Monday, 14 June 2021

Covid19 lockdown reflections, sights and signs 4.0

In Melbourne we are easing out of lockdown 4.0.  It was only 2 weeks of absolute lockdown of offices, schools, and non-essential retail with only 5 reasons to leave the home and 2 hours exercise a day.  However while it seemed long compared to other longer lockdowns, it was billed as a circuit breaker lockdown which made it feels longer, especially after our lockdown 3.0 was only 5 days.  Personally, I found it harder going into it with a sick cat and lack of sleep.  

As well as feeling isolated, it is unsettling to feel again the uncertainty in our freedoms, just as I was starting to spend more time with family and friends and find some routine.  Obviously I had too much confidence in our Covid normal life that I had a lunch organised, tickets to the Rising Festival and a 2 day workshop within a week and all got cancelled. I missed the swimming pool, the office and Sylvia learning in the the classroom.  Luckily I have had sourdough, walks with friends, bikerides and the cat is much better.  While we are in a better position, we are back to mask wearing, I am still unclear about when I will be back in the office and when I had an outdoor swim yesterday the change rooms were closed.

Above is a photo of the Flinders Street Station in the middle of the city.  I had a long ride to the city a week ago when they sweetened the second week of locdown by increasing the distance we could travel from home from 5 to 10 km.  I was surprised to see it so deserted on the weekend, expecting others to be attracted there like me.  Usually Flinders Street Station is bustling with people coming to town on trains, meeting others and just hanging out.  Let's have a look at some other sights and signs in our lockdown.

One of the differences between this lockdown and previous ones is that the community had access to a vaccine and recognised how important it was to keeping us safe and out of lockdown.  Queues at vaccination hubs were as common as queues at testing sights.  Quite a few people I knew were frustrated trying to book vaccinations as they were opened up to younger people.  I had my first vaccination just before it got really busy.

I went to the Melbourne Exhibition Building, because I chose to go where I could look up in awe at the architecture rather than think about a needle digging into my flesh.  (Anyone else feel queasy about all the footage in the media of people having a needle pushed into them?)  Sitting there for 15 minutes after my jab was just lovely and I could have sat there all day if I had not been told it was time to go.

I loved the media wall I passed on the way out.  I guess that is for the "vaxxie", a new term I just learnt for the vaccine selfie.  Then I went outside and ended up chatting to a woman who wanted to have the vaccine but was unsure about it.  The covid vaccine culture is fascinating.  As has been noted in the media a few times recently, when we get other vaccines we usually don't know the brand or the risks but believe they are going to be a good thing.  Yet there have been such lengthy discussions about brands and risk that I think we all have information overload.

Another new term was the "circuit breaker" which as not only in the politicians speak but also in the notices.  It was to be a short sharp week but was extended to 2 weeks and now we are at the end of week 3 with quite a few restrictions still in place.  As you can see in the above sign, there was uncertainty about exactly when the libraries would open again.

 Not only was our library closed but the return chutes were taped closed.  I might have been unobservant during other lockdowns but I do not remember seeing this.  Perhaps books were returned in the wrong way during previous lockdowns?

I liked this sign: "the time has come to sanitise".  I think this will make a great song when they make Covid: The Musical!

Before this lockdown, we were only wearing masks on public transport and in taxis.  Suddenly yet again we were wearing masks indoors and outdoors.  I had to find all my masks that were stashed in different bags and get back into regular washing.  I liked the signs on this shop that no only said they were selling reusable but gave mobile phone numbers for those who had a reusable mask emergency need outside shop hours.  (I blanked out the mobile numbers as it did not seem right to share them online.)

The lockdowns hit businesses hard.  Even if they could stay open, many had lots of challenges.  I took a photo of this random shop's click and collect process.  I guess after a few lockdowns, Jaycar has perfected the process but I can't imagine the staff were looking forward to making sure people practiced patience as they stood on the X and stepped back 1.5m when the order was placed on the table.

This cafe seems to have had problems enforcing the orders to wear masks inside.  To be clear, they would have been allowed to eat and drink inside.  They were only there for a takeaway so there was no excuse ot to wear a mask.  But it was quite common to see people without masks walking outside holding a takeaway coffee, as if to say I can't wear a mask because I am about to sip my coffee any moment.  Sometimes it was genuine and sometimes it seemed less so.

Lockdown meant a return to remote schooling and more than enough screen time.  These two aspects met in one of Sylvia's school projects where she was asked to make a tv or film set in art.  We had been bingewatching Friends so she set up a set for the Central Perk cafe.  We looked into purchasing orange felt by click and collect for the sofa but couldn't see any nearby.  So Sylvia settled for cutting up an microcloth duster.  I am glad that duster finally saw some action!  I am less glad it was glued onto dolls house

I took a few more photos during my bike ride to the city.  These signs at Federation Square made me feel guilty for being out and about.  But I also know that bike riding has kept my spirits up so I didn't feel too bad.  Also those seagulls at Fed Square are really annoying so although they were cute on the photos, I liked the idea of them stuck at home rather than stealing food.

What a poignant picture of a lone seagull in a closed Fed Square!  Except, if I know anything about those seagulls, where there is one there is a flock.

And the final Fed Square sign shows a seagull putting a mask on so badly that he makes Greg Hunt looks like he is an expert at putting on masks.  Poor Greg Hunt will not live down his botched demonstration of how you put on a mask last year!  I did tell you that I don't trust these Fed Square seagulls.  They will not live down taking a sushi hand roll out of my hand a few years back in the good old days when we could gather in groups in Fed Square.

During my ride to the city, I enjoyed having a look around at the street art (I think there might be a post coming up if I can find the time).  Though I must say it was so quiet as to feel a little creepy walking around deserted laneways.  All a bit On the Beach.  There was a picture of Ali G wearing a Pfizer ring.  I was curious to know if this is just fun vax-bling or if there is a story behind it.

Finally on my way home from the city, I passed Princes Park in Carlton.  It is such a beautiful park and was a lovely sunny day that it was understandable so many people wanting to get out of their house and stroll around the walking track.  Yet it did seem interesting how deserted the city was an how busy the park was.  Lockdown is a frustrating but also a fascinating beast!

More posts on Covid signs:

Monday, 7 June 2021

In My Kitchen: June 2021

June starts with us in the middle of lockdown with a sick cat.  We have been through enough previous lockdowns that we feel like we have this, but then I am on zoom with a kid doing remote schooling too close by and the soup goes flying over the desk and I remember it really isn't that easy!  And then the cat starts sneezing.  I am also missing swimming and being able to visit my parents and ride into work on a chilly morning.  Thank goodness for small stabs of happiness like sourdough and bike rides and walks with friends.  And I am relieved to have got my first dose of the vaccine before the queues for the jab went crazy.  

Above is a sourdough pizza I made with some oat cheese.  Like most vegan cheeses, it failed to keep the other toppings stuck to the dough but was tasty.

Here is more sourdough pizza.  This one had garlic oil, olives, sun dried tomatoes, roasted pumpkin, mushrooms and cheese.  It was really nice though a little on the sweet side.

Isn't this wombat biscuit so cute!  I bought it on the way home from an appointment with my lawyer to get a will drawn up.  I bought it for E who was going to look after Sylvia at home on a pupil free day while I was at work.  Sadly the day didn't quite work out that way because it ended up being our first day of lockdown so I was at home!  Life is so weird right now!

Last week we had bangers and mash.  It is one of our favourite meals.  I especially love leftover mashed potato on toast (or bagels as the case might be) with vegemite.

If there is a lot of mashed potato leftover, we also love making potato scones.  It is so easy to mix in enough flour to make a dough to roll out and fry up.

As well as mashed potato, leftover (vegetarian) sausages are food of the gods.  We will eat them plain or sometimes they are good in a salad sandwich.

We have fallen prey to the temptations of some of favourite flavours in ordinary old products.  Sylvia was keen on the TeeVee snacks with Krispy Kreme original glaze.  I'd much prefer the original chocolate covered TeeVee snacks.

And I fell for this Chokito inspired choc caramel custard.  It was just choc caramel custard.  It didn't have the chewiness of the caramel or the crunch of rice bubbles in chocolate.  Nowhere near the special experience of a Chokito. 

This was a really good salad I made for a lunch.  It had potato, celery, red capsicum, purple cabbage, sun dried tomatoes, and feta.

Another easy meal was this soup with vegies, noodles and finely chopped tofu. 

Before lockdown, I had a good long ride to the Botanical Gardens.  I wanted a gift for mother's day.  And a little cactus tea towel for us!

 We also went to Terre Mardre in Northcote.  It is always such a fun place to shop with so much self serve options and vegetarian foods.  Here are some dumplings, Linda McCartney's Vegetarian Lincolnshire Sausages and a couple of vegan mac and cheese pies.  I loved the mac and cheese pies but they were not quite Sylvia's thing.

More Sylvia's thing during lockdown is making a mess - oops I mean making a science experiment in the kitchen.  This was an experiment in solubility.  Thank goodness she doesn't do much lab work.  I really feel for those I know at uni who are stuck at home when they need to get into the lab for their experiments.

Even though I am quite happy to make my own dinner during lockdown, I decided to order a Night Noodle Markets takeaway meal.  I failed.  The place with the vegetarian options was not on the app so I just found a vegan option on Uber Eats.  By the time my meal came I was hungry and not really expecting to have to cook my own ramen noodles.  I ate the cauliflower bao first, which was really good and then put together the vegies, noodles and tofu puffs in soup.  The edamame was for Sylvia.

My ramen laksa actually looked pretty good once I served it but I was  not that hungry after the cauliflower bao.  So I had some and left the rest for the next night, when I added some tofu, corn and broccolini.  It was really nice and quite filling.  But I am looking forward to being out of lockdown and eating at a cafe again.  Uber eats is not really my thing!

I am sending this post to Sherry of Sherry's Pickings for the In My Kitchen event.  If you would like to join in, send your post to Sherry by 13th of the month.  Or just head over to her blog to visit more kitchens.

Wednesday, 2 June 2021

Tacos with chickpea salsa stew and pineapple slaw

Now we are back in lockdown, it has been interesting to see some of the media discussions on food.  In our long lockdown last year, everyone was talking sourdough and banana bread.  This lockdown, it is about making everything as easy as possible and ordering takeaway meals to support struggling businesses.  In our house, while the sourdough is still on the go, we seem to see saw between some comfort eating and trying to eat simple and healthy.

Sometimes there is great inspiration.  I like the challenge of Taco Tuesday each week.  Last night I had a tin of chickpeas that was open by a youngster to eat before she changed her mind, half a pineapple and the remains of an avocado.  I plugged chickkpeas, pineapple and avocado into the search engine and found  these BBQ chickpea sliders with pineapple slaw.  I translated these into tacos and used up what I had in the fridge such as salsa and cherry tomatoes.  

The chickpeas were amazingly good.  The salsa was too sharp, and even when I found I had misread the amounts of sweetner and increased it, I was still not quite convinced.  But it was a very satisfying meal when the chickkpeas and slaw were served with tacos, baby spinach and corn cheese.

It felt good to eat well.  Lockdown last year was not a healthy time for me and even having just been through a week of lockdown has not felt healthy.  This time it has been complicated by having a sick cat who has needed a lot attention and time, as well as remote schooling.  

One of our challenges over the week has been to encourage Shadow to eat.  He has been given appetite stimulants by the vet and it was terrible to see him walk up to his food bowl again and again but be unable to actually eat.  Finally we had a breakthrough when we had some zaatar pizza for lunch.  Sylvia tore a bit of the crust because Shadow was bothering us so much.  He likes to reach a paw out and tap us when he wants something.  After that we found some softer treats that he liked.  And then we heard the sweet sound of him crunching on his usual biscuits.  He is a lot better but still has some way to go.

More taco fillings in Green Gourmet Giraffe blog:
Borlotti bean mole with roast pumpkin and silverbeet
(gf, v)
Cauliflower ceviche tacos (gf, v) 
Haggis tacos
Lentil and cauliflower taco filling
(gf, v) 
Oaxaca tacos (with potato and cheese) (gf)
Refried lentils with garlic scapes (gf, v)

Chickpea and salsa stew
An original Green Gourmet Giraffe recipe with Veggies Don't Bite inspiration
Serves 2-4

1-2 tsp vegetable  oil
1 onion, chopped
1/2 cup chopped cherry tomatoes
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tsp taco seasoning mix
1/4 tsp smoked paprika
400g tin of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup of tomato salsa
1/4 cup of water

Heat oil in a smallish saucepan.  Fry onion in oil for 5-10 minutes until translucent.  Stir in tomatoes, garlic, seasoning mix and paprika for a few minutes until tomatoes soften.  Add chickpeas, salsa and water.  Cover, boil and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Check seasoning (I did not need any).

Pineapple slaw
Adapted from Veggies Don't Bite
Serves 4

1/2 ripe avocado , mashed
1/2 cup fresh pineapple, chopped finely
2 tsp maple syrup
1 lime, juiced
1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar
2 cups purple cabbage, shredded
seasoning, to taste

Mash avocado and mix with pineapple, maple syrup, lime juice and vinegar.  Mix the cabbage in and season to taste.


  • I think other beans would work with the salsa.  I would like to try black beans.
  • I used cabbage and red capsicum instead of just cabbage because I didn't have enough cabbage but I think I would prefer just cabbage.
  • Other taco toppings can be added.
  • Serving suggestions: tacos, baby spinach, corn, feta, yoghurt.  Anything goes!
  • Update - I saw another pineapple coleslaw on Gluten Free Alchemist which uses coconut cream instead of avocado - another idea to try here!

On the Stereo:
The Crane Wife: The Decembrists

Covid signs in Melbourne (and Sydney) after lockdown 2.0

This was to be a post that ruminated on Melbourne opening up again after the long lockdown last year. It was to be about how we have are living without community transmission but are still living in a Covid pandemic.  I even wrote this paragraph a couple of weeks ago:

We are still living in horribly uncertain times.  The nightly news has glimpses of hope (hello President Joe Biden's vaccination rollout) and then despair (India's Covid situation is just so awful).  Having a Covid vaccine so soon is pretty amazing but it is not the silver bullet we all had been looking for.  And here in Australia we are living a comparatively easy life (mostly) free of Covid but we long to return to our natural habitat where international travel is part of life, we are not separated from loved ones, our universities are busy with students, we don't even have to think about the risks of the Astra Zenica vaccine, and we are not plagued with the uncertainty of when and if this all will end.   I sometimes wish to live without all the social distancing notices, QR sign-in codes, endless bottles of hand sanitizer.  

At the time of writing, it was a few months since our last community covid transmission.  But life changes fast with Covid.  Now we are back in lockdown.  It was to be just a circuit breaker lockdown week.  It is likely to extend beyond Thursday as we are seeing huge queues for testing (and vaccinating), identification of a staggering 320 "public exposure sites" and now there is a case in Sydney.  So I am publishing this post with a note of nostalgia and a hope that soon we will be back to Covid normal again.

 The remains of Covid Lockdown 2.0 in Melbourne:





Christmas in the time of Covid (supermarket, bike shop and Myer Christmas Windows):





Welcome back Melbourne signs:

Covid normal:

Covid Signs in Sydney (Airport and Coogee)




More Covid signs: