Sunset from Hill House, Mount Helen. February 2024

Tuesday, November 29, 2022


Some weeks ago I bought tickets for Lindsey, Ian and me to go to the Good Food and Wine Christmas Festival. Quite coincidentally, the Saturday was also the day of the State election.

Lindsey and I went to Melbourne together, stopping at the Warrenheip Primary School so Lindsey could vote. I like voting at the Warrenheip Primary School. They take the opportunity to have a proper school fete, with a cake stall, used book stall, trash and treasure stall. They also have a plant sale, a sausage sizzle and, this time, people selling egg and bacon rolls. I got in the egg and bacon rolls and had a potter around while Lindsey voted. 

I had taken the opportunity of early voting and cast my ballots on Tuesday. I had been surprised to see how many people were also wanting to vote on Tuesday. Fortunately, they were mostly from the Ballarat Division. I live in the Eureka Division, which is where the early polling station was. So I got to go in and vote quite quickly. The rest were treated as absentee voters, which takes longer.

We met Ian, and Emily and Andre who are over from Canada for Christmas. They went off for a weekend away. Ian came with us to the Exhibition Building for the Food and Wine Festival. I have long thought that they should really be called Wine and Food Festivals - there is always more wine to buy than there is food!

The Royal Exhibition Building.
You can see it from the flat
and it is in walking distance


Inside the exhibition space

Waiting for lunch

Ian's photo of us eating Maine style
lobster rolls and drinking extortionately
expensive glasses of French champagne

It was a great Festival - although they could have done with more tables for sitting for lunch. We gathered up spare chairs and used one as a table and sat on the other three. There was plenty of space for more tables; I don't know why they didn't set more up.

We took the tram back to the flat. We seem to have filled our bags up with food and wine and things for Christmas. After a bit of a rest, Lindsey and I took another tram into town and wandered around not one but two Daisos, and a few other shops.

I do like Daiso (which is more or less a Japanese ¥200 shop). I haven't been into one for three years or so. I was very happy to renew acquaintance with it 😊

Mind you, I did feel somewhat like a small country mouse as I wandered around the city centre. So many things had changed since I was last there fir a wander around. And yet - so much had stayed the same!

We met Freyja and Simon in Smith Street at Kinyoubi for dinner. I like Kinyoubi very much but I do sometimes think I should try some of the other eating opportunities that Smith Street has to offer.

Christmas has come to Melbourne:

On Sunday morning, Lindsey and I met Freyja and Simon again and went to the Alphington Farmers' Market. I haven't been before, but Freyja and Simon go quite regularly. It's a lovely little market. I left with lots of delicious veg and some Seville oranges (the smallholder was very anxious that I knew that I was not buying eating oranges!!) and other fruit and things.

We stopped in Station Street in Fairfield on our way back to Freyja and Simon's place, for a potter about, then Freyja and Simon went home, Lindsey and I collected Ian and we came back to Ballarat.

It was a great weekend in Melbourne, marred only by Freyja once again testing positive for covid on Monday morning. I am waiting for me to test positive. I can't possibly dodge that bullet indefinitely!!

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

And the Weekend

I went out to the mushroom farm on Saturday, on my own because Lindsey, as you know, has covid. I called in to the Delacombe shops on my way back, and then into Coles as I drove past. 

I visited Stella and Jim in the afternoon. I pottered in the garden and the house. I enjoyed the unusual bursts of sunny weather.

No time for pottering on Sunday. I had to make a dash up to Rupert and Hugo's house, masked and socially distanced, not from the dogs but from Lindsey. Rupert and Hugo do not do social distancing!!! The charger cord for my laptop was at her place, and my laptop was definitely hungry. Plus I wanted to pinch some wine and a couple of dog treats. I had, at my place, lots of non-alcoholic drinks, a bottle of alcoholic bubbles and plenty of red wine. Oddly, I had no bottles of alcoholic white wine. I didn't really want to go to the supermarket and I figured Lindsey would neither miss not mind me taking a bottle or two from her supplies.

For quite some time, Chris has been asking me to make gyoza for her, should she come to visit. Various visit plans have had to be put off for various reasons, but she had not forgotten the gyoza. She and John, Gillie, and Irene and Flora were coming for lunch. Clearly, gyoza had to be on the menu. 

I made gyoza! I also made chicken katsu kare (which is more or less crumbed chicken with Japanese vegetable curry with rice) for the main course, followed by mochi ice creams which Coles has conveniently started selling, with little Japanese chocolates and raspberries on the side. The visitors seemed to enjoy it.

Flora enjoyed the dog treats and the cat bed

She enjoyed Whiskey the Kat much less. Whiskey was puzzled but not worried when Flora arrived. He approached her, as if to say "Who, and what, are you?" Flora was not happy. Whiskey got closer, wanting to have a good sniff. Flora retreated under the small coffee table. Whiskey got closer for a proper sniff, and patted her with his paw. Flora covered her eyes with her paws. "I am not here! There is no Flora! You must be hallucinating!!!" I took pity on Flora and put Whiskey in my bedroom, where Brandy was peacefully sleeping, completely oblivious to the incursion of a kelpie.

Monday, which is part of the weekend as far as I am concerned, saw me tidying up the kitchen, watching the rain and thinking about lighting the fire. I had pretty much run out of the sawdust briquettes and bricks for the fire and HAD been hoping not to get any more until March or so. However, the top temperature forecast for yesterday was 9d. It was close to  freezing at 6:00 when I got up. I gave in and ordered some more at 7:30, hoping that they might come sometime this week. The weather is forecast to warm up a bit at the weekend but the unsettled, cold weather isn't showing any signs of going away in favour of summer weather.

I had an online Japanese lesson at 1:00. The truck with the fire briquettes turned up at 1:15. You can't complain about the efficiency, but it wasn't exactly a convenient time :D Even less so for the Sensei and Lindsey (who obviously isn't working this week so could join the class). I clicked to turn my microphone off while I went to receive my briquettes, Alas - the computer didn't register it and it was quite noisy for the Sensei and Lindsey.

I did wonder how the delivery could have come so fast. The driver said that he had put extra bins on board when he set off for Ballarat that morning and that he had got several extra orders as the morning had progressed!!!

I called up to drop some things off for Lindsey, after visiting Stella, Jim, the pharmacy and the IGA. As I got out of the car I saw two large birds sitting by the fence in the top paddock, eating something. I didn't have my binoculars with me, but got as close as I could to see what they were. All the usual birds were conspicuous by their silence - and absence. I assumed they were the local eagles, although I had never seen them sitting in the paddock before. Then they got up and flew away. They were much, much bigger once their wings were in play. Definitely eagles!

The photo is blurry, but does show
two wedge tailed eagles in the paddock    

And lest you should be worried that I am wantonly wandering around, spreading covid like some kind of Typhoid Mary, I am temperature testing and RATting daily, and wearing a proper mask. The temperature checking and RATs are done twice a day if I go to visit Stella and Jim. Once when I get up, and again when I arrive at the Mount Clear residential facility. They won't let you in unless you do both on arrival. So far, so negative.

Saturday, November 19, 2022

My week

Lindsey and I were at work last Saturday. It was a steady session, not too busy but enough going on to make it interesting. Even more exciting - after we finished we did not go to Mount Martha to do house clearing. The house is fully cleared and ready to go on the market, so we just came home again.

We went supermarket shopping on Sunday and visited Stella and then Jim in the afternoon.

I took Jim for a haircut on Tuesday (the hairdresser works from inside the care facility on Tuesdays so no need to go out). Then we went to visit Stella in her room. She has the appointment before Jim's so they were both looking beautiful.

On Thursday, Stella and I went to Central Square, where we visited Peter Alexander, Myer, a cute little toy and book shop that I've not seen before, and the pharmacy. Then we went up to Hill House, where Freyja and Simon had stayed overnight. Simon and two colleagues had been at Fed Uni during the morning and came up to Hill House for lunch. This was VERY exciting for Rupert and Hugo. They love having visitors - as long as the unknown visitors are accompanied by happy people that they do know.

We had home made pizzas. I had taken some pizza bases out off the freezer when I realised that Freyja and Simon would be around for lunch. Fortunately there was enough for six, rather than the four I was anticipating.

Impromptu lunch party:

Austin reported, as the week went on, that Tatsuki, then Kaori and finally Austin had been struck with Covid. I think they are more or less better now.

I went to the Delacombe shops after I dropped Stella off on Thursday after lunch. I was on my way back when Stella rang to say she had fallen in her bathroom. I happened to be driving down the road that her place is on, so called back in. She had a nurse and two carers in attendance, who were changing her into her night clothes and sorting her out. She wasn't badly hurt but she is on blood thinners so there was blood everywhere from a tear in her hand. She took herself to bed with some cheese and biscuits and a (non alcoholic) gin and tonic to recover.

Brandy got squashed yesterday, when the laundry door gently blew shut and caught him between the door and the (plastic) bucket. I don't think he was particularly hurt but he was definitely startled and not best pleased. I think he thought it was my fault - although I was, in fact, outside and taking compost from last year's compost bin to cover the potatoes and nowhere near the laundry door. He's forgiven me now.

Lindsey came home from work at lunchtime yesterday having herself tested positive for Covid. She's not very unwell so far. I've spent quite a bit of time with Lindsey over the past week, on and off.  I have a RAT supply at home so will keep an eye on things. I do not want to be the one who re-introduces Covid into the Mount Clear Residential Aged Care Facility! I didn't go in yesterday as a precaution but this morning's RAT is negative and I have no symptoms so I'll go this afternoon.

Lindsey has lent me an air fryer to play with. I used it and my bench top grill to play with chicken pieces yesterday evening. Chicken thighs four ways 😂 Just as well I had had lots of vegetables for lunch because pretty much all I ate last night was chicken!

Friday, November 11, 2022

Chickpeas, Sesame Seeds and Tightrope Walking

When Freyja and Simon were up at the weekend they mentioned that Simon had made hummus and had also made his own tahini paste to go with it. My ears pricked up at this. Once of the reasons I don't make my own hummus is because you can only buy tahini in large-ish quantities and I never use enough to finish it before it goes off.

How, I enquired, do you make tahini? Very simply, it turns out. You toast some sesame seeds and put them, some flavourless oil and some salt in a blender and let it do its thing.

Simple enough, I thought, and gave it a go. I had everything I needed in the pantry. I used canola oil and some sesame oil to boost the sesame flavour. I also used the very small blender attachment which came with the food processor. I think it's supposed to be a spice grinder but I couldn't see why it shouldn't also be a tahini processor and it worked very well. I bought a tin of chickpeas to make hummus. I already had lemons, garlic and paprika. My hummus was very delicious. I've been eating it for lunch with some supermarket falafel, yoghurt and flat bread.

This reminds me that in my younger days, I frequently made my own falafel. I might give it another go. I don't recall them being difficult to make.

The soft plastics recycler REDcycle has just this week stopped collecting soft plastic. We are advised to try to buy less soft plastic packaging and to put what we do get in the general rubbish to go to landfill. A very earnest Young Thing on the radio this morning pointed out that our foreparents didn't buy things wrapped in plastic and therefore we also don't need to. I thought about this. It is indisputably true that my grandparents in their younger days didn't buy things wrapped in plastic. But then they also didn't buy from the supermarkets, using instead their local butcher, greengrocer, grocer,  market etc. 

I remember when we were all encourage to move from paper packaging and carrier bags to plastic for the sake of the environment. Save the trees, use plastic. But then I also remember that we didn't thrown the plastic away but washed it and reused it. It's not so easy now. I do save plastic bags, both carrier bags and the plastic bags that produce comes in, when I get them. But there's not much you can do with a lot of soft plastic packaging

I was unhappy today when I started throwing soft plastic into the kitchen bin and not into the dedicated Soft Plastics bin I have in the laundry. I might have to reconsider what I buy ready made and what I can reasonably make myself. And what alternatives there are that come in reusable or more readily recyclable packaging.

(I have fond memories of the shops and market stalls where you could buy frozen peas, corn, beans and other things by the scoop, to put into your own containers. I wonder if The Source could be persuaded to add frozen things to their extensive range of pantry items.)

You may remember that the other day I said that Brandy and Whiskey were not particularly good escape artists. I was therefore a bit surprised yesterday to find Whiskey asleep in the sunshine on the driveway side of the barricades I had put up to keep them in the front garden. It wasn't obvious to me how he had got out, but I picked him up and put him back. I then went into the driveway to do some vigorous "pruning" of a bush that has become very overgrown and is getting in the way of where I want to plant my sweetcorn seeds.

I noticed Whiskey, thinking about how he could come and join me. Now remember that Whiskey is a Big, Fat Kat. He tucked his tummy in as teeny, tiny as it would go. He squidged between the fold out child gate that I had blocking the exit from the porch, and the garden edging that I had put along the top of the garden bed running at right angles to it. And then he tippy tip toed along the wooden edge of the garden bed, as though walking along a tightrope, until he got to enough space to jump down into the driveway and trot over to me. The garden bed is only half a meter or so high so not a great height, but I was very impressed with his agility. He is normally quite a clumpy cat.

A minute's silence at 11:00

Tuesday, November 08, 2022

A Sunny Weekend

We have finally had some decent spring weather and I have got out into the garden.

I have cut the grass, back and front.

I have weeded the pea bed and planted some more pea seeds.

I have established a salad bar in the Veg Trug that Jim and I rather expensively bought when we first moved into Tani. It has never been particularly useful as a vegetable bed, it's too deep in the first place so took much more potting mix than necessary. Also, things didn't seem to thrive in it. Then the liner weathered and more or less disintegrated. I was going to get rid of it, but decided that I could fill the bottom of the trug with an unused wooden seedling box and line it with an old towel and use it to grow salad things. It now has quite a shallow soil level and I have planted my celery seedling and a few silverbeet and two beetroot seedlings. I have sown a row each of spring onion, beetroot and lettuce seeds. I have put copper tape around the edges in an attempt (so far successful) to keep the marauding snails out, and put bamboo edging around it to keep the cats off. It looks quite good. Now I just need the saladings to grow :D

I don't usually let the cats out into the front garden, lest they wander down the driveway and disappear. But it was such a lovely day on Sunday and they were watching me out in the sunshine through the window. So I blocked off the exit from the porch and put up a low "fence" with some garden edging to stop them getting out through the veg beds. They thought this was a great adventure - even though it mostly involved them lying on the porch in the sunshine, lying in the grass in the sunshine and chasing bees and midges.

Let it be observed, however, that most cats would have snorted with derision at my attempts to keep them in. They could very easily have knocked over or even jumped over the "fences". Marlo would hardly have noticed them and would have been off down the driveway in no time. Mind you, Marlo would also have been up and over the (proper) metal fencing around the backyard and into the little stand of trees to the side of the house. Brandy and Whiskey haven't even tried. They seem to think of them as completely insurmountable.

Freyja and Simon were in town on Saturday so we had a Sunday Lunch on a Saturday party at Tani. Stella came. So did our friend Julia. You will be amazed to learn that I did a big bowl of roast potatoes as the centrepiece. I also made a big plate of salad, with vegetable koftas and "ficken" nuggets on the side and battered fish for the omnivores. I do enjoy having Sunday Lunch on Saturday parties but it can make it difficult to remember that it is actually Saturday. Still, no harm in having two Sundays the weekend,  should I be minded. And it gives you all of Sunday to clear up 😂

Lindsey and I did our CPR training yesterday. Everyone at the surgery has to have it done by mid-December. I think we are the last to have got ours done. It was nice and convenient, in the Ballarat city centre. Plenty of parking. A good instructor with a very droll sense of humour. It was a vast improvement on the last one I went to when only two of us got to do any hands on practice while the rest of us merely watched on. Only my knees were unimpressed. They were very unhappy that I spent two whole minutes kneeling on the floor while I did my practice resuscitation attempt!

The view from Stella's room on Sunday afternoon:

Stella can't complain about her outlook 

Wednesday, November 02, 2022

Cup Day

It was a public holiday across most of Victoria yesterday, in celebration of a horse race. It is not gazetted across the entire state. Regional councils can choose to have a holiday relevant to their local area if they wish, such as their annual show day, or some other community festival. In the Before Times, regional cities and districts often did. Now, I think, perhaps not so much. It was a public holiday in Ballarat, when in the Before Times it usually was not.

Anyway.  Stella, Lindsey and I have little to no interest in horse racing so we had decided not to don our flimsy, strappy dresses and our summery strappy sandals and make our way to Flemington. We had decided to go out for lunch instead. Just as well. When we set out for lunch, it was 2.5d in Mount Helen, hailing and trying very hard to snow!!!!! Hypothermia beckoned, especially if we hadn't been rugged up in our winter woollies.

We went to Webster's, where I had had the foresight to book a table inside. There aren't many tables inside. Most tables are in the covered courtyard. But the forecast had looked dire when I booked a couple of days ago, so inside we went. It definitely wasn't the weather for sitting under the verandah outside on the street (although some people, who had failed to book, had to if they wanted to "eat in". I would have taken my food away and gone home to my fire!)

I like Websters. It's a little place which does a mostly breakfast/brunch menu. It smells of coffee and cake and winter. I'm not sure if anyone has told the Weather Dogs that it is now November, even if only just and that summer is just around the corner. If they have been told, they don't care! We had hot chocolates and hot buttered toast and eggs and bacon and breakfasty things. Perfect for a proper, wintry day!

(The temperature did go up to around 8 or 9 d as the day progressed, and the sun came out for a brief, early evening appearance. But it was not remotely an early summer's day, or even a late spring day!)