Tag Archives: family

Weekend Coffee Share – 24th October, 2021.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

Tonight I’m celebrating a journey of epic proportions. For the first time in four months, we actually drove over the Hawkesbury River Bridge and into Sydney to visit my parents and brother. The last time we came out of lockdown and we saw them again, I was so excited and I was soaring. It reminded me of going up to see my grandparents in Queensland and I’d almost be leaping out of my skin waiting to see them. I was much calmer this time. I hadn’t made a cake or anything (which is rather exceptional), and I’ve been trying to pace myself a bit. All these rushes of excitement can be quite exhausting and I’m just trying to remain on more of an even keel.

I couldn’t resist photographing this portrait of my Great Great Aunty Rose on the piano keys. I was about ten when she passed away.

Usually, I’d take my violin down with me and mum would accompany me on the piano. However, I haven’t practiced much in the last six to 12 months so there wasn’t even a quandary about taking that. Instead, I sang long to a couple of Beatles songs…Michelle, Hey Jude, Yellow Submarine as well as Are You Lonesome Tonight? My voice was very rusty, and I’ve been thinking my lung situation had destroyed it. However, it might just be that my register has changed with age. So, I might be doing a bit more singing in the shower. I’ve also made a note to self to get back into practicing my violin and piano. I’m better focusing on one thing but that’s not a balanced life, and now that we’re out of lockdown to some extent, the juggling act has returned.

Tomorrow, our daughter goes back to school. It’s going to be a rude shock, as she was ill and missed a lot of school before lockdown and she’s been doing some schoolwork online from home for the last four months which has included going to the beach. A number of bikinis have arrived in the mail along with sunglasses, and I guess the teachers know what they’re up against and hopefully she can catch up.

As yet, I still haven’t made it to the hairdressers yet. That’s coming up for my daughter and I on Thursday. I’m looking forward to it. meanwhile, she had eyelash extensions fitted during the week. This was something totally out of the realms of my experience as I barely even wear lipstick these days (especially being at home in my PJs during lockdown) . However, now she’s working at McDonalds, she can afford such essential services, and I was merely roped in for taxi duties. Of course, she didn’t tell me it was going to take two hours until were about to leave and she suggested I might need a book!

So, while she was there, I hid out round the corner at the Mt Penang Parklands finishing off my book (Julia Baird’s Phosphorescence: On awe, wonder and things that sustain you when the world goes dark.) I also walked around photographing the wildflowers. In typical Rowie fashion, I managed to get lost and struggled to find my way back to the entrance. However, I was somewhat relieved to read that the architect of these 56 hectare gardens liked to think of it having a hide and seek element to it. However, I don’t think seeking my self was quite what he had in mind!

BTW here’s a link to the post I wrote abt visiting the gardens: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2021/10/23/mums-taxi-revisits-mt-penang-gardens-north-of-sydney/?wref=tp

Meanwhile, my research projects are progressing. As you may recall, I’ve been helping my friend research his father’s experiences as a Polish bomber pilot in WWII. It’s a slow process exacerbated by the language difficulties, but we’re making headway. It’s also turned out that others have been posting about his dad and a few of his close mates and that’s really added so much to his story. There are two Christmas greetings his follow pilot Alojzy Dreja sent to English families they’d met in December 1940 and both of these speak about the suffering of fellow Poles imprisoned by the Germans and the Russians. They give a good feeling of what it was to be in exile, but grateful in a sense to at least be free. meanwhile, on the Ethel Turner front, I am currently reading Little Mother Meg, which is the third book of the Woolcot series which includes her most famous work: Seven Little Australians. I haven’t written a post over at Tea With Ethel Turner for a week now. So, that’s a priority. It’s hard to be in so many places at once, especially now that lockdown in easing and we’re getting busier.

BTW I thought you might enjoy this little quote from: Little Mother Meg. The Woolcot’s are holding a dance at their home, which is known colloquially as “Misrule” and Meg’s teenaged brother Bunty who is a bit awkward is a bit unsure about interacting with the girls:

“but what in the world can I talk about to a girl I’ve only just met? You just say,`May I have this dance?’ and she says, `Yes’- if she doesn’t say no, thinking I look the right cut to crush her feet to jellies – and then what on earth is there left to say?”

Meg walks Bunty through the sorts of small talk he can undertake with the girl and then she offers him some very sage advice:

“But do your best to forget all about yourself, and try to give the girl as nice a time as you can.”

I really appreciated that, because when you’re nervous and so self-conscious, you’re not thinking so much about the other person. Indeed, being more thoughtful about them, would definitely give you an advantage.

By the way, I also remember being incredibly nervous and self-conscious about dating when I was at school. Ouch! It could be painful, awkward and so embarrassing.

I was quite captivated by this striking wiggly line along the centre of the jetty.

Lastly, Geoff and I went on an unexpectedly short visit to near by Hardy’s Bay to watch the sunset after Mr 17 burnt his foot on hot coals from his fire pit. There was a quick trip to hospital just to be sure, but he was given the okay and I’m sure that must’ve been the fatest turnaround time on record there. He was in and out in about 30 minutes.

Anyway, that’s about it for the last week.

I hope you’re all keeping well, and had a good week.

Meanwhile, you might like to join us over at the Weekend Coffee Share, which is hosted by Natalie the Explorer https://natalietheexplorer.home.blog/

Table Talk…Table Done!

“There are times when wisdom cannot be found in the chambers of parliament or the halls of academia but at the unpretentious setting of the kitchen table.”
― E.A. Bucchianeri

Don’t know how it is round at your place, but getting anything done around here is a very long and winding road that makes mission impossible look quick and easy. So, any successes need to be celebrated with the full brass band out in force and waving the flags. We did it! Yesterday, we finished restoring our new to us but anything but new outdoor table.

“If the home is a body, the table is the heart, the beating center, the sustainer of life and health.”
― Shauna Niequist, Bread and Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table with Recipes

While restoring the table has been a journey, just getting it here has been a story in itself. My friend Roland found the table “beside the road*”. When I saw it in his lounge room, I was filled with envy. Damn! Why didn’t I find it? Well, to be honest, even if I’d found it, I wouldn’t have been able to shift it unless it was just down the road and the kids actually lifted a finger to help. Geoff, I’m afraid wouldn’t not have aided and abetted bringing any more tables home. We already have enough tables!! However, as it turned out, Roland had second thoughts, and decided it was too big. Before he could offload it to the opportunity shop, I stuck my hand up, and it was all mine. He even stuck a post-it note on it with my name on it. So there could be no challenges to my precious piece of real estate.

There was just one problem.

Well, there was more than one problem.

There usually is around here, which is why getting anything done is such an arduous, circular process.

The Table Arrives in the Dark of Night.

Firstly, the table needed transport, and unfortunately not being related to Enid Blyton’s Magic Wishing Chair, it wasn’t going to sprout wings and magically fly down the mountain to our place. It needed Geoff, and that required more than a confession. Serious negotiation was required. You see, there was already a table and a fish tank out where the intended table was meant to be going. The fish tank has been sitting here waiting to make to next step of it’s future life after it started leaking something like five years ago, and the existing table was falling apart and we’d bought the wood to replace the top. However, nothing had happened and Geoff has been painting the house, replacing the guttering, and anything but idle. I decided that table could go out the back. I didn’t care where the blessed fish tank went as long as it was gone. I didn’t care where the lot went. I wanted my new table out the front so I could have friends over outside once this wretched lockdown eased, and actually start getting social again within the safety of home. After all, we’ve not been in lockdown for 106 days and Monday is Freedom Day. I want to be a part of it.

Sometimes, hints are broad suggestions aren’t enough. Roland was wanting to clear his garage and I desperately wanted to table here, and measuring tape or no measuring tape, Geoff found himself making room for the table, and driving up the hill to pick it up. I don’t play the “Happy Wife, Happy Life” card often, but by now I was in make it happen mode. He had no choice but to capitulate and assist.

“To share a table with someone is to share everything.”
― Paul Krueger, Steel Crow Saga

However, there was just one small complication with the table. It was more of an indoor table than an outdoor table, and aside from needing protection, he top needed sanding. In other words, the table was “a project”. What’s more, the rest of the family was quick to extricate themselves and call it “YOUR project”. Geoff fetched the orbital sander from the garage and with my arms vibrating and my head buzzing, I started rowing backwards and forwards giving my arms quite a workout, which proved quite a shock to the system in itself. Seeing me with a power tool in hand must’ve been like an apparition too. Rowena the Writer is a far cry from Bob the Builder and his mates.

This could be the raised hand of a drowning woman as the sanding continues…

“To gather together around a table – the ultimate symbol of communion – is the only truly authentic way to properly prioritise the ritual of eating.”
― Michelle Ogundehin, Happy Inside: How to harness the power of home for health and happiness

After beavering away for a veritable eternity with the orbital sander, the scratches were definitely winning. Moreover, these scratches giving have that worn-in distressed look that people go out of their way to age their furniture. The table looked like the scene of a cat fight with random scratches all over the place, and the annoying perfectionist in me was starting to picture our guests sitting at the table and counting all the scratches and thinking about how awful we were. I did try saying they’d be much more interested in the dessert and conversation, and wouldn’t care but I knew better. I asked Geoff for stronger sandpaper, and at this point he finally realized I wasn’t wanting to do a superficial sand, but more of a reconstructive face lift. I wanted to strip this baby right back to bare wood, even if it meant losing loads of personality. It could regain character in time.

the lingering mystery square, which looks like a UFO flying across one end of the table.

Now, the belt sander came out, and it was incredibly satisfying to see all those scratches evaporate in clouds of dust.

“The oldest form of theater is the dinner table. It’s got five or six people, new show every night, same players. Good ensemble; the people have worked together a lot.”

Michael J. Fox]

“Here’s yet a spot,” she cries, desperately rubbing. “Here’s the small of blood still.”  This spot isn’t going anywhere either.

I don’t think I’ve actually mentioned that the table top is oak. It has a beautiful grain, and when I finally came to apply the decking oil, the wood just shone. It looked amazing. Although it was “your project”, Geoff ended up sanding and painting the legs. By then, my arms had had it. I’m much more in favour of teamwork than being a lone ranger – especially when I’m the one needing assistance.

I know you can’t be too demanding about a free table that was left out beside the road, but what possessed someone to sandpaper so ferociously against the grain? Thanks to the belt sander and yours truly, all gone!

The table was finally finished yesterday and moved into position. It looks amazing. I cooked up a big lamb roast with all the trimmings to celebrate last night, but it was cold and dark by the time it was really so we still haven’t christened the table yet. Moreover, I’ve been tapping away in here in my pyjamas with the dog on my lap ignoring the outside world, which is so bright and sunny. Geoff has gone sailing.Our daughter is doing her final dance class in the kitchen and for dinner or worse our world here in Greater Sydney is about to open up.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Weekend Coffee Share – 6th September, 2021.

Welcome To Another Weekend Coffee Share!

Some days, you need to tell Winter it isn’t Spring. However, today it’s the reverse. Now, we’re into Spring, it’s cold and the heater’s on again. Of course, yours truly who was quickly jumping on here before going on a walk, is now re-evaluating the state of affairs outside and considering hibernation instead. I think I might’ve mentioned “tomorrow” before.

Yesterday, was Father’s Day here. It wasn’t the most exciting Father’s Day we’ve ever had. We couldn’t even get out there and go shopping due to lockdown let alone get down to Sydney to see my dad. Our daughter also worked at McDonalds all afternoon. However, I did manage to order Geoff a great t-shirt from Tasmania. My friend was telling me about how she visited this place that handmade spoons when she was down there, and while we were chatting on the phone, I Googled the place. I thought very seriously about buying one of their spoons for our 20th wedding anniversary this Thursday. However, I wasn’t quite sure what to do with it, and so I just went for the shirt. Geoff is very handy, and while he isn’t into wood turning, he’s always fixing something at home and using tools so it seemed like a great gift.

Anyway, we had a bit of unexpected theatre with the packaging. The t-shirt arrived very well camouflaged inside a cute little cardboard box so I decided not to interfere with it and give it to him as is. However, what I didn’t notice until he came to unwrap it, was that it had been sent in a re-used box from Lush Cosmetics. They make handmade soap which we’re usually really allergic to. On top of that, even those of you who don’t know Geoff very well, would spend a minute with him and know he just not a Lush kind of bloke. The other angle to this story, is that Geoff often wraps presents in deceptive boxes, especially computer castoffs from work. So, he’s giving you a $20.00 book, but you think you’ve received a $2000 laptop. So, it was quite apt that Geoff’s t-shirt would come disguised as fancy soap albeit without the scent. He deserved it.

Meanwhile, we are still in lock down. Overnight, 1, 282 cases were reported, which is pretty shocking for us when we were used to having no cases at all. I don’t know whether this increased case load was inevitable and we were just lucky it didn’t hit sooner. However, the way I see it, we were given this incredible gift of being covid free, and we needed to maintain and protect that with zeal. To have the gift and break it, to me is a greater loss. We knew what was at stake, and I wouldn’t say we’ve blown it yet but we certainly need to play our cards very carefully. We also need to know that those who are playing our hand, are being cautious and yet at the same time trying to get us out of this wretched lock down soon. I know that might sound like mission impossible with one leg going forward and the other leg in reverse. However, perhaps that’s what wisdom’s all about – a precarious balancing act. Not only that. I think it also takes listening to advisers and a diverse range of opinions, and above all else, individuals who don’t believe they have all the answers themselves. Consultation is important, and it certainly isn’t a sign of weakness.

I managed to get out more last week. Geoff and I went out to check out the local wildflowers, especially the Waratahs, which are conveniently growing beside the road not far from here. These magnificent grand flowers are our state floral emblem and are very rare in the wild and such a treat. There was also an abundance of these captivating golden flowers from the pea family. They glowed like lightbulbs in the sun and were pure magic. So, you could say I was rather blessed, and I am definitely most thankful, but I still miss my close friends and my mum and dad, aunts, uncles, cousins – a wealth of people I always took for granted. I don’t anymore.

You can read more about my walk in my previous post here: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2021/09/06/going-on-a-waratah-hunt/

Meanwhile, I am rapidly advancing down the pathway towards obsession. It’s a quality not unknown to myself, but I’ll blame lockdown for the latest development. I’ve become absolutely obsessed with Australian author, Ethel Turner, who wrote Seven Little Australians and 39 other novels in addition to editing children’s columns in several newspapers. Seven Little Australians was published in 1894 when she was 24 years old and so she’s hardly current. Yet, that doesn’t mean that she’s not contemporary in that way that very perceptive people are. She seems to have an incredible insight into people, and characterization and the challenges they face. One of the issues I find particularly interesting is how she writes about death and characters facing death. I don’t know about you, but I’ve prayed for people who are dying and some of them pull through and others don’t and it does make me ponder about the point of it all. So does young Nell in the sequel to Seven Little Australians, The Family At Misrule. So much has changed in the last 120+ years. Yet, we’re still human and growing up is still a complicated and challenging business. Anyway, my obsession is on hold at the moment pending the arrival of my eBay packages. Don’t you just love eBay especially in lock down?!! I’m not the only one here eagerly awaiting packages either.

Well, that’s about all I’m allowed to share.

I hope you’ve all had a good week and things are going well!

Anyway, this has been another contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share is hosted by Natalie the Explorer https://natalietheexplorer.home.blog/

Best wishes,

Rowena

Weekend Coffee Share – 6th June, 2021.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

I don’t know whether I should be apologizing for taking an extended blogging break, or whether you’ve all been grateful for a reprieve. Only so many hours in a day and all that. I get it. Truly, I do. Indeed, that’s why I’ve been missing in action for awhile and have been blogging much more intermittently this year. Real life has overtaken me, and I’m also striving towards what must be a writer’s Holy Grail…finishing a book and getting it published (or indeed, self-publishing).

My contribution to the the great libraries of the world, book shops, op shops, and no doubt recycling bins; is a compilation of short biographies of Australian soldiers who served in WWI and fusing family background, battle details, letters home and diaries where available with a focus on the psychological aspects of war and the inner man. How did they survive physically and mentally? Of course, so many didn’t make it and instead “went West” as the saying went. So, death and dying is also a significant aspect. I’ve been working on this for about 18 months now, especially since the horrendous Australian bushfires and their choking smoke forced me underground, only for Covid to send me back into my bunker not much later. Indeed, I’ve been calling this my “Covid Project.

Meanwhile, there’s been a lot going on.

On Monday, I attended my dear friend, Lisa’s funeral. We’ve only been friends for just over six months, and yet we connected very deeply and neither of us thought our friendship was going to be that short. Lisa’s been fighting a very aggressive form of breast cancer for eight years. She’d had three brain surgeries, and after the cancer started eating through her spine, there was more surgery and she had a rod put in her spine. She was married with three boys, and the youngest was only two when she was diagnosed and he’s now eleven. Sometimes, people turn to survivors like Lisa, and be inspired by their strength. After all, they’re a personification of the miraculous. They can also became what my mother calls “a case” where they suddenly become the pet project and helping them out seems to become more about people gaining Kudos that actually helping the person themselves. You can also feel sorry for them. However, when we first met Lisa, she looked relatively well and she had the most beautiful smile. We went on picnics, kayaked, saw in the New Year, the visual overrode the intellectual knowledge that she was already on borrowed time, although I was somewhat prepared to lose her. I made a conscious decision to love her, be close without holding back, even though I knew it was going to hurt like hell. However, we both needed each other and I’m glad I was there to help lift up the last six months and help her feel loved. Indeed, when a friend went to see her, she said she felt “overwhelmed by love”. A friend and I spoke at her funeral, and although we didn’t know her for long, we knew her well. At least, the Lisa she was then which is after marriage, kids, cancer…quite a lot of life.

Have you found that it’s hard to know quite what to do and where to turn after the funeral is over? That’s what I felt last week. There was a part of me which thought going back in time to before we met would be the answer. However, you can’t do that and I don’t want to wipe out our friendship or forget her. I’ve put her photo in a frame. That’s a start. I wrote a song, a poem. I think about her much of the time, and I baked her boys a cake. I can’t change the world, and as Benjamin Franklin and other before him in various variations wrote: “in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes”.

Anyway, dealing with my grief took me to my usual haunt…the op shops. Never knock a bit of retail therapy. As long as it doesn’t take you too far into debt, it can work miracles and if you’re going round the second-hand charity stores like me, you can save a small fortune (not that you’d be able to afford all of this stuff new.) I am particularly thrilled with my new to me fleecy-lined, purple jacket. I also managed to get my mum a beautiful designer top for her birthday.

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By the way, I almost forgot to mention that we had to buy our son his first suit to wear to the funeral. I had hope to buy him something smart from the op shop. However, he insisted on something new, and who doesn’t feel fabulous in something special that’s new? He looked incredibly handsome, and I was so proud of him, especially because he’s spent his whole life with his own serious ill mother, and the parallels to our situation were obvious. Why not me? I wouldn’t say I have survivor’s guilt. It’s more a case of survivor’s question marks.

Yesterday, Geoff and I went for a walk. Naturally, I needed to lighten my mood and walking is a true-blue healer. Moreover, we went for a bushwalk where there are some absolutely breath-taking coastal views. So, we were immersed in nature. The sun was shining, although being Winter here, it was a little chilly, but we certainly weren’t rugged up. Indeed, I think it was about 16-18 degrees Celsius. Not bad for Winter, hey?!! One of the highlights was finding a flannel flower, and it looks like there’ll be a carpet of them in about a month’s time. So, I’ll have to keep an eye out. While you’d think I’d be back at this spot at least once a week given it’s alluring beauty, I usually only get here a few times a year. As usual, life gets in the way.

Flannel Flowers

I should mention that I have two dogs up on my lap- Lady and Zac. Nothing like a drop in temperature to attract the dogs to a warm lap, and having my keyboard perched on their backs doesn’t seem to bother them – or the constant clicking. They’re also keepin me toasty warm.

How have you been? I hope you’ve been well. I look forward to hearing from you and catching up.

This has been another contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Natalie the Explorer at https://natalietheexplorer.home.blog/

Best wishes,

Rowena

When death comes. — Into The Clearing

In January my husband and I had to rush my Dad to emergency. We had to take a strange route to avoid traffic. We also had to keep him calm. He was ironically excited in his delirium from level 10 pain. We thought he would need to stay a few days but in reality the […]

When death comes. — Into The Clearing

Norah Head Revisited – Making the Most of Where I Am.

“You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment. Fools stand on their island of opportunities and look toward another land. There is no other land; there is no other life but this.”
― Henry David Thoreau

Covid is no longer just a thing belonging to 2020. Rather, it’s leaped out of the bag, looked back at us dumbfounded humans and chirped: “Catch me if you can!” Unfortunately, at this point in time, Covid has the upper hand and has taken off down the street before we’ve even put our joggers on, let alone done up our shoe laces. It is affecting everybody differently in all sorts of ways, and it seems quite trite to complain about not being able to travel when much of the planet is chronically ill and so many people have died and they are sorely missed.

The Rockpool, Norah Head. Isn’t it glorious?!!

Yet, at the same time, what about us in the land of the living? What are we supposed to do? Do we still carpe diem seize the day to our very utmost within the limitations we are personally experiencing? Or, perhaps we even break the rules, and there have been some spectacular examples of this in the news. Or, do we retreat?

Retreat, at least in my mind, is different to giving up, and is a legitimate response to covid, especially if you’re living in a country where it’s rampant, and even more so if you’re in a high risk category. My approach varies, mostly in accordance with the infection rates. I’m trying to be flexible, but one thing we did take a hard stance on was travel. We’d planned to visit Geoff’s sister and family near Byron Bay, which is about a 10 hour drive away. We usually go up once a year. However, right when we needed to make a decision, the numbers were starting to rumble, and since we didn’t have to go right now, we decided to put it off.

However, this hasn’t stopped our friends from travelling. Or, from posting their holiday snaps on Facebook. I’m not going to lie. It hurts. I also wanted to have fun, good times and swing from the chandelier. Moreover, just to add salt to the wound, we’ve spent most of Geoff’s two weeks of annual leave doing jobs around the house. Yes, they’re long overdue, and some would argue that improving the house and giving us a great start to the year might be worth more than a fancy holiday. Moreover, it is strangely satisfying to be dropping car loads of stuff at the charity shop, instead of going shopping and bringing a car load home. Yet, at the same time, there’s that old phrase:

“All work and all play

makes Jack a dull boy”.

Yes, I was definitely losing my shimmer, and needed to claim it back.

Well, this isn’t always as easy as it sounds. We have dependents. Yesterday, we drove dependent from camp no 1 to camp number 2. Afterwards, we went on a detour to Newcastle to go out for lunch together, and then on to catch up with my cousin and family, we covered about 500kms.

However, although we were moving and we were in the car and covered quite a distance, that’s not what I consider travel. It was more what I would call “work”, “duty”, “obligation” even though we made the most of the long drive and added in some fun for ourselves.

We hadn’t even left Newcastle to drive home, when our daughter rang from camp and said she wanted to come home. She’s been on this camp before. She doesn’t get homesick, but she is a teenager, and it appears she had outgrown the camp. We left her there overnight, and I ended up driving up today and picking her up a day early. It made no real difference to me. However, I wasn’t just going to drive an hour up and then drive an hour straight back. I warned her we were going on a detour to Norah Head. She’s used to me and my detours which usually involve food and photography.

Norah Head was probably about a 30 minutes drive South from the camp, and in my head, I decided it was going to be our surrogate for missing out on our trip to Byron Bay. You see, Byron Bay has a light house and Norah Head has a lighthouse, and while it might not have been a perfect correlation, I could almost make it fit.

As it turned out, visiting the lighthouse at Norah Head actually had a lot of advantages over visiting the light house at Byron Bay. It was much, much closer to home and only an hour’s drive away. it’s much less crowded. Lastly, we could easily get a parking spot, and parking was free…Win! Win! Win!

However, Norah Head isn’t just about the light house for me. It’s also about the memories. I first went to Norah Head as a very young child with my family, and I had a vague memory of have gone to the lighthouse before when I went up to Norah Head for a slumber party when I was 12 at my friend’s place. That was repeated the following year, and we slid down the sand dunes on big green garbage bags, and also had her birthday cake in the dunes. It was such a special thing to go on a holiday with friends when I was 12, and I’ve never forgotten it.

I returned to Norah Head about 10 years ago for the first time since school, and couldn’t find the sand dunes anywhere. I wanted to show them to the kids. However, it turned out they’d regenerated the dunes and they were now hiding under thick scrub and even rather tall paperbark trees. It was hard to understand how they could’ve grown so tall in such a short time. I popped back about 6 months ago and wandered around taking photos. It still had that special sense of magic and all those memories.

The Island Cafe,, Norah Head where my daughter and I had lunch looking out across the the breakers, and that’s my red car across the road.

Anyway, today I wasn’t on my own. It was me and my girl and we kicked off our adventure with lunch at the Surfside Cafe.

How relaxing. I didn’t actually sit in this chair, but I wanted to.

Then, we drove round to the lighthouse. Although the lighthouse itself is very striking and had strong appeal, I was actually more drawn towards simply watching the mighty waves surging into the rocks which such incredible power. It was breathtakingly beautiful.

We actually spotted a couple getting married on the rocks down below surrounded by their attendants and family. The waves weren’t quite breathing down their necks, but they were close enough, and from certain angles through the lens, they certainly seemed precarious enough.

Next, we retraced our steps and walked down a long and very steep flight of stairs to the rockpool. I wondered whether I’d be able to make it back up. However, being able to get up Neil’s stairs encouraged me, and I thought if I just took my time and had a few breaks, I’d be right. Well, I wasn’t quite right and my heart was racing but I made it, and it was certainly worth the effort. It was really quite festive down on the beach and there was so much colour what with the coloured beach umbrellas, assorted swimming costumes, towels etc. It was beautifully sunny as well and the sky was an intoxicating bright blue and it was like one of Ken Done’s beach paintings, and boy was I glad to be amongst it!! Yahoo!

Almost died getting up these stairs and it was tough going with my dodgy lungs, but well worth it, and I took them very slowly heading back up.

I hadn’t been back to the rockpool since I was there as a 12 year old snorkelling with my friends, and as I followed the beach around, I had no idea that I’d come across the most wonderful view of the lighthouse. An angle I hadn’t seen before and it was rather breath-taking. I’m sure you’ve had that experience yourself where there’s a place you really love, but you know it from that postcard perspective, but then you see it from an entirely different angle, and it’s like it’s been reborn. Moreover, when you’re really into photography like me, these fresh perspectives are even more valued. It’s like you’re seeing this place for the very first time and your gobsmacked with awe and wonder.

I could’ve stayed there for hours, except my passenger was getting tired and needed to get home, but not without picking up my Danish pastries from the bakery.

Clearly, I highly recommend you check out Norah Head some time, which as we all know, is not all that easy atm, but in the meantime, at least you can enjoy my photos.

Best wishes,

Rowena

PS Here are two cute dogs I spotted at the beach:

Doesn’t he just know he’s too handsome!
I thought this dog was actually wearing swimmers. However, it turned out the stripes were just his harness.

Weekend Coffee Share – Christmas 2020.

Welcome to the Christmas Edition of the Weekend Coffee Share!

Well, to be precise, it’s actually post-Christmas and we’re currently drifting along in the lull between Christmas and New Year where we recover from Christmas indulgence, over-consumption and back-breaking stress and veg out. Well, that’s as long as we haven’t done something stupid like inviting people over on New Year’s Eve. I wouldn’t know anybody who is crazy enough to do that, especially after hosting family on Christmas Day. However, there is this strange logic that once you’ve tidied the house up, get all of your entertaining done immediately before the place does a Cinderella on you and turns back into a pumpkin.

Our local bookshop

Anyway, before I ask you how your Christmas or Holiday celebrations went, I’d better offer you a cup of tea, coffee or perhaps you fancy a cold drink. We’ve had quite a few hot days, so you might prefer something cold. I’ve been doing a bit of baking and we have Christmas cake, shortbread, Honey Biscuits, Mars Bar Slice and Caramel Macadamia Nut Tart. Yum!

Christmas baking.

So how have you been spending Christmas or the Holidays?

We went to the 11.00pm service on Christmas Eve. The earlier services were cancelled and went via zoom instead, as there’s been an outbreak of Covid in Sydney along with a couple of local cases. There weren’t too many booked in for the late service and so it could still go ahead now we’re back to the 4 square metre rule.

The, on Christmas Day, my parents drove up from Sydney for lunch. I did all the cooking, which went surprisingly well. We had a roast chicken, veggies and gravy with the Caramel Macadamia Tart for dessert. We were too full to even consider eating the pudding, but we had a wonderful day which seemed to race past like a bullet train.

The rocking horse has been feeling fairly nervous. It’s seen the piano and the carpet go, and it’s very concerned it’s going to be next!

The prelude to Christmas was crazy busy. After guttering the loungeroom to replace the carpet with a floating floor and finding the room also needed a paint job, we then had a mad scramble to get everything back in situ for the big day. We managed to get there but quite a few things got shoved anywhere they could fit and goodness knows if we’ll ever see them again. However, it was all worth it, and the house was nice and comfy and we could actually spread out.

Miss after her hair extravaganza

Another big development in the lead up to Christmas, was that Miss decided to get her haircut. Indeed, to be precise, she decided to get her hair lopped off and she also wanted to donate the ponytail to make a wig for someone who is experiencing long term hair loss. This seemed like a great idea and something her friends have done before, although I was concerned she was going to regret cutting it off and I also loved her hair being so long and it had become a fundamental part of her. However, it was also very heavy, especially when she went swimming and it also covered her face in the water and might even have been a bit dangerous. By the way, in addition to getting the chop, she also got some foils. She talked me into this, but it was a fun adventure and I emphasised it was a once off. However, it was a lot of fun and seeing her incredible smile at the end, was truly worth it. You see quite a few storm clouds brewing in the teenagers eyes, so it makes it all the better when you see those radiant, sunny smiles and all is good.

Her hair before the chop. She had 17 inches cut off.

Since Christmas, we’ve tried to relax and do as little as possible. That said, we had the big clean up after Christmas lunch and today we headed off to Specsavers to replace our glasses before the annual health fund allocation ran out. I can tell you it was quite an experience getting our eyes tested and trying on glasses with face masks on and glasses fogging up. I hope they turn out okay. However, I thought you’d enjoy this photo of three out of the four of us trying glasses on.

Well, I’d better head off now. Time’s always getting away from me.

Not long now until we reach the end of 2020, but it’s pretty clear to me that there aren’t going to be any instant miracles once we turn the page into 2021. That said, vaccination has started and maybe that will start having an impact soon.

Meanwhile, we hope you and yours are safe and that you have a geat year ahead in 2021. Any resolutions yet? I’m still working on mine. My word for the last couple of years has been ACTION, and I might go with that again. Although when it comes to my WWI research project, the word is now WRITE, and when it comes to going away in January, it’s WAIT. Need to see what covid is up to by then.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Merry Christmas!

We would like to wish you and yours a very Merry and blessed Christmas! Even if happiness feels like a pipe dream during Covid; even in the darkest of times, there is still good to be found. Moreover, 2020 hasn’t been universally bad. Indeed, our family has experienced much worse, and we’ve actually had some significant breakthroughs. This has included having Geoff working from home, giving him at least an extra three hours at home, saving us money and enabling him to get some work done on the house.

It’s now the day after Boxing Day. So, Christmas Day is done and dusted. We had a wonderful day. My parents drove up from Sydney. I did all the cooking and we had roast chicken with stuffing and gravy, roast potatoes and pumpkin baked in duck fat, leg ham, thyme damper rolls and Avocado, Mango and Cashew Salad. For dessert, there was Macadamia Nut Caramel Tart, Honey Biscuits straight out of the oven, and my Christmas Cake. I was so proud of myself for timing everything well, and relieved that lady luck was on my side, and everything worked out. You can never assume a dish is going to work out perfectly, even if you’ve made it 20 times without a hitch before. There are no guarantees, although the more you cook, the better you get at masking your mistakes.

Dessert: Honey Biscuits warm straight out of the oven, Caramel Macadamia Nut Tart, Christmas Cake and extra caramel sauce.

By the way, the weather here deserves a mention this year. Firstly, you need to remember that we’ve Australian it’s Summer here, and that usually spells HOT. Indeed, it’s often so hot, you could fry an egg on the footpath, and you almost get sunburnt just looking outside. Usually, when we’re having the big family Christmas at my auntie’s place, half the family ends up in the pool and you can almost see the steam rising as they’re hot and bothered bodies cool off. However, this year it was wet and cool, and my Dad was actually wearing his jumper. That was pretty exceptional, and definitely blogworthy.

How has Christmas or the holidays been for you? I hope you and yours have had a Merry Christmas, and now it’s time to start thinking about resolutions for the new year. Now, there’s something that’s going to be complicated.

Best wishes,

Rowena and Family.

The Saddest Christmas Tree of 2020.

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised to find a few sad Christmas trees around this year. After all, it’s been a tough year, and when you really think about it, Christmas trees are a mirror, or reflection, of ourselves and what’s going on both inside our heads, and in the world around us. A blank, green canvas, either real or fake, where we plaster bits of ourselves in the form of bright lights, jewelled ornaments, and perhaps even rustic relicts made when we were kids, along with contributions by our own kids and grandchildren, if we have them.

While our tree could well be described as “Rafferty’s Rules” or cluttered eclectic with loads of “character”, there are others who are clearly much more particular and their tree has to be perfect, and might, for example, have a very strict colour scheme. Of course, I admire these trees. Who wouldn’t?! However, I’m pretty sure these are the very same infuriating people who always coloured in between the lines when they were kids, and now throw out their own kids’ Christmas craft. It might not be perfect or ostentatious, but there’s nothing more personal and meaningful than anything handmade.

Anyway, I’m not here to talk about the best Christmas tree. Rather, I’m here to talk about the worst.

This wasn’t something I intentionally set out to do.

Rather, it was thrust upon me when I was out shopping, and I came across this poor Christmas tree parked outside Coles in front of the public toilets. While, as you can see, it did have a few decorations, there were no lights and it looks like it’s just been pulled straight out of storage, and stuck out on display without much spit and polish.

Geoff’s work Christmas tree was also a rather sorry sight.

I thought this tree had taken out the honours for the worst Christmas tree I’d seen in 2020. Then, Geoff showed me a picture of his work Christmas tree. It was a strong rival, especially when you know that they’re going through a difficult restructure and there are voluntary and not so voluntary redundancies, which is particularly hard at this time of year. Indeed, if this tree could speak, it could well sound like Sesame Street’s Oscar the Grouch: “You’d be a grouch, too, if you lived in a trash can!”

However, some are more particular than others, and have a rigid colour scheme. Personally, I’m pretty sure these are the very same people who always coloured-in between the lines, and didn’t scribble back at school. All the decorations have to be red, purple for example. On the other hand, our Christmas tree is “cluttered eclectic” like the house. We have always had a real tree. However, being able to go outside much at all last December due to the choking bush fire smoke, I was too late to get a real tree and was mighty grateful to pick up a fake one for $10.00 at the local charity shop. The tree looked bad last year, but it looks even worse this year. However, what with renovating the loungeroom and rumblings of Covid, we didn’t get the tree up until Christmas Eve, and it looks so bad, that it won’t be up long after New Year’s. Indeed, to be perfectly honest with you, our tree could use a huge, brown paper bag to stick over it’s head.

However, as much as our Christmas tree is visually challenged, as the saying goes, there’s always someone worse off, and I’m not sure whether to award the prize to Geoff’s work Christmas tree, or to a Christmas tree spotted outside the supermarket and the public toilets.

Meanwhile, there’s our tree.

Where’s a massive paper bag when you need one? This is our sorry Christmas tree in the raw.

Meanwhile, our Christmas tree is a case of people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. Our family has always had a real tree. Over the years, my dad’s waxed so lyrically about the scent of the tree in his usually Basil Faulty style (he used to be a close ringer for actor John Cleese), that going fake felt like selling my soul to the devil.

However, the lead up to Christmas 2019 and 2020 hit us hard. Last year, we had the extreme Australian bushfires known colloquially as the “Black Summer”. Although we live well beyond the fire zone, the air here was choking with smoke and with my lung issues, I had to stay in the air-conditioned loungeroom or I couldn’t breathe. It was dire. There were some clear days, which finally allowed me to venture down to the local shops to look for a real tree. By then, however, they’d all sold out and we were excited and thankful to find a $20.00 fake one at the local charity shop. It wasn’t fantastic, and it certainly didn’t have that fresh pine scent which sends my Dad into a spin. However, at least it was green, and we could hang our precious ornaments from it.

Fast-forwarding to 2020, we had a different problem. We found ourselves hosting Christmas for the first time, and while it was only my Mum and Dad, I still wanted the house to be festive and somewhat “neat and tidy”. This was a very tall order, but it pushed us through all sorts of incredible levels of pain, sacrifice and frustration. After finally getting rid of the old piano in the loungeroom, what was meant to be replacing the dingy old carpet with a floating floor, ended up with guttering the room and a massive paint job. Also, with the piano gone, we’ve lost our convenient display and storage unit, leaving a lot of homeless flotsam and jetsam out on the loose. Moreover, while Geoff was working, I started what became a significant purge of books and the clearing of the back room to the point where we’ve moved tables and lounges around and it’s now got a couch and a teenager out there much of the time. The speed of this progress has been an absolute miracle!

All this work didn’t leave much time for Christmas trees, and the night before Christmas, the sad and sorry fake was brought down out of storage, and the teenager who’d once insisted on taking over decorating the Christmas tree (more precision and perfection required), now had to be coerced out of a “why bother” state of mind. I couldn’t blame her. In its naked state, the tree really could’ve used a bag over its head.

How’s this for a magnificent Christmas tree and Santa at our local bookshop, Book Bazaar!

Meanwhile, I came across a beautiful Christmas window display at our local bookshop, and wondered whether I should claim it as our own…

Covid 19 wasn’t on my list when I sat on Santa’s knee last Christmas.

No matter where you are, Christmas 2020 didn’t feature on your Santa list, but it’s been sobering, reflective and it’s got us thinking about what really matters and how we live our lives. What’s important, and what we can go without. So, in this sense as long as we have our nearest and dearest and community among and around us, the rest doesn’t really matter. Indeed, I might even appreciate mediocre attempts to create a bit of Christmas cheer and paint a smile on what initially appeared to be a couple of sad Christmas trees.

How is your Christmas shaping up? Ours is now done and dusted, but that’s another post.

Best wishes and a Merry and blessed Christmas,

Rowena

PS In hindsight, I should’ve covered our Christmas tree in toilet paper this year…a homage to 2020 and also to my youth.

Cooking the Books.

We’ve all seen some weird things in 2020. However, things have really gone mad around here now. Indeed, even madder than usual, if that were possible. As you can see, I’ve starting cooking the books, and we’ll be eating words for Christmas.

Well, we will be unless our renovations and reorganizations get a wriggle on.

Indeed, being typical renovators, we’ve taken two steps forward, three steps back, on the hope that we’ll have a place for everything and everything in it’s place by Christmas Day. This hope is now starting to look like a fantastic dream, and I should be a lot more worried than I am. However, I’ve had good training. You can always hide a few things in the oven, the clothes dryer or under the bed at the last minute if you have to. Failing that, there’s the car.

The car bed finally leaving the house.

Of course, the road to renovation didn’t start 5 days before Christmas. Rather, the wheels were set in motion a few months ago when our son’s car bed finally left the house for an extended holiday at a friend’s place.

There’s a bear in there, and a piano frame as well…

Yet, there was still the problem of the old piano no one wanted in the loungeroom. However, it turned out that deconstructing the piano solved that problem and a friend of ours was quite happy to take it away in pieces, although we have kept the pedals and the keys. Then, it was full steam ahead, which also included an incidental painting of the room.

Geoff finally cutting through the carpet.

While Geoff was busy there, I started getting quite ruthless with the books and realized we probably needed to halve the number of books in our place. Well, that’s if we were ever going to be able to have people over once again. In other words, be able to open the place back up again, and not be afraid of somebody coming over.

Indeed, it’s been all too easy to forget we used to have people over, including holding the kids’ birthday parties. Whatever happened to us?

It’s called dermatomyositis an auto-immune disease where you’re muscles attack themselves and it’s been compounded by Interstitial Lung Disease, which has left me with 50% lung capacity. We’ve been in survival mode for so long, but with Geoff working from home this year due to Covid, we’ve finally been able to get ahead. Indeed, we’ve even saved money. So, 2020 hasn’t been all bad.

Well, it’s actually because of Covid that the renovations had to get a wriggle on. Usually, we go to my aunt’s place every year for a big Christmas with the extended family. My dad is one of seven, so what with all my cousins and now their kids, it’s become quite a tribe. However, they’re not getting together this year, and so my parents are coming to our place, and there’ll only be the six of us. Indeed, with such a small group, I feel we need to include the three dogs in on the head count. Nine sounds a lot better!

Lady’s keen to join us at the dinner table for Christmas lunch.

This means, of course, that I’m needing to cook, and not just cook the books. However, that can wait at the moment. We have a ham in the fridge, and I’ve made a Christmas cake and there’s also a pudding. So, I’ve made a good start.

All these books ended up in the kitchen while we were moving furniture around. Our dump and run room is now in the process of being cleaned out, and we’ve swapped the lounge and the dining table over so we’ll have two tables for Christmas Day, while creating a potential place for our teenaged kids to hang out. Or, perhaps it will be for us parents when, and if, their friends ever come over. I’m really looking forward to this new chapter, and it feels quite liberating.

Yet, at the same time, we still need to find a place for everything and have everything stashed away in its place by Christmas Day.

What have we done????

How are your Christmas preparations going? I hope yours are a lot less chaotic, and your plans are going well. Yet, at the same time, there’s also Covid to consider and its intent on ruining quite a few Christmases this year. Nearby Sydney has a cluster on the Northern Beaches and they’ve gone into lock down, and I’ve hearing of a few cancelled plans. However, cancelled lunches is nothing compared to the incredible loss of life the virus has claimed on a global scale, and there will be a lot of empty chairs this Christmas Day, and a lot of heart-ache. We are thinking of you and sending our love!

Anyway, I’d better get back to it.

Best wishes,

Rowena