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Newsletter 71 – Summer holiday with the girls

Shoreham beach

It only took an hour and a half from Melbourne to be in holiday mode. A friend recommended that we lunch at Ocean Eight winery until our Airbnb house was ready for us. A splendid suggestion. We picked a beautiful spot under a gum tree and unloaded our camping chairs, low table and even spread a Turkish towel as an elegant cloth and to stop our wine glasses sliding. The buttery Chardonnay was a splendid match for the plate of spiced St Helen’s oysters recommended by owner Mike Aylward. The rest of the family pulled up minutes later and we tucked into steamed prawn and ginger dumplings, and soft spring rolls, expertly prepared by Bia Hoi BBQ.

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Newsletter 70 – Hope springs eternal

Before embracing the new year I have to linger a little on my delightful Christmas. (Isn’t this red tea-tree beautiful?) ‘It is now part of family tradition’ I was told by the 5-year old granddaughter that she stays with me and Santa miraculously finds her. And he did too and there were lots of presents, and an Elsa braid and loads of paper. And then the family gathered.

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Newsletter 69 – I have had a BIG birthday

Stephanie Alexander 's 80th birthday

I know I announced there would not be another newsletter until the Covid emergency was over. Well none of us imagined that we would still be waiting for that moment into November. Melbourne calendar milestones took place as never before – the Grand Final in Brisbane and Cup Day without crowds.

However, on schedule Spring has sprung and this morning I was overwhelmed with the beauty of the sun on the new leaves, the shine on the back of the young blue-tongued lizard that takes a sunbath on the paving, the flash of two rainbow lorikeets swinging in the golden blossoms of the grevillea, and then to cap it off I had a kookaburra sitting in an old gum tree just a few metres from my door. Well I tried to take pictures of all three wild creatures but they were too clever and at the first squeak of my door they were gone.

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Newsletter 68 – Wintry Melbourne

Today is a glorious winter’s day and I have just returned from a walk along the river (masked of course). It is uplifting to see the wattles in full flower, and in my own garden I picked the first brave freesia. A reminder that spring will come and maybe with it even a partial lifting of restrictions. Whilst one daughter has been a constant delight, visiting and shopping in her capacity as ‘carer’ I miss my other daughter and granddaughter and my friends. For me contact via digital platforms is simply not the same and does not lend itself to the sort of conversations that happen at the table. 

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Newsletter 67 – The new reality

Once the directive to self-isolate was properly understood, like everyone else it seems, I responded first of all by cooking for a siege. Suitably terrified by stories of what could befall the 70+ I decided to be as self-sufficient as possible. Cooked pots and pots of spinach, blanched, chilled, squeezed, divided and frozen. It is a wonderful resource – folded into a breakfast omelette, dropped into a pot of buttered rice, added to casseroles, or buttered lavishly and served underneath a grilled piece of fish.

To read more, subscribe to the Cook’s Companion Club. You’ll be sent an immediate email with links to my current and past newsletters.