Sunset from Hill House, Mount Helen. February 2024

Thursday, December 30, 2021


It is surprisingly discombobulating (isn't that just such a fabulous word) when you are expecting to go to work and then find that you are superfluous to requirements.

Last Wednesday I had the usual email description of what Jim had been up to while his carer was with him. It's much like the daily reports you get when your child is at daycare - X had some apple for morning tea, played nicely in the sandpit, had a sandwich for lunch and a nap in the afternoon. I get told things such as: Jim and his carer have watched lifestyle shows on the television, Jim has walked up and down the hallway for exercise and had cherries and chocolate during the day and ate his sausage roll and salad for lunch.  Last Wednesday the carer also mentioned that she would be away this week so wouldn't be able to come. This was a bit disconcerting at not much notice.

I arranged that I would come in yesterday for a short day, mostly to cover the lunch breaks. It was also decided that I would call at around 9:00 before setting off and see how things were.  If it was very quiet, perhaps it wouldn't be necessary for me to go. It seemed to me to be highly unlikely that the phones would be quiet on the first day back after a four day break. So yesterday I dressed in my work clothes, prepared a cold lunch for Jim, got organised and, as planned, rang at 9:00 to see what the phones were doing.

I was surprised when the phone was answered by a receptionist who never works on a Wednesday. She was very surprised when I said who I was. We exchanged pleasantries, discussed our various Christmas activities and then I asked whether I was expected at work. Well no. That was why she was there. The practice manager had told her that Jim's carer wasn't coming so I couldn't come in and could she cover for me please. Just as well I had rung to check.

So I changed into my summer At Home clothes (which is to say shorts and a t-shirt) and wondered what to do for the rest of the day. I had done all the things I had intended to do before leaving for work. What else to do? I wandered around aimlessly for a while and then decided to do some of the things I had planned for Thursday.

I carried on with my mini-Kondoing of the house. I put away the Christmas decorations, which I don't usually do until the 2nd or so of January but I couldn't do the Kondoing while they were up. As is the way with these things, I seem to have created more mess than order but I can see order lurking in the corner. I did some things in the garden. I took some stuff to the op shop and some of the soft plastics to the Redcycle bin and the glass to the bottle bank.

In the end it was quite a productive day. But now - what am I going to do today 😂

Stella has gone home after her long weekend in Mount Helen. Freyja has made another trip to the covid testing station, having been pinged as a close contact after a work colleague had tested positive. Her visit this time took 3 and a half hours instead of the 30 minutes it took the day before  Christmas Eve. The prime minister has announced a re-definition of close contact which will standardise policy across the states and territories. It has yet to be ratified by the premiers and chief ministers but he explained it at length anyway. I think I must have not been listening closely enough because what he said didn't make much sense to me. I haven't worried too much because the premiers and chief ministers may well amend it. And I'm sure it will all become clear in the long run. I'm sure!

It's warm and sunny this morning. It's supposed to be a lovely summer's day. I intend to enjoy it. (But would it be ungrateful to think that I wouldn't mind a bit of rain on the garden? Perhaps overnight!)

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Christmas Weekend

The result of Freyja's covid test didn't come through until 06:00 on Boxing Day morning, so they weren't available on Christmas night.  My nephew and his family couldn't come when they were "pinged" mid Christmas afternoon. So a smaller group than we were expecting (and the group was smaller anyway than usual with other people overseas and interstate).

But it was a good day even so. Jim and I went up to Hill House mid-morning and had bacon and egg sandwiches for brunch. We had a quiet present exchange. I spent the rest of the morning making a pumpkin lattice and a pastry Christmas tree, filled with tapenade.  I must say that my tree looked more like it had come out from the Wild Wood rather than Santa's workshop but it tasted ok

We do a "Secret" Santa for whoever is going to be there on Christmas night.  It's not really secret in that we know who has given us the present when we get it, but we don't know who is buying for us until then. Jim and I had my 19 year old vegan niece. I trawled around the internet looking for a festival, or an adventure or something that fitted the $100 price tag. I ran across the Vegan Grocery Pantry and discovered that they do a 3 month gift subscription of a mystery box for exactly the right money so I ordered one for her. I knew that I had missed the cut off for the December delivery but decided that it would make a perfect present anyway. I could give her a Christmas card which said she would get a box in January, February and March. A few days later they rang me to say that they had a spare December box and did I want the subscription to run from December instead. I was very impressed with their customer service.  Anyway, it arrived a few days before Christmas. Her parents intercepted it and gift wrapped it and brought it with them so it was there for the Secret Santa exchange. It had some really nice things in it. She was particularly excited by the squirty soya cream.

Our Secret Santa gave us a small, cast iron bird bath which fits perfectly on our tiny patch of grass out the front

It was a good evening and, as is becoming the practice, Wendy drove us home after dinner and stayed at our place overnight, then she and I went out to the Amazing Mill Market on the highway for a wander round after breakfast on Boxing Day morning. Wendy went home on the train.

Freyja's negative covid test meant that they could resume their Christmas plans. So they came to Lindsey and Ian's place for Boxing Day lunch. I made another pastry Christmas tree, following the cutting instructions more carefully. It looked less like it had come out of the Wild Wood and more festive this time! You could really fill it with almost anything. I have another recipe which looks very similar but is filled with chocolate hazelnut spread.  But you could fill it with Vegemite and cheese, I reckon, or fruit mince, or almost anything. And I can't see why it needs to be a Christmas tree either, apart from the branches making a good pulling, sharing dish.

A quiet day yesterday. I made a start on turning out the spare bedroom. There were bedding and things in the wardrobe that haven't been used once in the three years we have lived in this house. I decided that someone else might find a use for them and cleared the wardrobe out. Once the op shops open again and I can deliver the boxes of stuff, I'll do a proper tidy up and reorganisation of the room. Then I'll turn my attention to the study and gradually make my way around the whole place.

It's the last day today of the extended, four day Christmas weekend. I am meeting Chris for a coffee in town mid-morning then Jim and I are going out to lunch with Lindsey, Ian and Stella.  A good end to the festive period.

Stella, Christmas morning

Tony's memorial bear, Christmas night

Not quite sure how we got Jim out of this chair!

Saturday, December 25, 2021

Christmas Morning

 It's 7:00 on Christmas morning. It's cloudy and still this morning, with occasional hints of sunshine. It's not supposed to be as warm or as sunny today as the past couple of days have been. Perhaps I'll be able to wear one of my Christmas jumpers this evening.

I went down to Mount Martha after lunch on Thursday to collect Stella and bring her back to Mount Helen for a few days.  Jim stayed up at Hill House while I was gone.  I couldn't take him with me - by the time you've put three adults and two walkers in the car, there wouldn't be room for anything else.  I'm not sure you would even fit two walkers as well as three adults. Anyway, he was quite happy at Hill House while I was running up and down, and Lindsey made chicken kievs and roast potatoes for dinner.

On Christmas Eve, Lindsey went to work. Ian washed all the sheets at Hill House, ready for tonight, then he went to get his Christmas seafood order.  I went to the mushroom farm to get Lindsey's and my Christmas food orders. Then I went and collected Stella and brought her down to our place for the day.

I had ordered a cook along box of Christmas food which arrived just after 4:00 in the afternoon.  They had emailed me instructions for a stress free Christmas morning, preparing the cook along box for Christmas lunch.  In fact, I wanted it for Christmas Eve.  Lindsey and Ian came down and joined us for dinner. The cook along box was quite fun but I don't know if I'll buy it again. I didn't make all the little salads they suggested and instead used the ingredients to make a big bowl of coleslaw. I added extra green vegetables (including broad beans and tiny zucchini from the garden) to the table. I added prawns to supplement the small lamb shoulder and small rolled turkey that came in the box. They only sent two potatoes which is clearly not enough for even one roast potato aficionado, let alone 5 (the box was intended for 2-3 diners). Stella says that I didn't look at the recipe cards before preparing the food. Not quite true.  I did look at them and I followed their instructions for the lamb and turkey. I just didn't follow their instructions for anything else.

What they sent was all delicious and the flavours were lovely. I just don't think I really needed their input for a Christmas menu. I think I'll stick to their international cuisine offerings in future.

Christmas box, before I unpacked it

Freyja and Simon were supposed to join us for Christmas Eve and then at Hill House tonight.  Alas, Freyja woke up yesterday morning with a sore throat, a headache and a runny nose. This probably wouldn't have prevented her coming in the past. She says she didn't feel so ill that she couldn't have partied. Under the current circumstances, however, it would have been slightly reckless. We don't want our Christmas weekend to become a super spreading event! So she went and had a covid test and they will come to visit when she gets a negative result. Christmas celebrations can be extended over many days.

Jim and I are heading up to Hill House later this morning for brunch, then the rest of the family arrives later this afternoon for the evening celebrations. But before then I shall have a quiet couple of hours pottering around. Until Jim gets up and shatters the peace 😂

Merry Christmas, one and all. I hope you have happy celebrations

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

A Festive Sunday Lunch

At some point in 2020 the Australian government managed to annoy the government of China. This resulted in lots of trade sanctions, including a boycott of Australian wines and seafood. Other things, of course but I didn't particularly notice them.

I'm not sure what supposed reason the Chinese government came up with that meant Australian wines and seafood couldn't be imported into China.  I'm sure they came up with something other than that they were annoyed. The end result was that there were lakes of wine and mountains of, mainly Western Australian, seafood languishing.

The rest of the world came to the party and bought up lots of wine. Australians are also more than happy to drink Australian wine. And we are definitely happy to eat the seafood.

The sanctions are still in place. Western Australian seafood is still not going to China.  This is good.  It means that we can have it. And rock lobsters, which often retail for $80 or $100 when the bulk of them are going to China are considerably less expensive when they are staying here.  Still not cheap, you understand, but nowhere near as expensive. Woolworths was selling them for $24 each on Saturday.

So I bought some for Sunday's luncheon party, which Irene, Gillie, Chris, John and Flora were all coming to. And I put the rock lobsters onto a platter with scallops, salmon, oysters and prawns. I made a big bowl of salad and I made roasted baby potatoes with garlic, lemon and lime pieces, sprigs of thyme and olive oil flavoured with lemon myrtle. We had local cheeses, fruit, Christmas biscuits and chocolate Santas after.

People seemed to enjoy the food.  It was a lovely afternoon, despite the weather. Saturday had been a beautiful day. Monday was a beautiful day. Sunday was cold, wet, windy and gloomy.  Ah well. The company was warm, friendly and sunny and that's all you need.

Jim enjoyed it but it did rather tire him. He took himself to bed at around 6:00 and didn't get up until after 8:00 on Monday morning!  Brandy and Whiskey coped with the arrival of Flora, mainly because I shut them in our bedroom just before Flora arrived. 

Today has been almost the perfect summer day. It's been lovely and warm, but not too hot. There has been a light, gentle breeze. The sun has shone. The sky has been blue. You honestly couldn't ask for better. So I went out to the mushroom farm to do a bit of early Christmas food shopping. I dropped into Delacombe for the supermarket. I went to Formosa, the garden centre. And I've finally sorted out two of the garden pods in the back and planted runner bean plants and yellow and green bean plants, which I've been nurturing from seeds. I've put crushed egg shells around to see if that keeps the snails off. If not, I shall deploy chemical weapons! Brandy and Whiskey have been indolently lying around in various sunny spots, watching me. Or not, as the case may be.

Jim has decided that he doesn't eat raspberries (this attitude might not last - he was eating them last week!). This means I don't need to share these raspberry drops so I just eat them as I wander past. 

Somehow, the birds don't seem to have discovered them, which is slightly odd because there are lots of birds that potter about along the back path, where I am slowly growing a raspberry hedge. So far I have two boxes of raspberries. I think I might move the blackcurrant and rhubarb plants in the autumn and keep planting raspberry canes until I have a hedge right along the back path. The blackcurrants don't like it there. They're getting a bit leggy. Not enough sunlight, I suppose.  They're in quite a shaded spot. The rhubarb doesn't mind being in a shaded, dappled light.

Early summer in the back yard

The poppy plant that prevented me
putting the orange tree in its final
resting place.
There are five more small ones coming along

Teeny tiny zucchinis coming along nicely.
This is already shaping up as a better
growing season than last year, although
the summer may yet hold unpleasant surprises.

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

The Birthday Strikes Back

My usual practice is to let Christmas into the house on the weekend after my birthday. This can be a bit problematic if my birthday falls on a weekend but generally I get the Christmas decorations out on the Saturday or occasionally the Sunday after.

My birthday was last Tuesday so on Saturday I Decked the Halls, as it were.

On Sunday, my birthday struck back!

Freyja and Simon were in town over the weekend, looking after Rupert and Hugo while Lindsey and Ian were in Sydney. We had arranged to go out for lunch on Sunday. When Freyja asked what I would like for my birthday I asked for an apron and a bunch of flowers. My aprons are mostly more than 5 years old and are beginning to look a bit tatty. I've bought a couple of new ones but you can't have too many nice aprons. And flowers are always a pleasure.

Freyja and Simon turned up with an enormous bouquet of native blooms, a magnificent "presentation" apron (one which you would wear after your guests have arrived and well after all the messy kitchen stuff has been finished), a lily plant in a pot and some spice rubs from the native spice shop in Buninyong, birthday gifts from all my children, in laws and grandies. The bouquet was so enormous that the only container I have that it would fit in is my large Christmas jug, which the silver and blue Christmas sticks were in. And so my birthday struck back.  It wasn't finished yet! The flowers moved into the Christmas jug and the sticks moved into a different jug and moved from the lounge room side table to the wood fire in the dining room

It's just as well that the flowers turned up after I had got the Christmas jug out of the cupboard, otherwise I wouldn't have remembered it and would have struggled to find anything for the flowers to sit in. I might even have gone out yesterday and bought a new jug!

Then we went out for my birthday lunch. Freyja had found a number of options for me to choose from and I had selected the Summerfield Winery out past Avoca. I had chosen it because it serves pizza on Sundays and my birthday pizza plans had been thwarted when the local pizza shop was closed. Plus, it had vegan and vegetarian options, and it had an option that Jim would enjoy. Also, it's a nice drive out that way.

Even nicer, because Simon drove so I could enjoy the view and also enjoy the rather nice wine that they produce. It was a glorious day, the pizzas were magnificent, the location was lovely and the company was genial.  A great birthday treat.

And now my birthday is really done and I can turn my attention properly to Christmas.


I ordered a two door bookcase online a few days ago. I wasn't expecting it to arrive until sometime after Christmas. To my surprise, it turned up yesterday - in two boxes. My flat pack assembly skills have improved over the past year or so but not so much that I would tackle an oak bookcase. I shall see if I can get a local handy person to come round and put it together for me. Otherwise, Freyja and Simon might have to be deployed on Christmas morning.  Last year a cardboard cat castle, this year an oak bookcase 😂

Thursday, December 09, 2021

Bits and Pieces

Jim and I went to a party on Sunday. An actual, real party! In Melbourne. Well, in an eastern suburb of Melbourne. It was all very exciting.

We haven't been to Melbourne for almost two years. We drive past it and even through it, but haven't stopped. We still haven't been into inner Melbourne but a suburb was almost as good.

It was the RMG work party, held at one of the doctors' house. The weather was good enough for us to be outside in the courtyard. There were loads of sandwiches, party pies, chicken wings, munchie things. Jim sat in a chair outside with wine and food and had a better time than I thought he might.  In fact, he knew many of the people who were there. In reality he only remembered Lindsey and me. No worries. I just introduced him to people, who did know him and they told him who they were and how he had met them before.

I didn't have wine. I was driving home. 

One of the nurses took a Lebanese chicken dish and a platter of Lebanese pastries. I took a plate of Christmas star biscuits. 

We all had a good time


On Monday a new carer came to meet Jim and me. I decided we needed someone to come on Wednesdays for a couple of hours around lunchtime to keep Jim company and to sort out his lunch. I leave lunch for him but he can't operate the microwave any more so I can't leave food that needs to be heated. And he gets a bit bored when left all on his own for 12 hours or so. She seemed to like us and we liked her, so we organised a carer's agreement.  Jim will be entitled to a My Aged Care package when he gets to the top of the waiting list, so we have to pay for this until his turn comes. But the agency we are using is an approved MAC agency so we should be able to transfer across.

On Tuesday, the Occupational Therapist came to see how we were getting on. She checked the new grab rail by the patio door and went through the My Aged Care paperwork with us. Then she said that she didn't think she needed to come any more and discharged Jim from the council OT service. This was, of course, good, but it was also a bit sad.  We like her.

Tuesday was also my birthday. We were going to have pizza for lunch to celebrate but the Buninyong pizza shop was closed (despite their webpage, Facebook page and Google entry all saying that they would be open!!!) So I went to Mount Clear cafe and bought burgers and chips for a celebration lunch. You might think that that should have been enough to keep us going until breakfast. But no. We were hungry in the evening and had a chicken and asparagus crumble with mash and veg on the side for my birthday dinner.

Birthday Burger with the lot
and chips on the side

I took Wednesday off work, partly for birthday reasons (no point taking Tuesday off; I work from home on Tuesdays and could fit that in around the OT and birthday food) and also because the carer was coming for her first visit. I was at home to let her in and show her around the kitchen. Then I left her and Jim to it and went into town to get new undies for me (mine have all fallen apart due to old age) and hankies for Jim (his all seem to have disappeared. I'm sure they'll turn up eventually but in the meantime he needs more).

I got home just before the carer was due to leave to find that she was feeling a bit guilty because all she had done was chat to Jim, watch TV with him, prepare his lunch and make him a cup of tea.  She didn't want me to think she was being lazy but I hadn't said what else I wanted her to do. In fact, I don't want her to do anything else. I don't need chores or tasks to be done. I just want someone to be with Jim. If there is anything that needs to be done in addition to that, I'll leave a note asking for it but otherwise just to sit and be and make sure he has his lunch and a drink.

Alas, she may not be with us long. They've sold their house much faster than they expected to and will be moving up country in the next couple of months. But we decided that she might as well come until it's no longer convenient for her and I'll readvertise then.

And so to today.

This morning I had my first online Japanese language lesson since September 2018. To be honest, I thought it was in 2019 but I can't find a trace on any lessons beyond 2018. From time to time they have sent offers for three introductory lessons to tempt me back. I haven't taken them up for a number of reasons - and in the past 2 years mostly because it seemed that my opportunity to use the language was remote. It may still be remote, but I am hopeful that the border between Japan and Australia might actually reopen in my lifetime. So when they sent an offer of three lessons for 5 USD I signed up.

I enjoyed the chance to speak (halting) Japanese this morning and have signed up for more lessons beyond  the taster three. I was the only student this morning so it was a  1 on 1 lesson by default. I've booked the remainder two classes this weekend. I need to set an alert - I only remembered this morning's 8:00 class at 07:15 when I was still in my dressing gown and had Things to Do! The 08:00 classes suit me, as long as the district nurse doesn't come early if it is their day. Fortunately today she didn't come until after 10.

And now you find us at Rupert and Hugo's place. The weather today has been cold, wet and windy (to the surprise of my Japanese teacher this morning!) We had 20.5 ml in my rain gauge when I read it at 09:00 and my tomato plants are shivering. I opened the back door this morning for Brandy and Whiskey.  Brandy looked at me as though I had taken leave of my senses.  Whiskey did go out, then turned round and ran back inside post haste.  Even so, he was quite wet and was surprised when I dried him with a towel 😂

Me at a party :D 

Friday, December 03, 2021

Storm - in a Teacup

I left work a little early on Wednesday. After a warm and quite humid day in Melbourne, there were storms forecast. The radar showed they were heading towards Melbourne and would likely hit in the next 30 minutes or so.

I am not sure why, but the sat nav took me off the ring road at Dalton Road then took me down to Mahoneys Road. The Edgars Road ramp is closed so there was no alternative but to go to Sydney Road and rejoin the freeway there. This wouldn't matter, except that I think pretty much everyone's sat nav had suggested the same route. There was an enormous queue of people wanting to turn left onto Sydney Road, not helped by the queue jumpers who drove down the middle lane and then pushed their way into the queue at Sydney Road. It took an hour to get from Dalton Road back onto the ring road.

Then, the sat nav took me on an entertaining detour through Caroline Springs before delivering me to the Western Freeway. I have no idea why. It didn't seem to serve any obvious purpose but it was rather fun. Not a route I would usually consider!

There was very little traffic on the freeway. Nothing particularly interesting happened. Until I got to Bacchus Marsh. The excitement was on the other side of the freeway and I was not sure what was going on. There were lots of cars parked in the emergency stopping lane. There were police cars and SES vehicles, but no ambulances or fire engines that I could see. And whatever it was stretched along for a couple of exit/entrances. The traffic was being diverted off at the third exit (from my point of view - it would have been the first Bacchus Marsh exit if you were heading towards Melbourne).

Then I became aware that the car up ahead of me was driving in a strange and bizarre way. It slowed down and started moving around between the outside lane and the emergency stopping lane. I was so focussed on what it was doing that I didn't notice the cattle running up the freeway along the dividing fence until I was pretty much on top of them. It appears that a cattle trailer's door on the Melbourne side of the freeway had come open and the cattle had either fallen out or escaped and were running around at will. Only a couple of them were on the outbound side so, apart from one SES vehicle parked in the middle of the road about 500m beyond the cattle, our side of the road wasn't getting much attention.

It might have been better had the weirdly driven car ahead of me put its hazard lights on. It is probable that then I would have spent less time wondering what on earth it was doing and looked ahead for a hazard. And a bit of notice that there was an emergency vehicle stopped in the middle of the freeway might have been useful. Fortunately, the cattle just kept running up along the dividing fence and weren't tempted to run into the cars. And we all managed to avoid the SES vehicle.

And amongst all that, although there was a storm it wasn't particularly exciting. A bit of heavy rain. Lots of lightning. A bit of thunder. And I'm not at all sure that I gained any time by coming off the ring road at Dalton Road. The traffic seemed to be in good order when I rejoined it at Sydney Road an hour later.

The cattle were surprising, though :-D

We didn't get a storm overnight but we did have some lovely storm clouds in the evening

Had it been July or August, you might have thought they were snow clouds.