In My Kitchen: fellowship

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Once again I wasn’t sure if I’d manage it but once again I’ve scraped in before the 10th of the month IMK cut-off which makes me very happy because via this post I wanted to highlight the loveliness & friendship of our blogging community, and thank some special people.

First, thank you all for your generosity popping in and commenting even though while the G.O. and I are becoming accustomed to our new everyday my blogging presence has been sporadic.

Since my last IMK post in January, we were fortunate during February-March to take a trip to Victoria during which we met up with several blogger-friends. If you are ever going to be in a blog-buddy’s neighbourhood, all I can say is, the experience of sitting with, chatting and extending the connection is gratifying.

Fortuitously Francesca & Meeks live near my sister so we were able to catch up with them on their home turfs. Not just putting faces to names but places.  A few days later Kate, Ardys & I shared a lovely lunch in Melbourne CBD with Celi of thekitchensgarden and her cousin Maria. Before the G.O & I continued on our travels, along with Kate we met up with the delightful and talented Anne Lawson.

Francesca knows me well...
Francesca knows me well…

The Victoria locals shared some wonderful and useful travel tips which added highlights to our trip we’d have missed otherwise. And beautiful & thoughtful gifts left us with tangible mementos of our meetings to take home.

An Anne Lawson ink feather... waiting for its blue mate via Anne's Etsy store
An Anne Lawson ink feather… waiting for its blue mate via Anne’s Etsy store

Travelling with us to Victoria in our caravan fridge was a jar of my sourdough starter Polly, daughter of Celia’s Priscilla. Revived in my sister’s kitchen she was cloned as Holly. And has gone on to be very successful via my sister’s bread baking efforts.

My sourdough starter Polly daughter of Celia's Priscilla now has a sister, Holly...
My sourdough starter Polly daughter of Celia’s Priscilla now has a sister, Holly…

Upon our arrival home I was greeted by another beautiful & thoughtful housewarming gift sent from the UK by Mary, who although living far away feels very close.

A literary and floral gift from Mary... synchronicity at work, it resembles other items in my kitchen and my reading tastes...
A literary and floral gift from Mary… synchronicity at work, it resembles other items in my kitchen…

When I started blogging four years ago, it was to keep a bit of sanity in my life. The G.O. and I were living in a tiny city apartment and working hard towards making our dreams of a life in the country come true. At the time I had no idea the impact the interaction of the blog world would have. Connecting me with interesting & likeminded people worldwide it has fleshed out our dreams via their inspiration and companionship, distance notwithstanding. I’m truly grateful.

Thanks to Maureen at The Orgasmic Chef for hosting the monthly In My Kitchen, and the blogging community for the inspiration & virtual company they provide. Special thanks to Francesca, Anne & Mary for the lovely cards & housewarming gifts.

The G.O. digging in to Francesca's delicious homemade cucumber pickles
The G.O. digging in to Francesca’s delicious homemade cucumber pickles

life as a full time job . . .

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Choko vine - backyard treasure
Choko vine, backyard treasure

I was thinking of changing the tag for my blog from there is an art to the everyday  to  got the life I wanted… now what the hell do I do?

Red rose - front yard treasure
Red rose – front yard treasure

Since moving to the country and taking a long holiday from having a day job my everyday is unlike that of my city life when I created the blog. Another kind of art needed to manage it.

Yesterday – 4 loads of washing. Bottled 7 jars of choko pickles. Made yoghurt. Made pumpkin soup for dinner-freezer-MiL. Made lasagne for dinner & freezer. Made frittata for lunch & leftovers. Baked sourdough bread. Made pots of tea. Cleaned up kitchen. Made beds after swapping mattresses. Vacuumed floors. Watered vege garden pots. Took photo of rose in the front garden. Fed Soossie-the-share-cat [who has now been desexed] at least 6 times. Gave myself much needed mani & pedicure.

Soossie Cat, treasure who loves her food

I’ve taken today off… after ticking off a few jobs. Council final inspection of the shed. Create bespoke moisturisers by adding essential oils, and decant. Transfer birthday funds to the G.O.’s granddaughter. Clean coffee machine. Wash up. Collaborate with the G.O. to hang pictures. Rearrange shelves and cupboards. Make pots of tea…

Mid morning I found a quiet sunny-shady spot on the verandah to attempt to catch up on blogging life. And made a start – compiling 10 of the better photos from our Victoria trip. Watch this space.

Tomorrow – Thursday, is town day. A repeat of last Thursday… car services, errands and grocery shopping. Hearing test for G.O. Visit MiL. Maybe a birthday lunch with my aunt & uncle.

Took my car to mechanic for service and the G.O.'s broke 2 fanbelts
Took my car to mechanic for service and the G.O.’s broke 2 fanbelts

Friday – I’m hoping for another day off, and maybe another blog post and blog visiting.

Saturday – Macksville Show. All the fun of the fair and checking out the pavillion displays, woodchop, The Rooftop Express arena evening entertainment and demolition derby. Visit MiL.

Sunday – Take MiL to the movies at the old Bowraville Theatre to see The Lady in the Van.


We arrived home from our travels a fortnight ago, hit the ground running to clean, garden, shop and generally catch up. Even during our self-governed Easter break there were little jobs.

Vege garden in pots
Vege garden in pots

Life outside 9-5 and accustomed infrastructure, I now realise after 4 months, is equal parts rewarding and wearying. Not worse, just different, and requires more adaptation than I imagined during the city-office bound incubation stages of the plan.

Pumpkin soup and sourdough bread... time is the hidden ingredient
Pumpkin soup and sourdough bread… time is the hidden ingredient

Travel, I now realise after our month away, is equal parts stimulating and wearying. I will get around to writing travel (we took about a thousand photos between us) & other blog posts, visiting and commenting on blog posts, also to reading books (only 2 short books so far this year) and articles… and all the online people & things that are an important part of my life that I miss and think about.

In the midst of being busier than I ever expected via the throes of changing from one life to another I encountered a form of mental inertia that leaves me often unable to convert thoughts to keyboard strokes. Sigh. I was somewhat stressed about this for a while. After all, it is what I planned to do but I attempt to release the self-imposed pressure and console myself that for a while I’m simply being and doing.


The G.O.'s everyday...
The G.O.’s everyday…

the grass is greener . . .

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The grass is greener on the other side of our city to country-coast tree-sea change fence but it hasn’t quite panned out the way we expected.

We love our new life at Taylors Arm, and not given the city life we left second thoughts. A few days short of two months along, much has been accomplished; some planned, some figured out as we go. We haven’t had a proper break yet… in hindsight we realised even thinking it possible to combine holidays with a move was kidding ourselves. We’re settling into a home that’s been marking time for a decade, and fielding new challenges & opportunities including preparing for our caravanning travel adventures. Most things take longer and more effort than we think. More often than not our days leave us feeling exhausted. The effects of our previous life of 5 am starts 6 days a week has collided with the new and caught up with us. I keep repeating the words Relax – Patience – Process – Journey like a mantra. I have a multitude of blog post narratives running around my head and a miscellany of photos on my phone which I will need to share.

However, in the midst of it all we garden, which is a good place to begin catching up. I started taking photos and planned this blog post weeks ago. Ah well, these things take time…

Our situation is sub-tropical, coastal hinterland. We use little water on the garden as it only comes from the sky, the house rainwater tanks and grey water run-off (we use eco-friendly green household products). Over the years we’ve supplemented the original hardy garden -the house was built in the 1930’s- adding native & flowering shrubs & vines, cottage plants, herbs and odd little garden ornaments. We’re starting off simply with a vege garden in containers using those we had on our city apartment balcony and others cached from footpath discard piles because for much of this year we plan to be away travelling. We don’t use chemicals or sprays. No matter how much effort we put in, the garden will never be orderly… or finished. Having such a garden is a blessing.


In My Studio . . . aka the Backroom

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Ever since I read Anne Lawson’s inaugural In My Studio post I could hardly wait to shift furniture and unpack the contents of our new-old third bedroom at Taylors Arm so I could join in, and share my embryonic dreams of creative space. The reality is it was the last room to be sorted.

But in time for Anne’s January 2016 In My Studio post I can unveil… the Backroom.

It’s early days yet, and other than blogging & Instagram artistic creativity remains in chrysalis stage. But for now it’s enough that I created the Backroom. For 10 years I’ve been dreaming of occupying this room that opens onto the verandah where the G.O. and I could share space on our big old table made from floorboards and fence posts topped with pots of pens, photos, notebooks and… stuff. A room that fits our books and collected knickknacks, where the old night & day sofa that reminds me of one at my grandparents’ old house sits below paintings done by my Great-Aunt Emma in 1911. Tall drawers and a repurposed drinks trolley hold other stationery and creative bibs & bobs, some untouched for more than a decade since I last did art courses, and recent gifts of sketchbooks & pencils.

It’s a beginning and a space where inspired by Anne’s artistic life and Ardys’ creative life & mindfulness I can play with the seeds of possibilities and creativity that have so wonderfully come my way.




In My Kitchen: living it

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A month and a day has passed since my previous IMK post; the boxes have been packed, shifted to Taylors Arm, stacked in the shed, sorted, unpacked into the house, some re-packed & re-stacked in the shed for another day.

Four years ago we shifted between similar city apartments but last month’s packing up and moving to our holiday-furnished house in the Nambucca Valley was quite a different experience, one we hadn’t fully considered the extent of. We had pre-shifted and cleared furniture in the house to make room for our city apartment furniture but hadn’t given enough thought to the contents of cupboards and drawers. On day 2 after making less progress than I’d hoped and realising I was simply moving things from one place to another, creating piles & avalanches, resorting to crying while doing so, I emptied out into the shed what we weren’t immediately using and unpacked only what we would.

While I was doing this, the G.O. -whose heretofore hidden talents courtesy of a stint packing up deceased estates for a second-hand dealer wrapping crockery also were a marvel- was working his handyman magic on the kitchen boxes, installing components to make the kitchen everyday functional. Despite his progress being impeded by missing or questionable quality bits n’ pieces, and every job taking longer than it should’ve he would not be beaten. The kitchen is now complete with shelves, drawers, useful hooks, magnetic knife rack, hanging racks, smoke alarm and the long-awaited tap. The practical expertise behind my creative ideas, the G.O. also lined my very old Newling’s cordial boxes with lino, and created a new kitchen stool seat from a cheeseboard.

But the kitchen is what saved me. In the midst of the chaos I found myself at the bench chopping several bagsful of tomatoes from my step-FiL along with onions & garlic from the neighbours and basil from the garden for slow cooker sauce, as well as making pineapple icy-poles, ginger biccies, icecream and Christmas food. Familiar tasks which centred me.

I managed to hook up our wi-fi internet on the first Sunday while the G.O. was having a well deserved snooze but the combined influence of an unfortunately timed Windows 10 upgrade-familiarisation along with ongoing homemaking, gardening, an impromptu 4 day visit from my youngest sister & 8 month old niece delayed our return to real day-to-day life.

I wasn’t sure if I’d manage but I’ve just scraped in before the 10th of the month IMK cut-off for my first post from Taylors Arm. Thanks to Maureen at The Orgasmic Chef for taking over hosting of the monthly In My Kitchen and the blogging community for the inspiration & virtual company they provide. Special thanks to Mary, Kate & Celia for the lovely cards & housewarming gifts.

I’m looking forward to upcoming weeks of more holidaying & less house-work, and catching up with the blog world which during the past month I’ve missed and popped into far less than I’d have liked, in far too few spare moments.

For glimpses of our new life you can see my Instagram snapshots on the right and if you are an Instagrammer, you can find me at dalelee011, and the G.O. at welshy055.


In My Kitchen: thinking outside of the box

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In My Kitchen at Sydney are 25 packing boxes and numerous other receptacles waiting to be filled, collected by the removalist and shifted to our house at Taylors Arm in 6 days time.

In My Kitchen at Taylors Arm are boxes containing the final supplementary pieces that will render our old kitchen user-friendly, a ten year work in progress. As well as shuffling furniture on the weekend to make enough space to fit in the contents of a one bedroom Sydney apartment last weekend the G.O. worked his handyman magic on the new stainless steel prep-bench under shelf with vintage Newling’s cordial boxes for storage. After the move, he’ll tackle smoke alarm, mixer-spray tap, glass shelves, towel/utensil racks, useful hooks and magnetic knife strip.

“Instead of thinking outside of the box, get rid of the box” ~ Deepak Chopra

In my kitchen are boxes and.., a trio gorgeous FJ&LC retro hued dishcloths, and yellow Oz harvest tea towel & ice-cream maker to match the walls
In my kitchens are packing and package boxes, Newling’s cordial boxes, a trio of gorgeous FJ&LC retro hued dishcloths, yellow Oz Harvest tea towel & Cuisinart ice-cream maker to match the walls… another knitted tea cosy – this one with poppies.

Thanks to Celia of Fig Jam and Lime Cordial for hosting In My Kitchen and the In My Kitchen community for foodie inspiration & the virtual company they provide. If you’d like to join in, link back to Celia’s blog until December 10 only. December 2015 is the last IMK hosted by Celia. Thanks so much Celia, I’ve enjoyed your IMK tenure. As of January 2016, IMK will be hosted by Maureen at The Orgasmic Chef.

Fifty: family, friends, fabulous

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Rather than taking leave of my forties at a stroll; turning 50 was a commando roll. In the midst of plans & preparations for our move to Taylors Arm November 29 snuck up on me as the focus suddenly shifted to celebrating my 50th birthday, which until the light dawned -literally- on Sunday morning, seemed notional.

In preceding months the G.O.’s question of what did I want to do for my birthday was met with varying answers all of which I suffixed with “but I don’t know’. Fortunately Dad had thought about it.

Dad’s suggestion to replicate his February family birthday gathering at Lifeboat Seafood at Brooklyn on the Hawkesbury River was the solution staring me in the face. He made some calls. I made some calls, and Dad made a booking for 15 for lunch. In the week before 2 opted out and 2 others, my best-friend-may-as-well-be-family Mrs S. and her husband opted in.

My intrepid Melbournite landlord-sister decided to take advantage of discounted fares and try the overnight train from south of the border, arriving in time for breakfast Sunday morning at our-her apartment before getting onto another train to take us to the Hawkesbury River. En route the rest of the Sydney contingent, Mr & Mrs S (actually from the Blue Mountains & Canberra) and my aunt & uncle, found us in the pre-agreed third carriage… the first and last designated quiet carriages being totally unsuitable.

Most of Hunter Valley group travelled en famille in my youngest sister’s new 7 seater 4WD with my new niece whose cuteness stole my limelight garnered everyone’s attention. Waiting on a couple of stragglers we, in customary family style, reshuffled tables to accommodate 11 of us in an adjacent shady café and settled in with drinks to catch up.

We seated newbie Mr S. next to Dad for traditional gentle hazing and passed the time playing pass the parcel niece around the circuit of laps until my brother & his partner arrived and we crossed the road to similarly annex the restaurant. The waitstaff struggled to make themselves heard over the conversation but they produced glasses & beers, my uncle produced a bottle of chilled white wine and the party got started amidst musings over the fresh, local seafood menu offerings. My youngest cousin, last & solo, roared in on his motorcycle, settled himself in the midst for a while until musical chairs quashed any thoughts of seating proprietorship.

Quiet other than communication necessary for passing and sharing food reigned briefly once the meals were distributed… it had gotten a bit loud trying to figure out flathead-blackfish-snapper-grilled-battered-prawns-crab-chips-salad and who ordered oysters?

Hours later my voice was hoarse, my sisters had gone off with my niece in the pram hopeful of her falling asleep (not a chance!) in search of ice-creams, and we were almost done I thought when Dad reminded everyone why we were all there and my stepmother produced a container of gooey cream cheese iced carrot cake slice. We parleyed over big-small-half pieces, and then had to move in order to walk it all off, took half an hour to finish conversations and say goodbyes before the Sydney-bound train was due.

We commandeered a generous section of train carriage then chatted around my sister who’d finally succumbed to her interstate travels and fallen asleep, made plans for future meet ups before half got off half-way and the remainder headed back to the inner city for a stroll along King Street towards home in time for my sister to revive before we walked her back to the train station for the overnight return trip to Melbourne.

The G.O. and I arrived home finally, did what we had to, enjoyed a peaceful glass of wine, showered and went to bed. My last words for the day were “I’m so pleased it’s another decade to my next zero birthday”.

The morning following my birthday, Monday the 30th the first day of the rest of my life, I felt merited a kindness to myself of an extra hour in bed. Start as you mean to go on.

I received lots of beautiful cards and gifts but best of all was the company... "some people make you laugh a little louder, your smile a little brighter, and your life a little better."
I received beautiful cards and gifts but best of all was the company… “some people make you laugh a little louder, your smile a little brighter, and your life a little better.”

Birthday out of the way, we’re on the countdown… off to Taylors Arm this weekend to make enough space to fit in the contents of a one bedroom Sydney apartment. The removalist truck is confirmed for the 15th. New tenants move into the apartment on the 19th.

“Go back?” he thought. “No good at all! Go sideways? Impossible! Go forward? Only thing to do! On we go!” So up he got, and trotted along with his little sword held in front of him and one hand feeling the wall, and his heart all of a patter and a pitter.” ― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

it’s been nice knowing you…

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It’s a fine line between pleasure and pain“… lyrics matchlessly sung by Chrissie Amphlett of the Divinyls, run through my head; soundtrack to the dwindling days of our city life as I conduct a mental retrospective; some of the hits and misses curiously similar. Then I’ll say farewell in my usual style… humming Don Henley’s Boys of Summer Don’t look back. You can never look back.”

In no particular order…

Will miss:

Customs House Library… the building is a landmark but the interior holds the real treasure, books and more books.

Neighbourhood cats with whom we’re on a first name basis… Davros, Ruby, Frank, Zac, George Junior, Ted… and freely share therapeutic pats and fur.

Local markets… bringing real food from the country to my city doorstep, and nice people too.

The dishwasher… I love its wooshy lullaby sound as cleans the dishes while I sleep.

Air-conditioning in February heat and humidity.

Public transport… inexpensive and convenient.

Paid employment… the comfort of a monthly bank deposit.

Gratis internet, phone and postage courtesy of aforementioned paid employment.

Sense of walking among living history of old buildings, laneways, streets and gardens.

Its intangible and random gifts… kindnesses, street art, buskers, footpath recycling…

Ten minute cab ride to airport.

Walking distance to lots of interesting and useful stuff.

Sitting at footpath tables outside cafés & pubs people watching.

The denizens, all the permutations thereof.

Soy chai lattes at Tramezzini in the AMP Building.

Won’t miss:

Air pollution, grime & noise.

Air-conditioning except in February heat and humidity.

Paid employment… working 5 days, 9 to 5.

Car parking congestion.

People congestion.

Traffic congestion​.

Living in a shoebox apartment in a street of shoebox apartment complexes.

Apartment complex strata rules…no smoking, no parking, no balcony railing plant pots, no…

Public transport… unreliable and crowded.

Workplace bathrooms… oh, the horror stories I could tell you.

Workplace kitchens… patronised by apparently normal co-workers with annoying habits, and refrigerators harbouring food turned science experiments.

Riding in lifts (elevators)… that might get stuck between floors but people risk limbs to enter or leap into like lemmings* and crowd like sardines… Why? Because another might be as long as a whole minute away.

The vagaries of home delivery pizza… hot & crisp, late & soggy, great, not-too-bad, inedible, how much did we pay for that?

Our favourite local haunts that have become too busy/popular/hipster.

Henry Ford “as long as it’s black” corporate attire… I’m keeping a couple of ensembles in case I need to attend a funeral… says it all really.

[*leaping lemmings – popular misconception but the metaphor endures.]

And so, onwards . . .

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Twenty years ago when I bought a block of land and built a house with my then-husband I knew it wasn’t the house of my dreams: an old house with verandahs, tin roof and rainwater tanks, like a nanna’s house.

Au contraire, it was a modern off-the-plan, brick veneer, tile roofed house with four bedrooms, two bathrooms, two living areas, double garage and a deck, set in a native bush yard in subdivision situated an urban area of the Central Coast of NSW, overlooking glimpses of a lake and the ocean in the far distance.

I lived in that house for nine years with then-husband, two cats and a dog. I gardened, worked, commuted to the city, hosted dinners, barbeques, parties and Christmases. Family & friends came to visit or stay almost every weekend.

All the while my dream house waited.

The cats and dog spent their last years there as I promised them they would. However, when they were gone I set myself free and moved back to the city where I worked. After a while the G.O. came to live with me in a tiny apartment where we had not much space nor time for those other things that make a life. Except a dream staked on the old house we bought together ten years ago in a village in the hinterland of the Nambucca Valley.

The G.O. had originally purchased our house with his then-wife several years before I set eyes on it. Despite being told it was a ‘knock-down’ he stripped, rebuilt, painted and gave the old house a new life. I visited it once, briefly, during the early stages, a couple of years before he nearly had to let it go along with the life he’d had there.

But as fate unfolded its enigmatic plans by the time I’d sold my still-new house the opportunity presented itself for the G.O.’s lovely old lady of a house with wide verandahs, tin roof and rainwater tanks to become mine too.

When I saw it with fresh eyes on my second visit, I knew it was the nanna’s house of my dreams; the house where there’d be homemade biscuits in a tin, loose tea leaves in a jar, teapots with woolly covers, cups & saucers & floral pattern plates, shelves of books read but undusted, scattered bibs & bobs from various times & places, well-loved comfy furniture, geraniums in the front garden, veges & a hills hoist in the back, family pictures in the china cabinet, a cat sleeping on a chair, creeping sunshine, quiet afternoons and elastic time.

“And so, onwards… along a path of wisdom, with a hearty tread, a hearty confidence.. however you may be, be your own source of experience. Throw off your discontent about your nature. Forgive yourself your own self. You have it in your power to merge everything you have lived through- false starts, errors, delusions, passions, your loves and your hopes- into your goal, with nothing left over.” Friedrich Nietzsche

time to go . . .

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ByeFor me, a woman who has the kid from the country she once was still in her psyche; the experience of living and working in and around Sydney for the past 25 years has been pretty cool. Little did I dream as I played childhood games of ‘let’s pretend’ at an invisible typewriter I’d end up resident of an inner city locality I had no idea existed, doing a job involving computers and technologies not then thought of, employed by one of the world’s largest law firms, spending my week days in a skyscraper looking out over Sydney Harbour.

Of all the locations I’ve lived in as an adult, inner-city Sydney is where I’ve felt most at home. For almost 12 years I’ve wandered its streets, commuted by train to Circular Quay, strolled through the CBD knowing it wasn’t going to be forever but enjoying the pit-stop on my journey. We’re leaving the city at its best; in the warmer weather it sparkles and glows ready for the festive season.Way Out

Sydney has been good to me… but currently reading Silent Spring (1962) by Rachel Carson, a quote by ecologist Paul Shepard she includes in chapter 2 The Obligation to Endure leaps out…

“idealizes life with only its head out of water, inches above the limits of toleration of the corruption of its own environment… Why should we tolerate a diet of weak poisons, a home in insipid surroundings, a circle of acquaintances who are not quite our enemies, the noise of motors with just enough relief to prevent insanity? Who would want to live in a world which is just not quite fatal?”

It’s time for us say our farewells… for, in the words of Kahlil Gibran “life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.”

A day in the life…