The Next Phase – Kandos CWA Takes Off!!!

Our modest Kandos CWA HQ just off the main street.

I’ve been quiet here for a while. I guess life has settled into a routine – and a good one. It’s been super busy with the wool shop and that’s really satisfying. I’ve also nestled into the local community and made new friends. Life is never boring but I’ve felt there’s been less newsworthy stories to tell… until now!

Our local Kandos Branch of the CWA has been an important factor in settling here. The story goes that the branch had been operating successfully for some time but a few years ago, membership seriously dwindled. To the point where CWA HQ considered closing the branch and selling the building (that they owned) given the associated expense. “No Way!” claimed some emboldened locals and shortly after my arrival, I was handed a membership form and told to join to keep Kandos CWA alive. Gemma was actually made Secretary the first week she came to town. Newbies didn’t stand a chance!

A CWA Soiree in full swing.

Since then, our local CWA branch has gone from strength to strength, sponsoring our CWA Kandos Gardens Fair, hosting a myriad of social gatherings and recently refurbishing our modest but well-located and much loved CWA home. The renovations have included a commercial kitchen to help locals establish and run micro businesses. Whilst there are preconceptions about the CWA, all groups are different, as is ours. It’s younger, most work and, whilst we’re capable of turning out a half-decent scone, we don’t.

Think of the cakes and pies that will be coming out of this beast of the kitchen!

Our next phase is about to kick off – the Kandos CWA Pop Up Cafe – one day each week when we offer our food to the unsuspecting public in our updated building just off the main drag. Simple meals, home cooked, eat in or take away. The money raised will help us with our fundraising and also support Barnardos, who we are endeavouring to assist with a regional safe house for families who have experienced domestic violence.

Initial discussions amongst CWA members indicate that this will be an interesting and entertaining endeavour. We already have a spectrum of opinions – from those who are pragmatic with “blokes like baked beans” to those with aspirations of becoming the new Nigella. Spruiking for our own reality show has been proposed and I believe one or two members are approaching Kim Kardashian for contract advice. Teabags versus teapots is sure to be on the agenda and the savoury mince has already become a hot topic.

Anyway, life is never boring in Kandos and this looks like it will be a great addition to our community and an opportunity for more locals to engage with our convivial and growing CWA group.

A social hub. Wait until My Kitchen Rules or MasterChef want to film one of their shows here!


Spring Has Sprung

The two standard wisterias under the front windows seem to have settled in well.
The front circular bed changes with seasons. For now it’s dominated by Ranunculus. Later the new roses will shine and then the white Cosmos will fill it out.

Well at least I hope it has. Winter has taken its time departing (not that I’m complaining as a wool shop owner!) but it would be nice for the rain to ease off, winds die down and sun to show its face.

Every Convent should have a Judas Tree and this lovely plant has always been reliable.

The last week has shown some promise and the garden is starting to respond, although it seems the grass always responds first and is badly in need of mowing. This is the third year here permanently and about four years since I first set my eyes on the Convent and discovered Kandos. It’s also the first year where I can see the plants doing what I had hoped they would. Roses are bursting with growth, some of the plants that had struggled seem to have found their feet, vacant spaces are beginning to fill, trees are beginning to fill out and climbers are, well, starting their climbing journey.

These are just the first touches of colour coming into the garden and I’m anticipating some great displays through Spring, Summer and Autumn. With expanded veg patches, I’m also hoping to be well fed by my garden – the chooks are certainly enjoying spinach at the moment and rewarding me with lots of eggs.

I have some more plants to put in and I’m eager to play with my water plants with my new fishpond, which is yet to have fish introduced to it.

Let’s hope the weather is now on the improve (not that I mind regular rain) and the garden continues to flourish.

Making Some Improvements

I’ve wanted a good stove since first (before) moving to the country and am really happy with this.
A smart looking sink and taps – off white cupboards and pale grey granite bench tops

It’s coming on 3 years (in November) since I moved here permanently. Prior to taking up residence, the Convent had a refresh with new paint and the flooring updated with either polished boards or carpet. Other than furnishings, I haven’t done much else (other than a total garden overhaul), so I thought it time to move onto the next phase of home improvements.

Still needs plastering and painting but no more overhead cupboards and also incorporates the next room.
The island bench in what was the dining room.

I’ve been grappling with the kitchen since I first came here given it was a small galley at the front of the house and I wanted to accommodate a good sized stove. Another challenge was that although the Convent is large, it was never built for entertaining, so I don’t have a larger room when I have more than a few people over. With a few tweaks reorganising rooms, the result has worked well and I now have a large open modern kitchen and a great extra entertaining/living room which is also now my dining room.

The period lighting has greatly improved the ambience of the Conve
Couldn’t resist this antique light fitting for the vestibule

I’d always known that I’d have to tackle the electricals at some point, given some parts dated back to 1930. The Convent lights mainly consisted of bulbs in bayonets in the ceiling or fluoro tubes, so updating the lighting has also been on my list. August ended up being kitchen, electrical and lighting month so there’s been a heap of activity. Not all has gone smoothly (or is finished) and I still need to get some plastering and touch up painting done but otherwise I’m really happy with the results and the Convent has improved significantly in appearance (and safety).

And I get a new living room that incorporates my dining table
The bedrooms all have period style frosted bowls on chains

Still lots more on the list including the dreaded bathroom makeover, however after managing the last set of renovations, I’m more confident in tackling the next phase.

Costa at the Convent

Costa chowing down on some Zucchini Slice

One of the special moments at the CWA Kandos Gardens Fair was a visit from Costa Georgiadis, in fact, two) from ABC’s Gardening Australia. We knew the Gardens Fair would be a very special event with him as a guest but his impact on visitors far surpassed expectations. As did the man himself. What a gracious, enthusiastic, engaging and energetic person!

Costa having a chat with Gemma in The Cloisters

Costa had asked to visit the local schools as part of his visit which was a wonderful experience for the school children and hopefully will leave a permanent mark on the area. For the weekend, he tirelessly visited gardens, engaged with visitors and made himself available constantly.

We were fortunate to have Costa visit us for lunch on Saturday where we gave him a short break from the many people who had built up both for a feed and to see Costa at the Convent. He made sure he spoke to all the volunteers and has a great skill for remembering names. He seemed to love the Convent and it’s surrounds (although I think he was equally gracious with all garden owners and guests) and on Sunday unexpectedly brought his Dad back for lunch and a quieter sit in The Cloisters on a day that was a little slower paced.

Costa and his Dad tackling the terrain

Watching him with his Dad was a little bittersweet given my own Dad passed away last year and I had such hopes of he and Mum spending time with me at the Convent. It was great that he took his Dad on a guided tour of the garden but I had moments of concern with the wheelchair in the spongy grass!

Instagramming in the Chapel





During their visit, a wonderful ukulele group sang and played in the Chapel – Costa raced in and took a video which he later placed on Instagram which was a thrill.

All in all, a great weekend and we’re still buzzing from it. Costa certainly made a difference and we’d have him back any day.

Costa photographing the Convent!


Kandos – AKA ‘Pirate Town’

Who would have thought of it – Kandos playing home to pirates!

Two of our intrepid locals, who always put on great events, are utilising International Talk Like a Pirate Day to hold a pirate bash in Kandos with Jon English performing, no less.

I must confess to having a soft spot for Jon English, going back to the old Jesus Christ Superstar days at the Capitol Theatre in Sydney. I remember getting my Mum to take me to performances and waiting out the back of the theatre which wasn’t the best layout – the cast had to wait in the back alleyway between changes and going back on stage, so us fans had the opportunity to speak to them and get autographs. I also went to Jon English’s first solo concert at the Manly SIlver Screen and bought his album. So, YES! I was a fan and part of my is pretty excited by Mary and Sue’s choice of entertainment.

Anyway, September 19 will be a Big Kandos Day with the inaugural Kandos Pirate Festival followed up by the night Buccaneer’s Bash. I can see some pirate knitting in our future. Hoping some friends and family can make their way here for what looks to be a truly memorable experience. Aarghh, or we’ll keel haul you, me hearties!

The Convent and the Artists

Geometries: Kandos in a perfect setting
Geometries: Kandos in a perfect setting

Cementa_15 has kicked off with a vengeance and the Convent is playing her part as both a venue for artworks and a haven for some of the artists to rest up at night.

The first day, as anticipated, was relatively quiet but we expect crowds to build over the four days, peaking on Saturday.

The eerie and sad image of extinct birds vanishing before our eyes.
The eerie and sad image of extinct birds vanishing before our eyes in Indicatus.

I’m pleased with the exhibits at my place – all different but work in well with the building and grounds. Geometries: Kandos by Beata Geyer & James Culkin has had its share of publicity already, hitting the front page of what’s known locally as the ‘Mud Guard’. It is a site responsive sculpture described “The temporal disjunction between the modular construction of monochromatic planes and multidimensional forms, on the one hand, and the architecture and landscape, on the other, creates an exciting and speculative juxtaposition”. Another description is giant funky pick-up-sticks, which look great in the sprawling front yard with the Convent in the background.

Indicatus well situated in the Chapel is one of the hits of Cementa.

Another work attracting much media attention is Indicatus, 2014 by Kim V. Goldsmith. In this installation “Goldsmith plays with different elements of our relationship with birds, and their place in our environment, using technology to do so. Taking, often sentimental, notions of birds as identifiable decorative symbols of nature, they are deconstructed using sound, the burning of a series of charcoal drawings created specifically for the purpose, and smell”. The work was specifically created to complement the Chapel and is hauntingly beautiful.

The boxing tent looks ethereal against the backdrop of the Coomber Mountains at the rear of the Convent.
The boxing tent looks ethereal against the backdrop of the Coomber Mountains at the rear of the Convent.

Alexander Jackson-Wyattt & Paulina Semkowicz’s Standard Boxing Tent No.1 was intended to be installed in the nearby paddock, however harsh Kandos winds put a stop to that idea. It’s now housed in my backyard but still suffering at times from the weather (although the cold snap has diminished and the days are kinder). “Kandos has not seen a boxing tent since 1971. From then, the empty field you have passed every day has stood there waiting for nothing to happen. Til finally the boxing troupe comes to town. From the nervous crowd, your hand goes up. You are pulled into the ring and what comes next is not the end but only the beginning”. It’s an appropriate location for the tent given the boxing boys practice five nights a week in the buildings attached to the Church directly behind my home.

Bit hard to photograph this but viewers get a beautifully reflected vision from inside the Grotto.
Bit hard to photograph this but viewers get a beautifully reflected vision from inside the Grotto.

Lastly, the Grotto gets some attention with Dan Kojta’s Infinityscope. “Peering into the infinity scope’s deep velvety depths, viewers are encouraged to reflect on their spiritual state: and interior mirror returns their immediate past back to them as a future event”.

I’m looking forward to seeing more. One of the few other exhibits I’ve seen is the mural being created at the Museum by Djon Mundine which is amazingly spectacular and epic in size and cultural context. This will be a great ongoing contribution for Kandos, well past Cementa_15.

In case any readers think I’m art literate, the descriptions have all been taken from the Cementa_15 catalogue and I can’t take credit for them.

I’ll post more of some of the other works as I make my way around.

Djon Mundine's mural will be a greatly valued legacy for Kandos.
Djon Mundine’s mural will be a greatly valued legacy for Kandos.

Knitting… and lots more knitting!

Yep, just a cast on row. Getting the first pattern row right took hours and lots of tinking (knitter's speak for undoing).
Yep, just a cast on row. Getting the first pattern row right took hours and lots of tinking (knitter’s speak for undoing).

What with the shop and the impending Shows, it seems like the knitting needles are never out of G and my hands.

It’s great that people like to buy the hand knits, but they all take time to knit and at present we are focussing on our Show entries. To make best use of our efforts, we are endeavouring to use shop yarn and our own patterns (or at least patterns that are easily accessible to others), so the finished entries can then become shop displays or the basis for our classes – it’s called “leveraging”!

Looks a bit of a mess at present. Not sure how many knitters have a Chapel floor on which to block. Don't think it will help with judges scoring at the end, though!
Looks a bit of a mess at present. Not sure how many knitters have a Chapel floor on which to block. Don’t think it will help with judges scoring at the end, though!

So far I’ve managed a shawl in a very vibrant Zauberball Lace – different from my usual classic and subdued style and have just cast on the beginnings of a sampler lace shawl using Jamieson & Smith 2 ply Shetland Lace. I’m hoping this can be used in a future lace workshop for customers. But I’ll be knitting into the wee hours each night to have a fighting chance of getting this into the Rylstone/Kandos Show in late February.

I’m hoping to have a few items finished by the time Show season kicks off, with a few more entries completed shortly after for the later Shows. We’re also encouraging our customers to enter so others can see the possibilities with knitting and that the craft has evolved considerably from people’s previous expectations.

In the meantime, there’s still some shop knitting happening. The past week it was focussing on Noro and Zauberball Spiral Beanies – one of our best sellers.

Noro beanies - very popular. Now adding Zauberballs to the mix.
Noro beanies – very popular. Now adding Zauberballs to the mix.

2015 Plans

So now it’s time to set some targets for the next year. Given 2014 was nothing like planned – hadn’t planned on selling up and living here permanently, getting involved in the Museum, CWA not on the radar – let alone President, what shop? … Plans now just seem incongruous after years of managing Strategic and Operating Plans.

So why have some personal goals? OK, just a concept and let’s see how close we get.

  • Shop – I actually have a Business Plan and hope to pull this off. It’s important on a number of levels and I think achievable.
  • Convent – well, I should update the old toilets – and original kitchen and put in new kitchen, and update lighting, but they’re not high on priorities at present – although was a originally – how things change!
  • Garden – finish side colourbond fence bed, build bed in front of the sunroom.
  • Side block – well, good intentions here for the orchard/parkland block but at best may just clear it and manage a few plantings.
  • Knitting – at least winning something at one of the Shows I’m planning on entering.
  • Convent Chapel – fix lighting for workshops
  • Umm – do a psychic reading – not really my style but as I’m feeling so settled, it’s really tempting
  • Chopper ride – yes! Kids have bought tickets – so excited to go on a helicopter tour of the area
  • Go Fishing! Have had a licence for a wasted year. I love fishing and have rods. Can’t believe I’m not doing this regularly given I’m so close to Dunn’s Swamp. I don’t need to catch anything. It’s about dropping a line in the water and just chilling.
  • Keeping in touch with old friends and making some new ones – I now appreciate just how important this is. It’s easy to be isolated or isolate yourself, but friends – either local, old but visit, or even those you keep up with mainly online – are all so important and add a greater dimension and connection to your life.

I’m sure there’s lots more I’ll think of but these are fine for now. After all, life’s supposed to be enjoyed. John Lennon was so right when he said, “Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans”.


A retrospective of 2014…

The old girl is coming together nicely and enjoying the attention.

It’s been just over a year since I moved to Kandos permanently. And over two years since I discovered the Convent and Kandos. What was a fortuitous search certainly changed my life dramatically. I had never intended to make such a substantial permanent move, well, at least not straight away. The plan had been to live the “balanced lifestyle” and maintain my Sydney property and corporate life in the CBD for a few days a week and then chill at the Convent for the other days.

From this disused verandah..
To this - the verandah outside my bedroom. And now is Popcorn's favourite place.
To this – the verandah outside my bedroom. And now is Popcorn’s favourite place.









The dogs were the first to decide that there was only one life for them and within the first six months of purchasing the Convent, it was pretty clear that Kandos was going to be my permanent home. The first year saw a lengthy settlement before the property was mine, but thanks to the generosity of the Church (who still owned the Convent), I camped on an air bed until all the legals were finalised.  Then came, painting, floors, curtains and furnishings and I moved in permanently last November – on my 55th birthday to be precise.

My abundant berry bed.
My abundant berry bed.

Of course there are many more plans for the Convent – one day …. bathrooms, kitchen, but I’m just enjoying it as it is. The garden has had a major makeover and has been a joy to put such effort into. I’m now waiting to see if I manage to get some cucumbers this year. There are lots of zucchinis, my berry bed is going crazy and I could live off the lettuces and carrots at present. Oh, of course cherry tomatoes are also kicking in. My family and friends are making the Convent a regular getaway, which fortunately lessens the wrench of leaving them. And I was so lucky that one of my best friends decided to join me here and has also moved to the town and lives around the corner.

Re Kandos itself and its community, I’ve been made so welcome. We spent New Year’s Eve at the local club and I was pleased to recognise so many familiar faces and be included as one of the crowd. I’m endeavouring to help with community activities (which also helps in meeting people) and have really enjoyed being part of the Kandos Museum through its renaissance as well as the local CWA.

Popcorn - such a beautiful boy.
Popcorn – such a beautiful boy.

Other highlights through the year have been including the wonderful Popcorn in the Convent family – he is a joy, holding the Best Knitting at Show for the second year at the Kandos Rylstone Show (which is adding to the excitement of this year’s Show), being part of the Kandos Centenary celebrations and opening the Convent doors to somewhere between 400 – 600 people and learning the ins and outs of online auctions which have furnished my home and now finding their way into the shop collectibles.

Whilst I had thought I had retired, it hasn’t taken long to find myself running my own wool shop which combines a longtime passion with the skills I’ve acquired through many years of corporate life.

That's us at the new shop.
That’s us at the new shop.

It’s been a good – no great – year. And 2015 looks as though it will also bring its share of surprises and pleasures, with no doubt also some sobering moments. However life is good, It takes work, decisions and actions to make it happen, with also some risks. But it’s worth it. If you’re thinking of making a change, don’t just think about it, also plan and do it, but be prepared for lots of surprises along the way.

Food, Glorious Food!

Sweet chilli and lemon garlic grilled lobster tails for Christmas lunch out on the back verandah.
Sweet chilli and lemon garlic grilled lobster tails for Christmas lunch out on the back verandah.
Lots and lots of salads as accompaniments.
Lots and lots of salads as accompaniments.

It’s been a great Christmas at the Convent – my second in residence. The first Christmas here, I had my parents and eldest daughter and we did the whole traditional thing – roast pork, turkey, glazed ham, roast veg, stuffing, gravy, followed by pudding, custard, brandy butter, cake … lots of work but also rewarding.

Berry icecream, fresh berries, pavlova and cream - with Persian fairy floss.
Berry icecream, fresh berries, pavlova and cream – with Persian fairy floss.

This year I had both daughters and a friend staying and we were much more casual with seafood and salads – still work but mostly done in advance and a chilled day rather than being in the kitchen. We had grilled lobster tails for lunch, followed up in the evening with prawns and crabs – with a nod to tradition with the glazed ham. With heaps of salads, we have feasted for a few days, along with extra guests arriving. A ricotta, nougat and berry ice-cream along with pavolva and fruit has taken care of dessert as well. Add to this a barbecue last night and pancakes for brunch this morning (courtesy of Daughter #1) has meant a great deal of food has been consumed this week.

More seafood for Christmas dinner.
More seafood for Christmas dinner.
Pancakes with about every topping you can think of.
Pancakes with about every topping you can think of.

Now that most house guests have departed, it’s clearing up left overs and doing some Show knitting whilst catching up on a few new TV series – chilling out before the shop reopens next week (not that the shop ever seems like work!)

The girls at the post Christmas barbecue.
The girls.