New Market Territory – Rylstone StreetFeast

Under the yellow marquee which did such a great job during such challenging weather.
Under the yellow marquee which did a great job during such challenging weather.

Since discovering the Kandos/Rylstone area just over two years ago, we have been ‘tourists’ at Rylstone StreetFeast and bought tickets to the sumptuous local spread which is seated along the main street.

Scarves with lots of shawls in the background.
Scarves with lots of shawls in the background.

This year we are ‘locals’ and had our own stall at the markets that flanked the Feast or ‘Long Lunch’. The bright yellow marquee made its first appearance and earned its money on a hot and gusty day that also saw storms with rain. We had a great day, being particularly busy in the morning before the food was served, yet had to pack up a trifle early as rain threatened later in the afternoon.

As usual, we met lots of knitters – locals, Sydney-siders and neighbours from Mudgee and the Blue Mountains, all of whom were pleased to hear about our shop opening shortly. The samples of Noro and Zauberball were much admired, so we think the shop stock will be appreciated.

Sales were pretty constant – the mohair/silk lace scarves are always popular and mitts and beanies were still purchased despite hot and gusty weather.

Next week we will concentrate on shop stuff and hope to open Friday week. So many people pressed us on an opening date that it was time to draw a line in the sand and commit, so that will now be our target!

The old hotel key pigeon holes are  perfect  for displaying the Zauberballs.
The old hotel key pigeon hole cabinet is perfect for displaying the Zauberballs.

Local Bushfires

Taken at around 11.30pm last night.
Taken at around 11.30pm last night.

A few weeks ago, we had snow. This week it was bush fires.

It was shortly after some friends and I retired inside after a lovely balmy night eating alfresco (and after providing treats to many of the Kandos kids for Halloween, which was great fun), that a neighbour called to warn me. There was a fire blazing on the escarpment out the back of my place, ‘Old Baldy’ to be precise.

At around 7.30am this morning.
At around 7.30am this morning.

I’ve been near bush fires before when living on the North Shore in Sydney but somehow being in the country makes it much more concerning. Even though distances may be similar, the space between dwellings and fires is mostly bush with few houses. It’s easy to understand why the local fire services are held in such high esteem in the country.

Although many locals (including us) were involved in Rylstone StreetFeast the next day, most locals had an anxious late night watching the fire flare up from a small blaze and then quieten down after 1pm. The area was inaccessible and it wasn’t until daylight that the water bomber copters could go in to quell the blaze.

Anyway, fortunately it seems under control now and since being home from StreetFeast, I have now become attuned to the non-stop whir of the choppers as they continue to douse the flames. I’m sure the local fire services were one of the community beneficiaries from StreetFeast today and richly deserve local support.

Water bombing helicopters out the back.
Water bombing helicopters out the back.



Markets Tomorrow!

Tomorrow my friend G and I are heading off to Rylstone Street Feast. Since discovering this wonderful region, for the last two years we have done the tourist thing and bought tickets for the ‘Long Lunch’, which is a gourmet feast set in the leafy main street of Rylstone. Table are laid out down the length of the street for a communal repast of courses which make the most of local produce.

The street is flanked by local market stalls and the day is a major one for the area, attracting both tourists and locals. This year we are much more like the locals and will be manning a market stall ourselves stocked with our hand knits as well as luxury yarn. The stall had been booked many months before, following our success at Rylstone Artisan Markets, but it is now a fortuitous opportunity to promote the new shop to a wider audience as we will be opening in the same street in a few weeks.

This will be a much bigger market than we have previously been to and will be a long day (and possibly a very hot one!). The excitement is building. I’ll post photos after the event for all to see. Hopefully we also get to see lots of the other stalls and sample some of the great local food on offer.

The Shop

A great range of stunning Zauberballs
A great range of stunning Zauberballs

Plans for the new shop are moving at a cracking pace. Stock has either been delivered or is on its way – particularly for the international products. Some of the new arrivals are so stunning, I’m finding it hard to imagine how I can part with them. Probably not the best retail approach.

Noro, of course!
Noro, of course!

So far we have a good stock of Noro, Zauberball, Moseley Park and Kaalund. Books have arrived as have a selection of Knitpro needles. A few other lovelies such as some Golding spindles have also found their way here. This week a trip to Sydney helped with shelving as well as some surprises from the last David Barsby auction.

Very happy with our shop fittings
Very happy with our shop fittings

The shop is coming together well and is perfect for our needs – great location, lots of character, good size with two rooms to add interest, of course Yum Cha next door as well as outdoor seating for knitters in good weather. There’s still lots to do – phone/wireless connection, Merchant connections, signage, stationery … but it’s so exciting.

The needles are clicking madly in preparation for our Rylstone StreetFeast stall on 1 November, then it should be full steam ahead to open the shop sometime in November.

Our books will work well in the old dresser.
Our books will work well in the old dresser.

The Mudgee Smuggler Team

Wheels for the travellers
Wheels for the travellers

MRTI (Mudgee Tourism) took the great step of inviting a dozen of Australia’s top influential food and travel writers and bloggers to visit the Mudgee region in a bus to showcase the amazing food and wine of the area.

Whilst following Facebook and their Tweets we noticed a familiar name and face pop up with web_goddess. It was such a treat to be visited by a very happy gang of travellers who had indulged in a massive overdose of Mudgee hospitality.

The team had a quick preview of our new business, Convent and Chapel Wool Shop, which we are in the early stages of setting up and plan to open early November, post the Rylstone Street Feast celebrations (where we will have our stall). They they moved on to what we hope was a great Rylstone experience at 29 nine 99. So great to see good promotion of such a magical region.

Just starting to come together - the early stages.
Just starting to come together – the early stages.

Sculptures in the Garden at Mudgee


One of the highlights each Spring is the sculptures on show at Rosby Estate in Mudgee. This year was no different. The weather was more like Summer than Spring and the crowds turned out in droves. Whilst we thought it was no problem turning up by 11 on the first day, we were disappointed to see that so many pieces of sculpture had already been snapped up.

IMG_2725G and I had a great time looking at all the sculptures which were amazing and loved the always beautiful gardens at Rosby. A glass of the estate rose went down well with our tasty couscous salad. It was fun selecting our own sculptures, although a little anxious racing back to the sales desk to make sure we were successful with our purchases.

And the galvanised iron horses racing across the paddock were a perfect fit for the setting.
And the galvanised iron horses racing across the paddock were a perfect fit for the setting.


We loved the wire animals by Roshelle Mckilliop and I was sorry I missed out on Alison Dent’s ‘Lyre Bird’, but it seems many people had their eye on that one. In the end I settled on Nicola McCutcheon’s ‘Close’ which will look perfect back at the Convent. It’s rewarding to be able to purchase local artwork and then enjoy it becoming part of home.

My purchase - 'Close' by Nicola McCutcheon
My purchase – ‘Close’ by Nicola McCutcheon

The Convent Opens Her Doors

One of the pleasures of owning the Convent has been making the building more accessible to the public. After all, the local community put so much into building and maintaining the property for many years, however whilst being a home for the nuns and priests it was always so private.

Last weekend, as part of the Kandos Centenary Celebrations, the Convent was open for visitors for two days. This time not just the garden but also the whole Convent, and it was such a highly rewarding experience. It’s beautifully built and deserves to be seen and seems to be highly enjoying a more public profile. Sunday in particular was a little overwhelming with the crowds but I’d estimate we had between 400 and 600 people through the doors, this time more to see the interior than the gardens.

It was a sentimental time as ex-students of the nuns returned with such vibrant memories given the piano lessons and confirmations held at the Convent, which served as a backdrop for photos of generations of townsfolk. Visitors included a nun who was first taught at the school by the nuns and then joined the order and lived at the Convent, a local who had been the resident gardener for so many years, one of the resident priests and a wonderful gentleman who had learnt piano at the hands of the nuns to later become an international pianist.

The stories were fascinating and added so much more to our understanding of the nuns and their relationship with the community. One woman’s great grandmother had learnt that the nun’s were in dire straights during the depression and organised locals to provide a food roster for the nuns, we heard that the nuns ran a lolly shop and sold treats to the children, Melbourne Cup Day was popular with the children as they ran sweeps and sat out the front of the Convent on the grass with the nuns to listen to the race on the radio. Oh, and the priest with the poker machine who gave children coins so they could play it.

Two days of memories, with a few tears and hugs along the way. Many thanks to my friends G and R who manned so many tours through the Convent and also to everyone who turned up. It was a great few days and I hope the visitors enjoyed the opportunity to explore – I know how much I loved having everyone here and hearing stories first hand and I tend to think the Convent was also a little pleased to be able to show another side to the community.

Happy Birthday Kandos


I’m sure Kandos will be having a quiet day today after four days of celebrations to mark the town’s  hundredth anniversary.

IMG_2707It’s been a huge long weekend for the town and the Convent. Friday was a busy day preparing the Kandos Bicentennial Industrial Museum for its official reopening by the new Governor, His Excellency General The Honourable David Hurley. The Museum reopening has been a mammoth task for the community, with volunteers pitching in to help with building works, painting, gardening and management of the collection. Now the building works are coming to a close, all the wonderful old exhibits are re-emerging and being homed back in the museum. I had no idea of how much would be involved and it’s been amazing to see the community support.

IMG_2702On Saturday, the town kicked off with a street parade which included the local volunteer groups, although locals were involved in many different activities and had to make some hard choices about where to be over the weekend. I’ve learnt that in country towns, many people wear many hats!

We spent all afternoon at the Museum preparing for the opening and then enjoying the official ceremony and the reaction of locals and visitors as they stepped back into the Museum after so many months closure.

Saturday night culminated in a wonderful ball, again attended by the Governor and his wife. Kandos Centenary Celebrations was their first official engagement since his appointment. By all accounts the ball was spectacular. Unfortunately I didn’t make it – given the Convent was to be open to the public the next few days, I had thought I may be up til the wee hours stressing with preparations. Instead, I ended up having a relaxing night with visiting friends, chilling before the arrival of hordes over the next few days.

The Cement Works ambo participating in the Street Parade
The Cement Works ambo participating in the Street Parade

And Yet Another Phase Begins

Bridgeview Inn
That will be me down this end. Wonderful building and location in a great town.

After 30 years of corporate life, I’ve seen so much change in the last few years. Moving to a small rural town (into a Convent!) was so much more than I have ever dreamt of. It’s been great just having time to build and enjoy the garden (especially the veggies), spending time with the dogs, indulging my knitting passion and getting to know and join the local community… but I guess I always knew that I’d look for a little more. Work has always been a big part of my life and I enjoy a little pressure on me, just not the stress. I found it hard to imagine working for someone else but my next steps again are serendipitous.

Knitting has always been an important part of my life so it seems fitting that it’s driving my next steps (or rather, leaps). I’m opening a yarn store in Rylstone in the heritage Bridge View Inn. The shop will cater to the discerning knitter with luxury imported and local yarns. My main knitting love is lace and my intention is to have a special focus on lace yarns.

29 Nine 99 Na Lan at Bridgeview Inn Rylstone
The lovely Na Lan who serves some of the best dumplings you’ll taste in the most unexpected setting.

The building is perfect – a lovely old place that has been well restored. I have two rooms, both with working fireplaces, as well as a front verandah and back landing. My neighbours include the lovely Na Lan with 29 Nine 99, a popular meeting place with magical Yum Cha. I also have the Museum next door and a community garden where knitters can enjoy sitting in the fresh air.

I’m hoping it will be yet another reason for people to come to this amazing area, as I know knitters enjoy a trip for yarn. My good friend G, who also bravely took the step of changing to a rural lifestyle from Sydney, will be joining me and we should be a formidable partnership.

This time last year I could hardly catch my breath, finishing up work, putting Wahroonga on the market, tradies fixing the Convent, the garden open for the local Garden Fair and the relocation in full swing. Same time this year is still busy – the Kandos Museum is opening after a long hiatus, the Convent is open to the public for the Centenary weekend and I’ve leased the shop with business planning in full swing. But so much more fun…

I’ll focus on the shop opening (which I think will be early November) after the long weekend and there are sure to be many more posts keeping you up to date with developments.

The Countdown Begins

It’s now less than two weeks before the Convent will be open to the public, which I anticipate will mainly be locals, returning Kandos expats and some tourists, for the Kandos Centenary Celebrations over the October long weekend.

All the plants are well and truly planted and beds weeded as well as possible, so now it’s up to Mother Nature and some housekeeping – watering (including fertiliser watering each week), mulching and last minute trimming, sweeping and raking.

Four weeks ago the garden was bare. At least now there’s lots of new growth. Last year the garden was open for the Kandos Garden Fair which was held a month later. At that point I was bemoaning that the roses had all but finished and the grass was barely green given the lack of rain. A little earlier this year and at least the grass is more presentable but there is barely a rose in sight. The Aquilegias and Indigofera Decor, last year’s stars, are not yet up to the flowering stage, although a few Aquilegia’s may just make an appearance. I’m feeling a little vulnerable in the flower department.

The visitors will probably be locals who popped in last year and they will notice a difference with plants being more established and the most dramatic change, with the lopped privet. Expat ex-locals hopefully will remember the last 30 odd years which were “low maintenance Convent gardens”. Anyway, I’ll have the photo albums our showing the old glory days of well tended formal gardens, the low maintenance period and the inherited status to take people through the gardening journey.

If nothing else, there are lots of plants to look at, even if not at their seasonal peak. Also the central bed is in good flower mode with the ranuncs and anenomes flowering and heaps of other things coming through. Blue bells are just starting although the daffodils and snowflakes are at their end. The freesias are still out but the dogs are doing their best to flatten them given that bed has become a favourite “chasey” spot. The veg beds also look productive with lots of crops at various stages from new seedlings to heavy crops of sugar snap and snow peas and towering stalks of broad beans.

No photos this time – I’ll hold off until the October long weekend festivities and hope the garden quickly progresses!