Posted by: Joan Spiller | December 31, 2015

You can’t oven-fry eggs (& other lessons from 2015)

My annual recap of the ‘year-that-was’ could be a depressing read and (let’s be honest) depressing sucks. So instead, I’m gonna talk about what this year taught me. And hopefully humour will be how I end my annus horribilis ..

As per the title of this post, I discovered you can’t fry eggs (nicely, that is!) in the oven. Lesson learned after setting fire to my kitchen in early November. As I type this, it is nearly the start of 2016 and I have no *functional stove (incl. range hood), the bench and around / wall behind the cooker area needs to be replaced and my lounge, kitchen and hallway all need to be repainted.

Wonder how long that will take? Another lesson: patience? Clearly .. 

I have also learned that birds crap .. A lot. I think I already knew this, after rearing the hen babies in a crate in the living room when we first moved here. And let’s not forget the ducks in the kitchen .. and the shit, always. The. Shit. But the cuteness overload (anyone who’s seen my magpie videos will, I think, agree!) is worth it.. most days 😉

Another lesson – not a new one but always a sad one, somehow: People are not always nice, even nice people. Sometimes people turn on you – for reasons you don’t understand. And – as hard as it is, your best bet is to walk away and accept that they have problems and should not be one of yours. People, or problems.

Coffee is good. Does this need explaining? I think not. I will let you know when the memorial service for my coffee machine (unfixable, post fire) will be 😦

Again, not news but somehow, so very hard to accept: People die. Friends, and worse: family, people you love.. Leaving you feeling so very sad about the fact they’re gone .. Oh sure, they’re “in a better place”, and actually for my grandfather, I think this is apt – he was not enjoying being old and unable to do what he wanted. But that doesn’t mean I don’t miss the ever loving hell out of him, all the time.

Something you may not have known: Goats actually are the devil. I miss Joshie & Billy.. Sam, less so (he was always an arse, lol) Bella, not at all. She was not into humans – her focus was on the neighbour’s sheep. Sometimes it feels that all I did was spend time, money and effort on fencing for these sodding creatures. And they in turn spent their days trying to outwit me (and succeeded, every time) and escape lol

And so, the funny farm is goat free.. And it’s OK.. but I do miss Josh & Billy so much. Dealing with their deaths was a lot harder than I expected it to be, for “just a goat”. 

This one will perhaps shock some of you but .. The sound of rain is actually not at all relaxing .. when you have multiple leaks in your roof! I see people posting ‘tranquil rainfall’ gifs and I want to stab myself in the ears so I don’t hear them! The rain of this winter was one of the biggest challenges faced here, and I am very, VERY glad summer seems to have finally arrived.

Insurance is important. A lesson I guess I never realised would need to be spelt out, I’ve always had *insurance. But yeah, trust me, after the fire and no insurance – I have a new found realisation of how important it is. It’s been an expensive / harrowing experience sorting things out, post fire, without insurance.

And what’s so gutting is I’ve had all my insurances for over 30 years with this same company and to have it lapse just before the fire .. well lets just say I felt justified in thinking the world was out to get me right about this experience.

Another not new lesson / notion is that some people are awesome and you’re lucky to have them in your life. I have a few of these people.. some old (snicker, now you’re wondering if I mean you) and some not so old .. (I did mean in length of relationship, but the slur can remain! Some of you I HAVE known a long time .. and yer old hehe) and I count myself fortunate indeed.

Be it random workmates (who I pretty much forced into being my friends), to total strangers (some I literally have not yet met F2F) and all sorts of other people in between .. I hope you know that when I call you, snapchat you, when I tag you on facebook or when I send you a text: it’s cos you mean something to me. And I appreciate you being in my life.

Not something I ever expected to learn, it’s now something I am well aware of: You cannot (AT ALL) relax when a magpie baby is hungry. Tinker suffers (and in turn, we do too!) from Hanger. Hungry rage! Just as well she’s cute 😉

I’ve also learned that money may not buy happiness, but it can fix a lot of stuff that in turn makes you happy (or less distressed, sad, worried) so that expression is pure bollocks I have decided.

Anyone who is a “landlord” will appreciate this. Me and the bank co-own a property in HB.. and I’ve learned that prospective tenants are always mad keen gardeners, lovely people and always likes to pay their rent on time or even early .. Except for the one I got who was completely INSANE. Poster child for “perfect tenant”, to start with .. this one left the country / abandoning the property, having done a ton of damage, only to threaten me with all sorts of stuff, when I came onsite to fix things up. AND he owes me rent *fume*

Of course we ALL know health matters.

No one was more surprised than me, when I had a mid year check up only to be told I had dangerously low iron levels and dangerously high blood pressure. I knew I was gritting my teeth often but yeah .. seems it was taking its toll. 2015, that is..

As someone who regularly gives blood, the iron thing was actually a shock .. a transfusion later, I feel fine, so thankfully it doesn’t seem to be an issue now. Of course, I can’t afford to go back to the doc to check but let’s think positive 😉

We’ll not talk about the 24/7 pain thanks to planty fasciwhatsit. Suffice to say every waking moment (and it wakes me, from sleep) I am in pain. And when I mow my lawns (my ride on broke down so lawn mowing now is back to being a 2.5 hour job every few days!) it takes me 2 days to recover back to being sore vs agonisingly sore. God. I am SUCH a whiner but there it is … my life is just .. actually .. a pile of donkey shit. Very annoying.

Speaking of annoying .. Big brothers .. they’re actually awesome. Many of you will already know this but I doubt I ever really appreciated my brother growing up (he was a bit of a drag, lol) and we went in different directions as young adults, so I’m quite chuffed at how we’ve become closer in recent years. And I was thrilled to be able to cater their wedding as my gift to them this year. An epic and exhausting experience, it was nonetheless, great fun. And he’s been amazingly helpful to me here with fixing a variety of problems .. lesson learned: appreciate your siblings. I do. Now.

Also awesome? Animals. Esp dogs. Sure, they’re not cheap to maintain, feed, take to the vet etc – but they’re probably all that’s kept me alive this year.

Someone once asked me how I coped, living on my own / didn’t I get bored or lonely. I was shocked to think they imagined me alone and lonely, cos I never ever feel that way. Oh sure, now and then I think “might be nice to have some company”, but then I take the dogs for a walk, watch an assortment of the animals that surround me and I’m not even remotely bored .. or lonely.

A really big lesson for me? Stupidity isn’t as simple a “thing” as it sounds. I’ve done some stupid stuff and seen some stupid stuff, this year. And have realised that desperation and fear lend themselves to stupidity at times, so will probably regard “stupid” acts differently to how I once would.

In the words of Forrest Gump “that’s all I have to say about that.”

I can honestly say that 2015 has been one of the worst years of my life. I’ve spent so much energy and money on problems that at times, I’ve felt unsure how to even go on. Melodramatic maybe but yeah, it’s how this year has been for me.

Raised “stiff upper lip”, it isn’t the done thing to let people know if you’re struggling – and I actually feel .. distressed being this honest .. oh, is that why I try to only post pics and videos of fun things all over snapchat and facebook etc but to be fair, I DO take delight in a moment of something wonderful.

But at the same time, most days I’m freaking out, in tears and I’m struggling. With it all. And that sucks cos not having your shit sorted at my age?
Uncool in the extreme. Esp when I once felt I HAD life sorted, lol

So yeah: 2015 you utterly and officially suck.

2016, I beg you.. Please.. Be better. I don’t think I could cope with a rinse and repeat.

*Oh yeah and why did I let my insurance lapse? I’ve been asked before today .. I defy anyone to live 3 years with part time or no work and still be able to live life, pay their bills etc. It was a choice between that and paying my mortgage, ’nuff said?

Doh. I forgot, I was aiming for humour tonight. Sorry .. But anyway, here’s to the new year. May it be good.

For both of us.

Posted by: Joan Spiller | December 5, 2015

Call me the minimalist (for now, anyway)

I can only imagine how hard a real (i.e.: bad) house fire is to deal with cos tis fair to say I am finding this kitchen disaster hard work! Spending a week living in a soot coated house was.. unpleasant. I found my breathing got worse with each day, my eyes were gritty and I coughed .. constantly.

The day after the fire I cleaned my bedroom from top to bottom, so the animals and I had a safe place to sleep but yea, it was clearly not enough.. I’ve just come back from 2 days in Wellington where it was so nice to be able to breathe freely! 

While I was away, cleaners took over the house. Their job? To remove soot / ash from walls, sills & ceilings. Not sure I’d rate them more than a 5.5 out of 10 but it is better than it was, so that’s something, I guess.

And so it is I am now (Just after 7pm Saturday) sitting in my “office” at a bare desk, with nothing in the room except for the printer, my deep freeze and router. If I look out into the living room, there’s an assortment of dogs asleep, an empty coffee table, a couch and a bookcase. In my kitchen there is nothing but the fridge, burnt out stove (ground zero) and the cat food on the windowsill.

Cos everything I own is crammed into 2 bedrooms and the shipping container, having been painstakingly cleaned by me, prior to the cleaners coming in. I do not wish to sound irritable but OMG I am over it, lol

Lucky I don’t DO Xmas / host Xmas or I would be a complete write off by now LOL As it is, I can handle a tomato sammie on Xmas day so long as I have my dogs, magpie, rat, cats, hens & ducks around me .. well, maybe not around me .. but around 😉

My spare room doubling as my office, kitchen and .. assorted..
 My pantry shelves..

The wwoofer room, can’t even host wwoofers as they’ve nowhere to sleep and I can’t cook for them! Grr!

On a plus note .. erm, hang on, gimme a minute to think of something ..
(Go look at someone else’s blog, I may need more than a minute!)

Posted by: Joan Spiller | November 25, 2015

House fire (Damn you 2015, I WILL win!)

Tis fair to say I’d call 2015 one of the most horrid years of my life, with assorted “dramas”, from weather / house issues to car problems (that’s a polite word for it!) to money woes, as my job ended a wee while back now..

I’ve boxed on, as one must. Animals help – you can’t stay sad while hand rearing a pet magpie or cuddling up to a dog that thinks you’re the best. thing. ever.

As well, I’ve been often buoyed by good friends.

Friends who listened to me when I needed to vent, spent time with me, took my mind off things and were .. just plain good friends. You know who you are – and I appreciate you, very much.

However, nothing could have prepared me for the latest “drama” .. for all I am trying to laugh it off / make jokes, I suspect the fact I burst into tears every few conversations makes me realise it did shake me up a tiny bit more than I would have liked.

Let’s fast forward a few hours, to the kind hearted fireman telling me I am the luckiest woman alive (that was a nice word: alive!) and we’ll go from there ..

I was really struggling yesterday, the iron infusion thingie hadn’t kicked in, the constant pain of this stupid damn plantar fasciitis foot (and an ingrown toenail for good measure grr) was really getting me down.

I had done a few chores, then come inside to make lunch (Yummy arancini!, least I think they were .. the hens got them in the end!) I decided to take a codeine pill as I waited to finalise my lunch.

Mistake #1? Using old oil. I was told today that oil heats up faster, the more you use it? I always “recycle” my oil, using it for less “mucky” things initially, then ending with crumbed stuff cos then the oil is trashed fully .. a fake economy, it would seem. Did you know??

Mistake #2? Taking a pill that can make you drowsy, turning the oil on to warm up and then sitting in the sunshine.

Next “minute” (some 40 or so, I think) I was woken by Roxy who had leapt over my prone body, barking madly. I feel bad for growling at her cos she startled me .. because a few seconds later, all the smoke alarms went off throughout the house ..

I’d say we’re even, Rox! 

And so yeah, now … I have a confession to make.

I always imagined I’d be super cool, a hero even .. in the event of a fire or similar “disaster”, but the truth is? I’m a coward with a perfect “flight” response gene, hero be damned!

Cos I woke up, confused – wasn’t meant to be asleep, remember. I proceed to tell the poor dog off – as all the alarms go off / every dog is barking ..

I smell smoke & run toward the kitchen..

Next thing, I can’t breathe, thick black smoke is enveloping me as I try to see into the aforementioned (crazy dark!) kitchen. It’s early afternoon, it’s not dark, I’m confused (half asleep) but then it dawns on me ..


Flames were leaping off the stove top, up into the rangehood. The smoke was acrid and the whole thing was .. to be honest, quite scary.

Suddenly wide awake, I grabbed my car keys &  cell phone. Called the dogs and ran out of the house by way of the lounge doors while calling 111.

Seems I wasn’t making much sense, I recall the person (jerk lol) saying to me “PLEASE MA’AM, SPEAK SLOWLY”.

Personally? I feel GARPLEZ ASLEEP FLEAEBLE FIRE ARGHWAHH DOGS CRIEBLE HELP” was quite acceptable .. hmpfh.

Fast forward again, through the longest 15 or so minutes of my life:

I ran outside, locked the dogs in the car (no mean feat, with Roxy who has to be chased then carried to the car lol) I then ran back into the house and grabbed Rex the rat, (in his cage!) throwing him / it onto a safe place on the property, then ran around to the other side of the house and grabbed Tinker out of his day cage, throwing him into a cage before chucking him unceremoniously next to Rex.

I covered them both with a towel (to calm the bird mostly but this also would have been horribly stressful for Rex) and then drove down the driveway as ordered, to wait for the fire trucks to arrive .. ie to flag them down.

I felt SO shit for leaving the cats unaccounted for, saw one leave the house as I drove away .. but the other – didn’t see her, so I felt sick on many levels as I sat on the roadside in my car with the dogs, waiting for the fire brigade to show.

Never before has time moved so slowly, I swear.

Long story short .. the house did not burn down: it sustained significant damage in the kitchen and we survived.

As the lovely fireman who showed me thru’ the place after they’d given it the all clear, said: I’m the luckiest woman alive. Alive remember .. That’s me.. I may be jobless / broke and have major dramas going down but I’m alive, as are all my pets.

And that is kinda cool.

Day 2 of this wee drama & I’ve had a bit of good and a bit of bad. The good was lovely, a kind friend and her daughter coming to take me to dinner last night. That hug was the best, thank you Di. How’s the jetlag, Anna? JUST what you needed! (not!)

My daughter has been a very supportive ear, listening to all my rants and raves thru the day. And tears / fears.
Thank you CJ, I love you.
Rather a lot 😉

Kimmie .. you ALWAYS get to hear my life story and this last 24 hours is no diffs, you have your own drama going on right now, and I appreciate your ear / time.

Others have also called / been in touch / offered to help and if I stopped to name you all, this post would be too long – I am thankful to you.
Please know that.

On the downside, I’ve also had horrible news of lapsed insurance and had the assessor thru’, who was not overly encouraging in his “oh this and that all is needing replacing (walls etc)”, it didn’t seem so bad .. til he came thru with a critical eye, truth be told..

Watch this space, there may be some begging required to stay sane thru’ this coming few weeks .. (I will run out of gin tonight!)

NOT helped by the cleaner company man saying he wouldn’t be staying in the house as it is, filled with ash and assorted carcinogens..
Come on, it’s just a bit of ash, no?

Anyways, it is time to have a drink with my Mother. . . On this, the anniversary of her death, 6 years ago.

You know, I keep saying (all year long!) “it’s gonna get better” ..
Please can that be soon?

My trusty coffee machine, wrecked  😦

Had to go get assorted ingredients to make meals that do not need any heat / oven, stove etc today

The cleaner guy came by to prove to me just how bad the place looked.. those 4 smudges are the hallway ceiling..
Thanks bud (sigh!)

I try to be thankful (check the date) but .. am not feeling it 😦


2015, you need to back the hell off. I’m tired, so very tired ..
But I want to survive.
Damn you

Posted by: Joan Spiller | November 23, 2015

Banana cake – Recipe

Banana cake

Let’s face it – we’ve all bought bananas & then a week (or 4!) later gone: “doh, now what?” when faced with over-ripe black skinned gooey goodness in the fruit bowl.

This recipe has evolved over many years, from what I recall was a fairly dry cake in my youth (Mum’s recipe called for 2 eggs & 50g butter – Ration recipes .. ugh!) to this gorgeously moist, tasty cake .. and I am not even a banana cake fan .. but this one, I can eat.

You need to take charge of the cooking time, it varies from oven to oven .. otherwise, everything else in this recipe is fool-proof!

250g unsalted butter (@room temp)
1 &1/2c white sugar
4 large eggs (or 5 med sized) again at room temp
2t vanilla essence
4 large, over ripe bananas (mashed)
2t baking soda
1/2c hot milk
3c white, high grade flour (sifted)
2t baking powder

Preheat your oven to 160 (fan) or 175 (no fan)

Grease and line the base of your cake pan, 23cm is about perfect for this amount of cake mix

Beat butter & sugar then add eggs (one at a time, beating as you add)
Add the vanilla and then the mashed bananas
Heat milk and dissolve baking soda in it before dumping into the wet mix

Sift flour & BP together then gently combine the wet & dry, be careful not to over mix, lift and gently fold it all together

Pour into your prepared cake tin and bake until cooked. I find it takes about an hour but start checking it at 45 mins

Ice with lemon icing once cold or dust with icing sugar and serve hot, with a dollop of ice cream for dessert .. yum!


NB I love to top with lightly toasted nuts. Pecans are my fave but walnuts will do fine too. Simply scatter pecans on top before you bake it, for a toasty crunch of wow!

This freezes well and also keeps for several weeks in a sealed container, as it’s so moist .. in warmer climates, it may go mouldy on about week 3 so maybe chuck in the fridge.

Posted by: Joan Spiller | October 5, 2015

Unassuming toasted sammies – Recipe

So named by my last, lovely wwoofer, Matt – these are something I’ve made for years but they had no name – ’til now! Below is one I made today .. they are different every time (perhaps part of their charm?) Better tho? They taste amazing!!

Imagine a pizza meets your fave toasted sandwich and go from there ..


(Pic is pre toasted) 

They’re simple to make in that you can throw whatever you have into it, however MY preference is to:

1. Schmear some sour cream on both sides of your bread (Can omit but it does make it so good!)

2. Spread a little olive tapenade* atop the bread and sour cream (if there was spring onions in the sour cream that wouldn’t go amiss!)

3. Scatter the buns with finely diced onion, red capsicum, fresh or sun dried tomato, spinach leaves, jalapenos, salami, caramelised onions, blue cheese .. anything you like basically.

4. Season well.

5. Pop under the grill or in a sandwich press and bake ’til the cheese melts..
(I am wicked & drizzle oil over the bread to ensure a crusty toasty finish)

That’s pretty much it .. you can use bread (heavy / whole grain is better than white in my xp) or a good ciabatta or sour dough bun .. it’s the beauty of this meal = everything works!


*You could use a tomato relish if you prefer but I adore olives and Matt the wwoofer couldn’t decide which he preferred!

Posted by: Joan Spiller | August 29, 2015

Feeling: Thankful

Without wishing to wax too-oo lyrical (i.e.: make a total berk of myself) I would like to go on a bit about how lucky I feel, to have such a fantastic brother and some very good friends, to boot!

Richard (that would be the brother) has just spent the last 24 hours here labouring on the funny farm, quietly doing what he does so well: sorting stuff out.

The good friends (In this instance: Bernie & Donna) turned up yesterday afternoon with a trailer full of dry firewood from their own supply, after hearing I had run out.

AND they fixed the gate from hell, while here. That in itself is note-worthy, CJ and I hate our gate lol

So yesterday .. 

Started out like any other day except .. not really ..

First cool thing was that Tim, CJ’s fiancee decided to check on the roof since he was home sick, from work. I am thankful he did as he found a whole pile of nails without washers, which explains why the roof kept leaking in all this rain we have been having. (He’d previously fixed the leaking “skirt” around the chimney)

Second cool thing was the cavalry arriving, in the form of my oh-so-clever big bruvver. Car laden with tools and “stuff”, Richard set to assessing the major problems about the place and then spent many, many hours fixing them all.

There are actually no words to describe how good it feels to be listening to the rain (I. HATE. RAIN) knowing it is going into the tank for our Summer water consumption as opposed to under the house causing damage, by way of leaky pipes.

Nor can I tell you how incredible it feels to know that the rain that is slamming into the house as I type, is not likely to be coming thru’ the roof and into the already water damaged ceilings.

It’s .. AMAZING.

I think the brother was quite hopeful of getting home at a reasonable hour today, alas – I had other plans 😉 HECK I had a handy-man about, who would let that go easily?? NOT me!

While here, Richard made and installed a shelf for me in the laundry, he set up my portable strawberry garden, he (obviously!) fixed all the plumbing / roof / spouting issues. He made a new gateway for my cows to go thru to the 2nd paddock (after I witnessed them sinking belly-deep in the mud to go from one to tuther, last week!) He fixed my trough.. (For many months now, I’ve manually filled the trough .. not any more, it’s fixed & doing what it should.)

He did so much and I can never repay him for what he did, but I hope he knows how thankful I am.

To my incredible / generous friends, Donna & Bernie – a slab of cake and some sausage rolls seem a lousy exchange for the warm house you’ve guaranteed me for this next few weeks. Thank you.

I have the doors open to every room, the fire is blazing and although it feels “wicked” to be so extravagant, I know you’re both right – this is what has to be done for the house to dry out .. and I am incredibly thankful to have you two ladies on my side.

Where would I be without these, and other wonderful friends?
In the loony bin, methinks!? 

Oh and a wee shout out to 2 other lovely ladies who listen to me bang on daily about the rain, the mess, the leaks, the .. everything.

Kimmie and Bernadatte,  you’re just both so awesome and I am very thankful to have you listening, lamenting along with me and being my friend.

It’s fair to say that this year I have, at various times, struggled to find things to be thankful for, Cindy – you have helped me in how I approach this .. as have other friends, some new, some old (some old & returned! erm Mary I am not calling you old, I mean we’ve known each other since dirt was aro.. oh that’s not helping?)

Whatever, ALL of you help make up the good things in my life and so it is that tonight I can say, hand on heart:


In my case – a wonderful assortment of friends and family.
And to all of you I say a very, very heartfelt thanks.


Posted by: Joan Spiller | August 15, 2015

A rather horrid time of it ..

As I write this, I’m sequestered in a beautiful & warm home well away from the horrors that have besieged me (and my house!) of late. Yes, I’ve run away from home, no I am not 8 years old lol 

I reckon I could be forgiven for gapping it though.

An hour before I ran away er, came away for a weekend in the city, raw sewage was spewing forth (sounds better than “shit & toilet paper visibly creeping its way across the ground”, right?), it was raining (duh, it always rains!) the roof was leaking / the ceiling crumbling in my living room, my black goat Sam was hurling himself at the gate of the pen he was in / screaming bloody murder at the injustice of being safe.

And to top it off (in one day, no less) my coffee machine blew up in grand style (hiss & roar + puff of smoke, sort of thing)

There’s actually more – but I will leave it there, for fear this simply sounds like a moan..

Oh wait – maybe that’s what it is!? Ugh .. I hate people who moan and whinge all the time, now I are one? 


For all I try to jest .. this has truly been a horrible year for me.

Between seemingly endless car problems (my car hit the +100k miles mark – apparently I’ve now got a new engine / tyres etc after all the work I’ve had done on it .. let’s hope this means it lasts a few more years and justifies its $4000 cost, in 6 months?) and the myriad house problems, I’ll confess, there have been days it’s been hard to be .. happy.

Add in the very worst thing possible: my kind, gentle, amazing granddad dying last month – I admit to feeling kinda broken..

Blog PicGranddad R

Someone said to me last week “you need to focus on the good thing in your life”. And sure, I have a lot more to be thankful for than many  .. however, on that same day, I rounded the corner to my property in time to see my gorgeous goat Billy get hit by a 4WD @high speed .. and killed. Obviously.

He’s never gotten out before, his one and only time: he paid the ultimate price..


I confess, I don’t really know where this post is going, maybe it’s a download in the hopes of better times ahead? Maybe it’s just a whinge..

Whatever it is, I sure as hell hope things change soon, cos tis fair to say the tether is visible and I can’t see anything beyond it.


It’s get better, soon – yeah?

Posted by: Joan Spiller | July 21, 2015

RIP to a great man

I’m experiencing a confusing sense of happiness & extreme sadness as I type this post. My grandfather (Russell Spiller) died today, hence the feelings of sadness. But – as always happens anytime I think about Granddad – I can’t help but smile.

Now you get my confusion, perhaps..

As I gaze out my lounge window, the sun is setting on what has been a remarkable life.. Of a remarkable man. A friend today called him “a great man”, and I got to thinking about what makes a man great?

The sun is set RLS

Because I guess if I am honest I’ve always thought of Granddad as a great man (and I love that others maybe did too!)

Unsure I know the answer ..  all I can say is how it was for me.

You’d struggle to find a more generous, loving and tolerant man. Nothing pleased Granddad more than to be with family or, better yet – helping his family in some way, shape or form.

I have so many memories of time with him, most good (we’ll ignore the time he spanked my butt for stomping my foot and saying “I will not!” once, when I was a young kid.. )

Child abuse!!

How he loved chuckling and telling that story, horrid man 😉

“What can I do for you”.

A classic Russell statement. And unlike many people – he truly meant it. He would do anything for a loved one. Hell, he would do things for complete strangers if they needed his help. It was incredible.

He was incredible.

I think I’ve talked about it on here before, the fact that he had to walk you to the car, open the door, set you in your seat then go and stand on the kerb and monitor the traffic before signalling that yes, you may leave #5 (the ancestral home in Napier) safely.

Every. Single. Time.

“Kick her in the guts Trev”, he would cry .. and you’d be off.. tooting and waving, as he waved back, smiling ..

I love that my last memory of Granddad was (for all I was anxious!) watching him wave goodbye to me as I drove away. I was so worried that he’d come down the steps to see me, as he’d become quite frail in recent months.

There’s a saying “Old age isn’t for sissies” and boy is that so right. Russell was no sissy but oh how he hated the concept of old age.. there’s no doubt there.

A strong advocate of euthanasia, I well recall even as a young child being dragged aside to have a whispered conversation:

“I do NOT want to be remembered as an annoying, dribbling old fool. When I get to that stage you need to come and hold a pillow over my face and help me out.”

As if I could have ever done that but I suspect he knew that 😉

His “death” wishes were simple:

He wanted to die in the home in which he was born– and he did. I am thankful that happened and suspect it was no mean feat of coordination from people such as my Dad, and others who cared for him in his final months.

He also wanted to die before he became annoying.

I still recall (regularly) growling at him about that comment. Hell, if we applied that rationale most kids wouldn’t make it past 2 (months?) years of age. How it saddens me that elderly people somehow become a nuisance, where patience and unconditional love is most needed.

All that aside, I have experienced so many good times in my capacity as the “#1 granddaughter” and am thankful I have so many memories to cherish, when so many do not have the same ‘luck’ of a benevolent and loving grandparent.

Something he would say to me often was “give ‘em hell, girl”. Well Granddad, I plan to keep on doing just that and will ramp up my efforts, in your honour!

I love you, I miss you already. Thank you for being a great man, and an even more great grandfather ..

Give ‘em hell yourself!
give em hell

With so, so much sadness but love,
Your #1 Granddaughter

NB: It’s so fitting this is being finished at 5.59pm. Granddad loved nothing more than to watch the news at 6 and keep up with everything going on!

Posted by: Joan Spiller | July 9, 2015

Bidding a new (but dear) friend “farewell”

You know when you meet someone and realise that they’re something kinda special? I was fortunate enough to experience this recently and, while so very sad that they’re gone, I’m also so delighted they were here!

As I drove home from Wellington this morning, I found myself thinking about various quotes I have read regarding friendship and this one I particularly liked:

You see, in this instance the person who I now consider to be a lovely friend (or maybe the other daughter I didn’t know I needed!) was once a complete stranger who came to wwoof at my house some .. gosh, many many weeks ago, now.

I still recall when I got the email request from Izzy & her friend Lisa, to be hosted here at the funny farm.

The email read “we are two lovely girls” and I chuckled (as I later explained to Izzy, one doesn’t tend to use those words to describe oneself.. for all the words were very apt!)

Anyway, I got such a good vibe I replied immediately saying please do come and stay.

And I am so thankful I did, for what “lovely” girls they were!

Oh and before you think I am mean: Izzy asked me to correct her English anytime I heard anything overly inaccurate. Have to say: It wasn’t needed often, she was amazing (I cannot get over how someone can come to our country where we speak the most confusing language and survive, let alone thrive and communicate well!?) her grasp of English is incredible.

But do watch out for those humanitarians!!

As the girls headed off on their next adventure, Izzy said to me: “I would love to come back” to which I replied “you are welcome to”.

Now trust me: I do not say this to all my wwoofers! Next thing you know, I have this lovely girl back in my home staying for a couple of weeks.

I also feel it’s important to set the scene here .. Because I truly think she got a bad deal!

It’s winter in NZ. And it’s a hideously rainy, cold and vile winter. And I have dogs.. Lots of dogs. And then there was the horny disgusting goat, I may blog about that separately. Suffice to say he was horrid..

For Izzy I suspect her (Linton) winter experience will have shades of ground hog day happening as each day her job was to walk the dogs in between rain showers, then clean the mess this generated.

You see, every day that poor girl had to wash couches, floors, windows, dogs, dishes .. I felt so awful dispensing the same old same old: every single day she was here, but (lovely girl, remember) she assured me she was OK.

I like to hope she was, but yeah .. I would have been miserable. And I know this, because normally it is my job to do all the chores I was lucky enough to ask her to take care of for me 😉

Did she EVER complain? No.
Did she always volunteer to walk the dogs at 10pm in the rain (pre-bed) – yes.
She was just one of those people who got it. Who fitted in and was “lovely” to have around.
She’s my female “Will”.. A rare accolade indeed.

Fast forward from her drudgery of life in Linton and being rained-in with assorted animals, Izzy kidnapped my little rescue mutt and headed to stay with friends of mine in Wellington. A good time was had by all.

Surprisingly, she bought Roxy back and we shared a lovely evening making pasta but then she left again (rotten girl .. ) to go off and do other things .. (Why wouldn’t she want to be here cleaning couches and sitting in a rainy / cold house??)

But I was delighted she came back and spent the day last weekend and then of course .. we finally had to face up to the fact that her time in NZ was nearing an end and she had to head to the big (ghastly) city of Auckland, to fly home to Germany.

Sad times.

However we hatched a plan!

And so it was that some 19 hours ago I drove to Wellington and met up with Izzy to show her “my Wellington”.

We took a tiki tour, around the many (wind swept and rugged) bays, had a “mocha” at the hip Maranui café, watched stormy weather crossing the cook straight from the South Island to Wellington, before we entered (and how!) the tootie tunnel. Twice, as the first time was no good. Useless evening commuters!


After a cocktail at one of my favourite bars, we headed off to dinner at the place I would say makes the best pizzas I have ever eaten: Scopa.

If you ever come to Wellington, try this place out – it is great. And good people watching to boot!

Sadly, eventually, the time came where I was to pick Izzy up (this morning) and “dump” her at the bus stop..

Auckland bound, as I type this, she’s on her last 12 hours in NZ, some 1 hour from the airport where she will spend the night before flying “home” tomorrow.

One of the things I love about the way some wwoofers get NZ is that they feel they’re LEAVING home when they depart NZ. I suspect Izzy will be that wwoofer.

I know I felt so incredibly sad when I hugged her goodbye at the bus stop this morning. If I could have? I would have done what she asked and gone with her.

How cool is that though??

How some people can become such a wonderful part of your life and you know you will miss them so much when they’re gone.

I believe the French have a saying for this:

From where I sit, having hosted Izzy, I am by far richer. While she was here I knew my dogs were safe and happy (as well as much loved), my home was tended to far more than is normal, and we had so much fun and laughter .. what a fantastic combination.

What a fantastic human being.

Izzy we will meet again. You are missing from  me, but it is not forever. Whether you come here, or I come visit you (or both!) we have that to look forward to.

Thank you, for being such a vunderbar person / lovely wwoofer to host, but most of all – danke for becoming a friend.

We miss you already.Travel safe and see you again, soon.

Much love,

Joan, Roxy and everyone else here.


Posted by: Joan Spiller | June 17, 2015

Arancini – Recipe

I always have leftover risotto and confess, sometimes I do it on purpose solely so I can have arancini the next day 😉


Arancini is something that is a bit fiddly to make but OH so worth the effort. Just ask my lovely wwoofer who is staying now and has begged me to type this up after I showed her how to make them ..

So, just for you Izzy (Isi!) here is how to make Joan’s super delicious arancini (rice balls)

All you need is a couple of cups of leftover (cold) risotto.

I do not recommend using risotto that has chunky bits in it, remove them (I picked all the mushrooms out of the ones we made, before we started!) the chunks make rolling the balls harder and leave gaps in the “skin” of crumbs that coats the rice meaning they explode when being fried!

As well, you need the following ingredients:

Some mozzarella cheese – ideally fresh but actually the other packaged cheese is OK too.

1 cup of panko breadcrumbs –  I have linked to a way of making your own in case they are not available easily, in Europe
1 cup of plain white flour – seasoned with a little salt and pepper
1 -2 eggs, beaten with a tablespoon of water

A pot of neutral oil for deep frying – I use rice bran but a plain vegetable oil would do fine

Set yourself up a production line, as it makes life a lot easier:

A bowl with the flour, a bowl with the crumbs, a bowl of beaten eggs and a tray to put the finished product on.

Scoop some of the cold risotto into your hand (ideally no more than a golf ball – makes for easier cooking) and poke a piece of cheese in the centre, before molding the rice “closed” around the cheese. You MUST NOT be able to see the cheese!

Roll the ball in flour, then dip it in the beaten egg before finally rolling it in the crunchy panko crumbs.

Repeat until finished..

Put the tray of prepared arancini in the freezer for at least one hour. This allows them to firm-up prior to frying. You can make these ahead of time and freeze, then thaw the day you wish to use them also!

Bring your oil up to a medium heat (use the bread method to test it is ready and avoid ruining the first arancini) If the oil is too hot – the outside will burn but the inside will be cold and the cheese un-melted. Too cool and the rice will absorb the oil and be greasy.

Carefully lower one ball into the hot oil, once the bubbles subside (this should take less than a minute) lower in a 2nd, then a 3rd. I find 3 – 4 is a good number to cook at once, any more and you can get confused or stressed trying to work out which one is ready, lol

When they are golden brown in colour remove from the oil and place on a paper towel. Scatter with salt immediately, while the oil is still “wet” on the outside of the arancini. (So the salt sticks better) 😉

Serve with any sauce you like, garlic aioli, tomato chutney, anything works but they’re also delicious on their own!


And this exact same method can be used for the mozzarella cheese or the camembert, as we did..

Posted by: Joan Spiller | May 20, 2015

Lessons From A Grandfather (via The Collection)

Originally posted in 2010, it’s not gotten any less relevant. We’ve just added 5 years to it all..  Original post starts: My Granddad is 90+ and starting to get old (I guess it had to happen huh) and we sometimes get impatient when dealing with his hearing loss .. uh, he’s old AND he has hearing loss due to time in the military, so uh – tell me again how the hell come it’s something WE dare get cranky about? Imagine being HIM = unable to hear!!

I find it so sad how we tend to wish previously cherished people away when they become “annoying” or hard work (or whatever adjective you like to apply) and this wee story really hit home back then and still does.

A frail old man went to live with his son, daughter-in-law, and four-year-old grandson. The old man’s hands trembled, his eyesight was blurred, and his step faltered. The family ate together at the table. But, the elderly grandfather’s shaky hands and failing sight made eating difficult. Peas rolled off his spoon and food rained onto the floor. When he grasped a glass, with his shaking hands milk spilled on the tablecloth. The son and daughter-in … Read More

via The Collection

Posted by: Joan Spiller | April 29, 2015

Feijoa Coconut cake – Recipe

So sometimes you can just TELL when a recipe is gonna haul ass. This is one such recipe!

Feijoa coconut cake

75g softened butter
3/4c caster sugar
2 eggs, separated
1c dessicated coconut
1c plain flour
2 t baking powder
pinch salt
1/4c milk
1/4c sour cream
3/4c  feijoa flesh, scooped out and roughly chopped in the measuring cup so you don’t lose too much liquid

Preheat oven to 150C (300F).

Heavily grease a spring-form cake tin, then sprinkle with coconut and flour to prevent sticking.

Beat butter and sugar until pale, then beat in yolks one at a time, for a minute after each addition.
* The mixture should not keep trying to separate before the next step.

Add the coconut, and sift over the flour, baking powder and salt. Fold through and when it’s about half done fold the milk and sour cream through as well.
Set aside.

In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks. Fold through the yolky batter until mostly incorporated (a whisper of egg white is ok), then fold through the feijoa.

Pop in the oven and bake 50 minutes to an hour, until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out moist but clean.

Cool until warm to the touch, then turn out (you shouldn’t have to scrape the edge with a knife).


Coconut drizzle

200ml coconut cream (shake the can first!)
1 Tbs caster sugar

On medium low heat, bring the mixture to a gentle simmer, until the sugar dissolves, and stir with a whisk constantly to break up any lumps in the cream.
Drizzle over the cake while warm if possible, and store covered in the fridge for later use..

Or take to work, and lose it within minutes 😉

Posted by: Joan Spiller | April 18, 2015

Feijoa Cake – Recipe (easy!)

Apart from gorging on them raw, it can be hard to know how to use up a surfeit of feijoas. Muffins, cakes and chutneys are my preference (I’ve also posted really good chutney recipe on here, if you’re interested) however, you can’t beat this delicious and simple cake so why not give it a go next time you’re drowning in feijoas?!

All you need is:

125g soft butter
1 c white sugar
2 large free range eggs
1 t vanilla essence
1/2 c milk
1 & ¼ c high-grade white flour
2t baking powder
1t mixed spice
2c peeled & halved feijoas (or cut in half and just scoop out the innards)

2T brown sugar mixed with 2T pecans and 1t cinnamon


Beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

Add eggs and beat s’more then sift in the flour, spice and BP . Gently fold milk into the batter. Lastly add vanilla essence.

Be careful not to over mix the batter! 

Pour into a lined 20x30cm deep cake tin.

Place feijoas on the surface of the cake batter, pointed end down, and push down until top is level with cake batter.

Sprinkle with the sugar / nut mixture.

Bake at 180 degrees C for 50 minutes or until cake springs back when lightly touched.

Serve warm or cold. I like to dust it with icing sugar and serve with a dollop of softly whipped cream..

Told ya it was simple: enjoy!

Posted by: Joan Spiller | April 11, 2015

Orzo (Risoni) Salad – Recipe

Credit is needed before I post this. Originally tried by way of my friend Kaye .. I also learned to make it using risoni if orzo is unavailable, thanks to the incomparable Kent for that tip!

One of my FAVE salads, this is so simple / versatile I want everyone to try it cos once you do, you’ll be hooked!


The base recipe is pretty much a vinaigrette of lemon juice and olive oil with seasonings .. added to cooked orzo and herbs.

Kaye’s one has broccoli in it but I have learned it’s able to be used for almost anything.

Here’s the recipe, so you can see why I rave about it so much!


2c cooked orzo (or risoni) – al dente
zest and juice of 1 large lemon
3x more olive oil than lemon juice (ratio is 3:1 oil to acid, basically)
salt and pepper to your taste – I recommend lots!

NOW we get to the tricky bit – herbs and flavourings. 

Not everyone has French tarragon at their finger tips (a lovely aniseedy tasting herb, try it sometime!) but it’s so good in this dish .. as a rule I would have a half a cup of chopped herbs including parsley, basil and tarragon but you can do whatever you prefer.

To me this is an easy dish to make because I can get all the ingredients from my garden – so why not experiment with it, using what you have.
The herbs do matter tho ..

This is turning into one of those annoying recipes of “well, you could do this” .. “Or xyz works too .. ” but that’s the beauty of it .. you can do as much or little as you like and it’s still great!


Cook risoni / orzo ’til al dente, drain well and place in a large bowl. Immediately add the dressing and 1 finely minced red onion or shallot. (Chives also work) I find this allows the pasta to drink in the flavour while warm, and the onion cooks slightly, so it is sweet and not too pungent.

For myself, I add 1 finely minced fresh chilli at this stage also. Try it .. it’s awesome!

Now this is where you’ve got your base and can add to it as you so desire!

Remember tho: the herbs are a must! 1/2c of your faves, finely chopped – biff them in.

My fave additions at this point are one of the following (don’t do them all together, gack!)

Finely diced asparagus (par cooked)

Finely diced courgette (par cooked)

Finely chopped de-seeded tomatoes (raw) with a handful more basil than other herbs

Finely diced slow roasted pumpkin with toasted sunflower seeds

I like to cut the veg into tiny pieces, so each mouthful is a blend of flavours .. a little more effort but well worth it..

So, I hope you will give this a go – and if you come up with any amazing combinations please share!

Posted by: Joan Spiller | April 6, 2015

I’ve decided I am going to write a book!

How does one actually go about doing such a marvellous thing, I wonder? (other than the obvious ‘type up some words’) Well, I am going to have a go at figuring it out ..

Wish me luck!

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