Sunset from Hill House, Mount Helen. February 2024

Thursday, March 28, 2024

Ziggy is back


The last you heard of Ziggy, I think, was when it went in for repairs after it sounded an alarm and then it broke down in Mount Clear at the beginning of February.

It was taken to the My Car in Delacombe where they would fix it, but not for a few days.

I rang them a few days later and was told it would be ready to collect later that day.

I was JUST about to hop on a bus to go and pick it up when someone else rang and said it wasn't ready and, in fact, there were significant (and expensive!) problems that would need addressing.

But I was told this morning .... No, that was a mistake. The person was taking about an entirely different car.

You can understand that I was very suspicious about this. I said I would have to think about it. It was a lot of money, and really much more than was worth putting into a 12 year old car.

After much thinking, researching, and discussion with people who know about cars I decided to have it repaired.  I could have borrowed the money to buy a new car, but ideally I would like to buy a plug-in hybrid. These are still very expensive and I couldn't justify borrowing that amount of money. If I bought a new petrol car, I would never get my plug-in hybrid. I couldn't see any point in buying a second hand car. I might just as well use the money to repair the one I already had.

And now, some weeks later, Ziggy has come home, all fixed up. It's nice to have it back. Although I do rather miss some of the features of the Audi which I had borrowed over the past few weeks. The reversing camera was extremely useful, as were the lights on the side mirrors, which alert you when there is a vehicle alongside.  On the other hand, Ziggy is much smaller and fits into tight parking spaces, and costs half the amount to fill with fuel (although it also needs to be filled more often)

Monday, March 25, 2024


Wendy was in town on Thursday and Stella thought that we might perhaps go out for lunch. It was a lovely day so we bundled her up and walked down to the Midland shops and went to Espresso District for lunch. It's less than a ten minute walk.

She didn't eat the toast,
but she ate every scrap of the bacon
and eggs!

I must admit that I hadn't ever thought to walk from Stella's place down to the cafe so I haven't taken her there unless we were coming back from somewhere else. It's much too close to justify getting in the car, so if we are minded to have lunch we've gone somewhere further afield. And the cafe does good food, nice coffee and has excellent, friendly service.


Stella wanted to go shopping. To be fair, Stella always wants to go shopping. She loves shopping for clothes. I do not love shopping for clothes so we only go occasionally. Yesterday was one of the occasions.

We drove out to Stockland, Wendouree and started the adventure with lunch in the Wildseed Cafe.

Happy to be out and about

my Thai style pork belly salad

Pulled pork and poached eggs
on toast for Stella

And then we went shopping. Stella's favourite shop, Black Pepper, doesn't have a branch at Stockland. There is a branch in  Bridge Mall, but it closes early on Saturdays, isn't open on Sundays and isn't especially easy to get to during the roadworks. So we made do with the outlet shop at Stockland, where Stella bought a number of jumpers, ready for winter. We had a quick look in Sussan's, window shopped a few other shops and had a wander into Kmart where we bought Easter eggs for next Sunday.

We came home via a drive around the lake, so Stella could satisfy her wish to "see the sea". I know the lake isn't actually the sea, but it is a lovely body of water which was sparkling in the sunshine.

Stella seemed happy enough - although I strongly suspect that when she got home she had an afternoon snooze!

The weather has definitely taken a turn towards autumn. Cool/cold, misty mornings, sunny afternoons and cool/cold evenings and nights. I lit the fire last night, just for a short time, and I have put a snuggle blanket on the bed. I have worn long sleeved shirts this weekend, and even jumpers during the morning and evening.

Sunset from my garden

Misty dawn from Hugo's house,
looking as though there is 
an inland sea

Autumn cosmos flowering 
in my front garden

Saturday, March 23, 2024

There's a Dragon in the Garden

I was peacefully watching television at around 9:30, 9:45 on Thursday evening and contemplating going to bed. Brandy and Whiskey had already retired and were sleeping on my bed.

Suddenly, Brandy came belting down the hallway, yelling loudly. He ran to the front door, jumped up and down by the window next to it and declared forcibly that there was a dragon outside, wanting to come in and devour us all.

This seemed improbable to me. It was much more likely to be the neighbourhood cat who sometimes wanders through our front or back garden.

I went and had a look. Couldn't see anything. Assured Brandy that there was no dragon to be seen and opened the front door.

Brandy bounded outside, yowling loudly, and stopped short by the chair I have on the front porch next to the door. And there, minding its own business, sat on the back of the chair was a small possum, about half Brandy's size. I don't think it was necessarily perturbed by Brandy but it was definitely perturbed by me, apparently rushing at it - and it took off towards the cucumber plant which is growing up a trellis in the middle of the garden.

Brandy took off after it. I took off after Brandy, caught him and brought him inside. I closed the door and we both watched the little possum, now hanging from the cucumber plant. Brandy was not happy and continued to yell loudly.

I took him back into my bedroom and came back to see the possum hanging upside down on the plant and nibbling on the last remaining cucumber of the season. The next time I looked out, it had gone.

No photos. Even with the outside light on it was still too dark for me to get a photo through the window and I didn't want to go back out and cause the possum to panic.

I went and joined Brandy and Whiskey in my bed (they were on it, rather than in it).

I was up early yesterday. Hugo had been on his own overnight, which doesn't happen very often. Someone needed to give him his breakfast. I got up there just after 6, to find him sleeping on the couch where I had left him on Thursday evening. Not sure if he had moved at all overnight! He was definitely surprised to see me at the time of the morning. He did reluctantly get up when I mentioned the Breakfast word, but I think he would have been perfectly happy to have stayed "in bed". Some of us, however, had to go to work and didn't have time to linger in our beds, although I did have a cup of tea with him before heading into Melbourne

Monday, March 18, 2024

Mostly Food (and a bit of garden)

The Sunday Lunchers gathered at Macedon yesterday. We were celebrating Irene's 70th birthday and making the most of a glorious, early autumn day.

We ate magnificent food, much of it from Chris and John's very productive garden:

John, Gillie and my hat admiring the vegetable garden.
Thanks to Irene for the photo

We had prawn cocktails, followed by Greek style lamb backstrap, enough roast potatoes to keep the navy afloat and a fabulous salad. We finished with a nectarine and sour cream cake and raspberries on the side.

It was a great lunch and a very convivial afternoon.

Next time we're meeting at my place. Not sure what to offer which will match that.

I had cheese and biscuits and a peach for supper!

I came home with a big bag of lemons from Gillie's garden

Jigsaw dogs

I mentioned a some time ago that there is a Hairy Bikers' chicken stew recipe that I made many, many times when we lived in Tupton and which I hadn't made at all (that I can remember) in Australia. I made a batch a few weeks ago, following the recipe closely, since it was a long while since I had made it. And I really didn't like it all that much. I ate all the servings so as not to be wasteful but I was puzzled by the fact that I had to make myself eat it. What was different from the delicious stew I used to make in the UK? Then I realised. The difference is the cider, which is the main flavoured liquid. I do not much like Australian cider and in the UK I used Somerset or Norfolk ciders, both of which I do like.

I made the chicken stew again this week, using white wine instead of cider. And it's lovely. I will do that again. I might try it using apple juice but I would have to buy apple juice specially and I usually have some sort of white wine in the house.

I am beginning to get the garden ready for autumn and winter. I have pulled the pumpkin, zucchini and cucumber plants, all of which had stopped producing. I have left the beans and tomatoes - they are still producing. And my silverbeet plants are extremely happy. I am now going to prepare the beds for autumn sowings, which I hope to get to around Easter. Oh - and to my surprise, my fairly new, miniature peach tree produced two peaches this year, both of which ripened and both of which were delicious.

Saturday, March 16, 2024


This was the patio last Saturday:

If you remember, I said at the time
that it needed sweeping

And now I have swept it:

I would never want to get rid of the trees in the tiny council-owned "woodland" over the back fence (although a couple of saplings may need to be sacrificed for the sake of the fence - they are growing very close to it) but they do produce a LOT of leafy rubbish in my garden! I have half filled the garden rubbish bin already, and I haven't even begun to tackle the grassy bit of garden, not to mention the back walkway, which I haven't done anything with for a very long time.

When Jim was here I used the small study all the time, for working from home, online Japanese lessons, anything where I needed to be undisturbed. Even when he got sick, he still knew that if I was in there then I was doing something that he shouldn't interrupt. Now that he is not here, I don't really use it much at all. I have colonised the dining table for working, studying, messing about on the internet - pretty much everything, really.

This is the view from the dining table:

And in the evening:

You can see why I don't use the study very much. All it looks onto is the back fence. I might need to rethink its use. One day. In the fullness of time. Maybe.

Tuesday, March 12, 2024

Sunday and Monday of the Labour Day Weekend

I celebrated the commemoration of the 8 hour working day legislation by doing - not very much!

It was quite hot over the two days, although not especially humid so the weather was mostly quite pleasant in Ballarat. It was hot overnight, though and, despite having a fan in the bedroom, I didn't sleep very well. So I was quite sluggish during the days.

I did weed most of the grass out of the bed with the peach, lime and apple trees. A nice and easy little  garden job. I have shifted some soil around into an unused (this year, at least) garden bed out the front. I need to fix up the far end of it and let the soil settle and then I'll put some autumn sowing vegetable seeds in. I did not sweep the floors or clean the kitchen or do any of the other household and garden tasks that are usually on my Long Weekend List of Things To Do. I did do a Japanese class on Saturday morning, which was rather fun. I went and visited Stella yesterday afternoon.

But mostly, I spent two days in what might be seen as wasteful indolence. Or perhaps as a restful holiday weekend.

The weather has changed today. It's in the mid 20s and much more humid and very cloudy. It feels as though it might rain, although there is no rain in the forecast. I have now cleaned the kitchen and swept the floors. I have done some washing and ironing. I have swept the leaves from the patio and raked the leaves from the back lawn. The garden bin is ready to go out for its fortnightly collection. And shortly I need to go and take Stella to her GP appointment, and then go and play with Hugo and give him his dinner

Sunday, March 10, 2024

Saturday, first day of a three day weekend

Today is the middle day of a long weekend in Victoria. It's the Labour Day holiday weekend, which celebrates the 8 hour working day legislation in the mid-19th century. It also marks the start of autumn and there are festivals all over the state.

This year, it is also a very hot weekend. A proper heatwave, as defined by the Bureau of Meteorology. It's the first heatwave we've had in Ballarat for this summer - and it came at the beginning of autumn! I think the Weather Dogs are confused!!!

Yesterday was forecast in this area to be an Extreme fire danger day, although the weather was actually quite pleasant in Ballarat. Yes, it was hot but it wasn't humid and the winds were light and I was wearing  light clothes, a hat, sunscreen, and insect block. There were no significant bushfires reported in our region.

The annual Begonia Festival in Ballarat went ahead. It's in the Botanical Gardens and Lake precinct, so there is plenty of shade and no real danger of bushfires. Lindsey and I went early, before it got too hot, but just to the market, which is an extended version of the usual bi-monthly market. We had to go hunting for our regular stalls, although they were all there. We didn't go to the activities in the Botanical Gardens.

Other festivals around the state have been cancelled or significantly reduced. They've even cancelled the Moomba Parade in Melbourne tomorrow, not because they are expecting fires in the centre of Melbourne but for the safety of the parade participants. It's forecast to be in the high 30s and the parade participants are mostly in costume and have to walk a long way. Doesn't sound fun to me!

The unexpected hot weather has got my vegetable beds excited:

A small pumpkin
It's supposed to be small
I deliberately grew mini pumpkins

Runner beans, oh so nearly long enough to pick

and lots of runner bean flowers.
I may get even more beans if the weather

Silverbeet plants, which I have been
picking from.
And that's a miniature capsicum plant
at the back. It produces very
cute and tasty mini capsicums

Tomatoes starting to ripen

Brandy, Whiskey and I took advantage of a balmy late afternoon and early evening and sat outside on the patio. I do seem to have an unnecessary number of leaves lying about. I would go and sweep them, but it's a bit windy this morning and I think the trees would simply deliver more. I shall sweep when the wind drops a bit

That's a self-invited tomato plant in with the
parsley and thyme

A lovely evening for sitting outside 

Monday, March 04, 2024

Lunch in the Meredith pub (after a long hiatus!)

Many, many years ago Jim and I were on a boating holiday in the Norfolk Broads and found ourselves, at least twice, having lunch in pubs which, from the outside, looked very unprepossessing, suggesting that the food served would be less than ideal.  On both occasions we were wrong. The pub buildings might not have been exciting to look at but the food was delicious, freshly cooked and beautiful.

In February 2019 Lindsey, Jim and I found ourselves in Meredith, on the road to Geelong, looking for somewhere to have lunch. There are two pubs in Meredith, one obvious on the main road and one hidden,  off on a side street. We went looking for the more hidden one and once again found a pub which looked pretty ordinary but which served more than acceptable food. We went back with Stella in October that year,  had a lovely lunch - and haven't been back since. In part that was because of the covid lockdowns. Then the pub was sold. Memory hints that it might have been closed for a time. It more or less fell off our radar.

We went back yesterday. Not Jim, of course, but Lindsey, Ian, Stella and me. I had seen various reviews online which suggested it did good food. We are looking to expand our range of country lunch places. So off we went to give it a try.

It was busier than we remember it being 5 years ago. It's not noticeably prettier as a building, but the menu is very tempting, the service was cheerful and friendly and the food was delicious. It was a bit slow in coming (thank goodness Tony wasn't with us!) but was obviously freshly cooked and very tasty. We are going to have to go back. There are more things on the menu that we want to try.

A slightly hidden, fairly typical looking country pub.
Appearances can be deceptive because the
 food was interesting and  delicious

My deconstructed souvlaki,
made with very slow cooked lamb,
was amazing.
The chips weren't bad, either

We have fallen into autumn, after a very cool summer. February did give us a handful of very hot days, including two days of extreme fire danger. But we haven't had any days over 40d in Ballarat this summer and I have only put the new air conditioner on twice, perhaps three times. We are expecting a few hot days later this week, but the weather has been definitely autumnal rather than summery.  Cool mornings, warm sunny afternoons, cool evenings. Even last Wednesday, which was hot, blustery and a bit of a fire worry in the afternoon, dawned almost cold. I am, though, having to water the garden. After rather wet months in December and January, February has been dry in my bit of the world and there is no real rain looming in the forecast.