Sunset from Hill House, Mount Helen. February 2024

Monday, January 29, 2024

Long Weekend Activities

It is really quite confusing when you start doing regular things on the wrong day!

On Thursday, Lindsey and I did a whole load of Saturday things. Not the markets, because there weren't any, but shopping and pottering. Then we confused things even more and went and visited Stella in the morning instead of the afternoon. I did have a hair appointment on Thursday afternoon,  which is when I usually have them, but mostly I was doing Saturday things, or Thursday things at strange times.

Friday was a national public holiday. Just to confuse me even more, the Sunday Lunchers met at Gillie's house in Daylesford and had a Sunday Lunch on a Friday. It was a lovely afternoon. In addition to Chris, John and Irene, Gillie's sister was over from South Africa. I have heard lots about her but hadn't previously met her. So lots of good food, a good catch up and a new friend - even if that friend is heading back to South Africa tomorrow.

I had dropped by to visit Stella on my way to Gillie's place. I had some shopping for her. She was wearing the jumper I gave her for Christmas

I was working on Saturday morning, which only served to make the days even more confusing. If I had done Saturday things on Thursday and Sunday things on Friday, and then I was working - well, surely it had to be Monday????

Then, in the afternoon, the days all gave themselves a good shake, fell back into place, and I found myself in Saturday afternoon. Which I spent on the rooftop terrace at Freyja and Simon's place with cups of tea and cake. Afternoon tea with a view!

And when I got home, I found that the Tomato Fairy had been:

Lindsey had picked up a 10kg box of tomatoes
at Wilsons and abandoned them at my place

I haven't processed them all yet, but I have done two lots in the slow cooker, put them through the blender and then a sieve and then reduced them down by about half. I've also done two trays in the oven, then blended them and passed them through a sieve. They didn't need reducing. All of those are in tubs in the freezer. I chopped some up with some zucchini from the garden and onions and made a tomato stew, almost Pizzaiola style, which I have been eating with dinner. The rest are awaiting attention.

Lindsey and Ian went to Melbourne yesterday, for afternoon tea at the Melbourne Museum. I bought it for them for Christmas. So I spent the night up at Rupert and Hugo's place, there being no point in Lindsey and Ian coming back to Mount Helen early evening only to turn around very early this morning and head back to Melbourne. 

I put the dogs out for a wee before bedtime, closed and locked all the doors, turned out the lights, turned off the TV, went to my room - and found two Great Danes on the bed! No hesitation on their part :D. We all slept well. Hugo didn't try to push me out of bed until nearly 6am, when we all got up and they had their breakfast. Eventually, I thought that perhaps I should have a shower, get dressed and declare the day properly underway. I went into the bathroom, looked in the sink - and there was a skink (very small lizard) sitting on the metal bar in the plug hole. It was VERY lucky I noticed it before I turned the hot tap on. I fished it out with a Christmas card and a small wine glass and put it outside.

Showered and dressed, I went into the lounge room with a breakfast sandwich. Rupert and Hugo came in from outside to watch me eat it and to cadge any leftovers there happened to be. Then I noticed that Rupert's jowl was bleeding. I sorted that out. Finally ate my sandwich. Rupert and Hugo got the crusts.

Time to head back home. As I drove down the driveway, a young rabbit appeared out of the grass and zigzagged its way down to the bottom. Fortunately I drive down the driveway very slowly. Equally fortunately, I was driving along the road very slowly because two kangaroos came bounding over the paddock fence, onto the road and across into the University grounds. THEN one of the ducks that patrols the road decided to try and fly into the car, heading over the top only just in time.

I got home, pleased to encounter no further animal life, only to find that a spider had decided to spin a mighty web across from the side of the house up to the roof of the porch, effectively blocking my access to the porch.I have now moved the spider and swept the web away.

And I am sitting in my dining room, currently animal free (the cats are outside), pondering whether it might be safest if I just stay here for the rest of the day and avoid all further potential animal encounters.

Except, there are things to do. I would quite like a cup of tea. And I should go and visit Stella later. Plus I need to go back to Rupert and Hugo's place after that to give them their dinner and to make the dog stew for this week.

I might have to cloak myself with an animal shield to avoid any further animal excitements!

Hugo on the couch

Rupert on my bed (at Hill House)

You know you are a proper grown up when you get quite excited (and move out of the safety of the dining room) when your new garden hose and accessories are delivered. Except that I may now have no excuse for not washing the windows. One of the accessories is a window washing brush!

Thursday, January 25, 2024

Hospital Shenanigans

You may remember that Freyja was struck by a stomach bug on Boxing Day and couldn't come to my Boxing Day Luncheon party. I knew it had been a particularly nasty stomach bug and was a bit surprised that no-one else came down with it. It didn't seem likely to be food poisoning. I know that vegans can get food poisoning, but I think it is more prevalent among meat eaters.

Anyway. As far as I was aware she eventually recovered. Nobody else got sick. All seemed to be well.

Except - it wasn't. She had ongoing terrible abdominal pains, violent vomiting, a complete inability to eat. Eventually Simon took her to the emergency department at St Vincent's Hospital. They ran some tests, gave her medications, checked her over and finally sent her home with instructions to visit her GP.

She came to see one of our GPs, who ran some more tests and sent her off for ultrasounds and things. She came back the following day for the results and the general consensus was that it was almost certainly gallstones, along with an inflammation of the gall bladder. Go back to the hospital and get them to sort it out.

So back to St Vincent's she went.

May I suggest, should you need an unscheduled but not desperately urgent operation, that a weekend in January is not an absolutely ideal time to go in search of one. Apparently, the weekend operating lists are filled with scheduled brain and heart surgeries, plus all the usual summer weekend emergencies and then complicated by the crowds at the Australian Open tennis getting heat stroke, or drinking too much champers and falling over, or other sporting festival mishaps. (I had absolutely no idea that weekend operating lists so prominently featured brain and heart surgery. I would have expected the surgeons to be taking the weekend off and operating Monday to Friday.)

Anyway. Freyja went in on Friday afternoon. Waited patiently all day on Saturday and all day on Sunday, fasting from midnight until they decided there was no hope of an operation that day. There was some excitement on Monday, when she was told that she would be on the list that day. But alas - there was a delay of some sort and she missed her slot. So everyone was  VERY surprised when at around 8:15 on Tuesday morning they dashed in and grabbed her. Quick. Hurry. Before someone snaffles the OR. Not a moment to lose lest an over-excited tennis fan comes in and steals the spot.

And by 11:00 she was in the recovery room, minus her troublesome gall bladder.

By teatime she was back at home. All those days waiting and then only around 8 hours from going in to theatre to being back at home.

If you absolutely have to go to hospital, you could do a lot worse than St Vincent's public hospital. I had my hand done there and was very impressed. Freyja is equally impressed, despite the delays - which were not really the fault of the hospital.

Meanwhile, back at my place, I swept and weeded the patio:

It is almost as thankless a task as is sweeping the dining room or kitchen. I sweep the dining room and the cats spread cat biscuits all over the floor. I sweep the kitchen, and someone goes in and starts cooking and stuff goes all over the floor. I sweep the patio, the trees think it looks far too bare and oblige by showering it with more leaves. It does look very beautiful for about ten minutes though.

Storm clouds over Mount Helen, at around 6:30 on Wednesday morning:

Monday, January 22, 2024

In the Garden, amongst other places

I have dug up one of my tubs of potatoes. King Edward potatoes aren't a First Early variety and needed another month to six weeks to grow to their full size. I dug them up anyway. I needed potatoes. I am impatient (not an ideal characteristic in a gardener 😂).  And the plants were seriously impeding attempts to get up the back walkway! The potatoes may be small but they are very delicious. However, I won't dig up the other tubs until the autumn. I am reconsidering growing potatoes in large compost bins. It never seems to be particularly productive, the tubs take up a lot of space and potting mix, and I already have (and can acquire more) smaller potato tubs. However, digging the potatoes up early is not useful from an assessment of growing methods point of view. I need the potatoes to come to maturity in the one remaining large tub and the two smaller potato tubs.

Small, but very tasty

The plants out the front are doing quite well, although I have to defend them against vigorous attacks by snails

Cucumber plant, growing up the wire "fence"

Yellow zucchini

and pale green, growing

on what is almost a zucchini hedge

Runner beans were Jim's most favourite vegetable ever. We grew them with success in the garden in Tupton. We tried to grow them in the garden at Hill House but it was too exposed and much too windy and the plants didn't thrive. They didn't do particularly well the first year we tried in the back garden at Tani. We decided it wasn't worth trying to grow them, especially since green and yellow beans grow quite well. You can't buy runner beans in the supermarkets here. You can buy "flat" beans in places like Wilson's and Tully's, which are close to runner beans and filled the gap. Not quite the same but close enough.

I recently saw runner bean seeds on the Diggers website when I was getting the seeds for next winter/spring. On impulse, I ordered a packet along with the seeds on my list. The packet says the seeds can be planted in spring and summer in cool areas. I wouldn't normally plant them in January, but I thought I'd give it a go and see what happens.  Jim wasn't here to stop me so I planted a few out the front. And this is what is happening at the moment:

The snails have been very interested in these plants but they seem to be surviving (the plants, not the snails). I don't know if I'll get any beans, but if we don't get any early frosts I should do. And I have plenty of seeds left to plant in the spring. I might even prepare a dedicated "bean bed" for them and the green and yellow beans.  

The green beans out the back are producing nicely, although the plants themselves seem to be miniatures - with one climbing bean among them. Fortunately it is growing up the central pole of my wigwam, surrounded by small bushes around its feet.

My tomato plants are thriving, although only now producing flowers. There are also several self invited plants dotted around the garden. In fact, the garden is thriving, although it desperately needs weeding and tidying. The summer so far has been fairly cool in Mount Helen, with quite a lot of rain. This has the disadvantage that I don't notice that the beds need watering when it has been dry and cloudy for several days - until I see that the herbs in small terracotta pots are suffering.

The weather was cool and cloudy over the weekend - although the sun was very warm when it managed to break through the clouds. Lindsey and I went out to the Mushroom Farm, to Bunnings, to the supermarket on Saturday morning. We visited Stella in the afternoon. Yesterday Stella and I went to the Golden Point hotel for lunch. Stella very much enjoyed her grilled barramundi and chips. I definitely enjoyed my open souvlaki with chips. Stella had a senior's portion. They didn't have the souvlaki on the seniors' menu so I had to have a full sized one.

Definitely full sized. It was enormous!

Even the senior's portion was quite substantial

I have almost finished clearing Tani of clutter and rubbish and unused Stuff. Once I have finished the house there will be the garage and the garden (not a lot of Stuff in the garden, but some things that need a bit of thought). And then it will be time to start all over again 😂 Although it shouldn't be such a major undertaking in the future - if I can resist the temptation to acquire yet more Stuff! 

Monday, January 15, 2024

A weekend in mid-January

It was quite hot in Melbourne on Friday. I think it got to around 35d. I had had the foresight to park the car in the under cover car park at work!

It wasn't 35d where I sit, if I happen to be on the desk at work. I was wearing a waistcoat and a long sleeved shirt and was *just* comfortable. I took the waistcoat off and rolled up my sleeves before I left to go home.

I worked three days in a row starting at 7:30. This means I need to leave at around 5:30. Except for during January when the schools are on their summer break. I can leave at 5:45 and get to work with ample time to make a toastie and a cup of coffee for breakfast. I don't mind leaving very early during the summer. It's a beautiful drive very early in the morning. I might be slightly less enthusiastic about volunteering to cover the opening shift in June, when it is dark and cold and miserable at that time of the day.

I don't think it was quite as hot in Mount Helen. It was a very pleasant temperature with a gentle, cooling breeze when I got home. I didn't put the air conditioner on. I opened the windows in the dining room and lounge room to let the cooling breeze into the house.

Saturday was a complete contrast, weatherwise. Very low 20s, cloudy and showery during the afternoon. This did not stop people going to the market by the lake. I think they estimated around 6000 people attended. By the time Lindsey and I got there, a bit later than usual, Tim's Toasties had more or less run out of toasties (we got one of the last cheesy ones). Lots of the stalls were running low. The citrus and the olive oil stalls weren't there at all. The Blue Bay cheese people were - and were running low but still had some of my favourite cows feta. 

Sunday was a glorious day. Just Right. We collected Stella and went out to Piper's for lunch. And very lovely it was too:

Brandy and Whiskey were enjoying the weather yesterday:

And Tony's rosebush seems to be happy. It's producing some lovely roses which smell gorgeous. This time, I kept some at my place, rather than taking them in for Stella. She can have the next lot

It's cloudier today and I think there are possible thunderstorms forecast for this afternoon. I might try and tidy up the courtyard before any rain comes my way.

Tuesday, January 09, 2024

Coming Home

They did open the cafe yesterday morning, in time for us to go around and have breakfast before we left. They were a bit surprised to see us. They weren't expecting anyone while the rain was as heavy. Although people did come in for coffees and cakes and sandwiches to take away.

Fortified by a good and hearty breakfast, I bade farewell to Freyja, Simon and Tooradin and made my way across to Mornington. It was quite a challenging drive. It wasn't the rain itself so much, although that was quite heavy,  as the water across the road. At one point the road was flooded in a dip. If I had been on my own, I might have turned around rather than driving through it. (Don't drive through flood waters, people; good seldom comes of it!) However, there were other vehicles, including cars, trucks and 4WDs, driving through it VERY carefully. As it happens it wasn't very deep and I carefully followed the vehicles ahead of me. All was well.

I made it to Tully's, which was why I was going to Mornington and then went home. CAREFULLY. There hadn't been all that much rain in Mount Helen. My rain gauge only registered 10 ml from last Friday. We had definitely had more than that in Tooradin! And it had been raining with intent all the way from Mornington until it petered out somewhere around Bacchus Marsh. The roads had been very wet until then.

And now I am poised for quite a busy week. I shall kickstart it with a cup of coffee, made by me. (I was just thinking that it would be nice to have a cafe next door where  I could buy coffee and perhaps even breakfast. In fact, the Krooze In Cafe is only a five or six minute walk and I could walk there for coffee and breakfast. Perhaps it's just as well it isn't immediately next door. It might swallow up all my money!!)

Monday, January 08, 2024

Dodging the Rain

There had been rain of biblical proportions forecast for Victoria yesterday and today. However, yesterday morning looked as though it might be ok.

We planned our day accordingly.

I went for a morning stroll before Freyja and Simon got up

The tide was in

Ours is the blue cottage next to the cafe

The little beach was quite inviting

Then we went to the cafe for breakfast

Mindful that Freyja and Simon had reported that the coffee had been quite weak when they had gone in on Saturday morning, I asked for a double strength cappuccino. I didn't really need to. It was verging on too strong for me. I had eggs Benedict with my coffee. No rocket, please!

Then we headed out to inspect the local area. Blind Bight, because the reviews for the Blind Bight shop are uniformly awful on Google. It seemed OK to me, just a bit understocked. Perhaps not surprising on a Sunday in January in a country village. We went to the local lookout and looked out.

You'd be in real trouble if deep mud actually engulfed you 
on the lookout point

Vast expanses of mangroves
(which probably are muddy)

And so to Warneit. We inspected another village shop. Also slightly understocked but a bit more interesting. And then we walked a mangrove trail. I didn't take any photos, partly because there really weren't any obvious things to take photos of and also because I was obsessively worrying about snakes. We were all wearing open toed sandals and I wasn't all that excited about having to deal with snake bites in Warneit. I don't know how excited snakes would be about living in muddy, soggy mangrove areas. I didn't really want to find out. At least we were fairly sure there weren't any crocodiles. No worries about being actually eaten.

And so to Cannon's Creek. No village shop to inspect, although it is a surprisingly large settlement. We checked out the viewing point, but not the boardwalk. We did see a collie paddle boarding, which is not something you see every day

And so home. Simon went for a run, just as the heavens opened. I did not!

We went into Koo Wee Rup to see what was there. Not a lot, really. We had lunch/afternoon tea in Degani's. Freyja and Simon  shared a bowl of wedges. I did not. I had this:

I really should know better, but when you talk to me of pancakes I think of French style pancakes. Shrove Tuesday pancakes. Crepes. I do not think of these American style griddle cakes. I should do because that is nearly always what is meant on Australian menus. Especially if there is also talk of maple syrup.

Well and truly defeated by the "pancakes"
(Photo by Freyja)

We checked out the supermarket and pottered around and then made our way back to the cottage.

It was still raining.

For dinner I had what I think might be amongst the worst pizzas I have ever eaten. I asked for a marinara (seafood with garlic). I have a feeling they actually gave me an Aloha (prawns, chicken and pineapple). My pizza definitely had prawns and some amorphous other protein. No discernible garlic. And lots of pineapple. Even if I actually liked pineapple, it would not have been a pleasant culinary experience. As pineapple is obviously a food of the devil it was a horrible taste sensation!

It's now just on half past 8. We need to be out by 10. If it opens (it is supposed to open) we might have breakfast in the cafe before we go. Only - it's raining just a little bit

From the front door

I like it here. It's not as exciting, or buzzing with the "summer holiday" vibes of the Mornington Peninsula, It's a pretty, small, relaxed place with all sorts of things accessible if you don't mind driving to them. Although, as Freyja points out, we are in a pretty fisherman's cottage on the foreshore with inlet views. We might not have been quite so enamoured if we had been in the more suburban parts of Tooradin. But, I would come here again.

Sunday, January 07, 2024


A little while ago, Freyja and I were discussing the possibility of a summer weekend away. Maybe the Mornington Peninsula?  Perhaps the first weekend in January?

I went a-hunting. And discovered that if we wanted to have the first weekend in January anywhere on the peninsula, we were looking at $2,000, $2,500 for three nights for three people.

That seemed slightly excessive to me. I looked further afield. And found this delightful cottage in Tooradin, for $800. I booked it, before anyone else did.

Tooradin is on Westernport rather than Port Phillip Bay. We are on a dead end street, by an inlet, with a cafe next door. We are perhaps a 30 minute drive from Frankston, we are en route to Phillip Island, we are around 30, 40 minutes from Hastings, Balnarring and Somers. And Tooradin itself is a delight. 

Freyja and Simon came down as planned on Friday. I waited until I was as certain as I could be that I was covid free and came down yesterday. It was a lovely day, so after a spot of lunch we headed to Somers to inspect the beach.  We went to Balnarring to inspect the shops. We had chips (and fish for me) from the local chip shop for tea. It was a lovely day.

We were taking advantage of the weather, which is set to change to Very Wet today. 

Where we are staying:

This is our view

and these are our neighbours 

Things around us:

Somers Beach:

Friday, January 05, 2024

What to do with all that food?

One of the problems with planning a New Year luncheon and then not hosting it is the vast amount of food you end up with in the fridge. And then there are the covid antivirals which leave me with a hugely unpleasant taste in my mouth which makes every thing I eat or drink taste equally unpleasant. That is definitely an appetite suppressant!

Some of the food couldn't go in the freezer. It had already come out of the freezer and been defrosted ready for cooking. Also - my freezer is pretty much full. So. Lindsey took some of the salmon to her place and I cooked up the rest of it at mine. I took pumpkin, red onion, carrot and zucchini and roasted them. I stir fried more zucchini plus leeks, red, green and yellow capsicum, asparagus, broad beans, green beans and snap peas with garlic, ginger and lemon. I roasted the chicken wings. And I made sure that I ate these things after the taste effect of the antivirals had started to wear off and before I took the next lot. There is a pot of stir fried and a bowl of roasted vegetables left

I might have had left over stir fry and salmon for breakfast this morning. I have finished with the antivirals, I was hungry, and there was a breakfast bowl left from last night's dinner. I wouldn't think anything of having fish and vegetables for breakfast in a Japanese hotel. Can't see why I shouldn't have it here as well.

I was given a gift card for Christmas and bought myself a tiny rice cooker with some of it. I've never had a rice cooker so got a single person one from Kmart to try it out. It's very cute. And very efficient. I need to fine tune how I use it. The first lot of rice was properly cooked but a bit dry. The second time was a tiny bit sloppy. I'll get there. And it's much less trouble than cooking it in a saucepan

I did a RAT this morning and it was negative. I am definitely symptom free. I've pretty much been symptom free since I did the original RAT on Monday. As I said, the only symptoms I had were a very slight scratchy throat, a very mild headache, a bit of a runny nose and some sneezing. And only on Sunday afternoon and Monday. Apart from the side effects of the antivirals and a great sleepiness when watching TV in the evening, I've been much as usual. Even the evening sleepiness isn't all that unusual. I think that I can go back out into the world. 

Actually,  I could have been out in the world anyway. The current government guidelines are that you are encouraged to stay at home if you have symptoms but you don't have to. You can't go into high risk places such as hospitals and aged care facilities, but you can, if you are minded, go anywhere else. Please wear a mask if you do. But we won't make you. Your sense of social responsibility is all down to you. 

By way of celebration I have thoroughly cleaned most of the kitchen. I just have the lower cupboard doors and the floor left to do. I will do the floor but the bottom cupboards will have to wait. I'm exhausted from all that cleaning!!! (I should perhaps do a thorough clean more often. The kitchen gets cleaned daily, but not doors and walls and crevices and everywhere. I don't actually remember the last time I did a deep clean 😯)


I'm a dedd, dedd, dedd, DEDD cat!

Just kidding 😺