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.

20170713_141113

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….

FB_IMG_1498547797535

 

Everything old is new again

20170620_163110

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!

b3b9e8c6e7c76c6fa4375e908c695cd0

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!!

20170703_100117

♥♥♥♥♥

 

 

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!!!

18767924_1749244885091875_4754249654914021322_n

 

It’s the simple things……..

FB_IMG_1496572378378

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.

20170604_140001

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.

20170601_132628 (1)

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.

20170605_114147

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

 

20170606_163753

 

 

THE BEST DAY!!

20170606_144425

 

 

 

I’m coming back as a galah

Galah_05

If we do indeed come back in some form or another I would be pretty happy to be a galah. These birds have the BEST life, swooping and diving and chasing each other all over the countryside, maintaining a constant chatter amongst themselves (a perfect fit for me I hear you saying!) We have a large group of them that live on our property and they are a constant part of my day, always together, never alone, as they graze on the seeds in the grass or clamber above on the tree branches creating mayhem wherever they go. They are like cheeky teenagers who just want to have FUN at every given opportunity and like to fly through the gaps between the house and the garage at high speed and low to the ground creating a wind tunnel as they pass through like B52s. They always make me smile.

autumn

It is a beautiful time of year to be outside. The sun is shining and the sky is blue but there is that cool Autumn air that feels so fresh and is so conducive to a walk through the fields with the dog at my heels or running ahead to explore the clear streams that run through them and to scrunch through the fallen leaves . I can embrace working in the veggie patch at any time of the day without fear of getting sunburn and the heavy overnight dew makes it easy to pull up the weeds. As soon as the sun goes down however we turn our thoughts to cosying up in front of the fire with a meal of slow cooked beef cheeks and a bottle of red wine and lately in a rather senior pensioner type fashion we are eating earlier in the evening and are happy to head to bed earlier too. We still don’t set an alarm unless we have an early appointment, rather we are content to wake up with the sun and ease into the day ahead. The mornings are currently misty and magical before the sun rises to burn it off and I love nothing more than rugging up with a steaming mug of coffee and sitting outside watching the world wake up….

IMG_20170523_071212_925 (1)

We are back to enjoying friends visit us after the hiatus of the wedding celebrations and three long time buddies joined us for an overnight stay last weekend. It was meant to be for 2 nights but I had a rather unplanned visit to the dentist with a grumbly tooth and found myself having an implant 36 hours later. (The Gods have obviously decided that I am to have NO money this year) However, on the upside we are still counting our lucky stars that despite not being in The Big Smoke we have wonderful local professionals to look after us. The doctors and dentists are as good as you would find anywhere. Specialists are a little harder to find but are also only needed occasionally so we are very lucky. A few glasses of good wine together with a couple of painkillers and I enjoyed our get together as if nothing had happened!

Despite the gaping hole in my mouth I was able to enjoy a day in Sydney catching up with the boys for a joint celebration of Tom’s birthday, Mothers Day, Sam’s new job and Cams 65th birthday (which went relatively unrecognised as it was the day before the wedding.) We all had a lovely laid back dinner at the ever popular Bar Reggio in Darlinghurst who are in the fantastic situation of running 2 sittings every night and being packed out for both of them. The whole place was rocking by 6.30pm!! I love catching up with my adult kids and enjoying their banter. I also love that we are all happy to go somewhere convivial and take our own wine and not have to always do”BIG” dinners. I look forward to their visit to The Meadow in a couple of weekends time. It is great that they have somewhere to escape to every now and again and after just 24 hours the city feels like it’s a whole world away and they go home well fed, rested and ready for the return to the rat race! If the newly Married One could pop over from Honkers too I’d be a happy bunny….

IMG_1485001002

We had a relaxing weekend starting with an early morning walk with the Chocolate Drop along the Shoalhaven River while the river was as still as a pond and the reflections were wonderful. Hundreds of black swans were there looking just like statues until a certain brown dog raced into the water to retrieve her ball, she loves nothing more than a good swim!!  The river is a very tranquil destination for fishermen, artists and walkers alike. We enjoyed a quick coffee at a local cafe and went home for brekky contented and happy to ready to attack the garden!

In very exciting news (for us country bumpkins) Telstra is coming today to connect us to the NBN and dragging us into the 21st century with fast broadband (or so they have promised) so I am getting this finished just in case they bugger it all up and I become  internet-less for weeks…  This connection for people outside of the major cities is wonderful and is inadvertently affecting property sales in the area as it is perfectly possible now for people to work efficiently from home for part of the week and then commute to the City for the rest. This is very dependent on their careers of course and it is mostly those in media and online businesses that can take advantage of it. A life/work balance is definitely becoming more achievable for those people that can be flexible. I read recently that in one survey over 50% of workers would be prepared to earn less if they could work 4 days a week or work different hours to accommodate childcare or be able to live in the country for 3 days a week!! I feel extremely lucky to be able to live this way and never take it for granted.

berry-celtic-festival-knights-300x300

Berry was teaming with people this weekend, here to see the Celtic Festival and our streets were inundated with men in kilts and dogs sporting all sorts of tartan. Jousting and plenty of bagpipes were all part of the festivities and we are constantly amazed at the variety of things that draw people to our small town. Classic cars, camellias, tractor shows, horse jumping, small farm shows, poultry, gardening, spinning wool, you name it we have a weekend showcasing it! The locals embrace many different “things” and most weekends the Showground is packed, which has a flow on effect to our cafes and shops. The imminent opening of the Berry Bypass will only make it so much more pleasurable to spend time in the village with all those drivers intent on reaching their destinations further south hopefully driving past and making things a lot quieter and more pleasurable in town. We are walking the new Berry Bridge on June 18th ahead of the road being opened to traffic. The bridge makes up a 620 metre section of the closest part of the new Bypass and it will be a memorable day for all of us who are looking forward to Berry returning to it’s quieter former self. Plenty of people will still stop, being the perfect 2 hour distance from Sydney, but we won’t have the huge trucks coming through town and it will make the journey much faster for those travelling south too. A win win situation!

33-foxground-berry-2015

In the meantime the nights are getting longer and colder and the fire is weaving it’s magic keeping us cosy inside. We are embracing the slow cooker and all the old favourite British puddings as winter announces it’s arrival next week. The veggie patch is full of spinach, broccoli, leeks, brussel sprouts and asian greens and the rhubarb is giving us a good excuse to make a crumble, golden topped and served with homemade custard using our own eggs. Does life get any better????

20170526_171636

Life after The Wedding

20170509_154624

And here we are – back to reality and the routine once more. Three weeks after the big celebration I am finally back to myself after a fairly severe case of post wedding blues. The first week was full of cleaning up and packing up and then I whizzed off to Melbourne for a few days with my Mum which was lovely. I hadn’t been there for yonks and we stayed slap bang in the middle of the city and made great use of the trams and the hop on hop off bus to discover all the nearest tourist destinations. Some gorgeous old buildings like The State Library and Flinders Street Station, the characterful Victoria Markets with the best freshly cooked hot jam donuts (a perfect brekky with some piping hot coffee to go!), St Kilda with its beach promenade and pier, the sparkly big city shops and some lovely alleyways vibrant with people chatting, eating and drinking, graffiti laden walls alongside smart designer shops, book shops bursting to the seams and buskers on every corner. Melbourne has it all and more.

Mum was a real trooper as I walked her up and down the city grid looking for x or y (I am a hopeless map reader as my family will attest to, they are still amazed I managed to travel around the world in the pre google maps era!) and we enjoyed sampling some of Melbourne’s eclectic food scene and watching the world go by. Her 6 weeks with us had flown by and it was great to spend some one on one time with her before she flew back to the UK. Our last couple of days in The Meadow and we were still finding places she hadn’t seen so she will just have to come over again in the not too distant future.

2017-05-01 12.26.13

It’s always horrible saying goodbye to your family when they live on the other side of the world and especially when you don’t have a fixed plan in your mind of the next time you will see each other so I was a sad girl for a few days. After such a long time of looking forward to everything it was all over and I was projectless!! Time for this little black duck to embrace something new I think…..

2017-05-07 12.52.44

Being in the middle of such beautiful countryside helped me return to my normal cheerful self, with long walks with Bailey helping to restore my love of life once more. Autumn is definitely here with all the trees turning orange and crimson and dropping their leaves, the nights are cool now and the wood pile is being stacked in readiness for some open fires over the coming months. It’s darker in the mornings and the snuggliness of bed is sometimes hard to leave but despite myself I LOVE the mornings down here with the mist hanging in the hills and the cows silhouetted against the rising sun and I’ve even signed up for a 7am pilates class so I can witness the countryside awakening as I drive there! Crazy woman that I am!

Our new camellia hedge is off and running with some beautiful flowers unfurling on a regular basis and together with the dahlias are keeping some interest and colour in the garden. We even heard some tiny sounds coming from our hedge and on closer inspection found a nest with a couple of these little guys waiting for their Mum to feed them. Baby top notch pigeons apparently ♥♥

This last weekend saw us back down to Milton for a Long Lunch hosted by Get in the Q at the very special Claydon Park. A beautiful day with Autumn sunshine and blue skies made for a lovely day to enjoy the creative and well thought out food from Damien and his team together with plenty of wine and lively conversation from the eclectic mix of food lovers who gathered in the beautiful clear roofed marquee to enjoy locally sourced and prepared food.
20170513_141211

It is a gorgeous location for everything from a lunch to a party to a wedding and whilst the team were preparing a rather different presentation of the dessert everyone enjoyed walking around the property and meeting some of the pigs and checking out the vast veggie garden which is always brimming with goodies. A beautiful part of the world.

So life carries on, our newlyweds are on a high – booking their honeymoon in Canada and planning their move to Saigon, brimming with the endless possibilities for their future just as they should. My boys are well and happy and I really can throw myself into anything – but what??? The dilemma is whether to take on more work or maybe go out on a limb and try my hand at something more creative. It is a wonderful time that we live in when someone of my age can still ponder their options and even get a bit excited about it all. In days gone by it would have all been over Red Rover and despite the fact that I have entered the “invisible ” age I still feel I have something worthwhile to offer. Life is anything other than boring and I am excited about things to come. How lucky am I??

20170510_091032

2017-05-08 11.00.51

A Country Wedding

2017-04-23 21.42.28

What a fabulous few fun filled weeks we’ve had! After all the visualising and planning of the last 12 months our Princess married her beau in a memorable and magical wedding in The Meadow. The excitement started a couple of days before the Big Day when the Marquee went up and the family and friends of the bridal couple arrived from the four corners of the globe to celebrate the Cameron-Cook union. We had a cohort of helpers, especially our friends Baz and Kathy who set up camp in their caravan for a week at The Showground in order to assist with all things Wedding! They had carefully harvested the ivy from their garden and transported it in eskies for us to use on the long tables in the marquee. We had tested all our local ivies and none of them had any lasting power but this one from sunny Forster somehow lives without water for weeks! It was perfect for winding down the length of the tables, it’s flexibility allowing for candles, flowers and platters of food.

2017-04-21 13.01.19

The Groom, an early arriving groomsman and Number 2 son, who came down to help with the heavy lifting, transformed the garden into a bucolic reception venue by dotting garden furniture, hay bales and wine barrels into attractive groupings. Huge sandstone boulders became steps into the marquee and pavers were used to create paths to the bar and the bathrooms. The cool room was filled with champagne and wine and the homemade trestle tables were utilised for drinks stations and a grazing table.

2017-04-21 10.57.36 - Copy

The Groom took some time out to practise his speech, I watched him as he paced up and down by the gate, the cows his only audience, and I felt a teeny bit sorry for him. At least on the day I could just turn up and enjoy everything, a bit more pressure on him though….

2017-04-19 13.11.08

D Day minus 1 and the Bridal Party arrived, bridesmaids to the charming Camellia Cottage opposite the church at the top of our lane and the groomsmen to a house in Berry and all of a sudden it all became real! In a blink of an eye the Maids had whipped out a bottle of champers and a cheese platter and were making the Bride feel a million dollars and from then on it was just FUN – all the hard work had been done and as I had been told by other MOBs that the day flies by in a blur, I was determined to immerse myself in every minute of it as much as possible. Kathy and I decorated the pews in the church with simple bunches of eucalypt and white ribbon giving this cute little church a simple woodland feel. After a rehearsal we all gathered in the local pub to meet the groom’s family and for the bridal party to get to know each other. Berry was buzzing with our family and friends and I was suddenly so happy that we were hosting this in our new hometown and over a few days rather than just an afternoon at a local wedding venue.

2017-04-20 20.19.49 - Copy

The Big Day dawned and with it the arrival of the hairdresser, makeup artist, wedding co-ordinator and all the other people that make up the workings of a modern wedding. My hairdresser, the lovely Jade (who I have known for 15 years) came down from Sydney and Thelma, the bride’s friend and makeup artist came from Tassie and they worked their collective magic on the girls whilst we sipped on champagne and the Maids made their own bouquets. I must admit I was worried about this idea before the day but the Maid of Honour had gone to the flower markets at dawn the previous day and bought the most amazing collection of flowers and greenery and they had the most wonderful time creating their bouquets as little Estella (9 month old daughter of one of the Maids) sat with them in the garden playing with the offcuts and squealing at the birds! It gave the day a lovely homemade feel which was perfect and the girls did an awesome job with their flowers.

2017-04-21 10.24.11 - Copy

Having my Mum there to share in this girliness was very special and we were having so much fun we left it to the last minute to race home and get changed, passing the baton to the Father of the Bride who was on his way up to see his daughter in her dress and give her away, a big moment in any Father’s life. By the time we got back she was in her dress, looking beautiful and happy and full of excitement for what was to come.

IMG-20170423-WA0010-1

2017-04-21 14.21.58

The little church was bursting at the seams and it wasn’t long before the wonderful Father Duane got things started. An unplugged ceremony was requested so that we could all just enjoy being in the moment so I don’t have any photos to share with you just yet but it was gorgeous to see my soon to be son-in-law’s little nephews and nieces toddle down the aisle and give Uncle Berry a big hug before the Maids entered the church ahead of Lozzy and her Dad who was beaming with pride and emotion as he handed her over to her hubby to be. The Groom was in tears as he saw his bride and this started most of us blubbing as well, luckily we had tucked a beautiful lace hanky belonging to a much loved and no longer with us Great Aunty into her hand and I just welled up with love as I saw this couple who had known each other for the best part of 10 years exchange such emotional and heart felt vows for each other. There was a party atmosphere as everyone cheered and clapped for the new Mr & Mrs Cook, causing the priest to say he had never heard had such a happy noisy crowd in the church before!

2017-04-21 14.45.55

All the happiness overflowed to the outdoors and a quick couple of snaps with the flower girls and page boys before they were whisked off with their grandparents. A photo opportunity for the bride and her girlfriends from school and Uni and then we were off  – a guard of honour for the newlyweds with throwing of petals and cheers all round before the BIG HURDLE – crossing the Princes Highway to walk together down our lane to the reception. This bit had us worried and we had even asked the police if they could arrange to stop the traffic for 5 minutes (apparently not) so in the end we just had to be sensible and choose our moment before hurriedly crossing the highway. I LOVED what followed….. as we waited to cross the road with traffic whizzing past at 100kms per hour cars spontaneously started tooting with passengers waving madly, truckies blowing kisses as they sounded their horns – a wonderful musical symphony for our newlyweds!!

_DSC3149

Our lovely neighbours and local farmers Pat and Jeanette had offered to loan us their tractor and trailer, usually used to collect hay bales, to transport the bridal party to the neighbouring paddock for the photos and they all had great fun as they hopped up to enjoy some champagne, beer and a hay ride! A very country scene for sure and one that they absolutely LOVED. Our friend Noel took the afternoon off work to drive them and we followed on foot, stopping off at the beautiful Kathryn’s house where a couple of wheelbarrows had been set up with some cold drinks for the walkers! Thanks Kath for your friendly smiles and “bar” duties!! Love our neighbours in The Lane!

At this stage a certain chocolate dog joined the proceedings sporting her wedding collar and excitedly joining in with the celebrations. As I arrived at the reception this was the 1st thing I saw…..

2017-04-21 16.05.01

It certainly didn’t take her long to work out where the food was! She stayed for an hour before our other neighbour Paul came and collected her to stay overnight at his kennels at the top of our lane. If anyone is ever looking for a good place to leave their dogs or cats whilst holidaying on the South Coast you will be super happy with “Meroo Kennels and Cattery” and the care and attention that Paul gives to the animals.

2017-04-23 08.58.19

The party started with aperol spritz and champagne to accompany the mellow tunes from the wonderful Adam Rennie. He perfectly summed up the vibe of the wedding and The Meadow with his playlist of songs that we all know and love but done in his own special style. A lovely bloke and a talented one. You can check him out from this Sunday 7th May on “The Voice” (Australia) where he is pitching his talents to the judges. We already know how great he is and now it’s Australia’s turn to find out! Here is a snippet that our amazing wedding co-ordinator Kat popped on her instagram page. I love that we have this little memory!

In case any of you are planning a wedding (and I know at least 4 of you are) I can highly recommend the use of an on the day co-ordinator (especially if you are doing it from home). When the then Engaged One told me she had employed one I thought it sounded a bit Hollywood and unnecessary but boy oh boy was I wrong! It was the single best thing she did and it allowed me to enjoy the day. Despite the title they did a lot more than ‘on the day’ co-ordinating. Site visits, countless phone calls, run sheets, coordinating with all the suppliers, caterers, party hire etc etc and then on the day a complete internal setup of the marquee, tables, flowers and decor – all in accordance with our pictorial examples – AMAZING!! Later that night when I came outside to see all the lanterns on, candles lit and a magical glow all around I was delighted – she did everything I would have done and more.                www.weddingandeventcreators.com.au

2017-04-23 08.55.10

One of the big hits of the day was our huge LOVE sign. Kindly lent to us from our gorgeous friends at http://www.theoldchurchmilton.com.au (along with many other weddingy things from them and the wonderful Old Koonabulla Dairy in Kangaroo Valley) these letters were fantastic. They divided the lawn up for games such as boules and bocce and provided a great prop for photos. Wayne and Kathy spent hours attaching fairy lights to them so they lit up at night when we would otherwise be plunged into darkness and really set the tone for the day. Thanks Kaz and Phil and Leigh and John ♥

2017-04-23 08.56.55

Our beautiful boys Sam and Tom embraced their MC duties with relish introducing the bridal party with funny anecdotes and introducing each stage of the evening as it unfolded. I LOVED that everything was such a family affair from both sides and as we tucked into some wonderful food by Simmone Logue and her team we were treated to some wonderful speeches, none better than the one given by my partner in crime and the Father of The Bride. Despite ‘winging it’ he gave a wonderful account of his little girl growing up and what a special place she held in his heart. I don’t think there was a dry eye in the house! (He did also sneak a mention of his footy team in too somehow….!!!)

It is a very special thing to merge two families and we thoroughly enjoyed meeting up with the In Laws, John and Carolyn again and reconnecting after passing like ships in the night as our kids moved from South America to Tassie to Hong Kong. We were all finally in one place and for such a great reason. The Groom once again bowled me over, this time with his speech – a perfect example of a man happy and confident and thankful and funny and most importantly showing his love for my daughter. Welcome to the family Berry! The Best Man and Maid of Honour also had us laughing in our seats as they shared stories of growing up with the new Mr & Mrs Cook. The cake (a beautiful gift from the very talented Sally Cordukes) was duly cut and the dancing began accompanied by the DJ of the night and the fantastic playlist that got EVERYONE up on the dance floor, Mr Andy Benke thank you !

From then on the night just whizzed by in a blur and before I knew it the buses were here to take everyone home. It was all over and no one was sadder than me. As the last of the somewhat sloshed guests drove off down the lane in the last bus I turned off all the lanterns and Cam blew out all the candles in the marquee before sitting on the veranda together with a glass of wine to ponder the day that had been and to congratulate ourselves on pulling together a day that perfectly reflected Loz and Berry’s wishes and turned out better than we could ever have hoped for.

2017-04-23 10.12.39

The nice thing about a country wedding is that it carries on! As everyone had rented cottages for the weekend and had travelled from far and wide to be there Day 2 was a recovery lunch at the Gerroa Fishermans Club overlooking beautiful 7 mile beach and a great little spot to catch up with everyone including the littlies who had been babysat the day before. Some immediate family and friends came back to The Meadow for a bonfire and more drinks, together with leftovers from the wedding and some bbq’d snags and onions in a roll – can’t get more Aussie than that! It was a lovely way to end the weekend and farewell those flying back overseas and as we sat out in the crisp Autumn air and reflected on the whole shebang we were contented little bunnies. The new Mr & Mrs Cook were chuffed to bits and I was quite sad to see them go back to Honkers and reality. They are now excitedly planning their honeymoon hiking through Canada and finishing off in the Big Apple before their next big adventure in Vietnam where they are moving in July. Never a dull moment in this family folks…..!!

2017-04-22 18.06.33

 

Rain Rain go AWAY!!

2017-03-21 10.50.54

Today the sun is shining and the sky is blue and all is well with my world. My Mum has arrived from the UK and is happily enjoying life in The Meadow as she awaits the wedding, helping me in the garden and enjoying the view from the veranda as she tackles her crosswords! We have been making a point of going somewhere at least every other day and it has been lovely to show her some of our beautiful local scenery and enjoy some nice lunches. A trip to Canberra and Melbourne is planned as well as an overnight stay in Sydney to dine with her Grandsons. She and Bailey have already formed a special bond and I have been dropped like a hot potato in favour of her lying at G’ma’s feet and in turn Mum is obsessed with her velvety ears….

Sadly despite the recent sunshine we are still VERY squelchy underfoot in the garden with large puddles lying on the grass in many places. Even the smallest shower plays havoc with us now as there is absolutely NOWHERE for the water to go, everything is saturated. Dare I say that we need one of those big westerly winds that we hate so much in Winter to come and dry it all out?? As Australia’s North East Coast has been bombarded by Cyclone Debbie, the southern cities have been swept up in the accompanying low pressure system and had decidedly unseasonable weather with the biggest March rainfall in recent history. What a perfect build up to a garden wedding. There is always someone who benefits from the conditions however and the cows were so happy to be finally allowed into our back paddock to tackle grass which is up to their bellies and the sound of them tearing and chewing is audible from our veranda!

2017-04-03 15.22.39

It’s all systems go now wedding wise and the garage and dining room are filling with decor items, platters, signs, lights, glassware and a million little things to make our couple’s day special and unique. I am getting excited and quite emotional about the impending nuptials as I contemplate the moment my beautiful daughter walks down the aisle with her Dad, lots of tissues will be required by a certain Mother of The Bride no doubt!

Last Saturday saw the culmination of months of planning when ‘One Voice Shoalhaven’ presented it’s inaugural show in Nowra. It is the brainchild of my lovely neighbour Sheelagh, who lost her son to melanoma and wanted to do something to both highlight the cause and raise funds for the melanoma foundation. It was a lovely family affair full of good old fashioned entertainment and loads of music of every genre ending in a rousing rendition of John Farnham’s “You’re  the Voice” which everyone joined in with. A sunset picnic and lots of feel good vibes padded out the evening which I’m sure will become an annual fixture. Sheelagh should be very proud of her efforts which were a fitting way to honour her son.

2017-04-01 15.14.57

Despite the outrageous amount of precipitation over the last 6 weeks our amazing painter Andrew has managed to give our house a fresh coat of paint and exchange the original jaunty yellow trim for a soft grey to tone in with the new roof. The old girl has scrubbed up nicely and should now be able to withstand the rigours of the south coast weather for at least another ten years. The wrap around verandas enabled him to work rain hail or shine, they truly are a fabulous architectural addition to any house and we can now choose whichever side of the house has the best option for reading, sipping a vino or just sitting watching the world go by with a certain chocolate dog lying on your feet….

2017-04-01 15.35.39

As the garden needed loads of help number 1 son came down for a couple of nights to help us attack the weeds and was very happy despite the rain to start up the hedge trimmer and get stuck into it. Dressed appropriately in budgie smugglers off he went to wage war with the unruly hedge and provided us with a well needed giggle! Later that night we solved the problems of the world over a bottle or two of red and went to bed listening to the rain pelting down on the tin roof….


We are very excited for the next couple of weeks as our family and friends arrive from overseas and interstate and we anticipate a lot of laughs and happy times together. I look forward to sharing the big day with you all in a few weeks. Fingers crossed the sunshine will return and it will be a blue sky day.

Game-of-Thrones-wedding

 

 

Busy Busy Busy

2017-03-10 11.09.28

After two weeks of huge downpours and thunderstorms the surrounding countryside is looking lush and green, more like Ireland than Australia. The price we are paying for that is a lake in our front garden and some very squishy ground underfoot. Our neighbours bogged their ride on mower a few days ago so we didn’t even try to get ours down to the low lying areas. The trouble is if the grass stays too long the sun can’t dry it at the roots and it dies off. With just over 5 weeks to our garden wedding this is NOT ideal. The silver lining is of course that all the cows and horses have some very lush feed and milk production is up and everyone’s water tanks are full or overflowing. Our poor gutters and downpipes struggle to cope with the volume of water that seems to fall every few hours but luckily in between deluges the sun comes out and the sea breeze tries it’s best to dry things out a bit. The cows don’t seem to mind the murky drizzly weather though….

2017-03-14 22.59.32

Of course this whole wet weather episode started the day our painter arrived to finish painting the old part of the house to match in with the new section. He has a strong link to this house and was the last person to paint it 17 years ago so you can imagine how desperate it was for some new paint protection. You could just touch the veranda posts and the paint would fall off. Anyway thanks to the wonders of a wrap around veranda he has managed to continue working whilst the heavens open all around him and the garage has come in very handy too.

2017-03-11 10.14.18

Last weekend saw the arrival of some very helpful friends for a working bee, painting the chook shed and some tidying up of the garden. After a week of rain the sun came out for 2 days allowing us to get stuff done which was wonderful. We had little breaks for “smoko” and knocked off at 5pm daily for Happy Hour and some nice food and lots of laughs. Thanks so much to them for their hard yakka on their weekend off from work! They tell me the hardest part of the whole weekend was getting out of Sydney on the Friday night!

2017-03-12 10.28.41

As the wedding looms it seems I have a ‘to do list’ a mile long every day to complete but I am very keen to have everything dotted and crossed by the end of this week as my lovely Mum arrives from the UK next week and I want to be free to show her around. Coming 12000 miles at 80 years of age is no mean feat and I’m glad we can offer her some relaxing corners for her to enjoy the parrots and the country views whilst overcoming any jetlag she may get. Her last trip to Oz we were living in the Inner West of Sydney within spitting distance of the CBD and with a pub or cafe on every corner so this will be decidedly different! It will be lovely to have her here for the wedding and to be part of all the preparations. The house is filling up with wedding paraphernalia and I can’t wait for the Bride to arrive and see it all. Hopefully she will love it as she only gets here one week prior to her Big Day.

FB_IMG_1483349622324

We used to have so many fairy wrens when we moved in as well as finches and other small birds that lived in our hedges. When the builders arrived with their heavy machinery and the garden became a building site they flew away and I haven’t seen them since so I was VERY happy to see this little fellow the other day.Maybe he was sussing out the potential of our garden to raise his next family? Fingers crossed they come back as I used to love hearing their song and see them flitting in and out of the bushes.

2017-03-05 19.07.06

A ray of heavenly light over the chook shed marked the passing of Henrietta last week. She was the only chook we had named as the others looked so alike we couldn’t tell the difference. While all the other chooks had bare red patches where their feather should be Henrietta sported a dark glossy full feathered coat making her the chief suspect in the denuding of the others. In the pecking order she was the Bossy Boots, the Matriarch and I thought she would be the last chook standing. So it was doubly confounding to find her one morning in the nesting box dead as a dodo. She had been segregating herself from the others during the past week and I thought she was just being snooty and standoffish but maybe she knew something was wrong. It’s always sad when you lose an animal no matter how small and you always wonder if there was something you could have done to save them. Funnily enough she died on the day of Lauren’s Hen Party which seems appropriate somehow. I thought the others may have grieved for her in their own chickeny way but they seem as happy as ever, clucking and pecking away, now just 6 of them. Life goes on in the chook yard…..

RIP Henrietta.

So as we steamroll through March and Autumn is now upon us, I find myself quite reflective. A few people very dear to us are sick and it makes me realise how fragile life is and how easy it is to get caught up in the day to day crap and forget to look around you, enjoy the simple things and make the effort to appreciate every day. While we are planning a happy wedding others are going through hell and you never really know what is going on behind closed doors for people. That’s why we should all try and be kind to each other and make every day count in one way or another. Smell the roses, roll in the fresh grass, walk alongside the ocean sunny or not, eat the cake, buy the shoes, save for that big trip, dream BIG and always be grateful for what you have even if it doesn’t always feel perfect. There are always so many people doing it harder.

2016-02-02 10.50.30

Some wise words…..

Country Pursuits

2017-02-26-23-08-59It has been a busy few weeks in the Shoalhaven with the Country Shows in full swing. Each week they pop up starting in Kiama, Berry, Nowra, Kangaroo Valley and this week Milton. They usually have at least one or two interesting things on show in addition to the usual cattle, horsey, sideshow alley type pursuits and last week I ventured up the mountain to  Kangaroo Valley in 38 degree heat to witness the inaugural Cheese and Dairy competition started by my friend Jan and a couple of other women who make up The Kangaroo Valley Cheesemakers. It was very popular with 80 entrants including about 25 students from a local High School. Hand made butter, yoghurt, labne , fresh,soft, washed rind and hard cheeses were all tasted and judged over a 5 hour period and some workshops have been planned for the coming months to teach us mere mortals the wonders of making your own cheese at home. As you get more experienced there are quite a few tools of the trade to collect however – the judging table was a bit like an operating theatre!!

My friend Maryan has been my companion to a couple of fun local things lately. My colleagues tell me that I’m now officially a local after being snapped at the cattle judging and having our photo in the local paper! I even had an akubra  on – not bad for an ex-city girl…       img_6158

We attended a far more ladylike event last week in Berry when a local GP threw open her house and the art collection within to interested parties to help them  raise funds for The Fred Hollows Foundation. It is a gorgeous old house that has been brought to life with Lucie’s extensive art collection of her Grandmother’s sister Eileen Mayo.

She was a meticulously detailed artist born in England in 1906 and emigrating to Australia in 1952 where she was commissioned to do some travel posters for The Australian Tourist Board and later some beautiful postage stamps. She dabbled in nearly every medium and was especially well known as a printmaker. Lucie has the largest collection outside of the Victoria and Albert Museum and it was a delight to tour the house seeing her Great Aunt’s work so beautifully displayed.eileen-mayo

A devonshire cream tea in the garden on lovely vintage crockery topped off our afternoon perfectly.

Our neighbours in The Lane are softies when it comes to animals and they have an ever expanding menagerie. To date they have 5 cows, 2 goats, 2 cats and now 3 dogs! Darren has been known to come back from work with a baby goat under his arm as payment for a job he’s done and Kath has such a good heart she can’t say no. Their latest addition is a Dogue de Bordeaux  or a French mastiff and Gloria is just delicious! The most well known dog of this breed is probably the lovable drooling dog in the movie Turner and Hooch. Gloria is going to be a VERY big girl when she’s fully grown, her Dad weighs 85kgs!!!! But for now she is soft and cuddly and inquisitive, as all new puppies are, and we loved having her visit us. Bailey was beside herself with excitement, wanting to play with her constantly until Gloria fell asleep in a little heap on our veranda, completely wiped out!!

With less than 7 weeks until our on-site wedding things are amping up and with our weather being either 40 degrees or torrential rain the garden has gone nuts!!! At a time that I had planned on spending lots of time mulching, weeding, trimming and pruning and finally being able to take Bailey on lovely long walks because the temperatures have become bearable I have had a rather annoying road bump in the form of a stress fracture in my foot resulting in me having to wear an orthopaedic boot for about 4 weeks (supposedly non weight bearing for at least one of them – grrrr). This has well and truly slowed me down, although it has enabled me to spend time finalising things with all the suppliers etc and catching up on my paperwork!! Funny how The Universe takes over sometimes…..

2017-02-23-15-06-30

I was determined however not to miss an event that hubby’s Company sponsors, which is a big charity Gala Ball to raise money for Camp Quality. An overnight stay in The Shangri La with an amazing view over Sydney’s beautiful harbour more than made up for my 3 hour train trip (currently no long distance driving allowed .)

2017-02-24-14-40-10As it turned out we were sharing our floor with the Indonesian President and his 45 staff who were gathered in the corridor outside his room chatting away excitedly into their lapels. They were in full military regalia and seemed totally unaware of any other guests as they got on with their business (loudly) at 7am. So much for a relaxing start to the day! The Ball was good fun though, showcasing the hardship that families go through when their children have cancer and the ripple effect that it has on the entire family. Camp Quality provides a very real escape for these families and gives them an opportunity to finally make some memories outside of a hospital environment. Number one son and his girlfriend joined us for the evening and as the wine flowed so did the money into the coffers of Camp Quality, a truly great organisation.

So back to The Meadow we went and  just in time to welcome some old friends and neighbours from 10 years ago who haven’t changed a bit! They were so sweet bringing delicious beluga caviar and lobster tails as a contribution to dinner as well as wine and choccies – very generous guests!! He is a horticulturalist and in just a couple of hours he chopped my garden into some form of submission, leaving it a lot tidier than he found it! He even got us to taste some of the remaining persimmons, assuring us they were of the non astringent kind and guess what? They were delicious!! It was lovely to see them and it was as if it was yesterday that we all used to live just down the road from each other and the kids were at Primary school !!

2017-02-26-17-42-05 Very fancy!!

After all the food and wine enjoyed this past week, in addition to the fact I can’t even go for a walk or do any exercise, and with my Mother of The Bride outfit looming, I am attempting to deprive myself of everything except fresh veggies, salads and lean protein.

My day may (or may not) go like this……..

2017-02-08-21-30-26