Saturday, 23 October 2021

Photos from Covid Lockdown 6 in Melbourne - walking and biking

So we were told we were out of lockdown yesterday but it still doesn't feel like much freedom. 'Freedom' has become a slippery term during Covid.  While we have not been able to travel, go to work and see family, the freedoms we have to discover our own local areas by bike and foot.  Here are some of the photos I have taken, mostly nearby.

The Upfield Bike Path was given a makeover after the skyrail was built to raise the train line so that cars did not have to wait for the trains to cross the road.  Lots of new signs, playgrounds and even the Moreland train station - top photo - and Coburg train station got an upgrade.

A bit of humour in True North cafe.

Toys hanging from a tree.  I thought it was cute.  Sylvia thought it was creepy.

Ice cream truck in Princes Park.  It was one of the few experiences of eating out with a friend during lockdown.  Wonderful on a sunny day!

Bridge over Merri Creek.  On a walk near the swing rope which seems like a magnet for young people.

Fawkner Cemetery has fantastic trees, lots of birdlife and I enjoyed riding around looking at different groups of graves.

War memorial at Fawkner Cemetery.

Fun on the Upfield Bike Path

Cheery guerilla gardening on Upfield Bike Path near Bakers Road.  Love the plants in old bike helmets.

I still haven't worked out this sign on the Upfield Bike Path.  Riding downhill on a bike is a fantastic feeling but when we say life is going downhill is is a good thing?

Yarn bombing on the Upfield Bike Path

Coburg Farmers Market.  A breath of fresh air!/

Another bluestone bridge on a walk near Coburg Lake.

Trip to the city for click and collect Taylor Swift CDs at JB HiFi (not for me).  The steps of the old GPO are usually crowded with people sitting watching others and buskers and trams.

The furtherest I have been from home in months was St Kilda to walk along the pier.  It was odd to drive to the other side of the river.  It was amazing to see the city from the other side of the river.

I missed the beach and pool so much that I was excited to go to St Kilda Beach.  (Too much watching Secret Life of Us).  It was a bit disappointing to see the weird foam at the water's edge but less surprising to see that the sand was not the fine sand I am used to out of town.  I am looking forward to being able to travel out of Melbourne soon.

More Covid posts on Green Gourmet Giraffe:

Wednesday, 20 October 2021

Covid19 lockdown 6 reflections and signs in Melbourne

Lockdown 6 in Melbourne has gone forever.  It must have when we lose count of the days, weeks and months.  Around this time last year we were coming out of the long Lockdown 2.  I am hoping this time that we really are unlikely to go back into another lockdown.  But never say never!  Just in case covid really recedes to the background (ha ha), here are some of the covid signs I have seen around over the last few months.  Apologies for the quality of photos.  They are usually snapped quickly on a walk.

We have all seen lots of signs about wearing masks and social distancing.  It is great to see there is still some new ideas.  This car mask poster is so cute.  Seen on the window of a vet clinic.

 I also loved this social distancing notice with the musos on a record label office door.

More and more I have noticed photos of businesses that seem really fed up with covid.  "Don't like my rules? Don't care.  Go somewhere else."

The uncertainty!  "We hope to reopen sometime in the future."

And the hope!  "As crushing as it is, we will return as soon as we're allowed to."

So many signs about masks.  Today I saw one that was about not wearing masks.  I wonder if these will become more common!

I took this photo because it seemed to sum up the sort of signs we see everywhere: masks, click and collect, instructions, QR code and a sign about change (in this case no recycling right now).

Not a great photo but True North cafe always has fun signs.  And I love the clandestine nature of having to go to the back lane to get coffee in lockdown.  Life in lockdown has given us ways of life we had not imagined before.  I also love their sign "Be kind to yourself and us".

"Pub in a box" is such a great concept. 

Less fun were the QR codes that were placed at entrances to each playground.  It is not surprising, they did not last very long.  Well, not in the parks near us.  I think to even consider such an idea, showed just how hard it was to manage public health during the pandemic.

Some signs were just supportive.

And the occasional street art had a message to keep us going, even though Melbournians got a little over being told "Melbourne, you've got this' every time we had a lockdown.  But maybe it is better coming from another Melbournian.

This last photo is of covid street art on the wall of Clarendon Street Coles supermarket.  It was pointed out to me by Mae's Food Blog where she posts lots of esoteric photos and reflections.  So on my one trip to the South of the river when the travel limit was eased to 15km, I stopped by to admire the "#physicaldistancing" mural.

More Covid reflections and images on Green Gourmet Giraffe:

Sunday, 17 October 2021

Covid Vaccination signs in Melbourne

Arts campaign

Today our Victorian premier announced that our state should reach 70% (aged 16 plus) vaccination by Thursday and thus we are out of lockdown on Friday.  When they say out of lockdown, we are really just easing our way out but it is a good sign.  I hope to book a swim at an outdoor pool on Friday.  And to celebrate, here are a few vaccinate signs I have snapped around Melbourne city and inner north over the last few weeks as the vaccination roll out has finally ramped up.

Finally vaccines available at chemists!

Some businesses have offered vaccine rewards

City of Melbourne advertising

A music and entertainment campaign

I was amused that this sign changed from
"Restricted entry: Stop! Staff and delivery vehicles only"
to "Restricted entry: covid vaccinations vehicles only"

A portable electronic noticeboard outside Naughtons pub, Carlton

Sign of the times: no advertising posters on the bollard
But someone has written Come on Melbourne V for Vax

Vaccinated authorised workers are a big issue.
Hence encouragement by the unions!

A sign from the Vaccination Hub at the Exhibitions Buildings
where I got vaccinated.

One of my favourite vax posters.
Ironically some people have been slow to get vaxxed because so busy at work.

More Covid reflections and images on Green Gourmet Giraffe:

Sunday, 10 October 2021

Covid Tier 1 exposure, quarantine and testing - a Melbourne experience

A text from the health department to welcome me
to Tier 1 quarantine.

Covid has taken hold in the Northern suburbs of Melbourne lately.  We are in lockdown but there are still trips to buy food, prescriptions and, when necessary, to school.  It was decided, it would be helpful to send my daughter back to her high school for the last week of Term 3.  On the first Monday of the school holidays, we were advised that there had been a covid case at the school.  We spent about a week in uncertainty waiting to hear from the Department of Health ad Human Services (DHHS) and then about a week in quarantine (which I often refer to as isolation) at home.  It was very stressful, but I had to laugh at times to keep us sane.  Today I will share our experiences.

A traffic warden at a testing centre holds up a registration QR code.


Day 0 - my daughter, Sylvia, was exposed to covid at school (but not aware of it)

Day 2 - Sylvia got her first vaccination at GP

Day 4 - at 10pm we got notified by a message from the school that there had been an exposure.

Day 5 - we were told by the school that DHHS would contact us, that we could be Tier 1 or 2, and we should limit our movements.
Day 5 - we went to a drive through testing centre to have a covid test for Sylvia and me at 4pm.

Day 6 - I woke to my negative test results in a 5.30am text before an earthquake left us with no power but a strong belief that the apocalypse was truly upon us!

Day 7 - the school principal rang to check up on how we were going.
Day 7 - I rang DHHS because we had not received Sylvia's test results.  They told me that they had send her negative results to me at the same time as my results but they had the wrong phone number.

Day 8 - we had an email from principal to let us know that upon DHHS' request, the schoo had sent contact tracing details for everyone on site at the time of exposure.
Day 8 - received my first ever supermarket home delivery because we were avoiding the shops.

Day 9 - Sylvia had a text from DHHS to let her know she was a primary close contact and must quarantine/isolate til Day 14 and to await a follow up phone call.  Soon after I had a call from DHHS, which was mostly an overload of legalistic information and some questions such as did I want a separate place to quarantine, did I need a covid payment and did I understand the legal nature of my situation!  Then more texts as I had identified as a secondary close contact.  This means both of us were considered Tier 1. 

Day 10 - we had a text from the school to say it was cleared to reopen after the school holidays.  Sylvia needed a clearance letter from DHS to clear her to return to do her remote learning on site .

Day 13 - I took Sylvia for a Day 13 test.  This was mandated by DHHS and if she did not have the test she would need to quarantine til Day 28.

Day 14 - Again the negative results of the test were texted in the early morning.  It took until 10.20pm for DHHS to text to advise that Sylvia was released from quarantine at 11.59pm that evening.  As I had not had a test, I assumed this was for both of us.

Day 15 - It was so exciting to be out of quarantine.  It was only at 8.30pm that night that I got a text to say I was released from quarantine that I found out I should have delayed my excitement.  Oops!

Day 16 - I emailed a copy of the DHHS text to the school to clear Sylvia to return on site after the holidays finished.

The open gate where I take my bike has never looked so good
as when I first took it out on the first morning after quarantine ended.

What was unexpected about quarantine
I was both surprised and dismayed to experience just how overloaded the system is.  Luckily neither of us tested positive for Covid but if we had, there would have been 8 days that we could have exposed others to the virus:

  • It took DHHS until Day 9 to contact us about the exposure.  Which meant that although we should have quarantined for 14 days, in reality, we were only legally obliged to quarantine for 6 days.
  • I got daily text reminder that we were in isolation from DHHS (as if I could forget) but no one checked we were quarantining.  No requests to answer emails or visits from inspectors.  Maybe we were not important enough as just close contacts rather than covid cases.  They didn't even ask anything about our movements in days 1 to 8.
  • We are constantly encouraged to read the DHHS list of exposure sites.  Yet Sylvia's school was not listed nor were other local exposure sites that I was aware of.  I have lost faith in the exposure sites list.
  • The attention to detail both in testing and contact tracing was worrying.  When Sylvia first had her test, they managed to get her surname, her date of birth and her phone number wrong.  Then my name that I spelt out was misspelled by the contact tracers.  I am not Joahannah!
  • My notification of my release from quarantine came almost 24 hours after Sylvia's.  This seemed pretty unfair.  She was the primary close contact.  Why as secondary close contact did I have to wait longer?  Was it because I did not do a day 13 test, even though I was not legally obliged to?  And why did Sylvia get told she could end quarantine at 11.59pm on Day 14 when actually we were still under curfew and she actually could not go out until 5am the next morning?
  • Finally I was surprised when I spoke to one traffic controller and asked him something about the testing process and he replied that he didn't know because he had never been tested!  I would have thought if you spent your day working at a testing facility you would be tested occasionally.

My completed jigsaw with about 5 pieces missing
(Ravensburger No 2 Curious Cupboards: The Craft Cupboard)

Quarantine Entertainment
These were the worst school holidays ever.  I was so bored.  And I am not someone who is easily bored.  I was lucky that I am working from home so work helped me retain my sanity.  I really missed being able to go out riding each day on my bike and walks with friends.  I couldn't even chat to neighbours in the courtyard.  Thank goodness for phone calls, messages and acts of kindness by family and friends.  Here are a few other ways I passed the time:

  • I completed a 1000 piece jigsaw.  It was a nice way to turn my back on screens and be quiet.  I loved the unexpectedness of where pieces ended up.  And it was fantastic to see the picture come together.
  • Reading is always a great distraction.  I was mainly reading The Tall Man by Chloe Hooper which is quite a grim read about an Indigenous death in custody but did make me feel my lot could be far worse.
  • Streaming and knitting.  There was a lot of screen time.  Some of the shows included Friends, Secret Life of Us, Red Band Society, Pretty Little Liars, The Drum and Insiders.  I enjoyed some knitting in front of the telly.
  • Music and podcasts on Spotify.  I really loved "what Claire learned from falling" on ABC Conversations about Claire Nelson's fall in a deserted part of the Joshua Tree National Park.  Listening to someone talk about being so alone after a fall seemed relevant as I was isolating in my home.
  • Drone Photo Awards winners. These photos gave me a new appreciation for drones and the beauty they can bring into our lives.
  • Doomscrolling.  As usual I read too much negative news but it does give a fine appreciation of political humour.  My favourite satirical vid of late is Mark Humphries a Message from France to Australia about Submarines.  I have watched it a lot and it cheers me up every time.
  • Baking favourite choc chip cookies.

I've had enough of isolating. 
Notices like these are keeping me away from supermarkets.

Update mid-October:
Sylvia has had another Tier 1 covid case exposure at her school.  However this time the rules have changed (according to the school on Day 5 as we have not heard from DHHS).  Sylvia is primary close contact but because she is double vaccinated she only has to test and then isolate until the end of Day 7.  As a secondary close contact in her household, I just needed to take a test and isolate until I got a negative result and then I was free.  It was a relief that is is easier this time but nevertheless frustrating!

Tuesday, 5 October 2021

In My Kitchen - October 2021

Good riddance to September.  Let's hope October treats us better.  It promises a skyrocketing vaccination rate, easing our lockdown and a swim in an outdoor pool before the end of the month.  On the proviso that we don't continue to break ignominious records!  Yesterday we were told Melbourne was the most lockdown city in the world at 245 days.  Today our state recorded 1763 new covid cases, the most in a day in Australia.

September was wall to wall lockdown.  At the end of Term 3, I arranged with the school for Sylvia to do her remote schooling on site.  The later seemed a good thing, until someone at the school tested positive to covid and we ended up spending most of the school holidays at home in isolation, when not getting tested for Covid.  I am very pleased that we have been released from isolation with no covid diagnoses and Sylvia has had her first Pfizer vaccination.  

Our supermarkets have also had lots of cases, we had a power cut following an earthquake, I could not watch the AFL Grand Final on my tv, my watch battery needs replacing (how do I do this in lockdown), a picture has fallen off the wall, and we have been eating lots of comfort food.  On the bright side, I managed a couple of visits to our local farmers market and had some really nice support from family and friends.  Above is some healthy garden plants and amazingly delicious garlic salts from the farmers market.  We are putting garlic salt on everything (except chocolate)!

It was really good in September to return to the Farmers Market after months of not having the energy to get up on Saturday morning.  Here is my haul after my first trip in early September.  It was just before Fathers Day.  Sylvia gave her dad a hamper of pastries, custard tars, kombucha, chocolate and chutney.  The most fascinating purchase was the square pastry sandwich with custard in the middle and chocolate topping.  I was told it was a Belgium version of an eclair and I wish I could remember the name.  The dense rye bread was wonderful and the salted sesame seed chocolate was very intense.  I really loved the Otway Red potatoes which were excellent roasted and baked.

Lockdown has found us sending out to our local Heaven pizza restaurant using UberEats much more than we ever have before.  UberEats is great when you are isolating.  And Heaven pizza is an excellent way to celebrate a first vaccination.  On this occasion we had an excellent meal of potato pizza, chips and a rocket, haloumi and candied walnut salad.

It is harder to feel it is Spring while still being in lockdown but the warmer days and heavy rains have made the gardens grow like crazy.  It is very cheering to see lots of flowers and new growth in the garden.  Just look at my lavender!

My mum set me this lovely bunch of flowers to cheer us up in isolation.

After the trip to the farmers market I made a roast dinner with nut roast, roast potato, roast pumpkin and peas.  It was simple and delicious.  (I didn't use a recipe for the nut roast, just threw in what I had.)  I had hoped to make cauliflower cheese with the yellow cauliflower but just never quite got the energy for it.  I really loved the leftover nut roast, roast pumpkin, avocado and tomato relish on a muffin.  Roast dinner is such a great comfort food, even though mine is slightly different to one that my mum has made all my life.

There has been lots of comfort food in my kitchen recently.  I made tofu nuggets which is a favourite food for Sylvia.  Although I had problems getting the AFL Grand Final on the tv (because a broken remote control has left us on streaming mode and our tv was not the right sort to stream it), I made sausage rolls.  I also made tofu bacon recently and it was amazing hot in a buttered muffin.  We've also had baked potato, pasta and pizza.

Chocolate is a favourite comfort food.  Recently I have been craving Cadbury dairy milk chocolate rather than my usual Lindt dark chocolate.  I loved how this wrapper had coloured female AFL footballers.  How much the game has changed.

 I can't remember why we had half a tin of condensed milk in the fridge - it lasts for ages - but it was what we needed when we decided to make choc chip cookies during the school holidays.  However I had been so sure I had bought choc chips but when I searched I could not find any.  So I chopped up some dark chocolate I had not been eating.  I still expect to find that bag of choc chips somewhere!

On one day of isolation, I really needed chocolate and went looking in the back of the pantry and found this out of date packet of mulled wine chocolates.  Of course I ate it.  They had a really nice spiced flavour.  Later that day a wonderful friend dropped off a huge box of Ferrer Rochez chocolates to keep me going.

More cheer in isolation came from my mum with a delivery of Butterbing cookie sandwiches.  The chocolate cookies were dense and intense like brownies.  The fillings had a great selection of flavours - salted caramel, nutella, musk stick and honeycomb.  I was surprised how rich and filling they were.  these were not your average biscuits.

With our supermarkets being frequent covid exposure sites, I made my first click and collect supermarket purchase, followed soon after by my first supermarket delivery when we went into isolation.  I much prefer going into the shops to do my groceries.  One of the biggest disappointments was all the plastic bags.  In the click and collect purchase, I was so happy to see that there was an option of paper bags but when I picked up my order it was in plastic bags because they had run out of plastic bags.  Two red capsicums and an avocado in a plastic bag seems so wasteful.  There are also options to get orders in crates to transfer to reuseable bags but I have not tried that yet.  The delivery type we had did not give that option.

Not quite in my kitchen has been a jigsaw that I enjoyed doing over our isolation period.  I plan to share the finished jigsaw in a post soon.  It sat in the corner of the loungeroom and was nice to just do some pieces when I had the urge.  The closer I got to finishing, the more addictive it got.

Another nice activity in isolation was knitting.  I just wanted something simple so I have decided to knit some squares to make a blanket.  This bundle of wool was ordered online and arrived yesterday after isolation finished.  So I have lots of knitting to do.  I was really glad that it has arrived after seeing how many delays there are in parcels delivery in Australia recently due to covid.

Finally I was really delighted to go to the farmers market after the end of isolation.  The very ugly cauliflower roast was the most intriguing  purchase.  It cost a whopping $20.  But I could not resist a cauliflower stuffed with herb and dukkah.  I asked if there were nuts and were told that there is cashews in the stuffing.  I can't wait to have it for dinner.

Here are the rest of my purchases.  I was excited to have the 5 and Dime bagels that we have not had for so long.  It surprised me that Sylvia loved the cheese and jalapeno bagels as much as me.  There were also cheese sticks, a veg pastie, fruit bread, kombucha, rhubarb, asparagus, hummus, shallots, avocado and more of the Otway /red potatoes.  After so long in lockdown, any little stabs of happiness are embraced.

I am sending this post to Sherry of Sherry's Pickings for the In My Kitchen event.  A special shout out to Sherry for keeping the event going despite an injury from slipping on a wet bathroom floor.  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.