seeing is[n’t] believing

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Food is still all over the news… “The NSW Food Authority has found the batch of John Bull Tuna linked to the Soul Origin tuna salad food poisoning scare in Sydney to be safe but found the salad to contain nearly 20 times the safe levels of scombroid histamine“, Red Rooster food chain claims of “nothing artificial” have been challenged and supermarket giant “Coles was ordered to cough up a $2.5 million penalty in the Federal Court on Friday afternoon, ending a two-year battle with the consumer watchdog over the false and misleading claims it made about its “freshly baked” bread.”

Out of the berry fiasco came a market opportunity for local frozen berries that may not have had impetus otherwise, with Australia’s first commercial frozen berries, Matilda’s, set to be on the shelves by June.

It’s about time we paid attention the food we’re spending our hard-earned cash on. With businesses citing costs as the reason for pro-imports and anti-labelling consumers can exert influence via their spending behaviours. Regardless of their talk, if it means changing to stay in business, they’ll walk the walk.

The demand for transparent information is evidenced by new smartphone apps… “a new wave of barcode-scanning ones are giving consumers increasing power and intensifying pressure on companies to provide more information at a level never seen before“.

There’s no doubt from a consumer’s point of view full disclosure in food production and labelling is necessary. But for that to happen… and it will happen… it’s up to consumers. What we spend money on is a direct message.

Genuine Grower from Bob's FarmMy favoured option is farmers market for fresh food. Ask questions of the people selling it. Where does it come from, how was it grown, when was it picked… just have a chat. Go back the next week, they’ll probably remember you and continue the conversation… walking talking food labels.Label

If like me you can’t always get to a farmers market… food shopping gets trickier. It’s more than likely we’ll end up in a supermarket wondering about the merits of label statements & ingredients and supermarket organic-free range-pasture raised. What goes on the checkout docket is my opportunity to make a statement about the sorts of product I will buy.

Is organic worth it? I think so. Regardless of where you live the Dirty Dozen & Clean Fifteen fruits and vegetables designated by the U.S. Environmental Working Group is a good guideline.

“EWG singles out produce with the highest pesticide loads for its Dirty Dozen™ list. This year, it is comprised of apples, peaches, nectarines, strawberries, grapes, celery, spinach, sweet bell peppers, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, imported snap peas and potatoes…

EWG’s Clean Fifteen™ list of produce least likely to hold pesticide residues consists of avocados, sweet corn, pineapples, cabbage, frozen sweet peas, onions, asparagus, mangoes, papayas, kiwis, eggplant, grapefruit, cantaloupe, cauliflower and sweet potatoes. Relatively few pesticides were detected on these foods, and tests found low total concentrations of pesticides on them.”

I do better when I have a checklist -mental or otherwise- of good products I’ve researched. Flavour Crusader is great for reference checking local, free-range and organic produce in Australia. If I find a good product, I keep buying it. If the selections are unfamiliar I consider alternatives but leave empty-handed if I’m not happy with the offerings.

Details details… one small independent supermarket near me promotes itself as selling “certified organic groceries, fresh fruit, market-fresh vegetables, artisan breads, fresh meat, gourmet brands, fresh & frozen meals and specialized products”. Sounds good, except when it first opened the blackboard at the door advertised “fresh produce daily”; now it advises “produce checked daily for freshness”.

“Seeing, contrary to popular wisdom, isn’t believing.
It’s where belief stops, because it isn’t needed any more.”
Terry Pratchett

Note: Every day I eat. Every now and then I blog about food: I thought it only fair on occasion to share what passes as a recipe for something I’ve made. We’re a 2 person household. All quantities and times are approximate. Additions and substitutions may be made according to preference, taste and availability. Where possible I use pastured/free range/organic produce and improvise using ingredients I have on hand.

Easy weeknight food: Pork Meatballs made with farmers market produce and ingredients to hand.

Combine by hand 500 grams of free range ground pork mince with a finely chopped sourdough bread roll and small onion, an egg, a dollop of oyster sauce and a pinch each of ginger & white pepper.

Free range pork meatballs, baked potatoes and Asian style veges from farmers market
Free range pork meatballs, baked potatoes and Asian style veges from farmers market

Toss quartered potatoes and golden beetroot in canola oil and salt. Bake in hot oven.

Top and tail snowpeas and blanche with boiling water. Run under cold water, then drain. Add to bowl with sliced red bull pepper and slices of baked golden beetroot. Toss with crunchy noodles and dressing made from Chinese black vinegar, sesame oil and honey.

The G.O. loves sausages. With few exceptions I’m not a fan. We compromise with meatballs aka rissoles… and given my stepmother’s renditions comprising only a ball of overcooked unseasoned minced meat, I wasn’t a fan of them either until I made my own.

My usual method for meatballs is to bake them as it enables me to quickly make enough for 2 night’s dinners and 2 freezer containers, but my last couple of efforts have been so-so.

This time I enlisted the assistance of the G.O. who other than being the Mashed Potato King prefers to exercise his culinary expertise via the outdoor barbeque at Taylors Arm leaving city-weeknight-kitchen food to me. He took the bait! shaped the meatballs and set them into a frypan with a little canola oil. We had a glass of wine while they sizzled, remarking how the comforting sound took us back to our childhoods. The taste of the food did too.

The G.O. is a generous meatball maker and eater but there was enough for 2 night’s of dinners.

Telling a book by its cover: Guest Blogger Kourtney Heintz

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Last time Guest Blogger author of The Six Train to Wisconsin Kourtney Heintz graced EllaDee with a guest appearance, it was about Believing… in what you do, and putting in the work.

As K.C. Tansley, Kourtney writes “YA contemporary fantasy. None of the quests and knights sort of stuff. More like one foot in this world and one foot in the magical realm”.

“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.” ~ Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

EKR’s words epitomise Kourtney, who as ever shares generously her process and here speaks to how beautiful book covers also do not just happen.

Click here for a Rafflecopter giveaway for The Girl Who Ignored Ghosts and here https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/24991337-the-girl-who-ignored-ghosts to add it to your Goodreads To-Read list.

The Girl Who Ignored Ghosts will be available for Pre-Order May 2nd on Amazon.

EllaDee

Guest Blog: The Evolution of Cover Art
K.C. Tansley, author The Girl Who Ignored Ghosts

Every author worries about her cover art. Since the cover designer has only read the back cover summary, how can she/he possibly create a cover that conveys the tone, theme, and feel of the entire book? What if my cover is wrong for my story? What if my publisher doesn’t let me have any input? These are the fears that can eat away at an author.

Luckily, I got to work with an amazing team. The cover designer had a great eye for YA and paranormal/gothic covers. My editor loved the story and had a vision for the cover. My publisher had the final say over the design, but being a small press, my opinion mattered to them.

The-Girl-Who-Ignored-Ghosts11The design process started with a series of questions about the book, including a list of items that must be included in the cover. My publisher and editor both felt that the castle and the main character had to be featured because they wanted to play up the gothic elements of the story.

The cover designer read the back cover summary and our responses to her questions, and then came up with three concepts. Each featured a castle and girl but with very different tones and colors and images and fonts—three potential directions that we could take the cover in. Luckily, there was a clear winner and we easily agreed on the initial concept. Once we settled on that, the cover went through several iterations to get it to where it is now.

In an early version, there were snow-capped mountains in the backdrop, which worked for the tone of the book, but didn’t make sense because the story was set in the summer near the Connecticut shore. My editor and I explained why they had to be removed and they were.

Once we nailed down the background, we focused on the girl. The original girl on the cover had dark brown hair. Everyone agreed the pose was perfect but the hair was all wrong for Kat, our blonde protagonist.

Throughout the process, I learned that the cover is supposed to be a pastiche, a heightened version of the key elements of the book. At the same time, it cannot violate the story world.

So how do I feel about this cover? Absolute adoration! The designer captured the heart of the book. That girl embodies Kat. The eerie moonlight and the shadows surrounding the castle convey the tone. Even the fonts hint at the present day but with a touch of the past in the curly Ghosts font. The design encompass the time travel and mystery aspects of the story perfectly. I wouldn’t change a single thing about this cover!

Back Cover Summary

She tried to ignore them. But some things won’t be ignored. 

Kat Preston doesn’t believe in ghosts. Not because she’s never seen one, but because she saw one too many. Refusing to believe is the only way to protect herself from the ghost that tried to steal her life. Kat’s disbelief keeps her safe until her junior year at McTernan Academy, when a research project for an eccentric teacher takes her to a tiny, private island off the coast of Connecticut.

The site of a grisly mystery, the Isle of Acacia is no place for a girl who ignores ghosts, but the ghosts leave Kat little choice. Accompanied by her research partner, Evan Kingsley, she investigates the disappearance of Cassie Mallory and Sebastian Radcliffe on their wedding night in 1886. Evan’s scientific approach to everything leaves Kat on her own to confront a host of unbelievables: ancestral curses, powerful spells, and her strange connection to the ghosts that haunt Castle Creighton.

But that’s all before Kat’s yanked through a magic portal and Evan follows her. When the two of them awaken 129 years in the past with their souls trapped inside the bodies of two wedding guests, everything changes. Together, Kat and Evan race to stop the wedding-night murders and find a way back to their own time—and their own bodies—before their souls slip away forever.

Bio

K.C Tansley lives with her warrior lapdog, Emerson, and three quirky golden retrievers on a hill somewhere in Connecticut. She tends to believe in the unbelievables—spells, ghosts, time travel—and writes about them.kctansleyauthorpic

Never one to say no to a road trip, she’s climbed the Great Wall twice, hopped on the Sound of Music tour in Salzburg, and danced the night away in the dunes of Cape Hatteras. She loves the ocean and hates the sun, which makes for interesting beach days. The Girl Who Ignored Ghosts is her debut YA time-travel murder mystery novel.

As Kourtney Heintz, she also writes award winning cross-genre fiction for adults.

You can find out more about her at: http://kctansley.com

 

In My Kitchen: Short and Sweet

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The weeks since my March IMK post scraped in have flown; the gramma featured still awaits my attention. There’s been little available time to spend in the kitchen. Some of my cooking has been short and some has been sweet…

My much awaited book purchase Whole Larder Love by Rohan Anderson arrived the day after my March IMK post. Rohan also has a blog.

A pack of beef short ribs from Linga Longa Farm, Wingham NSW at Eveleigh Farmers Market was just the ticket for an easy Saturday night dinner & Sunday night leftovers, made to Celia’s recipe and with the lucky last of the jar of Pete’s quince jelly. I love it when I Google search for a recipe and up pops a Fig Jam and Lime Cordial result!

tapioca gone wrong
tapioca gone wrong

My first effort at making tapioca. I bought a pack of tapioca pearls with the view to making a coconut milk version but had 2 spare cups of milk left over from DIY yoghurt (also Celia’s recipe) I didn’t want to waste. It all went to waste anyway because I cooked the tapioca too long and it turned out like lumpy glue. The G.O. bravely volunteered it would still be good to eat.
But no. Live and learn.

Christmas in March biscuits
Christmas in March biscuits

Christmas in March biscuits (made from left over festive season dried tart cherries from Bellingen’s Kombu Wholefoods, macadamia nuts from Nambucca Macnuts and white chocolate chips) which the G.O. has been taking to work for smoko and his work mates have been nabbing to add to their protein shakes.

my contribution to my workplace's morning tea fundraiser: chilli chocolate lamington cup cakes with plum and sweet chilli sauce centres
chilli chocolate lamington cup cakes with plum & sweet chilli sauce centres

Chilli chocolate (remnants of a Lindt block) topped lamington cupcakes made from organic SR flour, sugar, butter,  vanilla essence, coconut and free range eggs with squirts of Plum & Sweet Chilli Sauce in the centres baked for my workplace’s fundraiser morning tea. My slightly different take on the theme: sharing a food from my cultural background. I had to buy back the leftovers so the G.O. could take them to work.

A diminishing jar of  Freckles… reward for my contribution to my workplace’s community service program, regifted to the G.O… who says he is rationing himself to 4 per day… usually consumed  at 5.30 am as he’s walking out the door, or 6.30 pm as he’s walking in!

a diminishing jar of  Freckles...
a diminishing jar of Freckles…

On that chocolatey note, it’s almost Easter which means later in the week we’ll be off again to the country for a short break; a little R&R and drinking of coffee & wine on the verandah is in order, and a chocolate egg for the G.O.

Thanks to Celia of Fig Jam and Lime Cordial for hosting In My Kitchen and the IMK community for foodie inspiration & the virtual company they provide. If you’d like to join in, link back to Celia’s blog.

“All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.” – Charles M. Schulz

fair suck of the sav . . .

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Food fight: Big Food vs Good Food. Home-made work lunch made from Good Fish tuna, farmers market salad selections, free range egg, Bulgarian sheeps milk feta, Spanish [naturally] green olives stuffed with almonds.
Food fight: Big Food vs Good Food. Home-made work lunch made from Good Fish tuna, farmers market salad selections, free range egg, Bulgarian sheeps milk feta, Spanish [naturally] green olives stuffed with almonds.
When I spend the cash I worked hard to earn on food that disappoints I get angry… When I realised the pretty green hue of the olives I had been buying was fake I thought “fair suck of the sav“… “sav” being short for saveloy, a type of sausage. And it’s not rude. It’s an Australian saying that means “give us a fair go”.

It reminded me of the importance of continuing my ongoing food due diligence, and led me to spend some time in that playground of information: Google, where I do regular home schooling in what’s good to eat.

Why do I care about good food? Because Big Food and Supermarkets no matter how high their profits are this year, aim to make higher profits next year, the year after and so on. Where do the profits come from? The money we spend. I don’t know about you but my income is modest and I don’t earn more and more money each year.

It’s gratifying to see food issues get airtime. In Australia there’s been a egg campaign (“that ain’t no way to treat a lady”, pork & bacon awareness (“consumers are unaware more than 75 per cent of bacon sold in Australia is made from imported product”), seafood labelling, as well as the packaged food labelling campaign that’s ramped up since the frozen berries recall of Creative Gourmet and Nanna’s frozen berries from China putting consumers at risk of contracting Hepatitis A and John Bull tinned tuna imported from Thailand linked with suspected Scromboid poisoning.

The call for fairer food is gaining momentum. Particularly when people are getting sick. While in Australia there is outrage and call for food labelling reform as industry, government and lobbyist are fighting over what’s appropriate & fair, consumers can make a big difference with very slight changes in their thought processes and behaviours.

Food fight: Big Food vs Good Food. Home-made yoghurt, home-made muesli, Omaha Organic NZ frozen blueberries, peach from Sariwa farmers market stall who sourced them from the grower at Orange, NSW.
Food fight: Big Food vs Good Food. Home-made yoghurt, home-made muesli, Omaha Organic NZ frozen blueberries, peach from Sariwa farmers market stall who sourced them from the grower at Orange, NSW.

Big companies spend more money to make more money. Their profits and executive salaries take them out of the real world realms of their target consumers. Wiki states Pepsico’s gross profit for 2014 at US$38.33 billion and “while CEO of PepsiCo in 2011, [Indra] Nooyi earned a total compensation of $17 million which included a base salary of $1.6 million, a cash bonus of $2.5 million, pension value and deferred compensation of $3 million“.

Big Food and Supermarkets don’t care about us. They want our dollars, and they spend millions to get them. Small food producers also want us to buy their product but those sellers at the farmers markets who have often made a 10 hour round trip to be there are more likely to be doing it for love as well as money.

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”
Dr. Seuss, The Lorax

olives ain’t olives

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I didn’t get caught up the recent Australian food debacles: recall of Creative Gourmet and Nanna’s frozen berries from China putting consumers at risk of contracting Hepatitis A; nor the John Bull tinned tuna imported from Thailand linked with suspected Scromboid poisoning.

I’ve seen recent comments on social media such as Definitely worth reminding ourselves…Aussie barcode is 93. However a quick Google search clears that up… “The first two or three digits of an EAN-13 barcode identify the country in which the manufacturer’s identification code was assigned. They do not necessarily indicate the country in which the goods were manufactured”. Nor does it necessarily indicate the country origin for the ingredients. Australia’s barcode begins with a 93 but it’s no guarantee the product is Australian sourced.

When I couldn’t purchase fresh local berries I’d been buying frozen but because of an earlier recall I switched last year to Omaha organic blueberries grown in New Zealand. Scattering a small handful of berries into yoghurt each weekday means they last months. Tuna & salad from home has long been my standby work-day lunch but after the usual supermarket tinned tuna offerings began to smell like cat food I changed to Good Fish Tuna in Olive Oil. It’s pricey so I restrict myself to one tin per week and split it over 2 days, supplementing with tofu, goats cheese, nuts, olives…

From left to right: Good – Best – Read The Label

Do you prefer black or green olives? At Chez EllaDee & the G.O. any olive is a good olive. We love them: black, green, Kalamata, Spanish, pitted, stuffed, organic… We eat them alone, with cheese, in salad, in casseroles & pasta, on pizza. We buy them in tubs, jars and loose.

My latest food revelation was about olives. I’ve far too had many of these revelations… because I assume everyone has my best interests at heart. They don’t. Assumptions are the boon of food manufacturers and marketers who want to influence our purchases.

There was a recent SMH newspaper article Things you didn’t know about your food I just had to read.

“Black olives aren’t ripened the way you think
Black and green olives aren’t different varieties. Green olives are the more unripe version of black olives. Olives can age on the tree, and will shrink and become darker, however commercially produced olives are not harvested like that. Instead they are picked green, treated with caustic soda and spun in oxidised water to speed ripening. Once they’re shiny and black, a black substance called ferrous gluconate is added to make sure they stay that way.”

Curious, I began reading olive jar labels at the local supermarkets. They are reminiscent of the Castrol GTX advertisement of the 70 & 80’s promoting ‘man made’ synthetic motor oils…The tag line “oils ain’t oils, Sol” has become part of the Australian vernacular. Fine for motor oils, not for olives.

Turns out one of our go-to salad olive selections [on the right in the photo above] are that lovely shade of green courtesy of food colouring… well of course now I see it now but I trusted they were natural… how naive did I feel!

If it looks to good to be true, it probably is.

In My Kitchen: Oldies and Goodies

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My Pinterest page tag is “I love old objects and ways; local food and markets; home made, grown and cooked.” I’ve dedicated a board to Oldies But Goodies: Not getting older just getting better…

 

What does the symbol mean?
What does the symbol mean?
Tetsuya's at home
Tetsuya’s at home

Early in February we had a day in the Blue Mountains. I bought this Chinese tea mug at The Laughing Elephant Asian grocery store in Wentworth Falls. Can anyone tell me what the Chinese symbol means?

I opened a bottle of Tetsuya’s Wasabi Mustard, a Christmas gift from a friend, because best by dates aren’t the only reason for not saving lovely things for a special occasion.

At the end of February we had a weekend away to collect an EBay purchase… I rarely bid on eBay and when I do I’m rarely the winning bidder.

The odds were with me this occasion when I bid on Newlings Cordial crates pickup only from Braidwood. Even better when we hit town after an early start the Braidwood monthly markets were happening.

After Saturday night out in Canberra with friends we spent Sunday morning at the Old Bus Depot Markets at Kingston, ACT.

 

Back on home turf, I’ve been doing the weekly grocery shopping most Saturday mornings at Eveleigh Farmers Market  and browsing the retro/vintage/op-shops/markets of Newtown.

 

 

Gramma: the before picture! That's a teaspoon in front.
Gramma: the before picture! That’s a teaspoon in front.

I’ve had one eye on the calendar holding off posting so as to include the latest addition to my kitchen, a book I’m a little bit excited about but it hasn’t arrived yet, so will have to wait until next time.

In the meantime, in my kitchen is a gramma which we were given by country neighbours early in the year that is waiting for me to turn it into the gramma my Nanna used to make that you’d put into a pie, only the G.O. prefers it plain without pastry! Recipes vary but I’ll share mine next time too.

Thanks to Celia for hosting IMK and the IMK community for foodie inspiration & the virtual company they provide.

old and poor vs. old and wise

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The Australian Federal Government Treasurer Joe Hockey reckons Australia’s aging population is going to run out of cash and have to live on the cheap… funded by the government.
Australians to live longer and be poorer in 2055, Intergenerational Report shows

I hope it’s simply a cack-handed way of encouraging people to contribute to superannuation, responsibly consider their future, and the country’s budget. A message well meant [albeit for political effect]. Poorly expressed.

Worries me not, if it did I’d stay chained to my desk rather than actively nurturing plans to move to Taylors Arm and live simply & creatively as it’s likely we’ll be less well off financially than we are living and working in the city.

"Life is like a piano. What you get out of it depends on how you play it." Tom Lehrer
“Life is like a piano. What you get out of it depends on how you play it.” Tom Lehrer

Apparently to enjoy a comfortable lifestyle you need “$42,158 a year, or $57,665 for a couple… and according to the ASFA Retirement Standard, a comfortable lifestyle enables an older, healthy retiree to be involved in a broad range of leisure and recreational activities and to have a good standard of living through the purchase of such things as; household goods, private health insurance, a reasonable car, good clothes, a range of electronic equipment, and domestic and occasionally international holiday travel.”

Some people, like our friend, have certain priorities, in this case to have sufficient superannuation to drink bottled wine rather than cask…

I’m going to say this quietly, so Joe Hockey doesn’t hear me letting the cat out of the bag, but we’re acquainted with quite a few people who have a good life living on the pension (“As at September 2014, the maximum rate for an age pension is $776.70 for a single person per fortnight. If you are a couple, the rate is $585.50 each per fortnight”) or modest self-funded income.

They don’t dine at fancy restaurants, take overseas holidays or buy new cars annually but were they wealthier, they wouldn’t anyway. They own their homes. They have pastimes, gardens, take walks, cook nice meals, drink bottled beer & wine(!), travel domestically and spend time with family & friends. They spend money on goods and services when required but they don’t update their smartphone every time a new one is released… if indeed they own a smartphone… most don’t.

Even in the city the G.O. and I have had a bit of practice living simply, creatively and economically… on our level of income if you want to pay off your house quickly, that’s what you need to do.

My MiL, an age pensioner, isn’t convinced – she thinks we’re a bit extravagant, and assures us when we make the sea-tree-change she’ll give us lessons how to live frugally. She wastes nothing, accounts for every cent, has a nice home and enviable bank balance. Most importantly she is happy with her life.

How do we plan to live viably at Taylors Arm, a rural area where employment and financial earning opportunities are less than the city’s?

  1. Own our house.
  2. Have no debt.
  3. Utilise our space to grow food.
  4. Cook our own food.
  5. Re-use, recycle, up-cycle.
  6. Utilise the resources of our own time, skills and energy.
  7. Amuse ourselves.
  8. Forgo consumerism.
  9. Budget.
  10. Think of wealth in terms other than monetary.

Do we think we’ll be missing out on good things in life?
No. On the contrary. We believe our realistic expectations and our ability to live within them is every bit as important as our superanuation balances.

I agree it makes sense for employed people to contribute superannuation funds they will access at the end of their working life. What doesn’t make any sense to me is the mandatory contributions unless invested in a cash fund at negligible interest are subject to the vagaries of the share market… essentially a gamble, as was proven during past GFCs when many people lost considerable amounts not just from their superannuation earnings but from their original investment.

The current system doesn’t adequately cater for self-employed whose contributions are not regulated, and also begs the question of fairness to non-paid-work contributors to our society.

Australian superannuation reminds me of The Cat in the Hat…

“And this mess is so big
And so deep and so tall,
We cannot pick it up.
There is no way at all!” ― Dr. Seuss

Ollie & Rudi

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My family history research journeys are seldom linear. They often provide opportunity for side trips. Most recent, the culmination of almost a decade of stop-start-meandering. It got me thinking about family and friends who keep company with us on our life journey and at the same time are journeys in themselves.

Families we are born to, friends chosen: guided to each other by our higher selves.

Since I met the G.O. in 1990, he’s called me Ol’, short for Ollie. I mentioned this in Ollie & Vin, as part of the coincidence in the story of our house’s original owners. But that’s not the origin of the nickname I feel honoured to have.

My part in this journey began with the nickname. Then the ring. In all the years I knew him, the G.O. wore a gold ring on his left hand, married or not. I knew the ring was special though it was many years until the G.O. told me the story of it, and about Ollie & Rudi.

The G.O.’s part of the story began in a 1960’s world that lingers only as a memory. Life was simpler and slower. What are nowadays expensive respectable inner west suburbs of Sydney were modest working class outer western suburbs. Neighbours knew each other and talked. Kids played on the streets.

The G.O. was a wild child but not a terribly bad one. He was close to his family and good to them, befriended stray cats, dogs and people. Amongst whom were a neighbouring couple: Ollie & Rudi.

Their story began even further in the past. Online records detail some of it.

Olga and Rudolf-Alois Stroher arrived at Melbourne, Australia on 27 April 1948 after departing Bremerhaven, Germany two months earlier on the ship USAT General Black. Among 817, officially listed as:

International Refugee Organisation Group Resettlement to Australia
This passenger list contains individuals and families that migrated to Australia after World War II from various European Countries including Germany, Hungary, Russia, Ukraine, Latvia, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Romania, etc. Most passengers are World War II refugees or displaced persons.
Columns represent: Sequence number, surname, forename
683  STROHER  Olga 684  STROHER  Rudolf-Alois

The G.O. recollects Ollie & Rudi talked about day-to-day happenings rather than the past. Especially not the war, other than a few fragments. Olga had been a translator. Rudi had refused to join the German Army, and had a previous partner from whom he’d been separated by the war; searching for her to no avail prior to immigrating.

This part of their story is also part of Australia’s history.

The Fifth Fleet is the name that I have given to the ships which, chartered by the International Refugee Organization (IRO), brought about 164,100 Displaced Persons from Germany to Australia after World War II, between 1947 and 1951… More came by ship and air during 1952-54. There was a total movement of 182,159 people up to the end of 1951–more than the number of convicts sent to Australia in the first 80 years of our modern history.

It’s likely Ollie & Rudi’s first stop was Bonegilla Migrant Centre in rural north-eastern Victoria.

Between 1947 and 1971, over 300,000 migrants from more than 50 countries called Bonegilla their first “Aussie home”. They arrived by train to Bonegilla railway siding where they were met, in the early days, by army personnel who provided transport, security and catering services… Bonegilla was the largest and longest operating reception centre in the post-war era. It was a place where new arrivals lived while they were ‘processed’ and allocated jobs. It was also a ‘training centre’ where non-English speakers could begin to learn the language and about Australian ways. Its intention was to help people make the transition to a new life in a new country.

Later online electoral roll records show:

Name: Olga Stroher
Residence: 1958 – city, Lang, New South Wales, Australia
Name: Rudolph Alois Stroher
Residence: 1958 – city, Lang, New South Wales, Australia
[electoral division covering southern suburbs of Sydney]

Name: Olga Stroher
Residence: 1980 – city, Macquarie, New South Wales, Australia
Name: Rudolph Alois Stroher
Residence: 1980 – city, Macquarie, New South Wales, Australia
[electoral division located in west of Sydney & the Blue Mountains]

Between those years, in the late 1960’s Ollie & Rudi moved into the house next door to the G.O.’s family. The G.O. was a young teenager. They were middle-aged and had no children. Ollie later commented they had chosen between travelling the world and having children. In their travels they went to Indonesia where Rudi worked overseeing a factory owned by a friend.

Ollie & Rudi spent a year tidying up the property and turning the overgrown yard into a garden. They didn’t have a lawnmower, so the G.O. lent a hand and the friendship was forged. After that first year Ollie & Rudi went to work: Ollie in an office at Burwood, and Rudi in the leather garment manufacturing industry.

Before their retirement in the early 1980’s Ollie & Rudi moved to the Blue Mountains west of Sydney where they continued to be devoted to their garden, their dog Moystie & cat Mousie, and a tropical fish collection which from Ollie’s efforts became a thriving enterprise.

Ollie & Rudi kept mostly to themselves, had a few friends including the grown up wild but not terribly bad G.O. for whom they set aside a bedroom in their modest house, and considered the son they never had. Rudi once confiding that in the early days Ollie had perceived the G.O. neglected by his working parents and wanted to adopt… or kidnap him!

Ollie & Rudi remained close to the G.O., giving him the gold ring as a token of their affection. The G.O. continued to visit until one day Rudi rather than Ollie came to the door. That, and the look on his face conveyed wordlessly to the G.O. the terrible news. Ollie died on September 7th 1988, sitting at the table near the back step looking out at the garden. Rudi had been unable to bring himself to contact the G.O. to tell him.

Prior to Ollie’s death Rudi incredibly received communication from his previous partner, and the amazing news that he had a son. Both of them were thrilled, however Ollie died before they could fulfil plans to meet. So the other news Rudi had to tell the G.O. was that he was returning to Germany. Therefore on a subsequent visit, the G.O. wasn’t surprised to find the house changed and Rudi gone.

ringsBy 2005 when the G.O. and I started living together the gold ring given to him by Ollie & Rudi had worn thin. To preserve it I convinced him to let me take it to a jeweller and have a new ring made based on its design. The G.O. has Ollie & Rudi’s ring safely stored in my jewellery case, wearing the new ring -now his wedding ring- in its place as a legacy.

At the time I had the ring made, conversation around it sparked my interest, and I discovered by telephoning Pinegrove Memorial Park which Rudi had mentioned to the G.O. as being where Ollie was cremated, that Rudi had collected her ashes rather than having them interred.

This appeared to be the end of the story, yet something continued to niggle. From time to time I would Google search Rudi’s name in the hope of finding record of him in Germany.

Then, early in February my search for Rudolf-Alois Stroher came up with a result for Rudolph Alois Strother, and a search of the Ryerson Index provided a crucial (and as we’d thought he’d gone to Germany a somewhat unexpected) clue…

STROTHER Rudolph Alois Death notice 23MAR1998 Death [age] 80 late of Glenbrook, formerly of Czechoslovakia Sydney Morning Herald [newspaper] 24MAR1998

I checked again with Pinegrove Memorial Park, who had no details of Rudi. I searched online Australian Cemeteries Index. There were no matching records. I made a list of local cemeteries and memorial parks. Of them, on a gut feeling I telephoned Leura Memorial Gardens.

After querying the various spellings, the woman who answered my call confirmed Rudolph Alois Stroher’s ashes were in row 7 of their Rose Garden, but they had no record for Ollie. And, anticipating further inquiries, that the arranging funeral director had closed its business.

Suddenly, it seemed we were close. On the next Saturday events transpired for us to drive to the Blue Mountains to continue the search in person. Alas the outcome we anticipated wasn’t accomplished so easily. Within the Gardens there were few signs, lots of roses & rows which complicated the simple instructions to go to row 7 in the Rose Garden. The G.O. searched the whole complex without success. We left consoled knowing Rudi’s remains rested in pleasant grounds, we believe chosen because Ollie’s were scattered nearby at one of the scenic Blue Mountains places she so loved.

On Monday morning, once again I called Leura Memorial Gardens, and spoke to a different woman, Kath, who reiterated what we already knew, clarified “there are several rose gardens”, and offered to check and get back to me. Later in the day she emailed me a map… it confirmed we’d walked directly to the correct location adjacent to the bridge over the chain of ponds, somehow missing Rudi’s spot. Later she messaged me from her phone several photos of the site, including a close up of the plaque “In Memory of Rudolph Alois Stroher, 5.5.1917 – 23.3.1998, At Rest”.

We’ll make another trip to the Blue Mountains to properly pay our respects, and are very grateful for the assistance we received to finally also put our search to rest.

Rudy x 4

Disclaimer:

With the advent of the internet and various ancestry and genealogy websites, depending on the depth of research you want to undertake, web searches can offer up information previously only obtainable via considerable effort, investigation and cost. Should you endeavour to undertake this type of research be prepared to get side tracked and spend endless time clicking on links and sources leading you to snippets of various information which do not necessarily exactly correlate necessitating the approximation and cobbling together of a story. And even if you think the trail has gone cold, keep searching and asking questions. I’ve found people are happy to help. With more material coming to light be prepared for revisions, updates and sometimes conflicting & varying information, spelling and versions. Don’t give up.

out on a limb

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branchFrom time to time I dabble in short story writing. For the past few years I’ve entered Country Style Magazine’s short story competition. The theme for 2015 is ‘branching out’, and I’m stumped!

Last year, inspiration came to me via a dream. But so far this year my dreams have been the crazy fare of perimenopause… no writing material!

Adjacent to our Sydney apartment balcony is a huge eucalypt. I gaze at its long pale branches in an attempt to invoke wisdom. The tree is a source of food & shelter for numerous birds and butterflies, but has yet to proffer creativity!

I know the muses are hanging around, not goofing off in Ibiza: they’ve been amusing me with blog post ideas but enigmatically silent on ‘branching out’, even during 3 am wakefulness when bright writing ideas usually coalesce necessitating employment of scribble-in-the-dark-decipher-later skills.

When I think of ‘branching out’ the only things humming through my brain are misheard Rick Springfield lyrics

“…Speak to the sky trees and tell you how I feel
and to know sometimes what I say ain’t right,
It’s all right
cause I speak to the sky trees every night…”

interspersed by lines from the poem Trees by Joyce Kilmer

“I think that I shall never see

A poem lovely as a tree…

…Poems are made by fools like me,

But only God can make a tree.”

Sigh.

If you are an Australian resident and so inclined, details are:
Country Style Magazine Short Story Competition. Concludes on May 29, 2015 at 23:59 (AEDT). Entries no longer than 1500 words and previously unpublished.

Otherwise for both Australian and non-Australian residents is the 2015 ABR Elizabeth Jolley Short Story Prize. Single-authored short story of between 2000 and 5000 words, written in English. Stories must not have been previously published or be on offer to other prizes or publications for the duration of the Jolley Prize. Entries close at midnight 1 May 2015

 

 

with love from King Street

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Romantic that I am, for Valentine’s Day I gave the G.O. a print-out of a news article… Johnny Cash penned quite possibly the greatest love letter of all time because it reminded me of us, and a box of his favourite Ferrero Rocher chocolates.

The article details the top 10 greatest love letters and John’s love letter to June Carter.

We get old and get used to each other. We think alike.

We read each other’s minds. We know what the other wants without asking. Sometimes we irritate each other a little bit. Maybe sometimes take each other for granted.

But once in a while, like today, I meditate on it and realise how lucky I am to share my life with the greatest woman I ever met. You still fascinate and inspire me.

You influence me for the better. You’re the object of my desire, the No. 1 earthly reason for my existence. I love you very much.”

The thing is, I would’ve printed the article and given it to the G.O. anyway. Ditto for the chocolates.

The G.O.’s gift to me was better: a no work Saturday. We slept in, drank coffee and wandered up King Street to see what we could see at Newtown Community Markets. The G.O. bought me a bunch of flowers. He does that from time to time. Rainbow roses on this occasion. My favourite colour.

Happy Valentine’s Day from King Street, Newtown.