Some Anniversaries.

It’s coming up to 3 years since I retired and 4 years since  I downsized to my pocket handkerchief sized home.

Do I miss working? Not on your freakin’ life! I’m busier than ever pursuing my own interests. The Pandemic may have played havoc with retirement travel plans but my appreciation for my own country and its history gained from travel around my home state has more than made up for any disappointments.

Even my weekly evening walking group has me learning about new nature reserves and parklands within a 10 km radius of my home which I never knew existed previously.

Three Paddocks Park and Mangroves

My only issue with retirement is that the cycle of waking up with the chooks continues. I’ve stopped fighting it and now just tend to enjoy the mornings with an early pot of tea and listening to birdsong. Btw, have you met Max?

I had a skip bin over the weekend to help with the decluttering. Four years and I already needed to offload 4 cubic metres of “stuff”. Whatever….

So now I have a Craft Room/ Sewing Room as is expected of retired ladies, except that I neither craft nor sew. Whilst I was in Mary Kondo mode I came across some cute jars that I had been hoarding, possibly one of the kids school projects, I’m thinking.

They are now the vessels for homemade Rosemary and Garlic infused oil which I think will go down nicely poured over fresh baked bread and a glass of dry, crisp white.

Does that count as a Craft?

Spring and Gratitude

We are almost one month into Spring and I am loving all the colour in gardens and bushland, the sound of birdcall as the fledglings prepare to leave their nests, and the baby possums clinging to their mothers’ backs when they visit early each evening for sliced fruit. The wallabies have joeys in their pouches and my tomato plants are bearing enough fruit for weekly charcuterie boards, bruschetta and to be thrown whole into pasta dishes. Tomatoes go so well with a chilled chardonnay, don’t you find?

A new friend

Last weekend I sold passionfruit saplings to raise funds for Wounded Heroes, an organisation that assists veterans at a grassroots level. I’ve been dining alfresco which is simply delightful and the feel of sun on the old bod is just so good.

Spring means a weekly morning walking club where we investigate new parklands, nature reserves ……..and coffee shops. The morning air is fresh and it is a time to be reinvigorated.

With all the negative media insinuations about an imminent Lockdown – after a football grand final on the weekend ( can you detect the dripping sarcasm?) – I have to remind myself of all for which I am grateful. I can deal with Lockdown, I can deal with the prospect of no ham for Christmas ( really, Australia, this is just pay back for our own stupidity) and I don’t give a rats if boat loads of plastic toys don’t arrive from China. *

The local church turned an unused building into an Op Shop during the first Lockdown last year in an endeavour to create some “community” in the area. They have since added a coffee cart and hold monthly markets to support local creatives. I will walk up there shortly for $5 coffee and cake of the day and to donate some books.

I have no religious affiliations or convictions whatsoever, though do live by the ten commandments – you just do – though fully support the efforts that this non-mainstream group go to in order to bring people together at a time when their is so much isolation. And so much fear.

I picked up a DVD from there for 50c last week, an Australian flick I wanted to see in the cinema but masks indoors ruined that idea. Palm Beach is geared to the Baby Boomer set and tells the story of three aging boomers, all in a rock group together back in the day, who reunite for a birthday weekend in Palm Beach, on Sydney’s northern beaches.

The movie stars Palm Beach and if you’re interested in checking out the lifestyle that Aussie’s aspire too this alone makes the movie worth watching. Actors include Bryan Brown, Richard E Grant, Sam Neill and Greta Scacchi.

I adored Bryan Brown in A Town Like Alice and The Thorn Birds. He was tall, laconic, and blokey and looked damn fine in a singlet. ( I digress, but what happened to singlets?) He lived only a few kms from me though from ” the wrong side of the tracks” as my mother would put it. Only a few years older than me loved him, loved him, loved him.

Finally, this movie reminded me that I am ever so grateful to still have my own teeth. ( Sorry, Brownie, but your Dentist owes you a refund.)

*I’ve been collecting the fallen paper bark from local bushland, soaking it, and using it to line hanging baskets. This weekend I will plant up the baskets with herb seeds and/or baby tomatoes. Children are being gifted books and clothes and for their parents a gift voucher to keep a local business alive, such as a hair salon, dinner at the pub etc. How bloody hard is it people?

Darby O’Gill and the Little People

It was only months ago that the entire world awakened to the news that 90 year old actor Sean Connery had passed away. Connery, tall, dark and with a Scottish accent as soothing as butterscotch was the first actor to portray fictional British secret agent James Bond on film, originating the role in Dr No and going on to complete a further six titles in the series. To be honest I was never a fan of Agent 007 and his Martinis. Nor was I hugely impressed with him in most of his other films though as he aged and gained that slightly grizzled appearance and opted for more quirky roles I tended to warm to him. Roles such as Indiana Jones’ eccentric father and as the political prisoner in The Rock. Unlike many I didn’t mourn Connory’s death, preferring to reflect that he seemed to have lived a good life.

A few days afterwards I suffered one of my manic decluttering sessions. These are slap hazard events and generally occur when I’ve been advised to expect house guests. It meant that the complete contents of all storage units, shelves and the book case in my lounge room were dispersed across the floor with no space available to move. With no room to walk the cloud of dust was thick and played havoc with my sinuses as I began to fill a cardboard box with items for the charity bin.

Amongst the Neil Sedaka cassette tapes and a Playschool CD, I came across an old Sean Connery DVD that I had purchased when DVDs were the latest big thing when my daughters were both just toddlers over thirty years ago.

Darby O’Gill And The Little People is a Walt Disney movie released in 1959 when Connery was still fresh faced and well before the statement moustache. It tells the story of an irishman, Darby O’ Gill, with his taste for liquor and tall tales, including his encounters with King Brian of the Leprechauns. It is a movie full of whimsy, rollicking irish music, a scary-as-hell banshee and the proverbial pot of gold. Young Connery played the love interest to O’Gill’s pink cheeked daughter with a decidedly odd Irish accent.

It’s funny how memories can be triggered from nothing, isn’t it?

I remember having been enchanted with this movie as a child, back in the days when television was new to Australia and the whole family would gather around on a Sunday evening to watch Disneyland.

My father must have enjoyed this movie too as he was forever reminding my sister and I to “keep an eye open for the Leprechauns who live at the bottom of the garden”. Along with the fairies of course.

Sometimes, early in the mornings or towards sun set, he would hold my hand and quietly walk me down towards the back of the family property just to look for leprechauns. This was an area which was less manicured with fruit trees and wild flowers in abundance. At times the vegetation was so wild that I was too scared to visit that part of the yard by myself in case lions and tigers were hiding in the long grass.

Television has a lot to answer for really……

My Dad was a hard man, a man’s man, who always believed in Luck. Although he never spoke of his time in Bomber Command and Pathfinder Force during World War 2 he often repeated that it was just good luck that had him survive flying over the night skies of Germany. Luck. The Luck of the Irish. A lucky leprechaun.

When my own daughters came along they too were introduced to the mysteries and beauty of the garden. Didn’t matter which garden, whose garden, or where the garden was located. There were always butterflies to watch, magpies to chase, leaves to collect and the ongoing search for the elusive King Brian and the Little People.

On odd occasions I still find myself daydreaming in my own garden and wondering if a leprechaun will present. It’s one of the reasons that I put the effort into the yard that I do. The results are well worth the effort and provide much pleasure.

I haven’t caught a glimpse of King Brian yet, though I regularly listen to Bing Crosby crooning Galway Bay whilst weeding. Or The Pogues.

This movie will not be going the way of surplus books and Conway Twitty albums. It is now destined for my baby grandson who can look for Leprechauns amongst the red soil and rock faces of Arnham Land.

And so a new generation of Sean Connery fans begins.

Hitler’s Brothel by Steve Matthews


Hitler’s Brothel is not just a fictional story about two young Polish girls separated by the tragic circumstances of World War 2. It is a tale interwoven with real historical events including some little known facts that had me constantly reaching for Google for clarification.

Yes, Auschwitz did have a brothel which was used as a reward for hardworking prisoners as an incentive to work even harder, and yes, the renowned fashion house Hugo Boss did make uniforms for the SS.

The story begins strongly in New Jersey USA in 2000, though it’s not until author Steve Matthews takes us back to Poland in 1940 that this reader became invested in sisters Ania and Danuta and the ghastly activities in which they became involved in order to survive on a daily basis.

This is no easy read thanks to the descriptive narrative. It is at times both bleak and brutal highlighting the ugliness of war and reinforcing that the Holocaust, that stain on humanity, must never be forgotten.

Although I have been a keen collector of Prisoner of War Diaries for many years I struggled with the details within this book. Was this because it is so much based on the female perspective?

Matthews states in his Notes, “ War is never over for those who experience it first hand. This story is for all the Anias who suffered in the concentration camps of WW2 – may your God bless you, and may you have finally found peace – whether you sleep beneath the ground or above it.” AMEN to that.

A copy of this book should be in every High School Library in Australia.

And another History Lesson:

Between 1971 and ‘76 I attended a High School in Sydney. Nothing special, nothing flash. One of the girls in the same form was dating a young apprentice plumber who drove a grey Vauxhall Velox. Another girl friend was dating his mate who drove a green Vauxhall Velox. Ugly old cars. That girl friend duck shovelled that fellow and started dating another of his mates, later marrying him and bearing two kiddies down the track.

Long story short: I started dating Mr Green Vauxhall and on weekends we would often have Vauxhall convoys, green and grey, and double date. Life in the Big Smoke, hey…..Another of my girlfriends was dating a bloke from our form who drove an ugly old Worsley. Is it any wonder I never had an interest in motor vehicles ?

Vauxhalls and why I hate them

The driver of the grey Vauxhall went on to marry a younger lass from the same high school and who also had a brother in my form. She had an older half sister who was my economics teacher in Year 12. ( It’s ok, I crushed economics). The teacher’s mother, who I met as an early teen and way before GDP and Fiscal Pie Charts, was the sister of my Dad’s best friend during World War 2 who was killed flying over the skies of Germany.

I knew little of Spud except for a couple of small black and white photos I found hidden in an old tobacco tin after my fathers death, though it explained my families connection to Spike, whom I later learned was Spud’s younger brother.

The author’s wife is the lass who used to be in the grey Vauxhall all those years ago. Like getting close to 50 years ago – gulp.

Mr Green Vauxhall? That’s another story.

I’ll go now and prepare a quick quiz for tomorrow to make sure you’ve all been listening ………

Do You Remember Little Golden Books?

Last week was a great week : everything about it reeked of a pre Covid week. Remember those?

Visited the local Art Gallery. Always an inspirational outing though often not good for the blood pressure as I have a tendency to get distressed about my own lack of artistic ability. I blame this on those teachers in the 1960’s who would rap your knuckles with a ruler if you coloured outside the lines.

Went to the cinema to see newly released Australian movie Penguin Bloom. Based on the book Penguin Bloom, The Odd Little Bird Who Saved A Family by Cameron Bloom and Bradley Greive and based on a true story. A pleasant little movie for all the family with delightful New South Wales coastal scenery and not animated ( and the only super hero is a magpie. Excellent!)

A community theatre production with an Aussie theme including dinner sitting outside under the huge gums at the local museum was a great night out with lots of laughs.


This is where I found this display, an entrant in the local Book Week competition, made from Little Golden Books. Do you remember Little Golden Books?

Anyway, this week has been lousy. WA is in Lockdown and is being throttled by bushfires and the situation is looking precarious in Victoria. This looks like an appropriately titled Little Golden Book right now.

An appropriate title for this week.

Sculpture In The Vines @ Sirromet

Despite the easing of restrictions the four walls started to cave in. Can’t say that the oppressive humidity provided much inspiration either. So damn uncomfortable in so many ways leading to an urgent escape …..to the local winery.

Sirromet Winery at Mount Cotton is only a ten minute drive south and is considered very swank. The grapes aren’t grown on site but rather within the Granite Belt, south towards the NSW border.

In the mid 1860’s Mount Cotton was mostly chicken and vegetable farms, and although a few of each still exist it is now mostly suburban with several tracks of land dedicated to koala and wildlife conservation.

Sirromet opened in 2000 and like many wineries these days brought in big name chefs and cultivated fine dining. It is also a popular function and wedding venue, and has a good reputation in viticulture study programs.

Like most businesses they have had to diversify and Sirromet recently installed glamping accomodation – as in sexy tents – and is the venue for big music events. Midnight Oil next month. Bizarre, Peter Garrett has to be ten years older than I!

So here’s the irony : did not have one glass of grape juice this visit. Too hot, too slimy, just too much.

We enjoyed following the Sculpture Trail which is a walk that takes you through the grape vines, the lavender garden, and the picnic areas – just make sure to take water with you!

There are over twenty pieces of art amongst the rolling hills of Sirromet and if you take the Little People there is an activity to keep them interested too.

What to do with your used coffee pods

It must have been hot : not one wallaby spotted and we knocked off a bottle of water. Sad days, I tell you……

Sad.

I cannot tell you how good it was to get out and explore.

NOTE

If you miss Sculpture In The Vines I can most certainly recommend combining a tour of the winery with a wine tasting, followed by a charcuterie board at the Cellar Door.

A New Year – A New Decade

Haven’t managed to stay up till midnight for over forty years. It’s one of those quirks for being a bright eyed, bushy tailed morning person. 

Don’t set New Year Goals nor Resolutions though I am ruminating about some new projects. Despite being retired I like projects. I have a need to achieve or create. Little things. Little things are okay.

Throw your dreams into space like a kite, and you do not know what it will bring back, a new life, a new friend, a new love, a new country.” – Anais Nin

So let’s share something chilled and wet to bring in the new decade together. Join me at my local waterhole, the Grand View Hotel in Cleveland, Queensland.

Built in 1851 the Grand View was added to the Queensland Heritage Register on 21 October 1992. It is well regarded for its views overlooking Moreton Bay to beautiful North Stradbroke Island ( AKA Straddie – because we’re a lazy lot), and its alfresco dining in the beer garden, regularly voted one of the best in the state. The tucker passes muster too.

G.J. Walter Park is situated between the Grand View and Toondah Harbour ( where the ferry terminal carries passengers to Straddie) and is one of Queensland’s oldest parks being gazetted as a public reserve in 1889. 

This area is home to koalas and many bird species that depend on the mangroves and mudflats for survival. Of course this means that it has been targeted by Developers for the construction of 3600 units and a water park. Apparently this is called progress.

Said farewell to 2020 at lunch with my youngest daughter sitting amongst the frangipanis. She reminded me that I’ve always been one to question progress. Sounds like another project, doesn’t it?

365 new days. 365 new chances.

Cheers!

A Recipe Book For Those With Food Intolerances.

My daughters have eaten all manner of interesting food whilst travelling the world including moose, armadillo, duck tongues and sea urchins. Do you think I’ve ever been able to get either of them to eat cucumber? Not on your life ! It wasn’t until they were both in their early twenties that I could stop hiding Brussel Sprouts in their meals. How I adore the much maligned Brussel Sprout – my favourite all-time veg.

Thankfully my offspring have never suffered from any food allergies. I remember the increasing difficulty of holding celebratory Morning Teas at the Office because of the various food intolerances so many suffered. It became easier to cater for your own needs only and not to share-a-plate.

Blogger, Jillian, from FeedMyFamilyblog.com has a husband and a son who each have 8 food intolerances, 3 of which are shared.

Jillian is one of those “quiet achievers” who knuckled down during the social constraints of the Pandemic to produce a Recipe Book from her years of tweaking meals to better meet the needs of her family. Mothers’ And Others’ Recipes From the Heart has recently been published in both e-book and print format and includes recipes handed down through the generations with variations to cater for different dietary requirements.

Recipes cover Biscuits and Slices, Cakes, Desserts, Dips and Savoury Nibbles, Salads and Main Meals. They are easy to read and to follow. More importantly these are all meals that can be integrated into everyday meal times.

Under the name of each recipe is a colour coded reference to advise which intolerance the recipe caters for : Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Egg Free, Soy Free, Sulphate Free or Nut Free.

At the end of each there are notes should you wish to make further variations such as swapping one ingredient for another.

This book has been produced with much love and with contributions from Jillian’s family and friends.

One disappointment only: not one Brussel Sprout in sight!

Here’s a link for further information:

Mothers’ and Others’: Recipes From the Heart

You’ve got to respect those amongst us who have achieved something other than a batch of sour dough or brownies during ISO, don’t you?

NOTE:

Although Jillian and I both live in Brisbane we have never met, yet we have shared information about local WordPress events and Book Fairs. She asked for an honest review which I like to think I achieved by replicating one of the recipes in her book – the Roast Vegetable Couscous (with tweaks as I’m spring cleaning the pantry and defrosting the fridge in readiness for Christmas).

Delicious – even if I had to hide the pumpkin.

A Vent. Sorry…………

I downsized prior to my retirement from a 1300 sq metre property with a pool to something less than half that size with less maintenance yet enough room to enjoy a garden. It’s a lovely position which affords me my independence and backs onto a nature reserve with far less work and expense. Isn’t that what retirement is all about?

With COVID my neighbours have been working from home even though in Queensland our borders are now slowly reopening and our infection rate is low. ( 6 deaths. Too many but ?) Half their luck.

Earlier this week the neighbour baled me up whilst in the back garden. When I say baled me up, I couldn’t see him behind the fence because we’re both short but I could most certainly hear him screaming at me.

For the second time of late I was reminded that they are “both gainfully employed whilst I am retired” with the inference that I sit around on my backside and watch The Bold And The Beautiful all day long.

I received a five minute scolding about :
⁃ talking to the wildlife
⁃ just talking in general
⁃ making funny noises whilst working ( sorry, carrying 30 kilos isn’t as easy as it used to be and there may be the odd groan)
⁃ and saying good morning to the garden each day really pisses him off apparently.

Meet Skippy and Swampy

The conversation ended with a “you’ve been warned”. In capital letters.

Firstly, I am retired, not dead.

The reason I retired young was because I worked hard for forty years and lived simply. I earned it in sweat, blood and tears.

I am busy most days which requires no further detail. Let’s just say that I believe retired folk are undervalued. Without their contributions many organisations would not exist, so lets start reframing the language and calling it what it is : pro bono work.

I would spend only an hour a day in the garden, perhaps double that when I mow the lawn.

My noise output is minimal. There is no motorbike in my garage nor do I have teenagers coming in and out at all times of the day and night. No pool, dogs, nor kids. I don’t even have a leaf blower. Old school, I use a broom.

I do have a courtyard that I look forward to using for entertainment purposes during Spring and Summer. Does this mean I should not be entertaining friends during the week, but only on weekends when the neighbours aren’t working? I’m not sure how to navigate these new living arrangements……….

Moving pot plants around is hard yakka

What really irked me was :

  1. You gonna bitch don’t do it hiding behind a fence. Wuss.
  2. Employment status doesn’t make you a better person than the next.
  3. Don’t even start me on Agism
  4. The old bod has worked hard in its day. I can’t physically do what I used to do thirty years ago but I give it a try. This is not Russia. You just can’t shoot me.
  5. My property. My house. Not ladylike but **** Off.

My apologies for the vent.

Tomorrow I will wake up feeling much better and say good morning to the garden as usual. Pity I recently sold the daughter’s drum kit………..

Food and Music Save The Day.

The times they are a changin’. – Sir Bobness

Music from the 70’s has been my companion this week. When I downsized I tossed the Wedgewood and retained my vinyl collection. When I divorced I tossed the bloke and retained the music. Best decisions I made in years.

The music has kept me sane after having had our Prime Minister declare that there would be no overseas travel until 2024 – by which time, I wailed, that I would be dead- and the Northern Territory will keep its borders closed for eighteen months ( to provide biosecurity for the Indigenous population). I have no issues with being realistic but holy guacamole, a little hope goes a long way.

So lots of Donovan, Carpenters, Carly and Sir Bobness. In a different lifetime Sir Bobness ruled my house. I remember seeing him perform at the Sydney Opera House, one of those dreadful concerts for which he is renowned. I was decked out in smart work clobber, he and the rest of the audience wore cheese cloth. Some months later, having learned my lesson, I wore cheesecloth and little else to the Opera House to enjoy an evening with Donovan. He performed in a three piece suit.

So of course I’ve been cooking 70s style to go with the music. No fondues because I use that these days as a peg basket, though meatloaf stuffed with hardboiled eggs and plenty of stuffed cauliflower. My daughters don’t know whether to be appalled, impressed or alarmed.

No recipe books required – it’s all there in the wings which is a bit of a worry.

Next week we’ll move on to the 80’s. You’ll be pleased to learn I skipped the 90’s.