The Isolation Diaries
Days 12 and 13: 9 – 10 April

My release confirmation!

Hello and Happy Easter
This may be my last diary from hotel isolation, I hope, but it’s not goodbye as I have plans for the future! Read on.

If you saw my video Isolation diary on Instagram or Facebook last night, you would know that I am feeling confused. Very confused. There are mixed messages and lack of information which are frustrating.

Just found out part of the process for leaving.

This morning we awoke to information on our TV screen that departure is schedule for tomorrow, subject to a health check. Also, that we need to strip our beds, put linen, towels and rubbish in separate plastic bags outside our doors and not to leave anything behind because it would be destroyed. Strange as surely we, having done 2 weeks here, are COVID-19 free and are, in fact, more at risk from walking out the hotel foyer and past all those who have been coming and going ?

I spoke with the Hotel Manager, who is fabulous and doing all he can, but he is not in charge of checkout. So I rang the in-house nurse who advised we would be visited by a doctor, a nurse and a police officer. The nurse will take our temperature, the doctor will question us and if all OK the police will give us our documentation to verify we have done two weeks forced isolation and a yellow armband to indicate the same. Apparently there is now a repatriation team in charge of liberating us.


This has finally happened this afternoon. The nurses and doctor were accompanied by two Sheriffs. So we gave them all the answers we have given the police and everyone else on several occasions. It seems there are NSW Health, police, sheriff, army, navy and private security organisations all involved. The sherriffs  were very sweet and I posed the question to them that perhaps we are less likely to be infectious than they are. They agreed. But we are still viewed as potentially infectious. So confusing.

BUT WE ARE FREE TO GO anytime after midnight. We have a yellow wristband which means the police will let us go in the morning, a letter from NSW Health, signed by the doctor and a letter from the NSW Police Commissioner, NSW State Emergency Operations Centre confirming completion of the quarantine period. We will go in the morning. But we still don’t know the process as only a few will be allowed out at a time.
Watch out on social media over the weekend to see my first experience of outside life – hopefully doing the permitted shopping, exercising and then cooking!

Thanks too for your lovely messages of support and feedback. It is greatly appreciated. If you find this interesting, do share with a friend.

Sonia Bennett’s Dahl with yellow rice.  She writes “‘Cheeky’  the toucan wanted to be in the picture.  I think he would like some”.

Some Responses 
Sonia Bennett, singer/songwriter/botanical artist sent me not only her recipe but a photo of her Dahl. She gave me permission to share it.
“Here’s my recipe for Dahl curry a very common meal in Sri Lanka and India.  A real staple.  Eaten with turmeric rice and other curries.
Fry curry leaves, onions, chillies in oil, add raw red lentils cook for a few minutes try not to burn.  This could give it more flavour.  Salt and pepper.    Add cinnamon stick, cardamon  seeds, Turmeric, curry powder ( any kind, they’ve all got turmeric). Cook for a while but not to the mushy stage, add garlic  and add coconut milk towards the end.  Then fry more curry leaves, garlic and red Chillies, chop up a kaffir  leaf if you got any and sprinkle on top.  I don’t worry about measurements, go by taste and what suits you.
Its quite delish and you can eat with rice or paratha bread ( which is  so good). You can find them at Indian food shops.  Also with rice, throw in cardamon pods and a bit of turmeric, fry a bit in butter, Its not bad.

Lyall, whose family have been successfully entering the perishable baking competition at the Sydney Royal Easter Show for many, many years updated me on food shopping, told me what they are all cooking and gave a quick quiche recipe. She also wrote “I’m doing a shop for my neighbour tomorrow, 85, so is not going out except when I take her to Dr around the corner…. I have been forwarding your isolation diaries to her, I just sent your latest one and she messaged me while I’m writing this “a big thank you “.
She is also holding virtual dinner parties.

Lyall teaches stitching and has sent her students a postcard-sized package, with a black piece and blue piece of fabric with interfacing attached, for them to stitch, draw, colour, glue anything that shows what it’s like being isolated to them. Then two pieces of fabric with stiffening to be attached when the front piece has been completed. Something to show when isolation is over.

Fiona writes: “Meat up here in Kempsey has been quite hard to find for those of us who are fortunate to still be working,  by the time we get to the supermarkets at 6pm the shelves and fridges are bare (other than mince etc at the local IGA if you know where that store is hidden,  thank heavens for the local abattoirs who supply them). It took me 7 supermarkets the other day between Kempsey and Macksville collectively to find a 1kg bag of powdered milk for my 82 year old father.”“This weekend I’m slow cooking lamb shanks as a treat (oh my goodness at $10 per shank,  that’s a real indulgence). The challenge for me is one of the 3 people that will be seated at the table is a 12 year old boy who is going through a “plain food” stage.  So my love of slow cooked orange sweet potato and Moroccan spices with the shanks has to be curbed.”
But she goes on “Cooking has been my outlet through these restrictive times, and I’m enjoying teaching this young adolescent the art of cake making etc (but now flour is also not on the shelves here). “

Veronica wrote that as the day was overcast, she thought more uplifting than photos of the mist at her place, might be some photos from a book a friend is working on. “The book deals with iconic photographs that you may well have seen over the years – but do you know who the photographer was?   It is by  Peter Adams. Go to the BOOKS link and A FEW OF THE LEGENDS.

Questions answered
On Instagram a query about face masks brought a response from Redfern Convenience Store at 152A Redfern Street, Redfern that they have them in stock.

Michelle asks:
What are your tips when you are the only cook in the household & you are sick to death of eating your own food – this is not just during these trying times. We are not ones for Takeaway as we live rurally and because I love to cook the meals always fall my way and the family all love what I cook. I’m happy to cook but 80% of the time I don’t eat what I cook and am happy to have just a mouthful or munch on a bit of toast instead – weird. 1st world problem I know but just wondering if you have ever had it happen.
My answer
I hear you sister. I am the only cook in my home. John makes me my morning hot lemon drink and that’s it. Like you I am not a takeway girl, but we did dine out often.
A lot of people are finding they need to cook more than usual. Many aren’t confident in the kitchen, or find adapting to available ingredients a challenge. I think everyone in the household from say about 13 up (perhaps with help), should be responsible for a meal a week. That way you get some variety and some relief, they take some responsibility and expand their skills.
Another fun way to do it is to cook through the alphabet – so you might start with something starting with A, or a cuisine starting with A, then move on through the alphabet?

I will address some of these questions in my planned Home Isolation Cooking Videos or Zoom classes

Join me – interactive cooking classes from home

On set in our Flame Studio Sydney when shooting my Baking Secrets TV series

There are plenty of demonstrations on how to cook on social media and Youtube, including my “meals in a minute” on my Youtube channel. While these can be good, they are not interactive. You may not know that I trained as a teacher post university and one of my greatest loves is personally teaching people to cook.
So I am planning to do intimate, interactive classes on Zoom. You saw my post about doing this with my niece for Zumba and my daughter teaches children in this way. It’s all done on mobile phone or computer, you can see me and I can see you and we can communicate in real time. Nothing so grand as my studio in the photo but let’s try? 

How it will work:
You will need to register to attend the class at a small cost. I will then email you the recipe in advance so that you can have the ingredients. I will then show you how to cook the dish, tips and tricks, all  in real time. You will be able to see me and I can see you. You can ask questions which I can answer then and there. The recipes will be approachable and feature easy to get ingredients, how to extend meat, what’s in season in my no-fuss style.

Please email or message me your interest. This is still in the planning stages, given my current situation, but I intend to do this weekly. Also let me know what type of recipes and techniques you would like to learn.

Some Easter joy wherever you are

Andrea Bocelli – listen to him this Easter

Hopefully this may lift your spirits on Easter Sunday: Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli will perform a solo concert – titled Andrea Bocelli: Music For Hope – at Milan’s historic cathedral, Duomo di Milano. Although the public won’t be allowed to attend, the concert will be live-streamed across the world. He will be accompanied by the cathedral’s organist Emanuele Vianelli, who will play one of the world’s largest pipe organs. The event begins at 7pm local time (1800 BST or 3.00am Australian EST) and will be streamed live on YouTube. The repertoire of songs will include Ave Maria (Bach/Gounod) and Pietro Mascagni’s Sancta Maria.

The Australian Brandenburg Orchestra has a FREE Easter premiere broadcast of their 2017 performance of Handel’s Messiah on Easter Saturday 11 April at 5 pm AEST. The performance can only be broadcast once in full at the scheduled time, a unique opportunity to see Handel’s Messiah through Paul Dyer’s eyes! You can watch on facebook or on YouTube.
Read the programme here.

Virtual Dinners and Teas

Parties like this may be a thing of the past, but you can do it virtually

Remember when you just used to invite friends over for a happy hour hangout ?  Instead, see what my friend and colleague Kerry Heaney recommends for your coronavirus parties.
Easy virtual drinks party tips. I gave her a couple of recipes too.

Another reader, Cynthia has overcome the fact that she can’t buy flour by making a flourless orange cake.

She’s also having virtual afternoon teas with friends.Stand by too, because I will be telling you how to host a virtual dinner  with World’s Biggest Dinner in aid of Cure Cancer 

Another way of saying thank you

A free interactive class for the families of NHS (National Health Service) workers in the UK but Lucy will consider applications from other deserving groups

My lovely daughter, whose business has been decimated by corona virus isolation has moved it onto interactive online classes. Now Lucy Sparkles & Friends HQ are running a FREE Easter Party for NHS staff and their kids this Good Friday at 9am (UK time). To book, email from your NHS email address or PM a photo of your badge to Lucy Sparkles & Friends HQ or 07834 319825. Lucy Sparkles & Friends are running a free class or party for a deserving group of people every week.

Stay safe, healthy and happy. Keep up to date with my isolation on all my social media channels: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter Pinterest and my Youtube channel.

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