Friday, 28 September 2012


Can you believe that it was 11 degrees here earlier in the week:

And then twenty five degrees yesterday. Break out the bare legs:

Look at the crabapple tree in our garden:

Spellbinding isn't it. For two weeks of the year it makes my heart sing.....and then after the blossom has been strewn from one end of the house to the other it morphs back into a rather nondescript small tree. Alas.

No sooner did the new school term start than some of my children started vomiting. However, yesterday they were all accounted for at their respective school/kindergarten/creches. So I went out to lunch with my husband. I wore this:

Jeans from the Outnet, jacket from Asos, Hermes scarf and the Gucci handbag that I bought at their flagship store in Firenze four years ago. I can't remember what it's correct name is, but it was one that came with a complimentary monogram.....and they made me a coffee while they worked their handiwork. My Dad had died the week before. It reminds me so vividly of that strange and painful emotional place we were all in, in a city that has witnessed the day to day life of humanity for a very long time. And so do my memories of sitting, with our children, under the dome of the Florence Baptistery, staring through the void into the vast reaches of the sky:

That was my first trip to Italy. The next time I went back, I was pregnant. I wonder what my Dad would have thought about that. 

So, back to yesterday and the glorious day.....we went to lunch. My husband and I are such creatures of habit.....for YEARS every Thursday he took me to lunch at his club for a steak. Now we have changed allegiances and go every Thursday to Flathead Fish Cafe. It is really very good there. Last week we even took all of our children. The lunch special of 2 courses for $21 is a bargain....where else can you have two courses, with wine and four children's meals & fizzy drinks all round for under $100. Look how delicious the food is:

Plus there's a really nice neighbourhood, village vibe going down. But don't worry, even if you don't live in our neck of the woods, you'd still feel included. The owner/chef is usually in the kitchen and is only to happy to share his ideas on how to cope with the foibles of puff pastry and/or the state of the Tasmanian scallop beds.....if you fancy a chat. I love a good food chat.

And then, just because the sun was shining, after school I took the children for a cake and a milkshake at Sweet Envy:

This violet macaron had my name on it:

And I ordered my birthday cake:

The heady spell of the blossom on the crabapple has made me start pondering what I'm going to do with this chair that I picked up out at Gowan's for $100:

 I'm thinking it might be utterly transformed by velvet 'blossom':

Or 'pale rose':

Maybe with a contrasting piping, or maybe not. Help!

Can you believe that it's back to twelve degrees today and at the corner shop there was talk of snow.


Wednesday, 26 September 2012


It's been a bad 24 hours for furnishings in our house with one of our children having a projectile vomit in our room at bed time last night which scored a direct hit onto the curtains, chair, chaise, cushions and Persian rug. All suggestions on how to get stains out of silk dupion curtains welcome as I've just noticed that the wool wash and warm water that I used last night hasn't quite removed the spackle. Oh, and just prior, he may have been eating blueberries.

But anyway, after reading Janelle from Janelle McCulloch's Library of Design's gorgeous post on her quest to find a sofa for her new home, I have been musing about how we came up with the motley assortment of sofas that we have in our house.

This is the first sofa that I ever acquired:

My grandparents old Jacobean suite. After my grandmother died, and my mum and aunt were sorting out her house, there were no takers for the lounge so they sneakily shipped it to me at the share house I was living in in Sydney. Surprise. It didn't look anything like it does now when I first took possession of it, as it was covered in this heavy tapestry:

My grandmother had such strict rules governing this sofa as she kept it for best......lolling was strictly forbidden. She would turn in her grave if she could see some of the antics my children get up to on it these days. 

My other grandmother had a Jacobean as well and I distinctly remember scenes from my very early childhood where she used to stick the tips of her fingers into the holes on the wicker panels and we would push them out to the accompaniment of a satisfying 'pop':

I play this game with my own children now. When I moved to Hobart the Jacobean came with me as that's the thing about furniture with a sentimental can never get rid of it, no matter what it looks like. Then I had it recovered in Warwick Macrosuede and suddenly it became almost beautiful. This is how it looked back in 2007 when our house was in the local magazine Tasmanian Life:

The editor at the time was living in a shed while her husband built their house and they used to regularly stay in one of our self contained apartments for time out. I think she was struggling for houses to feature.

This was how the entire lounge room looked then:

I am still recovering from the clean up involved in getting our house neat enough to be photographed. It sends a shiver down my spine just remembering. Back then, we were furniture sitting the green chesterfield for my parents who had recently moved to Darwin. It has since been taken back into their possession and now resides in my sister's house.

And this is how the lounge room looks today:

Not that much has changed really. The brown leather sofa is another constant. It was one of the first things that we bought together after we were married:

My husband used to complain that sitting on it put his back out.....from an old rugby union injury incurred playing in Japan. Luckily, he got used to it. And I must say that I found this particular sofa insanely comfortable to sprawl on during those difficult last weeks of pregnancy when you are good for not much else. Although, since I've had four children, I can't remember the last time I did this.

There was a time, when our two beagles had free range through the house, back when they could be trusted not to pee everywhere, that I wished that all of my furniture was leather as it is so easy to clean up fur, smears and mucky children/dog marks.

Obviously, I've changed my mind now as our most recent sofa addition was this:

Which I bought utterly decrepit  and very cheaply at Gowans Auctions. I then splurged and had it recovered in Designers Guild mock crocodile skin velvet.....well it had to be recovered and quickly as the reek of old cat pee seeped throughout the entire house.......sometimes, it's still fondly referred to as the 'cat piss sofa'.

In the above photo, you can see into the adjoining room which is now the library.....although for years it used to be the room in which my husband's Scalextric slot car set took up all the available floor space.....except for the patch where the children's wooden train set was. The slot car set has been banished to upstairs and the room now looks like this:

I picked this grey chesterfield up when Leo Schofield was selling off most of his furniture at auction last year:

Don't you love a drive in the country coupled with the prospect of furniture acquisition? I do. Especially when you have the thrill of bidding at auction. He sold all of the furniture.....but the stunning Georgian pile is still for sale:

If you are tempted, have a closer look here.


Monday, 24 September 2012


So, I know that I live in Hobart in 2012 yet most of the time I inhabit a parallel universe which depends largely on what I'm reading. I've tried to keep myself sane during the two long weeks of school holidays by skiving of here and there for a comforting little read. Mercifully, my children who can read, are also bookaholics....maybe because I mastered the art of reading while breastfeeding, so it must have been by very early association. Or maybe it's just because I'm a total TV tyrant and they have had no choice.

Late last week, Emma from Two Little Pirates left a comment mentioning Partick and Taggie O'Hara from Jilly Cooper's Rivals. So of course, ever since then, I have been spending an inordinate amount of time thinking about if I were a character from a Jilly Cooper novel, who would I be. Brushing my teeth....on the yoga mat.....etc etc etc Have you ever asked yourself the same question? Hmm. And then I started thinking about Rupert Campbell - Black, but I digress..........So, after a great deal of thought I think that I would have to choose Daisy from Polo......what about you?

I have been a bookaholic forever, and have a proven track record of using books as an escape route. Back in the days when most of the girls in my boarding house nursed massive crushes on Boy George, I was infatuated with The Scarlet Pimpernel. And more recently, when I was pregnant for the first time, while other women in the same situation may have been reading What to Expect When You Are Expecting I took mine back to the shop and swapped it over for The Sea, The Sea as I spent the better part of the ten months working my way through Iris Murdoch's oeuvre....all 26 novels. I can also tell you what I was reading during each of my four confinements, much to my obstetrician's horror....Margaret Drabble's The Millstone, Patrick White's A Fringe of Leaves, Richard Flanagan's The Accidental Terrorist and then ten years later it was back again to Iris Murdoch and The Message to the Planet.

So, back to the more pressing issue of how have I entertained myself over the school hols. Firstly with this:

I must admit to not being that interested in Wallis Simpson beforehand, yet I was utterly riveted to this book. I stayed up too late most nights, when the children were in bed, reading it. I was shocked in Chapter Three by the claim that Wallis may have suffered from intersexuality and could really have been more of a man than a woman. Who would have thought. And then there were the revelations about her time in China, where it was supposed that she may have picked up various bordello techniques.....of the kind to inspire such infatuation that it could cause a king to abdicate. Not to mention the fabulous jewels and the designer frocks all accompanied by the debilitating poison of unhappiness which pervaded their married life. 

And then I moved onto this:

Which was also unputdownable. A story of one family's occupation of the same house, Knole,  over 400 years or 13 generations......and over that time the Sackville family saw it all. For ages, I have been fascinated by Vita Sackville - West and have read most of her books and been in awe of her gardening prowess at her own home Sissinghurst, where she moved after her marriage. (I've been to Sissinghurst on a pilgrimage to see the garden and climb to the top of Vita's tower). Vita was the only child of the 3rd Lord Sackville. She grew up at Knole and loved the house as an extension of herself. Because of her gender she knew from childhood that it would be her male cousin Eddy who would ultimately inherit Knole and not her. (Eddy was supposedly Uncle Davey in Nancy Mitford's The Pursuit of Love). As compensation, Virginia Woolf wrote the novel Orlando for Vita which allowed her to take possession, in fantasy, of the sprawling renaissance palace that she had been denied in fact. What an incredible gift. But then of course, Vita and Virginia were lovers. Don't be shocked, but during her marriage, Vita had affairs with women while her husband had affairs with men. 

And to think that Jilly Cooper has a reputation for being racy. It just goes to show that sometimes fact can be right up there with fiction.


Wednesday, 19 September 2012


Home sweet home. Last Saturday, we drove three and a half hours to go to a little niece's princess party. This was my only child that was happy to be dressed up:

You can imagine what the boys had to say about it all. And then one of them was car sick en route.

We are well into the second week of school hols down here......because we still have three terms in Tasmania. So from the birthday party in Scottsdale we went and hung out with friends on their farm outside Bridport. We went to the dairy:

It's incredible how mechanised the whole process can see the cows on the carousel being milked with electronic suction teats. Yet cow's can't be toilet trained, so there is a real juxtaposition between what else comes out while they are extracting the beautiful, white, creamy milk.

From Bridport we moved onto my mum's in Launceston. Tobes saw his first peacock which until then had just been a concept in a book and on YouTube:

It was at this point that I accidentally dropped my iPhone 3 into the loo. Suddenly I was totally incommunicado. I had been excited that one day, I would be trading up to the new iPhone 5 yet my misfortune  happened only a matter of days too early. The friendly lady at the Telstra shop assured me last Wednesday that it would probably be around six weeks before the new model was available.......she had me going. Never mind, the camera on my new iPhone 4s puts the old one to shame....finally I can do flash.

Next stop, Orford on the East Coast....the beach amidst rain showers and gale force winds:

Why don't children feel the cold? I was rugged up to within an inch of my life in a puffer, jeans and scarf....and you can see my husband's choice of beach footwear. Moments before this photo was taken  we had narrowly missed being struck by a blown over tree.

After seven nights away we drove back up the driveway. Look at what greeted us on our arrival home:

A parcel all the way from Espondeilhan, from our wonderful friends the family Pons. Merci beaucoup!  They had thought of everything that would bring the taste of the South of France to Hobart. Berlingot's from Pezenas for the children, a gorgeous Laguiole bottle opener:

And, be still my beating heart...foie gras:

I had always assumed that I would take the high moral ground on foie gras or 'fat liver' yet one taste and I was seduced......even though my conscience struggles with the way they force feed geese to make their livers grow abnormally large. So now I'm ashamed to admit that I have even tried foie gras ice cream.

Anyway, there was also a bag of candied cumquats:

Our whole family adores these and I can't say that I have ever seen these for sale in Hobart, so they've always been associated with markets in the South of France.....sigh. Seeing that I still have two trees laden with cumquats, staring at me reproachfully, I might see if I can find a recipe and try and recreate them in my kitchen here......or maybe I should just wait until I am back in a French market.

Coincidentally, we had a date that night down the road at one of our two local French Restaurants, Le Provencal:

I wore a new Marni top from the Outnet. Here I am wearing it while being hassled by Superman:

I can't tell you how much I love going to dinner at 'the Prov'. In true French style it's run by a husband and wife....she waits the tables while he is in the kitchen cooking and they live upstairs with their daughters. All that's missing to make it a truly authentic French dining experience is a dog wandering around between the table legs. Years ago, when we went for dinner when our eldest daughter was a toddler, one of the girls came down from upstairs in her pj's complete with toys and they played while we ate. It was perfect. These days though, I much prefer going out to dinner and leaving all four children at home.

This was the seafood special:

And the magret de canard avec pommes:

And I still gaze and gaze at the tromp l'oeil:

On that note, my time out is up....I'm being nagged to provide peanut butter sandwiches. Better get back out amongst it.


Friday, 7 September 2012


Spring, of course reminds me that I nurse a rather serious flower fetish:

Although, since I've stopped up most of the holes in my garden beds, I now no longer take the local garden centre's rose catalogue and Botanica's Roses to read in bed during long winter nights. These days, I must admit to having this charming garden book next to my bed:

Sitting on top of Vita Sackville - West's Garden Book and In Your Garden Again inspired by her garden at Sissinghurst in the UK and a selection of Susan Irvine's books about her garden at Forest Hall in Northern Tasmania.  As Katherine Swift so succinctly states, most gardening is done in your head.

Even though my full name may be a herb rather than a flower, it still contains the word 'rose' which is lucky really, as it's my very favourite flower:

And that glorious 'coconut ice' coloured bloom in the front is 'Pierre de Ronsard', which if I had to choose only one rose to grow on a desert island, this would be it. I'm trying to festoon the front of our house with it....hopefully this season it will finally reach the second already clambers up two posts on the back veranda. It is utterly ravishing. Yet, I'm also rather partial to David Austen, Delbard and most heritage roses as I love a good story or 'Souvenir de Malmaison' which was supposedly grown in Josephine's garden. Not in mine though, as when it flowered it treacherously turned out to be something else.

I was shamelessly flower centric when deciding on our daughter's names and each includes a bloom in their name  - Primrose for the eldest and  Camelia for the baby. In the language of flowers.....yes there is such a thing....Primrose means 'first love' and Camellia means 'graciousness'. I also toyed with Marigold and Magnolia....or 'dignity' and 'desire for riches'. Neither quite worked and unfortunately marigold's are a rather unprepossessing looking flower.....although I suppose that you can eat the petals in a salad.

Today, I took a turn around the garden looking for flowers. The camellia's were out:

Yet this was all that was left of the spring bulbs - three different daffodil varieties, muscari and forget -me - not, which, of course, is not a bulb but almost a weed:

I had more luck finding flowers inside. A Designer's Guild cushion:

And in the bedroom, a Coalport vase that belonged to my grandmother:

And a teacup and saucer that I bought at Gowans because of the foxgloves:

My favourite flowery dress is emblazoned with foxgloves:

I wore it to my 40th birthday party in our garden last year, after I spent the best part of a year weeding the waist high twitch out of it.....the garden that is:

Just before my party, my husband took me for a day trip to Melbourne to find 'the dress'. He endured sitting in numerous ladies change rooms around town all day while a friend and I conducted the search. We fortified him with steak frites and chocolate profiteroles, washed down with lashings of red wine at France Soir for lunch. I'm happy to report that his spirits didn't flag once.

This dress is a riot of sprays of flowers and birds:

I bought to wear to the Henley on Thames regatta:

I was a little bit pregnant, so was unable to make the most of the Pimm's Bar. Maybe next time.

Seeing yesterday was Thursday, I was compelled to make my weekly pilgrimage to Gowans Auctions. They were filming the new series of Auction Room with Gordon Brown:

Look how many flowers there were. A reproduction Faberge egg:

Lots of plates:

And this book of 17th century engravings, circa 1976:

Someone else was getting rid of their Princess Diana memorabilia.....only fifteen years since her tragic car accident in the Parisian tunnel which claimed her life:

What a pink larkspur......which represents 'fickleness', in case you don't speak flower.