It’s always a good day when the G.O. doesn’t go to work on a Saturday; it doesn’t take much to transform the ordinary into extraordinary. That’s what happened last weekend.
We didn’t set an alarm. We got up late, drank coffee and instead of cleaning, grocery shopping or errands we decided to set off to the Blue Mountains west of Sydney to follow the crumbs in a trail of family history research I’d unearthed.
Our route past Victory Motorcycles and its lure even though he’s not in the market to buy was too strong for the G.O. to ignore, plus the traffic on Parramatta Road was barely moving so a 15 minute browse wasn’t going to make much difference.
We headed for Wentworth Falls for a late lunch at the deli-café Fed, which we’ve enjoyed before. Shortly after we arrived and were strolling down the street, a large strikingly orange butterfly flew straight up to the G.O. and fluttered determinedly in front of him. We looked meaningfully at each other, both with the same thought “we’re on the right track”.
After eating lunch then wandering through the shops we set out for our destination, Leura Memorial Gardens with vague instructions to go to row 7 in the Rose Garden. The gardens were beautiful, the afternoon was sunny, as we headed down through unnumbered & unnamed tiers of gardens to a bridge and chain of ponds. It was peaceful (in between noisy gunshots from the neighbouring rifle range…) and pleasant but frustrating as we attempted to discern our treasure without the help of signs that made any sense. We searched to no avail but consoled ourselves that we were close, with handfuls of sun-warmed wild blackberries growing at the perimeter, and the agreeable company of King Parrots and wild ducks. We encountered only 2 other lots of visitors, each of whom were helpful but had no more idea of the site that we were looking for than we did.
The search, and the story, will keep for another day while I make further enquiries.
So as to make the most of the rest of the day the G.O. who has spent much more time in the Blue Mountains than me suggested a tour of the sights. Even though it was late afternoon we had plenty of time and daylight left so we drove to Wentworth Falls Lake & Wentworth Falls lookouts -new to me- where we walked around the vantage points, and on to Katoomba, Echo Point & the Three Sisters I’d visited previously.
Having in mind a specific purpose for the trip we hadn’t come the slightest bit prepared so did no proper bushwalks, nor browsed any galleries. But seduced by the fresh air and scenery we lingered.
Most stunning of all was the drive out along Narrow Neck, which in his words is the “most special out of a few special places” for the G.O. Prevented by locked gates from driving its full extent, we walked for a while in the late afternoon sun along out-of-the-way dirt tracks and climbed to vantage points to take in the views of the Jamison Valley to the east and the Megalong Valley to the west.
The sun hovered in the bright hazy sky for much longer than it seems to do in the city. Time seemed to stretch. The G.O., not wearing a watch thinking it was about 4.30 pm was surprised when I suggested as it was 7.30 pm we should start heading back. But still we couldn’t leave so we detoured via Mount Victoria to the grounds of newly restored Hydro Majestic Hotel to watch from the escarpment the sunset over the Megalong Valley.
Heading home at 8.30 pm we pronounced it a successful day regardless, and dubbed it the Oli’day in memory of the G.O.’s friend Ollie, who so loved the Blue Mountains and so loved her friend, the G.O. It was for her we made the trip and we are quite certain the orange butterfly was her message to us, so we’ll keep looking.
“Once we discover how to appreciate the timeless values in our daily experiences, we can enjoy the best things in life.” Jerome K. Jerome
I could cover it off by simply re-blogging one of my very early posts, dear holiday houseguests, from December 2011… but more than a fortnight has passed since the same houseguests’ most recent visit, and my temper is still snaky…
There was some improvement in their style: Stepson wielded a tea towel as sidekick to his washer-upper father; and I didn’t have to yell “don’t run through the house” (1) or remind “put the toilet lid down” (2) more than a dozen times during their 2 night/44 hour stay.
But what is rankling me will be forever known as “The Great Sugar Debacle”. It started quietly and caught us unawares. Granddaughter was coming solo to Taylors Arm with us for 6 days pre-Christmas so we suggested packing a water bottle for car trips, pillow, swimmers, and a book for entertainment in light of absence of internet coverage.
That was accomplished but also in her bags were 3 x 3 packs of chocolate flavour Up&Go (3) “liquid breakfast” drink, and 2 largish packets of lollies. I put a single 3 pack in the back fridge and left the rest in the bags.
Granddaughter is lovely and like most 11-year-old girls naturally has aspirations to behave much older than she is. We enjoyed her company and she enjoyed not having parents and 2 younger brothers cramping her style. An unfussy person in every way she hung out with us, herself or took advantage of the single item of modern technology, the TV, which at least has free-to-air channels including ABC3 Kids via the satellite dish.
The only things inexplicable were Granddaughter’s sudden bursts of manic activity or chatter particularly late afternoons. An easy houseguest, Granddaughter availed herself of the contents of the fridge & pantry, ate with us, ate well, and as we have little junk food-drink in the house, appeared to not overindulge her stash of lollies or when visiting her great-grandmother the endless supply of biscuits & sugary tea. She consumed a single Up&Go, preferring to join her grandfather in whatever he was having for breakfast, or a small bowl of rockmelon. Neither of them were interested in my breakfast of muesli (4), homemade plain yoghurt & local banana.
Initially we didn’t realize the moderate amount of sugar as we gauged it was cumulative in effect & desire. It’s consumption earned Granddaughter the nickname “Sugar” and better supervision of her intake. Which she took on board with good grace and improved self-moderation.
Fine until the rest of the family arrived on Boxing Day, descending upon the house with numerous plastic shopping bags (5) containing several more multi-packs of Up&Go, breakfast cereal – Coco Pops, Nutri-Grain & Fruit Loops, a six-pack of Powerade, 2 x 2 litres of fruit juice, 2 litres of raspberry cordial and copious packets of lollies & biscuits which were deposited on the kitchen table (6).
The G.O. made the new arrivals a late lunch of Christmas leftovers sandwiches before they proceeded to dive in to their sugary haul, dipping into the bags which I left unpacked in situ as we were eating at the outside table, or snacking on biscuits conveniently toted around the house by Daughter-in-law along with her bottle of Powerade.
Dinner was simple but homemade, Christmas leftovers: local pasture raised ham & roast chicken, pasta salad, mango salsa and green salad. Everyone enjoyed it (7) except Youngest Grandson who wanted lollies or dessert -got neither (8) , and Daughter-in-law who gratefully liberally applied to her food the bottle of fancy BBQ sauce they’d given us as a gift the previous year.
Next day the weather was miserable but we were out & about so a visit to the bakery made an easy lunch, and being a sensible woman I’d booked us into our local Pub With No Beer for dinner, which the houseguests prepared for by consuming more biscuits & lollies.
At the pub (which does have beer and thankfully, wine & spirits) the G.O. and I relaxed, had a few sanity restoring drinks and lovely meals. Despite the dreary weather the kids played in the Cubby With No Cordial, had a red “fire engine” fizzy drink each, ate their dinners except of course Youngest Grandson who wanted lollies or dessert -got neither. The parents couldn’t have cared less about food or drink… OMG the pub has WiFi… they were glued to their latest iPhones.
As the miserable weather settled into possible flood rain the decision was made by Stepson to decamp early the following morning as they’d, in his words “hate to be stuck in the boondocks”. I was sympathetic, I’d hate it too if they were stuck.
That morning the houseguests packed while ingesting Up&Go’s and breakfast cereal. I assisted by roving the house discovering discarded items, and restoring to the plastic shopping bags the remains of the sugar haul, assuring the houseguests probably unnecessarily “we don’t eat this, take it home”.
- Kids running through a 1930’s house built on raised “stumps” and full of old furniture-stuff creates an effect similar to earth tremors.
- Leaving the toilet lid up creates the possibility of a close encounter between a bare bum and a frog. Hilarious if it’s not your bare bum.
- Daughter-in-law works for the manufacturer. Linked product review dispels any illusions Up&Go is healthy.
- Homemade muesli ingredients: Organic if possible – oat bran, pepitas, sunflower seeds, mixed raw nuts, shredded coconut.
- The G.O. suggested as there are no shops (10) at Taylors Arm they come prepared with kids’ necessities and not to worry about food for meals as we had plenty of food but limited space in the fridges.
- Rendering unnecessary the tin of homemade Christmas biscuits I’d baked: usual Snap Biscuits recipe plus chopped dried sour cherries, macadamia nuts and white chocolate nibs.
- Eldest Grandson ate everything on his plate & licked it clean.
- Therefore no-one got dessert, which comprised leftover components of the deconstructed trifle I made for the G.O.: homemade custard; Aeroplane jellies – port wine with vodka poached cherries & passionfruit with vodka poached mango; Pandoro; tinned peaches; and Sara Lee vanilla ice-cream.
- The G.O. assisted with tidying up, collapsed on the verandah futon and didn’t move for the rest of the day. I did four loads of washing and drying (11). Wine o’clock was early but reverted to wine spritzers with homemade fizzy water.
- The new managers at the pub now sell their own homegrown eggs, meat, produce and a few basic grocery items.
- 5 houseguests = 6 bath towels even with the parents showering only once, plus 4 sets sheets & 10 pillowcases.
Our three week
holiday break managed to exceed world speed records for time passing. Each day no sooner did I get out of bed seduced by thoughts of a quiet early morning cup of coffee on the verandah than it seemed like 3 pm, or later swiftly came around.
Eleven days raced by as we steered our way through tidying, gardening, houseguests, Christmas preparations-day-visitors, house projects before we came up for air and paused on New Year’s Day. It wasn’t until the first Saturday of 2015 we managed a day-trip, just the two of us.
It’s become a bit of a tradition, that first Saturday, for us to go to Dorrigo Country Market. Even though it’s not at its best during the holiday period, it’s a great excuse for us to drive and spend a day up the mountain at one of our favourite places.
Dorrigo is a small rural town located on a plateau in the Northern Tablelands a 100 km drive from Taylors Arm via Bellingen at the top of the stunning [steep, windy] Waterfall Way. It’s known for potatoes & beef. We like the old-time country feel the town has retained. We traditionally stroll a circuit of the streets around the central Main Square but our must-visits are Dorrigo Antiques for browsing, Juan’s Cafe Del Fuego The World’s Smallest Motorcycle Museum for a chocolate milkshake and Dorrigo Bakery for a loaf of old-fashioned soft white bread.
Nearby are Dorrigo National Park & Rainforest Centre + Skywalk, part of Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage Area, and Dangar Falls.
But, thanks to Kate, this time we had a new place on our day-trip agenda. Kate’s directions “To find Griffiths Lookout turn sharp left onto Maynards Plains Road when you reach Mountain Top on the Waterfall Way, then take a left turn onto Mountain Top Road after about 1 km. Go all the way to the end” were spot on. Despite her description of its amazingness, we were amazed.
“Great things are done when men and mountains meet.” William Blake
Our bags and bits ‘n pieces are packed. Work is almost done for the year. Gifts wrapped in brown paper and shiny ribbon wait beneath our well loved Christmas tree, discovered under the house. Each year we decorate it wondering about its provenance.
In a couple of days we’ll make the drive north for holidays at our home at Taylors Arm, sweetened by the knowledge we won’t be city-bound again for a few weeks. Holidays for the G.O. & I means free time together & at home, beaches, day trips and relaxation.
Holidays at Taylors Arm also means no internet access so I won’t be visiting virtually during those few weeks but my thoughts will touch on the blogworld from time to time.
As well as the festive season -our tenth Christmas together at Taylors Arm, it’s my third blogiversary. To celebrate, I’m sharing a meditation I wrote that takes you to special place of your own choosing.
The words of the meditation are printed on a photo of the hills we see from the back of our home at Taylors Arm.
A very special place for me.
Wishing you all the very best with love and light and happiness.
Click on the image to enlarge and/or print A4 size.
Like one of those old movies where the mad scientist’s human atom rearranging experiment goes awry, part of me appears to have gone astray enroute to the city from our 3 week respite at Taylors Arm. I’ve returned to the thankfully air-conditioned office in body at least; reviewing & updating Excel spreadsheets, but I suspect my spirit continues to read the Outlander series whilst reclining on the futon on the verandah. If so, I hope it stirs from time to time, wanders around the garden, and amuses itself by doing a little weeding.
My immediate response in re-entering the real world, once I took up position at my desk was to use the electronic accoutrements for the higher purpose of booking flights to take us north again for the upcoming Australia Day long weekend at the end of January; there are only so many long drives up and down the Pacific Highway that can be sanely endured. We were teetering on the brink. It was book flights or not go. That I booked Tigerair flights is evidence of sanity impairment and/or desperation.
So removed had I become over our holidays that upon arriving back at our city apartment, opening the door, it took a moment to register… oh yes, this is where we live.
Aside from watering dry potted plants, unpacking and making an appearance at the office-worksite, we’re doing as little as possible. For at least another fortnight survival will take the form of food foraged from leftovers & local shops, air-conditoning, free-to-air TV tennis, and slowly catching up on the blog post reading I missed as after several unsuccessful attempts at Taylors Arm to wrangle uncooperative wireless internet waves, I gave up.
Once settled in, and after a quietly spent Christmas Day we roused ourselves only for day-trips-family-friends-visits, walks on the beach and swims. We took few photo’s but this snap of Mags, who along with his feathered and furred cohorts, enjoyed the benefits of having staff on hand to replenish water & food, reflects the agreeable simplicity; a pleasant end to a 2013 that I have no complaints about and start to a 2014 of wonderful possibilities.
Happy New Year.
Amongst the lovely birthday gifts I received recently from the G.O. was also what we refer to as A Present. A Present is something random we occasionally buy but usually find for the other, given for no reason at all. Mostly A Presents are bits & pieces the G.O. finds at work on construction sites, and brings home for me. Over the years he has brought home many & varied A Presents: old coins & marbles; bottles; furniture and odds & ends from demolition sites, and one tiny tabby kitten which we couldn’t keep but gave into the good care of the local Cat Protection Society.
After the G.O. handed me birthday gifts he’d hidden within the organised chaos that is the back of his ute, he proffered a muddy disk, and graciously said “here, that’s for you too, I found it.”
As the dirt washed off it into the kitchen sink my A Present revealed itself as a battered stop and slow sign. Exciting. Almost as good as my birthday gifts and no cash had been exchanged, which always gives me a thrill. Even better I had just the spot for it. My work-in-progress Taylors Arm verandah table of found items. Right where it would remind us for the 3 week duration of our holidays that slow, rather than stop is the objective. Forget about go.
I’m around this week until late Friday but after that I may not be popping into blog world much or at all. As usual it’s dependent on the caprices of the wireless internet waves that may or may not find their way to Taylors Arm. Last year I was a little bereft, not having the ability to regularly check in with my WordPress Tribe. I’ll read blogs and comment if possible, but I’ll be back in the real world a fortnight into the new year.
*You can also find me and other photos like this on Pinterest.
I wish you a Very Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and Happy New Year. In the spirit of the festive season I offer up the last verse of an Australian version of the Twelve Days of Christmas.
On the 12th day
My true love sent to me
12 parrots prattling,
11 numbats nagging,
10 lizards leaping,
9 wombats working,
8 dingoes digging,
7 possums playing,
6 brolgas dancing,
4 koalas cuddling,
3 kookaburras laughing,
2 pink galahs,
And an emu up a gum tree.
So far our holiday & Christmas prep has been pretty chilled. There was the usual six and half hour drive north from the city but we took our time and leaving ahead of the holiday traffic, suffered only the boredom of a trip we’ve made too many times for there to be any residue of novelty.
There was also the usual stop at the MIL’s and shops but we minimised the duration of both. We arrived home to a tidy-ish house, and had a bet on who would arrive first: LHS neighbour’s cat looking for snackies, or RHS neighbour looking for a chat. RHS neighbour won by a whisker… we chatted for while, dispensed snackies, dispatched the unpacking then settled with a simple dinner and glasses of wine.
Prior to retiring we hit the shower, and discovered we had company of the eight legged kind, in the form of a grand-daddy long legs (arachnophobes will be happy to know our dodgy internet won’t cope with image uploads). I’m the spider lover of the two of us, so I advised Spidy to stay put and all would be well. It was, but I was unsure of what the score would be post the G.O.’s shower. Surprisingly, both of them came out the encounter intact, and Spidy’s reign over the back bathroom continues.
I tested out our new internet coverage arrangements and confirmed they are pre-historic. I was able to look at our bank balance online but unable to transfer any cash… I can see Facebook in slo-mo, and who has been posting via my Gmail In-Box, opening posts is hit & miss, and commenting appears to be out of the question.
Still, the blogging world isn’t far from my thoughts, as early Saturday morning while I was hanging out washing I saw two colourful bugs hanging off the clothesline, doing what comes naturally and thought of http://picsandstuff.wordpress.com/about/, my bug loving fellow blogger, who’d have been back out there with her camera taking insect-style paparazzi shots.
Today, Christmas Eve, we forayed to the shops for last minute festive provisions. Not needing much, we were directed by the helpful customer service assistant, [who a couple of days previously solved my ham bag dilemma by directing me to the shelf above the hams… obviously a hiding in plain sight display technique] suggested the Fast Lane would be appropriate for us, which the G.O. took literally and queue jumped our trolley ahead of a basket holding, bandana wearing local who was clearly and vocally unimpressed with the multitude of drop-ins… “I’ve never had to line up before…”
After a stop at the fishmongers as the G.O. queued to park the car, I queued in bank-like fashion while cheerful seafood shop assistants flung the great Aussie festive dining essential: prawns, into plastic bags with ice, and had monosyllabic conversations with fellow queuers… “are you in line to pay?”… “no”… “yes”… well merry Christmas to you too…
We were greeted by similar festive cheer when we looked in at the MIL’s where only the brother-in-law was home.
Me: “We’ve couldn’t get a jar of oysters over the road but we’ve got extra prawns, do you want some?”
BIL: “I don’t eat them.”
Me: “What, prawns?” [having seen him chow down on them during previous festive occasions]
BIL: “No, oysters.”
Me: “We’ve got prawns.
BIL: “I don’t eat them either… you have to peel the sh!t things…”
I’m guessing the BIL also no longer eats onions, oranges, bananas or anything that come out of shrink-wrapped plastic.
As we happily drove the 30 km’s out into the hills towards home, away from the crowds, such as they were, of the small town of Macksville on the Mid-North Coast, I reflected on our morning, and summed it up to the G.O. “I guess the festive spirit eludes some…”
We’ve had sunny, warm, breezy days and after waiting for the temp to drop, the G.O. is doing that most festive thing, mowing the lawn. I, accompanied by Christmas carols and my own off-key singing, am cooking a chook and small Madeleine shaped vanilla cakes for my deconstructed trifle…to go with the blackberry jelly, passionfruit jelly & cornflour custard made yesterday, and fresh peaches.
Merry Christmas from EllaDee and the G.O. at Taylors Arm 🙂
Even if the power of the internet is not with me, my thoughts are with you…
Just a note to let you know we made it to our house on the coast after a couple of days travelling and visiting enroute. On the way we stopped and shopped for necessities. We arrived and tidied up, did a few jobs and made preparations. We spent a nice quiet Christmas Day “in town” with your grandmother and aunt & uncle. On Boxing Day we did a few last things as your arrival is imminent and we came up with some ideas to make the holiday experience enjoyable for all:
1. Time: Let us know when you’re getting here. We may like to go out for part of the day rather than waiting, waiting, waiting for your arrival even though we really are looking forward to it (see also*). Especially let us know if you plan to arrive at a meal time, and arrive on time. Otherwise you may find us expired from hunger in front of the fridge. *Let us know when you’re leaving [so we can ensure the sparkly is chilled].
2. Share: We love to shop & prepare food for you but we believe you have culinary skills of your own. At least, we know you watched Masterchef. Feel at home to put them to the test and bring & prepare a meal, a side salad or even some dip & biccies.
3. Kids: We love the kids. We want to spend the quality time you mentioned as the reason for your visit, with them playing games & reading stories, not chasing & yelling at them. That’s your job. If you wish to have a holiday with childcare facilities go to Hayman Island.
4. Participate: As well as sitting & playing cards all day, washing up is a necessary & potentially fun holiday activity. Please feel free to take part. Often enjoyable conversations happen over a dishcloth & tea towel.
5. When in Rome: Do as we do. We love you to be comfortable & feel at home. We like to also. Our location offers you the opportunity to enjoy new cultural experiences – we have no shops, internet & phone coverage but there are frogs, lizards, birds, butterflies, bugs, snakes… wildlife of all kinds, trees, grass, flowers, dirt, fresh air, tank water, stars and usually, peace & quiet.
6. Space: We’ve given you lovely rooms. Please feel free to keep your bags, packages and sundry items there rather than scattering them all over the house where you may lose track of them and leave them behind… again.
7. Don’t worry: If we don’t answer the phone for a few days, we’re ok. We’re just making sure you don’t invite yourselves back until the multitude of sheets & towels we washed after your stay are dry and ready for use once again.
EllaDee & Poppy
In the words of the Gorgeous One, “let’s smoke the back axles up the highway”… It’s holiday time. None too soon. It’s been one of those years. In previous years we always said “no news is good news”. This year it’s been “there’s no good news” and we’ve tried to shut the hell up because no-one wants to hear it. To counter this, I’ve done my best for the economy and made it a great year for wine sales, and the Gorgeous One has smoked his finest for Peter Stuyvesant shareholders. Yes, I know, I know, drinking and smoking are bad for your health but it’s better than gaol time, as they say. So yes, we’re escaping to our house up the coast & no doubt there will be a plume of smoke off the verandah & the recycle bin will rattle with wine bottles.