Lifting a ring of steel

by Tilly Smith Dix

It certainly feels terrific being able to drive beyond the initial 5km then 25km radius from home once more. And to top that, after too many months of lockdown house arrest in stalag 2020, actually eating in restaurants again.

Sitting at a table, breaking bread with good people, lively conversation, laughter, sipping bubbles, with a magnificent view to boot, serotonin levels are pushed to a ring-the-bell-top-the-charts high. Prescription meds encouraging 5-hydroxytryptamine apparently kept many folks’ spirits positive during this pesky pandemic.

To tell the truth, I never knew the scientific term for serotonin was 5-hydroxytryptamine, but Professor Google helped me in that department, and I thought you’d be massively impressed. Not that I want to impress anybody, however, it’s always good to dazzle a reader with science, right?

Speaking of dazzle, my first sojourn out of my hood when the ring of steel started easing, was to one of my happy places in this magnificent state of Victoria, The Mornington Peninsula.

Dining beyond the ring of steel

Just filling up the car at a gas station felt like a fun thing to do as I’ve not performed that simple task in many months. Wearing a mask whilst doing so is not a bad idea either. I dislike the fumes during this filling up process, so, it was all good. I even checked the tire pressure. Still impressed?

So, on a bright, sunny, perfect spring day, I set off to meet up with my friend Rika in beautiful Mount Martha, from where we took the scenic ocean road to the charming seaside village of Sorrento.

Above: Sorrento, The Baths Restaurant, and traversing the back beach with my ya-ya friend Rika Keyser from Mornington Peninsula Tourism.

The village centre is delightful and if we were going shopping, we’d not have been disappointed. From fashion choices to satisfy the most discerning, woman, man, pet and child, to luxe homeware, art and antiques, with prices seemingly affordable, this sophisticated yet unpretentious town has it all.

Window shopping done, we set off for The Baths, a restaurant set as if on location for a romantic beach holiday, right in front of the bijou Sorrento Jetty, offering splendid vistas of the Sorrento Pier, close to the entrance to Port Phillip Bay, where the ferry docks.

A feast for the senses, and that before we’d even ordered bubbles and lunch.

Lunch was a delicious event and I rather enjoyed the social distancing of tables in the restaurant. My entrée of salmon gravlax on a beetroot and chive cream bruschetta, did not disappoint. Rika started off with a crispy fish taco, with Asian herbs, pickled cucumber, crispy shallots and chipotle mayo. All washed down with some affordable Yarra Burn bubbles.

Mains were equally delectable, and Rika’s ricotta gnocchi, with creamy tomato, mozzarella, fresh basil and dried olives, hit the spot. My fish & chips, comprising battered fried flake, Greek salad and tartare, proved too much but it ticked all the boxes. More Yarra Burn, cheers.

An Instagram follower, now a delightful new friend, Sue, who lives in Sorrento, joined us for a glass of elixir and it felt like a glorious holiday. You never know if you really like people on social media until you actually meet as gracious protocol often hides a dark underside.

Protocol flew out the window over the beautiful bay as the three of us got along like old friends. Obviously, I’m a tad envious as these two Mornington Peninsula locals will now be spending plenty time together, laughing, dining, sharing anecdotes and going on the many scenic walks around their hood. Well, I have news for them, I’ll be tagging along often and happily going forward.

So fabulous when the tribe is ya-ya. Cheers to the good life!

I know South Africans are able to travel within their country again so, here’s some superb sites to peruse, from a fun steam festival between 19 and 22 November at Sandstone Estate to a five-star safari at Tau Game Lodge for Christmas, choices abound at:

www.sandstone-estates.com and www.taugamelodge.co.za

Couch potato

Recent small screen binges have certainly saved what sanity remains, and a friend is now learning Spanish. Why? Is she planning a trip to Spain as soon as we are allowed to board the airways and wing off to destinations afar?

No, she is not, she says. However, what sparked her interest, was binging on superior television series produced in Spain. She was the ya-ya sister who introduced me to Velvet, the series I lamented about in an earlier blog. Now, she’s done it again, and got me hooked on the period drama, Grand Hotel. Some of the cast members starred in Velvet, with the gorgeous Amaia Salamanca in a major role. This time, she is a good girl. She was equally convincing as the conniving bad girl in Velvet. A versatile actress indeed.

Yes, these series come with perfectly legible English sub-titles. However, the ear gets accustomed to the language and picking up a few familiar phrases is not difficult. Anyway, my friend may still convince me to take up that sweet language in due course.

Years ago, a cousin, on her return from Spain, said she had never visited a country positively crawling with beautiful people. She told her husband to behave as she may just return to Barcelona, solo, next time. She also claimed learning a new language was so much more fun if you found a local to teach you. She was taking up Spanish. It scared the hell out of her spouse. That reminded me of an actress friend who spoke fluent French. She only had school French before she spent a few years studying in Paris. She never told me who taught her to speak like a local…

Anyway, I digress, back to binging on the small screen. I highly recommend The Kominsky Method, starring Michael Douglas and Alan Arkin. They had me giggling like a schoolgirl and looking forward to an hour or two of their shenanigans. Think grumpy old men but with plenty style and attitude. I look forward to the next series. What I would love is to introduce them to Grace & Frankie. Now that would be a show – or a showdown? Now, to pitch this idea to the producers…

Yep, I’m still watching old codgers and thoroughly loved Going in Style, in which Michael Cain, Morgan Freeman, and again, Alan Arkin, prove they could still act and frolic their way around any script. Pure delight. Nothing like a hoot to lighten the mood and brighten the spirit during lockdown. Natural serotonin in bucket loads, I’ll take it, gracias – said with a gentle lisp on the ‘c’…

Mrs Fixit

So, the fridge door spring gave up the ghost. I heard a ping, heard something drop and this strange thingy fell to the floor. Panic set in. I have never fixed such a gizmo before.

Anyhow, Google helped me find Fisher & Paykel parts, a helpful online expert assisted and the part was ordered. It arrived within two days. Impressive.

The instructions were clear about replacing the old casing and inserting the spring, after removing the bottom of the fridge flap door. The images on the instructions were shocking, though. Luckily I have some psychic powers and some practical savvy.

I finally worked it out, found my limited toolkit and proceeded with great caution. It worked and I am right chuffed, mates. No fridge or fingers were harmed in the process. Plenty hail Marys, though, some cussing took place, and the cat did not approve.

Style it up

Fashion therapy has remained a passion and whilst the Opshops were shut during lockdown, I have been saving some items that might be of use to other fashionistas. However, versatile, quality style never dates. Adding current accessories to tweak the old wardrobe to look more current, is great fun.

Above: Spring style from my closet, in with the old as well as the new. From classic to boho chic, anything goes when the season is fickle. Loving the candy pink linen and saffron jersey-linen blend from Country Road this season.

I was immensely flattered when a young follower messaged me to say I had inspired her to not buy on a whim anymore but to only buy good, quality, durable fashion to last at least a lifetime. Mission accomplished. I’d never think of myself as an influencer but I honestly like the thought of inspiring women to go slow on fashion but never compromise on quality. It kinda lightens our carbon footprint, right?

That being said, I have acquired three new items for the season only. I’m also happy to say, they did not cost me a dime as they were gifted. Call it a collaboration of brands and great friends. Lucky ol’ me.

Boho chic is back and I loved watching the enigmatic Julia Stiles in Riviera, now in season 4, carry off the look with great panache. LOVE this feminine, sexy look, the flow of sheer summer fabrics, and styling it up or down for any occasion. The revival of quirky belts and accessories to complement the boho vibe almost brought a happy tear to my eye as I’ve not been able to ditch some of my vintage accessories since pa fell of the buggy. Back in style, babes!

Then, there’s the colours. Yes, here in Aussie we are in spring about to enter summer, with candy pink, saffron, many shades of green, pastels, and fuchsia lifting our fashion spirits with gusto. Even our sisters across the waters, now mostly entering autumn and winter, are breaking into bright, festive colours. Of course, the whites, blacks, tans and greys will remain with us forever as the classics are forever in vogue.

Three cheers to fashion, feeling fabulous, great friends and a jolly good life, all considered…

Conversations in a pandemic

6 October 2020

By Tilly Smith Dix

When all else fails and I feel at the end of my tether, I become flippant. It’s a survival tool and some folks find it annoying.

Well, that is just wrong, I say. Read between the lines, especially when the world is tipped on its butt, which, many refer to as ‘getting down under,’ but I will not ever say that as it would be offensive to my adoptive country. So, I’ll stick to the planet, just for a while, being tipped on its derriere and trying to keep its knickers in place to save further embarrassment. Made you smile?

It has been upsetting to see people being nasty and taking their lockdown frustrations out on others. Why should diminishing someone else improve our own status? Narcistic behaviour seems to have become more prevalent and seriously, it is most disconcerting. This, I believe, is the time to find a hobby that can be pursued from home.

Find an interest, pursue it with passion and who knows, it could turn out to be the best therapy and improvement of self. A friend’s husband took up online painting with watercolours. He has not only surprised himself but his family too. They now struggle to get him separated from his easel. He is no longer grumpy and who knows, his new hobby might even fetch a tidy sum should he ever choose to exhibit his work.

One of the most gorgeous, caring, inspiring women I follow on Instagram was interviewed in a British tabloid, in which they highlighted her past struggles, her strength, and her determination to overcome abuse and hardship. She finally triumphed as a successful, independent single mother, model and Instagrammer, proudly owning her age, which is almost 60.

I was so thrilled when I saw the article. Then, the trolls took her to hell and back with their vitriolic responses on the publication’s social pages. Frankly, if I was planning to move to the UK, this would have stopped me in my tracks. Such vile, poisonous comments speak volumes about the people who spout such bile. After my initial fury, I realised how many people simply take their frustrations, especially during the current world health crisis, out on others.

So, I jumped into the discussions and am delighted to say the amazing, sophisticated, kind tribe I’ve come to think of as my sisters in arms, readily came to this beautiful woman’s defence and united we stood in declaring, ‘trolls must go.’ She now also realises this was not about HER, but about people’s own unhappiness within themselves. She is doing great!

We are in the same storm and paddling different boats, canoes and life-rafts, and some are struggling more during this time than others. I think it is to our emotional advantage to be honest about what we are going through. Folks who care WILL listen. We need to share. If someone asks, ‘how are you,’ we need to feel confident in responding with, ‘I am struggling today.’

Thus, when we are having a better day, it is a good idea to reach out to others, thereby creating a chain, so to speak. When we hear about someone else’s struggles, we often realise our burden is so much less, compared to theirs. An instant shift takes place, and gratitude becomes our focus – we realise we are better off than we thought.

So, to hopefully reach more people going through a tough time during this trying pandemic and the restrictions placed on being normal and that which we always took for granted, this message posted on social media helped me on a day when I truly needed it:

He said, “In the midst of hate, I found there was, within me, an invincible love. In the midst of tears, I found there was, within me, an invincible smile. In the midst of chaos, I found there was, within me, an invincible calm. I realised, through it all, that in the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer. And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger – something better, pushing right back.” Albert Camus.

Spring shyly unfolds her pretty petals

For some reason, nature here in the verdant Yarra Valley has displayed the undiminishable magic of spring, yet, the temperatures have tended to stay on the wintery side. The parrots in the garden are atwitter with expectations and a little black thrush is building a nest in the eaves of the garage between the current dwellings of two possums, who don’t get along, I might add.

When their early evening hissing gets too loud, I pop my head out the door, look up at them, and advise them to, ‘put a sock in it, be nice.’ They look at me with big eyes, remain quiet for a few minutes then dash off on their nocturnal travels.

Rhododendrons announce the arrival of spring in the garden
Blooming magic

The scent of spring is poignant in the wild garden and the rhododendrons are bursting with blooms, when only two weeks ago I accused spring of being too shy. The only shy thing I can think of at present is the temperature, which is not rising much. However, knowing how I’ll complain about water retention and the swelling of feet, not to mention sleepless nights during the heat of summer, I’m not hurrying her along. She is beautiful in any guise, even if somewhat reluctant.

Spring fever is also bringing new hope. Here in Victoria, I would go slow on travel for now, but how I look forward to heading to some favourite nearby wineries to indulge in scrumptious lunches and sipping delicious wine. My first port of call on my doorstep will be Oakridge, where I’ll find an outdoor dining space with panoramic vistas of the rolling hills and vineyards of the Yarra Valley. Projecting positivity feels good – join me at  www.oakridgewines.com.au

The vineyards and vistas of the Yarra Valley from Oakridge Wines Restaurant

I see travel restrictions in South Africa have eased and tourism will once again be revived, at least for local travel. During a recent phone conversation with Renate Oostmeijer, General Manager of the Johannesburg Office for Tau Game Lodge in the Madikwe Game Reserve, she reported bookings were already reaching new highs for December and well into next year. Pour me a G&T, garcon, and just let me be at that wild and wonderful waterhole  – see more at www.taugamelodge.co.za

Dining overlooking the waterhole at Tau Game Lodge, South Africa

On the Couch

Binging has kept me sane during these surreal months of isolation. If our world becomes too structured and controlled through lockdown and social restrictions, I say get into another world and laugh, cry, get scared, solve a mystery and savour at least one tipple whilst doing so. No kicks on Route 66 (been on that, not the fix I’d hoped for), but certainly on the screen!

My neighbours recently pampered me with a bottle of French indulgence, Saint-Martin Brut, and I savoured every sip. I laughed louder, cried harder and cheered enthusiastically while immersing myself in the small screen.

A tall glass of delicious went down a treat as I watched episodes of The Catch on 7Plus – addictive, I kid you not. Won’t spoil your fun by letting the cat out the bag. Suffice to say the protagonist, Alice Vaughan, superbly portrayed by the gorgeous Mireille Enos, confirmed my belief that dynamite often comes in petite packages and when they rock stilettos and titian tresses, the impact is devastating on the bad guys as they just don’t see it coming!

Peter Krause, as Benjamin Jones, a slick conman, is delightfully convincing. Be prepared for many twists and surprises. Just the way I like it. Sonya Walger as Margot Bishop is a stunning bad girl, and boy, will she get your eyes a popping with her vivid persona. I know the boys will love this too, every man’s private fantasy, I am told…say no more…

Snacks ready, tipple ready, go! Next? Ah, Velvet, a superb Spanish series about a fashion dynasty on Netflix came highly recommended by a gorgeous friend. A sterling production which apparently cost plenty to produce for our entertainment on the small screen.

For at least one hour a day I get lost in Grace & Frankie’s world, also on Netflix. Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin are the quintessential opposites in personality, and as for Martin Sheen and Sam Waterston as the gay husbands, simply hilarious, and at times touching, pardon the pun. June Diane Raphael as Brianna, Grace (Jane Fonda)’s feisty daughter, is a hoot. Hilarious, witty, sophisticated and ever so stylish, my kinda show. Cheers, darlings! Life could be worse.

United sisters of fashion

Someone told me years ago that women who look after themselves too well are vain, frivolous and shallow. I was very young and already keen on projecting an image of a woman who is well-groomed and successful. I believed in creating an image for yourself of the person you wished to become.

At the time, I was probably too taken aback and reluctant to be confrontational but today, what I would say to that sour-faced, bitter soul, is: Firstly, never judge a book by its cover. Secondly, if you look good, you feel good. And, it is common knowledge that people who look their best get further in life. I’m not talking obsessive self-absorptions, so, don’t jump to the wrong conclusion here.

Shopping my closet when spring changes her mind about the temperature for the week is a creative outlet. The garments are mostly vintage from my cupboard. The good stuff hardly dates and if it does, it gets stored with fragrant soap and little sachets of salt to keep it dry and to deter moths. The newest items in the images above are the chinos from Country Road, top left, of early this year and the two-tone shoes above left, from last year at Nine West. Fun with fashion, fabulous therapy. The floral skirt, above right, is silk and made in Paris, bought in Sandton, Johannesburg about 20 years ago.

In fact, working with the amazing team of The School of Etiquette some years ago, which received its training in Washington and The Hague, confirmed the following. If you LOOK successful, you are perceived as successful. Now just ensure you have the necessary knowledge, skills, good manners and street-smarts to do the job well and the deal is clinched.

During this lengthy time of isolation, playing with my wardrobe brought back vivid memories of my teens and twenties, when fashion was my goddess and getting creative with my existing wardrobe has, quite frankly, saved me a fortune in therapy. Reviving fashion from years ago and giving it a new life is not quite The Indian in the Cupboard but more like Style in the Closet…

On my Sixty_is_the_new_40 Instagram fashion page, I have forged a sustaining bond with women across the planet, from Prague to Paris to Portland to Perth – to Parys, and beyond. It’s not just about pretty pictures. It’s about people’s stories and I tell you, sharing life experiences, trials, tribulations, joys, lifestyle, laughter and fashion with likeminded women of the world is pure feminine joy. Boy, it’s good to be a woman!

Interestingly, many men follow our posts too, mostly posting complimentary responses. Then, there are those who cannot differentiate between fashion posts and dating posts. How sad is that? Before blocking one desperado recently, I first had to Google what MILF even meant as he used the expression in a response to my posts that day – twice. Once I understood, my block button finger got busy. Still not sure if I should feel flattered, thought…

It is frustrating that much work still needs to be done to get certain men to understand we are NOT looking for a date, husband or cheap thrill when we are sharing fashion ideas and lifestyle stories on social media. On we march…and I hope in the end, the trash will take itself out. So nice when that happens.

To the good, honest, respectful men out there, thank you for flying the flag. You are appreciated. Teach your sons to do the same and call out those confused, misguided souls when they mess up.

Cheers to the good life and the many good people I’ve grown to appreciate, respect, admire and adore during these strange and trying months. You rock my world, thank you. Don’t hide your light, ever.

Ends.

Get smart, be kind

By Tilly Smith Dix

So, I thought I’d try and find the lighter side of this trying time for us all, which is proving worse for so many folks who are losing their jobs, businesses, homes – and partners. Many challenges still await us during and post-Coronavirus…

I remember my parents telling stories about the Depression after WWII – it was tough on everyone. However, my always optimistic mum said it also taught people to become entrepreneurial and resourceful. So, she got stuck into the garden and got my siblings involved in planting vegetables, breeding chickens and selling eggs.

“Live off the land,” she said and sell the surplus. In many instances, folks could not afford to buy my mother’s home-grown veggies, so, she would happily barter. “I give you potatoes, beans and carrots, you give me fruit off your trees and we are square,” she would say. These are the stories I grew up with as by the time I came into this world, people were getting over the post-war hardships as the Fifties became boom-time.

Word got around that on a Friday, when those who ‘had’ were at work, Mum would simply leave some of her surplus vegetables, fruit and old clothes on a table on the sidewalk for anyone in need to walk by and help themselves to what they needed.

Apparently, this was of enormous help to people who were still struggling as well as domestic workers who were working for minimum wage, to make ends meet. This resulted in some people of all races offering to assist with housework or gardening without asking payment to repay my mother for her kindness.

My point? We have much to learn during these trying times. By starting with kindness and being more understanding of each other’s individual struggles, we create a state of grace. Not always easy as humans are flawed. But, it’s a great place to start with small kindnesses and eventually, it simply becomes natural to be empathetic.

Just imagine how wonderful the world would be when we get to go back to normal life again. For many, things will NEVER be the same as they would have lost too much in this travesty of a pandemic. However, for those of us in a better position to help others, it would certainly clean our karma bus to be more mindful of others. Even when we wear a mask, people can see when we are smiling – it’s in our eyes. A good start…

Serendipity abounds

During this difficult time, I find myself being more grateful for things we tend to take for granted. A phone call from someone simply wanting to know if you are okay. A single rose left in a little bottle of water at the front door. A neighbour calling to say they are going to the shops, do you need anything…

Often, these serendipitous events will manifest when we are most in need of kindness. I’m not one for feeling sorry for myself as pity parties are for others who are more needy. However, just when I reached a low ebb, the phone started ringing and it never stopped. Firstly, my nephew calls from New Zealand, he says he heard my late mom, his Ouma Antjie, telling him to call me. He adored her.

A few hours later, another beloved nephew calls, this time from South Africa, just to say ‘hello, Aunty, I miss you.’ As I got to bed, feeling much uplifted having heard from these special boys, I get a call from an elderly friend, also from abroad, just to tell me she was remembering the great travels we enjoyed together in the South African Cape Winelands and thought she needed to hear my voice. I believe I woke up still smiling this morning, having gone to sleep with an enormous, grateful grin on my face…

Binge fest

So, then there is the binging on movies and series on our flatscreens or laptops, whichever is our poison. I have discovered folks who always professed to hate television now succumbing to the guilty pleasures of the small screen. About time, I say, escape therapy!

As most of the news is devastating and depressing, I now find myself indulging in happy endings. Yes, I know, that sounds like a special service at a massage parlour. Get your mind out the gutter, I’m talking about emotional happy!

Some years ago, I got hooked on Brothers & Sisters. A successful wine-merchant family experiences the ups and downs of normal folks. Set in California, the Walker family is real and easy to identify with. This is why it is compelling to watch, living life vicariously through their trials and highs in Pasadena. 

The stellar cast includes the always believable and adorable Sally Field as the matriarch, Calista Flockhart, Rachel Griffith (love her), Matthew Rhys (the start of his now brilliant career, I’d say), Emily VanCamp, and, my personal favourite, Rob Lowe. Yep, my guilty pleasure, still think he is delish…bite me! Get hooked on 7Plus.

Another series I’ve enjoyed is Mirage in the Desert on SBS. The location of Abu Dhabi is spectacular, the storyline action-packed and the cast, quite frankly, brilliant. The protagonist, Claire (Marie-Josee Croze), personifies grace, smarts, real-life beauty (not styled into a space doll), and strength. However, she sure is pushed to the limits. Should she trust Gabriel (Clive Standen), even though they have a history? Won’t spoil it for you but I honestly cannot wait for the next season.

A movie that touched my heart was The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. The leading character, an author, talks about meeting people whom one feels you knew long ago, although you’ve only just met. That feeling of belonging with such people, is what makes our souls soar. Such people, she says, are your true family. I so get that.

Directed by Mike Newell, with a stellar cast, including Lily James, Matthew Goode, Katherine Parkinson (of Doc Martin-series), Michael Huisman, Penelope Wilton and the always superb Sir Tom Courtenay, this gem is currently available on 7Plus too.

Music of the heart

Ah, and then there is music. Still the best mood-enhancer for me. Someone recently posted a YouTube link of Procol Harum live in Denmark and wow, did that bring back beautiful memories and make my day – the more recent rendition seems even more poignant: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0GZIYjG7nbk

Feeling better already?

In my skin

I was lucky to be blessed with parents with beautiful skins. My gracious mom, who referred to herself as a plain Jane because she did not wear much makeup, was anything but plain. Blessed with a glowingly healthy skin, big baby blues and rosy cheeks, she got away with a little bit of face powder and a rosy-pink lipstick. She cleaned her face with Ponds and used Nivea as a day, night and eye-cream. Even in death at the age of 83 her skin looked young and translucent. Sounds a tad macabre but I kissed her goodbye on her deathbed and it just felt right. She looked like an angel, which she was, mostly.

My handsome father could have been described as a babe-magnet as younger women made fools of themselves over him. He was old-school charming, handsome, and had impeccable taste. His skin reflected the Huguenot blood in his veins as he turned a gorgeous shade of olive in summer, when he loved spending time with his prize roses in the garden, right up to his final months on this earth, when aged almost ninety.

His skin was so smooth, people never believed his age. Not without a touch of vanity, Dad took great delight in whipping out his passport when people expressed doubt about his age!

So, I chose my parents well, especially in the skin department. However, I have a strict skin regime, even in my twenties when I stupidly, like most of my compatriots, spent hours baking in the sun, swathed in olive- and baby-oil to turn berry brown. I never went to bed without cleansing, toning and feeding my skin, even after a late night.

When that shiny, combination/normal skin started turning a tad drier because of age, I started a weekly deep-cleansing, uber-feeding skin regime which has resulted in a healthy skin, I’d say.

I’ve never thought of sharing my skincare secrets with others, unless asked but a kind Instagram follower of my Sixty_is_the_new_40 page suggested I shared my skin and dietary routines as she felt other women could benefit. 

Well, it’s not complicated, so, here are a few tips.

I start my day with a bowl of fruit and yoghurt, followed by a frothy latte. I take vitamins, which include vitamin A, B, C, D and E. I prefer a good lunch as my main meal of the day, I go slow on carbohydrates as I’m definitely more of a protein person. When I eat carbs, I tend to not mix them with protein.

I recently developed an allergy to chocolate and nuts, yes, that is so sad, but I love cheese, so, I’m good with that. I also enjoy ice cream, usually once a week, even in winter. Yep, weird. Most evenings I have chicken-liver pate and goats-milk cheese with water crackers or brown rice crackers – and, often, accompanied by a glass of bubbles. The latter is for medicinal purposes, it helps me sleep, right?

Once a week my skin deep-cleanse comprises a gentle facial wash, mostly Lancome, followed by a refined Clarins exfoliation scrub, followed by a nourishing overnight mask, my current favourite is the Lancome Hydra Zen Masque.

Eye-cream is my addiction, day and night, whilst a good moisturiser by day, preferably with a lifting agent, and a nourishing night cream, are my staple creams. I am honestly seeing a difference in my skin with the Clarins Lift-Affine Visage Serum Facial Lift for day, and when I’m feeling a little tired and need to add some extra oomph, especially when stressed or tired, Clarins Beauty Flash Balm brightens and tightens miraculously within minutes.

I do get dark circles under my eyes when tired or stressed and was encouraged by a good friend to try a little gizmo that stimulates the skin cells through vibration, thereby reducing those dark circles – and puffiness.

I then discovered the little magic wand also reduces wrinkles if used regularly anywhere else on the face and neck, so, it now gets a good workout several times a week, especially around the areas prone to facial lines, such as laughter lines around the eyes, frown lines, stress lines around the mouth, and, never to be ignored, the soft bits of the jawline – commonly known as jowls, or, as so brilliantly satirised in the Ali McBeal series, the wattle! I believe it’s called the dewlap on animals? I’m working on mine and honestly see a difference already. That dewlap is sweet on cows but scary on me…

An electronic magic skin wand and some help from Clarins.

Reminiscing about travel

With travel off the charts for now, I find going through my photographs and stories of past travels deeply gratifying. Experiencing the journey all over again, remembering incidents that sparked enormous joy, and even little pleasures, are proving superb therapy right now.

Some of my fondest memories comprise visiting Prague, the magical capital of Bohemia, as it was known during the time of the great composers such as Beethoven. 

Prague Castle and the Charles Bridge are simply spectacular. I bought two delightful watercolour paintings from an artist practising his craft outside the little house where Kafka worked all those years ago.

The Bond-type funicular at the Movenpick.
The magic of Prague from my hotel room.

I recall staying at The Movenpick Hotel, where I was upgraded to an executive room, with views of the city and the Vltava River, the longest river in the Czech Republic. I felt as if I was in a Bond movie when transported from the Reception of the hotel situated in the Old City in a cliffside funicular travelling up, then sideways, then up again to the top of the cliff, where the hospitality facilities were located, offering spectacular vistas of the city beyond.

I was hugely impressed with the executive service I received as a tourist-class traveller. The day prior to my departure, the hotel manager arranged for a taxi to collect me at 5,30am to catch my train to Salzburg, Austria. I love train journeys throughout Europe. The taxi-driver went beyond the call of duty. 

As all the directions at the station were in Czech, he took it upon himself to carry my luggage to platform 5, which was quite a distance from the drop-off point, with several flights of stairs en route! I’d still be dragging my suitcase up those stairs had it not been for this sweet man. When I reached for my purse to offer him compensation for his additional service, he stopped me, raising his hand, and said, “Madam, you are a beautiful lady and it was my pleasure to assist you. Send your friends to Prague.” That’s how smart tourism works. I’d love to return – with all my mates.

Another vivid memory of my travels was a business trip to London, then Paris, after which I was to hire a car, solo, to traverse Provence, and wind my way to Nice for a much-deserved holiday. As I’d always travelled in the European winter, which I love, this was a spring break with some press meetings in the major cities.

When my friend Lisa heard about my plans, she expressed her desire to travel with me. Her husband, Bruce, who was my long-time friend, casually asked what my budget was for my impending trip. Always with an eye on getting value for money, he seemed impressed when I told him. After another glass of wine, and getting further clarity on my travel itinerary, he looked at his beautiful wife and said, “Lisa, would you like to go with Tilly? I’ll take care of the girls and school runs if you go.” They had two young daughters.

Well, Lisa and I looked at him as if we’d just seen God. I wiped a tear from my eye and Lisa just wept with joy! At the time, before booking purely online, I used the services of a savvy travel agent, who had served me well, taking care of even the smallest details, saving me time, as I was pretty busy working in my agency.

This fabulous travel whizz, Rozanna, called me the following day, which was a Monday, and she was hysterical with laughter. She announced my friend Lisa had been to see her and was so excited about travelling with me, she introduced herself as my good friend and hugged everyone in the travel agency, promising to bring champagne for all of them next time she popped in. And she did!

London, as always, was enormous fun and, although we may have only had one day of sunshine in the 3 days we spent there, spring was in the air. We walked. We shopped. We met with old friends for lunch. We drank Spanish wine. We hardly stopped laughing. We drank French champagne. We laughed more. We also enjoyed the most delicious seafood pasta at one of my favourite little Italian restaurants on The Strand and bought French berets in Covent Garden.

A favourite London landmark.

I had never driven in Europe before. As I usually travelled alone, I preferred trains and planes. This time, we agreed I’d be the driver and Lisa would be the navigator as she was great at that. I was the better driver. Nervous about driving in France, after several days of meetings, shopping at Galerie Lafayette, walking and simply soaking up the magnificent flavours and scents of Paris, we collected our little rental car at Gare de Lyon after a delicious cruise and lunch on the Vedettes du Pont Neuf. Ah, the Seine…

That last evening in Paris was as Parisienne as they come. We parked out little car outside our hotel located near Le Marais, with its nose pointing in the direction we’d be travelling the next day. We walked to Montmartre, gazed at the Sacre-Coeur in the twilight, then took a slow walk back to our hotel, stopping for some sustenance along the way. First, a coffee at a tiny patisserie, then, an orange crepe and a glass of champagne at another little café.

The historical dome of Galeries Lafayette

Nervous about traffic and driving on the right-hand side of the road, we decided to make an early departure to miss the Saturday crowds – those circles are daunting when everyone is going in the same direction and you are in the wrong lane! Gulp. We made it! Only once did we travel around the same circle twice to get onto our route and we were away!

Our first stop was Lyon, where we had booked to spend a day and night before travelling to Avignon. Our luck was a tad rotten as there was an attempted bank heist near the hotel where we were supposed to stay and all the roads leading there were cordoned off with police!

It was mayhem and after about two hours of driving around the city, which did offer some spectacular insight and vistas of this city where the Rhone and the Saone Rivers meet, to finally flow into the Mediterranean Sea as one.

Avignon, Palace of the Popes.

The architecture is magnificent, and it is no surprise the city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but on that Saturday, when there also happened to be a student celebration of some kind, we were happy to be informed our hotel would provide a full refund in view of this inconvenient drama. The helpful receptionist also informed me when I called her on my cell phone (before smartphones), she would call ahead to our little hotel in Avignon to advise them to expect us a day earlier. Within minutes she called me to confirm all was arranged. What service! I cannot for the life of me remember the name of the hotel, but I remember sending a glowing email report on the sterling service provided later.

An hour outside the city, we pulled into a service station, topped up our fuel, and decided to have a late lunch as we were starving and thirsty. As we sat down for our meal with a view of the road, a little Renault pulled over on the other side of the highway, smoke pouring out of the hood. The driver got out and dashed across the road, just as the car burst into flames! Now there’s something you don’t see every day, unless you are making an action movie. Someone with a portable fire-extinguisher ran across the road, managed to put the flames out and returned to the service station like a champion. Everyone cheered, he took a bow like a star.

Still bug-eyed, we decided to make tracks to get to Avignon before dark. Ah, now there is a city and region that stole our hearts. I promise to get into more detail on the next blog – hope you like it so far…

Looking good is feeling good

Spending so much time in our homes leads to tardy dressing, right? Glamming up? Gosh, no fashion police around, bugger…

Honestly, I often don’t wear makeup and settle for comfy casual clothes as I’ve discovered the sloppy comfort of knitted track pants and long-sleeved T-shirts covered by big jumpers. Never thought I’d get to this. And big socks.

However, on days I don’t feel too chipper, I find it great therapy to spend time on my makeup, hair and outfit for the day, even if I’m just at home. It creates a sense of occasion, even when I’m not leaving the house on that day.

Those precious few weeks in which we could go out to restaurants again were confusing, as one felt you needed to be uber-cautious, yet, going out for a socially distanced meal and overlooking the vineyards of the Yarra Valley with its verdant hills, proved balm for the soul.

I got to enjoy a scrumptious lunch at Meletos in Coldstream, mere minutes from my home, where I felt like an exuberant puppy, wagging its tail and literally jumping up and down with excitement. I had to take serious control of me to behave gracefully and graciously. Dining on delicious scallops, followed by a juicy steak and washed down with delicious Domain Chandon bubbles proved a treat.

Meletos in the Yarra Valley.

What did I wear on a cold, rainy winters day? Jeans, boots, a woollen jumper and one of my favourite coats. A beret and scarf completed the look and I felt like the queen of the valley. I was OUT!

Finding my vintage style, and shopping my wardrobe during a long, wet, cold, beautiful winter.

Good friends are a gift and it’s in times like these we need them more than ever, and they need us. So, even though for now we can’t be sociable and meet for those lunches and dinners we so took for granted, we can do facetime, dress up, drink a glass of our favourite elixir and munch on something delicious as if we are sharing a table, breaking bread, and laughing. Almost perfect.

Stay positive, take care and don’t lose hope – we can do this…cheers to the good life…

Lockdown boogie

By Tilly Smith Dix

Never allow the inner child to be suppressed. This is a note to self. Most of us got a tad stir-crazy during this dystopian-like Covid-19 lockdown but as the old song by Billy Ocean goes, When the going gets tough, the tough get going…

Well, not only did I get going, I rediscovered my inner girl. We have to make do with the cards we are dealt and if the situation is not within our control, we have to hustle and reach within to find joy.

I’ve always loved music and studied it for most of my school years. I even performed on stage, playing the piano, covering tunes from Stevie Wonder to Astrid Gilberto – to Wagner. Yep, pretty eclectic stuff and I’m owning it, again!

No, I’ve not started playing the piano again but that will follow as soon as the heirloom is tuned. For now, I’m making like Rod Stuart and playing some of those old Motown records, except, I’m playing my old CDs, full throttle, ranging from Janet Jackson to Diana Krall, Laura Fygi, John Pizzarelli and Daniel Jobim.

You see, I remembered an admirer of many moons ago remarking on my cute hips and I decided I needed to get those hips moving again as surviving on yoga and walking for exercise was just not fun enough. I’d forgotten what great exercise dancing was for the body and as for the mind, well, it puts me into a party spirit – and that’s before I’ve even poured a glass of bubbles at the end of the day!

I hear someone saying, “why play CDs, why not just plug in the iPod,” and my answer is, “move over darling, I enjoy the sound of my three-CD player moving on to the next disc!” Click, and then I get a surprise as I never remember which order I stacked the discs in the player. The simple things should give us pleasure or else we’ll go even crazier.

Still got the moves, baby, I’m on a roll – or should I say a hip-roll…drum roll, please…

The Lilydale Warburton Trail in the Yarra Ranges outside Melbourne.

Walking remains a joy in this exquisite, semi-rural region, when a short walk will get you up close to pristine walking trails, unparalleled natural beauty, paddocks, horses, vineyards, and people enjoying the great outdoors. I remember that old TV-series starring Ted Danson, Cheers, “where everyone knows your name.” Well, not many folks on these trails know my name but the beauty of it is everyone greets everyone else in passing. I find that immensely comforting.

My current preferred route is the Lilydale-Mount Evelyn-Warburton Trail. Pure magic. A kind friend, who knows how enamoured I am of the spectacular birdlife of my locale, even arranged for me to have a copy of the Simpsons & Day Field Guide to Birds of Australia. Blessings everywhere. Just colour me grateful.

You never know what you might encounter on a walking trail in the Yarra Ranges outside Melbourne.

Walking, whilst in the moment, also evokes memories of walks in other parts of the world. During a visit to Nice some years ago when on my second evening stroll along that marvellous Promenade, I encountered locals I’d spotted during the first evening’s stroll. They now greeted me as if I was one of their own. It put a huge smile on this dial and this is one of the many reasons I’d not be averse to returning to that spectacular part of the French Riviera…something to look forward to when international travel restrictions ease.

Traversing the planet

Speaking of travel, I have not forgotten the delicious anticipation of visiting beautiful countries and immersing myself in local culture. For now, I’m more than happy to feed off those memories until it’s time to hit the road and the skies to savour the fruits of the unknown, as well as countries, regions and towns I always loved returning to. Returning to a familiar place is like making contact with a good old friend – you just fit and simply flow from where you last left off – a bit like a comfy pair of slippers. Comforting.

Returning from such travels was almost like experiencing the entire process again, when I’d print a few of the best images of the trip, paste it in an album and transfer all the digital images on to a CD to be stored in the album. Yes, terribly old-fashioned but, hey, whatever floats your boat, or flies your plane, right?

There are places I’ll remember, as the Beatles sang In my Life, that I will never forget. So, I’m using this restricted time in our world to lose myself in the reverie of past travels. Venice’s Grand Canal, the Eighth Wonder of the World, remains in my soul. The architecture, history, food and smaller canals, filled with mystery and romance, not to mention the fact it is submerging faster into the busy waters, brings a smile, yes, that smile on the dial again, to my spirit.

The first time I visited the city of water was in winter. I loved it as it was not crowded, and prices were more affordable. Never one to stick to the beaten track, I strolled along the quiet walkways after the usual visit to the museums and the energy of St Mark’s Square. It is heaven getting lost in Venice.

The magic of Venice.

This is how I discovered some hidden gems frequented by the locals for shopping and dining. I have never tasted such delicious risotto, known as Risi e Bisi, comprising rice, peas and onion, cooked separately and mixed together in a final delicioso symphony of aromas and flavours. After all, it used to be served to the Doge! The fried sardines covered in onions fried in the same oil, hit the culinary spot too, if memory serves me well.

I remember being rather cold at the time, wearing only a trendy trench coat over my light winter wool sweater and purchased two woollen wraps, which were surprisingly affordable. I still wear them and reminisce about Venice every time I embrace their luxe comfort.

My second visit to Venice, about eleven years later, did not start off as the ideal summer getaway but once I removed myself from the cause of my discontent, I had a superb time. It was hot and balmy, so, I marched into Alajmo on St Mark’s Square and the attentive waiter served me the tallest, most delicious pink gin and tonic I’d ever seen – at 10 am in the morning. 

My new friends in Venice.

I also had some delicious olives to complement this elixir. Soon, my traumatic experience was but a vague, distasteful memory as I sat there observing the energy of the crowd comprising visitors from around the world, albeit from a safe distance. All was well with the world.

A gorgeous young couple was seated at the adjacent table and they had just got married, still wearing their wedding outfits and they’d gone to shop for clothes after their intimate ceremony in a little chapel nearby. They were so beautiful, enveloped in this bright romantic light of love. I offered to take their picture and they were thrilled. Not wishing to intrude, I kept to myself but they insisted I join them for a drink to celebrate their joy.

After another ice-cold pink gin and tonic, I left the lovebirds from Kent to bask in their nuptial bliss, donned my sunhat and walked to the quieter canals to savour some tranquil spaces with the locals. Eventually, I took a water taxi along the Grand Canal, where I found a delightful vantage point to observe the throng. This time, I settled down to a scrumptious antipasto followed by a memorable Baccala, comprising creamed cod with yellow polenta, followed by a digestivo…indeed, the good life!

The terraced apartment I’d choose to stay in…

The train ride back to Lake Como, where I was staying, afforded me time to remember every moment of a day that became special because I’d made a decision to make it so. I even chose the terraced apartment I’d live in should I ever return – dreams are free…

Fashion patrol

The gorgeous tribe of Instagram fashionistas and lifestyle bloggers I encounter on my Sixty_is_the_new_40 Insta page continue to inspire me and never have I welcomed such supportive interaction of a sisterhood of likeminded women from across the globe more than now.

A versatile woollen wrap from Venice, acquired so long ago.

Viewing the summer styles currently enjoying plenty exposure in Europe and the USA, I’m looking forward to digging in my timeless wardrobe for ideas to get that boho chic back on track. Happy to see some classics, such as wide-legged pants, wide belts and espadrilles will be there to get my fashion game up.

The LBD – a woollen dress bought in Paris a long time ago still works its magic in my wardrobe.

However, for now, I’m still savouring every snug moment of winter, hauling out wraps, woollen coats, and scarves in bright colours to brighten up any wintery day.

Adding some attitude to the classic LBD – burgundy boots as well as a funky leather jacket from Italy, acquired some years ago, complemented by a vintage scarf.

Speaking of fashion, as I’ve always felt it was closely related to art, I’ve been bingeing on a series titled The Art of More. Well, not only will you see fabulous fashion chic but superb acting. Having dabbled in the art world briefly in my heyday as publicist, this certainly is an eye-opener. The cast is sterling, with the enigmatic Kate Bosworth and, to my mind, the new love-to-hate-him bad boy, Dennis Quaid. Addictive stuff, be warned, so get the popcorn a poppin’.

A vintage woollen dress from Italy gets hauled out of its temporary slumber in my closet for my citizenship ceremony. Slow fashion…

It was on a chilly winters day I was granted citizenship of this beautiful country and my online facilitator expressed his salutations to my dressing for the auspicious virtual video occasion. How could I not? I wore what I’d have worn to the ceremony, had it not been postponed indefinitely as a result of the lockdown. I was concerned the video call might not feel as special as I’d hoped but it turned out to be a most memorable experience. 

As it occurred on a Friday, I naturally partook of a few glasses of delicious bubbles afterwards, kindly delivered by my delightful neighbours, who happen to produce a superior brand of sparkling wine at Immerse Wine in Dixons Creek, Yarra Valley. Cheers, mates, I’m really chuffed.

Here’s to fashion therapy, long may it live, and cheers to the good life, sweeties, stay safe, be brave and don’t forget to dance, even if it’s only in your head…

Ends.

Lady sings no blues

By Tilly Smith Dix

The sunrise magic of the Yarra Valley.

We will all have our stories of woe and joy to tell when this COVID-19 lockdown eventually ends. In some instances, that story may be a rather meaty book, me thinks.

What I have learned during this time will hopefully help me deal with situations differently in the future. I see this as a positive.

What I have learned during this lockdown

I am quite mutable and accommodating, until I feel I’m being manipulated, managed, disrespected or bossed. I get rebellious and claustrophobic, triggering memories of similar predicaments in the past.

I now speak my truth and I try to do so kindly, and if it is not appreciated, I can live with it. Our mental health, now more than ever, is of great importance, after all.

Thank you, smutty, sneaky Corona, you have not beaten me (and this is one test I’m happy to say, I tested negative for), as you have made me stronger and more determined than ever to live my best life and not tolerate bad behaviour from anyone in my fold.

Boundaries and respect are key elements in relationships and here, I hear the voice of reason from my late dad. 

Dad could sense BS, my sweet mother never could. I am the product of both of these amazing folks and, I’m not sorry to admit, the older I get, the more I’m my father’s child. When he was your friend, he was generous, kind and warm. However, if you disrespected him or overstepped boundaries, your ticket was punched, he’d communicate his disappointment to you. He’d forgive you and not bear a grudge. However, you had no return ticket.

Time to say goodbye

Some very dear friends lost loved ones before lockdown. There is nothing more final than death. I knew I could not erase their pain. I simply sent them regular messages to let them know I was thinking of them. Having been friends for so many years, they knew, whenever they were ready, I’d call to talk and listen. Until then, I was with them in thought. Yes, you feel helpless when folks you love are in pain, however, you also have to realise you cannot fix their pain. Only they can work through it and time, hopefully, eases the pain and makes their loss more bearable.

I was having a conversation with one of these treasured friends and we were discussing divorce and the pain suffered by so many people going through breakups.

Having lost both her father and her husband in death last year, my treasured friend was appalled at the cowardly way some people leave relationships. Her words resonate, deeply: “Life is precious and yes, people change, and they fall out of love – or their values change and they wish to continue on a different path to the one they’d committed to with their partner. However, NEVER leave without saying goodbye. Do the right thing. Face the music, play open cards, be honest.

“Breaking up is never easy but just man up or woman up before you close the door. Tomorrow, that partner you abandon could get run over by a bus, contract a terrible disease, or virus, and you’d never rid yourself of the guilt of having behaved like a coward by just disappearing from a life you had committed to. UNLESS they have a gun and you know they’d use it.”

Of course, domestic violence, we agreed, calls for different measures and one word comes to mind: RUN. Then, never look back. Yes, this sounds flippant but having seen plenty of that as a journalist, that calls for another blog, another time.

Back to the good life

Many grandparents have lamented the fact they could not spend time with their beloved little people during this pandemic. I’m thrilled to have been the sounding board for one of my much-adored munchkins, who chose me to critique her reading prowess on Facetime. 

Cameron is eight and a half and I believe her mum has done a superb job in home-schooling. I can only imagine trying to harness three youngsters into a home-schooling routine. Salutations, Helen.

Yes, I know, usually my blog is more light-hearted, including fun places to travel to and dine at. This, sadly, is not a topic to be covered at the moment as travel is on hold for some time, everywhere.

Tourism is suffering and destinations coveted by many are in lockdown until further notice. However, there is light at the end of this dreary COVID-19 tunnel.

Some luxury hotels and lodges are now offering voucher systems, whereby guests can pay it forward. For example, purchase a voucher at a highly reduced rate and book your dates later. This creates revenue for the hotels and lodges, affording them the means to continue improvements and stepping up their operations, conservation and eco-tourism, whilst implementing strict health and safety measures to ensure guests enjoy a dream holiday without risk of contracting the dreadful virus.

Waterhole parade of elephants at Tau Game Lodge

Word in the industry is prices will drop at first but, once tourism is back on track, rates will escalate to cover the losses suffered during lockdown.

In my previous blog I published a link to eco-friendly five-star Tau Game Lodge in the Madikwe Reserve of South Africa, which offers a 24/7 safari indulgence on its live webcam at: : http://taugamelodge.co.za/main-lodge/live-webcam/     –  for more on the safari voucher trend and a chance to win an additional night at Tau, go to: http://jozistyle.joburg/tau-competition/  

Romance is still blooming and planning a wedding or honeymoon at Tau is eloquently reviewed by Wersha Bharadwa at: https://www.weddingideasmag.com/tau-game-lodge-review-safari-honeymoon/

Stay home

Bingeing on movies and series have become the norm and quite frankly, if anyone ever says watching more than four hours of television a day is detrimental to your mental health, I’ll slug them. I now know how, having watched some kick-ass movies lately.

It has SAVED my mental health as I, like many others, have had way too much to contemplate and worry about during this trying time and there comes a day when you just DO NOT WANT TO THINK. You meditate for so long before even that starts doing your head in.

Having worked long hours for many years, I missed out on movies and series that could have brought many lighter moments into my, often, stressful work routine.

Well, I’ve been making up for lost time, BIG time. Older series such as Diagnosis Murder, Nash Bridges, Becker and Friends have made me giggle and it is fun trying to remember the era of your life during which those series were filmed. Sets you off on a whole new track, in fact, mostly a carefree one…

Made at home – Moroccan lamb stew with brown rice

A movie I missed some years ago and managed to watch on SBS on Demand this week was the delightful Florence Jenkins Foster. Hugh Grant, Meryl Streep and Simon Helberg bring this poignant story, based on Florence’s life, into perspective. At times hilarious, one cannot help but feel admiration for this woman, who was so much more than a rich, wannabe opera star – with a terrible voice.

In fact, a beloved relative, now sadly in the foggy confusion of dementia, told me about seeing this movie with some of her then social club members some years ago when she was still operating on all cylinders, which included driving her car when aged 90.

Her verbal review on the movie was brief, and it went something like this, “I cannot understand why this actress was cast in this role. She sure as heck cannot sing. They should have cast someone with a better voice.” 

Adorable, right? I gently explained, at the time, that Meryl Streep was indeed a pretty good singer but the character she portrays in the movie was obviously tone deaf. I was given a disbelieving glance and offered some tea, whereby the subject was closed.

Kath, this adored relative, used to love walking and, somehow, I think of her when I walk around my scenic local lake, where we are now allowed to partake of exercise whilst adhering to social distancing.

I never tire of the sublime beauty and constant surprises offered by nature on my doorstep. My current passion at the lake is watching the darters fish, frolic and sun themselves after feasting. 

I never realised they were also known as snakebirds until I noticed one in the water, with just its long neck protruding, and I honestly thought it was a snake. It tossed fish out of the water and caught it mid-air, the rest of its body only emerging from the water to dry its mighty wings in the sun on a rock, clearly marked by its excrement.

A darter dries its wings after feasting at Lilydale Lake

The darter’s swanlike grace in the autumn sun stopped me in my stride. Ain’t Mother Nature grande.

Walking, of course, stimulates the appetite and I am always keen to return home to defrost a home cooked dish from my stash. My current favourite is scrumptious Moroccan lamb stew. Jamie Oliver would be proud of me.

Reading, as always, has proved a further saviour of sanity during this time and I’m so enjoying reading one of my favourite authors, the late great Pat Conroy, ‘s Beach Music again. I read it years ago and am savouring every word of the superb Southern scribe’s stories again. He certainly could string a sentence together and spin a fascinating yarn…

Fashion therapy

With fashion stores closed for so long, online sales are booming here in the land of Oz. Good news indeed as that part of the economy might survive this pandemic. 

As always, my fashion Instagram page has offered welcome respite from lockdown-blues as I get to rummage through my closet, get creative, improve my photographic skills and be girly.

Further inspiration came from an unexpected series discovered on SBS On Demand, Made in Italy. What a treat as it took me back to that epic fashion revolution that took place in Italy in the 70s. I always coveted Italian style, not to mention their superbly designed shoes. My first outfit and killer heels were purchased at a friend’s mother’s boutique, which specialised in Italian designs. It was a fashion investment as I wore those shoes and outfit for many years.

In the TV series, the gorgeous Irene, editorial assistant at a fashion publication in Milan, waxes lyrical about how a great belt and shoes will elevate an ordinary outfit. Never a truer fashion word spoken. Having travelled to Milan and cherished every stylish moment, not to mention the delicious cuisine during my stay, I felt I was part of the crew.

Imagine interviewing a young Armani, Valentino or the incredible Missoni team as a cub fashion reporter. Fashion Nirvana, I’d say. I do hope there’s a second series, I can hardly wait…ah, and that romantic scene, and setting, at Lake Como was the proverbial cherry on the tiramisu for me. Been there too, so, this was a two-for-the-price-of-one for me: fashion and travel: a winning combination for this down memory lane tripper.

I’ve also been lucky with a few unexpected fashion gifts to beautify my Instagram page @Sixty_is_the_new_40 and mixing these up with classic outfits to complement current trends is pure fashion eden…

Bigger jackets are back on trend and having walked down that bumpy big-shoulder-pad road before, I’m wiser this time around. I recently had some classic big blazers altered to be more tapered for my small frame. I’ll leave the bigger shoulders to the younger and taller gals. They’d rock it so much better.

That’s the beauty of growing older, you don’t follow blindly when it comes to fashion as you’ve learned to bend the trend to suit your own style.

Cheers to the good life, being wiser, defying age, being true to ourselves and comfortable in our skin – we WILL get through this. We will emerge from this chrysalis and flutter and glide like the spectacular butterflies we are, richer in spirit from the many lessons we have learned during this trying time…

END.

Paying it forward to travel

by Tilly Smith Dix

During this strange global time and travel now being on hold until the world settles after the health lockdowns, armchair travel, or virtual travel, seems the ideal way to escape the news of the world and isolation blues – or simply Pay it Forward to secure a flexible travel safari date at Tau Game Lodge in South Africa for you and your partner – or family…

Booking dates are flexible and these are the special voucher packages on offer at this world-renowned 5-star safari destination. Valid for a travel date of your choice between May and November 2020, subject to availability – flexible for later dates, depending on Government travel restrictions.

The Tau Lion Special 2020: Treat the Lion King in your life to our pride voucher @R13,750 per couple sharing for two nights (actual value R19,757). The package includes: accommodation, 3 meals per day, 2 game drives per day, drinks and snacks on safari drives, a gift basket (valued R500), a spa voucher to the value of R150 when spending R300 or more, which could be used towards any treatments or spa products as well as a Tau Curio store voucher to the value of R300 (when spending R600 or more) and all levies. When booking for 2021, the rate would be R17,780 (actual value R27,960).

The Tau Lioness Special 2020: Treat the lioness in your life to our pride voucher @R13,750 per couple sharing for 2 nights (actual value R19,757). The package includes: 2 nights’ accommodation, 3 meals per day, 2 game drives per day, drinks and snack on safari drives, a 30-minute couples back and neck massage (a deep tissue back massage to relax tight, sore muscles), a bottle of sparkling wine in the room PLUS a romantic bed turn-down on the 1st night, and all levies. When booking for 2021, the rate would be R17,780 (actual value R27,960).

The above vouchers exclude: all items ordered from the bar, curio purchases, telephone usage, laundry services and all other extras. Drinks consumed at the lodge are charged on consumption.

Full advance payment is required to purchase vouchers – email taugame@mweb.co.za

The highly addictive Tau live webcam will keep you mesmerized on: http://taugamelodge.co.za/main-lodge/live-webcam/

Daily sightings via the Tau Game Lodge live webcam at the world-renowned waterhole include: African wild dog, elephant, lion, the entire spectrum of antelope, a plethora of birdlife, all stealthily observed by the residing crocodiles…

The Tau Game Lodge team ensures your safari needs are met with their warm, efficient, 5-star service, whilst nature provides a superb canvas for game to be observed in its most prolific form.

For 25 years Tau Game Lodge has enthralled visitors from every corner of the planet, including honeymooners, conference guests, families and groups of friends who simply want to celebrate the best a safari could possibly offer.

Familiar with the habits and quirks of every species of game, including the Big Five, and birdsspotted along the way, the rangers inform you about nature’s medicine chest, comprising the medicinal aspects of the flora you encounter along the way. They extend their heart-felt knowledge over dinner, which makes for memorable conversations under the stars around a camp fire, as well as in the modern out-of-Africa ambience of the Tau indoor dining areas.

The background sounds of the bush, from a lion’s roar to the barking of a jackal or the trumpeting of an elephant, are just some of the myriad safari memories to be made at Tau.

The lodge is enclosed within the reserve, resulting in the humans being subtly fenced in, while game, including several crocodiles, roam free, including the spectacular birdlife.

The Tau Cubz ClubTau Spa Oasis and Tau Conference Centre make this an ideal malaria-freedestination for romantic, family, leisure or corporate safaris. The two lodge swimming pools, of which one is an infinity pool, also offer vistas of the bush and waterhole. G&T, darling?

Tau Game Lodge opened its 5-star safari doors in 1995 and offers 30 rooms, from Standard to Luxury to Family Suites.

+27-(0)11-466 8715/17 – taugame@mweb.co.za – www.taugamelodge.co.za

ends.

Strange times and silver linings

The good life before our world changed

By Tilly Smith Dix

My first visit to Australia sparked a kinship with several dream locations. The first was the idyllic bays of Sydney in New South Wales, including Rosebay and Manly, then I travelled along the Mornington Peninsula of Victoria, close to Melbourne, where the ocean views evoked memories from my childhood on the Garden Route of South Africa.

Boarding a large ferry, reminiscent of travels on the choppy English Channel to Calais, but just so much prettier, from the delightful and aptly named Sorrento to Queenscliff in Victoria, Australia on that epic first visit to this country, took my breath away on a diamond bright, summers day.

Not long after that, I discovered Mount Dandenong with its quaint, picturesque villages dotted along a region fondly known as The Hills, and its nearby wine county sister shire in the Yarra Valley. I knew if ever I moved to Australia, I’d wish to live in one of these locations.

Now, ten years since that enlightening journey, I have been living in the Yarra Valley for several years and still savour every moment of exploring this fascinating region of Victoria.

Caption: clockwise from top right: Arthur’s Seat Cable Way; Rika Keyser; scenic drive in Red Hill; Dromana Beach and Dromana Pier.

The Mornington Peninsula

I count myself extremely lucky, with no less than two caring new friends living on the Mornington Peninsula. No, I did not run a contest to find the best gals in a dream locale, it was tempting but fate was kind.

One of them, the gorgeous Rika, a fellow former South African who moonlights at Mornington Peninsula Tourism, recently took me on a mystery drive, which introduced me to a whole new aspect of the region, the delightful boutique wine trail.

The drive through hills, forests, olive groves and vineyards, with dazzling views of the ocean, drew me closer to the region and I promised to visit often – and soon.

We dined at Green Olive on the Redhill trail, where we enjoyed a mild late-summers day, our outdoor table positioned next to one of the rustic veggie patches of the restaurant, offered tranquil vistas of the olive groves and a large pond, surrounded by trees and presided over by ducks. The ducks wander into the olive grove, where they happily dine on the odd weed infiltrating the grove. Putting nature to work, perfect.

Caption: clockwise from top right: sunrise over the Yarra Valley; rainbow lorikeet in my neighbours’ cape myrtle tree; the Green Olive; Cathy in autumn mode; golden sunrise over the Yarra Valley.

The Tapas Menu was a triumph and I intend working my way through more of the same next time. The local tipple of bubbles was not disappointing either.

We then drove to Arthur’s Seat, where visitors were making the most of a perfect day to enjoy the spectacular views from the gondolas of the cable way. Murray’s Look-Out commemorates Lieut. John Murray, who named the mountain Arthur’s Seat in 1802.

Rika is a walker and has established several walking groups in the region. Driving down the mountain, we stopped for a brief stroll along Dromana Pier and the crystal-clear waters of the bay proved further balm for the soul.

Returning to her home in Mount Martha, Rika provided me with a further scenic tour via Safety Beach, where boats of every size and description abound. I recall looking down from the highway to Sorrento years ago, thinking this could be an ideal spot to live as it brought back memories of my teens living in a sailing community on the Swartkops River Estuary in the Eastern Cape of South Africa.

All this within 75km of Melbourne. What’s not to love. Lucky me, my friend is so knowledgeable about tourism in the region, I suggested she started her own day-tour agency. When our world returns to normal, AC (after Covit-19), ask for Rika Keyser at the Mornington Tourism hubs. She knows her stuff.

A week later, I returned to Mount Martha, this time to enjoy a leisurely home-cooked lunch at my gorgeous Italian friend Rosaria’s home. Her charming husband Cisto was not at all fazed having two talkative Sagittarian gals sharing stories. Well, he is Italian and they do seem to have a greater understanding of the female psyche. He even managed to get a word in edgeways.

Caption: clockwise from top right: Ashley Kahan, Rika Keyser and Ronel Burger; salmon and zucchini at The Pontoon; watermelon cake at Black Star Pastry; the tribe arrives at The Pontoon; St Kilda Street scene; St Kilda beach; ducks and pond at the Green Olive.

Another gorgeous day in paradise and I’m happy to say their adorable feline approved of me. Rosaria’s spinach ricotta lasagne was scrumptious and it went down great with the bottle of Immerse Sparkling Brut I took along from the Yarra Valley. (Another spot to have a wedding, renew wedding vows or book a delicious weekend lunch, of course, is Immerse at Dickson’s Creek. Tell them I sent you!)

I went prepared and driving home from the charming Rosaria and Cisto’s cosy home, I listened to some of my favourite Italian crooners, which included Andrea Bocelli and Il Volo.

St Kilda, Melbourne

A further sensory overload of the best kind was a catchup over lunch with some of my South African tribeswomen here in Melbourne. Always sanguine, they are a delightful bevy of gals. This time, we met under the clocks at Flinders Station, from where we caught a tram to St Kilda.

Our visit to the Rain Room, presented by The Jackalope Art Collection on the Jackalope Pavilion, was surreal. It was a most ambition curation, which the ladies enjoyed thoroughly. No umbrellas required as visitors are not supposed to get wet, given the sensors depicting the human form and only spilling ‘rain’ around them. However, you had to keep at arms-length to allow the sensors to do their job. A training exercise for what was to come when social distancing became a new rule in our world, but how were we to know…

Some guy ignored the rule of not moving rapidly and keeping his distance as he wanted to catch up with his wife. This resulted in little old me getting soaked as he rushed past me. I did not shout out as I figured they must be on honeymoon, with him rushing to be by her side and all …

I had to lock my city-slicker heels in a locker and wear the smallest pair of Crocs the organisers could offer on loan to walk on the metal grid platform of the Rain Room, which turned out to be like boats on my bony feet, causing enormous mirth among my compatriots. Minnie Mouse came to mind. Proud to say, I took it on the chin, ha.

En route to lunch after the exhibition, we popped in for a decadent coffee and what is described as the most Instagrammed cake in Melbourne – the strawberry watermelon cake at Black Star Pastry. It tastes even more dreamy than it looks. Highly recommended and we all agreed to return soon.

Serendipity dining in St Kilda is not always recommended as restaurants were usually busy but after a scenic stroll along the Esplanade, we decided we needed to dine with a view of the bay. This was indeed a splendid walk down memory lane as on my first visit to Melbourne, a few years prior to moving here, I had a delicious but very basic meal of the catch of the day and potato wedges at the now beautifully renovated Pontoon.

Some years ago, it was almost destroyed in a fire and the owners have turned it into an outstanding, contemporary bar and restaurant with a dreamy view of the bay. It reminded me of lunches overlooking the pier and ocean in Malibu, California. However, I found The Pontoon more classy, with a convivial vibe, excellent service and scrumptious cuisine.

My perfectly grilled Tasmanian salmon with sautéed zucchini and mushroom was simply perfect. The rest of the girls agreed, this was a restaurant fit for many return visits from our tribe. The chicken and roasted cauliflower looked a treat too. After a glass – and more by some, no names, right – we reluctantly made our departure to board a tram back to Flinders Street Station, where we all caught our respective trains home before rush hour. We are united in our love for our city and our adoptive country.

When our world changed

Two weeks later I had my second cataract surgery, another sterling job by Dr David Frazer and his amazing team at Yarra Ranges Health. Then the world, as we know it, changed, probably forever.

Covid-19, the Coronavirus, now referred to as China’s virus of shame, took the world by surprise. The wet markets of Wuhan in China are reportedly a hotbed of possible viruses carried by wildlife sold as pets and food. This, apparently, is where this virus spread to humans.

Bats and other wildlife will carry viruses, which their specific species are equipped to handle. However, when such animals are placed in close proximity to other wildlife, especially in the stressful conditions of captivity, disease will occur. So far, the most informative link about this pandemic I have found is on CNN Live TV, written by Nick Walsh and Vasco Cotovio.

In the meantime, countries are closing borders, schools are closing until further notice and offering home school solutions. Airlines have retrenched staff, pilots are advised of earlier retirement whilst in self-isolation after international flights, and people are getting sick and dying. The aged and frail are most vulnerable.

Life is surreal and we see dystopia unfolding. What seemed macabre when watching series such as The Handmaid’s Tale stream not so long ago, we are now in the midst of immense uncertainty. People self-isolate or are ordered to do so, depending on their individual situation. Public transport is a problem as social distancing is tough on a full train, tram, bus – or plane!

Further concerns are that of this animal virus, now easily transferred to humans, being transferred back to their pets and other animals too. Scientists around the world are in a race to find a cure and a vaccine.

Much washing of hands, sanitising, wearing masks and ensuring there is enough loo paper and dry foods while we are in lockdown, are the new normal.

A week after my eye surgery, I had a sore throat, after which my glands kicked into overdrive. I ensured I had enough food and supplies for 2 weeks and have self-isolated since then. I called the Corona Hotline and my symptoms did not qualify for a test. I was relieved.

Silver linings

I’m happy to report I’m feeling better but as we are now in stage three of the current lockdown, I’m going nowhere, unless it’s to buy essentials and for crucial medical check-ups. Having to postpone a dinner with much adored family I’d not seen for some time was tough but the decision to keep them safe was not hard. This will pass and we will see each other again to break bread, drink wine and contemplate the strange time we have managed to overcome.

Further silver linings, my social media platforms are gaining more followers every day as we cannot spend all our time working from home, cooking, cleaning, meditating or worrying about the unknown. We need to interact with likeminded souls, albeit in a virtual world. So, while Mother Earth is having a welcome respite from abusive humans to some extent, we become more aware of not only our need to communicate but the need for others to feel a sense of belonging too.

Then, there is television. A good movie or series always proves pure escapism for me and I’ve been catching up on movies I never saw when they were on circuit years ago. I guess I was working too hard? Don’t Look Now, with Donald Sutherland and the gorgeous Julie Christie had me spellbound. The trend of streaming series has also taken my fancy. Whiskey Cavalier is great fun, and Maggie Q is mesmerising in Nikita.

This isolation has resulted in my passion for stylish fashion being stepped up and doing my own photography for my Instagram fashion page (Sixty_is_the_new_40), has resulted in my technique improving rapidly. Setting the timer for lights, camera and action is kinda fun. Cathycat seems to enjoy the energy I generate during such shoots and being a diva, she thinks it her right to wander into a shot any time she pleases. Problem is, the camera captures the back of her, and I know she’d never approve such a shot as her piquant form is not featured from the best angle. Pear-shaped, says I in a stage whisper…

Caption: autumn vibes and self-isolation become more fun when a girl can play with her vintage wardrobe and spruce it up for a new season. My two hero-pieces, the shawl-coat from Zara (centre), and the knitted forest green dress, (centre far right), is a Witchery Fashion treasure – see more fashion fun on Instagram @Sixty_is_the_new_40

I have always loved autumn and the current colours are reminiscent of the Seventies, when rich ochres, warm browns and deep forest greens were the colours of choice. Of course, black and beige never date in my wardrobe, so, it makes for an organic palette to play with when mixing textures and styles to bring some new zest to a mature wardrobe.

I’m pleased to see folks are dressing up for skype and online video meetings – dress up and show up, I say, even when in lockdown, be fabulous. Not sure how to show off killer heels to add some spunk but I think I’ll rest my feet on the desk when I have a virtual meeting again. Could be fun, after all, my new motto is I’m older, not over…

Shoes, of course, play a major role in style and mood and I’m delighted to say I do not need to spend another blue dime on shoes or boots for autumn as I’m sorted. Before packing the season’s shoes into their covers and boxes for hibernation out of season, I clean the leather with beeswax and lanolin. Where required, they are also given a thorough water-resistant leather spray to prevent any damp from damaging the leather. I have shoes that have lived in my closet for about 20 years and now they are back on trend!

I’m ready and my humble ivory tower with million-dollar views of the verdant valley, is not such a bad place to hole up during these unusual times. I still get awakened by possums on their nocturnal journey and the birdlife remains unparalleled.

When it was announced on the news that Coles and Woolworths were offering preferential shopping on weekdays between 7 and 8am for senior citizens and frail people with disabilities, my response was, “how thoughtful to consider these folks.” Then I realised I was one of them. I did have a giggle but wasted no time getting to Coles to stock up with necessary groceries and what has also become known as white gold, loo paper. Why people have been stockpiling these is beyond me but hey, who am I to judge. We all have our passions, hie.

Virtual travels

As for travel, that is a luxury we have to put in the pending folder for now. However, I’m savouring the trend of virtual travel and The Australian recently published a superb article about armchair travel, in which they mention the world-renowned Tau Game Lodge in Madikwe Reserve in South Africa’s North-West, bordering Botswana. I recall dream safaris here, so, be transported and check https://www.taugamelodge.co.za/main-lodge/live-webcam/    the 24/7 live webcam – you’ll be voluntarily glued to your armchair for some time, so, I suggest you get your nibbles and G&Ts sorted before you get into sublime safari mode. Just you and the game at a waterhole…see more online travel in The Australian at: https://www.theaustralian.com.au/travel/virtual-travel-comes-alive-with-live-streams-webcams-and-tours-online/news-story/8f07088330c5a4f823f233886d6174c7

Plenty humour going about of course, thank the lawdy for that, and I found it a hoot when an Instagram friend posted the following: “I have a luxury, super-soft, pack of 20 toilet rolls. I’m looking to trade it for a cottage by the sea.” Another giggle was posted by a Facebook friend: “Tell Dolly to tell Jolene she can come take my man.” Lockdown drama abounds, I hear. Keep smiling and keep laughing, it’s good for the soul.

Let’s hang in there, look after ourselves and each other – and be safe. Love thy neighbour and I must say, I have been blessed with the best. They even acquired an extra chook so I could have an egg a day from the feathered ladies I offer my fruit and veg scraps to every day.

Cheers to the good life, perhaps not the one we are used to, but we can do this…

Embracing the roaring 20s

By Tilly Smith Dix

The year 2019 was an interesting, and often challenging year and I’d like to think of it as a time to deal with karmic issues, mostly relating to past lives. For those who do not believe in reincarnation and completing lessons from a previous life, simply see it as an uphill struggle.

I have to admit, I was keen to see the back of it and am embracing every sweet moment of 2020. Yes, the farewell to the past was bittersweet, ending with an emotional rollercoaster of the worst kind. To top that, this beautiful country was burning in the worst possible way, with human lives, properties, livelihoods, homes, animals, wildlife habitat and everything to sustain their worlds lost in raging fires.

So many people have come together, uniting in offering assistance in any way, big or small, to people and animals in distress during this time. I was thrilled to hear that DSassi, a gorgeous boutique in Maling Road, was donating proceeds of their sales to the cause. I love the versatile white Italian linen shirt-dress I acquired from them on my birthday, which is proving a hit on my fashion Instagram page @Sixty_is_the_new_40…

I have covered some of the devastation on my Facebook page, so, for now, I wish to focus on the good and not the ugly as so many of my loyal followers have told me how much they look forward to my uplifting news and stories. I’ll try not to disappoint this time but had to mention the sadness and I wish for this country, its people and its animals to rise from the ashes and be stronger, resilient and more united than ever before.

Needless to say, the end of a year should come with a warning sign, “do not over-indulge,” as it is the time for good folks to get together to break bread and raise a glass of elixir – or too many.

Caption: from top left, clockwise: Cameron, Ashton and Olivia telling Santa they’ve been good; my birthday gift from Country Road; Aunty Tilly’s ‘famous’ pavlova.

My birthday proved a feast of three days, lucky me. Wonderful friends, who are like family as we chose to love each other, took me for lunch at BetweenUs on the historically charming Maling Road off Canterbury Road. It was a treat spending time with them and their two smart, gorgeous and entertaining kids.

The ambience was festive and sophisticated, the service stellar and the cuisine a triumph. My Italian-themed chicken schnitzel, with parmesan, a green salad and mustard potatoes, was succulently more-ish.

The following day, Sunday, my little Melbourne family took me for lunch at Meletos in the Yarra Valley, which I have reviewed on my blog before and it did not disappoint. Those designer pizzas are sinfully delicious and I love the thin crust – you feel less guilty about being naughty with those carbs.

Caption, lunch with the gorgeous South African tribe in Melbourne at The George; and the image top right is a famous landmark in Sassafras.

The next day my lovely friend Rika drove from Mount Martha on the Mornington Peninsula to meet me in Sassafras, where the hearty breakfast menu at Ripe was perhaps too hearty but I finished every morsel anyway. Ever tried pulled pork (slow roasted) on potato rosti and poached egg with hollandaise? It hits the spot, no contest.

The run-up to year-end is also about Christmas parties and I must admit, I’ve missed those gatherings with clients and friends, which I took for granted for so many years, now living in another country.

In early December, the fabulous South African women in Melbourne Facebook group gathered at The George. The gathering of the tribe was arranged by the lovely Ashley, who has lived in Melbourne since her late teens and is reminiscing her roots by mixing with all of us newbies.

The venue is stunning, the service smooth and the food ticked my every discerning box to perfection. I polished off my perfectly grilled Asian-spiced steak and used a second glass of bubbles as the excuse to help my digestive system deal with such a big chunk of meat.

Conversation, as always, was effervescent and brimmed with comradery. Such a joy, having bonded with these beautiful souls. We all agree, we did not move to another country to launch a new South African colony. However, it is heart-warming to spend time with women who just understand each other and accept each other without judgement. Sisters unite.

Ten days before my birthday in December, I had cataract surgery and was given the all-clear to drive after a post-op eye test on my birthday morning. I was so thrilled and not surprised as the surgery was successful. I HIGHLY recommend the Yarra Ranges Health Services.

The Lilydale day clinic, where the surgery was performed, has a superb team and I was in my element as they comprised Australians as well as a surgeon and staff from across the planet. I felt I had the best in the world tending to me and you could sense how much they cared and loved their jobs. I’m looking forward to my left eye being operated on by this team soon. Gosh, I just want to adopt them! Will check with my yoga coach if my third eye needs special care too.

Christmas was a comfort and a joy. I spent Christmas Eve with my sweet family and Jason and Helen prepared a veritable feast. I baked my now ‘famous,’ as per the children, pavlova and the children sang Christmas Carols. Little Ashton, just over two years old, was a fast learner, picking up clues from his gorgeous older sisters Cameron and Olivia. They were in top form to show Santa how good they were.

Ashton also gave his stamp of approval for my pavlova. He decided to try it first and like a true master chef, put on his serious face before dipping his spoon into the pav. His little face lit up and he declared this was “very yummy.” Too cute for school, that one.

Caption, from top left, clockwise: Juvenile king parrots seen through my kitchen window;  loving my big white shirt birthday gift from Dsassi; golden deep fried crumbed egg, chorizo, spinach and haloumi on sour dough at Espresso Warriors; featuring some favourites from The Laluna Lifestyle Boutique and Country Road for my Sixty_is_the_new_40 fashion Instagram page.

I did not think I could ever eat again but on Christmas Day I went to friends in the Hills for lunch and again, it was a feast. I took a pavlova and as there was none left after lunch, I assume they enjoyed it. Again, the laughter, kindness and joy of good people and their kids made this another memorable day.

During the Holidays I had to pop to Eastland Shopping Centre in Ringwood for some supplies and treated myself to a delectable brunch. Have you ever had crumbed deep-fried eggs on chorizo, hollandaise, haloumi and spinach? I was blown away. Not only did it look designer but tasted heaven. The fresh watermelon juice proved a perfect complement to the rich textures of this dish at Espresso Warriors.

Of course, this is also the time of year when we dig out our bright Christmas colours to complement Santa and his trimmings. I got really lucky as I received birthday vouchers from two of my favourite brands, Witchery and Country Road, both forever fashion designs. My colours of choice? Vermillion and emerald green. I’m now sorted for several Christmases to come. I’ve always been a fan of summer knits in Italian yarn. Timeless and chic.

With all the eating and quaffing champagne, a girl has to take special care of her skin, of course and my treats arrived in November already from the fabulous Skincare Doctor Direct range in Australia. The Emepelle Serum is ideal during the day as it so light. I used the Circadia light day Sunscreen over that for extra protection in the summer heat and it paid off.

I highly recommend the Emepelle Night Serum. It is nourishing, restorative and lives up to its claim of being luxurious to the touch as my skin certainly feels silky soft. Featuring innovative MEP technology, powerful antioxidants, niacinamide, peptides and hyaluronic acid, it reawakens luminosity in ageing skin.

Twice I week I pamper my skin with the Aspect fruit enzyme mask, followed by the Aspect Hydrating Mask. You’d never know I had anaesthetic or over-indulged in bubbles. Oh, I have to also mention I’d had a bout of glandular fever prior to the Festive Season, so, those meds would also have ruined this mature complexion, normally.

Caption: rejuvenation for the skin from Skincare Doctor Direct in Australia, tried and tested and it gets ten out of ten from this ‘mature’ chook.

Another year-end event was an exhibition of the late great Robert Klippel’s work, titled Assembled, at the Tarrawarra Museum of Art in the Yarra Valley. The man was a master and I’d say a forerunner in recycling materials, ranging from wood to metal – to plastic! Innovative, quirky, brilliant and art to withstand the test of time as well as tell many stories. Some of his work comprises components of original IBM computing. Brilliant.

I don’t travel as much as I used to as my budget no longer allows for it but as life is short and I enjoy the finer things in life, I embrace the myriad eateries and wineries I am surrounded by in this spectacular region and enjoy the train rides into the city for an occasional glam meet-up.

Cheers to the good life – may 2020 be a winner in every way for us all…

Driving in cars, fun on the couch and keeping mum

By Tilly Smith Dix

To the sea…

I’ve always loved driving, even when I got car sick as a little girl, I liked gliding past beautiful scenery. This usually included forests and the ocean along the magnificent Garden Route of South Africa. Garden of Eden, Wilderness and Knysna spring to mind as we lived in George at the foot of George Peak, which is part of the magnificent Outeniqua Mountains.

Memories of sitting on a thick cushion to see through the passenger window of my father’s first car, a green Opel Kapitan, which is now described as 1950s executive-class transport, are precious. The car seemed huge to a little girl and my job was to look after the picnic basket, ensuring nothing rattled as we were driving, with our little black Manx cat, Beertjie (little bear), who loved riding in the car and positioned herself on the backrest of the rear seat, with a wide-angle view through the oval-shaped rear window.

Scenic drives still soothe my soul and living in the panoramic State of Victoria of Australia, I constantly discover new routes to explore. Andrew, the aviator, would prefer to fly but to keep the volume down at home, he will sometimes find himself in the car with me and I know he ends up enjoying the ride almost as much as I do.

Mornington glory – top right, The Rocks.

Last Friday we had a break in the rainy spring weather and drove from our patch overlooking the mountains of the Yarra Ranges to the Mornington Peninsula as I was in desperate need of breathing in the ocean air and gazing out to sea.

I embrace being a constant tourist in my own backyard and this drive delivered joy and beauty in abundance. It took us a mere hour and 10 minutes to reach the town of Mornington, which we’d never explored before but only drove past on our way to Sorrento, which is a favourite haunt of mine.

Mornington was on her best behaviour, with a warm spring sun smiling down over her and a gentle ocean breeze delivering that magical scent I’d been longing for. Her long golden beach and red cliffs beckoned but first, we had to find a restaurant with an ocean view to dine at.

Well, we could not get any closer to the bay, unless we opted to dine on a boat. The Rocks overlooks the yacht basin and is next to the yacht club. Vistas of jetties, boats and pretty beaches made for the best location one could wish for.

The service was superb, the wine, a sparkling rose produced on the Mornington Peninsula, delicious, and the smell of cooking fish proved enticing enough for me to order a fish platter. Sadly, our chosen dishes were over-priced and ordinary. My fish platter was slightly dry and uninteresting and Andrew’s fish burger disappointing too. Plating was unimaginative and we ordered golden fries, which were scrumptious, to pair with our fish as no side-salad, fries or sauce accompanied my platter. The mussels were tasty and fresh, though.

However, nothing was going to spoil this perfect view and our joy shone bright as the couple at the table adjacent to ours started chatting to us. They were delightful and I was not surprised to discover they were Italian by origin and have embraced living on this gorgeous peninsula for many years. Rosaria and Sisto were sent by the gods, who weave the tapestries of life, when people drift into our orbit to leave their mark, often for a season, a reason or forever.

Once our new friends departed, after we’d exchanged contact details and agreed to meet up soon, it was time to stroll on the warm sand and dip my toes in the ocean. No, I did not have a swim as the kelp was creating its own unique tapestry in the surf and I was satisfied simply getting my feet caressed in the gentle waves.

Mornington on the Mornington Peninsula is a visual treat.

On the way home, we listened to a diverse mixture of CDs. South Pacific, performed by Jose Carreras, Kiri Te Kanawa, Sarah Vaughn and Mandy Patinkin. Yes, an unusual mix but it was an old-fashioned sensory overload complementing our gorgeous drive. Memories of my father’s beautiful tenor voice singing Some Enchanted Evening came flooding back and I almost had to flick away a tear.

Our second choice after that impressive musical recording was The Beach Boys. Some may snigger but those boys created some incredible music that has withstood the test of time. Hearing Don’t Worry Baby and God Only Knows brought back memories of my first beach party, where I had a taste of Old Brown Sherry, and falling in love for the first time. Remembering the innocence and dreams of a teen, thoughts of having few regrets washed over me.

Couch indulgences

Living in a country village makes good television desirable as we are some distance from the city. SBS on demand is my current choice for getting cosy on the sofa and Breathe, the story of Robin Cavendish, the longest living responaut in Britain, who was affected by polio at the age of 28, made for excellent viewing. The MBE died in 1994 and his wife Diana, a driving force behind his fighting spirit, is played by the lovely Claire Foy of The Crown. Andrew Garfield is superb in the role of Cavendish.

Another gem, which I’d never heard of, is A Little Chaos, starring the beautiful Kate Winslet, Alan Rickman, Stanley Tucci and the enigmatic Matthias Schoenaerts. Rickman plays King Louis X1V, who employs Kate’s character in the creation of a garden at his Versailles palace. Romance in the shrubs, for sure, and I noticed 48% of viewers reported it a rotten tomato. I disagree and found the movie enchanting with superb acting by the stellar cast.

A further indulgence that has come to my notice, ideal for armchair travellers, is the newly relaunched live webcam at Tau Game Lodge in South Africa’s Madikwe Game Reserve – it should come with a warning, ADDICTIVE  – see for yourself at http://taugamelodge.co.za/main-lodge/live-webcam/

I’m not keen on TV series anymore – too many and sadly, often, the same old same old storylines, formulas and plots. However, I was hooked on the first series of Riviera, starring the mesmerising Julia Stiles and veteran actress Lena Olin, whom I first saw in The Unbearable Lightness of Being many moons ago. The cast includes Jack Fox, who certainly is a fox and from the acting royal family Fox. James Fox is his father, Edward Fox is his uncle and the charming Emilia Fox is his cousin. It’s in the genes…

I was thrilled to see the second series of this riveting saga about the dark side of the art world was now streaming and I promptly binged, watching ten episodes in three days. This is what happens if my spouse does some cross-country flying and I’m working back home. I hope I don’t have to wait long for series three… indulging in the visuals of those dream locations on the French Riviera, which I fell in love with years ago, is a delicious treat.

Fun with fashion and the yummy mummy

Continuing with springter, which has become my new preferred season, I’ve been indulging in spring fashion, whilst never taking my eye off my beloved winter warmers as the weather continues to fluctuate between the two. I’m not complaining as I get to wear my soft cashmere and mohair sweaters half the time, then get to savour the essence of spring on some warmer days.

Why am I not complaining? We’ve already endured a few scorching days and they were grim reminders of my dislike of heat. My body simply was not designed for it and even as a little girl, I used to faint when exposed to hot sun for long. Somehow, it changed briefly in my twenties, when I lived in Cape Town and spent summer days on the beach but I think what probably made it bearable, back then, was plenty of water, a fresh ocean breeze most days, the freezing cold waters of the Atlantic and handsome hunks bearing gifts of iced lollies and Campari and soda. Whenever we did venture to the warmer Indian Ocean side on that magnificent peninsula where two oceans meet, beach time was brief and dining in the cool shaded hubs of Gordon’s Bay was preferable.

Diversity is the fashion hero of our times as anything goes. I’m thrilled to see the soft, flowing femininity of the late Seventies being back on trend and I am besotted with kimono tops, palazzo pants, floral dresses and gypsy-style skirts gracing our wardrobes again. I’m also chuffed (delighted) to have unpacked some such finds, which have been stashed in boxes during our renovation process, so, it’s like having a new wardrobe, unwrapping my vintage stash.

Fashion for springter (winter and spring), anything goes – see more on Instagram page Sixty_is_the_new_40

The casting agency contacted me a few weeks ago to appear in a commercial for Dingo Cement and I was cast as the visiting mother-in-law of a cute young couple wishing to impress her with their attractive new patio floor.

The accomplished talent playing my daughter in the commercial is Katrina Conder and we agreed casting was pretty accurate as we could see a resemblance in our appearance. We had plenty of giggles, getting immersed in our roles, with Katrina often cooing, “love you, Mum,” and me chirping back, “love you too, possum.”

Driving to the shoot location was sheer bliss, as the road from our Yarra Valley to Narre Warren is mostly countryside strewn with pastures, hills, paddocks and scenic beauty. Horses, alpacas and vineyards are included in the scenery along the way.

Clockwise, from top left, pictures left to right: Katrina Conder, Natalie Corteling, Imogen Walsh, Matty Morris, me and Katrina Conder. Scenes from our region.

Filming was on a feistily windy day and our wardrobe stylist Imogen Walsh, and make-up and hair alchemist Natalie Corteling had their work cut out. I tell you, our hair felt a bit like cement after all the hairspray used to make our dos withstand the elements but fun was had by all.

Cheers to the good life – let’s live each day as if it’s the last hoorah. It is impossible to feel jolly every day but it’s worth a try…

When it’s springtime in the valley

by Tilly Smith Dix

So, spring is still a tad illusive but when she shows her pretty smile, she does it in style here in our Yarra Valley, aka, the valley of plenty.

Our planet is in a state of confusion but I’m not going to get hot and heavy about climate change on this blog, not today, anyway, so, I will celebrate the fact that we’ve had some glorious sunshine and mild days, confettied with the colder, wet days and nights.

No use fretting over something we cannot control, Boris, take note, so, on with the fabulous things to do in our region and beyond, immaterial what the weather, or the Mothership Britain, brings.

Don’t mess with my Sherlock

Theatre, which includes amateur theatre in spades, is big in Melbourne and surrounds and we are keen patrons of the 1812 Theatre productions at nearby Ferntree Gully.

Our most recent attendance was for the Ken Ludwig Baskerville Sherlock Holmes Mystery. Have I mentioned that I adore Sherlock Holmes and devoured all the stories I could lay my sleuth-like paws on since my late teens?

To make this brief, which was not the case during my husband and my discussion post-production, I was disappointed. The cast did a great job and I’m sure the director was having loads of fun. However, being a Holmes fan, I was not amused. You see, I take Sherlock seriously and I did not like this scary story being treated as a spoofy comedy. You can set the hounds on me if you wish but I’m sticking to my opinion. I’m too old to change my views, so, there.

Skincare alchemy

I’ve bragged about getting free stuff to review and post on my Sixty_is_the_new_40 Instagram page and boy, did I hit the jackpot with Sarah of http://www.skincaredoctordirect.com sending me a range of their superb products, specifically geared for my ‘mature’ skin.

Pictured above: from top, clockwise: Skincare Doctor Direct alchemy; my glowing skin; wearing my vintage and some new fashion gifts. So pleased blazers are back and this navy @decjuba jacket is now a fashion staple, not to mention the wide-legged linen pants @trenery – see more on my fashion Instagram page @Sixty_is_the_new_40

We agreed I’d be honest and after testing the products, I’d let her have my honest feedback and if the range was not suitable for my skin, I’d not review it further. Honesty is, as they say, the best policy.

Well, I can honestly say she knows her stuff as she spotted me on Instagram and thought I’d be an honest collaborator. She was right and I’m glad we found each other. Her modus operandi is impeccable and as I’m a stickler for honesty in ethos, we’ve been getting along just fine.

I loved the handwritten note which accompanied the handsome-size package with skincare products. Such small gestures make huge impressions.

The Aspect Hydrating Mask is pure magic. Sarah suggested, in that lovely note, that I could, “pop a serum on first, like the little Medik8 Hydra B5, which should be okay around the eyes first, followed by the mask to do its magic overnight. Just a thin layer of each. You will have new skin in the morning and use once or twice a week.”

Yes, I thought, right, ha. Well, I took a picture, no filter and in bright sunlight in my lounge to show the proof of the pudding, or rather, hydrating mask and serum that turned my skin into a dewy, soft, glowing baby’s bottom-like surface (without the rash), by morning.

The rest of the samples included the C25 Vitamin C Serum for daytime use, followed by a K Centric moisturiser broad spectrum SPF50. LOVE the results and have not hollered at the image in the mirror for at least two weeks.

The Hydra B5 if for extra moisture and ideal for AM and PM use on damp skin after cleansing and I find it light, yet super effective.

It is a known fact that we lose collagen as we age, sadly, and the Tensage antioxidant defence serum is superb. It differs from the C25 serum as it has a stronger Vit C content and includes growth factors. Sarah warned that growth factor products ARE expensive but amazing and she is right. Worth every dollar, I say.

I did find the Tensage defense serum a little rich, whereby I cut down my applications to twice a week only and that works beautifully for me. I guess I’m lucky with good genes from the beautiful parents, long gone to heaven and I thank them, as I often do, for many things I feel blessed with.

So, the eyes, oh dear, the eyes. The windows to the soul and a dead bloody giveaway of our age too. I spend a tiny fortune on good eye cream as I’m trying to fool myself and the world, especially on days I wake up feeling 19 until I look in the mirror and yell at the old chook in the mirror.

Well, the Tensage radiance eye cream, again with growth factors, is a freaking marvel! I could see the results after three days! How IS that even possible? Sarah tells me the range is massively popular in the USA with cosmetic surgeons and still new here in Australia. Well, I see that changing rapidly as it is a wonderful elixir for those crepe lines that creep up on us over the years. Laden with Vitamins C, A, B5 and E, I love the products.

I must also add, I am a stickler for supplements and as I take most of these vitamins orally, I reckon feeding the skin on the surface with the same goodness has to be advantageous.

The Glow oil from Medik8 is a delight, especially on days when you feel a tad prunish and is ideally used over serums under a day or night cream. Again, those lucky genes of mine, or perhaps the Champagne I so adore, proved this a tiny bit rich as I discovered a few spots like a teen but they were manageable. So, I reduced the use to twice a week only to give my skin a rocket up the proverbial when required and it took notice, big time.

Verdict? I’m now an uber fan of Skincare Doctor Direct in Australia. Send Sarah your questions and give your skin the magical boost it deserves before we bare all for summer – see more at http://www.skincaredoctordirect.com

Ya-yas in the Yarra

Two lovely lasses who live closer to the big city paid me the honour of travelling to my neck of the woods of the Yarra Valley for lunch earlier this week.

A day of malarkey, yay! I booked a table at Meletos in Coldstream, which is a mere 13-minute drive from our little house against the hill and this enchanting café overlooking the verdant vineyards did not disappoint.

Pictured above, clockwise from the top: sunrise vista from our little home; Meletos and my lovely ya-ya friends, Dragana, centre, and Ashley, left.

The service was warm, friendly and efficient. The ambience was a delight and I could not help but notice how other diners were expressing their appreciation for the cuisine, vistas and atmosphere.

My confit duck was sublime, not to mention the side order of hand-cut chips sprinkled with parmesan – not a morsel left, in spite of all my chattering non-stop with the girls. They loved their gourmet pizzas and I quaffed some delicious local Domain Chandon brut, which is served by the glass.

I like that Meletos works closely with local producers as this, after all, is the valley of plenty, where cheese, wine, fruit, meat and other produce are plentiful. In my country of origin, there is a saying, ‘local is lekker,’ which means: ‘local is delicious.’ and I love that small producers in our valley collaborate so successfully. Spreading the love and the goodness. Come visit.

I believe Meletos was created by the same family who started Stones of the Yarra Valley and The Stables at Stones. I also see they offer 22 boutique guest room accommodation at The Farmhouse adjacent to Meletos. Now there’s a thought…watch this space!

Cheers to the good life – we deserve it…