Monday, 29 September 2014

The Secret of Happiness

I bet i got you with that title.  The link below takes you to a post by Adele Horin, who for 18 years was a journalist with the Sydney Morning Herald, known for her insightful articles on social issues.  Is there any social issue more important than the subject of happiness?  

The post introduces The Grant study taken over 75 years of men from Harvard University, tracking their levels of happiness throughout their lives well into their 90's.  There are some very interesting findings that in my opinion apply equally to women.  The study was was the life work of Dr Grant Vaillant who will be speaking in Melbourne on Nov 7 and 8 at the Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne.

Click here for details, and to book.

His final conclusion?

Happiness is Love and the secret to happiness is being able to form warm and lasting relationships.

Success in life was measured by having a good relationship with your children, a stable marriage, support other than a wife and career success.  Note that i did not mention money!!!!

The ability to have love and success was dependent on the ability to meet life's needs or demands in a mature way that promotes personal growth.   Why?  Because life is ever changing and therefore our needs change.  

After studying men for 75 years you just know that he would truly have some insight in the sex lives of men. His findings are that men who are politically liberal will continue to enjoy a healthy sex life into their 80's.  I'd love to say something about our current leaders but I'm really holding myself back, and its killing me.

How to be happy in Old Age      This is the title of the post but it relates to all of us throughout our lives. Adele's blog (Coming of Age) is focused on issues relating to getting older.  Its truly insightful and full of resources for those that are aged but also those who care for them.   I recommend this blog.

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Sunday, 28 September 2014

Spring's Bounty of Green

My dish rack is chockers full of deep green spinach, lettuce and parsley from the garden, all freshly washed. The lettuce and parsley are for tonight's salad dinner and the spinach is for freezing. 

I slip frozen spinach leaves under the toppings on home-made pizzas and so far nothing has been said other than YUM!   I also shred them and add to quiches or into a slow cooked stew during the last few minutes. Anything this green, must be healthy right?

Well it was before i added the maple syrup baked bacon.  
The asparagus is not mine but its on special this week and whenever i see it for less than $2.50 a bunch, they are on my shopping list.  I don't think that I'm going to be growing asparagus in my garden (where else would i grow it DOH!) as the amount of space i could set aside would only feed us for a couple of meals.  I'd rather something else in its place that produces over and over and the space be in the veggie rotation.

Occasionally I'll buy a hot house tomato (when they are on special) and today there were the last two packets of truss cherries on the vine reduced to $2 each pkt.  I couldn't see anything wrong with them so i brought them home.  Just cutting one was tough, so it was into the oven with some oil and herbs for roasting and then cooled for our salad.  

I've enjoyed a weekend at home, pottering and tidying up.  Does the mess ever end?  Seems it is always there, just breeding in different spots around the house and yard.   I'd left my car at the factory Friday night and brought home the Hilux Tray so we could load up for a trip to the Refuse Facility.  It used to be called The Tip but today its much grander and far more organised.   When you arrive your load is inspected and you are directed to the various areas of disposal.  

We visited and left items at:

A container for all TV's, Computers, Screens, Stereos etc.   We left two CRT Monitors 
A Styrofoam Bin - for all that packaging material or in our case an old kids booster seat 
Batteries  - Dead Car Battery
Used Motor Oil - Several Containers
General Waste - what little was left.

There are also areas for mattresses, green waste, building materials, rocks and concrete (goodness there was a guy rolling off massive garden boulders that others pay a fortune for), white goods, usable items for recycling, mulch created from our green waste (pickup), aluminium and metal, and lastly general waste.  I'd used the vouchers from the rates notice so there was no cost.  

Did i really just give you a breakdown of our rubbish?   At least i didn't take photos.  

I did however take photos of the garden.  

Now this is just sad.  I've had to fence in my lower beds which was not in my plan but there is a certain Miss Tilly that like veggies too.   I put some short star pickets in and cable tied some plastic mesh to them.   I can grow some dwarf beans and peas up them at the front while the trellis on the wall is for tomatoes. 

I've just heard a yelp from the front room and its Hubby (not Tilly) going off because while we were having dinner she ate his ear bud headphones. Its not the first time and its not like there isn't bones available on the floor.  Naughty Girl.  

Snow Peas and a Yellow Sweet Capsicum 
Nope, there is not a black snake in my garden bed, its a soaker hose (now covered) with a timer so i can set it before leaving in the morning and also in the evenings. Hopefully ill get these in all the beds.  There are 3 new varieties of tomato I'm trying and hopefully they will be my first crop while I'm waiting for my own seeds to grow.   I know, i couldn't resist the temptation.

I had to do the same thing for the onion bed.    Note the weed mat has killed the Kikuyu  I cant wait to lift it.
The lavender plants (in my veggie beds) are in flower and attracting bees but there is nothing to be pollinated yet other than my dwarf pear.  

The Cliveas are now in flower in my shade area.  
The whole side garden smells of these Daphne flowers.  
This is hubby's one true miracle plant.  We were helping someone move house and they were about to throw a very small tired almost unrecognisable plant in the bin.  He rescued it (i think mostly for the black pot it was in) and he re-potted it with better soil.  It certainly has grown and looks so healthy.  
I'm leaving you with my afternoon tea at Bunnings.  My Bestie and i were having some girl time browsing and causing mischief.  We laughed so much.  

I love Almondine Croissants  - how decadent.

Big shout out to my sister Carol, in Sydney.  She's just had her third back surgery and is coming to the end of two weeks rehab.  She must be so bored with hospitals. I told her when she was roaming the corridors doing her physio she had to watch out for this guy.  

Hope that she gets home this week and manages without too much discomfort.  

Have a good week everyone.  

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Monday, 22 September 2014

Boobs, Bone, Bandages, Beans and Book

Yep, its been that kind of day.   I had the day off work today to attend my first mammogram.  Now that's excitement for you.  The Government kindly sent me an invite once I turned 50 to have my breasts screened for cancer.   They also sent me a little sample package to send my poo away to be checked for bowel cancer.  They are nothing if not thorough and apparently i will get these "invitations" every two years. If i didn't know better i would think they are trying to tell me something.   I know i am making fun but we really are lucky in Oz to have this service. Early detection is better than surgery (or the alternative) i am certain.  So no putting it off ladies, off you go.  You'll note that i haven't mentioned that other test we have to every couple of years but I'm sure you know which one.  Get it done!

It wasn't really all that bad.  I had heard stories that it was painful but its not.  Just a bit uncomfortable (read embarrassing) having someone position your boobs this way and that so they are in the right position on the platform.  Those of you with little boobies probably don't have to worry about that as they are probably right where they need to be.  Mine are very adventurous and take off in all directions, separately.

After that experience i visited the meat wholesaler in Werribee and bought Tom his "i really like these Mum, can i have them once a week" lamb forequarter chops.  I liberally cover them in French onion soup mix and then bake them on a tray in the oven, elevated on a rack so that they are crunchy all the way round.  Do use a backing tray under the racks as the fat sizzles and drips below.   Add some garlic mash and baby beans and there is Monday nights dinner.

Since Tilly needs a treat as well, i bought her a bone.  Deliberately slightly large so that she has to really work at it.  She immediately took off with it into the yard, where she covered it in dirt and brought it back into the house and put it on the couch.   I've put it outside about 10 times today.  I don't mind once the meat is off but its looking rather yuk at the moment.

I'm going to take this inside and bury it down behind the lounge cushions and wait for it to go rancid (just right).

:Don't touch it Mum, don't even think about it".  
I was all set for a lovely spring afternoon of gardening when the phone rang and it was Hubby.  He was in a hospital ER having tripped at work trying to step over a barrier holding tools in each hand.  With nothing to brace himself he face planted himself into steel.   It was a bit messy (read bloody) but he is one very lucky guy.  The bang to his skull was so loud it was audible to others so he is now at home on 24 hour watch for symptoms of concussion. He's going to have a black and blue face tomorrow to add to the bandages around his eye. Since it was way way over the other side of the city it was late afternoon before i could get him home and into bed.

He said it happened in slow motion and as he was going down trying to disentangle himself from the tools so he could brace himself, he actually thought to himself as he headed right for one of those jagged bits
 "this is not going to be good".


With him all tucked in i went outside to try and salvage a little garden time.  I planted my saved tomato seeds from last year and assembled a makeshift green house using bubble wrap to protect them from our cool nights.

They should be ready for planting out come early November.   Since i want an early crop I'm going to buy a couple of ready to go plants as well.   I put a few bean seeds in and noted that my yellow zucchini seedlings are now about 3cm high.  I'm trying something different this year and instead of making shade cloth screens to keep the mid summer sun off,  I've planted corn and sunflowers around the edges on the north side of the beds to shade the other plants.  Since my beds are 90cm high already, they will make tall screens.  I'll have to put lots of bamboo stakes in to support them.

Peppers are out of control.  

My feature kale in the centre of the bed is exactly that, a feature.  SO PICK IT (i hear you shout)

The surrounding spinach looks like i need to grab it before something else does.  My corner bulbs are starting to come up.
I'm trying to think of what i can shove down the sides to give me more height.  The potato plants are right to the top.   Tilly wont be getting these ones (Nar Nar NaNar Nar)
My dwarf pear is loaded with flowers
I'm picking lettuce every other day now and I'm sprinkling seeds in the available spaces to keep a continuous crop.  
I really like lettuce and fresh herbs.  

I grow real flowers too!
OK, now to the final segment of my post, the Book.   Beg, borrow or steal this book.  It is now one of my favourites.  I know its a movie, and i am told its really great but i don't think you could improve on this writing. Great characters.

Guess what i was doing while reading it.  
Pretty big day.

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Saturday, 20 September 2014

The Girl Becomes a Lady - Now work it Baby!

What do you think?   Is this my best side?

Maybe this side is better.

Or perhaps a full profile so you can see my gorgeous locks.   Those members of my family that are hairless here (she is a pedigree Chinese Crested Powderpuff) don't know what they are missing.

If you cant tell, I've been to the hairdressers groomers today and as all girls know, getting yourself doo by a handsome gay guy is just the thing.  (No disrespect Matt).   I think he's just wonderful.  I was a little nervous meeting him but he knew just where to give me that little rub here and there and he was oh so gentle with me my first time.  I think ill put this down to a good experience and tell my Mum that we can visit him again.

You too could look this good if you call Matt from Wag' in Tails  0407 567 717.

One of the best things about Tilly's new groomer is that he is right next door to my friend Ella in Lara, so instead of making an appointment for him to bring his dog washing trailer to me, i volunteered to go to him. Any excuse to grab some girlfriend time.  A play in the garden, some chookie time finished off with a cappuccino and Tilly was finished her new doo. Its always a little strange to see her without her double coat but I'm sure that she will be more comfortable and less likely to knot.   Its still a little cold outside at night but since she spends her nights under the doona tucked into the small of my back or behind my bent knees i don't think we have to worry about her getting cold.

Remember this?

This was her last groom and you can see how much she has grown.  Much more a lady now, NOT!!!

Tilly thinks she is a cat and walks along the tops of the couches.  She will take her ball up there and throw it off by herself and then run and get it.  No waiting around for those lazy people to do it.  Before i leave in the morning and she has watched me have a shower by pushing open the bathroom door, to make sure i haven't gone down the plughole (that's a laugh), she is waiting for me on the end of the couch just near the bathroom for a cuddle. Then she hops onto the ottoman while i am putting on my shoes for another cuddle. This has to be a quick job because while i am putting on one sock, she takes off with the other.  Then just as I'm about to leave the house she runs and hops onto the top of the above couch, which is just near to front door, for just one more cuddle.

I love my tummy being rubbed.  
If you think that's bad you should see the manic behaviour when i get home.  I couldn't possible hold onto a camera to show you.  She jumps like she is a yo yo as high as my chest vertically from the floor up.  Over and over again until she is warn out and i can scoop her up for a cuddle.  If i try before this she is just manic legs going everywhere.  Too much excitement, Mum is home!!!!!

I wish i could work out how to put a voice memo on here and then you could hear her talking.  Its hilarious and very Scooby Doo.

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Saturday, 13 September 2014

Meredith's Letter From God

Noelle emailed this story to me today and i wanted to share....

Our 14-year-old dog Abbey died last month. 

The day after she passed away my 4-year-old daughter Meredith was crying and talking about how much she missed Abbey.

She asked if we could write a letter to God so that when Abbey got to heaven, God would recognize her.

I told her that I thought that we could, so she dictated these words:

Dear God,
Will you please take care of my dog?

Abbey died yesterday and is with you in heaven.
I miss her very much.
I 'm happy that you let me have her as my dog even though she got sick.
I hope you will play with her.
She likes to swim and play with balls.
I am sending a picture of her so when you see her you will know that she is my dog.
I really miss her.

Love, Meredith

We put the letter in an envelope with a picture of Abbey & Meredith, addressed it to God/Heaven.
We put our return address on it.
Meredith pasted several stamps on the front of the envelope because she said it would take lots of stamps to get the letter all the way to heaven.

That afternoon she dropped it into the letter box at the post office.
A few days later, she asked if God had gotten the letter yet.
I told her that I thought He had.

Yesterday, there was a package wrapped in gold paper on our front porch addressed, 'To Meredith' in an unfamiliar hand.

Meredith opened it.

Inside was a book by Mr. Rogers called, 'When a Pet Dies.' 

Taped to the inside front cover was the letter we had written to God in its opened envelope.

On the opposite page was the picture of Abbey & Meredith and this note:

Dear Meredith,

Abbey arrived safely in heaven. Having the picture was a big help and I recognized her right away.

Abbey isn't sick any more.

Her spirit is here with me just like it stays in your heart.

Abbey loved being your dog.

Since we don't need our bodies in heaven, I don't have any pockets to keep your picture in so I'm sending it back to you in this little book for you to keep and have something to remember Abbey by.

Thank you for the beautiful letter and thank your mother for helping you write it and sending it to me.

What a wonderful mother you have. I picked her especially
for you.

I send my blessings every day and remember that I love you very much.

By the way, I'm easy to find.

I am wherever there is love.


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Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Driving My Sister Mad

No seriously, i was driving her.  We went home for the wedding last weekend and i drove her vehicle which she had only had for a couple of weeks.  I'm sure that by the time we reached home, after 6 hours of my singing, she was more than just a little mad (as in crazy, not angry). Mind you, the only reason she didn't join in and make it a 6 hour duet was that she had a chesty cold, and breathing was her limit.

This is not a picture of Glenda but if you click on the opening photo of the Territory and blow it up, you'll see her in the front passenger seat covering her face with her hands so that i cant take a photo from where i was standing on the other side of the road.  Being photophobic (is that a word) is another family trait.

After reaching the border of NSW we stopped in Tocumwal for lunch.

The mighty Murray River at Tocumwal.  So many family days were spent on the beaches just around the bend from this bridge.  

Ah Ha, i did get one of Glenda while her back was turned.  Now i can blackmail her that i'll remove the block.
  This Murray Cod (they really do grow this big, NOT) used to be a wishing well when we were little.  We were not well off and I was more interested in looking at all shiny money in the well than at the fish.  Who threw away money?  
 We then made our way to the next small town called Finley.

So what's the relevance of this sign?  We were both born here (all six of us actually).  When we lived here the population was 3000 so i guess after we left there was nothing left to stay for.  Ha Ha.

We had a deadline to get to Mum's before 5pm so we were making a list of things we wanted to do and see on the way back to Melbourne.  By the time we reached this spot the list had grown so big we would have needed a week to do it all. It had us laughing at the "IN" joke all weekend.  Several times we had to explain what we were laughing at when we said "we'll do it on the way back".

This is the main drag of Finley.  Its very wide because this is the Newell Highway which links with the Hume out of Melbourne, Victoria and snakes its way across the country all the way to the Queensland border before linking up with The Gore & Werrego for the run into  Brisbane.  Its the main trucking route from South to North which is 1700kms long and takes about 20 hrs to drive.  I've done that trip so many times i could do it with my eyes closed.
Half way between Finley and Jerilderie i pulled over again to take yet another photo.

So whats so fascinating about this sign? Which by the way i had to stand in the middle of the highway and dodge B Doubles to take.  My maiden name is Cartmel and this is the lane that ran along one of the boundaries of our family property.   All along this section of the highway are lanes and roads named after the families who lived there and its like a roll call of the local school classroom.  Driving this section of road always makes me sit up a little straighter and look for what, i don't know.  Do i honestly think that Sandy Close from Kinder is going to be standing there waving from the end of Close Lane as i go past?

Onward and forwards.  Its a long drive and Glenda was shaking her head wondering "What The" each time i pulled over and jumped out to take a photo of something.  As i told her, i must feed my blog, there are people out there who want to read all about our trip.  "Really" she says "Who"?  "Someone," i said!

So just in case someone wants to see an Australian Emu i told her she was on animal watch across the plains.  I don't know why i bothered because despite having to pay attention driving at 110km/hr on a rural highway it was me who spotted them in a paddock beside her.  I must admit i did pull over a little suddenly for this one but there i was once again avoiding trucks to get you, my reader, a photo of a wild Emu. Anyone can go look at one in a Zoo.

That's as good as it gets people, because for some reason they don't seem to want and say Hi to this strange being that slams her brakes whilst travelling at light speed and pulls over on the gravel, jumps out the vehicle and starts approaching holding an Iphone (even Emus know what they are) in front of her.  They were really big.

Since I'm stopped already and Glenda's patience is being tested, i took one of the other side of the road, just to really annoy her.  Look at the difference in the sky colour.  Also note how flat flat flat it is.  Is it any wonder having grown up in this land that anything over a few metres high makes my ears pop.  
I managed the last 70 km without stopping for pics and we made it to Narrandera where i spent my teenage years.

Narrandera is situated beside the Murrumbidgee River and so after crossing the plains (110km) you come across an abundance of trees. The Municipal Councils of old had some great forward thinking and lined most of the streets with Plain Trees.   100 years later and those trees are massive making great canopies of cooling green in Summer and mountains of golden leaves in Autumn.

You can see by the town population that I'm well and truly a small town girl.  That sign reads 5000 which is pretty much unchanged from when i lived there.  After a quick check in at Sam's (sister) we drove over to Leeton where Mum lives.  No photos of signs here.  We never lived here and the rivalry that exists on the sporting fields between these two towns means that its of no relevance to me and no photos will be taken.  

Unfortunately the local Koalas think that the highway bridge over the river is a pedestrian crossing and try to cross at night.  Its really awful to see them squished by the trucks the next day.  There is not much anyone can do except try and avoid them but trucks are just too big to swerve or stop.  Cant move the road, cant move the bridge and the Koalas are wild.  
I will however take show some pics from Mum's place which is For Sale if anyone is wanting a very nice home in Leeton, NSW.  I inherited my green fingers from her and her garden is lovely.  Its a bit big for her now and so its gradually being scaled down.  She did say that she would like more flowers but there is the problem of George.  Who?  Yet another family pet that went to Mum's for a "holiday" and never left.

Yes there is a dog in there somewhere.  He can see fine when he needs to locate his football.  He can play with his ball for hours and the only way to stop him is to hide it.   He's due for a groom in a few weeks but its still mighty cold at night so Mum is putting it off.  
I'm on the look out for some tall containers that George cannot excavate.  Wine barrels would be ideal but too expensive.  I'll think of something......

Look at the size of this grass tree.  Cant imagine how much it would be worth.  

These are just a few of my brother Steven's budgies.   The baby will be mauve when it has feathers.  

The things you see in the conservatory.   This is from my Dad's headstone.  Being brass it kept tarnishing so after many years Mum had it replaced and so it now lives among the orchids.  

You know all that Berri Australian Grown orange juice you find in the Supermarket.  Well it comes from here.

The Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area is one of Australia's food bowls.  All your SunRice products come from this area and much is exported to Japan.  You know that pickle in your Maccas that you throw out (which technically stops it from being confectionery it has so much sugar), it comes from Griffith just down the road. So many Australian grown products come from here so keep buying that Aussie product.

There was only really one more sign that i took on the way to the wedding last Saturday.  As we passed i jumped out in my wedding finery, yet again parked on the roadside gravel leaving Mum wondering "What The" (though I'm sure she's never heard of that expression).

This is where i worked for the first 5 years of my working career at the Pig Improvement Company.  Yes, intensive pig breeding.  I worked in the office people, not the sheds which were 5km out of town in a quarantined area.
So, after the Wedding Sat night, a much needed rest and a Farewell Big Breakfast, Glenda and I made our way back to Melbourne on Sunday.  Yes, I drove again, but was surprising not so vocal and no photos taken.  Did we do anything on our big list?  Nope, we just laughed and said we'd do it next time.  Maybe in November as we head back for Ashley's wedding.  I think we should allow more days.
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