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Weekend Coffee Share 29th May, 2017.

Welcome to Another Monday Afternoon Coffee Share in Australia.

This week, you’ll be thanking your lucky stars you popped round for a visit. That’s because I’ve not only been to visit the Koi Dessert Bar of Masterchef fame, I’ve also made Pumpkin Soup. For me, there’s only one way to make Pumpkin Soup and it has nothing to do with tins. Indeed, tins are heresy.

So, would you like tea, coffee, juice or water and I’ll let you help yourself to a choice of soup or sweets.

How was your week?

Our week had more than the usual ups and downs.

On the upside, I caught the train down to Sydney for a medical appointment and had the afternoon to myself walking around Central Station, through Chippendale and into Surry Hills and Paddington. This area is characterised by 19th Century terrace houses and even though much of it has been renovated and gentrified, there’s still that element of grunge and even though the real estate there is very pricey, the terraces still only have a yard the size of a folded handkerchief. Every time, I go to Surry Hills, there’s something different and this trip, I focused on the striking Autumn leaves, which looked so poised against a deep blue sky.

I arrived back home with the excitement of a few desserts for the family to try. However, that excitement was broken by news that the son of a family friend had died suddenly, leaving behind his wife and three little kids…not to mention his parents who have been friends of my Mum’s since forever. This guy was a year younger than me and being a boy, I never played with him growing up, but he was around. His parents were around a lot. Naturally, that felt like a brick just hit me in the head and I reiterate previous questions about why bad things happen to good people, even though even I’ve reached an uneasy truce with this imponderable conundrum.

Friday afternoon, I rang my 11 year old daughter to tell her that I was stuck in a queue at the supermarket. I was meeting her only metres away and all she needed to do, was turn around to see me. However, she was sobbing when she answered the phone. She’d walked into a pole. Broken her glasses. Cut herself and was at the Medical Centre. This wasn’t the medical centre we usually go to either so she was in a very unfamiliar environment with people she didn’t know, and she can be very shy. Fortunately, the staff were exceptionally kind and another Mum had found her and taken her in. So far so good, except once I appeared, stitching up the cut needed to be addressed. Either they could do it there with only a local anesthetic or she could have it done at the local hospital where they could give her gas. That was a 30 min drive away and a hassle. Fortunately, she was brave and had it done there. Well, neither of us was feeling very brave, but we survived and I took her for an ice cream afterwards. Saturday morning, her eye was so puffed up, that it barely opened. However, she was of to dancing and is on the mend.

I had a huge nap yesterday to de-stress wrapped up in my doona with the electric blanket on.

Well, I’m runnning out of time to post this. So, I’ll head off now.

Hope you’ve had a great week.

This has been another Weekend Coffee Share.

xx Rowena

 

 

The Walk, Sydney.

Last Thursday, I ran away. Absconded.

Well, to be precise, I walked. However, “walking” doesn’t sound as good.  It doesn’t conjure up that same sense of theatre. Lacks drama. Walking also sounds, dare I say, rather “pedestrian”.

After going down to Sydney for a doctor’s appointment, I decided to pop into the Koi Dessert Bar in Chippendale. Koi was roughly “on the way home”, even if it was in the diametrically opposed direction. Koi is co-owned by Reynold, the Dessert King of Masterchef 2015. So, I was more than willing for my sweet tooth to lead me astray. Mum was taking care of the home front. So, I was a free agent. Cinderella dancing away at the ball with no thoughts about midnight.

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After catching the train from St Leonards to Central, I was walking to Broadway via the Devonshire Street Tunnel. This long pedestrian tunnel houses buskers, the homeless, beggars, along with a vendor selling The Big Issue. The tunnel itself has been there since 1906, but the characters keep changing. Today, I was mesmerized as the notes of a saxophone rose above scuffling feet into some kind of heaven. At least, heaven in a dingy tunnel. I didn’t feel like dancing, but I certainly felt my spirit soar.  It felt like the scene out of a movie. Indeed, I made my own so stay tuned.

I walked on, emerging into daylight and city streets.

 

My destination was only a few streets away. I was heading to the Koi Dessert Bar in Kensington Street, Chippendale. This is not any ordinary restaurant or cafe. Rather, it is home to Reynold, the Dessert king of Masterchef 2015. Moreover, so many of the current Masterchef contestants end up doing work experience at Koi, after they’ve left the show. I was hoping to experience a touch of Masterchef. I’d met Reynold on my last visit to Koi and enjoyed watching their open kitchen at work and was hoping to see someone and talk Masterchef.

Above: I met Reynold and watched him and the team in action at Koi last year.

However, neither Reynold nor any familiar faces were there. So, I didn’t feel I could gush like a Masterchef tragic.

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Dessert Heaven at Koi.

Rather, I had to choose my dessert…not an inconsiderable process. With so much yum on display, it creates that impossible choice. You know they’re all sensational, and it’s just a matter of personal taste. I chose the Nomtella…a dome with Espresso mousse covered in chocolate, and a mousy salted caramel centre nesting on a chocolate brownie base. I loved it, but found that half was enough. My sweet tooth hasn’t been quite so sweet lately and I blame the increased exercise for that. I bought an Orange Creme Caramel and a citrus dessert to take home and they were much more to my palate, which surprised me. They were truly sensational.

After leaving Koi, I ended up walking up Cooper Street into Surry Hills. I explored a few alleyways, chasing images of autumn leaves back-dropped against a deep, blue sky. I was swept off my feet by a special kind of Autumn magic, which was a world away from to do lists, action plans and responsibility. I still haven’t forgotten what it was like to wander the world as a backpacker, but now I have the love and security of home and my family to go home to. I only seek temporary escape. Not a one-way journey.

I don’t know what it is that keeps drawing me back to Surry Hills.

My Dad’s side of the family, Irish immigrants from County Cork mostly following the Irish Famine, settled in Paddington and Surry Hills and the family stove making business was at 90 Fitzroy Street for many years. However, that was long before my time and even my father’s. Yet, the stories were passed down. Indeed, there’s a photo of my grandfather and his Dad standing by their truck, which gives me that sense of belonging…origins. That at least a part of me, harks back Surry Hills, back when it was a surrogate Ireland and not the rough slum that it became.

JCurtin

The J Curtin Truck with my Great Grandfather and Grandfather.

Moreover, although I’ve never lived in Surry Hills, I did live in neighboring Chippendale for a number of years. Lived in a range of terraces, and even a converted warehouse a life time ago.

Surry Hills is an eclectic, constantly changing place, and you never know quite what you’ll find or what to expect. There was a little cafe I’d found, which made the most scrumptious Coconut Chai Lattes, but it closed about 2 years ago. Gone, but not forgotten. On Thursday, I went to see what I knew as the art dungeon in Campbell Street, but it now sells shampoo and looks so sanitized. It’s such a travesty…a sell out. A place with so much character, gone.

Surry Hills is expensive real estate, and yet it retains its sense of grunge. Crumbling, run-down terrace houses can still be found, along with signs of Struggle Street. I can’t account for that. After all, I’m only passing through. Picking out bits and pieces through the lens, and immortalising what I’ve seen today on my hard drive. My perspectives or interpretations of an ephemeral, kaleidoscope world.That’s without even delving into its characters. I merely chat to a few people in shops, not knowing whether they’re local or not. Then, I go home.

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I was starting to fade.

Walking along Crown heading towards Oxford Street, was a long walk and I was starting to look out for passing buses….a magic carpet to carry me home. Or, at least, back to Central Station. My legs can struggle to keep up with all I see and it’s easy to conk out half way.

 

Yet, I kept walking until I finally staggered into Museum Station and caught the train to Central. I walked over to Country trains and slumped in my seat. Unlike most of the daily commuters, Too excited to sleep and pulled out the mag I’d bought in Surry Hills:

I was heading home.

 

Before we leave Surry Hills, I thought you might like to join me on some of my previous visits:

Window Shopping, Surry Hills.

Surry Hills to Gore Hill, Sydney/

Surry Hills…A Sense of Place.

Have you been on any epic urban walks that you’d like to share?

xx Rowena

 

 

Out of the Goldfish Bowl.

“We have all been hypnotized into thinking that we are smaller than we are. Just as an undersized flowerpot keeps a mighty tree root-bound or a little fishbowl keeps goldfish tiny, we have adapted, adjusted, and accommodated to a Lilliputian life. But place the same tree in an open field or the fish in a lake, and they will grow to hundreds of times their size. Unlike the tree or goldfish, you are not dependent on someone else to move you. You have the power to move yourself. You can step into a broader domain and grow to your full potential.”

Alan Cohen

It’s hard enough to get my kids to smile for the camera. So, I was really stoked when this Japanese carp stared right into the lens, and almost magically, I even managed to capture the ripples in the pond.

Have you ever heard that the size of  goldfish, depends on the size of the environment.

“Most times a person grows up gradually, but I found myself in a hurry… Hoping to find an answer, I uncovered an article about the common goldfish. “Kept in a small bowl, the goldfish will remain small. With more space, the fish will double, triple, or quadruple in size.” It occurred to me then that I was intended for larger things. After all, a giant man can’t have an ordinary-sized life.”

John August

A pinch of food for thought.

xx Rowena

“Weekend” Coffee Share 15th May, 2017.

Greetings and Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

It’s now Monday arvo here just North of Sydney, Australia and I’m having to get a wriggle on because the linky closes in one hour and nine minutes. Well, that nine minutes probably just dried up while I’ve been tweaking so I’d better hurry up.

Anything, I have much to celebrate this week and I’m not just talking about Mothers’ Day, although that’s a great place to get started. Why not go backwards through the week for a change?

So, Happy Mothers’ Day. I know it’s a bit late, but I hope you had a great day  or are enjoying the tail end of it. At the same time, I am mindful that Mothers’ Day is also a time of reflection, grief or even raw anger for many and my thoughts are particularly with you. I get how special days can really exacerbate those emotions.

We had a great Mothers’ Day, which was completely unplanned and spontaneous. The kids made us French Croissant Toast, where you slice croissants in half and dunk them in an egg and cream custard with a bit of added lemon zest and thyme. They were very scrumptious indeed (quite aside from the thrill of the kids cooking for us!!) Balloon Bag

I also had an unexpected surprise when my son launched a shopping bag with a Mothers’ Day card in it into the clouds, trying a bunch of helium balloons to the handle. The bag looked amazing as it flew steadily upwards, looking very much like a hot air balloon and gondola in miniature. I wonder if anyone found it?

Late afternoon, I spotted some striking clouds and headed down to the beach with my camera. I really enjoyed that short afternoon walk while mesmerizing over the clouds.

Yet, as I mentioned, we had an amazing week and Mothers’ Day was just the icing on the cake.

On Monday morning, the local radio station Star FM, turned up as my place as expected to give me my prize. I listen to their breakfast show every morning while driving the kids around, which is hosted by Rabbit and Australia’s first Masterchef, Julie Goodwin, who has recently put out a new cookbook. Their visit followed up a blogpost I wrote after they visited my daughter’s school. I am a serious Julie Goodwin fan and was unashamedly gushing when I presented her with my copy of her first cookbook for signing.

Anyway, I’d mentioned that Julie had never turned up at my place with a meal in that post and that’s why they were here on Monday. Julie had made me her Butter Chicken and we were off to the kitchen to make a salad together for the cameras.

They posted this video of their visit on their Facebook page, which has already had over 6,000 views: Rowena & the Masterchef

Anyway, I just received a phone call from my daughter’s school saying she’s sick and needs to be picked up. Humph! She goes to school 45 minutes away so that’s me gone for awhile. I’ll come back and tweak this later.

xx Rowena

Mothers’ Day Cloud Hunt.

Nothing like a Sunday afternoon stroll along the beach to clear the cobwebs and psyche you up for another week…even if it is Mothers’ Day and you’re supposed to be immersed in your family.

After lunch and then watching the hit movie Lion with my son, I noticed some striking clouds and nabbed my camera and headed off to the beach, which is two blocks from our place.

Clouds Ettalong Beach

Clouds at Ettalong Beach, NSW.

Although I’m not quite a woman obsessed as I drive down to the beach, almost absorbing the clouds as I check out each and every curve, the lighting and am thrilled at the brooding darkness…even though I’ve been stuck photographing dangerous storms in the past.

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Ettalong Beach, NSW looking towards Broken Bay and Palm Beach.

Yet, it’s all too easy just to duck down to the beach and once again, I didn’t check the weather report before I took off. Five minutes. Surely, hail doesn’t strike the same place twice????

This time I was lucky. Not judicious, only lucky.

At the same time, I really enjoyed a quick walk along the beach and feeling myself become one with the landscape, inhaling and exhaling the sea.

How did you celebrate Mothers’ Day? I’d love hear what you’ve been up to.

xx Rowena

Mothers’ Day Is Floating Away…

Mothers’ Day is inevitably full of surprises. Not that I’m naive enough to script the day. Indeed, the older I get, the more I let it go. Run by itself.

That says quite a lot, because I can be something of a control freak.

Anyway, as I said, Mother’s Day is full of surprises and usually goes off script.

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The Family with the balloons before blast off.

So, this morning as we’re heading back to the car after Church, I’m wondering why the kids have wandered off AGAIN. I wasn’t impressed! Started wondering why we can’t all get to the car at the same time and why our family herds like meandering sheep…

Trying to round everyone up, I could see our son was clearly distracted. Indeed, all his attention was clearly focused at the sky and nowhere near the car, going home or my Mothers’ Day lunch.

Yet, in a moment which would’ve made his science teacher proud, he’d launched a shopping bag with a Mother’s Day card into the clouds powered by a bunch of helium balloons. I just managed to catch it visibly heading into the clouds like a dream. Apparently, he’d carefully tested the number of balloons required to achieve the desired amount of lift. This was a scientist at work, being observed by an absolute dreamer (his mother).

This spontaneous gesture filled me with such immense pride. He might not have broken any records, or invented the first shopping bag in space, but my heart was glowing.

That’s not something you can count on with a teen, especially on Mothers’ Day.

Although we did manage to get some photographs, he might just have to: “Play it again, Sam!” (Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca). These pics were hastily snapped on our phones.

It truly was a magical moment!

More Mothers’ Day entertainment to come.

xx Rowena

Featured Image: Photo Credit – My daughter “Miss”.

The Queen of the Kitchen…Dog Reports on Intriguing Home Visit.

G’day, Mates!

This is Bilbo, Rowena’s superlatively intelligent and inimitably handsome Border Collie and the reigning ball chasing champion of the universe. Not that I boast. Rather, I’m actually surprisingly timid. Mum’s always telling people I’m like that reserved guy standing in the corner of the pub holding his beer. I need time to warm up. Not that I’m unsociable, or one of those whimpering dogs who hide under the house whenever someone comes over. Yet, I certainly don’t jump all over strangers either. I call that “respect”.

bilbo & Lady friends

This is Lady on the left and I’m on the right.

Anyway, despite my prowess with the tennis ball, I also have a way with words. Being a philosopher’s dog, I also ponder the meaning of life inside, outside and upside down until my rattling, rusty brain short circuits.

It’s been a long time since I last launched myself into cyberspace. I apologise for my long absence and could easily blame writer’s block, but I’ve been busy. That wretched posty still insists on coming round here every day delivering the mail. Although I’m now considered “elderly”,  I haven’t lost my touch. Indeed, it’s a bold and intrepid posty who knocks on our front door with a parcel.

There’s been a series of macabre machinations around here, and that’s why I’m back. I’m trying to get to the bottom of it all and could use your help. Lady, my canine companion and troublemaker extraordinaire, keeps telling me that I’m over-thinking all of this. However, I have a scent for trouble and I smell trouble in capital, huge, bold letters with four exclamation marks…

TROUBLE!!!!

So, let me run through the evidence, and perhaps you could help me make sense of it all. Please explain!

Actually before I launch into what the family HAS been doing, I thought I’d better eliminate the obvious. They’re not going on holidays. That’s the usual reason routines go out the window around here and pandemonium prevails. However, the suitcases aren’t out and instead of packing, they doing what I can only describe as “reverse packing”. All the crap’s being picked up off the floor, couch and even the kitchen table and put away. Mum won’t want you to know this, but much of that, was stashed in the laundry. I don’t think Mum’s planning on doing any washing for a month.

That might also be a clue.

The other bizarre thing was the magical appearance of a new garden out the front.

Now, I bet Mum hasn’t fessed up about her gardening disasters, but she’s a serial plant killer. I pity all those beautiful purple flowers and that striking plant with the colourful leaves, because unless I come to the party with my personal watering system, they’re going to die. Indeed, I’ve even heard her talk about the convenience of heading down to Bunnings, whenever we’re having guests to “buy new friends”. Mum might write a lot about changing the world and making a difference, but she’s supposed to be making a difference in a good way, and not leaving a trail of dead plants in her wake.

Next, Mister was mowing the lawn. That could’ve made it into the Guinness Book of Records, if they recorded personal greats and the rare occurrences when teenagers levitate out of their rooms, put down their devices and move. Indeed, I should be training those kids to take Lady and I for more walks. Find their true calling in life.

As you can see, the evidence is really starting to mount…reverse packing, a new garden and mowing the lawn…my super-sensitive sniffer was very suspicious.

Yet, I was still stumped.

Then, Mum got her Sunbeam mix master out and started baking. I’m always telling her not to turn it up too high at the start or she’ll end up with chocolate splatter paintings on the ceiling. But, does she listen to me? Of course, not! AND, the busier she gets, the less she hears until her ears completely switch off. Humph! However, she actually listened this time, which also meant that no mixture splattered on the floor either. Grr! Of course, all the food which falls on the floor is automatically mine, although Lady my canine companion, now thinks she has rights as well. I was here first and that’s all that matters!

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By this stage, I’m starting to think the Royal Corgis are coming for a visit. However, why would they come here when they could go for a run off the leash at the beach?

Humph! As much as I delve into and grapple with humans, the pieces never fit together and none of the dots ever join up either.

What’s going on?

Well, on Sunday all this frenzied activity climaxed with an event of diabolical proportions.

Lady and I were given a bath.

 

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While I understand other dogs have the misfortune of being bathed weekly and even endure the horrors of the dog salon, I can take care of my own coat and refuse to suffer the indignities of the hose. That’s why I make myself scarce when that excited anticipation of a walk, quickly turns south when my beloved leads gets tied to the dreaded clothesline instead.  Indeed, I feel perfectly justified in getting narky and having what Mum has described to the Vet as a: “pathological hatred of the hose”.Well, by now the evidence was more than mounting. Indeed, there was a veritable mountain of paperwork outside my kennel, as I tried to sleuth my way towards the truth.

If it wasn’t the Royal corgis, who is it?

What if the Queen herself was coming?

The Queen of Australia…

Hang on. Who is the Queen of Australia?

I might be all-knowing, but there seems to be something wrong with the cogs in my brain…a breakdown of sorts. Who is the Queen of Australia? This brain of mine is a veritable Google, yet it keeps bringing up the Queen of England. Humph! It must need a restart. .

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Mum prepared an Alice in Wonderland morning tea for Rabbit, but I have no idea why.

I was starting to ponder the philosophical ramifications of all that, when there was a knock at the door. Another knock and a whole pile of kids arrived. However, before I could even find my tennis ball, there was more commotion and I was back to defend the house. Be it the Royal Corgis, or even the Queen of Australia, they could still be a security threat. So, I dashed into position at the side gate. I’d keep the lot of them out if I had to.

Mum had clearly lost the plot.

Then, I hear them mentioning something about the barking dog messing up their sound recording and Mister grabs me by the collar and drags me away from my post with no appreciation whatsoever.

That’s okay. I’m used to it.

They might’ve got me out of the way but through a very complex interconnecting network of mirrors and reflective windows, I could still keep an eye on things. Moreover, despite being somewhat “senior”, my hearing’s just as good as it ever was.

Rabbit

Rabbit in our kitchen.

All I could hear was: “Rabbit! Rabbit! Rabbit!” and I was a bit concerned Lady might get confused. Before she came here, she was a farm dog and between you and me, she knows exactly how to prepare rabbit. Mum died a thousand deaths when Lady ate a rabbit at Palm Beach.

Of course, Lady needs to watch out. Eating humans is a dog’s one unforgivable crime.  However, just this once, Lady behaves herself.

Rabbit gave Mum another book and I couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about. A book? You can’t eat a book.

Juli Rabbit Rowena in kitchen

Then this car pulls up and everyone goes hysterical, especially Mum. They’re all calling out: “It’s Julie! It’s Julie!”

I don’t know if this Julie is the Queen of Australia, but I know chicken anywhere and Julie has chicken in her handbag.

Meanwhile, while I was barking on high alert, Lady, my ever-unreliable canine companion, was swanning around with the royals being rather glam, while secretly plotting to nab  the chicken. Of course, I’m no fool. I smelt the chicken too. What dog wouldn’t, but somebody had to keep a level head.

However, before Lady could strike, the chicken was put straight in the fridge. It was “dinner” and I didn’t need to be told it wasn’t my dinner. I already knew.

Well, this Julie might not be the Queen of Australia, but she’s definitely Queen of the Kitchen, because she was teaching Mum how to cook.

By the way, if this Julie character ever comes round to your place, you’d better be good. I saw the way she cut up an onion and trust me, I was being a very, very good dog!!

At this point, I also wanted to mention, that Julie was there showing Mum HOW to cut an onion. Not only that, everybody was watching that onion, as though it contained the very meaning of life. In all the years that I’ve been watching and interpreting humans and feeling completely out of my depth, that onion incident had to be the most confusing moment of all.

What does it mean?

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And what is it about humans and onions? Day after day, Mum’s there crying as she’s chopping them up. I told you. Humans are crazy!!

Then, just as suddenly as this Queen of the Kitchen and the Rabbit person and al the camera people arrived, they were all gone and Mum and her friends were all huddled round the book.

Of course, they take me for some foolish illiterate. However, as I’ve said before, I’m a Border Collie of vastly superior intellect which stretches so much further than simply herding sheep, chasing my ball and getting rid of the posty.

I can read.

Humph…Julie Goodwin’s Essential Cookbook. It just happened to open up to page 43…Roast Leg of Lamb and Lamb Chop Tray Bake. I can already taste that scrumptious lamb fat.

So much for reading, this dog is learning how to cook!

On second thoughts, it’s time for me to put my herding instincts to good use.

Where’s Mum?

xx Bilbo.