Tell me again please, why are we here!

Paul tries to play golf at least once a week on Busselton’s Par three golf course. He’s trying to make a habit of playing in the Thursday morning Men’s Comp, and when he can he gets a second practice round in on another day. Two Thursdays ago the weather forecast was for severely wintery weather so he stayed at home in the warmth. The morning was beautiful! Then the next Thursday the forecast was equally as bad, but the skies were clear and blue, so he chanced it.

It was freezing, but apart from one shower of hail he managed to play his round without having to take shelter.

Having the house to myself I enjoyed a couple of hours of pottering around doing a few household chores. A short trip outside had me scurrying back indoors out of the cold. The temperature of around 9°. It felt closer to zero. We had decided we wouldn’t make our annual winter pilgrimage to the top end of Australia this year owing to Covid. However with Western Australia having successfully contained the virus to date, I had to ask myself why we weren’t being more flexible with our plans.

Paul returned from golf, so I posed the question, “remind me again why we’re not going up to Broome this year?” I asked. He informed me he had asked himself that very same question while sheltering from the shower of hail at golf. Needless to say in less than two hours we had made our plans. Commitments and appointments on the home front were either postponed or cancelled, and a booking was secured at the Broome caravan Park. Plans were in place to leave the following Friday, the 26th June.

it’s now Wednesday morning on the 24th June,and I’m snug in bed inside the caravan after waking up on the first morning after day one of our trip. We had the van packed, and could see no point in sitting around twiddling our thumbs waiting for Friday, so here we are. We’re booked into the caravan park as of Monday, so, for once we are going to actually do less driving each day. We always plan shorter days but get impatient to get to our destination. It’ll take us a week to get there but it’ll be a more relaxed journey with the shorter driving days. Hopefully the dog won’t get the huff with us from the back seat this time. Mr Tilly won’t even look at us after more than four hours of sitting in the back seat on previous trips.

We use Wiki Camps for our trip planning as you can see below. All planned overnighters are pleasant roadside stops, either completely free or require only a small donation.

In case you’re not sure what the attraction of Broome is during our winter months, just check out the consistent weather. It’s like this day after day, week after week for June, July and August (our winter). The dry season in Broome is actually dry, unlike North Queensland where it can bucket down day after day in their dry. For us the weather is perfect, and that goes a long way towards making it perfect holiday.

And then there’s the beach….. Enough said!

Apologies again for poor photo inserts and alignments – WordPress continues to frustrate!

Frustrations with WordPress

I started experiencing a few minor frustrations with WordPress last year. The problems coincided with a time when I was ready for a bit of break anyway, so I didn’t do a lot about it at the time.

Fast forward several months and I’m starting to re-kindle my blogging interest. However, the small problems I had been encountering seem to have multiplied. Not being particularly computer literate I find it hard to relate what my problems are. Computer terms that may make it easier to describe the problems allude me. Seeking help via Web chat with the WordPress tech gurus is like asking for help in a foreign language with only a smattering of words in common.

In the past, when I left a comment on someone’s blog I would receive an alert if that blogger responded. As I recall this notification was by way of both email, and the little blue WordPress icon displaying a number which indicated the amount of comments awaiting my attention. The first of the problems was that when this little notification showed up on my desktop, clicking on the blue WordPress icon had stopped taking me anywhere. As I was ready for a bit of a break from blogging at the time I didn’t follow up on this.

I’m aware that in settings I can tick so as to to receive an email alert when comments are placed on a blog I’m following. I tried this with the result that I received hundreds of emails in a day, one for every single comment placed on all of the blogs I follow. I can’t seem filter the comments so as to only receive comments relevant to my own. This means the only way I can now enjoy the blogging conversations I used to enjoy is to continually scroll through everyone’s blog comments looking for the thread relevant to me. So apologies fellow bloggers for my lack of engagement with you all. I have been trying from time to time, but trying to engage with you all is just ridiculously time consuming- not that you aren’t all worth it, but there just aren’t that many hours in the day.

I’ve tried to sort this out via word press. I thought I’d finally managed to get my web chat person to comprehend what I was describing, but they couldn’t offer me a solution. The conversation was left with a promise that I would receive a response via email once they’d looked into it. That was over a week ago now, and nothing more. I guess I’m going to have to chase it up again, but where to start…..

Once I can get get that sorted out maybe I’ll move on to the other problems, and there are many. These include problems loading photos, problems with choosing a category when publishing, problems with inserting a key photo, difficulties doing anything other than a draft on the iPad, the list seems to be endless. I keep putting it off but I shall have to remember, ‘once begun, half done’! Maybe tomorrow I’ll begin…..

Mr Tilly and that ‘bike’ word

“Wanna go for a walk”, the master asks quietly. Mr Tilly, who has been sleeping soundly, jerks his head around so fast it’s a wonder he doesn’t get whiplash. From then on he watches Paul’s every move. He follows him around, only inches from his heels as he patiently waits for him to get ready.

The same happens if we mention the ‘beach’ word. It can take anything up to half an hour from the thought of us going for a walk, or going to the beach, before we actually head out the door. We have to get out of bed, shower or wash, brush teeth, pull clothes on and don shoes before heading out the door. All the while Tills looks on, patiently stretching, watching and waiting.

The same whiplash reaction happens when we mention the ‘bike’ word. “Do you want to go out on the bike”, I ask. He sits to attention watching for signs of preparation. Only he’s not so patient. If we take to long getting ready he starts to whine! Yes, going out on the bike is definitely his favourite outing.

He sits in a basket on the back of Paul’s bike, and Paul rides out in front. The basket is a tad small for him but he doesn’t mind a bit of discomfort. He looks right and left as we ride along the beach path, and constantly checks back to make sure I’m keeping up.

Basket is a tad small, but he doesn’t mind a bit

Recently we went for a bike ride with some friends and I wasn’t in my rightful place, behind him, where he could keep an eye on me. Talk about whinge – he wasn’t having a bar of it. A re-group saw him happy again and we could continue our bike ride in peace. As an aside from Tills, what a thrill that was – to phone up friends to arrange an impromptu bike ride. I haven’t done that for well over 50 years – made me feel like a teenager again.

When we first started taking him on the bike we worried that he’d try to jump out when we passed another dog. There’s nothing to worry about there though. He just looks at them as we pedal past with a superior look on his face. He doesn’t know all dogs don’t get to sleep on the big bed with their people, or to snuggle up together as a pack on the couch together as the sun goes down. But there’s no mistaking that look on his face when we pass a dog walking on the beach path. He definitely knows this bike riding gig is something that only ‘canine royalty’ gets to enjoy, he thinks he’s just the bees knees. Perhaps we should change his name from Mr Tilly to King Tilly.

Wish I could take photos of him as we ride along – alas I’m a two hand on the handlebars person.

He loves the wind in his hair as we ride along, and loves that he gets to enjoy new territory. So do I. Riding along on our gorgeous beach path on my new bike, with Paul and Tills up front – what a pleasure!

Are we in the eye of the storm

I can’t help thinking the majority of Australians seem to be thinking we’re over this Covid thing, that our government managed to contain it, and that life can get back to normal. Despite the fact that experts are telling us the virus will be part of our lives for a long time yet to come, there’s almost a feeling here in Australia of jubilation and celebration as if the war on this pandemic is over and we, in Australia have emerged victorious.

Personally I think we’re only in the eye of the storm, a storm that’s gathering momentum. We battened down the hatches as the first phase of the storm hit, and here in Australia we did it well. We locked down early enough which prevented our hospitals from becoming over-run. Our health system used that time to re-group, and the amount of ICU beds and ventilators has been increased. We’ve weathered it well to date. But as we’re all well aware there’s a balancing act going on, a balancing act between the economic health of a country, and the physical health of its people. I think this calm sense of security we’re all feeling is because we’re in the eye of the storm and I think more is coming.

Our restrictions are slowly lifting and people are returning to work. Our new cases of Covid are hovering at or below what is considered to be a manageable amount. Here in WA we currently only have three active cases, none of which require hospitalisation. NSW and Victoria aren’t doing quite as well, but compared to much of the world they’re still doing brilliantly. With the restrictions now being lifted I can’t help feeling it’s only a matter of time until we will again be hit with the full fury of this pandemic. All we can do is watch, and wait, and wash our hands, and stick to social distancing. Let’s not get complacent. It’s not over yet, in fact it may have barely yet begun!

Be prepared – part two

Today’s relative affluence compared to the generations before us has perhaps led us into a lifestyle of expectation and almost instant gratification. We don’t need to scrimp and save for several months to purchase anything anymore, we just put it on the ‘card’, or sign up to buy now, pay later, feeling secure that our pay check will be in the bank at the end of the month to pay for it all. However, recent events have shown us that the lifestyles many of us have taken for granted can be lost in the blink of an eye. For many the security of that regular pay cheque has disappeared. Currently the government is bailing many of us out, but what happens if, and when their coffers run dry? It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to realise that a second, third, or even mutating continuing waves of this pandemic could see us all back in lock down with no job, and without the government assistance that has been forthcoming in these early days. To put it mildly – we’d really be up the creek without a paddle!

Enticements to debt – debt that without a job can’t be paid for

We saw the supermarket shelves get stripped bare within just a few days as the possibility of lock down loomed. Clearly it was to late to begin putting food, and other supplies away for such a drastic change in circumstances such as the change that some of us have experienced recently.

I’ve been giving a lot of thought and putting in time researching ‘stockpiling’. There are extremes at either end of the stockpiling spectrum. There are those that rely on restaurants, cafes and take out for their sustenance, often with maxed out credit cards to pay for it. The supplies in their own cupboards would barely keep them going for a day or two. Then at the other end of the spectrum are the doomsday preppers that have five years of supplies and a bunker in which to lock it, and themselves away in, should the need arise. I wouldn’t be comfortable with either of those scenarios. The first because I just wouldn’t want to be that vulnerable if my circumstances should suffer even a small or short downturn. The second scenario – well if doomsday should come, I think I’d rather be amongst the fallen than be living amongst the crackpots who lived their former lives preparing for doomsday.

I’ve taken stock of what’s in my cupboards. Should anything happen that prevented me from restocking regularly, after about one week I’d be out of some things that I’ve come to rely on. After two weeks I wouldn’t have the makings of a normal meal as I know it. By the end of a month I think my cupboards would be almost completely empty. I don’t feel ok about that anymore, I want more! I’m thinking supplies that Paul and I could live on, eating balanced, and appealing meals for around six months is a reasonable amount to stockpile. But where to start….

Current supplies would last less than a month

It makes sense to build supplies around meals similar to some of the meals that we often eat. Rice, pasta, pasta sauces, canned tomatoes, and canned fish will no doubt form the mainstay of my stockpile. Oats, milk powder, nuts, seeds, dried and canned fruits – supplies we use almost daily anyway, so there’s no harm in keeping a good stock of those too. Then there’s crackers and spreads (peanut paste would be our preferred non refrigerated topping). Some lentils, cans and packets of beans – green beans, kidney and black beans, and and I figure we’re well in the way to a sensible food stockpile.

Long lasting, every day items already in my pantry can be added
to to form good stockpile

Having a good idea of what we’d like to be eating should we ever be struck by a disaster of any length of time gives us the opportunity to buy in bulk when products are on special. My recent research has shown me that I can apply filters to search the major supermarket chains so as to find only their 1/2 price specials. I didn’t know I could do that before – bonus! My plan is to build bulk supplies of pantry staples at half price where possible. Then all we have to do is store everything in such a way that makes stock rotation easy in every day life. By having a clear idea on what we’d want to be eating based upon meals that we already eat, by buying in bulk when on special, and by careful rotation of our home supplies, we will be not only putting aside for a rainy day, or for a real crisis, we’ll be saving money in the long run too.

I’ve started by organising some cupboard space.

Racks added to pantry door to free up some space on the shelves

now it’s time to begin….

A new bike

About three years ago I purchased a cute little retro styled bike. I grew up riding a bike with back pedal brake, so when I saw a brand new, replica, retro style bike, complete with back pedal brake, I just had to have one.

Cute little retro bike

I fell off that cute little bike the first time I rode it. Unhurt, I got straight back on, but my confidence never returned. I didn’t know if time and age had taken its toll on my cycling ability, or if it was the bike itself that wasn’t quite right. The bike was the right size for me, but the steering was very twitchy and sensitive. For months at a time the bike would sit unused in the shed before i’d give it another go, and another white knuckled ride would take place. I couldn’t relax riding it, I just didn’t feel safe.

With much trepidation I started browsing second hand bikes. I didn’t want to buy another bike only to discover that no matter how good the bike was, it wasn’t going to be a bike I’d ride. I saw a used bike advertised on Saturday morning that tweaked my interest. Some quick research indicated it could be a good bike for me, so I contacted the seller around 8am. She had listed the cycle for sale only about an hour earlier, but it had already sold. I had heard that cycles had been selling like hot cakes since the beginning of the pandemic. Perhaps now was the time to advertise my own cute little bike.

Paul gave the bike a quick clean and we decided to try our luck. In little more than an hour the bike had found a new owner, and at a price I wouldn’t have thought possible for a three year old bike, no matter how cute it looked.

We decided to look at another new bike. Sunday morning of Mother’s Day we headed to Dunsborough for a walk, calling past the cycle shop with the intentions of seeing if they had any in their window. What a surprise, the shop was open. Apparently they had been so busy lately that the owner had come in on the Sunday to try to get some work done. They had a bike that was the right size for vertically challenged me, a bike that he felt sure would feel stable enough for me to enjoy riding. A quick trial ride, and yes, I think he may be right.

An hour or so later we were home again and cycling up our own beach cycle path, me on my brand new bike. I rode it again the next day, and intend to ride it again today. It feels safe, and I’m not gripping the handlebars for grim death. Will I keep riding it? I think I will! It wasn’t a good feeling to be thinking that I’d become to old to be riding a bike at only 64. Busselton is flat and we have so many wonderful cycle paths. In fact I think it’d be safe to call Busselton a cycling paradise for unfit seniors.

New cycle with no ‘twitchy steering’

I think I can relate to the the saying “it’s like riding a bike, you never forget how”, only I’ll add a little proviso to that, “ providing the bike you’re riding is the right bike for you.” I think I’ve found a bike that’s right for me – and I can’t tell you how good it feels to know I wasn’t making excuses when I didn’t want to ride that cute little bike. For me, it really wasn’t a safe bike to ride. The new bike that’s, so far, a joy to ride – what a pleasure!

Flaming Fridays

Finger food Friday, a long standing tradition in our household, has been moved aside temporarily. The tradition of finger-food on Friday nights started during our working lives as a way to mark the transition from the working week to the week-end. Fish & chips, hamburgers, pizzas, nachos, or tapas have been common, with the rule that generally that the food will be home made. We came to enjoy our Finger-food Friday’s so much that we’ve kept it up even after retirement.

Covid-19 has changed some of our routines, for how long is anyone’s guess. With intra-state area closures in place it’s unlikely that we’ll be able to have our usual winter escape to the warm sun in the top end. Not being able to escape the cold, it seems like a good idea to make some changes to our routine that embrace it instead. What better way to embrace the cold than to relax with a nice glass of red, or a glass of warm, spicy, mulled wine while gazing at the flickering flames of a fire. Finger food Friday’s have been temporarily shunted aside to make way instead for fire pit Friday’s (providing it’s not raining).

We have a nice little place for our portable fire ring, and we have a camp oven. Our State visitor restrictions lifted from one to ten people this week, which means we can now share our camp fire, and camp oven dinner with friends too. We don’t have space for ten people to meet the outdoor social distancing rules (1.5 metres between), but we can legally space up to six people around our fire. This week we invited three friends around, and the camp oven dinner was to be a hearty beef in red wine stew with chunky vegetables and home made pull apart bread rolls.

Ok. now’s a good time to confess – I forgot to take photos! The photos above have been pilfered from other fire pit nights. Our guests were very kind, and seemed to enjoy this weeks stew, I’m a bit more critical though, and have to admit I haven’t perfected cooking yet in a camp oven on a back yard, portable fire pit. I manage well enough using the fire pits in campgrounds with their anchored hooks that allow the camp oven to suspend above the flames, and to swing out of the way of the flames altogether if the camp oven gets to hot. I also manage very well in a big fire on the open ground when I can rake hot coals to the side of the main fire.

For the stews I use gravy beef, which when cooked slowly at the right temperature makes a rich, flavoursome, melt in your mouth stew. The meat in the one pictured above cooked to quickly, and lacked that melt in mouth result of perfectly cooked gravy beef. Additionally, I added the chunky vegetables a little to late, and the carrots weren’t perfectly tender like they should be in well cooked stew. This week we tried using heat beads while cooking, and added the wood for the fire as soon as the cooking was done. I think we’re on track to get it right, but we still need to slow down the cooking to get the flavour that will only develop with a slow, gentle simmer over several hours. A few less coals I think will do it.

We had planned to have our usual toasted marshmallows, and S’mores afterwards. But one of our guest surprised us with the most delicious honeycomb cheesecake. Our other guests cooked us some lovely mini quiches and sausage rolls to start us off for the night. Between the lovely pastries to start, Paul’s pull apart home made rolls, and that, oh so delicious, cheesecake, who needed a perfectly cooked stew anyway.

Another garden makeover

Recently I had been thinking that in the coming years my blue garden would most likely have to go. The blue garden, consisting of a lacy, blue plumbago, surrounded by a solid border of blue agapanthus, was planted approximately three years ago. It had been slow to take off, but had a growth spurt this summer reaching almost perfect size by around February with masses of gorgeous blue blooms that almost obscured the fence. By the end of March it was growing so rapidly that it was requiring constant pruning to keep it confined to it’s allotted space.

With the speed it was growing, it was becoming clear that constant pruning would be needed to keep it manageable in years to come. Also, earlier this year the surrounding white stones that enhanced the blue perfectly had become a bit grubby with an accumulation of fallen leaves and other bits and pieces of garden debris. It took almost a week to lift and clean the stones. I figured that by the time the stones were due for their next clean, the plumbago would most likely be needing constant trimming to keep it from overwhelming it’s space. That would be the time for us to consider a garden makeover.

With Covid-19 restrictions keeping us within the confines of our own home boundaries, it seemed like to good an opportunity not to bring the garden overhaul forward by a year or two. Initially we considered artificial turf, but after a bit of research we quickly went off that idea. Apparently, even though maintaining real grass requires water and fertiliser it is still far more environmentally friendly than artificial turf. By the time our research told us Synthetic wasn’t the way for us to go, the picture of our back garden with a small expanse of soft, green turf had embedded in our minds. Three weeks ago we decided that now was a great opportunity to commence the inevitable changes, however with real, soft leafed sapphire buffalo grass instead of the anticipated fake stuff.

We still wanted our raised vegetable beds. First we removed the plumbago along with a couple of other plants. The agapanthus have been moved to the front garden. Next the raised garden beds were dismantled and moved to the back fence line. The newly planted seeds are up, and it won’t be long until we’re again eating homegrown silverbeet, lettuce and coriander. The bulk of the paving has been lifted and stored to be re-purposed later, with the paving under the verandah remaining in place. We raked in a good amount of decayed manure into the sandy base, and levelled the site. Then Paul dug the trenches and laid the reticulation.

Next came the laying of the turf, and fitting and testing the sprinklers.

Life isn’t really that different for retirees living under an imposed level three pandemic lock down. We’ve still been able to source supplies for projects, and the restrictions on personal movement throughout the state has meant we can really get productive with our time on the home front. Our garden looks so much bigger now with its newly laid lawn. Of course, although I claim it to be a joint project, Paul has done 99% of the work. I’ve just supervised (and made coffee). It was the 40th year anniversary on 26th April since Paul and I first ‘became an item’ (I think that’s the term used today). I think he’s still a keeper!

Writers block

I promise myself every week that I’m going to get back into blog writing. The week passes, and still no posts to publish. A new week begins, and another promise to myself, only to be yet another broken promise by the weeks end.

I did a small writers course many years ago. Two things stuck in my mind from that course, firstly, “if you want to be a writer, you first must be a reader”. The second thing was, “if you want to be a writer, you must write”. I can hear those sentences in my mind as clearly today as when I heard them then.

Sounds pretty simple, and basic doesn’t it. I rarely read of late, and I rarely write. Week after week goes by with barely a page in a book turned. Very few of the much loved blogs that I used read avidly even get opened. As for blog writing, I start a draft every now and again, but become so overwhelmed with the feeling that I have either nothing to say, or so much I want to say that condensing it into a blog is impossible. The writing quickly becomes a jumbled mish-mash of almost incoherent words.

Something I realised many years ago, in the days of letter writing, was that it’s much easier to write letters to someone if you write them often. If to much time goes by between letters all those little things that make up one’s life seem to become unimportant with the passage of time, and don’t seem worthy of a mention. Without the little things there’s rarely anything left to say. Momentous happenings in people’s lives are, fortunately, few and far between. I say fortunately, as if life was full of momentous happenings we’d no doubt never get time to read, or to write. How stressful would our lives be if day after day was filled with only momentous happenings.

I’m finding it the same with blog writing. Frequent writing about the little things that happen day to day is easy. Trying to condense lots of little things, or to pick just one or two little things out of the months that have gone by is an impossible task.

So, this weeks promise to myself. I must read both blogs and books, starting today. And I must write. As always I notice that when a lot of time goes by between blogs, the posts initially don’t seem to flow well. But if I’m to get my writing mojo back, I’m going to have to get through the writing rapids of tumultuous waters until I reach the calm flow of putting words together comes again. Providing I make good on my promises, I’ll get there.