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Friday, 30 March 2012

Friday.

I've been struggling with inspiration this week. My intention for this blog was to reassure myself that my life as a housewife living in Hobart isn't as dull and uninteresting as I sometimes imagine it to be. This week however it seems to be.

So I'll just have to resort to telling you about my children - each of whom has had a great week at school. Felix brought home a certificate from assembly and is doing extension French classes, Mimi landed one of the main roles for Wakikiri performance and good old Tobes and his besty did this to themselves in the playground after school yesterday:



I have every minute over the next two days accounted for in the lead up to Kim's Dad's surprise 90th afteroon tea on Sunday. There are twenty five family and friends on the guest list and I have undertaken to feed them all. How hungry can they be at 3pm? Surely they will have had lunch before they arrive?

My Mum, who has flitted off for a holiday in Darwin, gave me some retro recipes before she left. One involved tinned asparagus and white bread and another hard boiled eggs and curry powder. Hmm. After much deliberation for the afternoon tea we've decided on a cake table spread to include the birthday cake to be made by Kim's Mum, the old de rigeur brownies and vanilla biscuits with cumquat. Then my free, however not particularly skilled waiting staff, aka my children, are going to offer around smoked salmon tartlets, caramelised onion mini pizzas and gougeres. I shall take photos.

As I'm typing this I'm beginning to panic that I may have to add in something else? My in laws are vegetarian tee - totallers so I can't get away with plying them with drink to take the edge off their appetites. Help. Any suggestions?

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Ships.

On Sunday I went on a date with one of my pirate fanciers to have a look over the HMB Endeavour replica:





Now I'm not suggesting that Captain Cook was a pirate, rather the attraction was going on board an olde worlde ship and imagining life on board.  This experience cost the two of us $27.

Being Hobart, HMB Endeavour was tied up at the dock alongside this, the Sea Shepherd's Bob Barker:



We could have got aboard this ship for free, yet unfortunately we'd run out of time. Aren't these two ships an interesting study in juxtaposition, every way you look at them. I wonder what the reaction of a Sea Shepherd crew would have been if they had happened to be around when the Endeavour had sailed into Australian waters?

When we got home, Tobes had been to a pirate themed birthday party and was dressed the part:



Using his imaginitis he turned the deck into his ship.

I'm ashamed to admit that I spent seven hours of the weekend transfixed by Downton Abbey:


How did I miss this when it was on the telly? If only somebody, anybody other than me, would do that thing with the duster to my chandeliers. It would be wonderful. My cleaning lady isn't allowed to stand on a ladder. How times have changed. Wasn't the last episode disappointing - they pulled out every cheap trick to seduce you into anticipating the second series. Saying that, does anyone know when it comes out?

R

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Milestones.

It was a red letter day in our house yesterday when Miss Camelia took her first steps!

video


She hasn't taken many today as I suppose that she has spent most of the day strapped into the pram. Despite the wintery weather - we were greeted with a dusting of snow on Mt Wellington this morning - we walked down the road to the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery (TMAG):



This is where David Walsh used to go when he wagged church as an adolescent. Now he has his own museum MONA.

The TMAG is groaning at the seams with amazing things - art, decorative arts, zoological specimens - yet at the moment only a small amount is on display while they renovate. Did you know that they have Kylie Minogue's wedding dress from when Charlene married Scott on Neighbours? I'm sure that you probably didn't. My children were happy to re explore the Islands to Ice Antarctic exhibition for the trillionth time. It gave me a chance to have a cup of green tea in the cafe in peace.

Then I was surprised to recognise one of the five copies of the dvd artwork that our Art Collecting Group recently purchased on display in the gallery downstairs. I'm sure that it will look just as striking when we have it going at our place.

Over the last couple of days I have been organising a surprise party for my father in laws 90th birthday. We are inviting him to ours for a family lunch. To coincide with the cutting of the cake there is going to be a knock at the door whereby twenty of his friends will materialise to celebrate with him. One of them asked if it might be too big surprise for him - he has recently had surgery for a stent so I'm hoping his heart should be up to it.

Kim and Mimi are out at the father/daughter camp. Look how busy all the dads are trying to get dinner sorted before it gets too dark:



I'm going to try my hardest to get the boys and the baby into bed early so I can make serious inroads into season one of Downton Abbey. I hope it's as good as everybody says. Better get on the case.

R


Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Cumquats.

This morning I harvested my first crop of cumquats for the season:



And between the million things I did today I made Moira's Cumquat Compote - the recipe for which she so kindly gave me just before she relocated to Melbourne.

All you do is get your hands on 500g cumquats:


Make sure they are clean and get rid of all the bits of stalk. Put them in a heavy, non reactive pan and add just enough water to not quite cover them. Bring to the boil and then simmer for half and hour:



 Stir in 350g raw sugar and boil for five minutes before putting into sterilised jars. Et voila:


It's meant to be delicious with cheese or ice cream and let me say that Moira wasn't kidding when she said that it was very simple to make. It was. So if you are stuck for cumquat recipes, give it a burl.

In other news, I have recently purchased this water bottle:


And yes, you are really seeing a stylised image of Bikram Choudhury, from way back in the day when he was about twenty years old, emblazoned on the front. Don't let that put you off as this bottle is insulated. That means that even if you add tap water on your way into the hot room, it will keep it cool and magically transform it from mere tap water to icy cold nectar from the Gods.  How did I survive for so long without one?

R

Monday, 19 March 2012

Indulgent.

Over the weekend I inhabited a parallel universe - one quite outside my everyday reality. It involved driving down the driveway on Saturday morning with only my husband in the car  - destination airport and Sydney:



For two days we called the Establishment Hotel in the city home:




It's nice there. How much do you love room service? I wish we had it at our place. Living in an old house which was originally built to be run by staff, we still have staff call buttons in some rooms yet sadly they were disconnected long ago. When we first moved in I used to idly press them - Kim would respond 'I don't know why you bother as nobody is going to come!' And at home nobody ever does. Yet on the weekend, at the Establishment, they did, complete with breakfast:



We ventured outside the hotel to indulge in bona fide grown up activity. We spent the afternoon at the Art Gallery of New South Wales at the Picasso exhibition:


And afterwards went to dinner at a friend's house who really got into the Spanish theme and cooked this amazing paella:


Followed by crema catalana:


Both were masterpieces in their own right.

On Sunday, at the Opera House Bar, we met up with my room mate from the Bikram Yoga Advanced Seminar that we both went to in January. This time we were drinking bubbly instead of coconut water, or the Coca Cola which Bikram himself drinks constantly.

But now that I'm well and truly back at home, I'm going to have a cup of tea in anticipation of bed. I'll just walk down the stairs to make it myself.

R




Thursday, 15 March 2012

Fertiliser.

Yesterday, after I picked up the boys from school, I detoured through the senior campus and bought two $4 bags of sheep manure - ostensibly to feed my hedge yet at the same time support the boat club. I had a brief reminisce about the summer of sheep poo, way back in our misspent youth, when Janey and I haunted various shearing sheds around Northern Tasmania, bagged it up and then targeted well manicured streets in Launceston with our product so that we could finance visits to the Royal Oak. It was only $2 a bag then. Before I went out to lunch today I had a gardening blitz whereupon the heavens promptly obliged and rained it all in.

I have been rather worried about my worms lately. Out of the thousands that live in my worm farm the majority were refusing to move on up to the next level and seemed intent in drowning themselves in their own pee. I took advice from Alistair, who knows about these things, and have now transformed the top level into a worm paradise:


Look how happy they are:


No doubt because I picked out by hand all of the spring onion that accidentally went in with an old salad. In case you are wondering, worms can't stand onion, citrus or meat. Fingers crossed I will have compost for the garden sometime soon. It is an excruciatingly slow process, worm farming.

And then as it was Thursday, my husband took me to lunch at his club as he does most Thursdays:




He wouldn't let me take any photos inside in case you are intending to steal the silverware or any of the paintings. And there is some beautiful old stuff yet on the whole the atmosphere is a tad fusty. Oh, except that we had lunch in the room in which we also attended a 40th birthday party last year. I can still see various people, who shall remain nameless, doing frightening disco manoeuvres on the dance floor (cleverly revealed by lifting the square of carpet away). Today, we only had a steak and salad and one glass of wine.

R

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Nine.

Felix's turned nine on Monday. It seems like only yesterday Kim was holding him just after he'd been born and we were joking that he looked like Mr Whippy as he was so thickly coated in vernix.  He doesn't look anything like Mr Whippy now.

So we celebrated with two days of birthday festivities. I had heard a rumour about the existence of a chocolate fountain in the Cafe at Wrest Point Casino - in all places, in the change room at Bikram Yoga. Felix is a notorious chocoholic. The last chocolate odyssey we took him on was to have the famous Chocolat l'Africain at Angelina's in Paris. For the uninitiated it is liquid drinking chocolate into which you stir whipped cream - utterly delicious and worth a trip to Paris alone. So for Sunday lunch in Hobart, we put aside all of our prejudices against Casino's and went to Wrest Point in search of the chocolate fountain. Ta da:



Over the last couple of years we have had to go to the Casino for various events held in the main function room - like school Speech Night and the TSO Ball. It has never really registered on our radar before as a dining destination of choice. And now I know what it's like I won't be rushing back there. It brought back vivid memories of an awful family holiday that we had aboard a P&O cruise ship. All that patterned carpet and all you can eat buffets send a shudder down my spine. Yet, the boys did have a lovely time with the chocolate fountain. Here's Toby having a turn.

Before:




After:



After lunch we indulged in another of Felix's favourite things to do and went ice skating:



Our children learnt to skate having spent winter in Europe - where ice rinks pop up in towns and cities and it is an inexpensive and to Australians, novel thing to do. The ice rink at Glenorchy is the polar opposite being expensive and seedy. It plays terrible music very loudly and is mouldering away in a time warp. As a visual comparison - here's Felix ice skating on the rink outside the Hotel de Ville in Paris:


 And Felix ice skating on the rink in Glenorchy:


We are not totally disheartened by the current daggy state of ice skating in Hobart as we recently heard a rumour that there is talk of the possibility of a winter ice rink in the forecourt outside the new Princes Wharf. How lovely would it be skating with a snow capped Mt Wellington and the sandstone warehouses of Salamanca Place as a backdrop. That wintery Hobart wonderland would give even Paris a run for it's money don't you think? Fingers and toes crossed it eventuates.

Seeing this on the wall of the rink on Sunday brought memories of my adolescence flooding back:


I actually saw them at the Silverdome when they came to Launceston, way, way back in the day, where they did their signature Bolero routine.  I asked Mimi what she thought of Torvill and Dean to which she predictably answered - 'Who?'

So on Monday Felix had a party. Kim took him and his friends to the movies and they all came back to ours for a homemade pizza lunch:



This was an incredibly easy way to entertain so many young boys - there was no slaving away at organising a full on party. Kim picked up THE BEST and THE EASIEST ice cream cake recipe from Jo at his office - if you are reading, thanks Jo and I hope you don't mind if I share the recipe? And I use the term recipe loosely as all you do is mix different flavours of ice cream with different fillings in a spring form cake tin - Kim went vanilla with Toblerone, boysenberry with M& M's and cookies and cream with Maltesers. Then you put it in the freezer and forget about it.

From the outside it looked quite sedate:


Yet once you cut into it, it was every young boy's dream:


Afterwards, one mother sent me an sms with a quote from her son...'that ice cream cake was the best ice cream for a long time - seriously!!'. You'll have to try it.

Happy birthday Felix!

R

Monday, 12 March 2012

Controversial.

On Friday afternoon I had a twenty four hour leave pass to head north, rendezvous with old friends and go to the Glover Prize exhibition opening at Evandale.

Before I went though, I did a full day of duty - heading to the pool to see Felix receive these at his swimming carnival:


I didn't shirk any of my housewifely duties and went from chore to chore before I left making sure that all of the washing was hung out, the garden was watered and there was a home cooked meal ready to be reheated so that I could socialise, look at pictures and drink bubbly with a clear conscience.

I arrived at my mum's house in Launceston just in time to throw on this:



In keeping with my current fetish for animalia - the skirt is layers of ostrich feathers although it's hard to see. How did we exist living in the shopping wasteland that is Hobart without Net-A-Porter or The Outnet? Earlier in the day, Toby had suggested that I should wear my wedding dress. Last time I took his fashion advice was in the change room at Myer when I can home with a leopard print bikini rather than the more subdued black one that I was leaning towards.

There was a queue to get into the exhibition:


And once inside it was very crowded:



In case you have somehow missed the surge of publicity the winning painting has generated, this is Rodney Pople's work of Port Arthur which took out the prize:


It's a tad difficult to see Martin Bryant holding the shotgun from this angle. Yet, he's been painted in, centre stage, in this hauntingly gloomy, nightmarish scene. Port Arthur has been the scene of crimes against humanity ever since European settlement in Tasmania - with the annihilation of the Tasmanian Aborigines, the depravity of the penal settlement and the more recent horror of Martin Bryant's massacre. Port Arthur is an emotionally disturbing place. This painting really captures that. And yet, until the opening of MONA, Port Arthur has been Tasmania's most visited tourist attraction. 

My friend Brigita from the Tasmanian School of Art  was one of the judges. She said that each of the three judges had a list. This was the only work that each of their lists had in common. 

R


Thursday, 8 March 2012

See.

Yesterday I received this sms:

'Am at hairdressers reading mags.....Kate Moss has your new jeans!!!Xx'

Accompanied by this attachment:


So I did I quick turn around the internet and lo and behold, it's true:


Thanks to Harriett for the tip off. Yet honestly, how likely am I to bump into Kate wearing the same jeans in downtown Hobart?  So I wore them out last night to our Art Collecting Group meeting last night:


As you can see, no Kate and not much leopard print denim going on either. 

Tim Burns, an abstract landscape painter who lives locally talked about himself and his work.  It was an amazing talk, incredibly powerful. Tim really opened himself up as he kept the lights on and relied entirely on words to describe his inspiration and ideas. Unusually, for a visual artist, he showed no images of his work, or of anything. It was incredibly evocative - seeing what he was talking about in your mind's eye.

Our Art Collecting Group organised through the Bett Gallery is moving into it's third year. It is a curious thing to be a part of - a group of people who really have not much else in common except for membership of this group and an interest in art.  We all contribute a set amount of money over a ten year period which is then spent on - in our group's case - Tasmanian art. The premise is that the work acquired by the group spends time at everyone's houses and then there is an auction at which you bid (with allocated shares) to acquire your favourite pieces from the collection. I am still struggling to understand how it all works. And trying to grapple with the meaning behind the most recent acquisition which is a post colonial, collage played on a dvd. Can you 'see' it?



Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Unwell.

I was back in the hot room today. On Sunday, for the first time ever, I walked out of a Bikram Yoga class part way through (I got as far as the second set of Half Tortoise pose). Of course I blamed the ham and cheese crepe I'd consumed only an hour before class knowing full well that I should NEVER eat anything for at least two hours before.  But how could I say no:



I was so ill. Yet it wasn't the result of Kim's handiwork with his French, purpose built, cast iron crepe pan it was something far more sinister. When I got home (and in case you are wondering I did finish off the class, it may have felt like I was in the loo forever yet I only missed both sets of the dreaded Camel pose) I was greeted by the news that Tobes had had five vomits. Then I had three more myself. And then Mimi succumbed and then Kim and then Felix.

Oh, the washing this all generated. I had the perfect opportunity to try out my new alternative to washing powder - soap nuts - that I bought from Live Life in the village on Saturday:



Don't be sceptical because of it's appearance:



Although I must admit that I wasn't entirely convinced myself. However after eight loads of VERY MESSY washing I can not sing praises of soap nuts highly enough. All you do is put four of the nuts into a little calico bag (which conveniently comes in the packet) and add it directly to the wash:




Four nuts will see you through five loads. And best of all there is not a chemical in sight as they are picked directly off a tree that doesn't compromise rain forests.

Up until we were all struck down by gastro we had been having such a lovely weekend. It was Mimi's school fair on Friday night - the spitting rain and twelve degree temperatures were no deterrent. The boys had a fabulous time with their joke show bags. Would you accept a piece of gum from this boy:



Be it at your peril as you would have found a plastic cockroach stuck to your finger. Needless to say the boys thought it was hysterical. As well as the squirty ring and whoopee cushion. After the fair they moved on to greener pastures and even more unsuspecting adults - joking everyone at Kim's office staff drinks.  "Wanna piece of gum?!"

R


Thursday, 1 March 2012

New.

Hello from my new computer! All week I have been trying to beg, borrow or steal Mimi and Kim's computers as soon as they walk through the door yet they have had a litany of excuses as to why I couldn't make use of them....homework, left at the office etc etc etc. So for the last two days I have been trying to rectify my computer less situation and been engaged in computer shopping - an incredibly time consuming task. No lunch out and about for me today. No time for even a green tea. I must say that I am really very happy with the one that I chose yet still haven't been able to make it do email or sync to iTunes yet. Hopefully soon.

It's probably lucky that I haven't had access to a computer this week as things have been really quite dull in my neck of the woods. However there has been a very celebratory vibe going on at the Bikram Yoga Studio Newtown with Anna announcing that she is pregnant and Karlene clocking up her 365th day IN A ROW. Congratulations ladies! ....365 days....if my veggie maths skills are right that translates to almost 23 days spent in the room, more than three weeks. Imagine.

Have you seen this:



If you haven't and you are struggling for something to watch on the weekend, get this. It was filmed in Sete which was about an hour down the road from Espondeilhan, where we lived in France.....sigh. Sete was where Mimi was desperate to go to the loo, so heavily pregnant me left the rest of the family on the street and took her into a cafe (somewhere near where the hair salon in the film must have been) to ask if we could use the facilities. When I answered an honest 'no' to the question of whether we would be having a meal in their restaurant they turned a pregnant woman and child away. That's the French for you and their strict rules and regulations regarding the use of toilets. Sete is a beautiful place though.

R