Taree and Back Again

Tress and I dropped the boys off at Heather’s on Friday night. Early on Saturday morning, we headed to Tullamarine, and caught a flight up to Newcastle. It’s the closest city to Taree, where we could fly directly from Melbourne. We arrived at Newcastle shortly before 10am, picked up a rental car and drove up to Taree. Or, more precisely, Old Bar. Old Bar is some 16km from Taree. It’s a small beach town, with a population of fewer than 3,000. Our niece, Nicole, has been there for a couple of weeks. She works as an medical intern at the Manning Base Hospital in Taree, and shares a house in Old Bar with 3 other fellow interns.

We arrived at Old Bar around noon, and headed to a cafe, where we met Nicole. It was wonderful to see her again after more than 3 years. After lunch at the cafe, we walked took a short walk to her home for the next 2 years, and were introduced to her housemates and colleagues. Tress and I then checked into a motel some 600 meters away, and then took a drive with Nicole into Taree. She showed us around, including the hospital where she’d be working. Later that night, we went to dinner and a couple of the young interns joined us. We had dinner in a little Thai restaurant in Taree, then headed back to Old Bar for some really nice ice cream in a shop that is just across the road from their home.

Tress and I then went back to the motel. Tired as we were, we caught the ladies’ singles final of the Australian Open, before crashing out in bed.

The next morning, Tress and I took a walk to the beach. It was a little after sunrise but it was beautiful all the same. We then walked to a bakery before heading back to the motel to get ready for church. Tress and Nicole had googled around and landed on one in Taree. It was the “One Life” church. People were really friendly there. After church, we went back to Old Bar, packed and checked out from the motel, and had lunch a fish and chips place (“Blowfish”) at the beach, before saying goodbye. Tress and I then drove back to Newcastle, where we whiled away walking through some parks in the city, stopped at a wharf pub which was heaving with lots of party going patrons. A live band was playing too, so we had a couple of drinks there and something to eat, before heading to the airport to return the rental car and catch the flight back to Melbourne. We got into Tullamarine a bit before 10pm, and got home way past 11pm.

It had been a long and hurried trip (some 2,400km return), but it was very reassuring to see our niece has truly become a wonderful person. She is warm, very smart, articulate, thoughtful and is always respectful to Tress and I. With her colleagues and housemates who all appear to be equally smart and switched on, I was assured she will be fine. She told us about Jon’s plan to come to Melbourne for a Master’s degree at RMIT for the next couple of years. She was the one who encouraged him to do that, and so he’d be here in a little over a week. That sounded to me like she is also forward thinking and planning for the future, which was even more reassuring. Sim would have no doubt been very proud of her, as Tress and I are.


The Rabbit Arrives, the Tiger leaves.

It was another busy week at work last week, so as is often the case, I had started to feel drain on Thursday night and dragged myself through Friday, finishing up a few pieces of work. Tress and I then had some downtime at the Flavours of Mekong place on Friday night, where I felt a bit rested and I even sensed being recharged in some way.

On Saturday, the boys had their clipping/grooming sessions booked in and that finished ay about 10am – the older LBJ started his at 8am, and the little Padawan, at 9am. The groomer has started to be a bit unhappy with how the little Padawan was a bit tricky to work on, and she had also increased her rates rather quickly. When I handed her what I thought was what was payable, she said I was $10 short. $190 for the both of them. Then she and I had a chat about what to do with the next one, as we’re scheduled to be in Canberra then. That too was testy and when that was over, I said to Tress just dealing with this groomer has become difficult and has stressed me out.

We then cleaned up and headed out for some grocery – it was Chinese New Year’s eve and Jason and Mel had invited us over, along with the Hippos. We had ordered a dish from the Mekong place but I had also wanted to cook another dish. So we headed to The Glen, which was just heaving. There was a queue for the roast pork/BBQ meat shop that stretched maybe 20-30m long and the whole place just felt really busy. I guess that also meant it felt festive. If we were in Klang, the wet market would have been filled out from dawn. I guess it’s a bit like Christmas at the Sydney Fish Markets where I’d start work at 1am and by about 4.30am, the first customers would stream in and by about 6am, the crowd would be about 10-12 deep.

We had a cosy and good time at Jason and Mel’s – we talked and ate, and Tress gave the Hippo girls their “angpows”.

The next day at St Alf’s Tress and I donned our red outfits and that invited a few comments and laughs. Many understood it was Chinese New Year and that was why we did that. Or, more politically correctly, it’s the “Lunar New Year”. Some said the Vietnamese version has this year as the year of the Cat! The rabbit takes second slot in Vietnamese communities I guess. Tress and I were also on communion duty and after service, I witnessed some doc signing for someone while we stayed behind for chats. We then left and had lunch at Donvale, at one of our favourite Malaysian joints (Laksa Village).

Later that arvo, I cooked the boys’ meals as well as our own lunches, before we took the boys to the oval. It had been a sunny, warm and still (relatively) day so it was very pleasant. All through the weekend, we’d been looking at WhatsApp messages with numerous pictures of our relos back home, celebrating the new year. I wished I could be there, but I did not miss the will through-the-night fireworks, so I guess it’s a mixed blessing of sorts. Tress had, on Friday night, also decided to come along with me to Taree next weekend. I had made plans to check out how Nic our niece is settling down there and it was really good to have Tress now coming along with me.

This will be a short week – Aus Day on Thursday and then an early night on Fri so we can make an early start on Sat morning to head north. The festive and family times continue, I guess.

Heat dialing up, niece in Oz

Summer has finally made its presence prominent. It was very hot on Saturday, and there was a bit to do to tidy up the outsides of the house. Tress and I ditched our usual home brekky and headed to the Honey Thief bakery up Canterbury Road, as the crow flies from our home. We had some pastries and coffee, and we had the little Padawan with us. We than took him to the Bunnings store at Nunawading, as I had to pick up a few items to work on the gardens etc. later that morning. One of them was a safety goggle. The last time I did some edging with the whipper snipper, it caught something and flew up at my face, nicking some half an inch above my left eye. It left a little scar, but the bigger scar was the realisation that it could have taken my eye out. Hence the goggle. It was the first time the little Padawan visited Bunnings and they had a little fake grass mat to line the top section of the trolley so it kind of worked for him.

We got back before 9am, and we quickly started work as the heat would, very soon, be a little unpleasant. Tress also quickly cleared the corner where the composting bin sits, as weeds had built up. I edged the lawns, wearing my newly acquired goggles, and felt much safer. I then trimmed the milkwort that sits outside our bedroom, as Tress had been complaining it has started to block out the light. Mowing, sweeping etc followed and as we finished up close to 1pm, the heat had descended and it had crept up to 32+ degrees. We washed up and headed out for lunch and some grocery shopping.

St Alf’s on Sunday was a regular event. It was much cooler, with a top of 22deg forecasted. At St Alf’s it was just under 20deg so it was near perfect. Earlier that morning, the little Padawan was also much more perky when I took him for his walk and it was around 16deg. The cooler conditions made for a less lethargic day. After lunch, we came home and I cleaned the weber kettle and GA grills, to prepare them for the cooks for the coming Chinese New Year meals this weekend. The cleaned barbeques looked far better, after having left them uncleaned following some recent cooks.

We had caught up with Jason and Mel for dinner on Friday night and as always, it was nice to just chat over some very nice food at the Laksa Village restaurant at Donvale. We had also been following the family WhatsApp chat, to track the comings and goings. YY had gone back to Klang for a holiday. He has been in Taiwan for a few years now, doing his uni course in education. Nicole had also left Malaysia, and has arrived in Sydney. She will head to Taree in a day or so, to begin her 2 year contract with NSW Health. Last night, Tress, Kiddo and I had a chat about catching up with her. I messaged Nicole to ask if she had any plans a couple of weekends from now. Tress and I hope to catch a quick weekend flying up to Port Macquarie and driving to Taree from there. I wanted to catch a glimpse of what her journey would be like next couple of years, and be in the know she’ll be right. If I were Daniel, I’d appreciate that heaps. I hope we can do that.

Ballarat and Summer

Kiddo and Mic left Melbourne a few days ago. They did not however, return to Canberra straight away. They went to Daylesford for a few days. It was to be their last quiet couples moments before the little one arrives. They did a detour to Ballarat to drop off Milo at a sitter’s and were to pick him up again on Saturday.

Ballarat is just under a couple of hours away, so I suggested we catch up there for lunch/coffee, before they make their way back to Canberra. So on Saturday, Tress and I drove up there. The little Padawan came along, as Tress wanted to be able to spend time with the Canberrans in Ballarat, without being stressed out by the little fellow being left at home. Unlike LBJ, who is a lot more chilled and happy to be left alone, the Padawan is much more highly strung and is often just looking out for Tress (mainly) or I. Hopefully it’s just a puppy thing and when he turns 2 in March, he’d be more settled and chilled.

When we got to Ballarat, we headed directly to Lake Wendouree and walked the little fellow for a bit. We quickly walked past a nice looking cafe and walked up to get a table. It was just past noon, and Tress said it was one of a few of those dog friendly ones I had found on the net a couple of days before. Kiddo and Mic and Milo had been at the Eureka Stockade place earlier that morning and joined us soon after we settled down at the cafe and with the sun blazing down on a warm and sunny day, it felt wonderful, albeit a bit hot. After lunch, we walked around the lake for a bit, before heading off to the Botanical Gardens. It was busy, with many folks taking advantage of a glorious day to soak up the sun and fresh air. We said our goodbyes after some ice cream, and left soon after 3pm. We got home just before 5pm and feasted on some fruits for dinner that night.

On Sunday, Tress had a colleague’s wedding to attend. So I headed to St Alf’s by myself, picked up lunch after for Tress and I to quickly have a bite before a colleague of hers picked her up from our home for the wedding. Left alone from about 1pm, I did some grocery shopping, then headed back home to do some cooking and watch the cricket. It was the last game of the South Africans’ tour of Australia. It was a dead rubber, as the Aussies had won the first two games, with David Warner picking up an amazing double ton at the MCG for the Boxing Day match. I cooked our lunches and the doggies’ meals, washed up and busied myself just pottering around the house. It was another hot day, with temperatures hovering around 32/33 deg for most of the day. With all the cooking and cleaning all done and the kitchen tidied up, and with the cricket finished in a draw (which the SCG is famous for – drawn matches), I watched a couple of episodes of John Krasinski’s “Jack Ryan” before Tress came home.

Two warm days of outdoor cafes, walks, ice cream, cricket and chilled white wine. The weekend had felt like summer had finally arrived.

2023 is here.

Kiddo and Mic came down on our last working day of 2022. It has been a wonderful 10+ days of just eating, talking and spending time together. Probably overeating (and over drinking for me) but it has been really great all the same. We went to St Alf’s for the Christmas Eve service and hosted a Christmas Day dinner at our home. We then visited a few local attractions – Montsalvat at Eltham, the Yarra at Fairfield, and did some shopping too. There were also numerous dinners with friends, including one at a local Thai with some new friends – Lai Fun and Zach, her son – along with Jason and Mel and their friends Kit and James, as well as at the Hippo’s home which Jason and Mel also came to. I’ve used the weber kettle numerous times for a number of those meals.

2022 is now behind us. 2023 is here. The obvious attraction for Tress and I will be the arrival of Kiddo and Mic’s firstborn. They have both looked and sounded excited and ready for the occasion and no doubt set up for the upheavals that a newborn will bring. Tress and I are planning to be at the capital city for when that happens. We hope to stay a few weeks and we’ve been looking out for options for a long stay there, where we will also work remotely from for most of the time.

The Teh clan had been at Fraser’s Hill in the “old country” for a family reunion that looked and sounded really nice. We were all asked (especially those of us who couldn’t make the event) to provide some audio visual media to say g’day and provide updates on what’s been happening to us so we did that. The “Teh Plus” WhatsApp group had been inundated with pics of the event and although I have become less affected by what I see, it is still so very heartwarming to see those pics and clips. They evoked great memories as well as conjured imaginations of what the lives and journeys of all those uncles, aunties, cousins, nephews, nieces, brothers, sisters, etc. must have been like. As always, I wished I was there with them to listen and engage.

We also spoke with Nicole, a niece of ours (Daniel and Sim’s eldest) as she will be heading to NSW to commence a 2 year contract with NSW Health as a doctor in northern NSW. It sounded like she will be reasonably well set up, as she had senior cohorts to guide and assist. A couple of days before the Teh reunion, Daniel’s dad passed away and then Nicole had covid so they’ve had a rough ride. To Isaac’s great credit, he made the trip to Fraser’s and it sounded like he engaged well with the rest of the clan.

It has been another great cross over from one year to the next. Even if that means I’m inching closer to either the end of the present quarter, or to the start of the next.