the long absence…

Friday, October 21st I turned 51. I spent my birthday & the days that have followed it, sick with a respiratory infection. Here it is November 7th & I’m still fighting it. It comes as no surprise, a lot has happened since I last posted in July. I was probably rundown. Rather than me start posting recipes with little explanation of my whereabouts, I thought I’d share my last few months with you. This is hard to write about but here goes, I’ll try & be brave…




 Mango - 3/6/2006 - 7/27/2016

Mango – 3/6/2006 – 7/27/2016

As most of you know, my beautiful girl Mango, had nasal cancer. I’d read about the horrific things that could happen to her as the disease progressed, spreading up into her brain. I couldn’t bear to see her suffer. How would I know when it would be time to say goodbye to a creature who couldn’t speak a word but said much. With her strong cancer meds, she seemed fine. Mostly. I had three days before I was leaving for Australia, a trip I couldn’t postpone. I had notes all over the house for my husband who was to care for her in my absence. It was Wednesday July 27th – the worst day of my life thus far. I’d always joked that Mango & I mind-melded. So I did know when it was time. In her sweet, beautiful way, she told me. That day a piece of me died too. I will never feel the same. To me she was the baby girl I never had. From that stinking hot July day in Mexico when she nuzzled up into my neck when I held her at barely 5 weeks old, I knew we were meant to be together.

mango 5 weeks


To 10 years later, her nuzzling me in much the same way as she did as a puppy, as my hubby drove us to the vet. Her death has left a gaping hole in our lives. I cry every single day for her. Every day. Often several times a day. It’s been three months & it feels like yesterday. I have never shed so many tears over anything as I have over her & the unfairness of it all. She was only 10 & so smart, so good, funny & incredibly sweet. She trusted me with all her heart & soul. And she loved me the same way. Mango had a tight schedule. She loved routine & she stuck to it. This helped me keep routine in my day. Since her death I feel lost. My heart aches. 

12 benson street

Sunday, July 31st & on was on a plane heading back home to Australia. Hardly time to process my grief for Mango. The family home in Benson Street, had been sold & it was time to close a really big chapter in our lives. Mum had lived in that house for 65 years. Almost 40 of those years with my step father, John. That’s a long time. That house had been my safe place to land no matter where in the world I was, it was always home for me for almost 51 years. With mum’s dementia worsening & the house & yard being too big & in need of much attention & repair, it was time for mum & John to move to a lovely new, more manageable home. Mum had always refused to leave Benson Street, so getting her out of there was a feat. We hatched a plan: John would leave with mum early one morning to visit dear family friends, then he’d bring her back that evening to their new place. We’d not been able to pack anything in their old house prior to the move for fear of mum discovering our dastardly plan & we had just that one day to get them moved. With help from more dear friends & a few family members, my sister & I managed to pull off this seemingly impossible task. Mum wasn’t happy in her new abode. Dramas were to ensue. There was much still to do at the old place though & over the next two weeks my sister & I, with the help of my brother-in-law, my niece & some amazing friends, sorted & cleared everything out – all 65 years worth. Mum had a lot of stuff. She was a neat hoarder if there is such a thing until dementia dug its ugly claws into her. We had a huge estate sale. We gave away things. Tossed things. What a see-saw of emotions. I’d feel angry then I’d feel so desperately sad. I discovered anger gets shit done though. Sadness makes you feel like you’re walking through quicksand. It was mentally & physically exhausting. No one will ever truly understand how hard that whole experience was except my sister. You can tell people but no one will ever quite ‘get it’, not from the same perspective as I had. It was hard. We got it done. 


Friday, August 26th. I didn’t keep much from Benson Street for myself, these little jugs & a teapot were a few things. I couldn’t keep much, I had to get on a plane & travel halfway around the world. For the millionth time I bid a teary goodbye to my family & jumped on a plane back to America. 

In wee hours of August 27th I crawled into my own bed next to my hubby for the first time in a month & slept fitfully for there was much to do. My hubby, Finn (our other hairless puppy) & I were moving. This time we were moving states. Before I’d left on my trip to Australia to help move my parents, I’d gone through every single thing in my own home. I’d purged. We had a garage sale. It was hot. In my absence, my hubby packed most of the house. He’s my hero.

Wednesday, August 31st. It was 3AM & we left Florida in a tropical storm. How fitting. My hubby drove the biggest diesel moving truck we could rent, hauling a trailer. I followed him in my vehicle. We’d run out of room & sadly had to leave some things behind in Florida. Oh well, they’re just things I reminded myself. Finn traveled with me, snuggled in his very cozy bed & Mango’s ashes rode alongside us. I talked to her a lot on that road trip.


Thursday, September 1st. We finally arrived in Indiana after 24 hours of driving. I’d not lived in Indiana before but this is where my hubby was born & raised so it somehow felt instantly comfortable & secure for me. We were both exhausted but still had much to do. He’d packed the truck entirely on his own in Florida, at least at this end we had some help from his cousin with the unloading. Thank heavens.

Sunday, September 4th. It was Father’s Day in Australia. We were busy unpacking when I got word my dad had passed away. We’d been expecting this news for the last couple of weeks. Death, even though you know it’s imminent, still comes as a shock. My dad had been absent for most of my life but we’d maintained contact on & off since I was 15 years old. The journey had been a rocky road with him. Still, he was my dad & I loved him. I cried when I learned of his passing. I have moments during the day when I think of him, not quite used to the fact he’s gone. I talk to him, asking him to watch over me in his death as he felt unable to do in his life. Here’s a few old, blurry shots I have of him:


dad with my sister

dad me and debbie

Five weeks had passed since I said goodbye to my precious Mango, been home to Australia & back again & here we were, unpacked in a new state. My hubby had started his new job. We went through the process that one has to when they move states: A new driver’s license, getting the title changed on my vehicle, changing our address for everything – tedious stuff. Getting new internet & TV installed – the easiest part it turned out. Organizing new health insurance – don’t even get me started. It’s taken two months to get everything more or less in order. I like our new home, very happy to be gone from Florida. Very happy. So much had happened in such a short amount of time. I needed some time to process everything so I decided to strip the dark stain from our mango wood dining table & chairs so the beautiful, & somewhat unusual wood grain could be seen. It was a big undertaking but I found it somewhat cathartic. Here are both the before & afters together: 


For almost two months I’d been unable to sleep. I started crocheting again as I way to relax myself & be somewhat productive during those sleepless hours. I’ve made lots of cushion covers. Lots & lots. I need to start a shop. I’ve always wanted a homewares store. That sells pies & good coffee. 

crochet cushions

more crochet cushions

For the center of the newly restored mango wood table I wanted a long, sideless tray. Not being able to find one anywhere, I drew a pic & my hubby built it. I painted it blue & white & distressed it. I added some potted succulents & some white candles for a simple centerpiece. 

long tray

Then the hall needed a table. I drew a pic of that & my hubby built that too. Clever man that he is. Reclaimed wood & galvanized plumbing pipe. I love the results. 

hall stand

Until I got sick I’d been enjoying cooking in our new kitchen. It’s all very open but cozy. Perfect for entertaining. I made a big batch of creamy chicken, bacon & wild rice soup & froze it. That’s been handy to have over the last couple of weeks of feeling crappy. Speaking of feeling crappy, John is in hospital recovering from a hip replacement. He cares for my mum so mum is staying with my sister. A trip back home maybe sooner than I’d anticipated. I worry about all of them. I’ve chewed all my fingernails off. 

creamy chicken, bacon & wild rice soup

The Fresh Aussie will continue but I’m also going to start another blog called ‘toss + turn’. Until a website is created for it, it will be housed on this blog but have its own social media pages on Instagram & Facebook, please look out for them. The name ‘toss + turn’ came about because of my want for more throw-together recipes, my love of interior design & a new appreciation for all things simple. Toss + TurnThrow together recipes. Rustic home furnishings. A simpler life


I’ve found the last few months confronting as I dealt with loss, changes & learning more about myself, the people in my world & what is truly important to me. One thing I have definitely come to appreciate is a simpler way to live. I’m certain my creations will begin to reflect this. It’s good to be back. And for those souls that are still around, thanks for sticking with me. xoxo. 


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  1. Jamie Campbell Petty says:

    You are amazingly strong. Truly. I am proud that we are friends, even if mostly via this crazy thing we call the internet. One day at a time … one foot in front of the other. Sometimes babysteps, sometimes leaps and bounds … it’s all good, and it’s all LIFE !! <3 Peace, my friend!

    • Thanks for your sweet words Jamie. We keep moving forward. It’s a journey with many twists & turns along the way right? I’m so happy we’re friends. Always here if you need me xo.

  2. Jennie Townsend says:

    How I feel for you. Sometimes it suckst§s being an expat. I had to pack up and sell my mother’s house and move her into a retirement village, then pack up her villa to move her into the nursing home. Two brothers lovely but useless so I had to continually travel 10K miles. Then not there when she died but home for the funeral. And I lost my beloved cat to pancreatitis just before traveling back to Oz. It’s been 7 years and not a day goes by when I don’t think of her, however I no longer cry. Believe me, it gets better but you have to get well first. Being sick through an Indiana winter is something to worry about so make sure you’re doing everything possible to recover. Looking forward to your new blog and future posts on Fresh Aussie. Take care, Jennie Townsend

    • Jennie, your kind words touched me. Thank you so much for sharing your story with me & for encouraging me. I’m sorry you too experience such heartache. I believe everything happens to us for a reason that isn’t always obvious. I feel I have changed my perspective during the last few months. A shift for the better I’m sure. Thanks for your continuing support. Always feel free to share a story or a favourite recipe xo.

  3. Robin Vandiver says:

    WOW….so sorry for everything you’ve been thru. I dread the day Buddy leaves us. Some days he’s the only reason I get out of bed. Hugs for you and Butch

    • Thanks Robin. Our four legged babies make more of an impact on our lives than most people do. Cherish every moment with him. Spoil him (even more). Tell him all the time how much you love him & what a good, good boy he is. Just love him harder.

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