Cash is king

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Over the past few weeks I’ve been spending a lot of time with another man. The G.O. doesn’t mind, he’s a fan too… of The Man in Black: Johnny Cash.

It started with a book – Johnny Cash: The Life by Robert Hilburn, my book club’s selection earlier this year I purchased despite being a weighty paperback tome knowing the G.O. would enjoy it also, but the size of which was practically daunting to lug for daily commute reading time on the train.

“In this, the definitive biography of an American legend, Robert Hilburn conveys the unvarnished truth about a musical superstar. Johnny Cash’s extraordinary career stretched from his days at Sun Records with Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis to the remarkable creative last hurrah, at age 69, that resulted in the brave, moving “Hurt” video.

As music critic for the Los Angeles Times, Hilburn knew Cash throughout his life: he was the only music journalist at the legendary Folsom Prison concert in 1968, and he interviewed both Cash and his wife June Carter just months before their deaths. Drawing upon a trove of never-before-seen material from the singer’s inner circle, Hilburn creates an utterly compelling, deeply human portrait of a towering figure in country music, a seminal influence in rock, and an icon of American popular culture. Hilburn’s reporting shows the astonishing highs and deep lows that marked the journey of a man of great faith and humbling addiction who throughout his life strove to use his music to lift people’s spirits.”

The heft of the book was soon immaterial as engrossed I read it every spare minute I had. At the end, sad to put it down, I gave it 5 stars: “Wonderfully absorbing. I had no idea I would become so captivated by Johnny Cash as his story is told by Robert Hilburn. This book doesn’t simply convey details, it makes you care and takes you along for the incredible ride. To enhance the experience listen to some Johnny Cash as you go through the book; the later Rick Rubin albums beginning with American Recordings as well as Johnny Cash’s earlier music.”

We already had a few Johnny Cash albums in our collection including the more recent American IV – The Man comes Around; American V – A Hundred Highways; and American VI Ain’t No Grave, which I have to confess at first I didn’t appreciate and languished in a cupboard. But, reading Robert Hilburn’s biography set me off on a shopping mission for classic recordings such as Folsom Prison and The Essential Johnny Cash plus the earlier of the Rick Rubin produced albums: American Recordings; Unchained (American II); and American III – Solitary Man.

Just after the book went back on the shelf awaiting the opportunity for the G.O. to read it I noticed a promo for The Man in Black – The Johnny Cash Story, a show at the Sydney Opera House for which I had tried unsuccessfully to get tickets during its previous tours.

“The Helpmann Award winning The Man in Black… Starring Tex Perkins, this is two hours of Johnny Cash’s magnificent music interwoven with the story of his rise to stardom, his fight for survival and his eventual redemption.

IMG_20140720_160739With his driving freight-train chords, steel-eyed intensity and a voice as dark as the night, the legendary Johnny Cash revolutionised music. The show explores his relationships – with hardened prisoners to the beautiful June Carter and lots in between. Johnny Cash was dealt a very tough hand, early in life, but through his music and dedication, he became a legend throughout the world.

Tex Perkins, one of the most electrifying front men of Australian rock ‘n’ roll, brings the hard-living country legend to life, and is joined on stage by Rachael Tidd and The Tennessee Four.

Enjoy Ring of Fire, I Walk the Line, Folsom Prison Blues, Sunday Mornin’ Coming Down, Get Rhythm, A Boy Named Sue, Hey Porter and over a dozen more hits.”

The weather was chilly last Friday night when we went but the show was brilliant, Tex Perkins doing an amazing account of The Man in Black, and the wintry late evening trip home well worth braving for the experience. I couldn’t really say a favourite song but “Hurt” originally recorded by the Nine Inch Nails and later covered by Johnny Cash was powerful. Over the weekend the G.O. and I both were still humming the tunes.

He was an extraordinary man.

“The Master of Life’s been good to me. He has given me strength to face past illnesses, and victory in the face of defeat. He has given me life and joy where others saw oblivion. He has given new purposes to live for. New services to render and old wounds to heal. Life and love go on. Let the music play.” Johnny Cash


people power II – putting your name on it…

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Does putting your name and signature to a cause make a difference? I believe so…

My email in-box is evidence of my affection for causes, populated as it is with emails from, care2 petition site and GetUp requesting my virtual signature.

It started at home and simply enough with the petition to RailCorp NSW: Erect a noise barrier wall along the St Peters rail corridor. Initially my support was speculative, not envisaging my armchair warrior stance could accomplish much. But there have been tangible results, evidenced by the weekend track-work taking place within sight of our balcony and a resultant reduction in noise.

And then today and the media announced what is to me a real and groundbreaking victory both for the issue (which has been ongoing) and online petition supporters.

People-power win after Sydney teacher Paula Orbea launches petition against ‘misogynistic and degrading slogans’ on Wicked Campers vans. In this instance: in every princess there is a little slut who wants to try it just once…

street art_Macdonaldtown Train Station, Sydney NSW Australia
Wicked Campers were otherwise but people power won

“WICKED Campers* have agreed to clean up sexist or misogynistic slogans from their fleet of vans after a public outcry this week…
The company has today issued an apology and committed to reviewing and removing offensive marketing from all of its campervans in the next six months.
Paula Orbea, the Sydney school teacher who started the 110,000-strong petition against Wicked Campers, says it’s a stunning people-power victory against sexism, with the result coming just four days after she started the petition.
In an email from Wicked Campers received by Paula, she says the company has offered a personal apology and has now removed the sexist slogan Paula’s daughter saw.”

Work in progress:
Roseanne is facing a lifetime in prison because of her disability. Stop the neglect.
There’s been “incredible progress on freeing Roseanne. Locked up in prison indefinitely because of her disability, without being guilty of a crime – your signatures have helped convince the NT Government to start moving to free her.”

There are still good old paper petitions doing the rounds as well. Earlier this week a colleague sought my signature on a petition opposing “More than two dozen specialist women’s shelters could be forced to close in metropolitan Sydney as the New South Wales government finalises a major reform into homeless services funding.”

Good news:
In April 2013 I became a member of Lock the Nambucca Valley, created to oppose Precious Metal Resources Pty Ltd mining exploration for gold and antimony mining in the Nambucca Valley… just up the road from our house at Taylors Arm, detailed in the post dead waters.

In June 2014 came the good news
“Precious Metals Resources has relinquished its licence (EL8016) to explore for antimony and gold in the Nambucca Valley! The licence has now been cancelled. PMR claimed that exploration was not justified. Lock the Nambucca Valley is confident that our strong opposition to commencement of antimony mining activities in the Nambucca had a role to play in PMRs decision to pull out. They were well aware of our existence and the enormous community support for our campaign to prevent them starting. We have won.”

Lock the Nambucca Valley however remain realistic and vigilant as “another company could apply for a similar exploration to plunder and pollute”.

People power saved Newtown Community Markets.
NSW introduces tougher penalties for drunken violence
Mum of five gets life-saving stomach cancer surgery

care2 petition site
Tasmanian Forests Won’t Be Open to Logging
The Shubie Spice Girls Can Stay At Their Home

Helped save from destruction the oldest collection of rock art in the world on the Burrup Peninsula, WA.
Brought together senators from across party lines to win a conscience vote stopping ministerial veto of the RU486 non-surgical abortion medication.

… and more wins, detailed on their websites.

A final word to Wicked Campers
Artist Stef Burgon takes on Wicked Campers, paints her own slogan
If ya wouldn’t say it to ya Nan… don’t write it on ya van! 

*Wicked Campers is an Australian camper van rental company based in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. The company also has outlets in other parts of Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom, North America, South Africa and South America. Wicked Campers market their product towards younger drivers and backpackers. Each van features a spray painted design, often featuring pop culture references and politically incorrect slogans.”

people power

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001aNewtown Community Market is successful enough that in 2012 it won a council-supported business achievement award. Popular enough that last year the organisers, Newtown Neighbourhood Centre, lodged a development application to expand its ongoing operation, but eliciting objection to the effect “they stole customers from bricks-and-mortar retailers” and votes from a number of Marrickville councillors to actually cease operations. The response was almost 4000 people signed a petition fighting to keep the markets open. People power won. Personally, I believe the retailers benefit from the presence the markets attract.

Described as “small-but-hip” Newtown Markets are the lazy Saturday morning option for the G.O. and me. It’s a leisurely walk browsing the eclectic King Street shops en route. When we don’t need much in the way of groceries our produce necessities are simply & wonderfully catered for by Sariwa Fresh Foods. No need to fight for car parking or lug a laden granny trolley 2 kms home from Eveleigh Farmers’ Market.

And, with unspent grocery money burning a hole in our pockets there are my personal favourites: second-hand books and socks… [new socks, that is; I have cat socks, dog socks, fox socks, owl socks, pink flamingo socks and more, some remaining only singly which I mix and match]; and all manner of interesting things once encountered you could hardly live without.

Newtown Market offers low-risk business opportunities for local artists and craftspeople in a high profile location to promote and sell their unique creations. The Market is organised by Newtown Neighbourhood Centre to raise funds for its community support programs. This community market has become the common ground, a place where people can interact, alive with social and economic activities. We believe our vibrant market strengthens the local identify and serves to amplify cherished aspects of Newtown’s local culture.

The Corner is a live music space located at the Newtown Community Market. The space provides local buskers with an opportunity to reach a new audience, promote their music while being encouraged to put out their cases and to sell their cd’s. The Corner has hosted a range of musical styles including Gypsy Jazz, solo artists, theatrical performances, blues, electronica, Newtown Primary’s Jazz Orchestra, soul, reggae and Latin. The Corner brings new life to the markets, entertaining market goers and stallholders with music to shop along to, or to sit and enjoy.”

The market is held in Newtown Square adjacent to The Hub, outside the community centre, opposite Newtown Railway Station on King Street, from 10 am to 4 pm every Saturday.

Newtown Neighbourhood Centre is also the organiser of Newtown Festival which on one Sunday each November attracts 80,000 people to Camperdown Memorial Rest Park.

And indeed there will be time

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001The street art message too many things to do not enough time – that is bullx#*t on a wall just off King Street perturbs me somewhat as I hurry past on my way somewhere else.

In April 2013 I posted about street art on this same wall, opening with the words Life is pretty dull quiet at Chez EllaDee & the G.O. but luckily what we lack the neighbourhood provides, just a short walk away.

Same same… the chilly Sydney winter weather is a plausible seasonal explanation; our ancient natural inclination to hibernate derailed by modern work-life environment still exerts enough influence to subdue our out-and-about doings.

My convenient consolation is that wall is an ever-changing canvas. So I’ll avert my eyes; divert my Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock-type thoughts of decisions & revisions, coffee spoons, should I eat a peach while wearing the bottoms of my white flannel trousers rolled when walking upon the beach; and allow time to take care of itself.

Goddard Street is a great example of the street art Newtown is renowned for.


everyday magic

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Sometimes I get so caught up in the workings of day-to-day living I forget things; often which home something is at – we’ve been wondering for a week about the location of an item thinking it was at Taylors Arm but it was right here in the city apartment on a shelf in plain sight.

Similarly, the Belief that is necessary to imbue everyday life with magic wasn’t missing, just overlooked.

The days following the G.O.’s birthday lazy long weekend quickly resumed their everyday feel but with magic restored it seemed like no time at all had passed and I was back at Velvet Garage, this time meeting up with Celia from Fig Jam and Lime Cordial and her husband on Saturday morning. After shuffling arrangements we finally managed a catch-up. We exchanged gifts, each sharing a bit of our lives… I offered a few things I’d been accumulating for this purpose, dragon pearls from my friend Nancy-from-Narrabri’s Hip Herbal ‘n Happening Tea, lemon myrtle seasoning from Perry’s and a small bottle of Isabella from Gruber’s Winery at Taylors Arm. I was thrilled to receive lemons from their tree, a jar of Pete’s quince jelly, and package of chorizo. After a pleasant hour breakfasting and chatting we departed to our respective Saturday errands.

May Street, St Peters street art collage
everyday magic on the streets I walk – May Street, St Peters between Velvet Garage and the train station

I headed over to Eveleigh Farmers Market primarily to pick up the beef cheeks I’d ordered. The Linga Longa Farm stall was my first stop, and I waited patiently, as you do at farmers markets, while the 3 people manning the stall discussed the meaty offerings with a customer. Eventually I was noticed, introduced myself and requested “can I pick up the beef cheeks I called the number on the business card and ordered over the phone… leaving a message on Lauren’s mobile”. Response: I’m Lauren - blank look – When did you ring?  Hmmm, I thought… “Wednesday or Thursday”.  [ I checked, it was Wednesday ]. Lauren looked at me as if that explained everything: oh, it was my birthday on Wednesday; your message must have gotten mixed up with the others… Still hopeful, I asked “so do you have any beef cheeks?” Lauren shifted her attention to me once more: no, we’re sold out. A little bemused I waited but that was it, so I stepped to the stall next door and impulse-bought a Thirlmere duck, while the man chatted to me about how much better value a whole duck was as opposed to buying packs of maryland or breast, how to cook it, and rounded the price down from $28-something to $25… once again I was stepping out of my culinary comfort zone.

[Note: Received text on Tuesday from Lauren of Linga Longa Farm offering me beef cheeks this coming Saturday market. Nice gesture but I'm not sure of plans this weekend. However, I'll call them next time I'm going.]

Wandering home from the markets I found a colourful memo-board free-footpath offering to take up the overload of loose bits & pieces from the fridge door, and spent a couple of dollars at a footpath sale on a decorative cage that I’ll sit a plant in and hang from a hook or in a tree at our Taylors Arm house.

We’re car sharing due to the G.O.’s being in for repairs after a small bingle during the week, so when the G.O. returned from his morning activities, we immediately set out for necessities to driving-distance shops; at which a box of glossy dark plump cherries imported from the U.S. caught my eye. Usually I would think imported-no but I thought duck-yes… and grabbed a handful, and a bunch of orange gladioli that remind me of my Nanna’s garden.

We paused at home again only momentarily, before going off on foot locally to re-visit a couple of items from last week’s birthday browsing-shopping expedition still lingering in our thoughts, to which end yet another old kookaburra and flower picture found a home with us.

everyday magic finds
everyday magic in the objects we find and bring home

Back to normal after the birthday-fest, this weekend was about eating in, therefore cooking. On Saturday afternoon, thinking ahead I quickly chopped and cooked pear & apple compote for Sunday morning porridge; and a bag of tomatoes, onions & basil and put them on to simmer for sauce: later combining a cupful with shallots, prawns, crème fraiche and pasta for a quick Saturday night dinner; and during the week, duck ragu.

Sunday morning was leisurely but chilly so I warmed the apartment with the oven, baking the G.O.’s smoko banana bread; chopped and sautéed kale for weekday breakfast and lunches, chopped cherries and peeled potatoes & carrots for dinner.

I’m new to duck, and had never cooked it whole before, so once the G.O. washed, dried and pricked it I followed my usual slow-roasting practice: into the cast iron pot with halved potatoes, a couple of dried bay leaves, stock and Madeira/Malmsey at 140 C (284 F) for 3 hours, popping in carrots toward the end, then lid off at 180 C (356 F) for an hour.

While the duck & veges were resting on a tray in the still-warm oven, I ladled a scoop of cooking juices with the cherries, 3 slices of fresh orange peel, a dash of Madeira/Malmsey in a saucepan, and set to simmer & reduce. The rest of the cooking juices were saved for the ragu.

everyday magic food
everyday magic in the food we are given, buy, cook and eat: goodies from Celia; roast duck with cherry sauce; farmers market food; duck ragu and penne

I learned a couple of things…

Given the size of the bird, I’d anticipated a couple of roast duck dinners and a couple of duck ragu dinners. The duck was flavoursome, more-so than chicken but there was a lot less of it. So no follow-up roast dinners.

And, as pointed out by the G.O. in response to my gastronomic stage-fright, roast duck was the domain of many home-cooks, including his grandmother and mine, before the elevation of its profile by fancy restaurants and TV cooking shows.

“In fact, people who possess not magic at all can instil their home-cooked meals with love and security and health, transforming ingredients… Cooking is a kind of everyday magic.” Juliet Blackwell

This post is dedicated to Christine of the dadirridreaming blog who I met early on in my wanderings through the WordPress world. Her husband Stuart kindly let her many [blogging] friends know via a touching post of her sudden passing. Many of you would have seen dadirri7’s delightful thoughtful comments on my posts, which I will miss. Christine has been a wonderful inspiration, and very much in touch with the magic of living. I’m sad because I didn’t get to meet Christine in person but I am richer for having known her.

a Claytons cat

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Just as negotiating our work-life city-country balance leaves us feeling we have a Claytons life, we now appear to have, for the moment at least, a Claytons cat to go with it.

Both the G.O. and I are cat, and dog, lovers and have in the past shared our lives with domestic four-legged-furry-ones. Since then, all the while we’ve been muttering our mantra we do not have room in our life, literally, for a cat, making do with pats from neighbourhood cats and befriending a couple of strays around our city apartment locale.

Late last year at Taylors Arm a little black cat started hanging around between our and both neighbours’ yards. Not uncommon as there was always an overflow from the too-numerous cats belonging to a house further up the road, and we’ve taken a couple of kittens to the local RSPCA. Around the time that house burned down is when the black cat started hanging out with LHS neighbour’s cats (of that same origin) but towards the end of our late January Australia Day long weekend stay she started waiting outside our back fence for food but wouldn’t come in. On our last day she waited and would only eat inside the fence near where the G.O.’s ute was parked.

Upon our return a few months later at Easter, Black Cat promptly appeared in our carport, waiting expectantly. After being fed, she settled in for the short duration of our stay. LHS & RHS neighbours said they’d seen her on our verandah and had been feeding her but she was too wild for any other contact. Hmmm, this is the same Black Cat, which we now called Soossie-Dorrie-Floss who meowed for food, followed the G.O., jumped on laps, wandered through our house and annexed the comfy pozzies.

A Soossie-Cat's life at Taylors Arm
A Soossie-Cat’s life at Taylors Arm

Not sure that Soossie Cat’s attachment to us was permanent (after all we’d had LHS neighbour’s grey cat aka Crazy Cat as a holiday houseguest before she gifted him to friends when he couldn’t cope with the two old semi-stray cats in her keeping) we ascertained from LHS neighbour that Soossie Cat was being fed, found out the RHS neighbours continued to be a food source also, and returned to our city life.

My familiarity with the city strays thankfully had given me some independent living cat perspective, and allayed the G.O.’s concerns about me getting attached and possibly broken-hearted. In our absence Soossie Cat selected our house & inhabits it of her own free-will, and has other choices should she exercise them. So we left her with food and assurances from the neighbours, whom she seems disinclined to move in with, that they will feed and look out for her.

When we arrived for the June long weekend visit Soossie Cat wandered out from the sunny verandah greeting us like we’d only been away for the day… quickly drew our attention to the empty food bowl and resumed her occupation of the interior comforts, now accessible. LHS neighbour reported that in our absence Soossie Cat was hanging out with her cats and being fed.

I like it!
I like it!

Soossie Cat is very much at home in the country so taking her to the city isn’t an option. I had hoped, and still do that Soossie Cat will shift camps to LHS neighbour. But just in case not, I offered a little extra comfort (mostly to myself, I think) providing Soosie Cat with an old flannelette drop sheet at the spot she’d been sleeping in the G.O.’s shed, and unearthed for the verandah a cat igloo & crochet rug I’d stored since Baddy Cat left us over 11 years ago. The G.O. said of the igloo, she won’t go in there. We’d barely turned our backs and Soosie Cat proved him wrong.

What does the future hold? You never do know, sometimes things you really want happen but not the way you think…

Note: Claytons  is the brand name of a non-alcoholic, non-carbonated beverage coloured and packaged to resemble bottled whisky. It was the subject of a major marketing campaign in Australian and New Zealand in the 1970s and 1980s, promoting it as “the drink you have when you’re not having a drink”… the name has entered into Australian and New Zealand vernacular where it represents a “poor substitute” or “an ineffective solution to a problem”. It can also be used to describe something that is effectively in existence but does not take the appropriate name, e.g. a common-law couple might be described as having a “Claytons marriage”.


a simply gorgeous birthday

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As far as I’m concerned too many long weekends are never enough, so opportunistically as the G.O.’s birthday fell on a Monday I suggested he take the day off work. Possibly influenced by his daily 160 km commute the G.O. weakened from his it’s just another day  stance and agreed, but when I lobbed the idea of a weekend away into the air he let it bounce out of the court… The weather probably be won’t be any good and we’ve just been away for your sister’s wedding and at Taylors Arm…

I, being a good missus took the G.O.’s birthday off as well to keep him company. So it came to be that we had a self-proclaimed mid-winter long weekend in Sydney. In 9 years we’ve never spent a long weekend in Sydney, and otherwise a rare sequence of days greater than 2 in our apartment only due to illness or injury.

What to do? Well, nothing in a hurry – one of the benefits of having an in-house coffee machine. Eventually Saturday started out as usual with a walk through Sydney Park, on via the local Triumph motorcycle showroom as we were sort of heading in that direction to lunch at Velvet Garage then a detour to browse along King Street, stopping at a second-hand shop to pick up the kookaburras the G.O. had been thinking about, and a spur-of-the-moment frog.

pre-birthday shopping
pre-birthday shopping

Sunday morning didn’t look like we were going anywhere at all, as our lunch plans had fallen through, until the G.O. remembered he wanted to go to the movies. We couldn’t rouse ourselves further than the local Dendy Newtown, but The Rover (“featuring Guy Pearce – an Australian dystopian crime drama film… a futuristic western that takes place in the Australia outback, ten years after a global economic collapse”) was on at 2 convenient times so we got a wriggle-on and aimed for the earlier. Slightly confronting, we agreed however it had merit if not enjoyable in the usual sense of the word.

Monday even though it wasn’t my birthday was worth celebrating just because the alarm didn’t go off at 5 am. After the G.O.’s morning still-trying-to-give-up-cigarette (and being interrogated by the apartment building’s formidable lady-caretaker putting out the bins while he -apparently a stranger- appeared to be loitering out the front rolling it… “can I help you?”), coffee, porridge with stewed apples-pears & walnuts, gift unwrapping, and birthday phone calls, the G.O. decided to proceed with his only plan for the day, a short drive to Victory Motorcycles so he could inflict another round of exquisite should-I-shouldn’t-I torture on himself.

The G.O.’s lunch suggestions were boring so we went with my brain-wave to go back in time and across the city to our old stomping ground at the West Ryde Hotel aka Mary’s. Shock horror, the same-same exterior hid a surprise; the interior had been revamped… it appeared recent but given neither of us had set foot there for quite some time it could have been done well over a decade ago.

Lunch was excellent, the G.O.’s meaty as is his preference, and we dined in the less-changed grapevine covered beer garden. With time to kill we stopped in off in Balmain-Rozelle for a stroll and something sweet to take home before setting off to our post-4 pm collection point to pick up the Baron Star Bar handlebar for his motorcycle, which the G.O. used his previous birthday IOU to order from the U.S. just a week earlier. (Note to DHL couriers, not happy you couldn’t manage to press our buzzer to deliver it in person – we were at home).

four wheels good two wheels better
four wheels good two wheels better

Neither of us felt like much dinner, so it was birthday banana bread*, very appropriate for a Coffs Harbour raised boy.

* I’m not a particularly assured cook, and assumed café offerings such as madeleines, friands and banana bread weren’t the domain of ordinary cooks. I’ve now attempted all successfully, dispelling the mystique, but none more so than this simple banana bread I resorted to a couple of weeks ago because I had bananas in the freezer, and (unusually) milk in the fridge but no eggs.

Combine 3 mashed bananas, 3/4 cup brown sugar, 2 tablespoons butter, 1 teaspoon vanilla essence, 2 1/2 cups self-raising flour, and 1 cup milk, bake in loaf tin in 180 C (356 F) oven for 40 minutes.

gorgeous birthday food
gorgeous birthday food

a Claytons life

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From time to time I catch myself humming Dolly Parton’s theme song from the movie Nine to Five.

Workin’ 9 to 5  [and then some], what a way to make a livin’…

There’s a better life and you think about it, don’t you?…

For his last birthday I gave the G.O. a card that featured a photo of the Banksy ‘Out of Stock’ street art -
Sorry! The lifestyle you ordered is currently out of stock. A year later it is still on back-order.

Luckily the lifestyle we have will get us through another year or so. But sometimes it’s tricky. We live in the city primarily to work, as a means to end our being in the city. Mostly we’re busy but in the lulls we catch up on the rest of our life. Occasionally we take some time out for ourselves.

My annual leave balance generally hovers around zero as I use the days when the G.O. gets mandatory no-work long weekends & holidays, and we head to our house at Taylors Arm to take care of business there. Conversely the G.O. has accrued about 400 hours annual leave and 60 untaken rostered-day-off hours.

In late August we’re taking a whole week of holidays for a road trip to visit far-flung family and friends outside our city-Taylors Arm orbit, an exciting but exhausting prospect we are anticipating. Starting with a 3 night pit stop at T.A. then 5 nights away it will be 2500+ kms and est. 30 hours driving.

In the meantime, an appealing aspect of my life is my blogging-virtual neighbours who share their neighbourhoods, lives and travels. They take us on tours of their gardens and invite us into their kitchens for a cup of tea and a chat about what’s cooking or new. Lately, I’ve been enjoying Dianne‘s renovation of the RUC and her upcycled pantry, Kate‘s & Anne‘s teapots & cosies, and Francesca‘s love of old plates, and want to invite you into my kitchen to share my own.

TA Old dishes etc
From the kitchen at Taylors Arm

In real life I’ve been aiming at combining virtual and real for a meet up with fellow Sydney blogger Celia of Fig Jam & Lime Cordial. However, akin to the storage space I’m without that prevents me from acquiring the tempting array of kitchenalia many of her posts showcase, coordinating available time I’m inevitably without (as happens with existing family and friends) isn’t simple.

I’d also like to share my review of Dianne Gray’s novel The Everything Theory which I finished recently, the culmination of reading all her novels.

I would love to see this novel made into an Australian film. The characters, dialogue and story line are so comprehensive and 3 dimensional that in your mind while reading it, you are there witnessing it unfold. The story is contemporary and intriguing. The detail locationally is amazing but what really impressed was the minutiae that made up the premise of the narrative. Read this novel and take another look at those conspiracy theories, ancient history, myths and so-called mysteries – the way you look at things will never be the same again.

Note: Claytons is the brand name of a non-alcoholic, non-carbonated beverage coloured and packaged to resemble bottled whisky. It was the subject of a major marketing campaign in Australia and New Zealand in the 1970s and 1980s, promoting it as “the drink you have when you’re not having a drink”… the name has entered into Australian and New Zealand vernacular where it represents a “poor substitute” or “an ineffective solution to a problem”. It can also be used to describe something that is effectively in existence but does not take the appropriate name, e.g. a common-law couple might be described as having a “Claytons marriage”.

better than

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Marianne via her East of Malaga’s CBBH Photo Challenge: Food asks “Is there a food typical of your country or area where you live?

the master barbequer
the master barbequer

While we were enjoying the recent Queens Birthday long weekend at Taylors Arm, the G.O. made the bold statement

we eat better when we’re here than we do in Sydney.

When I asked

why is that, because you are the master barbequer?

the G.O. pondered, and modestly replied

no, because we have time. We eat what we want and when we want.

Preceding the drive out to our house we do a fresh food shop to supplement existing pantry ingredients, which are somewhat heterogeneous having been sourced at various places and times often on impulse and then forgotten for months in our absence.

As we’d flown up for a 3 day mini-break and travelled light, not having much to unpack on the Saturday afternoon I made a quick cake (butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla essence, milk and flour) with swirls of just past its use-by-date home-made guava jelly I’d impetously purchased at the local markets the summer before last; and the G.O.’s favourite potato bake.

simple country fare
simple country fare

We dined on that, the G.O.’s master barbequer delights, veges, fruit, eggs, toast, cheese and leftovers for the duration. For our last night I’d marinated pork belly strips with the remainder of the guava jelly, soy sauce and white condiment (vinegar). The G.O. despite my contrary advice couldn’t resist swiping them with a little extra marinade on the BBQ so they were fashionably ‘blackened’. Notwithstanding their deliciousness we couldn’t eat them all, or take them on the plane home, so leftovers were dropped off to the M.I.L. whose affection for potato bake rivals the G.O.’s.

My own theory why we perceivably eat better at Taylors Arm is that barbeque and potato bake are native to our TA diet, i.e. not something we partake of at our Sydney apartment. We gave up trying to barbeque on our noisy, grimy city apartment balcony – it’s just not pleasant or worth the effort. The G.O. never requests potato bake in Sydney (although he notes when we bring leftovers back) and I deliberately don’t make it, to maintain the holiday mystique.

Simple potato bake
Slice a few potatoes and onions thinly. Layer potato then onions in a buttered casserole dish drizzling pure cream and grinding salt & white pepper over each layer to taste. Cover with lid/foil and bake in a 200 C (392 F) oven for about an hour until soft then sprinkle with grated cheese of choice and bake without lid/foil until cheese is golden. Wonderful the next day as a base for frittata – warm leftovers in a non-stick frypan with, if you choose, anything interesting you have to hand, top with beaten eggs and put under the grill or in the oven to brown.

To join in the CBBH Photo Challenge all you have to do is post your entry by the end of the month, tag your entry ‘CBBH Photo Challenge’, link back to the East of Malaga blog and, most importantly, don’t forget to add links to any two blogs that you’ve commented on during the past month, so that we can all HOP OVER and have a look.

My Featured Blog Links for this month are two busy creative bloggers who warmly welcome virtual visits:

talltalesfromchiconia – “living in tropical Mackay QLD; gardener and vegie grower; quilt maker; enjoyer of expensive book and fabric stash habits; gluten free cook”.

Veronica Roth – “takes photos every day, takes herself out on art dates, takes sugar with her tea, loves papers and pencils and oils and brushes and quills and inks and poetry and sushi, loves her cars and computers and canons”.

Better Than, John Butler Trio

a royal perambulation

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Providentially in January I booked cheap flights so the G.O. and I could take a June long weekend mini-break in our own home at Taylors Arm minus the 6 hour each way drive from the city.

On the public holiday Monday celebrating the birthday of Australia’s Queen we took a royal walk in one of the far outreaches of HRH’s colonies along the main street (the only street) to the river via Saddlers Lane, really to have a royal sticky beak at what’s happening with village real estate, as a couple of houses have changed hands with a few more rumoured via the grapevine intelligence we encountered along the way, to be about to.

Wiki advises Taylors Arm and surrounding area is a very beautiful part of the Mid North Coast. Undulating landscape, State Forest, National Parks and Thumb Creek to Taylors Arm river, that consists of some very inviting water holes in the hot summer. On entry into the quiet village, an avenue of Paulonia trees is set in the foreground with blue mountains in the background. So if you’re looking for a property in the environs of a country village keep an eye on Domain real estate.