Tag Archives: cafe

Weekend Coffee Share… 17th July, 2018.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

This week, I’m retracting all my boasts about the balmy warmth of a Sydney Winter, and will let you know you’d better bring a big thick woolly blanket when you come to visit me this week. Indeed, last night, I not only dug the scout blanket out of storage, I put a beanie and woolen gloves on before going to bed AND jacked my electric blanket up to high. It only warms the bottom side and cool air was chilling my head through the window and one blanket and a doona were no longer enough over the top. I think I saw that it was actually 18°C today. So, you probably take me for an absolute wimp. However, the houses here aren’t central heated or prepared for the cold and are better suited to letting out the heat. That’s great for about 10-11 months in the year but then there’s that last month of Winter that really reminds you you’re alive and Winter isn’t such a myth after all.

So, what have you been up to?

Last week, I headed up to Blackheath in the Blue Mountains West of Sydney to stay with a cousin. We’re not exactly first cousins. Rather, we’re what I call “family history cousins” and my 4 x Great Grandfather and her Great Grandfather were brothers who came from the island of Islay in the Scottish Hebrides. I contacted her recently to fill her in on all my discoveries of bigamy, divorce and other intrigues, and she told me a cousin had dropped off two albums of photos dating back to the 1880s and invited me to stay. I was off. Didn’t need to be asked twice. I don’t like leaving people without a name, especially when such old photos are so rare and precious.

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A page from the historic family photo album showing Angus Rutherford Johnston & James Campbell.

Blackheath is in the Upper Blue Mountains and Sydney-siders have called it Bleakheath due to its “freezing” temperatures for generations. Blackheath locals call themselves “Blackheathens”. They sound like a dangerous bunch but are actually rather harmless. Indeed, there’s a strong creative community thriving in the area, along with an outpost of one of my favourite bookshops: Glee Books. Yes, I thought I’d died and gone to heaven when I spotted that and of course I bought a stack more books despite having piles and piles of books back here at home that I’ve never read.

Above:A family visit to the Paragon Cafe in 2011 Continue reading

Weekend Coffee Share -18th June, 2018.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

Rather than joining me for coffee at my place, today I thought you might like to join me down at the San Antonio Bakery in Kirribilli. It’s right across the road from the stairs taking you up onto the Sydney Harbour Bridge. By the way, you might want to bring a bit of sun and the Northern Hemisphere Summer with you. It was a cheek-smacking 15°C (59° F) there today. Mind you, I must have Viking blood because yours truly sat outside this afternoon to soak up the Kirribilli charm, although I did wrap myself up in one of their blankets. By the way, the food there is amazing and I’ve indulged in a few of their delights. Today, I had a sort of nut crumble topping on a Nutella tart. The texture of the topping was fairly complex with a combination of seeds and nuts. The pasty was perfect and you can’t go wrong with Nutella.

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A wet day in Kirribilli. You can just make out the steps leading up onto the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

While I was there, I pulled out my notebook and simply started jotting. Kirribilli is a rather rustic part of Sydney with Victorian terraces heading down to the wharf and Sydney Harbour. If you were had bionic strength, you could throw a stone from Kirribilli Wharf straight through the Opera House windows if you were feeling like getting arrested and being rather unpopular.

As I said, I started jotted. A cold wind was blowing straight off the Harbour and round the corner blowing the Autumn leaves in the trees across the road. I was quite mesmerised by the fluttering leaves, although perhaps that was because the rest of me was snap frozen.

Of course, any sensible soul would’ve sat inside, but I wanted to experience Kirribilli. Be a part of it, and feel its breath blowing against my neck, even though it was freezing and giving me a different kind of goosebump experience.

However, my reasons for being in Sydney today weren’t social. After crossing the lung specialist off the list for the next three months, I was off to the gastroenterologist to see if he could do anything to get rid of The Cough. Well, he was full of ideas and conferred with the lung specialist on the mobile and they managed to cut it down to an endoscopy and colonoscopy. It’s not til August so I don’t need to get too excited about it yet. Some people go on a cruise, I’m cruising on off to the hospital. One thing I do know, is that a friend’s wife with MS died of bowel cancer because the early signs were dismissed. It’s important to keep in mind that things can always get worse and not to be complacent or in some kind of la-la land of uninformed positive thinking.

Anyway, aside from all that medical stuff today, there have been some great highlights during the last week.

Firstly, on Saturday my husband and I drove our daughter and friends up to perform in Starstruck at the Newcastle Entertainment Centre, about 1.5 hours North of here. This showcases school talent in the performing arts, and our daughter appeared in two dance numbers with the Year 7 dance troupe. I have to be honest and say that during their performance, I only had eyes for her. She was like a twinkling star, and as much as their was that immense pride in watching her perform, I was also dumbstruck. She didn’t get any of this from her father or myself. Sometimes, you’ve got to wonder whether God can be a bit random in how he allocates gifts and interests. That, or he has a very good sense of humour!

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Also on Saturday, we dropped our son off for an overnight Scout Camp and something like a 17km hike. That meant he was sleeping in a tent in this freezing Winter weather, which as my Dad would say, puts hairs on your chest. They had to carry everything in, and everything out so it was quite a credit to him. The hike ended at the local tip and the backpack went straight into the car and tales of aching feet, back, neck began to unfold. Clearly, he went to great lengths to avoid going to his sister’s dance concert, and we’re proud of his efforts.

Meanwhile, with our daughter at an evening performance and our son away at camp, Geoff and I ventured out for dinner at Mum’s cousin’s restaurant Talulah at The Junction in Newcastle. This place has become a bit of a rock to me when visiting Newcastle and I think I’ve been there about 3 times in the last couple of years. I remember going up to Newcastle for family get togethers. My grandparents initially lived there, and then we went up to see mum’s aunt and her family and there were 21sts, weddings, birthdays, christenings and unfortunately too many funerals of loved ones who died before their time. The family home was sold years ago, so the restaurant gives me some kind of bearings, and there’s an old piano in there which I wrote into a story a few years back. I don’t know if it came from the family. Or, was simply found beside the road, but it’s over 100 years old and it tells a thousand stories, despite staying silent. There’s also a Cenotaph outside the restaurant where a soldier stands to attention. He looks like he’s standing over the place and looking out for us. Goodness knows we’ve needed it at times. Apparently, the pigeons poop all over him, and doesn’t show him an ounce of respect.

I’m not real good as a food writer, especially when I don’t take notes at the time. However, each mouthful had such a burst of flavour and the meal was very refreshing. The ambiance was also fantastic. Quite aside from the fact that we’re family, Talulah feels like a stylish yet casual family home with appealing paintings throughout and fresh, modern decor. It’s a fun place to be and I could feel the stresses of life fall away, although I was also rather conscious of a growing list of “absent friends”. You can read a review Here

Before I move on from Talulah, I just wanted to share about our navigation difficulties, which you could say are something of a feature of our marriage. Geoff drives the car. I navigate. Unfortunately, this division of labour is driven by necessity, not ability and I have no shame in admitting that I could get lost in our own driveway. However, when it comes to navigating our way through Newcastle, I’m back being a kid in the back seat of the Holden and Dad’s driving through the streets without a map saying he only needs to go somewhere once and he can find his way back again. Of course, this boast was filled with bravado and a bit of cheek, but it was true. Moreover, it did sting a bit as I couldn’t direct Geoff to Talulah using Google maps even though I’d been there three times before. Geoff turned down Darby Street and from there, we zigzagged back and forth desperately hoping to see a spark of familiarity but seemingly driving deeper and deeper into the maze. Both of us were getting frustrated and it came very close to simply driving home, but we persevered. Quite frankly, I don’t understand why they don’t have signs set up specially for my visit…”Rowena turn here!” It would’ve made it so much easier.

In terms of blogging, I posted two more family history stories. Firstly, there was Fire in North Sydney…Grandma & the Mosman Bomber. The next one focused on my difficulties to finding my 3rd Great Grandmother, Maria Bridget Flanagan’s, name of birth: Digging Up More Family Bones. I’m hoping that by posting this info in my blog, that I might flush out the answers.

Getting these stories written up, is feeling great. I’m gaining more confidence in my ability to weigh up quite a mass of data, and actually get a story onto the page. As far as I’m aware, the data is well researched and documented, which is just as important in my mind as a good story.

Lastly, I wrote a story revolving around food for this week’s contribution to Friday fictioneers: Madame Cuisinier.

Well, I’m sorry for talking at you for so long. Clearly, there’s been a lot on and all the chatter in my head has spewed onto the screen. Thank you for listening and being there for me tonight. It’s much appreciated and I look forward to popping round to catch up on your week.

This has been another contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share, hosted by Eclectic Ali.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

 

 

Surry Hills, Sydney… Through the Lens.

If people can walk and text, then I can walk and do photography simultaneously. Or, so the theory goes, although my daughter just told me that I kept stopping, with the implication (of course) that it wasn’t appreciated. I should also be more careful. Looking through the lens instead of where our feet are going, renders photographers easy prey for accidents. Indeed, I’m lucky that the cracked and bumpy footpaths of Sydney’s Surry Hills didn’t swallow me up. I was only seeing in 6 x 4.

Yesterday, my daughter had an audition in Sydney’s Surry Hills, and either side of that we managed to walk the streets with my Nikon SLR dangling round my neck like an elephant truck with it’s extra-long lens.

Surry Hills is a photographer’s dream. While it used to be a rough slum area, like many urban residential areas, it’s been gentrified and prices have gone through the roof. It has a strong gay community and is arty, a bit lateral, alternative and it’s also a dog’s paradise. That has to be a good endorsement. Oh yes! I shouldn’t leave out the cats. There’s even a cat cafe in Foveaux Street.

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We spotted this man wearing  an American flag running down Crown Street.

 

Although I’ve been to Surry Hills many times before and this is just the latest installment, I wanted to share what I’ll describe as a random cast of characters, who roamed the streets.

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My daughter called out and said someone was wearing a box on their head. On closer inspection, it turned out to be the Easter Bunny. 

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I guess too many dogs can be a bad thing!

We also spotted a cat cafe in Foveaux Street:

All of these unconventional sightings, all made me feel like packing up my bags and moving to the Surry Hills, or elsewhere in the inner West. I used to live not far from here in various terrace houses in Glebe and Chippendale culminating in a loft apartment in a converted warehouse. However, I also love the beach and the clean, fresh air and being able to spread my wings (and park my car). I also wonder whether I would notice all these details if I lived here all the time. Or, whether you need the eyes of the interloper or visitor to truly take it all in. What are your thoughts?

Stay tuned for dinner off Broadway.

xx Rowena

 

Weekend Coffee Share 20th August, 2017.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

Today, I’m inviting you to join Lady and I for a walk. We’ll be retracing yesterday’s footsteps, when I moved down the main street like the Very Hungry Caterpillar. After dropping my daughter off at dancing, my next stop was the Bremen Patisserie where I bought a few slices German Beesting Cake and this mega rich chocolate “thing” to take home. My next stop, was the bookshop cafe, where I had a hot chocolate with whipped cream and marshmallows. Fortunately, that’s where my conspicuous consumption ended.

Hot chocolate & book

Well, I tell a lie.

Before I knew it, I’d ducked into a boutique. This has become a frequent haunt lately. I blame this on filling in time each week during Madam’s dance class. Mostly, I’m just looking. However, the new Spring stock has just arrived and after being rugged up all Winter, it was like walking into Floriade, not that everything was floral. It was fresh, bright, vibrant and being a little kid at heart, I could’ve hidden behind the racks of lush fabric, and wrapped myself up in a cocoon.  It wasn’t long before I spotted the dreamy blue, silk top with a blue rose on the front. Being some kind of fusion of sky and the sea,  it truly captured my imagination. Moreover, the wafty, moody, blue silk top felt so light against my skin…and it was aerodynamic and cast a fantastic shadow in the wind. How could I resist? I also bought myself some large dangly, silver earings. I rarely bother with earings, but while I was in the shop, some long-silenced being within shouted: “Look at me. I’m still here. I’m so small and almost completely lost and obscured in the overall scheme of things, but I still have a voice. I still need to be fed, watered, attended to. Please don’t leave me alone.”

I’m pleased she called out, because I needed some TLC. It’s been a rough couple of weeks and even my shadow needed a lift.

While you can’t buy self-esteem, sometimes you do need to care for that small voice inside, which you too often ignore, put at the bottom of the priority list or kill off completely. Feel that it’s okay to buy yourself flowers sometimes. Buy a fancy top at the end of a hard week..and even buy the earings at the same time. I haven’t done this for some time. It was my birthday money. I might be on bread and water for awhile, but I’ll feel like a sea goddess in that top. Well, I’d better.

 

 

The last week has been quite difficult. Indeed, the last couple of months have been challenging for our family. We are still grieving over the loss our beloved dog, Bilbo who was a regular here on my blog. It’s been about six weeks, and that intense grief is easing, but the kids still have their moments. They also have questions about life and death. My daughter’s frequently asked me why Adam and Eve had to eat the apple.

Since then, I’ve also been having my annual battle with chest infection and flu. I’ve had my vaccinations and am eating plenty of fresh fruit and veg. Yet, I still succumbed to some extent and after two rounds of antibiotics, am now at that annoying dry cough stage and asthma diffculties. I’ve had some severe coughing attacks, some in front of the kids, where I’ve been gasping for breath. Even though we’ve been through these attacks before, they’re still terrifying. You’re not quite sure how it’s going to pan out. However, I’ve been really bad a few years ago, and this isn’t even close. It’s just annoying and I know many other people are in the same boat. Flu season’s been bad here this year.

Not surprisingly, all of this has knocked the kids about. I’ve been fielding the hard questions from my daughter, but my son imploded. I should’ve headed it off at the pass. However, you can only do so much, when you can’t do much. I have long been preparing my kids for the worst, and I’m still here but that doesn’t mean they don’t get affected by what can be some pretty stressful hurdles along the way. Yet, we make the most of life.

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Our son at the V8 Supercars at Eastern Creek, Sydney.

Indeed, today my husband took my son our to see the V8 Supercars racing at Sydney’s Eastern Creek. I’m so pleased they went. They had a fantastic time and burst through the door talking about fast cars, flying rubber and how close they were to the finish. I downloaded the photos and my son played me a series of videos they’d taken. I must admit that I struggled to share his enthusiasm for loud engines, which he played for me the same way he’s shared an Ed Sheerin song. He had enough enthusiasm and excitement for the pair of us and my husband also chimed in.

 

 

The irony was that my daughter and I had each done a Kelee meditation session at our dance studio. I’d never heard of Kelee before, and am keen to find out more about it. I felt quite energized afterwards, and just had this sense of needing to speak out. To share how I’ve been grappling with growing up with undiagnosed hydrocephalus and how that affected my personality, identity  and things like my basic coordination. Even though I’ve had a shunt inserted 20 years ago, I still grapple with its impact and how to interpret myself. It makes for a good story, but I still have to live with it. Grapple with bits and bobs. All the conversations with my son this week, have brought some of that back and I guess it’s ust a matter of revisiting it, but rather than putting it back in the closet, to write about it. Finally, get it down.

I hope you don’t mind me getting rather deep this week. That’s who I am anyway and while I don’t like to dwell on the negatives, I also don’t like this whole culture of needing to be happy all the time. We all have ups and downs. That’s life.

If you’re looking for a bit of a laugh this week, you could read my contribution for Friday Fictioneers this week: Minding the Dog

 

Before I head off, I’ll just mention that I’ve been beavering away on my Irish Family history research. This is something I pick up and put down. However, it tends to work best when I can set aside a slab of time and just beaver away at those loose and dead ends. Five years ago, I set up a blog about my 3rd Great Grandmother, Bridget Donovan who was an Irish Famine Orphan brought out to Sydney, Australia under the Earl Grey Scheme. A monument has been set up at Sydney’s Hyde Park Barracks, where the women first stayed on arrival and next Sunday is the annual celebration. Anyway, Bridget married an Englishman ten years her senior, George Merritt and aside from giving birth to six children, was largely invisible. Despite my most dogged efforts, I haven’t been able to find out where and when Bridget or George died and that’s saying something. I’m VERY persistent! Anyway, last week, I received a message in relation to this blog site from someone researching on behalf of some distant cousins. Cousins who turn out to be Aboriginal Australians. It turns out 2 or 3 of Bridget’s sons married Aboriginal women. One of them at least, moved into what was known as the Yass Black Camp. That intrigues me. That contact also led me back to my research, which wasn’t as organized as I’d hoped and so I’ve been beavering away. This led to another discovery, that at least four branches of my family came from County Cork. This seems to suggest that they stayed within their county group after arriving in Sydney. Not surprising when you think about how immigrants tend to stick together now, but of course, I was researching events in reverse order, instead of living them forward.

Do you do family history at all?

Anyway, it’s time for me to put down my coffee cup and keep moving. Our son leaves for the snow tomorrow for a few days and there’s still a lot of last minute bits and bobs which need to be done.

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Lady reading Geoff Le Pard’s: “My Father & Other Liars.”

I hope you’ve enjoyed our walk and all the people we’ve met while walking with Lady.  We always meet so many chirpy, happy people on our walks and she opens so many doors… and not just the bathroom door (see the Flash fiction!)

This has been another Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Diana at Part-Time Monster. You can check out the other posts Here.

Love & Best wishes,

Rowena xxoo

 

 

Do the Milkshake!

Yesterday, my daughter had a friend over and we ended up walking down to a local cafe for a milkshake with the dogs in tow and then onto the beach.

However, these weren’t your average milkshake. Indeed, if you tried doing the milkshake after one of these, your stomach would start to quake. These wacko jacko milkshakes are called Crazy Shakes, and have everything stuck on top but the kitchen sink.  The kids ordered a caramel shake and this came with an entire cinnamon donut parked on top  along with pretzels, popcorn, a caramello koala, a lollypop, possibilly some kit kat, caramel topping and goodness knows what else. Just like our local pie shop makes you sign a waiver before you try their scotchingly hot chilli pies, this place should do the same although I’m not sure how the waiver should read: “Warning: too much gluttonous pleasure contained in this glass?” Or, this milkshake could exceed your annual calorie intake? I’m not sure. I didn’t order one for myself, and ordered a chcolate muffin instead. As nice as it was, it really was “Plain Jane” next to the milkshakes, and I sprinkled some of the kids’ popcorn over the top.

It’s interesting how food trends have changed over the last couple of years. I didn’t bat an eyelid when I saw popcorn or pretzels in the milkshakes. What has become an indulgent take on the norm, would have had you locked up for your own good, a few years ago. That is, unless you were pregnant and could blame it on the cravings.

Anyway, shouting the kids these milkshakes made me feel like the fairy Godmother. “Bad cop” was nowhere in sight.

As I mentioned, we had the dogs with us and they loved being at the cafe. We were sitting outside, which was glorious. Although it’s winter here, sun and blue skies had broken through what had been a week of heavy rain and grey clouds and those warm rays of sunshine felt sooo good! Anyway, Bilbo wandered around the coutryard on border patrol and decided he loved the cafe life when he was given some leftovers. That’s right. It’s perfectly acceptable for dogs to dispose of those delectable leftovers as long as they don’t help themselves off the plate.

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Walking off Indulgence.

After their milkshakes, we strolled down to the beach and walked for a bit. Our struggling beach has been battered further and the erosion and removed more sand and tree cover. While it’s great for those gaining water views across the road, as much as water access would add value to their properties in theory, having your house washed away isn’t quite the same thing. Fortunately, unless there’s a very strong storm, that’s not on the cards…yet.

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Our Beach in Winter.

It was fun walking with the kids and getting to know my daughter’s friend better. While not being gossippy, I’ve found her friends are much more chatty about what’s going on at school and I at least gain some idea of what’s going on. That doesn’t mean that I have my finger on the pulse but at least I might be able to find a pulse if it’s needed.

Amelia looking out to sea

One last point before I head off about this playdate. At 11, the girls are almost old enough to have gone to the cafe themselves and yet they’re not. Not so much because of them as they’re quite capable of ordering, but because of those despicable characters we know are out there and we somehow need to be vigilant without growing out kids up in a dark cupboard. I’m glad they were still happy to have Mum and big brother in tow. We had a wonderful time.

xx Rowena

 

Absent Friends…Quote Vincent Van Gogh

“I often think of you all, one cannot do what one wants in life. The more you feel attached to a spot, the more ruthlessly you are compelled to leave it, but the memories remain, and one remembers – as in a looking glass, darkly – one’s absent friends.”
― Vincent Van Gogh

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Sitting at our mystery cafe in Paris Summer 1992.

I read this quote and immediately I thought of hanging out with my friends at the cafe in Paris. Although I consciously know it was now 24 years ago, I still picture us all sitting there, walking, engrossed in philosophical ruminations or falling in love. It was Summer. It was Paris. We were young.

xx Rowena

Weekend Coffee Share December 4, 2016.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

Would you prefer coffee, tea or something else?

Can you believe it’s December already? I sure can’t. Well I sort of can because all that end of year madness is already in full swing. Aside from buying presents, I haven’t even thought about Christmas.

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Rather, the end of the year is also concert season. Last week, our daughter performed at NSW Schools Spectacular in Sydney and next weekend, is the dance concert. Miss does jazz, modern and ballet so that’s three costume changes. Today, there was a rehearsal and tomorrow is photo call. Well, there’s photo call after she does a guest appearance at her friend’s birthday party. I know she’s doing too much and it is exhausting, but I want her to have a balanced life. Friends are important.

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I have some exciting news this week. I’m finally making progress on the book writing front. For many, many years now I’ve been reworking and reworking books in my head and I can see the words cascading like a fountain without sticking to the page. For me, the trouble has been knowing where to start. How to start. Moreover, just when I’ve got in the groove and the flow is well and truly flowing, there’s been some significant catastrophe which at the very least, has blocked the flow or redirected it. Finishing a book is not that easy, especially when you can’t get started.

So, I’m thrilled to have a plan and even though I’m back to my usual “research mode”, I’m making headway. I can see a structure, a plan, a purpose.  Even better, I can feel it all coming together.

That’s why I’m fessing up here. I need to make myself accountable. Commit to this course of action in paper and ink…even if it is more a case of tapping away on my laptop.

Anyway, I’ve spent much of this week trying to immerse myself in Paris to reawaken all those slumbering brain cells of mine. I need the to take me back to the past to lead me into the future. Fortunately, I have photos, diaries, letters from the trip as well as the world wide web at my disposal. I guess you could say it’s now been redefined as “material”.

You might like to check out some of my Paris posts:

Poem: Amnesia Paris 92.

Writing Memoir: Paris Encore.

Virtual Cafe Crawl Through Paris.

I am continuing to read  Tim Harford’s:  Messy: How to be Creative in A Tidy-Minded World. I’m now about halfway through and am going to try to keep going with it while throwing myself into Paris and that writing. I find it hard to split myself up like that, especially when I’m already juggling the family and the house. Well, I’m not exactly juggling the house. I think I dropped it on its head awhile back and it’s never recovered. Besides, I’d much rather write.

I’ve had another go at Friday Fictioneers. The prompt this week depicted a camping scene. My effort is called The Camping Virgins. I should point out that the title refers to first time campers…nothing more, nothing less.

The rest of the week feels like a blur. I’m sure it’s there somewhere.

How was your week? Good, I hope.

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

xx Rowena