Sunday, May 10, 2020

The last post

Ten years ago today we arrived at our new home in Tasmania. We didn't know anyone. We'd been here once, on holiday. Keen for an adventure, tired of the stresses caused by too many people and hoping for a simpler, more comfortable life, we packed up our cars and drove down to our new home in the Huon Valley. We had a gut feeling that we would love it here.

It's a big call, but I'm calling it: I think it was the best decision we ever made. A lot of things go into that assessment, including our beautiful friends, the fresh air, friendly people, great food, wildlife and wilderness, plus the many opportunities we've had and things we've been able to do here that we never could have in Sydney. This is home now. It's entirely possible we might live somewhere else in the future, for work or for adventure, but this is where I would come back to.

It's also ten years since I started this blog. I started it as a way of letting family and friends know what we were up to, and a way for me to record some of the little details about our new life. The classic online journal, if you like. Since then, I've met many people who have told me they read my blog before they moved here and found it useful. That always comes as a bit of a (lovely) surprise. Each year, I have also printed a book from it, to send to a few 'offline' relatives and friends.

Ten years and more than 800 posts later, I've decided to call it a day. So what comes next? If you want to find out, for now, you can find me on Instagram:

Saturday, May 9, 2020


In the year or so since we moved down from the hills of Franklin into the centre of town, I must have taken hundreds of photos of the Huon River, it's different moods, the high tides and the low, sparkling water and gloomy, its boats and birds and more besides. At one point I had to stop taking my phone with me when we walked Gretchen. Every day something would catch my eye and I would whip out the phone. It was driving David crazy. My phone was filling up with river views. Now, with restrictions on what we can do and where we can go during the pandemic, I've never been more grateful for our twice-daily dog walks along the river. It's calm and reflective. Just what we need right now.

Saturday, May 2, 2020

Top local takeaways in the age of COVID-19

Since arriving home from Germany six weeks ago now (where has the time gone), I have done a LOT of cooking. Roast chicken, lamb shanks, teriyaki salmon, lasagne, stir fries, risotto, curries, soups, steak and salad, Thai noodles, tuna patties and sticky pork to name just a few. And that's before I get onto all the cake, bread and biscuit baking.

We've also tried to support local eateries. With every restaurant and cafe unable to operate normally at present, many are providing takeaway options, home dinner kits or even home delivery. In the COVID-19 era, the term 'takeaway' definitely does not only mean fast food. We've had burgers and pork and fennel sausage rolls from Frank's, hand made pasta and prepared sauces from Osteria at Petty Sessions, fish and chips from Aqua Grill and Tangaroa Kai, and Thai from Huon's Little Treasure. Last night we had a foot of pepperoni pizza from Osteria, with a salad made from produce included in our 'ration pack' delivery from Fat Pig Farm. Today's lunch was pork rillette (pictured above) from the same ration pack, spread on a hot piece of sourdough toast, plus more of the delicate salad leaves. It's surprising that I can still fit into my jeans, really. And there's much more on offer in our local area... sushi from Masaaki for starters! Oh wow, can't wait to give that a go.

Monday, April 20, 2020

Forest bathing

On Easter Monday I went for a rather long walk. More than 25km, according to Runkeeper. After weeks of being cooped up in 'iso', like (almost) everyone else, I was desperate for a leg stretch and some forest bathing, as I believe the Japanese call it. I turned left after leaving our front gate, then left again and just kept walking, up into the hills. Up and up, past the houses and fields of cows and chooks, to the land of wallabies and lyrebirds. Ah, the smell of fresh rainforest air.

I visited the Old Mill site in the forest for the first time since the surrounding coupe was logged a few years back. Then hiked down some forestry roads, in the hope of finding my way through to the top of a different road to return down the hill. However, it has changed a bit up there, and I got stuck and had to return the same way. It's been more than a year since bushfire roared through some of these lands, and I was a bit surprised how little has grown back in places. I was expecting much more green regrowth and undergrowth I guess. Next time I'll try the walk in reverse to see if I can work out how I got through last time. I love exploring the hills of the Huon.

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Let it rain

The forecast dump of rain over Easter has arrived, and we're not unhappy about it. For one, it's a stay home weekend anyway thanks to the coronavirus crisis. Two, we got a new rainwater tank this week! It's right at the back door and we're looking forward to collecting rainwater from the large roof area for use in the garden, for car washing and more. It seems a waste to use town water for these things, so even our small stainless steel tank will be very useful. Plus the tap on it is right at the back door, and I reckon we might drink some of it too. We got a bit spoiled living off rainwater tanks up on the hill for nine years, and the taste of town water is, well... no comparison. We've bought a water filter jug that sits permanently at the kitchen sink for our drinking water.

Friday, April 10, 2020


We're not in official quarantine or self-isolation anymore. We stopped receiving the daily text messages from the government after our 14 days were up. But we are still isolating at home like pretty much everyone else right now. And like many others stuck in their homes, I've been doing a fair bit of "quarantine baking" or "iso baking" as it's now known. Bread, apple cake, choc chip cookies... and now my very first attempt at home made hot cross buns, using a recipe delivered in a timely email from Provincial Home Living during the week. If you want the recipe, scroll through their 2020 Easter catalogue here. I omitted the fruit peel (husband not keen on it) and didn't have the right attachment for my piping tube to get the crosses as flat as I'd like, but who cares. They tasted brilliant, plenty of cinnamon and spice and all things nice. Just add (lot of) butter and a hot cup of tea. And don't look at the scales, it's only bad news.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Remote working? My top five tips

I have worked from home full time for almost 10 years now and in that time I've learned a lot about how to do it successfully. But for many people currently in self-isolation or working remotely due to the Coronavirus pandemic, it may be the first time they've worked from home or at least the first long-term remote work stint for them, so I thought I'd share my top tips.
  1. Get used to being on video. Not all of us are comfortable being on camera. I confess it's not my favourite thing, but I am a convert. In almost 14 years with my current employer, I have had regular video calls with my manager and my team, who are all based in other countries. Until the last year or so, it was mostly optional. Now, almost every meeting I am involved in is a conference call using video, often with 10 or more people on the call. Being able to see people helps to build relationships and reduces the temptation to multitask or tune out during a meeting. You can see reactions, smiles and gestures which can make a big difference. If you're a small business and don't have fancy collaboration tools, Skype or WhatsApp work just fine.
  2. Do not work in your pyjamas. It's the cliché about working from home that I hate the most. Apart from during a few 6am conference calls, I can honestly say I have never worked in my pyjamas. I get up, shower, wear proper clothes and make up. It's a job, and you will not feel professional or motivated in your PJs. And related to the first tip above: you may be invited to a video call at short notice and sleep or leisure wear is not a good look. I usually go for the 'newsreader approach': hair brushed, makeup on and a professional top/jacket paired with comfy jeans and ugg boots.
  3. Take breaks and move. It's very easy to sit at your desk for hours and then realise you haven't moved. I sometimes even forget to eat, especially seeing as I often have meetings during normal lunch hours due to time differences with the US and Asia. Set a reminder on your PC, smartwatch or Fitbit and make sure you get up and stretch regularly. Book exercise into your calendar. Having a dog means I walk for 20 minutes twice a day even if nothing else. I also love my standing desk.
  4. Set up a work space. Where possible, find a dedicated space for your PC and other work equipment, ideally one that's not shared with your partner or kids. Recently I've taken to moving to different locations in the house during the day, just to mix it up and get a different outlook - or to get the best background and lighting for that important video call! 
  5. Stop at the end of the day. I am much better at this than I used to be, but it can still be a problem during peak periods. However, one of the top benefits of remote work is the flexibility in hours. As long as you get the work done and deliver results (agreeing what those are is a key to successful management of remote workers), it's up to you to determine when and how. Especially in winter, I usually stop work at 4pm to walk the dog before it gets dark, then go back to work afterwards. I might go out for a haircut or medical appointment during the day and make up the time later. As long as I am meeting expectations, that is fine. I get much more done working from home than I do in the office, so I don't feel guilty about taking time out.
Remote work isn't new. The technology is available and not hard or expensive to set up anymore. It's not possible for all jobs of course, and even for work that can be done remotely, I understand it's not for everyone. However, I hope this current crisis serves as a wake-up call to organisations large and small who still do not allow employees to work from home or other locations largely for cultural reasons or a lack of management maturity.

I'm not unusual in the company I work for. In a crisis, our leadership team can tell all staff to take their laptops home and work from there indefinitely. It's been useful more than once, even as far back as during Japan's earthquake and tsunami disasters in 2011. And it's proving critical in the extended and constantly shifting COVID-19 crisis.

The view from my home office is pretty good, despite the fly screen!