Category Archives: cooking

Our Father’s Day!

Happy Fathers’ Day!

While I’m tempted to philosophise about what it means to be a Dad, I think I’d better stick with what I know and focus on what it means to be a daughter and my observations of my husband. Of course, it’s very easy to hop up on the soap box when I’m in my own blog bubble on my laptop and my husband’s watching a very strange movie, Tropic Thunder, which seems worse than any Dad joke. However, even now, there’ s that caution and thank goodness for that.

Unfortunately, I didn’t see my Dad for Father’s Day today, and by the time we managed to call, he was already in bed. We’ve put our celebrations off until we’re all feeling better. However, Mum said that he was up early to play golf this morning and quite frankly Fathers’ Day should also be about Dad doing what he wants to do, because even though my Dad’s retired, he still has responsibilities.

“To a father growing old nothing is dearer than a daughter.”

Euripides

My Dad has always been my rock… stable, reliable, always there for me. Most of my life, I’ve been anything but a rock…the social butterfly, the panic merchant, the deep thinker who could easily fly off the deep end. Whenever life got tough and I’d start to complain, Dad would tell me “this’ll put hairs on your chest” or he’d quote our then Prime Minister, Malcolm Fraser: “Life isn’t meant to be easy”. We had a family whistle, which I later found out Dad had inherited from his own father. If we were lost, he’d whistle out to us and it was such a relief. I also remember being small and looking right up over the top of the crowd to find Dad. Not quite a tall as Roald Dahl or the BFG, Dad was noticeably taller in a crowd. Speaking of being tall, Dad also looked like John Cleese back in the day and I didn’t understand why people made such a joke of the Nudge ad on TV: “Nudge, nudge, wink, wink, say no more”. Dad buried my dead goldfish and the dead tadpoles because I was too scared to go near them and how he encouraged me to drive out of my comfort zone. Whenever I was nervous about driving somewhere, he’d ask me if my licence prevented me from going there. Obviously not, so there was no reason I couldn’t do it. I also remember being terrified when notorious criminal William John Mundy escaped from gaol. I clearly remember checking the windows and being absolutely terrified and Dad said he’d protect me. I felt so safe. Dad was invincible. Back then, I really could believe father knew best and Dad was only a very small still away from being Superman.

Rowena & Geoff

I don’t know why we have to grow up. Or, at least go through that whole process where we realize our parents aren’t perfect and tend to focus on the gap, instead of being grateful for the abundance we have and the enormous, immeasurable sacrifices they’ve made.

Now, that I’m a parent even if I’m not a Dad, I can appreciate the enormity of the task. That being there 24/7 x 18 if not a lifetime is beyond huge. Of course, there’s love. Such love and delight in our kids, but so much worry, concern and just wanting to ease their path, understand who they are and try to see the world through their eyes instead of our own.

So, I’d like to thank my Dad for that. I’d like to thank my Dad for still being there for me and our family. Both Mum and Dad have helped us extensively through a very intense time with my health, especially when the kids were small and I was hospitalized for seven weeks. I still remember Dad’s reassurances at the start, and how they were running out of oomph by the end…”you coming home any time soon?” Having a 3.5 and 18 month year old left on your doorstep for so long without warning is just the sort of thing which “puts hair on your chest”. After all, it no matter how much we might love our little people, the heart might be willing, but the body can struggle to keep pace. My Mum and Dad have been truly amazing.

Rowena & Papa 1969

Look at those little eyes looking up at my grandfather for the very first time…you can feel the love between us. 

Fathers’ Day is not just an opportunity for me to remember my own Dad, but also my grandfathers. My Dad’s Dad was a real character…a dentist who used to buy soft drink by the crate every weekend (large family) and used to give us horsey bites under the dining room table in such a way that you’d bang your knee. He also did the coin behind the ear trick. I remember my grandparents travelling and my grandfather bringing me back a very stately-looking English dress which he’s bought on Bond Street, an apron from Amsterdam, Denis the Menace in French from Paris and even a giving me a precious taste of some dark chocolate he’d brought back from Italy. I also remember the last time I saw my grandfather before he died of cancer. He took his oxygen mask off, even though he was having a coughing fit, because he didn’t want to scare us. He held my hand and told me the importance of hands. He’d worked as a dentist and my grandmother was a concert pianist so hands had been very important to them. They had worked with their hands. Expressed themselves.

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I don’t remember anything about my grandfather’s father, known as “Pop”. Not unsurprisingly, he died before my time. However, Dad has a funny story about when he went away with pop to visit his aunt inter-state. Well, Pop handed my Dad a hip flask of Scotch. Dad was about 7 years old and he’s pretty sure Pop asked him to drink it. Well, later on, Pop asked Dad for it back. Apparently, he’d asked Dad to mind it and we get the feeling he was hiding his stash from Gran. He wasn’t very impressed when Dad had tried the stuff. Indeed, although he hated the taste and it would’ve been pretty rough for a young kid, he thought he’d better do his best. I found out in recent years, that Pop had lost his eye in a childhood accident in the family foundry and stove-making business. I admire his tenacity, because most of the family didn’t know about it. He ust got on with it.

Father’s Day is rather mixed for my husband. While he’s been celebrating being a Dad himself for the last 13 years, his own father passed away when Geoff was 16 so many years ago now and his funeral was a week before Father’s Day. That’s like a double-dose of tough but then shifting gears and celebrating the present. Well, to be honest, parenting is more about ups and downs and loving your kids through the entire spectrum of experience.

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Our son courageously cooking bacon this morning and dodging spitting fat. 

Anyway, our Father’s Day began with bacon and eggs. Our son has become quite the bacon cook around here and our daughter made the eggs. I made the coffee. Then, we were off to Church where they’d set up a photo booth in front of a vintage black Mercedes and we had our photos taken. They also provided meat pies for the dad…and the kids. Yet, they still felt hungry enough to have pancakes for lunch back home. I was an egg short and added a good shake of custard powder to produce some rather yellow-looking pancakes, which thankfully passed muster. My family is very fussy.

After lunch, the day went down hill…rapidly.

In a moment of deluded madness, I’d booked the carpet cleaner in for tomorrow…and the window cleaner as well. We’ve never had our carpets or windows professionally cleaned before, but I can get it as part of my disability support package. There was just a slight problem of finding the carpet in certain areas of the loungeroom and also needing to move furniture. Indeed, you could say that we’ve moved mountains this afternoon. So, much for Geoff relaxing on Father’s Day!! He was doing a lot of moving, shaking and sweeping.

I guess you could call that a father’s day.

Did you celebrate Fathers’ Day today? What did you get up to? Please share in the comments below.

xx Rowena

Dingo Attack!…Friday Fictioneers.

Perched on top of the ridge, the dingo pack was salivating.

“Fi fy fo fum  I smell …” Papa Dingo paused for dramatic effect.”Lamb chops infused with  rosemary and mustard.”

“Gourmet tonight!” Mama Dingo replied.

“All systems go.” The dingos howled. Right on cue, the humans were zipped inside the tent.

In a flash, the lamb chops were gone.

“Dingos??!!!!” Sally screamed.” When I agreed to go camping, you said NOTHING about dingoes! How are we going to see that “magical night sky” now?”

Suddenly, Jack remembered dinner.

“OMG, the dingoes got our lamb chops.“

“And my Nikon camera!…HOTEL NOW!”

……

This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wishoff-Fields. PHOTO PROMPT© Jan Wayne Fields.

It’s very late here and I plan to come back and polish this tomorrow. Although the tent in the photo prompt this week is quite modern, I was reminded of the tragic case of baby Azaria Chamberlain who was taken from her family’s tent in 1980 while they were camping at Ayer’s Rock or Uluru. This was one of the most debated and controversial court cases in Australian history.

Azaria Chamberlain (11 June 1980 – 17 August 1980) was an Australian 2-month-old baby girl who was killed by a dingo on the night of 17 August 1980 on a family camping trip to Uluru (also known as Ayers Rock) in the Northern Territory. Her body was never found. Her parents, Lindy and Michael Chamberlain, reported that she had been taken from their tent by a dingo. Lindy Chamberlain was, however, tried for murder and spent more than three years in prison. She was released when a piece of Azaria’s clothing was found near a dingo lair, and new inquests were opened. In 2012, some 32 years after Azaria’s death, the Chamberlains’ version of events was officially supported by a coroner.Wikipaedia

I was 11 when Azaria Chamberlain was taken. Everyone not only talked about the case, but debated and had a stance and Lindy Chamberlain was vilified. I also remember jokes going round school at the time. Racist jokes were equally popular back then so there wasn’t alot of consideration on many, many fronts.

Dingoes, which had seemingly passed under the radar, were also vivified and would’ve starred in “Australia’s Most Wanted”.

The difficulty is that humans and dingoes in Australia have been co-existing for thousands of years and dingoes are Australian natives.

Here’s a bit more about the dingoes:

“Dingoes know that humans are an easy way to get food, and you will often see a dingo watching fishermen, and waiting for free fish. Dingoes also occasionally tour through campsites and sit of the periphery of a camp, watching and waiting for an opportunity to be given some free food or to find some left over scraps. In most cases dingoes simply sit back beyond the light of the camp and watch. If a dingo chooses to sit near you feel very honoured and enjoy its company but do not try to approach the animal, and don’t try to lure it with food. Dingoes do not like to be patted so please never reach out you hand to pat them, especially over their head. This is seen by dingoes as predatorial behaviour and very threatening.

Dingoes are shameless thieves, and will take any opportunity to steal whatever they can from you. This is not because the item has your scent on it and they see it as a food item, it is because they love to play with whatever new and novel item they can find. Do not leave your thongs outside your tent, or leave anything out of your vehicle that you can’t afford to have stolen. This obviously includes food, but also includes sleeping mattresses, which they love to tear up into small pieces, and anything else you own including expensive camera equipment!”

Save Fraser Island Dingoes

Hope you’ve enjoyed something of a trip to Australia this week.

xx Rowena

 

 

Minding the Dog…Friday Fictioneers.

Emily was minding Jess’s place. This also included her precious Border Collie, Oscar, AKA “the Surrogate Man”. Although, Jess had left copious instructions, Emily was more laissez-faire  and gave up after the first page. A dog was a dog.

So, she didn’t read: “Keep the bathroom door SHUT!”

Tonight, Emily had invited Tom over for a candlelit dinner. Tom was so hot, he lit all her fuses at once.

Emily slipped into the bathroom.

“OMG!”

Knickers round her ankles, the door flew open and Oscar barged through wanting a pat. Eyeballing Tom, Emily wished she’d read the fine print.

……

You may well be aware that our Border Collie, Bilbo passed away recently. However, he remains such a part of our lives, fused into so many memories and like so many dogs, he had his “quirks”. In addition to being totally ball-obsessed, Bilbo never liked closed doors, even on a cold day, he’d insist on having the back door open. He’d also routinely open the bathroom dog and come in for a pat if you weren’t careful. Indeed, our house sitter mentioned that we we arrived home from holidays once. Not that this was quite the scenario in play, but I felt like a laugh today.

This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers, hosted by Rochelle Wishoff-Fields Photo prompt © Rochelle Wishoff Fields.

xx Rowena

 

Welcome to My Birthday Coffee Share 30th July, 2017.

Welcome to My Birthday Coffee Share!

It’s my birthday today. So, come along and join me. We can grab a huge chunk of sludgy chocolate cake with our coffee and swing from the chandeleir, until the whole  darn thing rips out of the ceiling. I might just leave out the bit about us falling to our doom.

I cherish each and every birthday and am grateful to be getting older…most of the time. I’ve never looked in the mirror and seen the wrinkles. However, I must confess that I’m profoundly short-sighted and as time’s gone by, I’m near sighted as well. So, I’d be lucky to see a fault line on my face, let alone a wrinkle without my glasses.

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Birthday Breakfast.

Anyway, we’ve had a fantastic day. It started out with a sleep-in. Our daughter made me a cheese and salami omelette, which she cooked up in heart-shaped silicone moulds. It really touched my heart.

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Mother and Son.

Not to be outdone by his sister, our son made pancakes for lunch and effortlessly flipped it. The smile on his face from pulling this off was priceless. He was stoked. I spent much of the day in my PJs, which I feel is the perfect birthday attire, especially for the middle of Winter. Then, we were ferrying our daughter to and from a last dance class before her exam tomorrow. She was be sitting for the RAD Grade 4 Class Award.

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Next, we were off for dinner with my parents at theThe Coast Bar & Restaurant, located on the Gosford Waterfront. I ordered a Pina Colada by some other name and shared a seafood platter. I wasn’t too sure about whether I would like the oysters. I’ve never been a huge fan. However, your tastes mature. So I thought I’d give them a try. I loved them. My mother has always been a huge lover of oysters and she’s always said that they taste like the sea. This was the first time I’ve ever eaten oysters where I’ve got that. They had that flavour of the sea and then, it suddenly intensified. Boom! They also had some charcoal coated prawns which were very crunchy and yum. Oops! I almost forgot to mention the lobster mornay. unfortunately, there was so much to enjoy and limited capacity.

Greed is good

Glasses? This might come as a surprise to you, but I always wear glasses but almost always take them off for photos. This is how I see myself. However, Geoff and the kids see me like this and think I look weird without them. Geoff actually likes to catch me with the glasses on. My shameful secret. 

For dessert, I had the cheese cake with salted caramel and chocolate ganache. That was so smooth and the presentation was incredibly artistic with a wave of caramel poised in suspended animation just asking to be photographed. Naturally, we had my camera there and that was more fun capturing those priceless memories of the family, and exploring some creative, photographic options.

Rewinding now to the rest of the week…

Yesterday, I went to an all-day drug and alcohol seminar at the local community centre. While this was geared towards people caring for someone living with drug and alcohol addiction (which I am not), it was also providing information on drugs and I thought my husband and I need to be more clued up. However, I not only learned so much about drug addiction, but I also learned some new strategies for getting through traumatic and conflicted family situations. So, it was really worthwhile.

During the week, my parenting skills were sorely challenged yet again when I caught our dog skyping the Queensland Governor’s do, Gavel from MY laptop at 2.00 AM. She gave me a bit of a woman-to-woman glance and crooned: “There’s nothing like a dog in uniform!” Turns out Gavel was training to become a Police dog. However, after being snubbed for being  “too friendly”, the Governor kept him on and he’s now been recruited as the Vice-Regal Dog. Well, thinking of herself as a real blue-blood, Lady’s fallen deep for Gavel. Or, was it all that bling on his coat and connections with the Royal Corgis.

Of course, I  snatched back my laptop and it’s now being stored in our room overnight.

However, my close friend who also has the rabbits and chickens which were of great interest to Lady, will be driving to Queensland this week. With a carload of kids all running helter skelter, I can just picture this sneaky little black dog who’s colouring enables to move with great stealth. She can’t chase a ball, but she can hunt AND she can hide.

You can read about Lady’s love life here: Love Is A Dog In Uniform. 

Rowena Backpacking

I also took part in Friday Fictioneers again this week. This week’s effort was inspired by my trip to Europe in 1992. A week after I’d left, I’d had wallet stolen, I’d lost my passport and I was missing a love interest back home in Australia, and I burst into tears as I was locking my backpack in a locker and wanted to go home. I found a telephone booth and phoned the bloke back home. I still remember standing there feeding that handful of coins into the phone with such desperation. I’d fallen apart on the other side of the world, where I knew nobody and nobody knew me. That thought didn’t hit me at the time. However, in hindsight it does. That utter dislocation from everyone and everything you know. Back then, it wasn’t like now where you can leave home without leaving home and Skype people. You also have email, Facebook. Travel just isn’t travel anymore. You’re still attached to the umbillical cord. Not doing it tough. You can read my flash Here

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Well, that just about covers it. Can’t remember the rest. So, it must’ve been good.

This has been another contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Diana over at Part-Time Monster Blog.

I hope you’ve had a wonderful weekend.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Masterchef 2017 Finale…Three Minutes To Go.

Tonight, I wanted to share the magic, pressure and suspense of the Masterchef 2017 Grand Finale with you from the comfort of my loungeroom, which may not be so cosy with all of us in it.

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Fake Bilbo watching Masterchef with the family.

As much as I love Masterchef, it does terrible things to your nerves and loyalties. I had no idea who was going to win this year and the producers were very sneaky. They built up all these other characters and we pinned our dreams onto them, only to watch them fall like dominoes as their hope and dreams were dashed, along with our own.

There’s been much discussion, at least in our house, about who was going to take out this year’s title. It wasn’t who we thought. Indeed, you could say this year’s winner fell under the radar, but in aiming for the thrilling twist at the end, I presume the producers kept her fairly low key throughout. Yet, she was incredibly consistent, had the inner stillness  you need to overcome all these uber-stressful challenges, and she plated up with such flair. Of course, I obviously can’t comment on the taste. Indeed,  watching Masterchef makes the perfect case for taste-TV.

Obviously, in the time it’s taken me to write this post, my three minutes has well and truly expired. The show is over and tonight is almost gone as well.

I know who won.

However, we’re just going to reverse back a bit and go back to the start of tonight’s show. Back to where I was poised in front of the TV set with only three minutes to go.

….

Tonight, we’re parked in front of the TV watching the finale of Masterchef Australia 2017, where Diana Chang and Ben Ungermann are fighting it out. We have watched every single episode at least once. Well, at least I have. I’m hooked.

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It seems it takes more than divine intervention to win Masterchef. It really looks like I caught Ben in prayer in this snapshot.

While they had to get through three challenges tonight, the first two are a prelude to the dessert challenge. I swear the judges must travel the globe to find the trickiest, bastard of a dessert on earth. I’m not even sure that a word exists to describe their dessert challenge which was terror stacked on terror.

Chocolate fruits

Trust me. This is the dessert they had to recreate and not real fruit.

Tonight this involved tackling a dessert by “Queen of Chocolate”  Kirsten Tibballs  When they lifted the cloche to reveal their challenge, there was platter of fruit sitting there and I was thinking…where is it? Where’s the dessert? Well, those fruits were the desserts. If you think recreating the outside is tricky, the interior was worse. As beautiful as it looked and surely tasted, it was pure hell in terms of complexity and technique, with layer upon layer of scrumptiousness. Well, it would’ve been if I’d been there to actually taste this thing, instead of watching the whole thing from my lounge chair at home, feeling like I was on the set of Gogglebox

 

 

Just to share a bit of the action. I took some screen shots with my camera (definitely NOT my phone. Get real!!) and you can see rows of my prized tea cup collection on the shelf above the TV. So, you can feel right at home, even though there are no photos of me. My SLR doesn’t do selfies. That’s justification enough for me!!

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You can get some “interesting” effects photographing things on TV.

So, as it turned out, Diana won Masterchef 2017. Congratulations! Well done and well deserved.

However, I couldn’t help feel sorry for Ben who came in at number 2 and Karlie at number 3. So close and yet, too far.

Of course, this leaves me with the terrible realization that everybody on Masterchef 2017 has gone home, including the judges, and there will be a huge void in my TV wtahcing. Well, at least until The Batchelor starts on Wednesday night. This year’s Batchelor is Matty J, who was the runner up in the Bachelorette last year, so we’re old mates. Not that I watch a lot of TV. However, I do find these TV competititons the ultimate in people watching. They fascinate me. Well, the ones where the contestants are nice to each other do. I switch the rest off. There’s enough bitchiness and hate in this world without adding to it or becoming part of the audience.

Indeed, I’d much rather watch Friends. That’s what the Masterchef contestants were for 2017, and I think for every other year too. Despite the huge stakes, there’s such a supportive and enouraging vibe and I truly love it. So much  so, that I’ll be playing it again Sam. Watching re-runs on catch up TV without shame.

Who knows, one day I might even throw my hat into the ring with Rowena’s Vegemite Toast. 

Something tells me, I might need to reinvent that dish just a little…

Have you ever watched Masterchef and what sort of cook are you? Do you have a speciality dish? Mine would be pavlova.

xx Rowena

Cooking An Alien Being.

“For I am he who hunted out the source of fire, and stole it, packed it in pith and dried fennel stalk”

Aeschyles: Prometheus Bound.

Last night, I took a leap of faith and cooked an alien. Not anything extra-terrestrial. Rather, I made a dish heroing the weird-looking, fennel bulb. Fennel is a flowering plant species from the carrot family. It is a hardy, perennial herb with yellow flowers and feathery leaves. I was challenged to try cooking fennel after seeing it used in every episode of Masterchef. After all, I’ve never even tasted fennel let alone cooked with it myself. While there are weirder looking fruit and veg, than the humble fennel bulb, even how to cut this thing posed enough of a challenge.

Indeed, the last time I bought fennel bulb it sat in fridge until it was only good for the worm farm. I simply couldn’t get my head around trying to cook it.

“There’s fennel for you, and columbines; there’s rue for you; and here’s some for me; we may call it herb of grace o’Sundays.”

William Shakespeare, ‘Hamlet’ (1564-1616)

So, this time I turned for help to what many know as the Australian cook’s Bible, Stephanie Alexander’s: The Cook’s Companion. The book is organized by ingredient. So, when you’re stumped by that mystery ingredient, Stephanie’s talking in your ear guiding you through the challenge.

To be perfectly honest, before I opened Stephanie up, I had no idea that fennel had an anniseed or licorice flavour. Not a fan of licorice, I wasn’t so sure about cooking this fennel after all, and was seriously concerned about wasting good ingredients. Yet, I guess its popularity on Masterchef encouraged me to have a go. I found a recipe in the cookbook for fennel with a simple cheese sauce and added a few of my own touches.

So here’s my adapted recipe for Pumpkin and Fennel Gratin. It was absolutely scrumptious and I’d describe the anniseed flavour as subtle and refreshing. I had no mad aspirations of giving this dish to the kids. So, I made it for an adult taste with mature cheese. My daughter helped herself,  and said it was “yuck” and tasted of vomit cheese and licorice. On the other hand, my husband and I loved it and I’d be proud to serve it for a dinner party. Well, that’s if we were to host a dinner party…

Well, at least I’ve extended myself!

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Pumpkin and Fennel Gratin

1 Fennel Bulb

1 cup roast butternut pumpkin

left over chicken, beef or lamb optional

Cheese Sauce

40g butter

2 tablespoons Plain Flour

1 ½ cups warm milk

1 cup grated strong cheese. I used Ashgrove Vintage Cheddar.

1 cup breadcrumbs made using stale bread.

2 tablespoons parmesan cheese.

salt and pepper to taste

a scattering of fresh thyme.

Directions

  • Turn the oven onto 200ºC.
  • Line a baking tray with baking paper. Add olive oil, a teaspoon of mustard,  crushed garlic and a sprinkle of salt. Mix.
  • Slice half a butternut pumpkin into cubes. Place on baking tray and bake until golden brown. Add to fennel in baking dish. Use your own discretion on the ratio of both.
  • Grease an ovenproof gratin dish.
  • Blanching Fennel: remove the outer layer of fennel, wash and drain. Boil in a saucepan of salted water for about 2o mins, turning over to ensure it is cooked through. You should be able to push a sharp knife through the fennel bulb.
  • Slice fennel and line the greased baking dish. Add pumpkin and meat if desired.

Cheese Sauce

  • Melt butter in a medium saucepan. Try not to let it brown.
  • Stir in flour over low heat and cook for two minutes with a wooden/large plastic spoon, to prevent the sauce tasting like raw flour. This is called a roux.
  • Gradually stir in milk and bring to the boil.
  • Stirring continuously, add cheese.
  • Spoon cheese sauce over veggies.
  • Cover with breadcrumbs.
  • Sprinkle with extra cheese. I used grated parmesan.
  • Bake until golden brown. The top will develop a scrumptious, cheesy crunch.

I sprinkled roughly a handful of finely chopped left over roast lamb into the mix, which also gave it a rich flavour. Well recommended.

Have you made any dishes with fennel which you’d recommend? 

Bon Appetite!

Rowena

PS Next stop…beetroot. It’s been in the fridge for a week. Do you think using it to make a chocolate cake is cheating?

 

Weekend Coffee Share Catch Up.

Welcome to an Extended Catch-up Coffee Share!

I’d better offer you a rather comfy chair today and at least some kind of snack (if not a meal) in addition to your beverage of choice. The last couple of weeks have been full-on. So, this coffee share gets quite philosophical.

Sorry, I’ve been MIA the last couple of weeks. While the saying goes that “no news is good news”, the reality is often quite the reverse. That no news is bad news and it takes time for you to emerge from your rock and return to the land of the living.

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Bilbo leaving the beach for the last time. 

On Monday 26th June, our beloved Border Collie, Bilbo, who has featured on Beyond the Flow, passed away in the early hours of the morning. We’d taken him to the vet on the Saturday and found out he was severely anaemic and most likely had a severe auto-immune disease. The vet hoped for the best and didn’t write him off. However, when a ball-obsessed dog stops chasing his beloved ball, you are prepared. While in a sense losing Bilbo could seem like the worst, he passed away peacefully at home. It was his time and felt like part of the natural order of things. I’m also relieved we were spared making difficult decisions and didn’t have to weigh up expensive treatment for an elderly dog because we loved him too much to let go. Ever a considerate dog, he spared us that and I’m incredibly thankful and relieved.

Meanwhile, we go on.

For better or worse, we are not “Keep Calm and Carry On” people. Yet, at the same time, we’ve had things to do and places to go. No doubt, you’ve also had those times where you’ve wanted to switch out and hibernate. When, although you know it’s beneficial to keep going, that’s about as palatable as a spoonful of liquid antibiotics. No matter how much they try to disguise the taste, it still tastes “yuck”.

Unexpectedly, the kids went off to school on the Monday and Geoff and I stayed home. Monday night, our daughter was in the local Dance Festival with her school and that worked out well. I kept thinking about the dog throughout the performance, but dance is such a tonic. Tuesday, the kids stayed home and we were all subdued by an overwhelming blanket of sadness. I personally believe in indulging your grief when it happens, as I think that actually helps you to let it go. You go deep in and you come out of it faster rather than expending energy trying to keep the door shut while the monster’s trying to bust its way out.

What do you think?

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Lady has been pretty quiet without Bilbo.

We have another dog, Lady. So, we won’t be rushing out to buy another dog. Indeed, we adopted Lady 3 years ago thinking Bilbo wasn’t well and she gave him a very strong second wind. I’m not sure if he was trying to impress her but he lost weight, got fit and learned how to socialize with other dogs. He was quite an introvert, but he gained a lot more confidence. Lady, on the other hand, loves everybody, aside from the odd dog and wags her tail like a maniac.

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Jane Grover: Photo from her website.

That Thursday night, I attended a cooking demonstration by chef Jane Grover at Church. I really wasn’t sure about going and felt like I was dragging a sack of potatoes a hundred miles to get there. However, I had a nap and when I woke up, the clouds had lifted and I felt so much better. Going to see Jane, was such good medicine and without the awful aftertaste I mentioned earlier.  She had me in stitches and I felt very much in synch with her sense of humour and general zanyness. Of course, I had to buy her cookbook  Our Delicious Adventure

Here’s a link to her promo video.

Amelia with ballet shoes

Miss with dancing Shoes

This Monday, was the first day of school holidays. I drove the kids to my parents’ place in Sydney and Geoff and I stayed for dinner. Our daughter came home on Wednesday night to attend dance workshops on Thursday with Daniel Russell  from West Side Story International Tour. These were such a blessing. It is hard for me to introduce Mr Daniel in a few sentences. His parents are the Principals at the dance school and quite aside from his professional success which has taken him to Broadway, he has a special place in our hearts. Our dance school is a close, loving family and we count on each other.

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Daniel Russell, West Side Story. Photo: © Johan Persson

I have mentioned before that my grandmother was an International concert pianist and this has given me a different appreciation of what it means to be a star. That while you have that stage and professional life, you are still human. Unless you’re incredibly wealthy, you still have the everyday and you are still somebody’s son, cousin, friend who’ll always know you without all of the trimmings. Personally, I think that’s critical for some kind of balance. After all, the clouds roll in, and you can’t always see the stars. Everyone needs some kind of grounding.

Eunice 1948 USA

My grandmother, Eunice Gardiner, at the Australian Embassy in Washington, 1948. She juggled having seven children and a successful career as a performer, critic and professor of piano at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. There’s almost too much to fathom. 

Anyway, I really appreciated Mr Daniel and Miss Carley putting back into the kids and giving them such encouragement and for giving us parents a smile, as we were treated to a brief performance at the end. We deserve it, you know. As much as I love and support my daughter’s dancing and love dancing myself, it is a sacrifice. While I spent hours working on her knotted hair last night, I can’t remember when my hair last got seen to. Unfortunately, I just can’t drop it off at the dry cleaners and pick it up later.

Today, my daughter had in-house dance exams…ballet, modern, jazz and tap all in one day. One day was great, as they didn’t take up the entire school holidays. However, this was very stop-start and loads of deadlines and this is not my thing. Time to leave the house, arrive, exam start time, pick up multiplied by four. This was exacerbated by disentangling a bird’s nest the night before, despite weeks of coaxing to apply the treatment sitting in the bathroom to her hair, me not sewing the elastic into her ballet shoes until this morning and finding out when I dropped her at the studio that she didn’t have a hairnet, hairpins or any organization whatsoever. I did ask her last night. I have bought it all before. But, who am I? Mum is about as useless as those flaps of skin hanging off the side of her head…ears. I don’t get worked up easily and I was fuming. I am also going back to the drawing board and devising: “Standover Mum”. This is anything but a helicopter parent. This is tough love on steroids.

Yet, we survived.

Being a dance mum isn’t a glamourous occupation. While the swan’s shining like the sun up on stage, you are the feet madly paddling in the dirty pond, doing all that hardwork behind the scenes. However, you can rise to the surface and there’s nothing quite like seeing your own up on stage…any stage. It doesn’t have to be Broadway. It could be your loungeroom at home. You don’t care. This is your child, your star and not even the most discerning of audiences, could ever love them quite as much.

Speaking of performances, our son will be appearing in The Gang Show next week, an annual variety show put on by our local Scouts, Guides and their leaders. They rehearse for months and really put heart and soul into it. I almost split a gut laughing through last year’s performance, which incorporated Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes. It was fantastic. Our son is singing and dancing and I can’t wait to see him up in lights.

This leaves me searching for a light.

My next challenge is writing a short story for the local short story competition. I don’t write short stories and had been meaning to get some practice in after last year’s story didn’t place. That said, I have been writing flash fiction almost weekly so hopefully I can expand on that and put out a winning entry with a 1500 word count.

I’m sorry this update has sprawled on for so long. It’s a cold Winter’s night here. The heater’s on and the neurons are defrosting, and starting to fire up again. So, you could say I’m clearing the backlog. Indeed, it’s been good to share the last couple of weeks with you as I’ve been feeling bottled up on so many fronts and after almost 1500 words, the cork has popped off.

How has your week been? I’d love to hear from you.

xx Rowena