Polly put the kettle on

Posted on

Nanna and me
Nanna and me c. 1967

The G.O. is not a devotee of Christmas cake i.e. fruit cake so it’s many years since I made one. Back in the days when I did, the version I made was simply dried fruit mix boiled in a combination of butter & orange juice and when cool flour, eggs and spices were added; very rich more like a pudding. A little went a long way so I baked it as cupcakes and distributed them widely amongst the family.

Last festive season visiting my aunt, she produced Christmas “mini muffins” made, she said, from my Nanna’s recipe. The G.O. uncharacteristically helped himself to extras, so my aunt emailed me the recipe labelled Polly’s Fruit Cake scanned from Nanna’s book. My sister’s middle name is Beulah, named after our Nanna but Nanna was always called Polly.

I hadn’t given thought to making it until the G.O.’s son recently mentioned he had already eaten the Lions charity Christmas cake he’d bought. Upon my suggestion it wouldn’t be difficult to bake one, his suggestion was I do so… for him.

Speaking to Dad I mentioned I was making the recipe and asked if he was interested in sampling the test batch. Paying lip service to his diet, he replied “No… Hmmm… Yes… Hmmm… You may as well drop some in”.

Polly's Fruit CakePolly’s Fruit Cake

250 grams / 1 cup softened organic salted butter (or margarine)

500 grams / 3 cups mixed dried fruit

250 g / 1 cup brown sugar

250 g / 1 3/4 cups organic plain flour

1 tablespoon organic self-raising flour

6 medium eggs, free range

Cream butter and sugar, add eggs then flour and mixed fruit, and combine.

For whole cake bake in slow oven 160 C (325 F) approx. 2 1/2 hours. For muffins bake at 180 C (360 F) approx. 30 minutes. (Fan forced ovens 10-20 C lower)

The margarine ingredient is controversial. My grandparents were dairy farmers. We always had butter. Dad said Nanna wouldn’t have used margarine. I tend to agree. However, my aunt follows the recipe and uses margarine.

The address recorded on the page as well as the recipes give an idea as to its time. The address is for my uncle when he was conscripted into National Service during the Vietnam War.

“Under the National Service Scheme [1964 -1972], twenty-year-old men were required to register with the Department of Labour and National Service (DLNS), they were then subject to a ballot which, if their birth date was drawn, meant the possibility of two years of continuous full-time service in the regular army, followed by three years part-time service in the Army Reserve.”

It may be that’s the clue to the margarine. My uncle was called up and sent to Townsville, North Queensland for army training. Possibly Nanna sent fruit cake to him in a care package. He was a long way from home -1800 km, bad news as far as the family were concerned but mitigated eventually when he wasn’t sent to Vietnam but met, and later married his wife at nearby Rockhampton in December 1971 only months before Nanna died in February 1972 age only 50 + 2  months.

the cook's breakfast
the cook’s breakfast

I’ve made the Christmas cakes, so… Polly, put the kettle on, we’ll all have tea.

Cook’s notes:

As I beat the mixture it turned into a golden batter, and  I knew by appearance and taste I’d been there when Nanna baked this cake.

The cakes come out of the oven browned, looking a little oily but as they cool they crisp.

I ate three for breakfast.




daughter out-law

Posted on Updated on

The dawn of a new mother-in-law era… I haven’t just acquired a husband; I’ve also acquired another mother-in-law. My third. Enough for any lifetime.

M.I.L.#3 has acted unofficially in that capacity for 9 years but since we shocked her with the news of our unheralded nuptials, when speaking to the G.O. M.I.L.#3 has taken to referring to me as “your wife”. As in “the cards your wife sent out were nice. Everyone had to get a looking-glass, the words on it were a bit small but we didn’t have a looking-glass”.

About a month into married life I had a very clear dream where the G.O. and I visited my in-laws from marriage #1. They and their house was pretty much the same, although it was evident time had passed. Possibly they summoned our presence in spirit to convey their blessings. They were disappointed when I abandoned all hope for the success of my marriage to their son.

Our respective hopes for that union differed. They hoped for grandchildren. I hoped for a grown up husband. Their son hoped for a wife with surgically augmented DD-cups. Disenchantment all ’round.

The two families couldn’t have been more different.

Mine: Anglican, big stone church attended for weddings, christenings, funerals; dress as you please; lottery tickets are acceptable goodwill gifts; TV watching; beer & wine drinking.

Husband #1′s: Lay church, twice weekly; women modestly clothed often to neck, wrists and ankles, no jewellery; gambling is the devil’s work; no TV with the exception of his mother’s rebellious compromise kept in the cupboard for special shows; teetotalers.

the thorny issue of the bathmat
the thorny issue of the bathmat

I stumbled into this family unawares; inadvertently, promptly flouting the conventions. By far my most serious faux pas was the bathmat incident. During my inaugural overnight stay at the in-laws, careful not to make a mess of the spotless bathroom, I made sure to step out of the shower onto the bathmat, left the floor dry as the desert, and returned the mat to the rail.

After her discovery of the reprehensibly damp bathmat, it was left to her son to communicate to me his mother’s long-suffering explanation of what she thought would have been patently obvious… the bathmat is for standing on after one is dry. One should dry oneself within the tiny confines of the shower stall before stepping out.

But I was welcomed, and we enjoyed each other’s company: playing board games cards and chatting while their son watched the forbidden TV. They were keen for us to make right our aberrant cohabiting arrangements. After we married, but didn’t immediately embark on procreating, my new father-in-law offered me $3000 cash if I would agree to a grandchild and a further $2000 and his wife’s moonstone bracelet upon production of same.

It was an offer I had no trouble refusing, although I would have done pretty much anything else for that bracelet.

By the time I encountered M.I.L.#2 I was seasoned. I knew when to offer assistance or not, unblinkingly accept the hospitality status quo, and not to stand on the bloody bathmat (thoughtfulness for which I was complimented!). I shivered my way through a freezing Christmas in south-western Victoria wearing all my clothes in bed as blankets were thin and few. I was grateful for the first-time-guest honour accorded me of not being relegated to the mouldy backyard caravan as had my brother-in-law and his long-time partner.

Although I visited their house numerous times, M.I.L.#2′s first visit to mine occurred a few days preceding wedding #2. I made sure there was plentiful food & drink (F.I.L.#2 loved a scotch, disapproval from his wife seemingly augmenting his enjoyment) and their room was comfortable, furnishing it with a duck down doona and pillows: which had to be swapped immediately upon their arrival and the fraught disclosure of M.I.L.#2 ‘s Pteronophobia (feathers).

Amongst the many pre-wedding house guests M.I.L.#2 didn’t reciprocate my when-in-Rome style: 24 hours later not much had been deemed agreeable. Granted her trip must have been tiring, as M.I.L. #2 stayed in her room late on the wedding day while the rest of us thought left-over chocolate cake & champagne was a fitting breakfast including the dog and cats who had been served their portions convivially on saucers. Upon emerging, being offered same, M.I.L. #2 surveyed the scene clearly appalled, and declined, ingesting as little as possible except tea for the duration.

We maintained polite relations for almost another decade but I’m pretty sure M.I.L. #2 doesn’t miss me.

Despite prior acquaintance with M.I.L.#3 via my friendship with the G.O., the slate was wiped clean upon commencement of our defacto in-law relationship. Once again I had to watch my step (although I’ve never ventured a shower) and my tongue.

One of the good things about M.I.L.#3 is that her son is like her in many ways. Understanding one gives you insight into the other. For instance, neither necessarily conveys what they mean, evidenced by a disconcerting discussion between M.I.L.#3 and her sister on fashion merits of chicken thighs… not the sort from the supermarket, the ones inserted into a bra for figure enhancement… aha, chicken fillets!

Other than M.I.L.#3 demanding to see our marriage certificate as proof we weren’t lying, we’ve had a fairly amicable relationship since the time I was asked my thoughts about financial arrangements they were considering, and foolish enough to venture the honest opinion that it was unfairly one-sided in M.I.L.#3′s favour. Wrong answer.

M.I.L.#3′s sulk lasted a blessedly peaceful couple of days; our visits greeted with silence. The G.O. kindly indulged his mother her mood, but eventually advised “think about it, we’ll be back tomorrow”. Upon our return M.I.L.#3′s greeting was friendly, details of revised financial arrangements cheerfully proposed, and my opinion once again sought, but not proffered.

M.I.L.#3′s house, garden and self are immaculately turned out, and she’s dubious about my casual sartorial approach, helpfully suggesting the local department store’s lovely but expensive selection of apparel and the nice affordable clothes to be had in Coffs Harbour.

By way of complimenting me on any efforts, M.I.L.#3 predictably and frequently admonishes me that I have gone to too much trouble. She also doesn’t practice what she preaches, her Christmas extravaganza outshining my modest offerings. We did manage to underwhelm her by announcing we’d eloped and married on the beach in day clothes; and were informed that proper protocols of guests and attire would have been preferable.

As Christmas approaches the G.O. navigating his mother’s traditional “oh you’re so busy we don’t want you to make a fuss” protests about Christmas lunch conceded only her wish to contribute her customary festive $80 lobster (costing $40 any other time of the year) of which we each get a single bite-size piece.

On Boxing Day, my own step-daughter-in-law will pay us a visit with her entourage of the G.O.’s son and grandkids. I just want her to know… it’s fine to use the bathmat. If it gets wet, no worries, hang it on the line. Relax. We’re family, make yourself at home… and feel free to get a drink out of the fridge, prepare meals, wash up & tidy a packed-to-the-rafters house… mi casa es su casa.

risky business

Posted on Updated on

The G.O. has changed his nickname for our Sydney apartment from “the kennel” to “San Quentin“. After 11 years of city-fringe/Inner West residency the fine balance between good sense and good fortune tipped…

We make reasonable efforts to keep ourselves and our possessions safe without espousing fear and paranoia. Neither in the city or at Taylors Arm are were we slaves to locked doors. The external climb onto our balcony would take deliberate agile effort and timing; encountering the G.O. in particular (although I’m no wooss either) would be inadvisable.

And yep, we’re idiots but we’re idiots who know the risks and live according to what we believe. We got off lightly and learned a few lessons. As I recently commented to ChgoJohn about stayin’ alive “The Fates are kind but I think they expect us to learn from our experiences too”.

Halloween Friday night in Sydney was hot. Not that it makes much difference, when we’re home our balcony door is usually open. Always has been in this apartment and the previous. When living space is small and lacking any other windows, unless the weather is freezing or boiling you want to embrace the outdoors.

After a long working week we went to bed early, around 9.30 pm, the balcony door adjacent to the bedroom wide open. Saturday morning as usual I woke an hour before the G.O. who’d given himself the day off work, and spent it pleasantly reading & responding to blog posts. When the G.O. offered to make me coffee in bed I happily accepted. Just before 9 am I reciprocated by going to make second coffees.

It was only then the glaring absence of my distinctive bright blue handbag from its customary place on the kitchen chair was apparent. “Where’s my bag?” I uselessly asked the G.O. We looked at each other suspecting in our hearts the answer but not wanting to admit it yet.

In case I’d sleep walked and moved it, or we’d been visited by mischievous gremlins, we twice searched every nook of the apartment, which given its snugness didn’t take long. I logged on and checked bank accounts. No transactions. But, no bag either.

We swigged cooled coffees and each set off in different directions scouring neighbourhood gutters, parks, bins, front yards and railway lines. It’s not a small bag and I suspected it would be dumped sooner rather than later. No luck.

I checked the bank transactions again. Nothing. Good. I called Newtown Police; a bright blue non-leather hand bag hadn’t been handed in but they made a note, and advised me to call the Police Assistance Line. Before I did, I called the bank and cancelled my debit & credit cards.

That process was familiar as I’d cancelled the credit card a month ago after an attempt to use its details in London, where the wise ol’ bank knew I wasn’t! While on hold I began a list of handbag contents… dear me, I carry around a lot of stuff… I continued the list while I was on hold for the Police Assistance Line, where I talked to Bronwyn, a real and helpful person, who logged details and said local police would be around as soon as they were free.

We waited. I added a few more items to the list, cancelled my office access pass and Opal prepaid travel card. It was too hot to go outside anyway, although the G.O. did to walk, smoke and fume. I could see he was angry. He’d been up, as is his custom, twice during the night and hadn’t had the luck to run into the opportunist who’d helped themself to my bag… walking within a few metres of us. Having faith in the world is a risky business, but the risk goes both ways.

Before the police could arrive, at about 2 pm the G.O.’s phone rang from a private number, and a woman’s voice asked if he knew someone who’d lost a handbag. My hunch it would be handed in was realised. Christine found it in a laneway garden 3 blocks further on than I’d searched, with the G.O.’s emergency contact details in my wallet. Comparing notes we ascertained all main contents were intact except for $150 cash. She’d notified Newtown Police who were sending a car to collect it.

When the police arrived just before 4 pm, they didn’t have my handbag… ah, but they were from Redfern, the L.A.C. area where the crime occurred, the bag had been found in Newtown area. They called Newtown Police and anyway the bag was being held for forensic testing. The two policemen were friendly, efficient and didn’t make us feel stupid. They said known local offenders were monkey-like in their climbing and leaping agility, and our experience was the same as another recent stealing… although they took my handbag, the thief didn’t take our mobile phones, the G.O.’s wallet or the Ultrabook computer all of which were nearby, or the credit cards from my wallet.

Nothing else to do but our original plan to go into the city for dinner (the G.O. paid…) where with lucky timing we saw the fireworks display over Darling Harbour. Life goes on.

BlueOn Sunday right on 9 am my phone rang, the forensics officer 10 minutes away. He too was personable, and he did call us foolish but kindly as he too has been the victim of theft… while he coated the balcony railing with finger print dust. No finger prints but shoe prints across a neighbour’s balcony railing the acrobatic thief accessed via scaling an external wall led onto ours. He advised my handbag would be released, being found in a public place and rummaged through, any evidence was compromised.

Liberated from Newtown Police Station the contents of my handbag painted a curious picture. As well as the cash, also missing were: an unopened box of mints; nail clippers & file; earphones; tin of cat food; and Opal prepaid travel card. Of note, intact were: designer sunglasses (although with prescription lenses any wearer of normal vision would have gone whoa, bad drugs man…); Mont Blanc pen; 2 sets spare car keys; 4 x memory sticks of photos and personal info; umbrella; writing notebook; eco satchel-pouch; office pass; “drug bag” of headache, hay fever & cold tablets, etc; 3 x tinted lip balms (which I regularly lose, replace, find); all cards, drivers license and sundry wallet contents including my lucky shopping trolley dollar.

All cancelled cards have now been reinstated and we’ve reluctantly, sensibly embraced a locked door regime.

What we learned:
lock up;
bright colour inexpensive non-leather handbags have the dual benefit of being visible but less desirable to others;
local police (despite graffiti and paste-ups alleging the contrary) are good guys;
contact details on valuables are useful;
cull non-necessary handbag contents;
sense of humour and positive perspective will get you through almost anything;
there’s always someone worse off;
we hate being prisoners in our own home.

San Quentin, what good do you think you do?
Do you think I’ll be different when you’re through?
You bent my heart and mind and you may my soul,
And your stone walls turn my blood a little cold.”

San Quentin, Johnny Cash



stayin’ alive

Posted on Updated on

Like a Girl Scout, I am prepared. I have my Last Wishes in order. I cautioned “you never know”… on that same subject but I didn’t think the opportunity to vindicate my preparedness would arise so soon.

Being a seasoned commuter and inner-city pedestrian, any risks I take crossing roads are calculated. I look both ways and look again. I pay attention. I don’t tarry. However along the strip I traverse from St Peters train station to my neighbourhood there are two sets of traffic light crossings where even if you cross according to walk signals, you take your life into your hands. So I’m cautious. Very.

Possibly risk is amplified because drivers having made their way through usually congested King Street or local back streets are relieved and eager for a break in traffic.

Reenactment: 24 hours later.
Reenactment: 24 hours later.

On my Monday journey home, rather than wander along further to the equally nefarious crossing, the green walk signal flashed at the closest so I stepped out, other commuters walking against the red almost across ahead of me. I scanned for unexpected cars and proceeded a few steps. A car zipped around the corner and I found I’d somehow retraced just enough steps to avoid it, loudly exclaiming “Oh My God!” I have no idea why I said that but it worked, God intervened… It was not until the driver’s open window was next to me that she saw me, having missed hitting me only because I’d moved out of her path. Visibly, she recognised her misjudgment but as it was the middle of a busy road, we went our ways without further interaction.

A near miss, I thought as I took refuge on the footpath but walking along I noticed my shaking hands and realised how near. When the G.O. arrived home shortly after me, the unsteadiness was still apparent in the haphazard pieces of potato I was chopping up for salad.

Last year a woman was seriously injured early one morning crossing at the same place. Both the G.O. and I have had not-so-close escapes at those crossings.

I believe our life contracts may incorporate a number of opt-out interchanges, but not quite as interpreted by AC-DC’s Back in Black lyrics…

“Forget the hearse cause
I’ll never die
I got nine lives cat’s eyes
Using every one of them and runnin’ wild
Cause I’m back…”

Having been fond of fast cars, motorbikes, life and… the G.O.’s near miss recollections are more numerous than mine. But I have a couple…

A few months before my 27th birthday my GP advised I needed to have pre-cancerous cells on my cervix removed. This was more than two decades ago, pre-laser, and I was advised it was routine minor day surgery under anaesthetic. In hindsight it seems in some cases women were treated prematurely rather than waiting for the currently suggested follow-up screening.

I was the last patient of the morning and emerged from the surgery in bed, bright, hungry and well until I went to the bathroom and discovered too much blood. The nurse whipped me back into the operating theatre and unsuccessfully tried to call the gynaecologist who’d gone off to golf. So it was up to the on-call junior doctor plainly perplexed by the amount of blood, to sort out an internal misplaced scalpel nick that needed stitching. They were able to contact the anaesthetist who suggested he wasn’t needed as it could be done without pain relief. The others disagreed, so he put me back under.

As he did I realised I was conscious but couldn’t move… anything. Not even my eyelashes as I tried to signal the nurse whose eyes were gazing down at me. Suddenly my vantage point changed and I was looking from above at the operating theatre tableaux. Not yet, was my last thought.

This time I woke in the recovery room with my husband sitting next to the gurney. As I recounted to him what I’d experienced, he explained why the nurse had brought him into recovery; I’d lost enough blood that I’d died briefly on the operating table, and they let him stay with me while I came around.

If you’re into palmistry I have a gap and boon line at the corresponding place on my lifeline.

It’s not a story I’ve shared widely (up until now!) not only because I don’t wish to debate with people who think the afterlife is hooey but after Mum died, there were whispers speculating… so many people think kids’ hearing/comprehension is deficient… the possibility I would die young too at the same age. It was only when I had that next birthday, the one my mother hadn’t, it occurred to me, technically, I did exactly that.

About a decade later, mid Friday afternoon I was driving home on the freeway over a long bridge in pre-peak hour traffic when a motorbike and car clipped each other creating a balls amongst skittles effect. As my car exited the scene, accelerating away from the bridge, my conscious awareness returned. Looking in the rear view mirror at the chaos I realised I’d been watching remotely as my car was guided swerving amongst the other vehicles like in a movie scene.

At that moment, my mobile phone rang. It was Dad, an unusual time for him to call. I picked up. He asked, how are you, is everything ok?  How did he know?

“You know it’s all right. It’s OK.
I’ll live to see another day…”

Stayin’ Alive, Bee Gees



last wishes

Posted on Updated on

The G.O. and I often joke… usually as we’re dragging home yet another homeless household item… about the fortune fate of whoever undertakes the assignment of sorting out the detritus of our lives after our bodies have passed from this earth.

Our plans are each to live a long & pleasant life before peacefully departing its twilight at home at Taylors Arm. In our house with the big verandah, wood fire, modest backyard, pastoral views; which even as we reside in an amply equipped city apartment while we direct our efforts to working life, is similarly fully furnished and a repository for many pre-loved and interesting things that find us… the extent of which caused Dad to dub it “the museum”.

But, you never know…

Recently I noted via irons in the fire “Upon marriage legal wills are revoked, so the day before our nuptials we signed new wills but the accompanying personal wishes + useful information missives could do with refreshing to make them current. Sigh.”

As the walrus said, the time has come… not for the eating of oysters but preparation for the one sure thing in life: death.

By last wishes I don’t mean Dad’s efforts. Although his intention was commendable, the execution was wobbly…

a verbal request to me regarding his ‘final wishes’ after his almost fatal heart attack in 2010 and my advice to him to also convey those wishes to others, culminated in the agonising occasion of Dad announcing to an extended family gathering, apropos of nothing, his intention to be cremated and buried with my Mum, forty years dead, in complete disregard of his wife of 30 years and 3 other children – all present except one.”

Of various means, legal and non, available to supplement the conversation everyone should have with loved ones, for communication of final and just-in-case directives we chose legal wills, power of attorney, personal letters to our families, lists of useful -location of keys and documents etc.- info, and informal ‘Living Wills’.

There is an Australian Living Will Registry which “stores your Living Will (Anticipatory Directive, Advance Health Directive, Medical Proxy etc.) electronically and makes it available to relevant Health Care professionals when you need it most”. However, because the circumstances of sudden injury, illness and Living Wills, etc. are uncertain, for current purposes we’re going for the less formal option of personal documents signed and witnessed which can be produced by the other if necessary.

In considering possible scenarios we considered the some recent worst amongst all

Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital a non-fiction book by Sheri Fink: “… the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina at Memorial Medical Center in  New Orleans in August 2005, and is an expansion of a Pulitzer Prize-winning article written by Fink and published in The New York Times Magazine in 2009. It describes the events that took place at Memorial Medical Center over five days as thousands of people were trapped in the hospital without power. The triage system put into effect deprioritized critically ill patients for evacuation, and a number of these patients were euthanized by medical and nursing staff shortly before the entire hospital was evacuated on the fifth day of the crisis. Fink examines the legal and political consequences of the decision to euthanize patients and the ethical issues surrounding euthanasia and health care in disaster scenarios.”

Michael Schumacher: “In December 2013, Schumacher suffered a serious head injury while skiing. He was airlifted to a hospital and placed in a medically induced coma, having suffered a traumatic brain injury. He was in the coma from 29 December 2013 until 16 June 2014. He left the hospital in Grenoble for further rehabilitation at the University Hospital (CHUV) in Lausanne. On 9 September 2014, Schumacher was brought back to his home for further rehabilitation…”

Locked-in-syndrome: “… condition in which a patient is aware but cannot move or communicate verbally due to complete paralysis of nearly all voluntary muscles in the body except for the eyes” which I only recently heard about via The Guardian article… “Richard Marsh had a stroke doctors wanted to switch off his life-support – but he could hear every word but could not tell them he was alive. Now 95% recovered, he recounts his story.”

For me, the most important parts of communicating my last wishes are:

“… If you would indeed behold the spirit of death,
open your heart wide unto the body of life.
For life and death are one,
even as the river and the sea are one…”
from On Death, Kahlil Gibran

“Upon my death, I request minimum interference with my remains necessary only to facilitate a proper and legal cremation… I request they are to be placed in the least expensive, most environmentally friendly receptacle available, cremated, and scattered over the river at Taylors Arm, or the ocean by my husband…”

“… provide background to my Will and ask you trust my judgement and honour my wishes… My primary consideration was to provide for the G.O. who I love and who shares my life on a day-to-day basis, as he would for me… In the event I am survived by the G.O., I have left everything to him. He is my long-term friend and life partner and will be affected most by my death and absence, and I don’t want his life disrupted any more than it has to be.”

I gave thought to my personal belongings and came to the realisation that once both the G.O. & I have gone, I have faith in the thoughtfulness of those to whom the task falls, and only made one stipulation “If there are any pets, I trust that you will ensure they are well cared for”, probably unnecessarily as our families are kind souls and animal lovers all.

“The time has come,” the Walrus said, “To talk of many things…”

The Walrus and The Carpenter, Lewis Carroll
(from Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, 1872)




irons in the fire . . .

Posted on Updated on

Without giving it much thought I’ve always had a number of creative and/or personal projects on the go; attending to what grabs my interest in what spare time I have. In the past week quite a few flagged their presence.

As I read Ardys’ post do your work, then step back… vis-à-vis the genealogy scrapbook she created for her daughter, I thought of the wedding photo book I’d started, and decided to employ similar parameters.

Photo Book
Nothing exceeds like excess…

I’d gotten as far as importing the photos and placing about two-thirds. I placed the rest of the photos. It looked stark. I decided to flagrantly abandon the parameters. Forsaking restraint, I downloaded wedding theme embellishments, and an eclectic mix of others, splashing them across the pages. My inner Oscar Wilde “Moderation is a fatal thing. Nothing succeeds like excess” was pleased.

We’ve purchased an elegant formal album for the 40 printed photos taken by Loving Images Photography. That project, affixing the photos and congratulatory cards within the album belongs to the oh-so-neat-and-patient G.O. Not a task for slapdash EllaDee.

There’s method, rather than madness, behind my pick-it-up-put-it-put-it-down style. If I work continually on a project, I stop seeing detail and perspective. I put it aside, park it in the back of my mind and while it’s in hiatus jot down ideas, then return to it afresh.

That method also camouflages procrastination… as in the case of our “if you’re reading this, we’re no longer with you” letters. Upon marriage legal wills are revoked, so the day before our nuptials we signed new wills but the accompanying personal wishes + useful information missives could do with refreshing to make them current. Sigh.

Love Who You Are
Love Who You Are

Late in the week I stumbled across a tangible prompt: a Love Who You Are  banner, which complements a project along those lines I’ve been nurturing for too-many-years. My Saturday morning meditation affirmed it should be on my radar and provided insights of how I could develop it further.

The same meditation also yielded a suggestion to compile EllaDee’s Photo Library. I use only my own photos in my creative work. I’m pretty good at backing up (more so after the smartphone debacle resulting in the loss of photos of the G.O.’s grandmother’s old house…) particularly now I’m linked to OneDrive, and Google Photos is set to automatically back up my phone. Much like my email and tax filing, it’s all there but there is no order and I regularly search extensively the various repositories. Sigh.

Amongst Indie and book club reading and reviews, I read and reviewed Letters for my Little Sister.

“… I thought I would read it fast, eager to know all the information and experience it conveys. However, I’m savouring it; enjoying each essay and the personality of the woman who wrote it. When I’m weary or stressed, whether it’s due to peri-menopause or just life… reading it lifts me up, makes me smile and connects me with wonderful real, thoughtful community.”

Elements of Love Who You Are  also feed into Celi’s Second Fellowship Book: Letters for my Baby Girl, which I’ve signed up for, and begun composing a letter to contribute. Of course I’ve mislaid my writing- do’s-and-don’ts checklist. Sigh.

And there’s the family history, mine or anyone else’s, I explore. I’ve lost count of the strands I’m following. It’s difficult not to get side-tracked. I lose endless time clicking on sources leading to various snippets of information, saving links and excerpts within the labyrinth of my electronic filing for sometime-in-the-future reference. Sigh.

However, last weekend we lunched with the G.O.’s visiting aunt & uncle plus family I hadn’t met before who live on the far side of Sydney. We got to chatting about family stories and history, the G.O. enthusiastically sharing the information of their mutual convict ancestry. In a generous weak moment I offered to email the info I’d amassed. Which means locating and sorting it. Sigh.

Looking through the files reminded me of a blog post on the third convict ancestor I’d not finished, and old family photos I’d agreed to send to a newly discovered distant cousin from Dad’s mum’s Button family. As she is a prodigious online sharer, I want to watermark them first. Sigh.

Blog posts… Sigh. What on earth was I thinking in December 2011 when I created not a single but THREE WordPress blogs? Since sanity prevailed via my April 2014 blog consolidation exercise I’ve barely managed to keep up with one.

As well as Pinterest and Instagram, you can also find me on Goodreads and Etsy.

“The old proverb about having too many irons in the fire is an abominable old lie.
Have all in, shovel, tongs, and poker.”
―Adam Clarke


Posted on Updated on

Letters for my Little Sister by Cecilia M. Buyswheeler Gunther & The Fellowship

Sage… is how I would describe the wise, warm words of the contributions comprising the recently published anthology Letters for my Little Sister by Cecilia M. Buyswheeler Gunther & The Fellowship “a book of letters written by sixty-eight women about their experiences with Menopause. Yes! The forbidden M word.” You can purchase it in glorious hardcopy via Amazon.

There’s another M word: Motherless. There are certain lonely times when you are motherless. No matter the good intentions they’re shoes nigh impossible for someone or something else to fill… when I recently married although we eloped with no guests, wanting some accompanying presence I wore my mother’s watch, her mother’s brooch and donned a wedding ring made from both their bands.

People mean well. In my mid 30′s, my father’s youngest and only sister (whose own mother - my beloved Nanna – died more than a quarter century before) having entered that stage in her life handed on to me with only the words “you might need this” an unprepossessing Coping with Menopause booklet. Several years later with polite thanks to my aunt I returned it unopened.

We first heard of Letters for my Little Sister when Celi aka Miss C of The Kitchens Garden (who is Cecilia M. Buyswheeler Gunther) wrote “my mother died when I was a young Mum…” and about “Change of Life. The Big Secret. The Witching time. The aging. The Menopause” asked of The Fellowship “But what am I to tell my little sister? What shall I tell her? How shall I draw the pathway that she will follow. I am the oldest. I want to write a letter for my sisters“. It seems many of The Fellowship are similarly motherless but not necessarily. However, it’s this that made a difference to me; a group I felt I belonged and could make a contribution to.

Sage… as in the plant that has “one of the longest histories of use of any culinary or medicinal herb”, on that same subject; menopause, is what I’ve had success using to halt hot flashes which began not long after I sent to Celi my own Letters for my Little Sister essay about my journey through peri-menopause.

After reviewing the plethora of remedies offered both online and in pharmacy, being astonished at the cost of proprietary products & the multiplicity of natural remedies, sage struck me as easy and available. Not having regular access to garden and sage plant to make a fresh infusion I thought I would begin the trial simply & cheaply, so purchased from the supermarket for a couple of dollars a packet of dried sage as you would use for cooking. There are contraindications and precautions to the use of sage which I heeded, proceeding cautiously. For my morning cups of tea several times a week I steep a pinch of the dried herb with boiled water in a small teapot, drink half and refill. Within a month the hot flashes disappeared and haven’t returned.

The following links provide information and precautions regarding the use of sage:

Can Sage Help Night Sweats?

Sage Benefits

Sage Risks

Important Disclaimer

The writer is conveying information from her own experience and is not a health care professional.

The information contained in this topic is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, it is provided for informational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information. Always seek the advice of a  health care professional before starting any new treatment or discontinuing an existing treatment. Talk with a health care professional about any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

Be it ever so humble

Posted on Updated on

There’s no place like home… and our encounter with the “Tiny House” had the G.O. and I contemplating dwelling dimensions.

On a recent Sunday we spent a pleasant Sunday morning browsing Marrickville Organic Food & Farmers Markets which shares its location at Addison Road Community Centre with a variety of community groups including The Bower Reuse & Repair Centre which in the lead up to the September 20 auction hosted the “Tiny House” a house made entirely from reclaimed materials.

The “Tiny House” more closely resembles the caravan the G.O. and I aim to hook up and realise our great Australian dream of travelling around Australia, than what we consider a regular residence.

It’s not that we don’t do small… While our rented-from-my-sister 50 sqm 1 bedroom city apartment is bigger than the “Tiny House” the G.O. has referred to both it and our previous similarly compact apartment as “the kennel” not in reference to the nature of the inhabitants but to the lack of spaciousness of our abode.

Moving back alone to Sydney from the Central Coast over a decade ago I opted for an inner city studio loft apartment and left behind a 4 bedroom, 2 living area, double garage, deck & largish native garden surrounded residence I had shared with 1 husband, 2 cats and dog. To be fair the household catered frequently for extended family and all the rooms were used on a regular basis.

Not alone in inner city living suiting our work-centric lifestyle, apparently micro-apartments are a growing trend but there are times the walls close in and no amount of proximate cafes, pubs, shops, markets and parks compensate the delights of our country village verandah, backyard and views across the hills.

Because we straddle city-country lifestyle, as well as the apartment plus storage cage we rent 2 car parking spaces. If we didn’t have plans to relocate we’d keep only the G.O.’s ute he needs for work and a motor scooter. But country-village-no-shops-living 30 km from town will require a 2 car existence. So I hang on to my 18-year-old BMW and when I occasionally drive it out of the apartment building’s dusty underground car park I whisper sweet words to it about the nice rural life it will have one day soon.

At Taylors Arm our home is typical 1930′s, with 3 bedrooms, living room, kitchen, inside bathroom, ample verandah and small workshop on a sufficiently sized 630 sqm block. The original owners Ollie & Vin closed in part of the verandah, and raised  8 children in the house. Later additions were a shower-laundry and toilet out the back.

Modest size by McMansion standards, much of its capacity simply houses our belongings and is multipurpose, such as the third bed-study-dining-storage-room. As far as living zones, during warmer weather - most of the year – utilised in order are: verandah, bedroom, kitchen, back bathroom – a similar floor space expanse we’re accustomed to in the city.

Bigger smartphones are apparently better… “Apple has released a big phone. A really big phone. Samsung has had one for a while.” When it comes to the spaces we inhabit, I think we are heading in the opposite direction.

it adds up to a splendid Sunday morning

Posted on Updated on

Sunday morning was sunny
I spent Saturday food shopping & cooking while the G.O. was at work
We had breakfast food but the kitchen was clean…
We had to get in the car to go out later
The idea of a café breakfast didn’t appeal
Marrickville Organic Food & Farmers Markets

Marrickville Organic Food & Farmers Markets is one of a kind happening near us on a Sunday, a long walk or a short drive from our apartment. We park a little distance away at Enmore Park and stroll the few blocks to the entrance of Addison Rd Community Centre where the market shares its location with Reverse Garbage, The Bower Reuse & Repair Centre and eclectic community groups.

Marrickville Organic Food & Farmers Markets is a diverse, vibrant, busy event where you can browse, shop and eat. We do all three, in that order. As I usually do food shopping on a Saturday at Eveleigh Farmers’ Market, our forays to Marrickville Markets are pleasantly recreational, we pick up extras & impulse buys, and delicious breakfasts we eat casually perched watching the heterogeneous throng. The G.O. inevitably opts for a Country Fresh lamb roll, while I amuse myself perusing the multicultural, vegetarian, vegan, traditional offerings before, this time, deciding on an Egyptian breakfast from Fritter House.


Marrickville Organic Food & Farmers Markets are on Sunday 8:00 am – 3:00 pm, located at Addison Rd Community Centre, 142 Addison Rd Marrickville, NSW Australia.

the community cat

Posted on Updated on

Soossie Cat WordPress collageWhile we pragmatically left Taylors Arm Soossie Cat to her independent devices but in the care of LHS neighbour following our June stay she hadn’t not been on our minds. Upon arrival at our house for a late August break, I first checked for her… and then her verandah igloo which showed leafy, twiggy, furry indications of having been inhabited. The G.O. checked the shed, and Soossie Cat’s bed there had also been slept in.

Our first sight of Soossie Cat was somewhat later as she perched on LHS neighbour’s kitchen windowsill having exited via the opening. LHS neighbour also appeared, assuring us all was well with our “community cat”… she’s gorgeous, I love her.  Plus Soossie Cat suspected of being pregnant before definitely was now, the assignation between LHS neighbour’s grey cat and Soossie Cat being witnessed. LHS also assured us although she wasn’t keeping one for herself she’d easily find homes for the kittens… hmmm, I’d bet money at least one kitten stays to replace the black & white cat which died in June.

Soossie Cat’s arrival coincided with the peace & order that comes after we’ve unpacked & cleaned. Thus we could pay full attention and respond in a timely fashion to her request for dinner, and she could eat it in peace as is her preference.

That settled, Soossie Cat did too. Except for brief expeditions around the yard, next door to keep up her usual dining routine, and apparently rat catching evidenced by the 2 rodent [wedding?] gifts deposited under the G.O.’s ute, Soossie Cat remained in and around the house. If warm she would range around the sunny spots on the verandah but the weather tended to drizzly and cool so she amused herself accompanying the G.O. as he lit or stoked the fire. Then she slept in various locations and positions around it. For variety she reacquainted herself with the inside amenities; no bed or pillow on top or underneath escaped her reconnaissance.

Generally wherever we were Soossie Cat wasn’t far away, happy for company, to check out the contents of a cup or glass and taste whatever we were eating. On our last night she moved from the fire to the rug near our bedroom door. I deposited her on the bed and she remained quiet at the foot between us, with only one midnight lap around our heads before re-settling until the G.O.’s early morning bathroom visit. When we later emerged she was asleep in the chair on the verandah outside our bedroom door.

Soossie Cat ordinarily has a healthy appetite but pregnant it is colossal… as are her farts… oh dear. On the morning we were returning to the city as we went to drive out, Soossie Cat was back over the fence with LHS neighbour, who I felt it only fair as I was saying farewell to warn that as Soossie Cat had eaten all the tinned cat food on hand her breakfast had been a large-ish can of tuna in springwater and leftover half of a boiled egg…

Note: We’re cat lovers who believe we aren’t currently in a position to provide a suitable home environment to a cat either at our tiny Sydney apartment or our part-time house at Taylors Arm, but wear the invisible sign that attracts cats. We’ve sadly and responsibly twice surrendered kittens to organisations which can find them homes, and we provide what care we are able for city independent living cats we encounter. Soossie Cat although quite domesticated with us, and now LHS neighbour, is somewhat an independent living cat. We believe up until last year she resided among an excess of cats and small dogs at a quite undomesticated house up the road. When the house burned down Soossie Cat approached our house in proximity of LHS neighbour’s cats, and decided to remain. Soossie Cat is terrified of the G.O.’s ute when it is running [ as opposed to my cat Jack who in his day waited at the gate for car rides up to the house, and regarded vet visits as a social outing ]. We bear in mind vet care and spaying are necessary, however being caged and driven to town to be handled by strangers will be also be traumatic for Soossie Cat. We’ll attempt it in due course…