Warm and Memorable Week with Family

My mum, my brother David and his wife Jean, and my nephew Isaac, stayed with us from last Monday, 22 May. They arrived early arvo, thanks to Jonathan French, my cousin-in-law who live in Woodend with Ruth my cousin, and Micah, their son. The Malaysians had arrived at their home on Saturday night (from Canberra) and stayed with them a couple of nights.

We went to a yum-cha lunch at a Chinese restaurant nearby, then met up with Nicole my niece, and Esther her aunt, at the Brighton Beach bath boxes, a tourist attraction. After the obligatory photos of those colourful beach bath boxes, we came home and I did a barbeque dinner for them. Jonathan, Nicole’s +1, came long. The 9 of us enjoyed a home cooked meal, which I cooked and Isaac – a budding super talented cook – masterly took over the more sensitive parts of the meal, like pan frying beautiful Hokkaido scallops which Tress had picked up earlier.

The next day, Tress went to work and Jean did a few loads of laundry, before we took mum shopping. They’ve taken a liking to shopping at op shops, so we took them to a local salvos while Jean had her laundry dried in a laundromat nearby. Tress took the arvo off and joined us for lunch at Talami (a local Vietnamese in Mount Waverley) for some Pho and Bun. After lunch, we went to a local nut shop (on Eley Street) for David to buy stuff home for our Malaysian uncles, aunties and cousins. Later that night, we went to dinner at Mazaj, the beautiful Lebanese place in Forest Hill Chase.

Wednesday was the big day – Nicole was to attend the graduation ceremony at Monash Clayton. I picked them (Nicole, Jonathan and Esther) up from the Burvale, where they stayed and took them to Monash Clayton. Nicole had wanted to be there around 8.30am so I was at the Burvale at 8am. Later that morning, David, Jean and mum joined them in Clayton, and we parked ourselves in a cafe to watch the livestream of the ceremony (which started at 11am), before joining Nicole for pictures on campus grounds. It was a very happy occasion and I was very proud of what Nicole has achieved. I wondered if Sim was watching from somewhere. Many might say she is watching from “up there” in heaven, but having heard NT Wright in recent years about heaven not necessarily being “up there”, there’s a chance Sim was watching the whole thing from other than “up there”, albeit certainly from heaven, and with joy. Daniel had planned to also be here for the occasion but had been injured in a motor vehicle accident. He fractured his ankle and could not travel but I am sure he was beaming with pride and joy from Penang, where he would have certainly followed proceedings via the livestream.

We only got home close to 4pm, and everyone rested in our home before we went to dinner in a French restaurant on Blackburn Road. It was a lovely meal and the conversation and atmosphere was something I’d cherish for the rest of my days. It was a celebration amongst family, and it was filled with joy and hope as we bantered about all things family, including – especially – about Nicole and her future with her beau Jonathan. I suspect they might have been grateful for the dimmed lighting in the French joint, which would have played a large role in hiding blushes that might have appeared as we teased and prompted them about their future together (read: coming wedding). Nicole had messaged me a day earlier about Daniel her dad wanting to pick up the tab for that dinner, so we were all very grateful for that really lovely evening meal.

That night, as Tress started to drive the Burvale guests home, she said the Lexus had a flat so she came back and took the Mazda instead, and drove them to Burvale in that smaller car. I then worked out in my mind what I needed to do the next day to get the flat fixed, so that we could still make the Yarra Valley plan work. I had wanted to take David, Jean, Mum and Isaac there. There has been an alert sign on the dash about tyre pressure that had lighted up for sometime anyway, but (first thing) the next morning, as David helped me with removing the offending tyre, we noticed a screw lodged on one of the tracks. We waited until the workshop (the “MyCar” place in Forest Hill) was opened and sent the car in. I asked if they could expedite the repair, which thankfully they did. They went so far as to waive all charges, as I had bought the tyres from them. So we managed to get to Yarra Valley without too much of a delay.

It was a grey and wet day in any case, so we only went to one winery (Yering Station) where we had an extended wine tasting session with a very knowledgeable host (who was from Beijing), before heading off to lunch at the local pub in Yarra Valley. We then went to the chocolate place and then headed home. That night, we went for Peking Duck at Simon’s, where everyone enjoyed very good Peking Duck and my brother picked up the tab.

On Friday, I picked up Isaac and Esther from Burvale (after they checked out at 9am) to leave them in our home, then took David, Jean and Mum to the airport at Tullamarine for their flight back to Malaysia. I then brought Isaac and Esther to lunch at The Glen, enjoying warm large bowls of noodle at “Master Lanzhou”. Later that arvo at around 4pm, I went back to Tullamarine, this time dropping Isaac and Esther for their flight to Singapore, from where Isaac returned to HK while Esther went to Penang.

On Friday night, the house became quiet again. Tress and I spent the weekend restoring our home so that it now again has 2 work from home offices, along with other aspects of our familiar elements. We vacuumed, cleaned the sheets, put the mattresses back and generally got ourselves ready to return to our quiet, dare I say boring, lives again. We were at St Alf’s for Pentecost Sunday, assuming communion duty and receiving special anointing with oil obtained (by Peter MacPherson) from Israel. It was a special way to end a week that has been warm and memorable.


The Eagle has landed

That was how my brother captioned a pic of their plane finally arriving at the Sydney airport. They got in on Saturday morning, and drove up to Taree yesterday, after waiting for Isaac, my nephew, to arrive from Hong Kong. David, Jean and my mum make up the company of four for the drive to see Nicole, my niece and Isaac’s sister, who is an intern at the district hospital there.

The night before, Tress and I went for dinner at a lovely and buzzing Italian restaurant at The Glen. We hadn’t been to The Glen on a Friday night for a very long time now. My apprehension about it being a super overly busy place was misplaced, and while the restaurant precinct was busy and buzzing, the other places were pleasant. We took our time to wind down the week, before coming home for another night’s footy on the telly.

On Saturday, the weather was very nice and we had slept in, with the little fellow jumping onto the bed to join us in the morning. Later, I took him for a long walk, and Tress went for a hairdresser’s appointment. I joined her later, to get a long overdue haircut (hadn’t had one since just before we went up to Canberra to welcome Little Abby). Our hairdresser is at The Chase so we had lunch there after we were done, got some groceries, and then came home to get ready for our first game of the season at the MCG. We left the boys with Heather, then took a train from Syndal to get to the game. It was a Hawks’ home game but on the train, we were outnumbered by Demons gear. I guess that’s the way it is when we’re bottom of the ladder and the Dees were on second spot. They’re flying high now while we’re “rebuilding”. The scoreboard later affirmed this state of affairs, when at half time, we managed to kick one miserable goal, against their 7-8. Somehow, we managed to pick up our game on the third quarter so that we ended up a little bit more respectable and it wasn’t a total mauling. It was great to be back at the G nevertheless.

On Sunday, David Williams, from CMS, spoke on the second part of the series on Deuteronomy. Peter had started this the previous Sunday. It is about “Choosing Life” by obeying God’s commands and David’s talk emphasised how God’s command isn’t really an opinion or a recommendation. It was a command, and it wasn’t subject to cultural sensitivities and such other considerations. He applied it to the current standoff between the Church of England and the rest of the Anglican Communion, and the recent statement made in Kigali. It was an uncompromising message from David, as usual, and it left one with a very clear choice. I’m glad he said what he did.

Later that day, we received updates of David & Co., drive to Taree, and their dinner there with Nicole later that night. Their adventures Down Under have begun, and I look forward to when they arrive in Melbourne next Sunday.

Wet and Cold, and Warm Reprieves

It was a wet and cold weekend. It’s only early May, but winter has definitely made its presence known. Creation does not care for calendars of man. I had signed up with the local gym at the Forest Hill Chase shopping centre, in expectation of the wet weather ahead. So on Saturday morning, after Tress and I had busied ourselves with house cleaning activities, I headed into the gym when she had her ethereal session (i.e., pokemon). She had done a terrific job vacuuming, while I wiped down surfaces and cleaned the barbies, in anticipation that our forthcoming Malaysian visitors may want something cooked on those.

At the gym, I hopped on a treadmill and walked/ran for about an hour, jumped in the shower, and then came back very tired. It was a recce of sorts, to see if my morning routines can incorporate visits to the gym. It has been years since I last went to a gym – it was before I moved up to Canberra in 2015 to take up that job with the National Blood Authority. I thought the recce suggested I could and I went again this morning, as it rained again (and was cold) and I couldn’t/didn’t want to do my usual runs outdoors.

After that recce gym session on late Saturday morning, Tress and I checked out a new Malaysian cafe at Brandon Park. It had come highly recommended for a while now. We went for a couple of very pleasant hot noodle soups (perfect for a cold and wet morning), before we bumped into Jason and Mel, who live just around the corner from Brandon Park. We had caught up with them the night before at Flavours of Mekong and it had been a wonderful time of just chatting over some good food.

After lunch, we walked around the Brandon Park shopping centre and I could feel my energy level draining away. As soon as we got home, I crashed into the couch and took a nap – something I hadn’t done for years. I cannot remember when I last took an afternoon nap. I was so drained however, that I thought I’d just have a quick shut eye. That ended up to be a near 1-hour nap and I felt much better after that, which was handy because we had another catch up that night.

Just after 6pm, we headed out, picked up a couple of pizzas to bring along with a bottle of red and a bag of grapes, to the catch up with friends from UNSW. Vincent and Christina were visiting from Miri. Their eldest, Nathan, had become engaged and they were here to meet their future in-laws. They had an AIr BnB at Mount Waverley and had invited a bunch of us over for dinner. Nathan is a talented cook and made some nice steaks for us. We all brought food anyway so there were plenty. Chin Moi and Ing Tung, Frank and Margaret, Patsie, Chui Boon and Alfred and Catherine were there too and we had a wonderful time of catching up. Everyone looked well, and most were active in their local churches and other community engagements. Vincent, Ing Tung, Margaret, Alfred and Chui Boon had or were turning 60 this year so we celebrated that as well.

We were the first to leave the party, and the rain was still pouring down as we left. We got home, let the boys out, and sat down to watch the coronation of King Charles. The pom and pageantry were on full display and to see Charles and Camilla on the balcony (with their crowns), where Elizabeth and Philip used to stand, were stark reminders of how transient everything is, even the “reign” of a monarch of England (and Australia, but that’s another story…).

On Sunday, we went to St Alf’s then had lunch at Donvale, before we came home where I did our usual cook, and as the weather provided a small reprieve, I quickly mowed the lawn and swept up the yards and driveway. It had been nearly 2 months since I last mowed the lawns and the thick growth meant I could only mow with elevated blades, but the place did feel better tidied up, and far neater. I felt better for it too, and very grateful for the small window of dry and sunny weather for me to do that. Later, we took the little one to the oval again, where he had a good run with his friends there.

It was a wet and cold weekend. Time with old friends, great food, reconnecting with a gym and cleaning up around the house, were all wonderful “small mercies”. I am truly grateful for what God provides, even the simplest pleasures. Especially the simplest pleasures.

Normal weekend again.

It was my first full weekend back home here in the burbs in Melbourne. So, I was keen to get back to what we always do. We went out to a local for “TGIF” dinner on Friday night, this time to the Lebanese place on “The Loft” of the FHC. “Mazaj” is one of the few remaining joints to still survive and operate relatively well. We had some falafel, lemon garlic chook, a hummus dip, and a fattoush sallad. It was too much food, and we had wanted to just have the first three dishes but the waitress thought it was too little food. We enjoyed it anyway, and came home to watch Port Adelaide beat the Saints. It was a bit strange to see Ryan Burton thriving for the Powers, whereas Chad Wingard, the player we took in to trade out Burton, has been having a stop start role with the Hawks.

The next day, after a usual brekky and a walk for the little, younger, fellow, we took a drive into the city. We wanted to do a recce for when the Malaysian folks come visit. We trekked into Southern Cross, where they would drop off the rental vehicle, and from there we drove to the Albert Park Lake GP track, and from there, to Brighton Beach where we would let them see the bath boxes. We dropped into a bakery for lunch, where I had an enormous steak sanger and Tress had a soup.

We got back just after 2pm, with a clearer idea of how that first day for our dear family may pan out. After leaving Oreo at home and letting out Scruff for a bit, we went and did a bit of grocery shopping before returning to take both boys out for an extended walk. Later that night, we just chilled, watched a couple of episodes of “Lucky Hank” before calling it a night.

Back in St Alf’s the next day, after a 6-week absence, we were on communion duty so it was “straight back into it” kind of thing, the hiatus notwithstanding. We then caught up with some folks before heading out to our usual spot for lunch, up in Donvale. Then it was back home for the week’s cook, that included a soup for Tress and I later that night. It had been a cold morning, with near 0 Deg conditions, so we had thought a soup for dinner would have been nice. We used the double boiler for a Chinese styled herbal soup – something we had done for Kiddo numerous times when we were there. After the cook, I went for a walk to “air” myself from the aromas that had built up around me from the preps and cooking. Then it was more walks for the boys, before we came back to finish up the day by watching the finale of the mindless “I’m a celebrity, get me out of here”. We had caught intermittent glimpses of the show for a while now and every time we did, we found ourselves laughing. I guess that’s unpretentious good entertainment, where we could just watch, park our minds and opinions well away, and just laugh. Accompanied by a glass of a smoky scotch, it was a wonderful way to wind down and sleep well, and remind myself that routines at home are wonderful.