Sunset from Hill House, Mount Helen. February 2024

Sunday, December 31, 2023

You will be pleased to hear (or, at least, I was pleased) that Whiskey has not needed the mini enemas that the vet sent home with him. All appears to be, more or less, back to normal.

The weather recently has been cool and cloudy with showers of rain, often clearing in the afternoons and evenings to sunny and bright. Today has been sunny and warm, apart from a cool wind. I even put the washing out. And I have done a few, gentle things in the garden.

For the past many weeks, the internet has been bringing to my attention a lovely, colourful and bright doona cover which I rather fancied. It is true that I could probably have done with an extra cover. I only had three which is enough unless I need to change both the beds at the same time. Four would give a bit of wriggle room - but I would buy a cheap one if all I was looking for was wriggle room. It was a Want but not really a Need.

Then Jim's daughter Jeanette and her family gave me some Amazon money for my birthday. I try, when I can, to use money that is a gift to buy fun things, not essentials, so I bought the doona cover. It arrived on Friday:

Cumbrian Forest
with optional Whiskey

Stella wanted to know why I had bought a delightful bed set with their birthday money and boring, manky potting mix with hers. Because they gave me Amazon money. If they had given me Bunnings money or cash, I would have bought potting mix, or mulch or something for the garden beds. I find such things exciting (or at least the things I can do with them) even if Stella does not. I promise I won't buy potting mix for her for her birthday!

Lindsey and I went out to the Mushroom Farm yesterday morning and then out to Elaine to the Farmgate Shop. They have a paddock of pick your own sunflowers, which opened to the public yesterday. Someone came out to take publicity photos. As the owner came out of the paddock after  the photo shoot, he handed me a couple of sunflowers as a New Year present. They are looking very sunny on the sideboard.

Ordinarily, I keep the Christmas decorations up for New Year. I have taken them down early this year. The Christmas tree was in front of a cupboard I needed to get into and when I tried to move it the top part fell off. I couldn't be bothered reassembling it and sorting out the lights and baubles again so I took the whole thing down.  And then figured I might as well take everything down. 

It is amazing the number of cobwebs and gunk hiding behind the tree. It's a plastic tree and had only been up for three weeks or so. My spiders constantly make my place look like it's a haunted house, or part of a set from a Hammer House of Horror episode. I know I need to de-web frequently to deter the spiders but mostly I can't be bothered. I don't mind the spiders - if only they didn't web absolutely everything! I wouldn't even mind that, if only the webs weren't so sticky. And if they didn't put them where I want to walk. I emphatically do not care for spider webs across my face!!!!!

Oh, and I have the Christmas crackers for next year. Kmart was selling them on Wednesday for 50c for boxes of 8 and $2 for boxes of 12. I got this little lot of 40 for a whole $5

Thursday, December 28, 2023

Whiskey Goes to the Vet

Wendy and I noticed on Christmas Day that Whiskey was off his food. This is unusual for Whiskey but not particularly unusual for cats in general.

He was still off his food on Boxing Day and was strangely subdued in the evening. He also appeared to be constipated, straining to pass poos and when he did they were hard and rocklike.

He was very subdued yesterday so I rang the vet as soon as they opened and got an emergency appointment. He miaowed all the way to the vet. He miaowed all the time we were in the waiting room. The young golden retriever sitting opposite us did not approve of this and sat behind its owner's legs and tried very hard to get under the chair.

Whiskey was very well behaved while in the vet's room. She poked him and prodded him and took his temperature, looked in his mouth and ears and generally did a thorough examination. She was keen to keep him in overnight for re-hydration (I hadn't noticed him near the water fountain so don't know if he had been drinking), a mini enema or two and some other medications, for the bargain price of between $800 and $900, depending. If he needed an actual enema, another $900.

I could buy a great dane puppy for that. Or around 12 new cats. Or go to Japan and back with spending money to spare. So the vet gave him three injections, a tablet and some liquid and sent him home with a supply of medication for me to give him. 

He miaowed all the way home.

One of the medications is used as an anti-depressant in humans and also makes cats hungry (I think that is a side effect in humans as well - but you have to wonder who thought it would be a good idea to try this medication on a cat to see what would happen!!) It certainly made Whiskey hungry. As soon as I let him out of  the (enormous!) cat carrier he made a beeline for the cat food bowls in the dining room where he positively scoffed the cat biscuits. Then he glugged vast quantities of water. And then he went outside for a potter around. Obviously feeling better, but still no pooing. I hope the laxatives work. I really don't fancy giving him a mini enema myself, and certainly not on my own!

I must buy a smaller carrier before I have to take a cat anywhere again. I bought the enormous one when we first got Brandy and Whiskey because it was all I could get. I might get a smaller one for quick trips to the vet. In the meantime, I had left the enormous one by the front door. It has a cushion in it. Whiskey  thinks it makes an excellent bed. I might have to keep it for the time being.

Wednesday, December 27, 2023

Boxing Day Lunch

When Jim and I went to England in March 2020 we had intended to make a train trip through Spain, France and Switzerland. My cousin Rosie and her family live in France but she works in Geneva and we had arranged to meet there for lunch while we were around.

Alas, Covid intervened, the train trip was called off and we came back to Australia.

Rosie was intending to come to Australia. with her family, the following Christmas. That didn't happen either.

I was a bit worried when she contacted me to say that they were trying again and expected to be in Melbourne for this Christmas. If Rosie and I hatched another plan to meet, what pestilence, plague or other disaster might we unleash on the world?

As it happens - no worldwide disasters unfolded and Rosie, Jon and their two boys made it safely to Mount Helen for lunch yesterday. Lindsey, Ian and Stella came down from Hill House. Wendy was still here. Matt and William came from Warragul. Freyja and Simon had intended to come but Freyja was struck with some sort of stomach bug and they beat a retreat back to Melbourne (I hope that wasn't the start of a worldwide disaster - although none of the rest of us have been struck down. Yet!)

We had chicken, ham, scallops and spring rolls. We had the obligatory roast potatoes. We had a fruit platter and lots and lots of chocolate. I didn't make the (vegan) vegetable tart I had intended to make. I did make a festive "trifle" salad which was vegan friendly. I didn't get the message saying that Freyja was sick until after I had put in the vegan cheese.

Lindsey had made a KitKat house. Tommy had a great time smashing it with a ladle

My cats are usually very suspicious when lots of people come around, especially if they are people that they don't know well. Usually, they hide in my bedroom. They liked Tommy and Miki though (to my surprise - they are usually even more suspicious of children; they don't see many of them)

It was a good afternoon. And then everyone went away back to their homes and holiday places. I was early to bed. It's been a busy few days

Rosie and Stella

Tuesday, December 26, 2023

Christmas Day

I really enjoyed Christmas Day this year. It was nice and gentle and quiet.

Wendy and I had breakfast at my place. And watched the rain. A lot of rain.  There was 60mm in my (not very scientific) rain gauge when I emptied it yesterday morning. 

It continued raining. And the wind kept blowing. And it was distinctly on the cool side.

We went up to Hill House at lunchtime for a present exchange and sandwiches. Then Wendy and I came back to my place for the afternoon.

Lindsey and Ian gave me a Google doorbell. I have screwed it onto my front door and set it up. It informs me that there is a person outside every time I go in and out of the front door. It tells me a package has been delivered if I happen to be carrying anything. I go in and out of my front door quite often. I am often carrying things when I do. I wonder when it will decide that I don't count as a person :D

We were a very small number for Christmas night back up at Hill House. A mere 8 of us, as opposed to the usual 25 or 30. Freyja and Simon came up from Melbourne. Josh came from Ballarat. And that was it. And it was lovely. We all sat around the dining table in comfort and could help ourselves to plates of food from the feast on the table. Very civilised and calm. And beds galore for people who were staying over. Wendy and I slept at my place. Wendy doesn't drink alcohol so was fit to drive us back after dinner

I think there will be LOTS of people next Christmas. All of the people who have decided to do alternate years are all planning to come in the same year all together.

I might go to Iceland.

Stella is still not especially well. Her angina has decided to come out play after a long time in hiding. But I think she very much enjoyed her Christmas. I suspect that she finds the chaos and hubbub of a full family Christmas a bit difficult these days.

Stella, at the Christmas dining table 

New doorbell in situ

It was still raining when I got up this morning. The wind had blown my bauble wreath off the front wall. But the worst of the weather seems to have passed us by. For now.  And it is not actively raining at this moment.

Best get on. I am hosting a Boxing Day lunch and should possibly sweep the floors before the visitors come.

Monday, December 25, 2023

First Thing Christmas Morning

You couldn't possibly have a more different day to last year. We have had rain, thunder and storms overnight. I am wearing my winter dressing gown. I am definitely not intending to have my morning cup of tea in the garden! It's still cloudy and dark and wet (not night time dark, but cloud and gloomy weather dark). The Christmas tree lights are twinkling - although the solar fairy lights outside have gone out.

The run up to Christmas has been festive and, mostly, sunny. 

Our friend Sandy is over from Perth for Christmas so we met with her and a mutual friend of hers and Lindsey's at a Japanese All-You-Can-Eat place in Sunbury on Thursday evening. You have 90 minutes and can have pretty much whatever food you want for $40 per person. Drinks are extra. Sandy is vegan and she had plenty of food to choose from.

We closed the surgery early on Friday, and I took the opportunity to go to La Manna on my way home. I haven't been for a while and enjoyed my wander around. They had lots of festive food and plants. Lindsey had asked me to get a large box of cherries - so I did. 2kg for $99. Expensive, I know, but the cherries are large and luscious and the cherry harvest this year has been badly affected by the dry spring and (so far) wet summer. Cherries are in high demand, low supply, and very expensive this year. I also bought a lemon green poinsettia for Stella to give to the staff at the care home. Not as expensive!

We must make sure we eat every one of the cherries!

Several of us met at The Shared Table in Buninyong on Saturday lunchtime. Simon and his family, because they can't come today. Lindsey, Ian and me. Freyja and Simon. But not Stella who had taken to her bed, not feeling well. This was a worry. Stella never misses the opportunity of a trip out and absolutely never misses the chance of lunch in a fancy restaurant. The Shared Table is pretty fancy. She was feeling better when Simon called in to see her after lunch and seemed ok when I checked in later in the afternoon.

And that was the start of our Christmas Party, which is spread out over several days this year, with smaller gatherings on Saturday, today and tomorrow. And, I suppose, last night.

Lindsey and I were at Wilson's Fruit and Vegetables shortly after they opened at 7am yesterday. We had done the supermarket by 7:45 or so. We went out to Kmart and Bunnings and then went home to unpack the car and have a cup of tea (Lindsey, at her place) and coffee (me, at mine). Then we headed back out to Dan Murphy's for wine and stuff and finally to the mushroom farm for a fruit platter and some bits and pieces.

Stella had declared herself well enough to join us for the planned Christmas activities, so I picked her up mid-afternoon and took her up to Hill House. She still isn't feeling all that well but definitely wasn't going to miss out. Wendy joined us for dinner at Hill House, then she and  I came down to my place.

I had made up the spare bed, ready for visitors. These were not the visitors I had in mind!

They were eventually persuaded that the intended visitor was Wendy and not them!

Santa has been to my place:

And the rain has returned with vigour. There are storms and heavy rain across the whole Eastern Seaboard. I do not think there will be much outdoor Christmas activity today. Or tomorrow, come to that. I wonder where my favourite Christmas jumper is.

Monday, December 18, 2023

More Partying/Eating/Merry-Making

When Stella, Lindsey and I went out for lunch on my birthday, my friend Pat had hoped to join us.

Alas, she was double booked and couldn't come. So Stella and I met her for lunch at Piper's on Tuesday of last week. Piper's is on the opposite side of the lake to The Boatshed and is set back from the water. But it's a lovely location, across from the Botanic Gardens and close to where the Zoo Drive market is held. They also do lovely food. We had a good lunch and a good time.

Lindsey and Ian were in Sydney over the weekend, so Freyja and Simon came up to do a little partying of their own, and to look after Rupert and Hugo. We took Stella to The Crown in Buninyong for lunch yesterday. Freyja and Simon hadn't been there before. It's a nice building with big windows which have lovely views out over the hills. It's also, pretty much, my local. Not so much Stella's. The Golden Point is closer to her. The Crown does vegan and vegetarian food but there aren't many options. Freyja had a roasted vegetable stack and was a bit surprised to find that the base of the stack was a huge piece of pumpkin - not really a seasonal vegetable at this time of year. Oh, and no roast potatoes, surely compulsory in a roasted vegetable stack! Fortunately Simon had ordered a bowl of loaded chips (with a vegan Japanese style curry sauce) and was happy to share so Freyja did get some potatoes even if fried rather than roasted. Not that she minded. Chips are more than acceptable.

They have been merry-making at the Mount Clear Aged Care Facility. They organised a little market in the activity room, selling locally made products. Candles and smelly things from Mia and Talbot, Soaps by a local soap maker, Boiled sweets from Sovereign Hill, small Christmas puddings and biscuits and mince pies from local bakers. It was only small but it was well attended and I think sold out quite quickly. Stella and I bought a few things and rather enjoyed it. They had a Christmas party on Friday, which we didn't go to, but they had a men's choir singing Christmas songs, and canapés and tea and cakes. And on Christmas Day residents who are staying in for the day can invite family and friends to come and join them for Christmas lunch. I was going to go last year with Jim but they had to cancel it because of a Covid outbreak (the Covid restrictions were stricter then), so I took him up to Hill House for Christmas sandwiches and chocolates instead.

Jim at Hill House on Christmas
Day 2022

And no opportunity to go this year either. Stella will be at Hill House on Christmas Day.


Tuesday, December 12, 2023

Christmas Party

The RMG Christmas party was at the Skinny Dog hotel in Kew on Sunday afternoon.

I had thought about going down with Lindsey and Ian. Ian was intending to come back to Ballarat so I thought I could hitch a ride back with him. But then he decided he would come back by public transport. If we had been in the city centre that would have been perfect but from Kew we would have had to take a tram into the city before catching the train back to Ballarat and then a taxi back to our houses. The trains only run once an hour on Sundays. I could see this taking a Very Long Time Indeed.

I went to Kew in my car.

The traffic was horrible once I got past Melton. It's usually quite well behaved on Sundays, so I assume some sort of accident or other impediment to progress. My sat nav took me off the freeway and along some back roads to avoid the delays, so I don't know what the problem was.

The party was fun. There were doctors and nurses and admin staff. There were family members. There were several babies and tiny children. There was plenty of finger food. I drank soda water because I was driving but there were lots of bottles of wine available and plenty of soft drinks.

Then Ian and I came home. The roads were clear and it didn't take anywhere near as long as it would have by tram, train and taxi.

Mind you - I'm glad I wasn't trying to get between here and Melbourne, or vice versa, yesterday afternoon. There were multiple car crashes, involving up to 30 vehicles, that closed the freeway in both directions between Bacchus Marsh and Ballan just in time for the Returning Home from Work traffic. Fortunately, no one was killed but it certainly created chaos.

Out partying in Kew

Sunday, December 10, 2023

A Saturday in December

The weather forecasters were doomcasting  extreme weather conditions across Eastern Australia for Saturday. Temperatures in excess of 40° in Sydney and parts of New South Wales. A cyclone in Queensland. Fire, Flood, Damaging Winds across much of the Eastern Seaboard.

In Ballarat it was raining, slightly breezy and a top temperature of perhaps 17° - if we were lucky.

Lindsey and I donned our jumpers and jackets and made our way out to Buninyong to the Post Office and to check out the little gift shop that sits next to the tiny museum run by the Historical Society. Then we braved the rain out at the Zoo Drive market. The people of Ballarat are obviously hardy folk. The market was quite busy despite the weather.

We did our usual shopping, got soaked and then went to Wilson's for fruit and veg, the Reject Shop because we were in the area, and to the Saltbush Kitchen so Lindsey could get some spice and dukkah mixes.

Then we went home. I changed into dry clothes and had a warming cup of tea.

We visited Stella mid-afternoon and then ... Bravely? Foolhardily? Loyally? Whatever - we went out to the Buninyong Christmas Night Market. The Carols in the Park had been cancelled because of the rain but the market went ahead. It was a pity about the weather. Had it been a pleasant afternoon/evening or even a dry one, and certainly if the carols had gone ahead - the market would have been packed. As it was, there were people there and the church and village halls were busy, but there were nowhere near the numbers that you would have expected and the outside stalls were fairly quiet. All the better for those of us who were there. We had the chance to have a proper look at things. Lindsey and I had decided that, had we been at a Christmas Market in Europe, we wouldn't worry about cold and wet weather, so we weren't going to worry about it in Buninyong and we had a good time despite the rain.

I brought a box of fish and chips home with me for dinner, took off my second lot of wet clothes, put my pyjamas and a snuggly dressing gown on, lit the Christmas lights and candles and settled in for a cosy evening in my warm and dry house. 

Saturday, December 09, 2023


It was my birthday on Thursday.

Stella, Lindsey and I went to the Boatshed for lunch, by way of celebration.

I had booked a table earlier in the week. Couldn't get a table on The Deck - there was a group booking. But our table in the restaurant overlooked the water and had a lovely view

View from our table

Stella, waiting for her confit duck

My celebratory barramundi and chips
with a birthday glass of fizz

A conversation I had with my mother a week or so ago:

Stella: What would you like for your birthday?

Frances: Bunnings Money, please

Stella: Bunnings? What do you want to get at Bunnings?

Frances:  Potting mix, cow manure mix and mulch, please

Stella:  POTTING MIX? COW MANURE???!!!! What sort of a birthday present is that? Wouldn't you rather have some nice clothes or expensive soap or something?

Frances: No thank you. I have clothes and don't use expensive soap.

Stella: Something for the kitchen, perhaps?

Frances: No thank you. I don't need anything for the kitchen and I do need potting mix, cow manure and mulch for the garden.

So with reluctance, Stella handed over some money and after lunch Lindsey and I headed off  to Bunnings. 

I had a lovely time on my birthday afternoon filling up a couple of garden beds and planting a small rhubarb plant that Freyja and Simon gave me when they moved into their flat. The rhubarb plant that I already have will move in with it in the autumn. This time I really, really, really must remember to move it!  

I want to turn the area at the back of the house into a proper utility area. It already has the hot water heat pump and the air conditioning unit out there, along with a small plastic greenhouse that I use for storing plant pots. I intend to move the redundant raised veg bed there. (It was never particularly successful as a vegetable growing space and I use it as a potting table.) Then I'll move the raspberries and the rhubarb around into the fruit and vegetable garden. I might even put up the metal arch that I bought three or so years ago and haven't managed to install anywhere. It's in the garage, waiting for its moment in the sun.

Tuesday, December 05, 2023

A weekend of shopping

It was a gloomy, miserable day on Saturday, not to mention a bit on the chilly side.

This did not disrupt our plans.

We picked up Stella late morning and then made our way out to Wendouree, to the Stockland Shopping complex. We were a bit surprised to see all the buses lined up by the old cattle yards, and very surprised to see the crowd of youthful people who were trudging from the buses towards Victoria Park.

Lindsey and I had forgotten about the Spilt Milk music festival. I knew it was happening (one of our young receptionists was going). I didn't realise it was in Victoria Park, and wasn't thinking about it anyway.

Alas, it meant that the roads we were planning to drive along were closed to traffic. There were cars and people everywhere. The Stockland car park was also very full. Fortunately, Lindsey managed to find a parking spot close to the shops, and it wasn't so busy once we got inside.

Lunch in the Wild Seed cafe, where Ian unexpectedly joined us. Then he went off to do whatever he was out Wendouree way for and Stella, Lindsey and I went for a wander around the shops.

Then we went to Wilsons where Stella had a lovely time buying fruit and snacks and munchy things.

Sunday found Lindsey and me at the railway station in time for the 9:20 train to Melbourne. The platform was packed! This surprised us. Ballarat is usually quite sleepy at that time on a Sunday morning.

The train conductor reminded us that the train was very crowded so please to make sure we didn't have our bags and things on the seat next to us. The merry makers from Spilt Milk were on their way home. I hadn't properly realised that the music festival was really only on Saturday afternoon and evening. I had expected it to run into Sunday. And I was very surprised that the merry makers were up so early after a long night of music and dancing.

We got to Melbourne and Lindsey and I made our way to the Exhibition Buildings for the Big Design Exhibition. It was VERY crowded. And filled with stalls of lovely things. Clothes, bags, food kits, pottery, fabrics, all sorts of things. Very expensive things, some of them. It was slightly disconcerting that $150 bought me enough things to fill one carrier bag. At the Ballarat market that amount of money would have required several shopping bags.

We had lunch at Il Gambero in Lygon Street. I haven't had pizza in Carlton for years and now two come along in around a month.

The weather was better than it had been on Saturday.
We sat outside for lunch

We walked back into the city and then caught a tram to the station and a train back to Ballarat. I have a seniors travel card. The whole day cost me $3.60 on public transport, and that was the train fare to Melbourne in the morning. The trams and the return train trip cost me nothing. We had taken Lindsey's car into the station in the morning and parked in the station car park. That was free too. So a very cheap trip to Melbourne (if you don't count the money we spent while we were there!)

My knees and ankles were somewhat surprised by all that walking. They were disinclined to move much on Monday!

I don't usually put up my Christmas stuff until after my birthday. I put it up a little earlier this year because I had bought a new Christmas tree, which is taller than any I have had before. I wanted to dress it so I could see what else I needed to get for it. As it turns out, I don't really need anything else. And I have put Christmas in the dining room this year.

After 24 hours, I decided having the tree next to the fire was too cramped. The tree looked squashed and I was also squashed when sitting at my chair at the table. So I moved it into the corner by the patio door

I think it looks much better there.

I also dressed Freyja and Simon's tree, which is sitting on my front porch. It might need a bit of a re-organisation. I haven't put the lights on properly.

Monday, November 27, 2023

Air Conditioning and Other Things

I have finally, finally, finally got around to having my air conditioning unit installed.  I only bought it last May. You can't say I was being hasty about its installation! It was sitting in the study, in its two boxes, more or less being used as a shelf.

I had asked the bloke who installed the dishwasher if he happened to have a friend who installed split system air conditioners. He said that he and his brother did them, quoted me a reasonable cost and we arranged a time for them to come around and do it.

And now - I have a fully functioning, split system, reverse cycle air conditioner at my place. It means that the house is now, more or less, completely electric. I do still have gas connected, and the gas stove is still operational, as is the gas central heating. However, I don't use either of them. The wood burner and the new air conditioner render the central heating redundant and I haven't used the gas stove top for 18 months or so. I have two portable induction cooktops covering it and am more than happy with them. Eventually I will replace the gas stove with a permanent induction stovetop. And I expect I will have the gas disconnected eventually. I will get very tired of paying $40 or so a month for the pleasure of a service I never use. But it will cost $1000 to have the meter removed and, just at the moment, I can think of many other things to do with a spare $1000.

I took this photo at the Ballarat Tramway Museum
last January

While they were here, the electricians pointed out that my gutters needed clearing. I knew this but when I had someone out to quote to do it, they quoted $800. I don't have a spare $800 to have the gutters cleared - and anyway, it seemed like an extortionate amount to me. My air conditioning blokes agreed. They said they would expect it to be around $200 or $300. Had I tried using Hipages or Airtasker? I had used Hipages, that was where the $800 had come from. So while they were sorting out the air conditioner, I downloaded Airtasker. And someone quoted $250. I took that offer, and a bloke is coming today to do the gutters. If it stops raining!

I do wonder if the $800 would have been quite as extortionate if Jim had been here. Or Ian. Or any other adult male. I would not like to cast nasturtiums at the tradie who said it would cost that much. It would be unfortunate to think that he might have been trying to take advantage of an older woman who he might have assumed lived alone. But I am not stupid and I knew that it would not take a whole day to clear the gutters. 

Lindsey and I went to the Zoo Drive market on Saturday morning,. We also went to the Saltbush Kitchen, a small shop which used to be in Bunninyong and is now in the city, and which sells spice mixes, dukkahs, oils and other things, using native ingredients. We dropped into Aldi and went out to the Mushroom Farm. On Sunday we went to the Ballarat Spring Fest, which was along the top of the lake. The weather was cool and damp but this did not dampen the enthusiasm of the local population who turned out in force. There were LOTS of stalls and LOTS of shoppers. 

We didn't check out the food area. It looked very busy. We went to Websters for Brunch instead

Brandy is intrigued by the air conditioner. I  had it on yesterday evening for a short while, to put a bit of heat into the house. I didn't leave it on for long- it was a bit chilly rather than properly cold.  But I think it will be a good sidekick to the wood burner during the winter

Thursday, November 23, 2023

Magnificent Mystery Box

Lindsey called into Wilson's last Saturday and bought me one of their mystery boxes. She took it to her place and put it in the fridge.

I picked it up on Monday.

There are no photos of it. Monday was a busy day for me and I brought it home and unpacked it in between doing a number of other things and didn't think about photos.

I should have taken a photo though. It was a magnificent box. It had a small mountain of tomatoes. Some mushrooms. A green capsicum. There was a quarter cabbage and a half cauliflower. A bunch of coriander leaves and a green chilli. A bunch of Dutch carrots. There were two different chunks of pumpkin. And then there were apples, white and yellow nectarines, white and yellow peaches, a pear, a lemon and a kiwifruit.  

I chopped up the tomatoes and mushrooms and put them in a stockpot with a leek I happened to have lying around. I had some of the resulting stew with Monday's dinner and on Tuesday put the rest in the blender, passed it through a sieve and ended up with a delicious soup/broth/gravy base. I chopped up the nectarines and peaches and added them to some mango I already had. I've been eating that for breakfast. although I might lightly stew what's left to extend its useful life. By the time I got to the box, the kiwifruit was well past its best. It did not go to landfill though; it's in my compost bin. The apples and pear are in the fruit bowl. I've chopped up the cabbage and cauliflower ready for eating. The pumpkin and capsicum are in the fridge, waiting their turn. The carrots are in the veggie bowl, along with some tomatoes that I held back.

I do love Wilson's mystery boxes. They are such good value for money (usually $9 or $10) and such a fun challenge. Here is what I've got. Now - what am I going to do with it?

I'm eating well this week. Although I seem to have run out of potatoes. This is a very unusual circumstance

Have a random photo of Rupert, snuggled up to one of the new teddies that Lindsey bought last week. It's unusual for Rupert to snuggle the teddies. He isn't usually particularly bothered by them. Hugo, on the other hand, absolutely loves them!

Sunday, November 19, 2023


I was working on Friday and Saturday so stayed in Lindsey and Ian's flat overnight on Friday. The flat is in the Tribeca complex of apartments, part of which, many years ago, was one of Melbourne's large breweries. It is made up of privately owned, privately rented and serviced short let apartments.

The company which ran the serviced apartments went, somewhat abruptly, into liquidation recently. This meant that holiday makers plus various workers, who rented the apartments on short term contracts while they were in Melbourne, suddenly and without notice found themselves without accommodation. People who were expecting to come over the Christmas and summer holidays are having to make alternative arrangements. 

I am surprised that the business has folded. It survived the lockdowns and the complex is in a prime location in Melbourne, close to the CBD, the hospitals, sporting facilities. It should have been a goldmine. I think it must have been well used - the car parks were much emptier than they are usually and not all of the permanent residents can have randomly decided to go away for the weekend.

It was a lovely evening on Friday. I bought some fish and chips from the shop in the plaza and then sat out on the balcony of the flat with my dinner, a glass of wine and my laptop. In the past, this would have been accompanied by a hum and buzz of merriment from down below. People frequenting the wine bar, the pizzeria, the fish and chip shop and, on pleasant evenings, sitting outside while they ate, drank and chatted. On Friday night there was a strange silence, broken only by people passing through the plaza, and a couple of kids messing about. I am worried about the future of the little businesses in the plaza.

Lindsey tells me that some of the permanent residents, on a social media group, are pleased that the serviced apartments have closed. They didn't like the short term visitors.  I think they should be careful about how pleased they are. Lots of jobs have gone with the closure of the business. And the residents of places popular with tourists are often more economically dependent on the visitors than they realise.  They might not have liked the visitors but they may miss the fish and chips, the pizzas and the mezze with wine if they close for lack of itinerant customers.

Monday, November 13, 2023


Stella sometimes complains that we never take her shopping. She likes shopping. She quite likes window shopping but she very much prefers actual shopping.

Mostly, she likes shopping for clothes. She disagrees with me vehemently when I suggest that she should adopt a one-in-one-out policy towards her clothes. You can't, she says, have too many clothes. She is even resistant to me taking her winter clothes and putting them at my place, or at Lindsey's place, on the grounds that you never know when it might turn cold again. (She's not wrong about that!) As a result, her wardrobe is stuffed full of clothes. There is no room for any more. The carers sometimes just pile the clothes up in a heap rather than trying to hang them up because there is no room and no clothes hangers. (I was allowed take her bulky winter jackets to my wardrobe at Hill House. But that has been it. So far!)

We did not take her out shopping on Saturday. Lindsey and I went to the market, where the stall holders were shivering and slightly blue. The Bureau of Meteorology had forecast a sunny day with a top temperature in the mid 20s. At 10:00 by the lake it was overcast and a touch on the chilly side. We went from the market into town and visited the kitchen shop, the "scoop" shop (where you buy things by the scoop so can buy as much or as little as you like). We went to the supermarket and to Wilson's.

And then we went home, all shopped out.

The sun had come out by now and it had turned into a lovely late spring, very early summer afternoon.

Stella was pleased to see me when I called in to visit on Saturday afternoon. I had taken with me a small tub of broad beans (amongst her favourite vegetables), which I had bought at the market. I also had with me a box of fresh raspberries and a box of fresh cherries, also from the market. And I had a pork pie, which they had in Woolies.  She likes pork pies and doesn't have them very often. 

I also offered an invitation to go shopping on Sunday!

Not clothes shopping, but a trip to the plant nursery at Avalon.

She was definitely up for that.

So on Sunday morning, Lindsey, Stella and I drove out to Avalon, where Stella bought many more trays of vegetable and herb seedlings than you might think she would need, given that she doesn't have a garden, nor even a balcony. We stopped by the cafe where she bought a cupcake, a muffin and a scone, plus a milkshake and two hot chocolates. We went back via Coles, where she bought custard and bananas to go with her raspberries and cherries. She bought a pumpkin salad to go with her pork pie. She might also have bought some Baileys chocolate truffles. And some cat food. Not that she has a cat, but I'm sure we can find some cats to benefit from the trays of Dine.

So no clothes. Even so, she enjoyed a couple of hours of retail therapy, in amongst the plants and the groceries. She likes that kind of shopping as well.

There are flowers on Jim's lime tree

and some teeny, tiny peaches on my dwarf peach tree.
I am not expecting them to ripen this year.
It's only a baby tree.

Thursday, November 09, 2023

Cup Day Weekend

Tuesday was Melbourne Cup Day, which is a public holiday in much of Victoria. Lots of people take the Monday off as well, including some of the schools.

The weather was lovely.

Lindsey wasn't available to play on Saturday. She and Ian took Emily to the airport as she began her journey back to Canada. I couldn't be bothered going far, didn't bother with the Bridge Mall market and did some tidying in the garden.

On Sunday I went to Geelong, to Irene's house, where Gillie, Chris and John also gathered. Chris and John report that the foreshore was very busy with lots of activities and lots of people engaging with the activities. We stayed inside and ate asparagus soufflés, roast pork, and rhubarb cake. We caught up on all the chatter and generally whiled away  a very pleasant late spring afternoon. And played ball with Flora 😀

On Monday, a bloke turned up at 7:45 to install my new dishwasher. I was expecting him early, if not quite that early, so I was up and dressed. I am usually up early, but not necessarily dressed for the day. By 8:30 he had finished, cleared up and gone away, taking the old dishwasher with him. The new dishwasher is white and seems to make the kitchen much brighter. The sun was shining brightly on Monday morning and the solar light in the kitchen was also shining brightly. The light was reflecting off the white door of the dishwasher and rebounding around. I hadn't realised how much the silver door of the old dishwasher was absorbing the light.  (Looks speculatively at the (silver) fridge/freezer, then decides against replacing it Just Because!)

On Tuesday, the actual public holiday, Lindsey and I went out to find a pop up Christmas shop, which was advertising itself on Facebook. We found the address but couldn't see any signs of Christmas Festivity. Just an ordinary house with an ordinary driveway and an unadorned gate. So we went away. Lindsey sent the person a message to say we had been but couldn't see a pop up shop. Apparently it was around the back in a shed, decorated with elves and Santas. I don't know about you, but I am not wandering around people's gardens searching for elves and Santas. I feel that at the very least some sort of festive decoration on the front gate might have been encouraging.

Anyway, we went to the Stockland shopping complex and pottered around there. We went to Kmart and House. Lindsey had a quick haircut. Then we went to Bunnings. We went out to the mushroom farm. I visited Stella. It ended up being quite a busy day.

And the weather broke overnight. There were 20 ml of rain in my little rain gauge when I looked yesterday morning.

The traffic around Melbourne was cray-cray-crazy yesterday morning. Pretty much everything was crazy. One of the main mobile phone companies had gone down, nationwide. Around 10 million people's mobile phones, internet and internet-based equipment were out of action. So too, in Melbourne, were the trains, hospital telephony,  EFTpos machines, bluetooth equipment. Chaos and mayhem all around. I managed to get to work more or less on time, where our machines and internet were unimpeded by the outage. We use a different company.  

I left at 2pm and went to East Ivanhoe to see Jane the Optometrist. I had somehow managed to destroy the lenses of my computer/reading glasses by smearing them with alcohol solution or hand sanitiser or something that the lenses didn't like. Fortunately her EFTpos machine and other equipment were also unaffected. I now have new glasses on their way. The traffic was also crazy on the way home. The trains were running again but, of course, all the people who had gone into work by car instead of by train in the morning were now going home again by car. Plus there were random intense rain storms. 

I got home eventually. And went early to bed.

Saturday, November 04, 2023

Revisiting My Dissolute Youth

Actually, I don't suppose my youth was particularly dissolute. I married quite young and had a child at 21, so there wasn't much opportunity to be properly dissolute. But I did spend quite a lot of my 20s and even part of my 30s in and around Carlton, Parkville, North Carlton, Brunswick. And Lygon Street was a favourite haunt when I was an undergrad.  

I was working on Thursday and opening on Friday, so I stayed in East Melbourne overnight. I was due to meet Freyja and Simon in a pizzeria on the corner of Lygon and Elgin Streets at 7:15 on Thursday evening. So I had a bit of time to spare after work.

I caught a tram into town and went to Daiso. They didn't have any of my favourite mints. Where they usually are, there were Christmas decorations. They did have other tempting things, though. 

Then I took another tram to Lygon Street and went for a walk down one side and then back up the other side. When I was an undergraduate, Lygon was pretty much 100% Italian. All sorts of pizzeria, pasta places, coffee shops, gelateria. And a few other things, like toy shops, kitchen shops, Readings, the bookshop. But mostly, Italian food shops. I think there was an occasional Greek one, but not on the main strip. Apart from the souvlaki shop on the corner, where we would go if hungry in the evening for souvlaki and chips.

Now you can get absolutely any nation's cuisine that you could possibly want. And still pizza and pasta and plenty of coffee

I met Freyja and Simon in the pizza and pasta shop on the corner of Lygon and Elgin. We had a vegan pizza, a vegetarian pizza and a meaty pizza, together with a glass of wine each. Then Simon suggested that we head to a wine bar for an after pizza drink. And we went to a back bar at Jimmy Watsons, where I don't think I've been for 35, perhaps 40 years. It was never a regular haunt. If we were going drinking we usually went to one of the nearby pubs. But we did go when we were feeling flush, or had an occasion to celebrate. Or whenever.

And it's a lovely place. You can see why it's survived. Lots of little bars and courtyards and terraces. And friendly, chatty but not obtrusive staff. "You haven't been here for 35 years? Welcome back! But why not? Where have you been? England? Ballarat? OK. I guess that's a reasonable excuse!"

I was, however, reminded that I am not, in fact, in my 20s or even 30s anymore when it was time to get up on Friday morning! I had a 7:30 start so needed to be up by 6, if I were to have a gentle slide into the day. Getting up was not high on my list of favourite things to do at 6:00 on Friday morning!

I can't remember now if I mentioned it, but when Lindsey and I were in Japan in March we visited the Sekigahara Battle Museum and I bought Stella a Samurai teddy bear in the museum shop. Alas, at some point someone stole it from her bear cabinet. We suspect one of the casual staff. If it had still been in the facility someone would have found it and I don't think any of the permanent staff would have nicked it. If they had light fingers, I think they would be gone by now. Anyway, it doesn't matter who took it. It was gone.

Ross was recently in Japan and he went to Sekigahara. Austin selected a replacement bear. I e-sent the money for it. Austin purchased it. Ross brought it from Japan to Ballarat. Lindsey brought it from Ballarat to the surgery. And today, I took it to Stella's place in Mount Clear. It was, I'm sure you will agree, an excellent family venture!

We have not put it in the bear cabinet. Let us not tempt fate. We have put it next to Tony's memorial bear and with the little "Stella" teddy Stella was given when she first moved in:

And Austin sent over a bag full of my favourite Japanese mints, so it didn't matter that Daiso didn't have any.

Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Garden in the mid-spring

I have managed to get a bit of work done in the garden over the past couple of days.

I have weeded and sorted out half of the bed along the back fence, ready for veg seedlings when they are big enough and the weather is consistently warm enough for them to be planted out. I will need to do something about the snails which seem to have taken up residence on the fence!

How it was on Sunday morning

And how it is now

This half has yet to be done and will be more difficult
I will do it section by section

Yesterday I turned my attention to the side bed, which the fruit trees were waiting to move into:

I've fenced it off so the cats can't get in and dig it all up, and I threw some random vegetable seeds on as well, just to see what happens.

It's nearly three years since I planted the first set of asparagus crowns. They were very small when I got them so I haven't cut any spears until now. This year I have taken two, small cuttings and left the rest for the crowns to use The plants are looking healthy and robust. I think next year I might be able to harvest more:

A cold front came through just after lunch yesterday. The temperature plummeted, the wind picked up. Later in the afternoon we had hail and thunder, followed by heavy rain. The bloke who provides my sawdust briquettes for the fire had seen the weather forecast and rang me during the morning to say he would be in the Ballarat area during the day and did I want more fire supplies. I had also seen the forecast and accepted a delivery with alacrity. It came around lunchtime, just before the cold front arrived.

When we made the final visit to Mount Martha a year ago to finish clearing out Stella and Tony's villa, Wendy took some cuttings from Tony's rose bushes. I was a bit doubtful about this, but she got a friend who Knows About Roses to graft them and nurture them. One of them is now in my front garden. To my surprise, it has a flower bud. I have recorded the flower bud just in case one of the possums, which occasionally visit the garden, sees it as a tasty treat and eats it!