Category Archives: family

Losing friends

Sorry I haven’t been around for a while.

In theory I quite like the idea of blogging without obligation, but in reality I always feel guilty if I neglect to write at least once a week, and it has been considerably more than a week since I was last here (excluding the very brief post I just put up about my brother-in-law’s show in the Adelaide Fringe Festival).


We will never forget.

The last couple of weeks in our house have been very sad, to say the least. I want to make a metaphorical toast to two lost friends. The first, a very dear friend named Frank, who died very suddenly and far, far, too young.

The father of an absolutely wonderful nine-month-old boy, and the husband of our dear friend Anita, he will be missed more than we can say. The world is definitely a much sadder place without him. We’ll all be doing out best to make sure that his son knows what a brilliant dad he had.

cher 2

My darling girl with her goofy smile.

The second lost friend is one of my ‘bookends’, my beloved Cher. A year after being diagnosed with Canine Cushings disease, she succumbed to complications and had to be put to sleep. She was always such a noisy, happy little dog that the house is too quiet without her. Bo doesn’t bark when we come home, just stands with his feet pressed against the glass of the front door and then anxiously wags his entire body, as though he didn’t think we’d be coming back to him. He is being hugged for the two of them now, so he is getting lots of love and will hopefully feel happier again soon.


At Christmas time, Cher's favourite place was under the tree.

They say things happen in threes, don’t they?! Well, on top of everything else my Mum’s troublesome right knee finally gave way last week and this has left her immobile and incredibly frustrated.

To add insult to injury, after years of my Dad having wonderful treatment through the public health system and through one hospital in particular, Mum’s treatment has been fragmented and far less than satisfactory.

Now she’s relegated to using a walking frame. If you knew my Mum, you would know how hard this is for her. A young 69, she has always worked incredibly hard and walked everywhere to keep fit, and now can’t get around.

Not wanting to be all doom and gloom, though, I have to tell you of a couple of  kind acts which have meant a great deal to us all while we’ve been feeling sad… The first was a really touching gesture made by our vet, who came to the house to attend to Cher… When she had died, he carefully removed bandages from her feet so that she ‘could run in Paradise with the other dogs’ with her dignity intact.  It was akin to arranging a deceased loved-one’s clothes so that they look the best they can as you send them on their way.  An act more for the living than the dead, perhaps, but so genuine and respectful that it brought tears to our eyes all over again.

Mum with the dogs just after clipping.

Mum with the dogs just after clipping.

The other was when my Rheumatologist, whose list is closed and has been for several years, accepted my Mum as a patient and saw her within a week of asking. Michelle is one of the nicest people I have ever had the privilege of meeting and has always looked after me brilliantly, but I can’t thank her enough for the way she is looking after Mum. She will give her the continuity of care that she needs to get it all sorted out, and will have her walking without the frame in short order, knowing her.

I know that the world is full of good people and that there are many kind deeds done every day, but sometimes it is easy to get caught up in the sad and horrible things that happen, too, and to forget the good stuff. These gestures reminded me again how the cumulative effect of kind acts can reinforce your faith in people and ease the pain of loss or ill health.

The loss of Frank was yet another reminder of how short life is, and how you shouldn’t let good things go unsaid, or good deeds go un-done. So, I’m off to hug Bo again, and to tell the family how much I love them. 

My suggestion for today? Be safe; do something nice for someone just because you can, and make sure that those around you know how much they matter to you. 

Enough philosphising now – normal transmission will be resumed shortly!


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Wednesday’s notes.

What a day!

It began with cleaning the house, moved onto meeting with a friend from choir to discuss our respective work schedules (a new plan, suggested by the lovely Ingrid, to assist us both – as lone workers – to keep ourselves on track), then saw me in town watching Meg sing at Federation Square (with VoxRox – the Kew High School vocal ensemble) in celebration of the World Harmony Run.


After the event at Fed. Square had finished, Meg and I wandered up to RetroStar to check out their amazing range of vintage clothes, something we’ve been meaning to do for ages. I was particularly interested in the cowboy boots, as they are just the thing for our choir, Lipstick & Spurs, but was gobsmacked by the number and assortment of items on sale. Having seen what they sell, I just wish I had access to my grandmother’s wardrobe!  Her astrakan coat and crimpelene slacks would have gone down a treat!

 When we left Retrostar, we headed up Swanston Street in pursuit of lunch. As we were walking down the street, admiring the art of a man named Barry, we received the best news… Very dear friends of ours have just told us that they are expecting a baby.

These guys didn’t meet until late (in biological terms), so the odds were stacked against them, making this baby especially precious. I can’t imagine two more wonderful people to bring a new little person into the world. They will be wonderful parents, and it will be a very lucky child to have them. Can’t wait to break out all the baby patterns now, so that I can start sewing!

 Getting back to Barry (above), whose wonderful chalk paintings we were admiring when we received the exciting news. He was reproducing the work of Caravaggio in the most meticulous detail. The talent you see everyday on the streets of Melbourne staggers me sometimes.

I could bang on all day, but I won’t bore you. Wherever you are, I hope your Wednesday was a good one, too.

Oh, there is one last thing. Here, as promised, is the flyer from Lush outlining their anti-packaging philosophy (relating back to my last post).

It makes good sense to me.



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Birthday treats

Mecca Bah, Docklands

With Michael’s birthday last Tuesday, and him busy at an evening class (learning Blues Harmonica), we decided to celebrate yesterday (Good Friday) by going to Docklands for lunch.

It’s hard to imagine how – after the heatwave that has just finished – we could want to be inside to be warm and out of the wind, but it was so chilly and gusty down by the water, that that was exactly what we wanted. Fortunately, Mecca Bah – the restaurant of choice – was open and able to accommodate us. They seated us by the window overlooking the harbour, and proceeded to woo us with their Middle Eastern inspired menu and decor.

The food was very good, with the Spicy Lamb and Pinenut Boureks a favourite, but the real highlight of the day was our waiter. His memory was phenomenal and his attention to detail, exemplary, making the meal a real treat. It is nice to see that really good service is still around; I’m only sorry I didn’t ask his name so that I could give him a better plug, here.

Mecca Bah #2

The other reason for choosing Docklands for the celebration, was to look at some of the sculptures that have been installed along the waterfront as part of the Contempora Sculpture Award & Festival of Public Arts.

As with any art, the appeal of sculpture is subjective. I only saw a couple of pieces that I liked, one of which is shown below, but regardless of whether they were to my personal taste or not, they did add a bit of interest to the boardwalk that is NewQuay Promenade.

Sculpture #1      #2

Docklands itself was a let-down. It is a while since I’ve been down there, and there has been massive development in that time, but it seems a soulless place overall. The proliferation of high-rise apartment buildings and the dearth of greenery made it seem cold and sterile, and definitely not somewhere I would like to spend a lot of time. Still – restaurants like the Mecca Bah, and the service they provide, will ensure that we pop past occasionally.


Filed under family, food, melbourne

Adelaide or bust

The weekend saw us traipsing back to Adelaide again, though this time up the Calder Highway to Ouyen, and then down through Lameroo and Pineroo.

Meg on a ponyThis is Meg having a break from the car. Even in 40 deg heat, the park was more appealing!

We left Melbourne late – around 8.30am – and it was raining very lightly when we did, in sharp contrast to the day before, and to what was to follow both at home and in Adelaide. While we were there, I believe a record was broken for the most consecutive days over 35 degrees (Celsius), though I don’t know whether that was for EVER, or for the last however-many years.

Bonython Hall #1          Bonython Hall #2          Bonython Hall #3     Three faces of Bonython Hall.

Both the Adelaide Festival and WOMAD were on last weekend, which prompted a trip in to town for the family on Saturday night to see the light-scape known as the Northern Lights, which had been set up on North Terrace.

The lights were fantastic – we spent much of the night discussing how they would have created the artwork that was projected onto each of the buildings. Whether it was mapped using 3d modelling software, or based on photographs, it was absolutely amazing to see the way the buildings were transformed. By my count, there were up to 8 slides per building, with my favourites being the sketched overlay of Elder Hall (below); the fossils on the Museum and the books on the State Library.

Elder Hall #1Elder Hall.

Although WOMAD was on, we weren’t near the Botanical Gardens, and so hadn’t expected to hear any music but were delighted to catch more than half an hour of Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings as we walked along the Torrens back to where we had parked our cars. I hadn’t heard of them before, but loved them, and my 15-year-old nephew, Josh, told me who they were. He even played me one of their CDs when we got home, and now I’m sold…

These were highlights which made this particular trip really memorable (apart from seeing all the family). Even though the roads are good, the drive between Melbourne and Adelaide can be arduous with at least eight hours on the road each way. Doing the trip twice in four days is a bit of a stretch (particularly when every night there is spent staying up late and socialising), so having this unexpected fun was a bonus.  Still, I’m glad we won’t be doing it again for a while. Maybe I should start saving for airfares now, so that we can fly next time…

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A dog’s life


What can I add to the title, other than to tell you that this is Maggie – my uncle’s dog. My mum often dog-sits for him, and when she does, Maggie makes herself at home.  Oh to be a dog…

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The best news…


My Dad received the best news of all today: that the surgeons were able to remove the whole of the melanoma on his back. At this stage, only three-monthly check-ups are required; no chemotheraphy, no radiotherapy, and no more surgery. To say we’re happy would be an understatement of epic proportions.

Over the last twelve years, Dad has had cause to get to know the staff at the Royal Melbourne Hospital, and they have been amazing. I know people are quick to bag the public health system, but I cannot speak highly enough of the care they have given Dad, and the consideration they have shown to the rest of us. I hope they realise how highly we regard what they do.

So, what photo to commemorate today? Not a phone pic, I’m afraid – despite this going against the premise of the blog. No, this photo is of Dad and the Rolling Ball machine he made and recently sold to a museum in Korea. Now that he’s been given the all-clear he is going to make another one. If you ‘d like to see it in action, you can see it here.

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My constant companions


Sitting here at the computer – writing, retouching photographs, emailing, or whatever – I have my constant companions curled up on the couch beside me, and consider myself really lucky to have their company. 

During the day, Bo and Cher – both around six years old – never leave my side (although I do draw the line when it comes to the bathroom). Since starting to work at home earlier this year, we’ve fallen into a new routine. Walks that used to happen at about six in the morning, now usually happen around lunchtime on cooler days. This gives me a chance to go to the gym after dropping Meg at the station, at least a couple of times each week, and is a nice way to break a day of solitary pursuits.

Being naturally gregarious, I found working at home really hard to start with. When it happened, it wasn’t from choice, but was necessary none the less. Now I find I am better able to cope with silence during the day – often not even having music playing while I work. I love the company of others, and I miss the badinage and camaraderie of working in an office, but sometimes that comes at a price that you just can’t keep paying.

These days, I’m happier, healthier, far less emotional, and I sleep better. My friends tell me that my colour has returned (not even I realised I had lost it) – my voice, which deserted me once for eight months – is strong and healthy, and I am very relaxed. Best of all, I am doing what I’ve wanted to do for as long as I can remember: writing and taking photographs. And I get to work with my dogs at my feet (almost)!

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Friday again…

christmas cakes

Today is an auspicious Friday – it is the last day of my academic year, I got my last assignment back and I made the first batch of Christmas cakes.

Of course, not all is sweetness and light – I had to say goodbye to all my study friends until the new year, and Dad is having surgery as I type. The nature of melanoma means that there will be an anxious wait for the next week for the pathology results, even though we are optimistic.

I’ll be keeping in touch with one of my friends from the CAE – Bruce Clarke– through his blog Write On!. Bruce is a really talented writer; probably the most polished ‘new’ freelance writer I’ve ever come across. You should check it out when you get the chance.

On the Christmas cake front, I think I’ve finally found the recipe I’ve been looking for! I’m so excited – all the while I was trying out ‘rich’ fruit cake recipes, and what I should have been making was a boiled fruit cake! This might not seem important to most people, but I do love Christmas cooking, and now that my Grandma has gone, it is left to me to hold the fort (a self-imposed responsibility, of course).

Due to one of those very unpleasant and unexpected things that happen when someone in the family dies (like one half of the family suddenly telling the other half that they never really liked them, and winding up the estate on their own), my Grandma’s cookbook went who-knows-where, probably in the bin. For the last six years I’ve been trying to find a recipe just like hers, and I think this is it – hence my excitement.

Cakes are one of the things I like to give as gifts at Christmas, so I’ve been saving large Tuna tins for the last couple of months. They make the perfect-sized cake tin for this. The recipe, for a boiled-fruit-cake, was one a friend pointed me to on the ABC Sydney’s website. The only variations I made to it were to omit the lemon and almond essence, and the walnuts – mainly because a couple of friends had nut allergies (and I don’t personally like lemon essence) – and to divide the mixture into smaller tins.

If you want to do this, I found that each tin takes 1 1/4 cups of mixture and that they need to be cooked for an hour and a half. The three tablespoons of extra sherry called for at the end of the recipe became four, because I put half a tablespoon onto each of the eight cakes.

Happy cooking – hope you enjoy it as much as I did.


Filed under Christmas, family, food, recipe, writing

Rats and chocolate cake.


This sculpture sits beside the path that leads up to the hill that is one of the focal points of All Nations Park in Northcote. It is striking in size and materials, drawing the eyes of those who visit, and reflecting the park back at them .

Although I don’t know any details about who commissioned or made this work, the plaque on its face indicates that it is a memorial for fallen servicemen, and it seemed an appropriate sculpture to be featuring as Remembrance Day approaches. This was one of the photographs I took yesterday on the epic walk to, and around, the park.

Today being Melbourne Cup Day, and with neither of us interested in the horse racing, Meg and I went to see the movie, Ratatouille.

I dislike rats intensely – that is, I dislike the non-cartoon variety of rats, having had problems with mice in the house over a number of years, and a big, fat rat that lived in our shed for about four years and seemed to eat baits like they were lollies! But – this film! It didn’t just make me feel more kindly-disposed towards rats, but also made both Meg and I want to rush home to cook and create recipes to share.

In the spirit of sharing, I have a recipe of my own that I’d like to share. Around home it is known as the ‘chocolate cake to die for’. Based on a fabulous recipe of Donna Hay’s that I once found on the Channel 9 Today Show’s website, it has a rich, fudge-like texture, but less than half the fat. Not that it is low in fat, mind you, but it is better than a lot of others you might come across. If you’d like to try it, you’ll find the recipe here

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One down, one to go…

Birrarung Marr

Pretty much finished my editing class today, meaning that there is only one assignment left in my other subject and I am done for the year. Then the preparations for Christmas will really kick into gear, and I’ll get some more time to spend on my photography.

Personalised calendars are on the list of gifts, again, for this year. My aunties and uncles all loved them when I did them a couple of years ago, because I included all of the family’s special dates, like birthdays and anniversaries. Now I just have to update the dates and change the photos, and I’m done.

Next year, I’m planning to put all of the Blogday images onto the calendar – with all of the images posted in a month on the one page.  It will be a good record of the project, and nice to see all of the images together. Had better make sure that I keep them diverse and interesting!

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