Hall, which we knew was lit up for Christmas.  I had seen it briefly on my way back from Brunswick last week, but neither of us had had a chance to look at it properly:

One of the city ambassadors asked if we had been to Federation Square yet.  We hadn't.  We didn't know anything was happening at Fed Square.  So we went to see.

Walking past Flinders Street Station:

 And then into Fed Square, which was absolutely buzzing:

The whole city centre was buzzing.  It was happy and festive and people of all faiths, cultures and backgrounds were having a great time. Multicultural Melbourne was out at play.

You wonder what those commonwealth politicians who have been categorically telling the whole of Australia that the good people of Melbourne are too scared to leave their houses at night for fear of rampant violent crime, would have made of it all.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Welcome to Ziggy

For the past several months, Jim and I have been driving this car:

Thank you, UIW, for looking after us so well

It had been Tony's car until he and Stella decided that they needed to reduce from two cars to one.  Stella felt that this car was too long for her to be able to see to drive safely. So they bought a Jazz, Lindsey bought UIW and it went to Townsville for a couple of years with Emily and then came back when she did. It spent a bit of time in Melbourne and then came back to Mount Helen, when Jim and I took over driving it.  I have to agree that it is quite a long car - I can't really see the very front of the car properly. Stella would have had no chance.

It's a nice car. Tony was very reluctant to get rid of it. It is good to drive and has quite a powerful engine.  I was considering offering to buy it from Lindsey so it would be properly our car.

Then Tony died. He doesn't need a car anymore.  And Stella can't drive. Her vision isn't good enough now.  So there was the Jazz sitting, unused, in their garage.  I offered to buy that instead.  It hasn't done 50,000 km yet and is six years old rather than 13.

Lindsey was heading to Mount Martha on Sunday to pick Stella up and take her to Melbourne for the night.  I hitched a ride and brought Ziggy back to Mount Helen.  It doesn't have the power that UIW has but it trundled gamely up the hills between Bacchus Marsh and Ballarat.  I think it will be happy with us - it certainly won't take it six years to get to 100,000 km!!

Welcome to Ziggy

Monday night at Hill House:

Saturday, December 15, 2018


My goodness, but did it rain!

It had been showery throughout the day in Reservoir and some of those showers had been quite heavy. When I left to head back to Mount Helen at about 17:15, it wasn't really doing anything particularly interesting.

It wasn't doing anything particularly interesting as I passed through Rockbank, although the traffic was very heavy.

It started to rain with intent as I went by Bacchus Marsh. Then the rain got heavier.  Then it became torrential. And then it just became ridiculous.

For a start off, I couldn't see.  Not only was there a sheet of water pouring over the car, but it was also very misty and dark, Not night time dark, but "difficult to see because of the heavy clouds and mist" dark.

There was water pouring off the banks at the side of the road and then turning into rivers rushing down the road.

I drove in the inside lane, very slowly.  Other people had pulled into the emergency stopping lane. I considered doing this but decided that I didn't know when the rain would stop and I didn't want to get stranded - or washed down the road back to Bacchus Marsh :-D

Other drivers had no such worries and just WOOOOOOOOOSHED past me. Mostly they were in 4WDs or little trucks but one or two ordinary cars were also rushing past.  One of two of them didn't have their lights on.  Foolhardy driving, if you ask me.

The rain kept it up until I got to Pykes Creek when it slowly stopped.  It started again as I passed by Gordon, but it wasn't quite as bad.

I must say that I was very glad to get back to Hill House and out of the car.  Had I realised just how dramatic the rain was going to be, I would have stayed in Melbourne. I knew that heavy rain was forecast but hadn't realised quite how heavy.

Mind you, there was dramatic rain in Melbourne too. But I think I would have been in the flat, 11 storeys up, before the worst of it hit.

It's all calm this morning. Overcast, but calm.  And today is the day that we will return the keys to Tani #1. One last walk round to make sure it's OK (no leaks from yesterday's wild weather!) and then hand it back. Then we can turn our attention to sorting out Tani #2. The condition report says that it given to us in a clean and dust free state.  Alas - the estate agent's definition of clean and dust free do not seem to tally with mine :-D

Friday, December 14, 2018

It started raining when I was on my way back from work on Wednesday.  It was 37d as I left Reservoir. It was 33d when I drove past the Gordon turnoff on the freeway. By the time I got to the Warrenheip exit the temperature was 17d and it was pouring.

I picked Jim up from Hill House and headed back to Tani #2. I was just organising dinner when Ian rang. Their fridge freezer had died.  Was there any room in our fridge or freezer to store things.  As it happens, yes. So he drove down in the pouring rain and filled our garage freezer and a shelf in our kitchen fridge. They are hoping their fridge can be repaired. It would be expensive to replace it but a proper fridge is going to be necessary at Christmas. There is a second fridge but it is mostly filled with soft drink, alcohol and dog food.

Thursday saw more rain. Lots and lots and lots of rain.  It also saw the power go out through Mount Helen and Mount Clear. This was extremely disconcerting. Yesterday was our last opportunity to vacuum the newly washed carpets at Tani #1 before the power is disconnected (scheduled for today). There were a few other things that needed doing but we didn't need power for that.  I have had  a dream once or twice recently that we had gone to the house to do the carpets only to find that the power had been turned off a day early and we had had to rush all over Ballarat trying to find a carpet sweeper. I had my fingers firmly crossed that this dream had not been prophetic!

We decided to go round and do the things that didn't need power. We were about half way through all that when the power came back on.  Hooray!!!

I think all up it took about 90 minutes to finish cleaning Tani #1. The carpets look beautiful. The tiled floors are nice and shiny. The skirting boards are dust free. The cupboards have been wiped down. The only thing we didn't do was to wash the large glass door from the dining room into the courtyard.  It was still bucketing down! It's not going to happen now. We are intending to hand the keys back on Saturday and then we can turn our attention to finishing our move into Tani #2.  We are pretty much properly moved in but there are still somethings to be put away, plus I want to reorganise some of the cupboards, particularly in the kitchen.  Things need to find their permanent homes.

It has stopped raining now. And I must get a move on. Time to get ready for work. And we are up at Hill House tonight.  Lindsey and Ian are going out to play in Melbourne tonight.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Ongoing Birthday Celebrations

I met Freyja and Simon on Tuesday evening for a birthday dinner.

They live in East Brunswick. Their house is between Nicholson Street and Lygon Street. So I took the tram to their place.

It was a very nostalgic tram trip.  I haven't had any reason to head out that way on the tram in the last couple of years, but when I lived in North Carlton I went on the Nicholson Street tram quite frequently.  I nearly got off at Pigdon Street to walk up to my old house.  There wasn't time for tripping down memory lane, though. I was due at Freyja and Simon's place so I stayed on the tram.

Not much has changed - apart from the shops and businesses. The butcher is still there but the language school where I learnt Italian has gone. The video store is now a bike shop. The Little Bookshop, which used to be in Rathdowne Street, has moved to Nicholson Street (I knew it wasn't in Rathdowne Street anymore but assumed it had closed down. It was good to see it in its new home.)

I remembered to get off the tram at Freyja and Simon's stop, walked up their road and then (with them!) on to Lygon Street. We had dinner in Kumo Izakaya. It's a lovely building and does interesting food; mostly Japanese but with some fusion food. The advantage of its tapas-style menu is that the omnivore, the vegetarian and the vegan could all have delicious food, and share most of it, although I had to eat my fried chicken plate all by myself. Oh, the hardship :-D  It was a good evening.

I took the tram down Lygon Street into town, then caught another tram out to East Melbourne.  It was around 10:00 when I got into the city - and it was absolutely heaving.  I realise that I was out on a school night, but I wasn't really partying.  Just eating. The crowds in the city centre appeared to be mostly partying. They were, at least, thoroughly enjoying themselves.

I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised to find a booze bus on Heidelberg Road when I was making my way to work yesterday morning. I was, a bit, even though I had observed the crowds in the city on Tuesday night.  Fortunately I hadn't had much to drink at the Izakaya. The police didn't seem to be catching many drink/drug drivers, but it was only 08:15!  I guess most of the party-goers were still in bed.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Birthday Weekend

Friday, which was my actual birthday, was very hot (if it didn't get to 40d in Melbourne it only missed by a degree or two) and unusually humid for Melbourne. The air conditioning wasn't working at work.  My cupboard was very hot and airless.

Mid-afternoon, I was summoned to the kitchen. Tracey, the nurse manager had gone out to buy a cake for my birthday. As it was so hot she decided to buy a box of icy poles (ice lollies) instead.  Then she saw an ice cream cake. A Freddo Frog, child's party cake.  She bought that instead.  We had ice cream for afternoon tea on Friday!!!

We had a Japanese Feast for dinner.  Lindsey and Ian took Jim and me to Kambei, which is a Japanese restaurant opposite Sovereign Hill, for dinner.  Tony always commented that the restaurant was invariably closed whenever he went past it.  This was because we tended to take him past it in the middle of the day. It is open for lunch at weekends, but only for a couple of hours.  It is indisputably open on Friday evenings and was quite busy..  We all had the tasting menu. Sashimi, (wagyu beef slices for Jim and me, rather than salmon, tuna and kingfish - Jim doesn't eat raw fish; I do but not in that sort of quantity) with little spring rolls, and bowls of tasty things; tempura vegetables and prawns; miso soup; black cod; wagyu beef in a delicious sauce with rice; little creme caramels. Wine, of course.  It was extremely delicious.

On Saturday Jim and I spent a couple of hours cleaning Tani #1. The bulk of it is done, apart from the steam cleaning of the carpets. There are all the tedious little things to do now, like sweep the garage, dust the skirting boards, wipe down the windows. Oh, and clean the laundry which hasn't been touched and which has all the cleaning stuff in it. Jim and I went to the garden centre for some potting mix and some plants for the little garden bed out the front of our lounge room.  Lindsey and I went to Buninyong later in the afternoon for their Twilight Christmas Market. As we were getting ready to go it started to rain.  When we got there there was a brief, almost tropical downpour. I was wearing a rain jacket and a hat.  Both got soaked!

The market was bigger than it had been last year. I was supposed to be Christmas shopping but instead bought lots of plants for the new herb tub that we bought a few days ago, plus a few more for the front and back gardens. I did get a few Christmas things, plus some stuff from a pop up shop hidden away in a secret corner of the back car park. It is selling Australian spices and syrups and Aussie themed cups and other lovely things.  I could have spent a Great Deal of Money in there but managed to restrain myself.  A bit :-D

Yesterday Lindsey, Ian, Jim and I had planned to go to the St Anne's winery near Myrniong to inspect their Christmas market.  Ian decided not to go. He wanted to carry on with his ambitious watering project in the hope that he might get it finished by Christmas. While I was in Hill House looking at the carpet steamer with Lindsey, Jim stayed outside to watch Ian's progress.  Lindsey and I came out, ready to head off.  Cattle-astrophe!  There was now an unexpected water feature where the pipes were supposed to go!!!  Not mains water, fortunately. Water from the tanks.  Still not good, but not quite as disastrous as holing a mains water pipe.

Jim and I decided that we weren't being very useful just stood there watching Lindsey and Ian trying to sort it all out, so headed off to Myrniong to check out the market. It's a good market.  I had one of the best souvlaki I've had in a long time from one of the food trucks.  Jim enjoyed his bucket of chips and his small glass of wine (made by the winery). He didn't have a proper lunch because he had not long had a proper breakfast.  I managed some actual Christmas shopping :-D We had a good wander around. And then headed back to Ballarat more or less as Lindsey was arriving. I think we saw her car heading towards Myrniong on the freeway.

We called at the Mill Market on our way home (it's an antique/junk/knick knack place at Warrenheip), then Jim put on his grubbies and went up to help Ian while I did some sorting out at Tani #2.

Lindsey went on to Mount Martha. Ian went to Melbourne.  Jim and I went up to Hill House to look after Rupert and Hugo. We are not often there overnight on Sundays.  It was very odd to wake up this morning and not have to rush about and head off to Melbourne.  Mind you, there are things to do. Packages to collect from the post office. Packages to post from the post office.  And Jim and I are planning to use Lindsey and Ian's carpet steam cleaner, hopefully to good effect, at Tani #1 later today.

Christmas has arrived outside our front door

Sunday Sunset from Hill House, Mount Helen