Saturday, 22 October 2011


I laughed when I came back to Pretty Essential recently and saw that it looked like we were still "Stuck in Albany". We did get on our way eventually and continued our little caravan adventure, enjoying our time in Western Australia very much.  

But so much has happened, and actually was happening while we were travelling. And, I really haven't been able to write about it before now.

Just before we set off, my Mother was given a diagnosis of cancer. The worst possible category of cancer, with primary and metastatic locations. It was a devastating time for her and all of us. Treatment was started immediately to try to prolong the amount of time she would have left. But truly, it was hard for all of us to take in. At just 58, and a very healthy, non drinking, non smoking person, to say we didn't understand would be an understatement.

My parents were married very young, at just 17 and 20. So, for my Father it was simply impossible to come to terms with the reality of the situation. The fact that my Mother was also the main carer for her 92 year old Mother at the time was another difficulty to face.  We also had to say goodbye to the house that has been the family home for six generations, the one my Grandmother was born in and her Father and Grandfather built.

My mother passed away on August 18th 2010.

She would have been 60 at the beginning of October this year. I don't feel like I'm at the point of acceptance or understanding yet, but I am beginning to feel less sad about it a little bit more each day. Mum was such a 'doer', she never sat around much, and always had projects, activities and events on the go. I am trying to keep that in mind.  

At this point, I feel the need to close my Pretty Essential blog that was focused mainly of craft and family.  I have enjoyed the time spent recording the bits and pieces of my daily life and interacting with such lovely people in 'blogland'. To all those who have stopped by and left me comments, I want to say a huge Thank You!  Really, it has meant a lot to me.

To honour Mum - the person who taught me so much - I have started a new blog called Hat Hill Farm.  It feels like the right thing to do.  Mum loved blogs.  She found them immensely inspiring and loved to see so many people creating and sharing. 

Hat Hill Farm will document the new home that we are making for ourselves.  It will be like a gardening diary and will detail the steps we take each day.  Keith and I will work on it together.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Stuck in Albany

We had been in Albany, which is an old whaling town south of Perth, for about an hour when there was a bit of an incident which means we'll be here for a whole lot longer than we planned.

The Gap, Albany, WA

After finding a caravan park in town we went for a drive along the coast to see the Blowhole, Gap and Natural Bridge.  On the path down to the Gap, we passed some young guys heading back up to the car park after doing some fishing.  Just as we started to head back up one of the guys came running down to us to see if we owned a 'gold x-trail'. As you say 'yes' to a such a question you just know it isn't going to be good news!

Natural Bridge, Albany, WA

He explained, very apologetically, how he'd only just got his license and car a few days ago and as he was backing out his car door swung open and he panicked and hit the accelerator instead of the break . . .

It must have been quite an impact because the back door of the car, bumper and back window were damaged extensively.  Oh, and he also explained that he hadn't got around to getting any insurance yet.

That was on Saturday night.  We went and bought a tarp to cover the back window and cleaned out all the glass from the car, which was everywhere.  On Monday we took it to the smash repairers to get a quote and the young guy's Mum called us to say they would pay for the damage. We have a car on loan from the repairers so we can get around and our car should be ready on Friday.  So, it's all working out okay.

Hey I'm sure there are a lot worse places to be stuck than Albany.  There are lots of lovely beaches, yesterday we went to Whale World and today we visited Porongurup National Park.

Mutton Bird Island Beach, Albany WA

But when your on the road and then you suddenly have seven days to spend in the one place, well what can I say . . . we're headed to Margaret River next and I kinda wish we were stuck there.  Sorry Albany!

Sunday, 21 February 2010


It's the first time I've ever been glad that a car wouldn't start!

We set off for a drive to look at more of the stunning Esperance coastline, stopping along the way at Look Outs, etc.  At Observatory Beach, after a quick look, we all piled back into the car only to find that the engine wouldn't turn over. A little shocked, the car has been traveling so well and had an extensive service before we left home, we all got back out and stood looking in the engine.

Really we had no clue what was wrong - starter engine maybe Keith suggested?  

A lady who had been walking her dog on the beach and was about to leave came over to see if she could help.  There was no mobile reception and she was the only other person around.  Very quickly she offered to take me and the children back to her house to use her phone and hang out till the Roadside Assistance man came and hopefully got the car started.

So, I took her up on her generous offer.  We headed back to Deb's house, quickly covering many topics and by the time we reached her gorgeous property we felt like old friends.  The kids were very excited to meet her four alpacas, including two babies.

Deb is one of those people who is always rescuing people. She's widely traveled and after settling in Esperance with her husband four years ago has created a very beautiful lifestyle based loosely on permaculture principals.  There was so much to talk about, including the care of those alpacas. I'm sure we'll end up with some one day. . .  Deb has even started learning to spin their fleece.

Keith arrived all too quickly.  The Esperance man had been very prompt and quickly worked out that our cars battery had simply come to the end of its life. Luckily for us it chose Esperance that morning, at that beach, and not any of the few days before when we were driving across the desert!

Meeting people along the way always adds to the experience of traveling, but there was something more to meeting Deb and seeing how she lives at this particular time in my life. There were so many similarities to someone very close to me who is going through a difficult and frightening time at the moment that I was a little thrown by the whole experience.  But very glad of it none the less.

Friday, 19 February 2010

A new adventure

So, it has been a while since I've wanted to return to my Journal here at Pretty Essential.  A lot of changes have taken place over the last year.  Family have moved close to us in Blackheath, I've been working a few days a week, Keith has been working like crazy around the property and of course the children have grown up a lot.  My energies have been fully occupied to say the least!

Over Christmas and the New Year, I started to feel like we needed a little break to our regular routine.  The end of a school year always gets me thinking like this, but this time it was different. We have always talked of taking the children out of school and doing the 'trip around Australia' but I've always felt like the time wasn't right or preferred the idea of taking them to Europe instead.  But the more we thought about it the more keen we became.  "Let's just do it now while we feel like it" we kept saying to each other.

So, with very little planning we set about buying a caravan, finding someone to look after the dog, talked to the school and pretty much that was it - we were ready.  

At the end of January 2010 we drove out of Blackheath, NSW with a very vague plan to head west, then south and travel as far across Australia as we can in approx. 10 weeks!

Tonight, I right this from a town called Esperance in Western Australia, surely home to the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen.  We've packed a lot in already, and there are many highlights from Victoria and South Australia.  Keira and Caley are having a great time.  They're keeping a daily journal of life on the road and making the most of an extended summer . . .

Camping under the Koalas, Otway National Park, Victoria 

12 Apostles, Great Ocean Road, Victoria 

Flinders Ranges, South Australia 

Crossing the Nullarbor Desert, South Australia and Western Australia 

As we travel along, seeing new places for the first time, it feels very special to have my family together like this.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Counting down

Running a bit behind with our little 'advent' tealight calender - we lit ten candles tonight to play catch up!

It's a simple idea, not fancy at all. This year I'm really striving for some simple, handmade, thoughtful touches for our first Christmas in our new home.


Monday, 10 November 2008

Two landmarks in one weekend

On Saturday, Keira played in a piano graduation concert at the Opera House in Sydney. The children learn the piano following the Suzuki method and each year they are invited to play in concerts at the Opera House if they have passed their level during the year.

This was the third time that Keira has played in one of these concerts and I think it's the first time I have ever seen her anxious about it. The concerts are great in that they are meant to be a celebration of the hard work the students have done. They need to be dressed very smartly (lot's of boys in mini tuxes!) and they play on a grand piano in the Utzon Room which has a large wall of glass that makes you feel as though you are right in the harbour.

But, the standard is very high and Keira was worried that she would make a mistake (which many kids do and it isn't a big deal but Keira is quite tough on herself). Of course when her turn came she played beautifully and I could see that she felt good about herself afterwards.

After the concert we made a very quick dash back up the Mountains, because Keith and I had a school function at the very beautiful and historic Collits' Inn to get to.

This used to be run as a restaurant/b&b, but a family from the school bought it recently and now it is their home. They opened it up to us on Saturday night for dinner and I can't tell you how wonderful it was. We all arrived in the late afternoon when it was still light and could have a good look around. The Inn was built in 1823 and has been lovingly restored right down to the original room that the Governor would stay in when they were moving convicts through the area. In fact the previous owners who had done a huge amount of work in building up a library of the history of the place, left everything intact on the property when they left.

We had a guided walk around the cemetery before dinner, where there are 62 people buried from the area including the poet Henry Lawson's father. Apparently one of Lawson's poems is about the murder of one of the Collits' daughters (some sort of love triangle back in the 1800's!).

Then it was on to dinner which was served in the original barn and afterwards the owner and another father from school played their guitars and sang until late into the night. By then everyone was in very good form and thoroughly enjoyed themselves.

Sunday saw me a little tired and weary, but the weather was fantastic so I sat in the sun and watched Cal and his friend learn how to put up a tent for their first overnight camping expedition with the school this week. Listening to the patience in Keith's voice as he gave instructions from the side was a little amusing as well!

(Photos of Collits Inn from the National Trust, I of course forgot to take my camera . . .)


Thursday, 6 November 2008

Surprise mail

Not long ago I decided to put on my sidebar a book recommendation from both Keira and Caley. Keira was raving about a book that she had just finished so I thought I'd include some of their favourites along with mine.  I asked Cal for the name of a book that he had read recently and liked, and he said Samurai Kids, White Crane.

Then out of the blue we received an email from the author, Sandy Fussell.  I have to say we were very excited by this! For the kids, who read and read and read, it was wonderful to have an author directly contact us like this.

But that wasn't all.  Sandy very generously  offered to send Cal a copy of her latest book, Polar Boy.  As she put it - "its about an Inuit brother and sister - lots of whales, polar bears and Vikings".  Which of course sounds just right for Cal!  

The package arrived in the mail today, along with a special note from Sandy and some posters from Samurai Kids for Cal's bedroom.

Cal is a great reader, but I have had to work quite hard to get him interested in fiction.  He loves his facts, on nature, history or science.  He's always loved listening to the stories that I've read to them but hadn't been drawn to them for himself.  So I looked for books that I thought he'd like if he gave them a chance and got far enough into them.  We've built up a little library for him with books of his own in his bedroom (as opposed to reading 'Keira's' books) and over time I'm noticing that he's reading more fiction that non-fiction these days.  

Don't get me wrong, I don't think there's anything wrong with reading non-fiction, and I'm sure Cal's knowledge of reptiles, the Elizabethans and Tudors, and Elvis Presley would rival most 8 year olds!  It's just that I know how much pleasure reading fiction can bring and I really feel that the earlier that you 'get' it the better.

Of course, now the kids are expecting great things from my blog, and Keira keeps asking me if I've heard from the author of her book . . .

(a very big thank you Sandy!)