Monday, 27 February 2012


It was exceedingly hot down here over the weekend - never mind that the weekend before we had the fire going.

Look at what my clever huband cooked last night during a last days of summer heatwave:

 Drumroll's Grandma's Bramble Cake from Stephanie Alexander's The Cook's Companion. I have the old orange version and it's page 122 - 123. He's also very adept at Lemon Delicious Pudding.

All of the planets have to be in alignment to create this. You have to remember to plunder those unforgotten weedy fringes around town where blackberries grow at the very precise time they are fruiting. And then hope against hope that they haven't been sprayed and that you don't stumble across a dead body in the process.

Then you have  to dedicate an afternoon to picking them - at great physical risk as nothing stings as much as blackberry prickles. I could tell you our favourite places around town to pick blackberries yet then they would all be gone for another year and there would be no chance of another cake. Sorry. And this cake is worth it. Maybe take a drive in the country.

Don't be put off with the fact that this is made with lard pastry. Yes, lard is nothing other than clarified pig fat, usually packaged in a block which could easily be mistaken for butter. In previous years I've had difficulty sourcing lard yet yesterday I bought it at Coles. Unfortunately, in this recipe you can't substitute lard with any other kind of fat and it may seem offputting yet the proof of the pudding is in the eating. And it is spectacularly delicious.


Friday, 24 February 2012


Just in case you are wondering,  there was no picture in the carpet in the hot room this morning. It was standing room only so I had to practice at the back of my mat - my view was of the towel. Just the towel. No potential for psychoanalysis today.

The disappointment of having no new material for my blog broke my one track yoga concentration. Suddenly I was standing on the mat thinking of Nancy Mitford's Love in a Cold Climate- when Jassy and Victoria are taken up with psychoanalysis and are toying with their father. They offer to test his intelligence level by having him look at an ink blot on a piece of paper with the results stemming from what he can 'see' in the ink blot - a spider, the Himalayas. When he tells them that it looks like nothing other than an ink blot they reply, 'It's just as I had feared....and shows a positively sub-human level.....Oh, dear, sub-human, that's bad-'. What would they have said about my towel being a towel?

On my way home I kept thinking of Nancy Miford. Have I mentioned that she is one of my absolute favourite writers. And that I am endlessly fascinated by the lives of her and her family. How can you not be.If you have utterly no idea what I'm talking about then you had better start here.

Anyway, one of my favourite quotes from Love in a Cold Climate is where Linda says to Fanny ' you think about dresses and hats all the time, even in church...'. Do you? And me? Maybe not hats and maybe not in church. Oh, and maybe not ALL the time. Yet I must confess to having spent some time this afternoon in the park while the children were eating sand and playing to thinking about what I'm going to wear tomorrow night when I go to my friends house. Big question. Right up there with what am I going to cook for dinner.

Once Nancy made serious money as an author she bought her clothes at Dior. So did her sister Debo aka the Duchess of Devonshire (now Dowager). Debo writes in her book Home to Roost and Other Peckings:

about the time her grandaughter, the model, Stella Tennant, came to Chatsworth for a fashion shoot. One room was full of new clothes from some of the most famous fashion houses in Europe and America. During the shoot Debo showed off some of her forty year old coats and dresses from Dior, Balmain and Lanvin. In the end that they dressed her up in them and took photos of her with her granddaughter wearing the current models. How fun would that have been.


Thursday, 23 February 2012


Do you ever see pictures in the carpet pattern during yoga class or is it just me? Sometimes doing Toe Stand when I focus on the carpet and not on a blob of sweat on the stripe of red tape, I can. Today it was a strange looking snake/monkey face, last week it was a sheep and when I did my first class back from the Gold Coast Seminar it was Bikram himself. I wonder what it all means? Am consoling myself with Ben's saying: "Weird is normal and normal is weird". Or should I just be psychoanalysed and be done with?

Today I wore my new grey and white leopard print jeans (how badly do I need a new iphone that takes reverse photos):

Thank you Harriett for finding them! I must say that I did feel a tad conspicuous wearing them out publicly in downtown Hobart. The acid test was what Felix would think.Thumbs up or thumbs down. I have a pair of purple J Brand colour block jeans that he has asked me not to wear to school when I pick him up:

Should I be listening to the fashion advice of an eight year old boy? As I typed that last sentence I remembered that I took the advice of a four year old boy who recently talked me into a leopard print bikini. Anyway, Felix said yes to the new jeans but remains comitted to his thoughts about the purple.

Over the last week I have been working my way through this volume:

As you can see by the yellow sticker I bought it on sale at Fuller's Bookshop. It's been sitting on my bedside table for at least six months. On Saturday I finally opened it. Initially I wasn't sure whether it was the barking of a crazy loon or incredibly perceptive with a profound meaning for the modern world. Now I am thinking that it is the latter. I'm still struggling with understanding the theories behind natural  patterns and don't quite understand the symbolic importance of the ratio of the Golden Section or quite how a credit card and ipod conform to the measurements. I'll just have to keep chipping away at it. Yet I was convinced by his ideas about how far modern life operates in a highly mechanised way disconnected from nature. It is wrong. The most shocking example being how some animals reared for food are 'manufactured' through industrial processes.

I hereby solemnly vow to never knowingly eat a caged chicken or egg or a farmed fish ever again.


Tuesday, 21 February 2012


I've been technologically thwarted. In six weeks two of our laptops have done time in the shop - one was terminal and I have everything crossed that the other will be resuscitated and make it out alive. And then there was the curious case of Kim's ipad which was never seen again after it was somehow left on the roof of my car one hectic evening last week.

So here I am making use of the somewhat limited resources available and borrowing Kim's computer that he has kindly brought home from work.

On Sunday our family went to Italy in North Hobart - the Festa Italia. As you can see, even though there were grown men dressed as gladiators it was not like being in Rome:

After all this was in the backyard of the Italian Club in Federal Street and not actually out the front of the Colosseum or the Pantheon. We summoned all of our powers of immaginitis yet it didn't work. Especially as they were all out of pizza by 1pm. I'm not joking. Do you think they ever run out of Italy?

So we queued for fifteen minutes for spaghetti bolognaise:

This made our children very happy:

We have friends who recently moved from Rome to Hobart. They had a drinks party on Sunday evening after the Festa and they had pizza. Sadly, they are now moving from Hobart to Melbourne. Ciao Stephen and Moira. E buona fortuna.


Friday, 17 February 2012


Things were a tad stressy in our household this morning. We were all late to bed last night the result being nobody wanted to get up today - including me. Then there was the usual hurly burly of morning teas, lunches, breakfast service, hair, teeth, school notices, bags packed etc etc etc all to be taken care of. Once those going to school/work had finally evacuated it was time to clean up, get the washing on, dress the baby, change her nappy, get myself dressed and try to get to 9.30am yoga class.

We were pushing the envelope timewise anyway and then the leg of Toby's lion fell off. He was distraught - tears rolled down his face. How could I not sew it back on?  So I brushed my teeth but not my hair.

Just as we were walking out the door I noticed out of the corner of my eye that I could only see one beagle when there are meant to be two. A frantic search of the far flung reaches of the garden and a trip back upstairs to see if he had managed to slope up to our bed proved that my worst fears were confirmed - Dougal was missing. Panic. And the sad  realisation that I was going to miss yoga. Almost tears. I committed myself to scouring the neighbourhood for our deaf, addled, almost fourteen year old beagle and started running down the driveway when miracle of miracles Dougal came barrelling around the corner. Hurrah. Two beagles in their baskets and I made it to yoga just in the nick of time.


Wednesday, 15 February 2012


So today I decided that I'm going to seize the control that I do have and do what I can to save the environment. Seeing that it's been preying on my mind and all.

Firstly, I'm going to start by boycotting the supermarket and shop locally. Until we can toilet train Milly I will still need to go there to buy these:

Eco nappies, made from natural material without plastic, perfume or chlorine. It's a shame that they have to come all the way from Sweden.

Luckily, I drive past the Hill Street Grocer on my way home from yoga:

Look at all of the fruit and veg which will have to supplement my veggie patch until it gets going:

And then I should be self sufficient in eggs and lettuce again.


Tuesday, 14 February 2012


I've had a curious day. On the one hand I was feeling very virtuous as I completed my BAS (yucky quarterly tax reporting) and did three loads of washing. This high induced by hard labour was somewhat tempered by spending part of the day dwelling on the fact that the boy's school is next to a rather large electricity substation. This is a big issue for me - our family uses herbal toothpaste and shampoo from the health food shop and I would never dream of feeding my children a biscuit from a packet because of the dangers of trans fats. At after school pickup time I had this conversation with another mum and she showed me a YouTube clip of a group popping corn with their mobile phones. How in control of our lives are we really when we live in this modern world? It's an insurmountable question.

I finished The Paris Wife.  It was compellingly un-put-downable even though I knew it was going to end in tears. And it did - spectacularly - when Ernest left his first wife Hadley for her best friend. Sordid and sad. He then went on to repeat the same adulterous process three more times.

Half way into the book, I was surprised by the idea that Ernest and Hadley Hemingway thought that going to a bull fight while pregnant might have a positive influence on their unborn child. I went to a bullfight in Beziers when I was pregnant and was worried that it may have the opposite effect. Especially as I started uncontrollably sobbing as soon as the first poor, confused bull was shunted into the arena. Kim and I discussed it at length at the time and I considered keeping my eyes closed.

A week before, we had been reading aloud Roald Dahl's Boy while trying to drive around Cornwall in a motorhome. Here's Tobes at the wheel:

Apparently Roald's father took his pregnant wife on a tour of famed beauty spots so that she could gaze and gaze at beauty in the leadup to her confinement. While gestating I may have seen a bullfight yet I also saw Paris in the springtime, the snow capped Pyrenees and the azure blue Amalfi coast. That should have overcompensated...shouldn't it?

Sunday, 12 February 2012


I had every good  intention of going to yoga today. Yet the sight that greeted my eyes when I opened them this morning was this:

A surprise Valentine's Day, two days early. How could I not succumb and join in the festivities. Milly, the French baby did, showing a proclivity for champagne at such a tender age:

So then I ate this delicious nutella crepe made by my husband for breakfast and washed it down with champagne and it was too late for yoga or anything other than hedonistic V Day behaviour :

I did wonder where all this was leading and was further surprised by the knock on the door at 12.30pm. Abracadabra it was a babysitter. So what happened next? I frocked up in this:

And was whisked off to an undisclosed location. As we were driving along the Brooker Highway I was momentarily worried that we were going to the Hobart Cup. Mercifully we kept MONA and the Source Restaurant:

It is one of my favourite restaurants. The food was fabulous. I ate this slow roasted duck with mango, palm heart, basil and olive licorice:

While Kim had the pork special with blood sausage:

We shared this curious combination of rhubarb and beetroot amalgamated as a salad - look how vibrantly pink it was:

How could we not have desert? Mine was Brioche Pain Perdu with eggnog and milk icecream:

Whike Kim predictably went the chocolate praline option:

Seeing we were there, and for once without children, we gave into temptation and went down into the bowels of the museum and finally ventured beyond the red curtains and into the red area with the content warning. I won't rush back, as compared to other parts of the museum I found it somewhat gratuitous and hollow.

And then we had a turn around the Wim Delvoye exhibition. Have you ever wondered what a tatooed adult pigs tatooed skin hung on the wall would look like? I hadn't yet now that I've seen I'm surprised by how faded and almost transparent the Disney images and Louis Vuitton patterns looked. And what were those lipstick marks framed on posh hotel letterhead?.........Yes, really.

The real show stopper was cloaca world - a display of numerous machines which when fed, food usually from the cafe upstairs, turn it into stools. Not convinced? Smell.

Back to reality tomorrow.


Saturday, 11 February 2012


Look at our girls:

Ten years between them and both in the same top. It helps that I picked them up yesterday on sale for $13 - 75% off. Bargain. Mimi of course insisted that we had to have an outing  into town with the girls sporting their new fashion so we went to the cafe at Fuller's Bookshop:

I had a restorative green tea while the children shared a honey milkshake:

The flavour must have prompted Tobes to keep us amused with his new favourite joke:

'What bees gives milk?' Anyone, anyone? 'Boobies'! This joke comes courtesy of Bikram Choudhury via the Advanced Seminar I went to on the Gold Coast. I'd totally forgotten that I'd passed it on to Tobes. Same sense of humour. Hmm.

I've finally finished my most recent Jilly Cooper obsession and have moved on to this which as you can see from the cover I borrowed from the library:

The Paris Wife is meant to be fiction yet draws very heavily of fact. It's about Ernest Hemingway's first marriage (he had four). I have had a bit of an ongoing Ernest Hemingway fixation so was keen to get my hands on this. I'm not sure at Chapter Six whether I love it or loathe it.

I find Ernest Hemingway, the man and his work, compelling. He was so incredibly talented and yet so tortured and ultimately tragic. I have been chipping away at his books for years and have yet to get through his oeuvre. So far have I've loved A Farewell to Arms, Across the River and Into the Trees, and the posthumous A Moveable Feast. I read The Garden of Eden while in France - we were living near Aigues Mortes where part of it was set. What better excuse. I'm ashamed to admit that I strugged with For Whom the Bell Tolls. Maybe I shouldn't have typed that.

Anyway, I'm in the middle of cooking date night dinner. It's a very casual affair - I'm wearing my bathrobe. Did you know that you can find most Gourmet Traveller recipes here on their website? I am in the process of tinkering with the delicious Cauliflower and Taleggio Risotto with Anchovy Pangrattato which I am going to make with pumpkin as pasta. Fingers crossed it works.


Friday, 10 February 2012


At lunchtime I was convinced that today was shaping up as more than averagely monotonously dull. Luckily the stars aligned and our favourite babysitter was free so I coerced Kim to take me to the Nicholas Blowers opening at the Bett Gallery in North Hobart:

Sophisticated Friday evening entertainment, eh what? There was wine and curious thought provoking conversation prompted by the artworks on display:

There is no doubt about it, Nicholas Blowers has a talent for trees. They have been the subject of his work for years:

The layers of paint add and labourious detail make them incredibly realistic and beautiful. You are almost consumed in the stillness and intimacy of the scene.

But wait, there was more than trees:

These curiously realistic yet unidentifiable insect like creatures which were seductive yet repulsive at the same time.

And to cap it all off we brought home....not a painting but an Annapurna curry.


Thursday, 9 February 2012


It's always the way isn't it? Today, when I dropped Milly at creche at 8.30am, wearing bike shorts, birkenstocks and a trackie top - I was en route to yoga - I bumped into a boy I'd been to school with whom I hadn't seen since the day we left. Did I also mention that I hadn't brushed my hair. Oh the horror. I'm trying to comfort myself that it could have been could have been after yoga, wearing the same ensemble yet saturated in sweat and smell.

I had a lovely day. After yoga class and a turn around Gowan's Auctions - it was Thursday after all - I went home and loaded a pile of magazines I have been trying to read into my handbag and took myself to Pidgeon Hole Cafe (93 Goulburn Street, Hobart).  And this is the ambrosial zucchini and ricotta soup I had for lunch:

As often happens I started pondering how I could make this at home with the glut of zucchinis I am anticipating now that I have planted three zucchini plants in my veggie patch. And then I started worrying because while I actually learned how to make ricotta with Rodney at the Agrarian Kitchen, that was almost two years and a pregnancy ago and unfortunately it has receeded into the mists of time.

Of course the soup was served with Jay's amazing bread. If you are reading this and you live in Hobart and you have never bought a loaf of bread from Pidgon Hole then you must go there tomorrow and buy some. It is without question the BEST bread in Hobart.

So no sooner did I sit down and relax and start flicking pages than it was time to go and pick up Tobes - he finishes school at the ungodly hour of 2.30pm. Truly, you take him there and lo and behold it is time to go and pick him up.

We didn't pick Milly up until 5.30pm which gave me time to cook dinner beforehand. By all accounts she had a wonderful day and was miss smiley when we collected her, see:

And when she got home she wanted to mow the lawn:

Until tomorrow.


Wednesday, 8 February 2012


Can you believe that tomorrow for the first time EVER I am going to have all of my children at school/creche? Me neither. At this precise moment it seems like a distant dream yet as of 8.30am tomorrow morning it is going to be my reality for one day a week. It will no doubt be hairy getting them all dressed, fed, out the door and to their respective institutions - just thinking about it makes me break into a cold panic. It will be worth it.

Look at my baby when she was one day old:

It seems like only yesterday. Sigh. And now she is one:

How to spend the day?


Tuesday, 7 February 2012


Back again. All I can say is phew now that three of my children are happily ensconced back at school. Mimi on Monday:

And both boys today:

Don't be fooled into thinking that there has been any relief for me. As if. The last two days have been entirely dedicated  to getting Camelia all set for her one day a week at creche. To set foot through the front door she needs a number from the Family Assistance Office. On Friday I discovered that being born overseas meant that she didn't have one. Oh the sordid mess of paperwork, gruelling online forms and visits to the Family Assistance Office that I have had to endure. Fingers crossed the promised number is in the mail.

Look how amazing 50 lit birthday candles look:

We contributed the stack of birthday brownie to Kim's brother's birthday party although it's hard to see below the flames. Birthday brownie is easier to make than a cake and memorably good. I swear by Nigella's recipe from How to be a Domestic Goddess:

*Put 375g unsalted butter and 375g dark chocolate (for best results use Callebaut dark or anything 75% cocoa solids) in a pyrex bowl and nuke in microwave for 2 minutes or until melted. Mix. Leave momentarily to cool.

*Beat together 6 eggs, teaspoon vanilla extract and 500g caster sugar. Add chocolate mixture and 225g plain flour, pinch salt and 300g chopped walnuts.

*Pour into lined rectangular baking tin and bake for about 25 minutes in 180 degree oven.You don't want them to be neither too googey nor too dry. Leave to cool and then cut into pieces.

As school is back, here's a handy hint - I usually make this for my children to take to school on their birthdays and because of the draconian nut policies at school I replace the walnuts with 300g chopped dark, milk or white chocolate. The best thing about making this instead of a cake is that you can keep some at home. OK, I've finished channelling Marjorie Bligh for tonight.


Sunday, 5 February 2012


Last night the cooking gods smiled on me. Which was very lucky as it made dinner delicious - I am still recovering from the amazement. I was pedantic with the use of my camera so without further adieu I give you last night's dinner party:

The guests:

Caramelised Onion Tart:

Rabbit with Agen Prunes and pommes de mon terre:

Chocolate Pots with berries and biscuit:

Of course, in the true spirit of French dining there was a chesse course between main and dessert.

We finally got to bed at 3am. It's not as bad as it sounds as Camelia was kind to us and obligingly slept until 10am, the boys were ecstatic to have a generous dose of morning TV and Mimi was at a sleepover.

So I have just been out and weeded my veggie patch. I am ashamed to show the before photo:

It looks neat now:

Although virtually denuded except for a couple of self seeded tomato plants and kale. I have given it a good dose of sheep manure and blood and bone which is being rained in as I type as the weather has just turned very wet. Bad news for Kim's brother's party he's hosting in the Waterworks Reserve this evening although good news for the garden.

Right now I'm finished weeding and off to pay the hot room a visit.