Sunday, 24 January 2021

Gippsland Getaway: Yarram, Tarra Bulga National Park and Wilson's Prom

A couple of weeks back, I went on holidays to Gippsland.  We stayed in a cosy cottage that had once been a Old Dairy on a farm near Yarram.  We walked in the Tarra Bulga National Park among towering mountain ash trees and lacy tree ferns.  We drove to Wilson's Prom to swim in the beach with a friend.  We looked a Yarram street art.  We relaxed in the cottage watching dvds and reading books.  And we ate well.  So here is a story of what I did on my holiday!

But before I start to tell you about Gippsland (a few hours drive East of Melbourne) I can tell you that my holiday is costing me a new car.  It was bound to happen sooner or later with my old car but I didn't think it would end sitting on a bridge at the edge of a freeway in 37 C heat, eating crisp sandwiches, listening to Ariana Grande and watching cars speed up behind me before they saw my emergency lights on and swerving around me at the last moment!  So to get to our holiday we had to be shunted off the bridge by a VicRoads van, have our car towed home while we went in a taxi and then waiting for my mum driving up from Geelong so we can start all over again in her car while she took the train home!  Yes my mum was a hero, my car is kaput and we didn't get to our accommodation until 8pm!

The Old Dairy had a great cosy kitchen with cake, butter and jam on the bench, eggs by the stove and sourdough bread in the bread bin.  I loved doing the dishes and looking out the window towards the cow pasture.

The Old Dairy was decorated with lots of little fun ornaments, mostly cows.  It had wonderful views and cows that ran from me when I approached them (they were on the other side of an electric fence).

The large lounge room had large windows to sit and admire the view of the rolling paddocks.  We watched some DVDs but there was no TV reception, no wifi and limited internet reception on my phone.  A great place to catch up on some reading. 

My favourite cow ornaments was this set of posh lady cows wearing flowers in their hats and pearls around their neck.

When we weren't admiring cows in the next paddock to the Old Dairy, there were plenty to see on the roadside.

Occasionally there were rustic rundown farm houses near the cows.

 

I did not have Yarram as my first choice.  I had originally planned to go to my favourite Port Fairy holiday house but it is no longer taking guests.  So I turned to AirBnB and when I saw the cottage just outside Yarram, it seemed perfect.  I have a friend who lives nearby and I had read about the Heesco street art in the town.


One our first day, we had lunch in town and then walked around town with the map we found in the bakery.  Here is a taster of some of the wonderful rural art on display!

It might seem odd to find a refugee mural in a rural town.  But there is a history of refugees making important contributions in country towns where populations are dwindling.  This mural was commissioned by the owner of the Yarram Bakery who came to Australia by boat as a refugee and wanted this to be a tribute to refugees and those who gave him a chance.


More cows and country folk on the wall of the Federal Coffee Palace.  I had expected to see lots of street art when walking down the main street (Commercial St) but the map was helpful because many are around the corner or at the back of buildings.

While I would not travel to Yarram for the food, it does have some good food on offer.  On our first day we went to the Yarram Bakery because I love an old fashioned country bakery.  I had a spinach and cheese pastry with some salad and a coffee scroll.  Sylvia had a Turkish bread roll and a jelly slice.  The cheery meringue was taken back to the cottage for later.


The most impressive place to eat was the Federal Coffee Palace.  It was the nearest to an inner city cafe.  I ordered the Falafel salad of falafels, rocket, pickled beetroot, roast pumpkin, chickpeas, peanuts, onion, crumbled feta, and home made sundried tomato vinaigrette.  It was certainly a new way to eat falafel and I really enjoyed it, though it was quiet filling.  I also supplemented my meal with a few of Sylvia's chips.

Sylvia was excited about the chance to taste a rolled ice cream.  I had never heard of them but apparently they are a thing on tiktok and youtube.  They were on offer at The Old Standard Lolly Shop.  Sylvia chose the oreo flavour.  Cream and oreos were mixed on a chilled metal square until it became a thin frozen slab and could be served by rolling up the thin ice cream.  Then it was topped with squirty cream, topping and an oreo.  Sylvia loved it but found it really filling.  For the vegans, I was interested to see a few adverts in cafes for vegan ice creams.


Most of our meals were at the cottage.  Toast and baked beans was my favourite breakfast.  Sylvia would eat cereal and toast with vegemite or fried egg.  We ate pasta with pasta sauce and cheese one night.  After a few nights I needed more vegies and stopped at the supermarket for some salads and dip.  This was my rather satisfying meal: coleslaw, quinoa tabouli, hummus, roast pumpkin cashew dip, cheese cubes and brown rice chips.
 

We also went to the Tarra Bulga National Park and walked to the suspension bridge from the visitors centre.  The drive there was on a very narrow windy road.  The sort that would have made me very car sick as a kid!  It was a really lovely walk with lots of shade. 

I was delighted that our path led us past many tree ferns and mountain ash trees.  I am fond of tree ferns as they were often on the bush walks we did near Lorne as a kid.  The mountain ash are such tall majestic trees and one of my lecturers at university wrote a book about the history of them.


 We had some time to just lounge about the cottage.  One afternoon was spent watching dvds.  We had our first taste of the Ice Age movies and I watched Contagion which was fascinating after a year of Covid19.  It did have many echoes of our experiences but I laughed at the supermarkets where cashiers had gone in the anarchy.  It seems the film makers had underestimated the supermarket chains' profiting from the pandemic.  I also read quite a bit, which was lovely after I didn't do much reading last year.


We also spent a day driving down to Wilson's Prom - closer than Melbourne but still close to 2 hours drive - to visit my friend who usually lives near Yarram but was holidaying at the beach.  It was a nice chance to go to the beach at the National Park and to catch up with Alison and family.  I had a really good vegetarian burger at the local store in Tidal River.

I was happy to see some wildlife while we were in the country.  As I have mentioned, there were lots of foxes.  Each morning we would see cockatoos or galahs flying by out the window.  We saw kookaburras and a cute little echidna on roadsides (as well as too much roadkill).  The owner of the cottage kindly invited us to see her cats and chooks.  We even saw a fox sleeping in a tree!


It poured rain for a lot of the day that we drove home.  We stopped to look at Port Welshpool jetty but it was too wet to get out.  Lunch was at Latte Dah cafe at Toora.  I was so cold with all the rain that I really needed a warm meal.  I had eggplant bake, creamy potato bake and a side salad.  It was just what I needed.  Sylvia had chips!  I noticed that the menu board included macchiata and piccolo and the options of soy milk and oat milk so I guess that this was where the treechangers from the city go for coffees.

It was a lovely relaxing holiday with quite a bit of driving and some nice food and spectacular scenery.  It was good to get our of our comfort zone and go to a part of Victoria that we don't know so well, and to support the local tourism industry that had a tough last year with bushfires and covid19 (and avoid all the state border restrictions that made interstate travel risky).  As there is no plans to open our international borders any time soon, local holidays might be on the cards for a while yet!

Sunday, 10 January 2021

Chocolate ripple cake for New Year's Eve

For some time I have been promising Sylvia I would make her a chocolate ripple cake.  And somehow on New Year's Eve it came to be.  I feel somewhat ashamed that I had to look up a recipe.  This is a classic Aussie dessert that is just whipped cream and crisp chocolate ripple biscuits that have some time to get to know each other and work their chemistry.  I just needed to make sure I had the right proportions.

The Australian Chocolate Ripple Cake seems similar to the icebox cake in the USA or tiramisu in Italy.  They are so easy to make and yet can be very impressive.  Some very tired and busy woman must have invented it.  Or someone who knew that women needed a break in the kitchen.  Or (if you are feeling cynical after seeing the depths that politicians can stoop to in the USA) just some company man trying to sell more biscuits.  These cakes were often present when I was a kid and went to an event where everyone brought a plate (that means brought a plate of food).  Today they are still popular. 

There are many variations.  My mum says she likes it with biscuits dipped in alcoholic drink (not sure which one).  My sister who has recently been diagnosed celiac made her own gluten free chocolate biscuits.  And you can find different versions online using flavours such as Espresso or Baileys Irish Cream.  As we often have peppermint crisp on pavolva, I think a version with peppermint crisp in the cream would be great!

It is a while since I have had chocolate ripple cake.  The cream firms up in the fridge and ask it soaks into the biscuits.  I quite like how the crisp biscuits soften but I am not a fan of all that cream.  Both Sylvia and I loved eating the berries with the cake.  As you will see in the top photo, it is important to cut the cake on the diagonal to get the stripey look.  I was pleased to find a place to feature my johnny jump-ups (little pansies) which we bought in a pot in 2019.  Last year they seemed to have died off but I kept watering in hope and not only have the returned in their pot but they have jumped into a few other pots.  The little flowers look great in the garden and as a garnish.

For mains we had nachos.  Usually at New Year's Eve we have vegetarian haggis on nachos but I was a bit absent-minded and forgot this.  I had some refried beans in the freezer and used these.  As with the low-energy dessert, I also went for the path of least resistance in making dinner.  2020 was not a year to push myself to any great culinary heights! I did make the guacamole but just chopped up tomatoes instead of salsa and topped it with sour cream.  Easy peasy lemon squeezy and tasted great!

I had decided to make a non-alcoholic version of Nigella's pomegranate fizz. It was a mixture of pomegranate juice, lime juice and sparkling muscat wine.  When I went to Dan Murphy's to buy a bottle, I got some good advice on it but I had not looked at the recipe.  I bought a Maggie Beer sparkling non-alcoholic chardonnay but my mum pointed out this is dry and the wine Nigella used was quite sweet.  So I was not that fond of the fizz.  Much nicer was mixing the chardonnay with peach puree using very ripe peaches from my friend's tree.

We had a very quiet New Year's Eve in front of the telly.  The day before the government had changed restrictions from 30 people in a private home to a maximum of 15 people and I was wondering if it was worse to be uninvited or to have to do the uninviting.  It wasn't a year for a big celebration with corona virus hotspots breaking out around the nation, borders being closed at short notice and much uncertainty.  

But as we have done the last few years, we went to Torquay back beach on New Year's Day.  It was quite cold and windy.  Sylvia preferred to stay on the grass.  Once I got over the nip in the water, I could have just stayed in the sea forever with the waves washing over me.

We went to the Bell St fish and chip shop for dinner.  Though I think we just had a late breakfast so dinner was at 4.30pm.  In previous years we have been part of a long queue snaking through the shop and out the door, with lots of people sitting about the shop waiting for their order.  This year it was quieter - possibly because we were so early - and covid friendly with a limited number going into the shop with a mask on to order and then waiting at a safe distance from the doorway for their number to be yelled out of the shop.  

We had corn jacks, potato cakes and chips.  I really loved them, though the chips were alarmingly yellow.  We bought a bottle of coke and I was surprised to see it had a label saying "share a coke with your wifey".  I didn't think anyone said wifey other than Scottish people talking about the wee wifey.  We stopped on the way home to say happy new year to my parents and then drove home, tired and happy.  It was a great way to start the year!


More recipes with store bought biscuits on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Apricot condensed milk slice
Easter caramel and malteser fridge cake
Hedgehog
Lemon slice
Prince William's fridge cake (posh hedgehog)
S'mores slice (with vegan marshmallow) 

Chocolate Ripple Cake
From taste.com.au
Serves 10-15

500ml thickened cream
1 tsp icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
250g packet of chocolate ripple biscuits
berries and mint to decorate 

Use electric beaters to whip cream, icing sugar and vanilla to stiff peaks.  Spread a slick of whipped cream along a long serving platter.  Spread cream on one side of a chocolate ripple biscuit and place on the cream.  Spread another biscuit with cream and press against the first biscuit.  Repeat spreading cream and pressing biscuits into the cream slick to make a long line of them.  Then slather the line with remaining cream until you can't see any biscuits.  Chill in fridge for at least 6 hours or preferably overnight.  Before serving arrange berries and mint leaves on the cake and around its base.  To serve, cut in diagonal slices to make sure you get stripes of biscuits and cream.

On the Stereo:
A short album about love:  Divine Comedy

Tuesday, 5 January 2021

In My Kitchen - January 2021

I can't tell you how happy I am that it is 2021.  I know we have a long way to go with the fight against Corona Virus but I could not bear to go through 2020 again!  (If you want to see a recap, check out my Reflections on 2020.)  We have had lots of summer rain this week, which is much preferable to hot, humid and ridiculously dry.  Cases of Covid have returned to Victoria after a blissful 60 days covid-free.  I know I can't complain compared to many other places in the world and I send best wishes to those in lockdown.  I have had that quiet period after Christmas of holidays, cleaning up the house, getting back into reading books, swimming, bike riding and a little socialising.  Just taking stock!  I have a couple of weeks before heading back to work, to the office for part of the week.  Always change.

One of my favourite things at this time of year is summer fruit.  Cherries have been constantly in my kitchen the last few weeks.  Above is a picture of a little work snack of cherries, nectarine slices and a mini minced fruit tart.  I didn't manage to make any mince tarts this year but I have lots of fruit mince so maybe I might see if I can make some fruit bread with it.


I have written about how lovely it was to have a work group Christmas party.  It lasted 11.30am to 9.30pm.  That would usually be a long day but after lockdown it seems forever.  It is testament to how much I was enjoying my colleagues company that I stayed that long and was in a small group that continued on at  dinner at a Thai restaurant.  It was so long since I had pad thai that I really enjoyed a bowl of it.  Since then I tried this pad thai from taste.com.au with some vegan fish sauce.  I didn't have lime juice so just used lemon juice but I intend to try it again soon.

While there are lots of summer fruits, I haven't been cooking vegetables as much as I would like.  I noticed the roots coming out of my bag of potatoes.  I had used most of them but left a few for another time.  Sadly they were only good for the compost.

 

 I had a nice ride to North Carlton for some Christmas shopping.  I found what I wanted and then brosed the foodie shops.  There is a great deli at the northern end of Nicholson Street where I bought chocolate covered oranges and mulled wine chocolate.  I have only had the oranges so far which were so good.  I bought Sylvia a vegan gingerbread man there which she loved.  And I bought some olive sourdough bread and a chickpea pie from Natural Tucker which is a wonderful bakery.

I have posted about my Christmas eating and finished with a photo of presents.  Here are a few close-ups.  These cat salt and pepper shakers are so cute.  I am still thinking about a place for them to live and be on show.

Sylvia got this mug cake mix from Ireland.  She had tried one of the two packets of mix in it and said it was ok.  I didn't get much of a chance to try it but she has suggested I use the second packet.  Soon, I hope!

Sylvia also got this set of flavoured hot chocolate mixes.  It is not really hot chocolate season but I would be surprised if the school holidays finish without her trying at least one!

 

Sylvia gave me this cute taco plate.  I can't wait to try standing some tacos in it.  With the holidays, our routine is shot to pieces so we haven't had taco tuesdays for a few weeks but once I am back to work I am sure it will be very useful.

There is nothing so good when arguing about who can eat a block of chocolate when my name is on it in big letters.  Yes I got a personalised stick of toblerone this year from Sylvia!

And finally on the presents, I got this fantastic kombucha and co recipe book.  I hope to try making kombucha again but in the meanwhile this has some useful information about making kombucha and other fermented drinks.

A friend asked me around to take some of the peaches off her tree.  There were so soft that they bruised easily.  I decided to puree them.

The peach puree was fantastic with a non-alcoholic champagne.  But it was also good enough to just drink straight!

Sylvia had fun making pizza and some vegetable erasers from a kit.  It was like moulding clay which was then baked to firm up the erasers. 

Last night we went to a family dinner at my parents' place in Geelong to see my brother before he headed back interstate.  It was interesting discussing holiday plans with my siblings.  Two holidays had been cancelled and replaced due to covid-related border restrictions.  My mum made an amazing meal with lots of mexican dishes for mains and lots of desserts for afters.  I particular enjoyed her caramel tart.  She sent me home with pavlova and upside down rubble dubble (as we have always called upside down pineapple pudding) which we serve with a lemon sauce. 


I am sending this post to Sherry of Sherry's Pickings for the In My Kitchen event, that was started by Celia of Fig Jam and Lime Cordial,  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 check out her cute hand drawn festive banner and visit more kitchens.

Saturday, 2 January 2021

Reflections on 2020 - a Melbourne experience of the year of Corona Virus.


Happy New Year and Good Riddance to 2020.  Last year was challenging but not without some fine moments.  I started the year with an innocent optimism that looks foolish from this end of the year but as well as this year being unprecedented, it was also unexpected.  Who would have expected one year could bring Bushfires, Corona Virus, Economic collapse, so much Zoom, Masks, Lockdown, Covidiots. the Black Lives Matter movement, and our (conservative) Australian government listening to experts, giving so many funds to the unemployed but showing shocking neglect to the Australian tertiary education system.  

This year's reflections are slightly different just as this year was so unusual.  Here is 2020 from perspective of a Melbournian.  As always my reflections aren't brief so grab a cuppa and find a comfy seat!


January

  • Intense bushfires raged through the country - in Melbourne we were safe from fires but affected by the smoke.  Masks came out as smoke affected people's health.  Fundraisers for the bushfire victims were everywhere.
  • I was still cleaning up after ex-husband E moved out a few months back.
  • Organised a new desk for Sylvia and reorganised my bedroom with better access to my desk.  
  • I was excited to book flights to Scotland to visit family and friends in September.
  • I blogged Vegan Stovies with leftover gravy.  Fantastic comfort food.


February

  • At work we were concerned by the stories of the Corona Virus from China and for our Chinese colleagues who had returned for Chinese New Year.  
  • Sylvia had a sleepover party for 5 friends to celebrate her birthday.  She was one of the lucky kids who celebrated a birthday before corona virus changed our lives.
  • When my old bike needed too much work, I finally purchased an e-bike to help me ride to work and back and have energy for dinner and bedtime when I got home. 
  • We got a new toilet.
  • I made what was possibly my prettiest salad of the year: Pineapple and cabbage rice salad.


March:

  • At work our boss decided my work group would work from home in mid March as the threat of corona virus intensified.  He was soundly blasted by his manager but about a week later everyone else was working from home.
  • The group set up daily The Age Quiz Zoom chats at lunchtime and Friday drinks Zoom chats.  My team manager set us up to meet by Zoom 3 times a week to catch up on how we were doing and where we were at with our work.  It meant a lot of casual zoom conversations that helped keep me sane at home.
  • The whole country went into lockdown.  Unemployment queues and the word "unprecedented" were seen far more than ever before and the government responded with a generous JobKeeper and JobSeeker payment to keep the economy afloat.
  • Toilet paper became scarce in supermarkets as panic buying hit the country.  Flour was also a precious commodity.  Supermarkets put restrictions on how much of scarce items we could buy.
  • We were watching current affairs on the tv much more to keep up with what was happening with the virus.  More doomscrolling, lots of thumbstoppers!  We learnt about social distancing, elbow bumps, isolation, sanitiser and how to wash our hands properly.
  • As the threat of the virus made me nervous, I postponed our tickets to Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.  (We are now scheduled for August 2021 after two more postponements.) 
  • I got a flu vaccination for the first time ever!  But isolation meant very few of us got the flu anyway!
  • School holidays extended and brought forward a week.
  • I changed my doctor because my lovely doctor had to cease practicing as she had cancer - and that meant not dealing with patients while corona virus was at large.
  • I posted my Green mint chocolate drip cake, that Sylvia and I made for my birthday lunch during the Summer. I got a cast iron skillet for my birthday which has been a revelation.


April

:

  • Screen time increased drastically.  We watched a lot of Brooklyn 99 on NetflixBest fun ever ("title of your sex tape", as Jake might say!)
  • After the Easter holidays, schools commenced remote learning.  I was working from home and having Sylvia home most of the week.  I was glad she could have some time with E. Our regular schedules with Sylvia went out the window.
  • I posted my nut roast with mac and cheese layer that I made for Easter.  It was a quiet Easter with just Sylvia and me together. 
  • Tim Brooke Taylor died of Covid - so sad because I loved The Goodies so much as a kid. 
  • So much rain that by the end of April we had as much rain in 4 months as we had in 12 months in 2019.
  • Supermarkets eased restrictions on what we could buy.  Who would have thought sightings of toilet paper on supermarket shelves would be exciting!
  • I celebrated 13 years of blogging with Sloth cupcakes (and also posted Sylvia's birthday Fondant Black Cat cupcakes). 


May

  • George Floyd died a cruel death with a police officer's knee on his neck in the USA.  It sparked Black Lives Matter protest marches around the world and a lot of distressing news footage.
  • Lockdown eased enough that I could have a socially distanced walk with 9 colleagues in the Carlton Gardens. 
  • We were queuing for the Farmers Market now that social distancing limited the number of people who could enter.  Upon entering we used hand sanitiser.  Donations at the door were by card not coin.  And there was only food to take away.  No food trucks!
  • I could visit my parents in Geelong again.
  • We discovered mug cakes.  They were a good way to have a sweet treat when we were baking less because there were less people to share with.
  • I posted a fun way to use up a manky banana: Banana katsu curry wih tofu nuggets.


June
 

  • School students were back in the classroom in early June.  (The youngest and oldest kids were back in late May but not my Grade 6 daughter).
  • We could sit down in cafes again in Melbourne at the start of June.  I had lunch with my colleagues at Naughtons pub.
  • Black Lives Matter made us think about which statues were and weren't appropriate.
  • I usually ignore adverts for apps but I was tempted by Design Home app. Sylvia and I got quite addicted for a while.
  • Restrictions started easing and then the corona virus numbers started to rise again in Melbourne and that put a hold on the freedoms we had been looking forward to. 
  • I got my first kombucha scoby.  Unfortunately lockdown lack of energy was not the ideal time I had hoped to start making my own kombucha.  After making a couple of ok batches, I let it just keep growing til it had no food left and started to go mouldy.  I hang my head in shame as a kombucha lover.
  • I posted indulgent Black Forest Brownies.


July

  • In early July, I was lucky to have dinner with my family in Geelong at the Fyansford Hotel.  We had originally planned a home meal but restrictions made this difficult so we moved the dinner to the pub. We had sparklers not candles on my niece and nephew's birthday cake, due to Covid.
  • By mid July we were back in lockdown in Melbourne.  No going beyond 5km of the home and only 4 reasons to leave home (shopping, exercise, medical and work).  School children were home with us again doing remote schooling.
  • I did a Mental Health First Aid course at work.  It was gave me more confidence in talking to people who were having a hard time in lockdown (and I am not sure there was anyone who coped really well!)
  • I learnt to darn holes in my jumpers.
  • We held a socially distanced Lockdown Christmas in July where I made lunch, dropped it off at my friends' places and then we got together over zoom for the desserts.  It was a cheering moment during lockdown.
  • Sylvia and I got a corona virus test.  We were negative.  Not everyone around us was so lucky.  Her school was shut down for a week when a student had the virus.
  • Masks became mandatory when anywhere outside our homes.
  • Sylvia and I started doing Taco Tuesdays.
  • I posted Red and green smoothie bowls - a rare moment of healthiness in a dark dim unhealthy winter of lockdown.


August
 

  • I got my full refund for my cancelled flights to Scotland.
  • My niece had a birthday where friends and family drove by to have a piece of birthday cake and say happy birthday.  I lived too far away and had to make do with a zoom chat.
  • I started to go for walks with friends.  (Two people from different households could walk together wearing masks.)  It was a great day when I realised my 5km limit overlapped with a friend's 5km limit and we could go to Princess Park. 
  • At the beginning of the month we had 725 new cases.  By the end of August, case in Victoria finally were reduced to 100.
  • My brother was working in a nursing home that had an outbreak of corona virus which made us all quite worried.  He was lucky not to catch it, though I am sure PPE helped too!
  • I finally posted sourdough Candy Cane Pizzas that I have made for Christmas in July for years but never had the time to photograph well.  NB I kept up my sourdough starter but did not always have much energy for it.


September
 

  • We could see the light at the end of the tunnel with our long lockdown.  It was hard being the only one of my siblings and parents to be in lockdown.
  • I had a medical appointment in Geelong and was able to get a permit to breach the "ring of steel" border separating Melbourne and Geelong.  I might have visited my parents too for mental health reasons, even though my permit did not specify this!
  • Helen Reddy died.  A great Australian singer and songwriter that made a huge impact with "I am Woman."
  • I finished reading The Children's Book by A S Byatt that I started in June 2020.  I regret to say I have read less than usual during this year.  But I loved this book that followed some artistic families at the end of the Nineteenth Century.
  • Sylvia started to have the occasional walk with a school friend after about 2 months of not seeing any other kids in the flesh - though there was lots of facetime.
  • I posted Banana, prune and seed loaf when I finally joined the many people making banana bread in lockdown.


October
:

  • US president Donald Trump was diagnosed with Corona Virus in another unexpected twist in the odd election campaign (which I followed on a great tv program in Australia, called Planet America).
  • Watched Junior MasterChef Australia to admire all the child cooks.
  • Restrictions finally eased in the middle of the month.  Sylvia returned to classroom learning.
  • The AFL football Grand Final which is always held in Melbourne, was moved to a later date and held in Brisbane.
  • On 26 October we had our first "doughnut" day with no new corona virus diagnoses.  These were soon followed by "double doughnut days" with no new diagnoses or deaths. Such a great feeling.
  • We were allowed 2 visitors in our homes and non-essential shops opened.
  • We made Spoonville characters to take to Sylvia's school's spoonville village.  Craft projects were among the joys of Sylvia doing her schooling from home.  But I had a gutful of long division and ratios!
  • On 30 October, our Victorian Premier finally took a day off from press conferences after 120 on consecutive days.  I have watched more press conferences this year than ever before.
  • I posted a Tempeh black bean taco filling that made a few appearances at our Taco Tuesdays.


November
:

  • The USA presidential elections were held with great tension as it took about a week to declare Joe Biden the winner.  (And we are still unsure if Trump will ever concede!)  It was very exciting to see Kamala Harris elected as the USA's first female vice-president.
  • I had a tooth extracted - 3/4 was extracted by my dentist and the next day I had a specialist extract the remaining bit of tooth.  This was followed by quite a lot of pain but has now settled.
  • The "ring of steel" border around Melbourne was removed and I could visit my parents in Geelong and go to the beach in Torquay.  Oh joy!
  • I was diagnosed with low iron and low vitamin D.  Taking vitamin supplements and exercising more has made a difference to my energy levels.  (No more being so tired I had to sleep in the afternoon!)
  • On 11 November I had my first pub lunch with my work team since the second lockdown.
  • Towards the end of the month, we were told we no longer needed to wear masks outside - such freedom!
  • On 26 November, Victoria celebrated 28 days of no new corona virus and was seen to have reached elimination of the virus.
  • An outbreak in South Australia made us concerned that my brother living interstate would not get home for Christmas.  But it fortunately passed quickly.
  • State borders were opened with Victoria.
  • I posted Red velvet cupcakes with eyeballs for Halloween and for a small lunch for our stillborn sons birthday.


December:

  • I finally watched one of the streaming hits of 2020: Normal People. Beautiful and sad.
  • Sylvia graduated from primary school.  It was touch and go if it would be held and whether parents could attend but in the end each child could invite 2 guests.
  • It was odd to go to a shopping centre and see a sign directing us to leave a few steps between each person on escalators, and to realise that I had not been on an escalator for months. 
  • Though our staff newsletter advised us not to hold Christmas parties, we had one for our larger group and one for my team.  It was great to see people I hadn't seen for most of the year and a few I had not met.
  • Sylvia and I had our first cinema visit (to see A Christmas Gift From Bob) since early in the year and had the cinema to ourselves.
  • I was still working from home but have been given permissions to return to the office this January.  My team agreed we would all like to continue with some work days at home, which is good because our office is too small for us all to fit in with social distancing regulations.
  • NSW had an outbreak of corona virus which meant some lockdowns there over Christmas and border closures.
  • In the UK, the first corona vaccine began the roll out.  A sign of hope.
  • Carol services and fireworks cancelled in Melbourne.  Carols by Candlelight went ahead on tv but without a live audience.
  • In Victoria we were able to celebrate Christmas in precious freedom but within days of Christmas there were a handful of corona virus cases after 60 days of no new cases and the restrictions have tightened slightly.  This will be a test of how well our contact tracing system is working.
  • I posted Stuffed Giant Pasta Shells on Bolognaise that I made to use up Christmas leftovers.

 


The world seems changed in that we are more wary of each other and also more protective.  Screens were king this year (also I should mention more excellent tv shows: The Queen's Gambit, Years and Years). Small pleasures like playgrounds and sharing a lunch seem precious.  My energy was really low and reflected in much less blogging than other years but I have ended the year with more energy, though I am still feeling time poor.  It would be lovely to hope that 2021 will bring us back to normality but it is not a year to feel confident to make predictions.  Thanks for reading.  I hope you had a good New Year's Eve and wish you a healthy and happy 2021.