Monday, April 21, 2014

][ handwritten \\ letter from the war ][

This post is part of a linky party over at ihearttuesdays. Check out the other great posts with the theme 'handwritten' here

There's a valley in the Northern Rivers region of NSW called the Clarence Valley. In the valley is the small town of Old Bonalbo. Population 240, though there would be lucky to be 50 houses in the town itself. About 10 km up the road is a small farm. It wasn't always this small, but over the generations it has been whittled down to just a couple of hundred acres. 
I've been dreaming of this place for 30 years. As you may remember, as a little girl my family and I lived on a boat and sailed the world. While we were exploring the great cities and cultures of the world, I was thinking of Old Bonalbo. Population 240. I remember saying to my mother "one day I'm going to go and live there. And breed horses."
"It's miles from anywhere" she said. 
I know it didnt make sense. I had never been there. I had never been on a horse. I was about the age my daughter is now. I smile now when I hear Ingrid begging for a horse. I remember the pull, the lure of the land, of that particular piece of country so clearly.  Sometimes I still close my eyes and imagine myself there, just as I did as a small girl. I like the idea of my children being the 5th generation to live and work this land. I think they do too. 
The last person to live there was my great aunt Jean. As a young woman she was beautiful, strong, the life of the party and had the most magical way with horses. Old cockies in the district still talk of her horsemanship skills, and of her brothers (including my grandfather) stockmanship. 
Like others, Jean wasn't the same after war. Some of the things she experienced as an army nurse never left her. Jean never married. Not for want of suitors either. Jean told me of one proposal. She said he was "good looking, and had a lot of cattle. And good cattle too. But I just didn't feel like it". If she were here today she would have been 107 years old. ANZAC day marks the 10th anniversary of Jeans death. ANZAC day was the most important day in her calendar. In her latter years, she would sit on the verandah of the Urbenville nursing home watching the parade. She always had a shandy for her comrades. 
After she died, Mum and I went to the homestead to tidy things up. Family lore has it that it was built by a Swedish ship builder. What they were doing in Bonalbo in 1910 I don't know. Built in the traditional Queenslander style it was a beauty, with shady verandahs and a wide airy breeze way down the middle.  Or it did. It now sits in the paddock, sagging, sad and empty. 
Every room, every single room was jam packed with papers. The Farm journals and shop catalogues from the 1950's were interesting. But it was the box after box after chest after chest after cupboard full to brim with precious handwritten correspondence. The whole place was a living time capsule. Some of it was moth eaten, some stained with animal faeces, some of it as fresh as the day it was written. Jean hadn't lived there for some time.  
They had kept everything.  Shop accounts, letters, receipts, CWA and Red Cross minutes, stories and personal journals. The oldest document predated the homestead itself. Mum and I spent the following days packing and salvaging what we could. We took home 30 large garbage bages and several packing boxes of precious handwritten papers.
After Jean's funeral, mum and I poured ourselves a glass of wine and gently unfolded each and every piece of paper. We'll just put it into acid free document holders and sort them later we promised ourselves. One of the first letters mum opened was from her father, to her grandfather asking for her mother's (Bettie's) hand in marriage. That was it. We were hooked. I had never known my grandfather, great uncle or other great aunt, and hadn't known Jean and Bettie for long enough. By the early hours of the morning I knew what they ate, what they drank, who they drank with and which horses they had bet on! I knew they were tardy at paying bills but enjoyed a party. It was like meeting my grandparents for the first time. They would've been about the same age as me and many of the stories contained in letters and journals reminded me of myself. It's that nature/nurture thing isn't it? 
When Kim started this linky party I asked mum if she could scan or photograph a couple of documents for me and email them. One of the first things she put her hand on was a letter Jean wrote while aboard AHS Wanganella. The AHS Wanganella was a hospital ship which transported over 13,000 wounded soldiers over 5 years. With ANZAC day this week I thought I would share the letter with you. They must've been at sea when she wrote, as her writing is a little scrappy. The letter is dated 19 days after the war ended. This is what she wrote:

AHS Wanganella
c/o GPO

My Dear Mother

A few lines.  We are now in Morotia again having taken prisoners of war from Kuching English and Australians.The English were in a very bad condition and the Australians are fairly well.  I think we shall be going perhaps to Bangkok and then to Singapore.  I think we shall be away for perhaps until after Xmas.  Is Jess home yet.

Will you find out the Balt. and POW camp that Bobby Ralston,  ???Frazer, Mart Askew and anyone else.  I have looked through all the lists.  I have gone through all the wards hunting for them but so far we have not collected them.  I can not tell anything about Prison Camps as yet until details are released but some much better treated than others.  The Sisters shockingly treated , quite anumber were shot.  24 out of 68 (the 68 is crossed out) I am not certain of the numbers . To think I just missed Singapore by a whisker. Very hot up here. Last night Captain Phillips one of the MO’s who was at Tenterfield came over from  the 2/S to see me.  He came the night before last also.  Quite a few people up here. I seem to know quite a number. This is a pretty island.  The last one we were at was Labuam where we were not allowed to land there.  Yesterday a lot of Japs came in to give themselves up, wanted food but think they were sent back , took a snap of them. Were in barges and came quite close.  They looked well fed I felt.Could quite easily have a ???? 
bomb with  them. How is Billy also Robert?  What is to happening to the maize.  I hope something is  ??? soon as things can not go on. 
Today am going out on a launch picnic with some of the girls.  I hope Robert has lost his lame leg.  How is Diana.  Tell Bettie shall write next trip.  Received a telegram re Corrie.  Think Corrie has probably gone to Singapore.  A new unit was formed and have ??. I can’t think where else.  I shall try to get in touch with her when get there

Mail is closing

Love to all


What precious handwritten memories do you have??

Monday, April 14, 2014

][ dinner at mine \\ paella ][

For those of you who know Mr TBT, you would know that he doesn't cook. He doesn't actually like cooking. I love cooking. But I don't like cleaning up the kitchen. Perfect match!! I cook, he washes up. But even though I do love cooking, it is still nice to have the night off every now and then. 
Mr TBT is one of 4 kids. Can the others cook? Brother B? Check. Brother T? Double check. Sister K? Check too. So what happened? I asked his mother about it once. 
"I did try" sighed his mum. She sounded exasperated at the thought - still. 15 years later. 
And to be fair, he can cook. He cooks a ripper spag bog. Only I wouldn't know. I'm a vegetarian. 
So on Thursday, as one of the kids had a 5:30 doctor appointment, I suggested that he might do dinner that night. "Sure". He said. 
Righto. How 'bout I try to get out of the shopping too. "You can do all the hunting and gathering too" I added. 
"No worries. Why don't I cook tonight and tomorrow night? You can have a rest." Ahhh. What a man!
So, young Master G and I returned home to sausages. Yup. Good start. But on top of that he had roasted asparagus and red onion with pine nuts, grilled some marinated mushies and whipped together a tomato and goats cheese salad. It was good. Really good. 
The next night? Roast lamb and perfect roast veggies. I love roast veggies. Check this out:
And this:
But wait. There's more. You may have read in my last post that we had a paella to die for at the farmers markets in Hobart. We've been craving it ever since. I began researching paella recipes.  The history of paella is quite interesting. Especially the bit that says it was traditionally cooked by the men. It was also usually cooked on a Sunday. I looked at my watch. was Sunday...I wonder...
As soon as Mr TBT learned it was a mans job, he was all over it. Off he went, hunting and gathering. He returned with all the ingredients for a vegetarian version, along with chicken, mussels, chorizo, prawns and crab. 
To cut a long story short it was one of the yummiest things I have tasted. Ever. Check this out:

That was three straight yummy, nutritious, wholesome, fan-bloody-tastic meals in a row. Not bad for someone who doesn't cook huh? And you know the best bit? He did most of the cleaning up those nights too. Ahhh. He's a keeper that one. 

Who does the cooking in your house? Have you tried any new recipes lately?

Sunday, April 13, 2014

][ old friends & old memories \\ hobart, tasmania ][

We had a fantastic weekend last weekend.  Absolutely lurvely.  We popped down to Hobart, a last chance to catch up with the Grumpies (aka grandparents) before they return to Europe.  We also lined up a dinner date with some very old and special friends!  But what I found most interesting, was all the amazing architecture and history.  I grew up in Hobart, and as a teenager very much took these things for granted.  In fact I couldn't wait to get out of the place!  Having lived in such a variety of places since then, I can now appreciate how lovely Hobart really is.
We hadn't been to Hobart in such a long time. We stumbled across this vintage car rally.  I'm not a car person (the other 5 of the Bettie gang are), but I don't mind having a geeze at vintage cars.  I mean look at them, they are amazing.  And once I tired of the cars, I had a chance to take in Parliament House. Building commenced in 1836, and I can't imagine what it would have been like to be one of the convicts laboring on such an exquisite and luxurious building.
We had arranged to meet the Grumpies for fish and chips, down at the waterfront.  Once we had finished lunch we explored the docks.  This was the first place in Tasmania in which I lived.  When I was a kid we sailed around the world in a yacht.  When it was time to give away the seafaring life, my parents settled on Tasmania, and we lived on the boat right here - until we bought a house and did all the same things that other families do!  When we lived here, I thought people who lived in houses were the strange ones, and that everyone walked their shopping home in the shopping trolley.  Who needed a car? I was only 7 when we sailed into Hobart, and having been exposed to such a variety of beautiful ports, cultures and languages Hobart really didn't seem too special to me.  I was more excited about being able to go to school with kids my own age. Have you been to Hobart? Look at the photo's.  What do you think?
Next we headed over to Salamanca Markets.  Salamanca Place is home to sandstone warehouses dating back to the 1830's.  Now housing restaurants, art galleries, boutique shops and cafe's the street is blocked off every Saturday to host the markets.  As a child, after we moved into a house, my Dad (aka Grumpy) opened up an art gallery in Salamanca Place.  We lived out of town, and every Saturday morning I would come to work with Dad so that I could play hockey.  After the game I spent hours people watching, waiting for the gallery to close so that I could go home with Dad.  Salamanca Market has become so big, I wondered whether it would now be full of souvenir stalls, if the apples were still as crunchy and whether the buskers still set the tone.  While there were a fair number of souvenir stalls, and I didn't see any buskers,  there are still some fantastic stalls, and the apples are still the crunchiest around!
The above stall is Dick and Dora.  They have a great online shop.  Check them out!
I loved the layout of Smallshop's stall.  Their website is still under construction, but I will be checking back to see when it is open as they had some beautiful stuff.
Above you can see the start of Kelly's Steps, which link Salamanca Place with Battery Point.  I do remember walking down the sandstone steps many years ago.  Each tread has been worn by 174 years of pedestrian traffic.  If only those stones could talk.

We still had some time to burn before we could check into our accommodation.  As we were parked on the top side of St David's Park, we thought we would give the kids a chance to run around and explore.  St David's Park itself, also has a rich history.  The park was originally the main burial ground in Hobart, and the 1st burial took place way back in 1804. Over the years I went to many a Carol's by Candlelight at St D's.  I don't think I ever took the time to stop and look at any of the tomb stone and head stones which are dotted through out the park.  If you take the time, some of these monuments paint the picture as to what life was like in early Hobart Town.
This one commemorates a 21 year old whaler, who died from the flick of a whale's tale in 1841.  Many people don't realise that Hobart was a major whaling port for the best part of 100 years.  In the mid 1800's Hobart had 34 whaling vessels.  Many people made a lot of money (it was Captain Jame's Kelly who built Kelly's steps) out of whaling, and many were considered very respectable members of society, while others went on to hold positions of government.
Only a few metres away stands this monument.  As you can see from the inscription it remembers Lt David Collins, the first governor of Tasmania.  David Collins selected the site for, and named Hobart Town. Collins had a hard time of it in the 6 years he was here.  He wrote many letters both to London and Sydney, asking for help for his colony.  On several occasions Collin's had to ration supplies, and the colony faced starvation.  It seems ironic, that now 103 years since his death, that the Tasmanian economy is still in such bad shape, and that resources are stretched - just like they were in the early days.    
Many of the head stones have been set in this wall.  Reading the head stones puts a human face on the struggles of colonial life.  I couldn't help but notice the large number of graves for infants and children.  As I watched my own kids playing in the park I felt very very grateful. All 4 of our children have had their struggles, be it asthma or food intolerance's and tummy troubles as babies.  These are considered minor ailments in our society, and are easily treated.  However, had we lived in Hobart Town 150 years ago, not one of my children would have reached early childhood. How lucky we are.
We were also lucky enough to have had a fantastic evening with family and old friends that night.  I don't have any pictures from the evening, as we catered for 10 people.  Once dinner was on the table, we settled in for the night and told stories and remembered fond times.  Photo's were the last thing on my mind!  There's that old cliche of being able to pick up where one left off with good friends.  That was so true that night.
The next morning we met the Grumpies at the Hobart Farmers Markets.  If you ever go there make sure you go to the paella stall.  It. Was. The. Best.  I've been craving paella for the whole week now. Yummola.  After a teary goodbye to the Grumpies from the children we went home.  The long way, in typical fashion!

Do you live in the town you grew up in? Have you been back recently? Have things changed, or have you changed?

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

][ rave review \\ milkbar, launceston ][

There's a little cafe in Launceson called Milkbar. Actually it's called Milkbar cafe + workshop, but I'll get to that bit later. It's been in town for some time, but for some reason or other I haven't visited for nearly as long. A pity really, I've missed the cheery vintage decor - isn't it cute?
So Ingrid and I popped into town to grab some new ballet shoes. Her eyes lit up when I asked if she wanted to go a cafe with mummy. If I thought she was excited when I suggested a raspberry spider, to be honest she nearly laid an egg when she actually saw what a raspberry spider was!
Safe in the knowledge that the spider was made from local, and where possible organic ingredients we slurped and giggled and had a lovely time as my assistant (though somewhat high on the red stuff) picked out snap worthy pictures. And there you have it. Milkbar supports their local producers, many of whom I've blogged about before on our trips to Harvest Farmers Markets. They use free range meat too, when they can source it!  How good is that. Oh. One thing that has changed, meet the new owners Rob & Bek. They are super friendly and offer great service to boot. 
So after our little snack (don't tell George), we ventured out the back , where they run craft workshops. They also have a badge machine which is available for use free of charge. Though I do suggest having a raspberry spider first, to keep your energy up! Also, this space serves as a retail space for craft supplies and vintage cool stuff. I bought a roll of lovely washi tape. 

You too can enjoy the wonders of Milkbar cafe + workshop by popping into 139 St John St, Launceston. They are open Monday to Friday, 8-4:30. You can view their website here, and their facebook page here.
Have you discovered, or rediscovered a little gem recently? I'd love to hear about it....

Thursday, April 3, 2014

][ stock take \\ march ][

Making :gingerbread for a dear friends birthday. 

Cooking :roast chook, Greek style with olive oil, lemon juice and oregano for dinner tonight. 

Drinking : hot blackcurrent at Fresh

Reading: Vantastic, finally!

Wanting: more summer, less winter. And no, autumn and spring don't exist in my book. It's just warm, cold, or bloody cold. 

Looking: at things through coriander glasses. Far better than rose coloured glasses. I strongly recommend it. 

Playing: nothing! My husband bought me speakers for my iPhone for Christmas but as yet hasn't put the music on it as promised...(I have no idea how to do it). We were playing CDs on the DVD player but someone has misplaced the remote control and we need the remote to eject the CD which is in there...even I get a little sick of the Dixie Chicks after 12 or so plays. Remains George's favourite!

Deciding: I really must find the remote control. 

Wishing: Mr TBT would put some music on my phone. 

Enjoying: a fabulous new completely gluten free cafe in town. The chickpea dumplings in the spicy tomato sauce were delicious!
Waiting: still to find out about certain opportunities. STILL. I think we are close though...then we can get the ball rolling. 

Liking: that last bit of summer we got this week, it's all down hill from here. 

Wondering: what happened to my New Years resolutions. Maybe I'll make some Easter resolutions...

Loving: having my dear ol hubby home. 
Pondering: if Sam was working 6 days a week in a local job really would be any better than a FIFO job. Really? At the moment he gets to do parent help, take kids to sport and have really valuable one on one time with the little boys. 
Considering: I might have to get over my immense dislike of gyms. 
Watching: the weather closely. Low overnight temperatures = asthma flare ups. 
Hoping: we can go on a holiday soon. Shahina, Kate we're heading your way. 

Marvelling: at how many nations can work together to search for the missing Malaysian plane.
Wishing: the world could work together like this more often. 
Smelling: mouse. Slippery little sucker got into our pantry. Just you wait...
Needing: mouse traps. Hopefully we catch him before Sam goes to work. I don't do dead things well. 
Wearing: scarves. 
Following: Arthur around the pool holding on for dear life, while George and Ingrid have their lessons. 
Noticing: The chooks are going off the lay a bit. 
Knowing:eggs don't bounce. Arthur had to find out the hard way. 
Feeling: tired at the thought of winter. 
Admiring: a friend who can walk and breast feed her baby at the same time. Her first baby. I couldn't even do that with my 4th!

Sorting: out the shed. All the stuff that doesn't fit in our house is in there. I feel a garage sale coming on.
Buying: food. Did you know the big 3 kids eat 50 pieces of fruit a week. Minimum. More if they need an extra snack, or have some for breakfast. Which happens often. And now that Rupert is eating solids...
Thinking: about how to give the children a more worldly education. The subject of refugees came up at the dinner table last night. We had to explain what a refugee was, why there are wars ("some grown ups aren't very good at using their words" delivered with a sharp look at certain offending parties seated at opposing ends of the table) and what it is like being a refugee. They were sad about refugees losing their home, worried about the children not having any toys to play with, and completely horrified at the thought of having to survive on a cup of rice a day. 
Getting: sick of going to the supermarket. After a particularly whingy start to the morning I have threatened to put the children on refugee like rations, til they get the picture that they are very very lucky. Suits me. Supermarket shopping would be a breeze. We saw an immediate and marked improvement in behaviour. Damn. Better put that roast in the oven.
Bookmarking: with a beautiful feather bookmark Ingrid made me.
Disliking: the driving from the p platers round these parts.
Opening: new doors to new opportunities.
Giggling: with Arthur. He really is one funny kid.

Feeling: proud of George after having our parent teacher interview. Ingrid's is yet to come.

Snacking: on fresh crunchy autumn apples.
Coveting: sunshine. And chocolate. And a hood hearty spicy curry. Yum.
Helping: some friends. You know who you are!!
Hearing: beeping trucks, unfortunately. The logistics yard round the corner has 2 new fork loaders. They sat at 5:30 am and finish at 9:30pm. It's driving me bonkers. 
Update: my fantastic husband had previously called the boss and told him about reverse alarms that sound like quacking ducks. I kid you not! About an hour after publishing this post they called to say they had ordered 2 and would be trailing once they arrived! Yippee :)
Thanks for the list Pip. Here's a blank one if you want to play! 

Making :
Cooking :
Drinking :