Hooray for friends!

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“A friend is someone who knows all about you and still loves you.” 
~ Elbert Hubbard

 

Isn’t this the most colossal bucket of flowers for ten dollars? They are grown and sold by two elderly brothers who live up the road from us. You can read more about that here.

I’ve had a lovely time finding vases for all of these luscious blooms.

Anyway, I’ll keep this post short and sweet. A friend has come to visit for a few days, and right now we’re doing ‘friend’ things, as much as my energy will allow. Tours of our farm, adventures in the local area. Farmers’ markets. Lots of cups of tea and chats.

I’m so glad for friendship. It truly is the most precious of gifts. And I consider you a friend too, although perhaps we have not yet met.

I also have another shout-out for a friend of mine this morning, currently living on the other side of the world. Kimmie, I love you, and I miss you heaps!

Excellent. Hugs all round!

Okay, we’re off to the Mullumbimby Farmers’ Markets for some breakfast and to fill my basket with fresh produce for the week ahead. Excitingly, I shall be wearing my gumboots because we’ve had RAIN! After such a long dry summer, a little mud has to be a good thing. 🙂

We’ll stop in at the Chocolate Shop on our way back from the markets, because what kind of friend would I be if I didn’t take our guest to such a fabulous place? Then we shall come home, drink chai tea, eat a few sweets and talk some more, as friends do.

Lots of love,

Nicole

xx

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Saturday Breakfast

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“A friend is someone who knows all about you and still loves you.” 
~ Elbert Hubbard

I’ll keep this morning’s blog short because I have to dash! I’m meeting my lovely friend Carly for breakfast at one of our favourite inner-city haunts, a cafe attached to a shop full of organic produce and delectable goodies.

Of course, I still have one eye on my cell phone, waiting for a text. Carls and I are both members of the unreliable club. For various reasons, usually health, one of us might pike at the last moment. This morning I’m good to go – I can drive myself (I’m revelling in the freedom of being able to drive again!), I have no eye patch, no nausea, no migraine or other lyme-y issue. Fingers crossed Carly is travelling well today too.

Last time we met at this cafe, I could barely see, and Carly had to lead me round like a human guide dog up the stairs and between all the tables, and cut up my breakfast. Not today. Today I’m happy to be back at a place of independence and feeling good.

So hopefully we’ll catch up, drink insane amounts of tea, share the latest news, laugh a lot, cry a bit at some of the sad things going on in our lives, and leave the cafe content, buoyed up by each other’s company and ready to face the weekend.

How about you? What plans do you have? Is there any nurture and heart time planned for you?

Sending you all my love and a cup of virtual chai tea, Nicole xx

Bert, who is banned from cafes due to bad behaviour, but who insists on coming along for the ride...

Bert, who is banned from cafes due to bad behaviour, but who insists on coming along for the ride…

The Mullumbimby Chocolate Shop

Not far from my farm is a wonderful place which comes straight from the realm of childhood dreams. It’s the Mullumbimby Chocolate Shop, and it’s dear to my heart for many reasons.  I sometimes pay a visit and get a little bag of lollies, and then sit outside at a local cafe and write, sipping tea and fortifying myself with the occasional milk bud, cobber, or malt ball.

Stripy bags of happiness…

 

I so love this magical shop.  Sharon Allen owns it, and runs it with her mum, Ruth.  Sharon and Ruth’s own brand of personal magic is one of the reasons this little place is elevated from plain old yummy to extraordinary.

It’s a place where old-fashioned manners and courtesy are the norm. There’s a little step for tiny children to reach the counter, and they let you buy just one of something, if you want. Sharon and Ruth don’t care how long you take to make up your mind, or if you only have five cents, and they treat everyone with love and kindness and respect.

Sharon is the kindest, most lovely lady – and as knowledgeable as Willy Wonka himself!

All your childhood favourites are there, and many more confectionary treasures you’d never even imagined!  I’ve never come away from a visit without having been offered a taste of something new.  Yesterday it was Butterballs, the visit before Sour Mandarins.

The shop is as popular with adults as with children, and as I was waiting in line yesterday for my musk sticks and licorice, I watched two burly road workers on their break getting a two-dollar bag of mixed lollies each, and agonising over their choices as much as they probably did when they were six or seven!

Sharon was in the store alone yesterday, while her mum is off celebrating her 70th birthday.  As usual, she was full of stories about local life, and all the funny things that happen in her shop.

So many choices, and all of them delightful!

She told me one story that I’m still smiling about…

A little boy came in recently with his mum, who let him buy lollies for his upcoming birthday. They they sat outside at a local cafe Lulu’s, to eat some lunch.

While they ate, the little boy kept coming back into the shop, waiting patiently for his turn, so he could ask Sharon questions.  After each question he’d go back outside to his seat for a while, then think of another question, and come back in again.

“Excuse me, do the lights for your shop stay on all night?”

“No,” Sharon answered.

The next question: “Excuse me, do the toilets here stay open all night?”

“No.”

A bit more thought and then: “Does the air-conditioner stay on?”

“No.”

And one more: “How many people can fit in your shop?”

Sharon had to think on that.  Quite a lot of people can fit in her shop.  She’s even had a band do a gig in there!

Finally Sharon went outside to the little boy and his mum, to ask if she could help them.  It seems Mum had promised her son that he could have a sleep-over with some of his friends for his birthday. And the little boy had presumed Mum had meant a sleep-over in the chocolate shop.

Imagine his disappointment when he realised the birthday sleep-over was meant to happen back at home instead!

Who wouldn’t want a sleep-over in a lolly shop?

If you’ve ever in the Byron Shire, and you find yourself in Mullumbimby (or Mullum as the locals call it) I do recommend a visit.  I also recommend the chai tea at Lulu’s.

Living where I do has much to recommend it!

Jars of sweet pleasures. Which ones will you choose?

Musings on Melancholy – my own little ‘Lost in Translation’ Moment

Today was a strange day for me, and a beautiful one, haunted by a slow melancholy.  This time a year ago I learned of the deaths of neighbours of ours in the Lockyer Valley, during the terrible floods that swept from Toowoomba down through Brisbane. Until that day we had been hopeful they might be found alive. I felt so helpless that morning, and even a year later, the pang of that loss, of the lives, livestock and livelihoods of people we loved, and of the lives still broken and resolution-less, tastes like metal in my mouth. This morning I awoke alone in my sorrow.

Today none of my plans seemed to come together. Friends ran late, or bailed at the last minute, leaving my day disjointed. I’d stayed in Brisbane because of an important commitment that required me to be here overnight. Because of it I’d cancelled plans, declined invitations, and re-jigged a myriad of things to create availability. At the last possible moment that commitment too was cancelled, and suddenly my schedule unhinged. It was too late to make the party back at home near my farm, too late to catch up to friends for dinner.

I felt flat, miserable and lonely. The last thing I wanted to do was go out. The house was empty, with not even a cracker in the cupboard. I decided to venture to a suburban shopping centre, hoping that the supermarket might still be open so I could buy a few scratchings for a meal.

Night was falling, and the vast carpark was almost empty. Foreign.  And it reminded me suddenly of Sophia Coppola’s beautiful movie – Lost in Translation. Perhaps you too have seen it, or have travelled, and know what I mean.  That feeling of being displaced, out of rhythm with the world around you, surrounded by strangeness and unfamiliarity.

Many a time I have arrived on a foreign shore, wasted by jetlag, and addled by time zone differentials.  It creates a disconnect; but at the same time as some things get fuzzy, other things become oddly focussed, and you see yourself and the world in a new light.

In a space of disconnect, in a town I used to know, I walk into the shopping centre just as they are dropping down the security doors for the supermarket.  I turn, and head back towards the carpark, empty-handed.  The air is thick and muggy outside the air-conditioned building. I am despondent, and weary to my bones. Tonight I do not feel like I belong to my life.

I pass a small Indian restaurant, empty except for a group of staff who are sitting at a table in the corner, watching the cricket test match on a big tv screen.  Australia versus India.  I slow down and peer through the window, hoping I might catch a glimpse of the score.

In a moment they are ushering me in, pulling me up a seat, plying me with iced water and poppadoms.  Inexplicably I am soon drinking the best chai tea of my life, and eating delicate milk cake and peda, watching the cricket with these kind people.  We don’t really talk. We just sit and watch this giant television.  My cup is filled again and again.  More food comes.  Occasionally someone gets up to serve a customer, but the restaurant remains quiet.

At stumps, India are 4/88. It has not been a good day for the Indian cricket team.  My colleagues are circumspect, but cheerful.  There is always tomorrow they say. They put some sweets in a box for me, shake my hand, wish me well.  I still do not know their names, and they do not know mine. They will not accept any money. Australia is a good country they say. They are happy to have shared their table with me.  I can come and watch the cricket with them any time.

My aching soul is soothed with the kindness of strangers, and the bizarre camaraderie  afforded by this interest in sport.

At every turn there is something affirming about life, and the ability of the human heart to connect us, one to another. Life breathes in love, breathes out pain, breathes in friendship, breathes out loss, breathes in hope, breathes out peace.  Peace in your hearts, Dear Ones. Love connects us all. ♥

Vale, dear friends. Remembered in our hearts.  RIP.

If you click the link above it takes you to a beautiful video, that perfectly captures love, hope, goodbyes and sweet melancholy.

A cup of comfort – Chai tea from scratch

I’m a big believer in self-nurture.  And you already know that I am also an embracer of the small things in life.  For me, one of those small pleasures is to sip tea, and a good chai is in a class of its own – spicy, sweet and soul nourishing.

Chai goes well with journalling, morning pages, soul work, creativity, and books!

It’s easy to make a tea mix up, and store it in a jar ready for those moments when you need a chai fix.  I promise it will taste better than any syrup or powder.

Crush roughly in mortar: 8 whole cloves, 3 cinnamon sticks, 10 cardamon pods, 1 tspn peppercorns, 1/2 tspn fennel or anise seeds – or go crazy and do 1/2 tspn of each, 6 star anise, 1 grated fresh nutmeg kernel, 1 tblspn dried ginger root or ginger powder. Then add to one cup of loose tea leaves – I like Earl Grey or a smoky tea. If using a smoky tea I then add a tablespoon of lavender and mix through. Store in a jar.

To make a cup of chai (and I never drink just one) I place one cup of milk and one cup of water in a saucepan and bring them to the boil. (Yes, you can use soy, if you prefer.) Then I add two large teaspoons of the chai tea mix.  Chai is a personal thing, so you may need to play around with the quantity – it is also dependent on cup or mug size. Then I simmer for two minutes, or until I’m happy with the flavour. Sometimes, for variety, I add slices of gresh ginger if I have any to hand, and sometimes a curl of fresh orange rind or an inch of vanilla bean pod. Strain into a cup and enjoy. If you have made extra it still serves to strain the tea mix out so that it doesn’t become tannic and bitter. Always add a little sweetener to your chai tea.  It helps accentuate the flavours. I use honey, which imparts its own special magic. Experiment. It’s fun! Enjoy ♥