A Snippet of Spring

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It’s one of those langorous Spring days where the cloudless sky is the perfect shade of blue and the sun has just the right amount of heat in it. After a few hours working in the garden (the wind has finally calmed down after literally WEEKS of blowing) I am treating myself to a little walk down the lane with Bailey. She walks ahead of me her bottom swaying rhythmically until she stops to sniff the air, our local hares love this lane and she spends a lot of time criss crossing it as she follows their trail. The magpies are calling from the tops of the gum trees with their glorious throaty song and the fairy wrens and finches chitter chatter in the hedgerows. I am content.

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(You can hear the magpie song here, for any homesick Aussie who may be reading this…)

We are a sleep away from travelling to New York and despite my excitement at seeing this amazing city I am already aware how much I will love coming home. Travel is certainly an eye opener, seeing how other people live, eat and interact is always fascinating but the other half of the equation is it also makes you appreciate what you have at home, sometimes you literally have no idea how good you have it until you see how it’s done elsewhere. So today I am taking some time to look, really look, around me at what we have, the simplicity of living amongst nature and eating food we’ve grown ourselves and appreciating it with “outside” eyes.

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Spring has arrived despite the lack of rain and our garden is limping into flower with the help of some time consuming hand watering. Somehow our old established roses are in bloom despite the ground being like rock and the lavender and jasmine is in full throttle. Our wisteria has had to withstand winds up to 60km per hour and has therefore very little of its beautiful pendulous flowers left, most of them having been blown to the surrounding paddocks, little purple patches amongst the yellowing grass. There are talks of water restrictions before Christmas if we don’t get some serious rain soon and our usually vibrant green surrounds are certainly faded and the lane has giant jagged cracks throughout it’s parched surface. To think we were panicking just a few months ago when we had floods before the wedding. Always a feast or a famine in Australia.

We have left the planting of the summer veggies partly because we will be away and partly because it’s been so dry and windy. Of course after weeks and weeks of nurturing my broad beans and sweet peas both are now deciding to flower and produce fruit just as I disappear!! The asparagus is producing about 6 stalks a day and the spinach continues to be the gift that keeps on giving. Our two new black chooks are finally being semi accepted into the gang and are starting to lay but sadly we have also recently lost a couple of our original ones so the egg situation continues to fluctuate and the size too. I found the tiniest egg ever the other day……

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Our Mulberry tree is heavy with fruit at the moment and I’m gathering a big bowl every day. Bags of them are being given as gifts to friends and neighbours and Bailey is constantly mooching under the tree enjoying the fallen berries. Our usual trick of cutting off the branches quite savagely in Winter and then bending the new supple ones in Spring and tying them around the trunk has worked beautifully with the new fruit protected inside the large leaves and away from the eagle eyed birds that also enjoy them!

We had a quick overnight trip to Callala Bay to see our friends and it was lovely to wake up and be so close to the water. Literally 150 metres walk and there is the Bay twinkling in the early morning light, boats bobbing gently and the beach curving out ahead of us invitingly. Having a dog is always a good reason to get up early and enjoy it before the holiday boat people arrive, fishing rods slung over their shoulders and eskies full of treats for the day ahead.

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I will miss my little Chocolate Drop but she will be well taken care of by our house sitter extraordinaire and will probably barely register that we are gone! Hopefully the heavens will open in our absence and we will return weary from our travels to discover a GREEN lawn and an abundance of fruit, veg and flowers and we will appreciate it all the more for our eyes having been opened to new things. Next stop The Big Apple….

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Saigon

20170919_171634The view from Lauren’s apartment in District 2 looking across The Mekong to District 1 which is the major centre of Saigon.

I was very happy to finally be on her veranda taking this picture as it took me 30 hours to get there. Having felt pretty smug at finding my budget airfare with Air Asia for a mere $405 return I was devastated to find on landing in Kuala Lumpur that my ongoing flight to Vietnam had been cancelled due to bad weather. Nothing was available until 11am the following day and as it wasn’t deemed “their fault” there was no offer of accommodation or even a food voucher to see me through the next 17 hours. I guess you get what you pay for….. So having decided I was way too old to crash on a bench in the airport terminal I went off in search of accommodation nearby. I suddenly remembered Lauren had stayed in a Capsule Hotel in Seoul (she reckoned it was clean and relatively spacious contrary to my long held idea of it being more like a coffin with bed bugs) and it made me brave enough to check in to one in the airport and to be fair, despite it being extremely tiny, it was clean and the futon style mattress was comfortable. There was no door, merely a pull down blind separating me from the corridor. The ‘hotel’ is segregated into male and female sections with a shared bathroom for each sex and a security locker downstairs for your luggage. If it hadn’t been for my blind/door flapping about all night due to the aircon in the corridor, inconveniently letting a huge industrial light shine directly onto my face, I think I would have slept better but despite that it certainly beat a seat in the airport and cost me the princely sum of $37!!

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I was back at the airport by 8am just to find that my ongoing flight was already delayed 1.5 hours (no reason given) and I was beginning to think I would never leave KL airport but I decided to go with the flow and wandered off to look for something to eat and drink as I had had nothing since brekky 24 hours previously in Sydney. Due to the wonders of technology this is so easy nowadays. The ‘tap and go’ concept with a credit card is easy and safe and memories of having to change currencies several times for different countries in the past is well and truly gone thank goodness. Luckily I had bought a new book in Sydney and it helped pass the time and the free airport wifi kept me in touch with Lauren who was pretty sad that a whole day of our short time together had been wasted.

Lesson 1: Fly direct and pay for a decent airline as a budget fare can sometimes be a false economy.

However once I arrived Loz whisked me off to D1 to have a lovely lunch and the first of our many chats about her new life in Vietnam. The Secret Garden Restaurant was down a (rather dubious) alley and up 4 flights of stairs but it was worth it when we arrived at a little bohemian rooftop complete with colourful paper lanterns, handmade pottery, a resident cockerel who lorded it over the entire space and a delicious menu including those fresh herb laden salads that I love so much. The local Vietnamese are very friendly and hardworking but also know how to relax and can often be found snoozing on anything from a bench to a hastily slung hammock between 2 trees in the street to the top of their motorbikes if there are no customers to have to attend to.

Once home she showed me around her district which has a lovely village feel and is a real mixture of local and expat living. This is the area for all the International Schools and is therefore set up beautifully for  any expat whim that you may have. The locals have worked out exactly what we all like to spend our wages and holiday dollars on and provide it in spades. Beautiful hotels, restaurants, beauty salons, art galleries, homewares shops, florists, cafes with local and western menus and a few gourmet food shops providing all the things you miss from home (at a hefty price of course!) were all here vying for our dollars. There was even a cockatoo in a cage at a nearby juice bar for the odd homesick Aussie!!! In between there are the local Vietnamese shops selling pho, banh mi, sweet Vietnamese iced coffee and fresh coconuts complete with a straw! Back to her complex and a swim in the pool and I’d nearly forgotten about the previous 24 hours!!

The snazzy part of expat life comes in the form of resorts and restaurants on the water. With the understated luxury that tropical architecture brings you can feel very relaxed within a very short period of time as you sip your beverage of choice under a lazy swirling fan surrounded by lush potted palms and water features that gently bubble in the background – the epitome of tranquility. The architecture is usually simple and textural and uses symmetry in a pleasing way and it’s not too much of a stretch of the imagination to feel like you are back in those old colonial days when the French had such a big influence in Vietnam.

At night the indoors melds with the exterior and you almost feel part of the Mighty Mekong, an entity all of it’s own that supports life and industry for many many people from China to Vietnam. The Mekong River is the lifeblood of Southeast Asia and offers a glimpse into the long history and diverse cultures of the region. The 12th longest river in the world and the 7th longest in Asia, it flows through six countries: China, Myanmar (Burma), Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam.

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On a smaller scale expats have become the reason for many co-sharing ventures in Saigon. Lauren is just one of the MANY freelancers that work here and their office of choice is a café. The locals have cashed in on this in a big way providing ‘cool’ hangouts that are comfortable and conducive to a few hours work on your laptop. There is no pressure to buy more than the odd coffee or fresh coconut and in the evenings and the weekends they are a hive of activity as they cater to the Westeners tastes in both food, music, cocktails and even provide the odd pool table!

They have also picked up on our desire for fresh juices, organic food and permaculture, yoga and wellness and these are invariably located in tranquil surroundings which may also provide pods for working quietly and is a good place to share information with like minded souls. In this way it really doesn’t take long for an expat to feel at home and make friends, often far more quickly than you would at home as you are all in a similar shared experience a long way away from both family and familiarity.

As she is still recovering from Dengue Fever my dynamo daughter couldn’t execute her usual A4 list of things to do QUITE as much as she would usually do. We cancelled our overnight trip up the Mekong and instead opted to do a couple of more sedate things which wouldn’t tire her out too much. Number 1 on our list was to attend a ceramics workshop and MAKE SOMETHING! We spent the previous evening looking up various ideas on Pinterest and concocted a general plan for our forthcoming artistic endeavours. On arriving at the studio Alessandro, our teacher from The Virgin Islands, listened carefully to our wishes and got us started. 30 minutes later despite setting out to make different items we both ended up with identical things on our potters wheel, but it was great fun and as ceramics was something I have been wanting to try for ages I was really happy to have given it a go. He told me that if I could find a kiln near to me at home it would be quite easy to make some of the ideas I had come up with so that is now on my list of THINGS TO DO. Loz will pick up our glazed and fired bowls in a few weeks and use them to house her plants and cacti at home. No doubt she will feel very accomplished and creative with our handmade offerings displayed on her shelves!!

The other genteel thing we did was to visit The Saigon Opera house (not a patch on the Sydney version, pre drinks involved cask wine for goodness sake!) to see “The Mist” which is a contemporary dance based on Vietnamese life and which was serene and beautiful in parts and great fun and noisy in others. It incorporated both ballet and Vietnamese dancing and haunting music on local instruments as well as vigorous drumming and clapping which the audience enthusiastically joined in with thanks to the wooden clappers thoughtfully provided on our seats! A good night was had by all and in lieu of our usual after concert drinks we sought out my favourite Asian dessert of sticky rice, fresh mango and coconut icecream which is the MOST delicious combination imaginable and something I never tire of!!

Here is the trailer to give you a little idea …….

Well you can’t write about spending time in Vietnam without eventually talking about the traffic. It’s downright scary to the uninitiated and even on this, my 2nd trip to the country, I still felt unsettled at the mayhem of it all. It appears as if there are absolutely no rules at all, my usual sense of order all shaken upside down and spat out into a heaving mass of people simultaneously moving in all directions, cars, trucks, scooters and bikes all weaving in and out of each other, a friendlyish toot to let them know you are there or that they are about to overtake you, and somehow despite everything, it works !! I was full of trepidation as I hopped onto the pushbike that Loz had borrowed for me but luckily where she lives is a) very flat and b) relatively quiet during the non peak hour traffic. Basically we just peddled at a steady rate and it was up to them to work their way around us. They also drive on the other side of the road which meant I dreaded turning left especially as this meant you just made your way to the middle of the road, picked your course and cycled along it just trusting they would let you in and/or go around you which they did! For a start no one goes fast which helps and they all understand as they are in the same situation. No road rage, no accidents, no speeding and just a great sense of satisfaction at arriving at our destination INTACT! You can park your bikes anywhere, there are even “bike guards” at some of the posher expat venues but it is a really great way of getting about and I loved it!! It was a little disconcerting however when we went into the main centre to discover the scooters come up onto the pavement too!!!!

Take a look for yourself!!!

This picture below is a typical little local café with it’s plastic chairs, bikes parked on the pavement outside, traditional Vietnamese coffee for less than $1 and you can stay as long as you like!! Vietnam is super cheap, local food and transport in particular and I think we spent on my last night (at a flashy expat hangout) the equivalent amount that we had all week eating local! It’s going to be a horrible shock when the newlyweds come back to Oz and our inflated Sydney prices that’s for sure!

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On this stretch of The Mekong there is a unique phenomena of moving vegetation, they are always moving on the tide sometimes in quite dense patches and are known by the Vietnamese as ‘nuisance plants’!!Nuisance plants, especially water hyacinth, thrive in conditions where the river receives nutrient-rich urban or agricultural run-off from the surrounding land making Saigon a perfect location. The boats often have problems getting through the larger ‘mats’ of plants, larger boats are ok as they stick to the deeper channels in the middle but the smaller local boats often get caught up in them alongside the bank.

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I took this before we knew exactly what they were!

So, after an action packed 4 days I had to go back to the airport and do it all in reverse!! Despite the fact that I was only there for such a short time (even less thanks to Air Asia) I felt that I’d seen a good cross section of their local life and where they lived etc as well as making sure for myself that she was on the mend from Dengue and can now envisage what she’s doing on a day to day basis which for a Mum helps make it seem less far away!

The trip home was bumpy but on time and we landed in huge winds which scared me to death and was a sign of things to come as we have had terrible weather. NO rain, parched dry expanses of woodland and high winds being the lethal combination for bushfires and the local rural fire brigades have been fighting big fires just south of us for a few days now. I even received an emergency text from them yesterday warning us to “seek shelter as the fire arrives” despite the fact it was 5 miles away!! The winds have finally died down today and hopefully some rain is on the horizon soon as things will only get worse as we head into summer. Despite this it is nice to be home and as always my mind is brimming with all sorts of possibilities as travel always opens my brain in a way nothing else can and makes me want to make the most of every little opportunity that life throws my way. It’s an addictive feeling and not one I ever want to give up!

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The wind tunnel that is Meroo Meadow

20170618_143942We live in the middle of a wind tunnel and there is no worse time of the year than now to be living here. As we are surrounded on 3 sides with open paddocks there is no protection from the infamous Westerly winds. I’m pretty sure The Man of the House was only half joking when he told me to phone Raine & Horne and put it on the market the other day. The comment came after a night of us being woken by what sounded like a raging river bearing down on us and a huge scraping of  our (heavy) furniture as it was dragged by 90km winds across and off our veranda to be found lodged in our hedge 60 metres away. Nothing like being outside at 1 am and then again at 3 am to move various bits of our life to a ‘safer’ place on the easterly side of the wraparound veranda. It looked like a junkyard out there the next morning with everything piled haphazardly on top of each other. My solar lanterns that had been a happy reminder of the wedding have gone, no doubt they will be found, glowing orbs in the cow paddocks, causing some confusion to our four legged friends over the next days and weeks or until the next big puff of wind comes along, together with a couple of our cushions that are also MIA…..

Nothing is suffering more than the garden. It has literally been months now since we had a decent drop of rain and the ground is like rock. Despite a constant cycle of hand watering things aren’t happy and although it is Spring and supposedly the time to prepare your garden it’s an almost impossible task right now. Going to the nursery is never a cheap affair but at the moment I might as well just tear up $100 notes for all the good it’s doing planting new things. Last weekend gave us a beautiful day with no wind and I got stuck into some serious mulching only to have it now blown to the four corners of the world on a blustery westerly wind. Sigh………..

IMG_20170905_131249_424It did make for some interesting seas though, whipping up the usually calm-as-a-millpond water around Kiama. The waves were breaking very high and we were covered in spray as Bailey and I walked the coastal path, eyes streaming with the cold wind and looking like something the cat had dragged in with wild hair and about 4 layers of clothing to keep the cold out! It didn’t help when I thought back to this time last year when we were lapping up the golden sunshine in Lake Como whilst sipping Aperol spritz….bring on Summer please!

Luckily we had a mini break from the weather last weekend which coincided with a visit from the boys to celebrate Fathers Day. We even managed to have Happy Hour on the veranda and an after dinner bonfire in the garden. One of his Daddy Day gifts was this fab book by Stefano Manfredi espousing everything there is to know about the pizza which will come in very handy.

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In preparation for the brickie (who was going to make a base for the new pizza oven) we had to lay a little slab of concrete so using a few of the tools that had been languishing in our shed, the help and knowledge from a couple of mates and Cammo in his usual supervisory capacity, we ticked off our section of the job ‘to do’ list.

Then one morning we saw a puff of dust on the horizon and 5 Utes barrelled down the lane to implement stage 2. It was a whirlwind of men in beanies measuring, cutting and laying bricks and 5 hours later it was built and they were gone! The final hurrah occurs when the pizza guy comes down and installs the oven, fingers crossed it all goes according to plan and fits like a glove. Time to start perfecting my pizza base recipe – any favourite tried and true versions will be gratefully received folks….

It has been a fortnight of technical difficulties. Firstly we lost all our free to air TV channels and put it down to the windy conditions and then one night as we sat down to dinner half the lights went off together with what remained of the TV. Candles were lit and conversation ensued but we realised how much of our daily life was influenced by power and what we could and couldn’t do without it. 24 hours later our lovely local Sparky arrived to save the day. He was rather bemused however and after much scratching of heads and following of wires under the house they discovered it was something in the garden that was causing the problem. The only power connections we were aware of passed the test leaving us with only one possibility…..the septic!

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A small dark shadow passed over their faces at the realisation they were going to have to “go in” and after they drew straws as to who dug and who opened up the cover they got to the task briskly. Thank goodness it wasn’t a hot summers day and they found the culprit quite quickly. They most definitely do earn their fees!!

No sooner did the house start running smoothly again when we got a call from Vietnam to say our girl was unwell and had been diagnosed with Dengue Fever. Another mozzie borne disease similar to malaria, this time from a daytime biter which can catch you unawares if you’re not drenched in some form of DEET based product (usually it is dusk/evening that you load up on this to avoid the onslaught of the microscopic assasins!). Two days later she got worse and was ambulanced to hospital where they are giving her IV painkillers and fluids as well as regular blood tests and some much needed healing sleep and assistance to sit up/shower etc as she has been unable to do this for herself. It’s one of those tropical diseases that you have to Google and then wish you hadn’t, but I know she is in the best place and in good hands and we must trust she will turn the corner and start to feel better soon. I am making a flying visit there on the 18th so I will hopefully be able to help her recuperate and give her some Motherly TLC.

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These little buggers can really make you feel sick.

To top everything off I found our new black chooks AWOL in our veggie patch having a great old time munching on our lettuce and spinach and scratching up my new seedlings! As there is no way they can actually get to it through the fence we surmised that their only way must have been ‘up’ and therefore it was time to trim their wings to keep them both in a safe environment and away from our dinner. After a reassuring cuddle Farmer Cam gave them a little ‘haircut’ and we have had no trouble since.

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So all in all I think I’m glad this last week or two is over and we can look forward to some nice windless Spring weather, working appliances and a functioning pizza oven in the next few weeks. I’m off to be a Mum and hopefully our patient will be feeling a lot better and we can enjoy some nice time together..!! No doubt there will be the obligatory Chinese takeaway in The Meadow while I’m gone, together with a furtive trip to KFC (and a certain chocolate drop who will “help”with any extras) and evenings packed with finals footy to be enjoyed completely guilt free. Bring on Mother-Daughter chats, Vietnamese iced coffee, beautiful fresh salads fragrant with herbs and some sunshine!!

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Au Revoir

sunsetFor the most part I have absolutely loved living in Australia over the past 30+ years, especially with the progress of technology allowing easy communication with my family in the UK. The old days of waiting in the queue at the main GPO in Sydney’s Martin Place to place an overseas call seems to belong to another world and with the advent of Facetime, Skype, Whatsapp and mobile phones the world has shrunk to feel like we are almost next door to each other. However, when BIG things happen and you can’t hop in the car and drive to be with each other you really feel the tyranny of distance. I have to keep reminding myself that it was my choice to come and live on the other side of the world and that it would inevitably bite me on the bum at some stage but mostly I have been able to be there for the special things – weddings, milestone birthdays and when our lives were turned upside down when my nephew died. This time though I have had to just watch as things played out without me being there and sadly when my lovely, twinkly eyed, rugby mad, pie loving, computer whizz, music lover and family loving Brother-in-Law lost his battle with pancreatic cancer last week I couldn’t be there to comfort my sister in person. Luckily she has many wonderful friends as well as her daughter and grandkids to help her through, as well as Mum who is still looking after us after all these years through good times and bad, and I know that my sister medicine will be needed in the months to come when hopefully her work allows and she can come out here to The Meadow to heal and enjoy some sunshine. JC will be farewelled tomorrow in what I know will be a huge send off with all those beautiful Welsh voices raising the roof with his favourite “Bread of Heaven” and we will raise a glass to him from here as we remember all the fun times we shared both here in Australia and in Wales and France on holidays. A good man through and through and gone way too soon. Adieu JC, we will miss you   xxx

Luckily some distraction came with the arrival of our dear friends from Forster who had been so hospitable to JC and Sandy when they visited a few years ago, JC declaring he loved Forster and could easily retire there! They kept me company as the man of the house was away in Singapore and we reminisced about times gone and times to come, reinforcing the fact that we must make the most of every day no matter how simple and be grateful for our health while it’s good. We ate the last of the mulberries I had frozen from last years bountiful crop in a pie with lashings of cream and with a blazing fire as things have definitely regressed a little to winter temperatures! Mother Nature does this every year as we prepare to put away our winter woollies, teasing us with warm sunshine and spring blossom before she turns the table and chucks in some icy 100 km westerly winds and laughs at us as we scramble once more for our jumpers….

Speaking of cold, we and about 20 of our friends made the trip to Crookwell in the Southern Tablelands of NSW to commemorate our friend Greg Cleary who lived there most of his adult life teaching and enjoying this close knit community who are crazy on sport. We have an annual golf day in his honour and it is lovely to meet up each year and chat about the old days. The boys all went to school together from junior school and as they are all in their latter 60’s it is amazing what they can all still remember in such detail about their childhoods. They were very lucky with their golf day, cold and clear but with sunshine and blue skies. The next day the wind was blowing straight from The Snowy Mountains and an hour after we left it snowed!!!! So much for Spring!

It was especially lovely to see Greg’s kids (who now live a few hours drive away) come home to share such a special day in their Dad’s honour and Crookwell really turned it on for us with the locals becoming as much a part of the day as us. A real Aussie country town with all the friendliness and support for the family that you could hope for and I’m sure Greg was helping his mates from above as they won the local trivia night, something he was always fond of and good at “smashing it” as his daughter put it!! A great weekend with some lovely people and Greg would be very chuffed to see so many of his old mates gathering together in his hometown to remember him.

Last week I visited Merribee House, a lovely property the other side of The Shoalhaven River from us and somewhere we had looked at to hold Lauren’s wedding before deciding to take the plunge and do it at home. It’s an historic house within 7 acres of ornate gardens where 1000 David Austin, Old English and Old French roses beguile with their fragrant aroma, and a lavender paddock which transport visitors to the fields of Provence . They have a gorgeous renovated barn and an old silo which has been beautifully converted for wedding accommodation. Wednesdays are Open Days and you can wander around the gardens and enjoy morning or afternoon tea with their home made produce and flowers available for sale. My friend Sue and I enjoyed a couple of hours admiring the different garden ‘rooms’ and some hummingbird cake and coffee before heading home with my head buzzing with ideas for our garden. Of course none of them will happen because I have been told in no uncertain terms that no more flower beds necessitating whipper snippering will be planted and unless the ride on mower can glide over it I’m not allowed to do it! I must admit that what we have is more than enough work especially when we have no rain and loads of wind, both enemies of a happy garden but a girl can dream!!

This little cottage is available for functions amongst the lavender

Some wonderful garden rooms and an alfresco dining area to lust after, especially once that wisteria comes into bloom

Their horticulturalist gives lessons on veggie gardening, topiary and fruit tree pruning and they also host an open air film festival in the summer which is great fun with a picnic on a balmy evening. I absolutely love their artwork for these events, done in a beautifully detailed old fashioned way. Lots of work but worth it, I think you’d agree.

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So as the wind has temporarily disappeared I better go and mulch the garden to preserve what little moisture is left in the soil and take the Chocolate Drop for a walk in the sunshine and I will be thanking my lucky stars to be healthy enough to do so whilst remembering a certain Welsh Boy with that gorgeous accent that I am so glad came into our family and who will be very much in our hearts and thoughts every day but especially tomorrow….

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Xmas in July in August

 

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I feel that Christmas was something the British pretty much invented. Obviously it stems from a religious origin but the way in which it is celebrated by the western world is essentially British. When those first intrepid travellers hit the shores of Oz back in 1788 they were desperate to bring a bit of the old country with them, nostalgia forcing them to ingest hot turkey and Xmas pudding in the heat of an often 40 degree summer’s day. All this in an age of long dresses and suits, no aircon and cooking over open fires. They must have been VERY homesick to recreate what is a lovely meal for a winters day all snuggled up inside out of the weather as opposed to in searing sunshine and with flies swarming at the mere sniff of meat in the Antipodean sunshine…..

All of this has led to the increasing popularity of Christmas in July here in Australia. We’re cold(ish) and inside for a change and wearing big jumpers that cover up a multitude of sins (as opposed to December when it’s beach weather) and we’re definitely ready for some good grub and a vat of Cab Sav. If you can share this with some of your nearest and dearest all the better so in this vein we invited as many people as we had beds for to come and enjoy a Winter Weekend in The Meadow with a festive meal thrown in for good measure. The Man of The House excelled with his rolled stuffed pork which we enjoyed alongside duck breasts in cherry sauce and loads of veg and copious quantities of homemade gravy all washed down with the aforementioned vat followed by a moreish Xmas pud with custard made from our own chook eggs. Yummo and thank you Jesus for being born.

After a late lunch we removed ourselves from the table and headed outside where Cam got a lovely bonfire going and the last of the vat was imbibed under a blanket of stars.

 

I have had some more gaps in Germania’s family tree filled in with the entire list of owners now ticked off and we are officially the 7th owners! Johan Morschel bought it from Charles Lamond (the original owner) in 1914 and his daughter Lillian lived there from 1917 to 1933 with her family. I’m pretty sure that this photo (below) was from that era as when we blew it up we could see a child playing on the front steps. The original was actually a black and white photo that had been made into a postcard by Kodak. On researching we found that Kodak only did this between 1902 and 1930 and as there is no mention of Charles Lamond having any further children whilst at Germania we think it is probably Lillian Lyndbery’s child. They are still alive and I’m hoping to get in touch with them through the local network that seems to be have very strong links as many families intermarried and mostly stayed in the area. Only 2 degrees of separation around here folks!!

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When Lillian’s Dad died he left the house and farm to his son Len, who rather than move in chose to stay in his family home with his brother, neither of them married but they continued to farm. During this time he rented our house out for 20 years until 1953 when rather than do some repairs and maintenance to the old place Len allowed a local farmer, Frank Bell, to use it to store his hay. This continued until 1973 when Ray and Marcia came along with their dreams to return it to a beautiful family home. I’d like to see if I can find out a bit more about the years Johan lived there 1914 -1917 and see if we could find any old photos from that era so my next project is to contact the living family members and quiz them!!

I found an old photo from when Ray started renovating it, installing the fence that we still have today and planting some trees and hedges on the boundary which have continued to thrive. Happily I also found the original concrete planters from this picture buried in a heap of rubbish behind the garage and they are now restored to their rightful place on the front steps

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Then and Now

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I have been enjoying some local walks lately. The weather has been pretty good with the exception of our arch enemy – the westerlies, and the clear blue sky days have encouraged me to take the Choccy Drop and head towards the river. Any opportunity to swim or immerse herself is gratefully taken by our water loving hound and her ears prick up as soon as I mention ‘swim’ or ‘river’ and most especially ‘beach’ but it has been too windy for that. It is a lovely time of year to walk as it is still not too hot to go in the middle of the day and therefore there is no pressure to go at a certain time. The spring blossom is everywhere now – cherry, magnolia, pear and jasmine. Despite the fact that Spring doesn’t officially arrive for another couple of weeks our resident birds are all starting to collect bits and bobs to customise their new nests which is a sure sign that the seasons are once again on the move in their ever changing cycle of life.

 

There is something however that despite looking pretty is really NO GOOD AT ALL. If you look at this photo you may enjoy the scenic beauty and think that the yellow flowers are pretty as I did. WRONG. Apparently it is fireweed, a noxious weed that seeds VERY well and that no animal will eat as it makes them sick. You can’t spray for it (even the dreaded and very effective roundup doesn’t eradicate it) and the only way to get rid of it is to pull it up by hand. If we had had some decent winter rain that may have been feasible but the ground is rock hard and NOTHING is coming up easily. You could spend 5 hours doing one paddock and in the space of one puff of wind 300 more seedlings could establish themselves. It really is a thankless task but one that needs to be done and if you are relentless and do it regardless of the rather discouraging statistics you may live to win the battle. Perserverance is the key….

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These are the inocuous plants that can ruin paddocks for miles around if left to their own devices. Not your pretty canola, mustard or rape seed but the dreaded Fireweed.

 

We have a couple of new residents in The Meadow. Cammo has named them The Pointer Sisters and bought them on a whim last week as our ageing chooks are a little low on the egg laying side of things. Despite looking a bit scary (black and Gothic-cy) they are actually the sweetest and gentlest of the lot! Still too young to be laying they are immediately at the whim of the hierarchy in the Chook-Mahal. I seriously doubt if any other animal can be as mean as a chicken is to newcomers. Despite being the same species they are constantly run at and pecked just for daring to be in the same yard/area as the others and heaven forbid if they want to eat or drink – the older chooks ensure that THEY are numero uno at all times. The whole pecking order thing was definitely invented by chickens. I seem to spend a lot of my day ensuring that the black ones are allowed outside (and not harassed by the others) or conversely allowed inside to eat and drink. I may have even armed myself with a big stick to fend off the unwanted attention of the head chooks as they try and charge the newbies. Life’s tough in the Chook Pen.

 

Our new girls spend most of their day avoiding the others

This was their first introduction to their new home…..

he others 😦

 

So the next project we are attacking is the installation of our wood fired pizza oven. Cam has had the old doors of the original oven from the house in 1896 restored as we are going to utilise them in the new setup and they look as good as new! A hole has been dug ahead of laying a concrete slab to support the oven’s 180kg weight and next weekend we will have it all finished ready for the bricky who is going to punch a 1.4m square hole into our existing curved bbq area to create the new space and finally the oven gets built into it by our little Italian man who knows everything there is to know about pizza!! Fingers crossed in another month it will be up and running and then the fun really begins! I have visions of pizza, slow cooked roasts and homemade bread….

 

WOOD-FIRE

Mmmmmmm…………………….pizza ♥♥♥

Germania 1896

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Germania is teasing me, whispering softly “find out about me if you can…”

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If these old walls could talk I’d be in heaven.

In a very coincidental and “as if it’s meant to be” fashion I have started getting some interesting information on the history of our house including some amazing photos from when it was delapidated after being a hayshed for 20 years. Swaggies used to stay here on their way through the countryside and if it wasn’t for a certain Ray Collins it would still look like this…

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In 1972 Ray’s fiancé Marcia voiced a desire to do this old house up and make it their marital home. Ray thought she was bonkers but being young and in love he wanted to make his new bride happy and he started to look into the enormity of renovating the old house. Apart from it’s dilapidated state it was on a huge parcel of land and a lot of work was done to merely create a sub division and make the land available for sale let alone tackling the restoration of the house itself. As it was riddled with white ants no bank was prepared to lend him any money and it was only through hard work and diligence that he managed to make the house habitable, doing things one step at a time and finally moving in in 1974. Talk about patience!!

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It took me a while to even recognise which bit was what, but in the above picture taken from the back of the house the kitchen was a detached outbuilding to the main house, mainly as a kind of insurance against fire (it being a wooden house and the cooking being done over live flames back then.) Sensible really. This is the old oven, the last thing standing before the old kitchen was totally dismantled. The big slab used as a hearth in the original kitchen is now a seat built into the wall on our back terrace and the oven doors have now been sandblasted back to their original silvery colour which we are going to use in our new outdoor pizza oven. It makes me happy to think that part of that original kitchen will live on 2017 style.

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Here is our little friend Tonic sitting proudly on the old hearth.

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After a lot of hard work Ray’s efforts started paying off…

We wonder what would have happened if Ray hadn’t come along. I’m not sure how many other people would have had the tenacity and patience to go through with the project and it may well have fallen into such disrepair that it couldn’t be revived. I feel like the house has a will or force of it’s own that “finds” people to love it and live in it, each owner giving it some love and the next chapter in it’s story. All we knew about the house was that it was built in 1896 for Charles Lamond, the owner of a bacon factory and tannery in Worrigee. When his wife died he married his children’s governess who was German hence the name of the house. The missing link is who owned it in between Charles and Ray so I am trying to trackdown the Certificate of Title to see if we can fill in the gaps. The local Historical Society and The Berry Museum are also both keen to help in any way possible. Watch this space!!

I was quite concerned when we invited Ray over to see the house that he may not like what we’ve done to the place. He was quite fascinated to see the changes and gave us his tick of approval. An orange cake using our own eggs and oranges helped seal the deal! (recipe in the kitchen section together with a couple of winter favourites.)

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While I have been excitedly uncovering the past, the garden has started to blossom. Literally. Our pear trees are in full flower and the bees are loving it. There is a constant hum as they busy themselves collecting pollen. I have a desire to create a meadow section in the garden, sewn with wildflowers and then pop in a bee hive. A nearby winery is holding a workshop soon on all things bees and hive related which I am going to go to and then I will see how doable or otherwise the whole concept is!

I thought this area would be perfect for my mini meadow and bee hive.

We had a lovely mid week overnight visit to our friends in Callala Bay, about 30 minutes drive from us. They go back a LONG way and we always have fun eating, drinking and chatting about everything under the sun. We had the most DELICIOUS meal and the next morning we took a walk along the beach which was deserted except for a set of pawprints!!

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It’s a beautiful part of the world on pristine Jervis Bay and a better start to the day you cannot get!

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This weekend on a glorious sunny day I headed up to Upper Kangaroo Valley where my friend has the gorgeously rustic Old Koonabulla Dairy which nestles in the folds of the valley. I had borrowed a few things for the wedding that I still hadn’t returned so Bailey and I drove up marvelling at the riot of blossoms – cherry, pear, magnolia and jasmine that we saw along the way. Still a month away from the 1st day of Spring and I was in a tee shirt enjoying the balminess of it all. This often happens though and just as we contemplate putting away our winter woollies the cold comes back with a vengeance, usually together with gale force winds, just to mock us. Today however was wonderful and everyone was out in the garden or walking in the sunshine and making the most of it all.

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Such a beautiful part of the world

As summer clothes are just around the corner we have been eating healthily Monday to Friday so that we can let our hair down at the weekends! My partner in life isn’t too keen on fish so I have to find ways to make it tasty and appealing to him and I must say he is starting to enjoy it despite himself! Last night I literally threw some ingredients together à la Jamie in a traybake in the oven and served it with coconut rice and it was yummy, fast and healthy!

 

(This is us but with less salads….ooops!!!)

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Home is where the heart is.

Home. Does a more evocative word exist in the dictionary? It encompasses the other top two contenders, Love and Family, all wrapped up in one word. Whether it’s a bedroom in a share house or a sprawling homestead in the country, home is where we look forward to coming back to; where our belongings surround us like cuddly blankets and we can just relax and be ourselves. In my late teens when I spent a few years travelling the world on an extremely small budget I spent many a night (and long long train journeys through India) dreaming of home and what I would ask my Mum to cook for me on my return. Other travellers I met along the way would also ponder on their favourite meals that so reminded them of home, invariably shared with their family. For all our dreams of travelling and experiencing new adventures, coming home is still AMAZING. Coming back to my childhood bedroom after spending months discovering myself in Israeli kibbutz and Indian Ashrams was strange yet oh so comforting. The familiarity and the unconditional sense of belonging that you can only ever get from being ‘home’.

Nowadays I have two homes, my old childhood home in England where my family still live and my new Australian home about which I share this blog. It is through this that I have most surprisingly met up with the couple that we bought this house from and who have now come back to the area. It is thanks to Nicky and Paul that a lot of the hard work was done on our house before we bought it. The many many hours spent reclaiming the floors, stripping back the old dark paint and repainting, laying new carpets in the bedrooms and updating the electrical side of things was done by them and we are forever grateful to them for giving us such a fresh gorgeous base to which we could add our own touch. I am looking forward to getting them over soon to show them what we have done to the house. Here are a few before and after pictures….

The hall with its old powder blue carpet and dark paint.

More of the pale blue and the old boarded up fireplace in the lounge.

The Master Bedroom with a newly restrained palette.

This used to be the only working fireplace in the house so it was used as a sitting room but it is now our dining room.

As Nicky is new to town I have encouraged her to go to everything and anything local as you never know when you will make your new best friend so to get the ball rolling we went together to the local “FUN” lunch (Females United Networking) held in Berry in the rustic old coach house at the back of the Berry Pub. A small group of lovely women with very varied and interesting stories and businesses shared their stories with us over lunch and it was a great way to meet local ladies and get some ideas for what is going on in the area and to brainstorm ways to help them grow their business and/or assimilate into the area. A monthly lunch that is worth putting in the diary!

It has been a big week for Berry with the bypass finally open (although only with one lane each way at the moment) and no more trucks thundering through town. Locals feel like they have their little town back, at least until the weekend invasion from Sydney and Canberra, and it is possible once again to cross the road without courting death. Now the next stage of works begins which will incorporate making a turning circle at the top of our lane and we will no longer be able to turn right, having instead to turn left and double back if we wish to head north. They have already started pulling down the trees, some of them have been there 50 years or so and it is with a sad heart we see this ‘progress’. The South Coast got some more good news this week with the announcement that commercial 50 seater planes will fly to Melbourne and Brisbane daily from Albion Park, avoiding the need to drive the extra 1 hour 20 mins  to Sydney and pay exorbitant parking fees at the airport there. I’m personally not too sure how I feel about little planes with memories of being buffeted about like a dandelion seed in the wind in years gone by……

The big road now bypassing the town leaving it blissfully empty.

 

I did venture half way to Sydney last week to meet up with old friends at a venue I haven’t been to before and which was a pleasant surprise. Austinmer beach is literally about half way to the Big Smoke making it a popular area to visit at the weekends and a new building – The Headlands Hotel – made great use of it’s position on the cliff to provide us with lunch with a view. On a beautiful Australian winters day it was a pleasure to sit out in the sunshine and with a little ripple of coastal breeze in our hair catch up on times old and new. How lucky are we to have these amazing beaches at every turn.

With the Man of The House away I decided it was a good time to tackle the assembling of a flat pack chest of drawers that I had bought from ALDI. So many of my friends have raved about their products and being a German company I hoped that their instructions would be marginally clearer than IKEA. I spread out in the garage and in one hour blocks managed to put it together! Not without having to pull it apart of course, as at the final hurrah of putting the drawers in I discovered I’d put the runners in upside down and round the wrong way – aaaaargghhhh!! Luckily it went together much quicker the second time around and is now happily ensconced in our guest room.

Because it has been so sunny outside and soooo freezing inside I have been taking little tea breaks every couple of hours to thaw out and have been loving re reading some of my old books. I’m having a French ‘moment’ and have devoured Jane Webster’s “French Ties” that incorporates her daily life in her beautiful Chateau in Normandy with some great recipes. Each page is a visual feast and I can’t help but have a little daydream about winning the lottery and having a little place in France closer to my family in England to enjoy for a few months a year. Jane has a website http://www.thefrenchtable.com.au   where you can see some of her beautiful Chateau Bosgouet. Instagram has a plethora of sites to follow of Aussies that have taken the plunge and made the move. It’s a great way of finding places you’d like to stay. After having struck up conversation with them online, we stayed in the countryside outside of Bordeaux last year at L’Autre Vie Guesthouse where an Aussie husband and wife team welcome people from far and wide and through another site http://www.thefrenchmanoir.net I would love one day to meet Julie at her beautiful house in Normandy too.

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A favourite book, a spot in the winter sun and oranges from our own tree. Heaven.

Food is intertwined with all things home and travel. I can love a destination but if it doesn’t give me a few good meals, however simple, it doesn’t rate. Prague was like that for us after LOVING the city but not getting one decent meal the whole trip. Best was the rotisserie ham and mulled wine from a market stall in the Old Town Square! So as my orange tree is dripping in sweet ripe fruit I am searching for recipes to use them up but as I am trying not to eat desserts it’s a bit tricky!! My veggie patch is starting to give us a few more winter crops now and I am quite happy to eat loads of them as long as they are visually appealing! I realised the other day that I haven’t added much to the kitchen section of this blog for a long time so I will be doing so gradually over the next few weeks. Our ruby grapefruit tree is going crazy and the fruit is enjoyed every morning by The Man of The House and a certain labrador…..talk about bonkers!!!

 How good does this look !!

So as my winter splodge has rather taken hold of my middle I am attempting to go back onto the 5:2 way of eating to combat our winter food choices – slow cooked stews with butter laden mash or polenta and steamed puddings or pies with lashings of cream or custard, not to mention the big reds that make sitting in front of a log fire that little bit more fabulous. So for 2 days a week I eat very little, stir fried greens and the odd boiled egg and mug after mug of green tea to allow me to eat a bit of what I fancy on the other days. Sadly this sums me up to a tee….

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Everything old is new again

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Roses have never lost their appeal. One of the most anciently revered flowers they have been cultivated for centuries throughout the world and are still considered one of the most romantic and beautiful plants to grow. They are also amazingly hardy which belies their soft velvety petals and despite being susceptible to various bugs they manage extremes of weather be it very hot or cold and can even survive our wicked westerly winds. So what’s not to like?? I do manage to tear open my arms on their brambles when I’m gardening but there are even thornless varieties nowadays if that becomes a problem. I’ve toyed with the idea of a climbing rose over the front veranda – surely the epitome of every country house – and if I could find my perfect Pierre De Ronsard pink climbing rose I may well be tempted to plant 2 on each side of the front steps to frame our front door. In the meantime this is one of our original roses which has been planted here for many a moon, I have no idea what the name of it is but it is beautifully put together!!

So just like roses many things that are “old fashioned” are back in favour. As my friends become grandparents I’m seeing a lot of the old names coming back into vogue. Our neighbours new grandson is Vincent Albert and another has a Gordon (already fondly known as Flash!) Our young neighbours have a Sid and representing the girls we have Florence and Olive! To the young parents these are interesting new names but for those of us over 50 we hear our grandparents names, I wonder how long it will be before Enid and Herbert are again common names???

It’s not only the old names but the old way of life that is being embraced by a new generation. It’s never exactly the same 2nd time round but there is a definite trendiness to cooking from scratch, growing your own produce, even making your own cleaning products from common household items rather than the smorgasbord of chemicals in commercial products. Recycling and Upcycling are the new black and sewing, knitting, home made pickles and chutneys and home brews are all embraced not just by the older generation but also by young families. Backyard chickens and even the odd goat or sheep are commonplace. I saw the funniest sight whilst walking along the river the other day when I saw a guy kayaking with his pet goat beside him!! Apparently he rescued him from a shelter and now he goes everywhere with him rather like a labrador! A goat would be nice for the milk and cheese but would be disastrous for my garden and the new saplings and plants so for now I’ll just stick to chooks!

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Something old that will probably never be new again is the old Nowra Sailing Club. It was the company store that sat alongside the Nowra wharf, which was built in the 1880s. Before river blasting secured a safe navigation passage for steamers all the way to Nowra in 1903, goods were offloaded at Greenwell Point then sent by land to Nowra. As road and rail links between Nowra and Sydney were improved, reliance on sea transport dwindled. By the mid 1940s,  the wharf and its associated sheds were no longer used to transport goods.They became home to the Nowra Fishing Co-op until 1964 when the Nowra Sailing Club applied for a lease over the building and wharf. After surviving all those years it burnt down suspiciously two weekends ago despite the best attempts by firefighters to save it. A lovely old wooden structure, it has been under water several times in the big floods and had always survived to fight another day but this time it looks like it will be replaced by a more modern building, it is still up in the air if it will be another sailing club, a museum or maybe even a waterfront cafe. Another little bit of history gone.

Someone asked me if I could post some recent pictures of our house the other day and I hope they enjoy this little selection. I am certainly spending a lot more time indoors with the recent cold snap (and because I’ve had the lurgy now for 10 days) and I really appreciate the coziness of my home although it is 100% better when a log fire or two are burning. It’s dark by 5pm, even the chooks are all snuggled up on their roost by then and we have found ourselves eating earlier and have gone into hibernation mode somewhat!

So I guess it was good that we got shaken out of our little winter routine with the arrival of Tom and his mate Alex for the weekend. It was the first time Alex had been down to our neck of the woods and the boys did some local exploring before we all ventured out to our favourite Two Figs winery to show him the view and enjoy a cheese platter and some of their wines. Home to a dinner of comfort food and a huge bonfire under the Milky Way, very simple but THE BEST way to end a day if you ask me! The weekend was rounded off with a lovely lunch with our friends listening to some live music in the sunshine at yet another winery – Mountain Ridge (how lucky we are to have at least 5 decent wineries near us, all with super views and increasingly with various options to dine.) I must say that winter in Australia is pretty fabulous , at least while the sun is out. People from overseas are always surprised at how cold it can get here but living near the coast we are luckier than those over the mountain range where they are experiencing overnight temps of 0 to -5 together with heavy frosts. I’m so glad we get to enjoy four definitive seasons here as each one has its plusses and minuses with different food and activity choices with each season and by the time the new one comes around we are usually ready and waiting for it!!

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♥♥♥♥♥

 

 

A Glass Half Full

20170612_143343Our fallen autumn leaves looking more like confetti…..

Someone pointed out to me this week that not everyone lives my “perfect” life and inferred that I was bragging about all the ‘gorgeousness’ surrounding me and my daily life. As those close to me know, I am indeed a positive person, a most definitely glass half full girl and therefore despite having sad/bad/disappointing things happening in my life I choose not to dwell on them, instead focussing on a bit of gratefulness and seeing the silver lining when things go wrong. I know when I am a bit down occasionally or I want to be transported to another place I love to read about other people’s lives and travels and get ideas, however small, from reading about their happy place. I love to get lost in their words and dream about doing something different. I in turn hope that in my own little way I may help someone else who has dreams of moving to the country or just needs some courage to take the leap from their everyday life to do something they have long dreamed of. I’ve never pretended that everything is 100% fine and dandy all the time but who wants to read about sad/bad/disappointing things when we all have our own to deal with? Writing is about painting a picture and if I was a painter I doubt I would portray something sad/bad/disappointing so what’s different about the written word? If I can transport even one person to a different place I am a happy bunny.

And now on a more enjoyable note we enjoyed having our boys stay with us last weekend for the Queens Birthday Long Weekend. My British friends and family laugh at this as they don’t get a public holiday to celebrate Lizzys birthday but we of the Colonies do!! In our little part of the world the June Long Weekend (as it is more commonly known) is synonymous with the Shoalhaven Wine Festival and it is growing each year to the point that this year things seemed a little out of control. After a week of heavy rain the skies cleared and the people ventured out in their hundreds to savour the wine, food and entertainment that 8 of the local wineries put on for the 3 day weekend. There are buses to take those not wishing to drive but loads of people choose to go solo in their cars. This made for very muddy and slippery parking in the various paddocks with several people getting bogged and having to be helped out. Queues were long for food and drinks but everyone stayed calm and relaxed and enjoyed the ambience and the winter sunshine and a good time was had by all.

The boys went home to prepare for going back to work and for Tom to go into hospital to get his knee repaired after a football injury back in February. All went well but he was pretty swollen and sore so good old Mum went up with some home made food to look after him for a couple of days and to get him out of his bedroom for an hour or two. We had a nice time together even trying out a charcoal face mask just for fun! His Dad is next on the list for a knee op – if only we could have got a discount for 2 !!

Whilst I was up in the Big Smoke I caught up with my old colleagues who I hadn’t seen for a good 2 years which was lovely, they were the best team to work with and I do miss them. I finally got to check out the Tram Sheds at Glebe which was being built when we moved away. It is a really great little set up based around the old Rozelle Tram Shed built in 1904 and you can even have brekky inside the tram for an atmospheric start to the day! The industrial design really compliments the site and it’s history and houses loads of good restaurants and providores all within walking distance of our old house! I love going back to Sydney for a couple of days and manage to pack loads in each time but I left this time with a head cold, an empty wallet and the obligatory parking ticket, obtained whilst playing Florence Nightingale……. grrrrrr……

I got back to The Meadow just in time for part of the Berry Bypass being opened to the public to walk it prior to being opened to traffic in a few weeks time. As the 1st trees were cut down for this project a mere two weeks after we moved here we have seen it develop and grow over the past couple of years and together with all the locals we are excited for our little town to be circumnavigated so we can cross the road easily and enjoy a coffee in the pavement cafes in peace. The amount of huge trucks ploughing through the centre of town is ridiculous and it must also be annoying for the truckies as it is a 50km zone. The new road will keep them whizzing by on their way south and restore peace to the High Street! The engineering has been amazing with new materials ensuring water is drained through the surface rather than sitting on the top splashing all who drive through it and also incorporates recycled rubber ensuring a quieter road for everyone. They also have allowed for the natural habitat of our native animals providing specially created walkways from the trees so they can go UNDER the road rather than becoming a statistic crossing it. The landscaping too has been well thought out, contributing beauty to the area rather than denuding it as in the past. It was great to see so many people turn out to take part in the 3km walk.

20170618_104629 Safe koalas and possums from now on hopefully….

So as Autumn moves into Winter and the days are so much shorter we tend to live outside as much as possible between 9 and 4 where it is actually warmer on a sunny day than indoors! Once we have a log fire going it is toasty but that is usually only when the Man of the House is around as I suck at building fires (must have missed that bit in Brownies.) So gardening and walks with the dog are all on the list of daily chores and despite the season there is still plenty of beauty to see, most especially if you’re a glass half full person…..

 

If you want a bit of insight into the world of a Mother of any age or stage this is THE CLOSEST thing I’ve ever seen to adequately describe it!!!

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It’s the simple things……..

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It’s been a weird few weeks in the world.

In what is becoming a regular occurrence, innocent people have lost their lives at the hands of deluded fanatics. Young people just starting out in their life watching their favourite pop star; people eating out at their local restaurant relaxing after work; people wandering home on a balmy summers evening. The enormity of it is overwhelming, if you really stop and think what it would be like to be caught up in these attacks or you imagine it involving someone from your own family it’s just too big a thought and we try to avoid the depth of feelings that swell up and overtake us. As if to balance out the awfulness of it we turn to the simple things to calm us and remind us that life can still be good despite all the sad news.

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Luckily I live in the perfect place to enjoy the simple things. I’m surrounded by nature and animals, there is always something to see from my veranda – birds making nests and chasing each other through the trees, clouds swirling over the escarpment making shapes in the sky, cows standing like statues with just their jaws moving as they chew the lush green  grass and a certain brown dog at my feet offering unconditional love and companionship. On top of all that I have my chooks and the fresh eggs they give me daily, they always lift my spirits when I see them pecking about contentedly or running a hundred miles an hour towards me if they think I may have some scraps for them. All these things help me stay sane in the face of a world gone mad.

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It’s funny how when people talk about a bucket list it’s always big things like going to Paris or skiing in Canada, diving in the Maldives, cruising down The Danube or whatever, but when you are faced with an illness that is limiting your time on this earth it is not these things that make it to your bucket list. In most instances the person is too ill to travel and enjoy these big ticket items and very quickly they realise that it is simply about spending time with your family and friends or maybe taking a gentle stroll on the promenade alongside the ocean or merely sitting out in your garden with a cup of tea feeling the sun’s warmth on your face or snuggling up on the couch with your loved one watching an old movie. Simple things. In our rush to tick off those big ticket items on our bucket lists we often overlook or ignore the simple everyday things from which life is made up, giving them little heed until it’s too late. So from now on I am going to attempt not to feel guilty if I take an hour out to sit and watch those clouds roll over the hilltop or walk down a country lane for the mere pleasure of being outside because life is made up of lots of small simple things and the occasional BIG thing and not the other way around.

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I suppose part of enjoying our environment is a responsibility to look after it and the recent three part series “War on Waste”was a thought provoking one for many people. I had always prided myself on the fact I recycled and repurposed things but this documentary made me realise the bigger picture. I thought I was an efficient recycler but have now realised I can do loads more and the recycling bin is now twice as full as the rubbish bin and the chooks are the beneficiaries of far more food waste than they had been previously. We are repurposing old worn out clothes into rags for cleaning or keeping them to wear for working in the garden. Our stash of plastic bags (which I’ve had to use because I’d left my ‘green’ bags in the car) is now being phased out completely as I have at least 2 reusable bags with me at all times and with a great new local program called ‘boomerang bags’ we can borrow cloth bags and return them the next time we shop in our local village with all the shopkeepers taking part in the venture in the hope to reduce our use of plastic. July will be completely plastic free.

When walking with the Choccy Drop along the beautiful Shoalhaven River the other day I was disgusted to see these shopping trolleys that had just been tossed into the river at some stage with no regard for local wildlife and the environment. What on earth possesses people I wonder? Surely even if you were bored this is a completely useless form of entertainment? What’s the point of me washing and recycling all my tins and plasticky bits if millions of other people don’t? Well, I can’t control their actions but I can try at least to make a teeny tiny bit of difference and if we all picked up a bit more litter when out and about or walking along the beach we would have less pollution in our oceans and less sea creatures being strangled and choked to death to boot. Rant Over.

 

The newlyweds are off on their honeymoon in a couple of weeks but have been up to their eyebrows in “to do” lists as they are moving from Hong Kong to Vietnam as soon as they return in July! They have to sell their furniture, organise the sending of their belongings to Ho Chi Minh and farewell their many many friends in Honkers before they leave. Life is never boring for these two that’s for sure! Although Vietnam is still part of Asia it is very different offering from HK and is going to give them a fun couple of years exploring a different culture not to mention all that glorious Vietnamese food! The one thing I do not envy them is the traffic and the non existent road rules. You take your life in your hands crossing the roads over there as the motorists use ‘rules’ known only to themselves, so the trick is to pick your line across the road and walk confidently, not deviating from it and somehow, miraculously they go around you. There is surprisingly little blowing of horns and very few accidents. Crazy! They are also brilliant at packing as much as humanly possible onto their scooters, not much occupational health and safety here folks!

 

We are all looking forward to visiting them there once they have settled in (and know all the good local haunts and best places for pho) and are so pleased they will still be only around a 9 hour flight from Sydney. The Vietnamese are lovely friendly people, the food is amazing and cheap and there are lots of beautiful places to discover nearby. Exciting times! Life may be chaotic in Vietnam but touch wood it isn’t a target for terrorists at least. With London being such a rite of passage for so many young Australians it must be with mixed emotions that parents farewell their kids for a trip there at the moment. So sad.

 

On a happier note we got the wedding pics back from the photographer and it has been SUCH fun looking through them all, the wedding day went so fast so this is a great way to re-live it all. What a great job it must be making people so happy with your pictures! Russell Quinn you are a star. Here’s just a snippet from the day…20170606_163932

 

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THE BEST DAY!!

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