Monday, 29 October 2012


So I decided that it was time I got serious about an outfit for Derby Day........this coming Saturday. Apparently, the traditional dress code for ladies is black and white. No problem as my wardrobe is the home of black dresses from throughout the ages.....but what to wear on my head?

I tried on this:

And this:

And then because I am such an indecisive and unspontaneous shopper I put them both out on Instagram to see what everybody else thought. The first hat was the clear favourite. Then I checked with my eleven year old daughter, she I went back bought it. I think I'll wear it with this old Collette Dinnigan dress dredged up from the depths of my wardrobe which I bought in Sydney to wear to a wedding:

Not so convinced about the belt though, as the sparkly dimante bits are always getting caught in the lace.....which could pose a problem once the champagne has kicked in. Maybe I'll keep an eye out this week for a black belt.

The weather down here has been lousy, there has been lots of sitting around in front of this:

And then mercifully yesterday all of the planets aligned and the sun shone. Good news, as we were hosting a fifth birthday party:

Our two older children have had a birthday party every year. I'm afraid to admit that when they were little all of their parties were at home and EVERYTHING was made with my own bare hands. Poor old Tobes has had a couple of rather pathetic excuses for a child's birthday party.....a grown up drinks party, a party with neighbourhood children in France and last year a bbq in the park. This year he got a party, however I relaxed my strict party principles....he got the tear of pad of invites and a piƱata from Spotlight. I know, I've been struggling with my conscience. As a sign of my crossing over to the dark side, I even spent most of last week hassling my husband to order the cake. At the eleventh hour I came good and look at what my husband and I whipped up......together:

And then I borrowed Deanne from Five Brothers One Sister's idea of an ice cream stand.....although I'd better clarify here that our's may have not been quite so fancy. It was run by our eleven year old with help from her friend:

And the boys were in raptures. Although, for the girls, at one stage things have may been a tad hairy with a dozen five year old boys demanding service. As an easy party option I'd rate the concept of an ice cream stand very highly.

I didn't go to yoga yesterday as the prospect of eating cake in the sunshine to celebrate out little boy's fifth birthday was just too enticing. And then on the mat this morning I panicked when I calculated that I will have to go to class tonight AND tomorrow morning AND tomorrow night in order to complete the 30 day challenge. The things you have to do. Oh well, will just have to console myself with the mainland and the races on the weekend.....


Thursday, 25 October 2012


So I've already told you about my paternal grandmother and her penchant for daytime television. My maternal grandmother loved books......her shelves groaned under the weight of such volumes as The Far Pavilions and RF Delderfield's Diana.....and tapestry.  Today is a public holiday in Hobart for show day. My plans to get into the garden have been thwarted by rain so I thought I'd show you my now dormant tapestry addiction. In my defence, they say that tapestry is the winter pastime of gardeners.....well in the UK anyway....and if you're middle aged veering towards elderly.

This is the first tapestry that I ever did and I worked on it with my grandmother:

I love the fact they her stitches and mine are all there together some twenty years later.

Soon after I moved to Hobart my now husband and I rented a Georgian sandstone house in the country. I was studying and teaching at the Art School and used to spend a lot of time reading and thinking about the Bloomsbury Group. I know, strange, yet I was transfixed by the story of Dora Carrington and her incredible love for the homosexual Lytton Strachey......she shot herself in the head after he died as she couldn't live without him....never mind that she was married to another man and sometimes indulged in lesbian affairs. And also about the curious life of Vanessa Bell and her art/family. Amongst others.....Vita Sackville West....Virginia Woolf.....Ottoline Morell. Anyway, this and tapestry deflected me from my study.

I have no idea why I embraced this prematurely middle aged repetitive type behaviour, yet I did. Over the course of a three year period I created all of these Elizabeth Bradley tapestry designs:

I even made a pilgrimage to her shop in Beaumaris on the Isle of Anglesey in Wales.....where Kate and Wills now live.

Then they were relegated to the ugly cupboard. I couldn't bear to decorate with them. It's only been in the last year that they have again seen the light of day......when I dug them out and put them in the children's rooms.

Last time we went to the UK my daughter and I were in Liberty and we bought a small Elizabeth Bradley tapestry, probably out of some misplaced nostalgia. We spent the next two weeks driving through Devon and Cornwall in a motorhome.....don't ask......doing tapestry.Who would have thought. And Jane over at Life on Planet Baby accuses me of being adverse to it any wonder.....I've done my time.


Tuesday, 23 October 2012


So on Thursday lunchtime I discovered that I had had my first article commissioned for the magazine Tasmanian Style. I was a bit excited and may have had wine at lunch to celebrate. By 8.30pm on Thursday night I realised that it had to be submitted to the editor by Sunday......I had yet to write one word. Oh, and it was to be about our house and the photographer was coming at lunchtime on Monday. Panic stations. We had intended to go to a swanky fundraiser on Saturday night......we cancelled.

I still had to go through with the dancing, sailing, party pick ups and drop offs scheduled to occupy almost every minute of Saturday, day. But somehow I wrote the story.....let's face it it is one of my favourite subjects.....and for one hour yesterday my house was heart stoppingly neat:

You would have been hard pressed to even find one weed in the front garden......OK, maybe that's a slight exaggeration. Needless to say that it wasn't long before the toys and general paraphernalia starting being redistributed back throughout the house.

After weeks and weeks of trekking out to Gowans Auctions, as is my habit on Thursdays, I finally found lots on which I wanted to have a bid. I missed out on this box of Lily of the Valley plants:

Yet had success with these faux ancestors:

Which I promptly hung in the bedroom:

I am seeing silhouettes and cameos being my next big collecting addiction and have had them in the back of my mind ever since I clapped eyes on this stunning picture in Janelle McCulloch's gorgeous book Coast: Lifestyle Architecture:

Obviously, I have a long way to go.

So I will now need to focus my attentions not only on my initial:

But also on butterflies:

As well as on small antique gilt mirrors: 

The sighting of any of these objects is guaranteed to make my pulse quicken and my palms sweaty. Can you believe that my husband doesn't like going shopping with me?


Thursday, 18 October 2012


Don't be fooled by the displays of flowers:

and butterflies on display in this classroom:

Because one partition is given over to this display created in response to our son's show and tell:

Be warned and look away now if you are squeamish as some of these rather graphic caesarian photos are not for the faint hearted....yet a class full of small boys seems to go about their day to day classroom activities without even batting an eyelid.

A notice came home from school prompting boys to bring in stories about their families for show and tell. Good old show and tell. Somehow, in conjunction with his father, they thought that this selection of snaps from the family album would be just the thing:

Apparently, the class had never had so many questions.....the answers given to some of them have been inscribed on the poster. Along with drawings inspired by the photos.

It was a surreal experience, getting the school bag from the locker and noticing this poster out of the corner of my eye. I'll never forget my first caesarian....or my second...third or fourth. The first time I'd commented on the funny smell....two days later my husband took my hand and told me that it had been the smell of my burning flesh where they'd cauterised the wound. Needless to say I still struggle looking at my actual caesarian photos. And where you'd least expect to see it, here one is.

When I asked my husband if he'd noticed the poster in the kindergarten class room he said....and I quote 'Yeah, did you see how enormous you were before we went into the hospital'. To which I replied that I thought I'd been bigger during my fourth pregnancy (this was my third). 'No' was his adamant response and he reminded me that I'd been weighed during each visit to my French obstetrician who was very strict and forbade me to gain more that twelve kilos. The words 'diet' and 'reduce' (while pregnant) may have even been mentioned. My obstetrician in Hobart would never in a pink fit have uttered these words.

I took this photo yesterday, five years to the day after this incredibly happy event:

I wonder what the little boys would have made of it all had I had a natural birth.


Tuesday, 16 October 2012


The first thing I did at 6.47am this morning was read The Tale of the Flopsy Bunnies after it was unceremoniously shoved in my face to wake me up. Luckily, I love Beatrix Potter books, they are an island of calm constancy this world that hurtles along at full tilt. This particular volume was inscribed for Felix's 4th birthday.....I was gobsmacked when I woke up enough to remember that he is now nine and a half and about to go on a three day school camp. Where has the time gone.

Like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives......

Yet, way back when I was at uni for the first time I really wasn't interested in Days of Our Lives, Hope and Beau left me cold. The Bold and the Beautiful and the bizarre love triangle between Brooke, Ridge and Taylor was more my thing. I may have been responsible for addicting my Nana who then couldn't help herself and watched it every single day. She would then routinely fill me in so I was always up to speed.

When I was at uni for the second time doing postgrad work, I had the opportunity to tune back into Bold which I took full advantage of. Then, in an attempt to thwart my vice my husband used to take the TV remote controls to work with him......thinking that it would force me to write my thesis. Of course, there were means other than The Bold and the Beautiful with which to feed my procrastination. This may have been the period in my life when I was addicted to, of all things......Elizabeth Bradley cross stitch, however that's a story for another day.

When I was in the delivery suite, in labour with our first child, my husband, obviously feeling very sorry for me, sanctioned putting on the TV to watch that day's episode of Bold and I'm here to tell you that I did. But it was for the last time as when I tried to watch it again it was ruined forever by association. I am all astonishment that it still continues.

Anyway, not only is our nine year old about to go to camp....if I ever manage to tick off every single item on the two page list, there is also a fifth birthday in our house tomorrow and the school fair on Friday. Two words.......housewife stress.

So, on Saturday, I took advantage and went to a Bikram Yoga class on the lawns at Salamanca:

It was so relaxing with the dappled sunlight, the damp grass and the wind rustling the leaves until a rugby club turned up and joined in very vocally just in time for camel pose. They were soon scared off.

I had already been giving some thought to what I was going to send along as a contribution to the school fair. Having a bumper crop of lemons, I was thinking lemon curd:

So, after yoga, I got down Stephanie Alexander's orange tome and set to work.....times three. Of course it was never going to work as, at the same time as grating, squeezing and stirring, I was also drinking cups of green tea with a twenty two year old friend. She was asking me about dating etiquette. I had to point out to her that I might not be the best person to ask as my last date was way, way back when I was twenty four......seventeen long years ago. Mobile phones, texting and emails were to be a phenomenon of the future and not in the world as we knew it. Needless to say, I turned the lemon curd into scrambled eggs.

Undaunted I spent an hour carefully snipping 2 kilos of cumquats off my trees.....because Stephanie says that you can damage the fruit if you just pick them. Cumquat compote it was to be.....ta da:

The Brunschwig & Fils toile on the left is the remnants from my bed head and the fabric on the right was the Kelly Wearstler left over from the library cushions. The striped canvas in the middle I bought when I was last in Paris yet haven't found the perfect chair for it.....yet.

I got a bit caught up in a theme over the weekend involving zebras and leopards:

And then I decided to accessorise with my sofa:

For about two seconds.....until I remembered that there was a camp to be packed for and birthday cake to be made along with the zillion another chores that make up the days of my life. Fingers crossed I don't forget the beanie.


Friday, 12 October 2012


I've been thinking about India:

Maybe it's because I'm in the midst of a 30 day Bikram Yoga challenge (30 classes in 30 days). The low ceilinged, fluorescently lit, mirrored room is artificially heated to 40 degrees, because that's how hot it is if you happen to be doing yoga in India.....and not in a warehouse in the Hobart suburbs. Beyond transcending continents the heat is also meant to make you more flexible and rid your body of toxins by sweating......lots.

Bikram's particular brand of yoga focuses on fusing the the best of east and west by using yoga to 'provide for all human needs: health, happiness, friendship, mental peace and a true satisfaction of living'. Sounds good to me.  It's preventative medicine for the mind and body. I actually did yoga twice in India. Once on the rooftop at the Taj Lake Palace and once, as the sun came up, on a hilltop in the Aravali ranges. I believe in yoga. It's my insurance policy for a long, healthy and happy life. My husband believes in his road bike.

Or maybe this whole India thing is because I'm half way through The Far Pavilions, which I last read when I borrowed it off my grandmother's bookshelf back when I was about twelve. Somehow, I vaguely remembered the dust storm and the scene in the cave (I was an impressionable almost teenager after all) and seem to dimly recall that maybe Ash is going to rescue Juli from committing suttee on the funeral pyre of her husband. I'm quite impressed that all this has come back to me across the vast chasm of almost thirty years.....not bad for a couple of cups of memory tea and considering that most days, by late afternoon I can barely remember what I had for breakfast.

Or most likely it's because this time last year we were getting ready to embark on our first passage to India. For years I was intrigued by the concept, yet too scared to actually go. Turning forty seemed like the perfect opportunity, let's face it there's not much of that 'one day, when I grow up' after you turn 4...0. I'm presuming that I really am grow up now. So how could we say no when my mum offered to move in to our house and look after all of our children.

So we went and I still wasn't sure as the plane came in to land at Mumbai airport, where the slums push up against the airport barriers and look like a collapsed house of cards from the air. But then the prickle of heat on skin, the evocative smell, the heart in your mouth drive from the airport and then the welcome at the Taj Mahal Palace hotel convinced me. I was instantly enraptured.

Don't get me wrong, it may have been a cosseted ten day trip of palace hotels.....The Taj Lake Palace and the Devi Garh yet I still saw, with my own eyes, people defecating in the street and a cow killed in a road accident still lying on the middle of the highway being eaten by a pig.....but then I can still vividly remember the leper's head being held up to the taxi window in Jakarta, when I was nine. These sights tend to remain with you.

That's the thing though about tourism, it's a construct....and to an extent a fabrication. The Taj Mahal Palace in Mumbai was the same serenely luxurious hotel where over 167 people were killed by terrorists in 2008. And, let's face it even in Hobart, or dare I say Paris, there are places where I would feel uncomfortable and confronted.

In conversation with a friend during the week, while drinking champagne, she admitted that she hasn't eaten Indian food since her and her husband backpacked through India fourteen years ago. It affected her so negatively and so deeply. She likened it to watching the most confronting story on Four Corners and not being able to turn the TV off. Our reaction to India was the polar opposite. It got under our skin and were left wanting to experience more. Travel takes you out of your comfort zone and exposes you to a whole different world.....beyond the shores of Tasmania. Looking down at the slum across the road from the Air Bar at the Four Seasons Hotel in Mumbai, we could see a child standing on the roof flying a kite. I saw that as hope.


Tuesday, 9 October 2012


Yesterday was my birthday. Seeing that it was a school/work day I was treated to a fake birthday on Sunday....where I got to eat cake and drink champagne in bed for breakfast:

And then go out for lunch and a long drive in the country with my beautiful family. I couldn't be bothered to make my own cake so I bought it at Sweet Envy. Grittily dense chocolate mud layered with smooth chocolate ganache. It was delicious. In the course of cake experimentation we discovered that it was also really good microwaved and dished up as pudding with cream.

But by yesterday afternoon we had run out of cake and I had an after school park playdate with a friend. Between us we had eight children, so I bought this Berry Cheesecake from the Lipscombe Larder en route:

Seeing that we had already consumed so much chocolate cake, I thought that it was time to get our fruit levels up. Unfortunately, this cake was nowhere near as good as the Sweet Envy cake and my children complained when I packed what was left of it in their school lunchboxes this morning. How decadent is it to sit in the park with a friend, eat cake and drink champagne while your children amuse themselves playing with their friends. I wish it was my birthday everyday:

I will readily admit to a slight obsession with my initial:

So this was my birthday present:

I love birthdays and I love cake. But don't think the weekend was all fun and frivolity down here. On Saturday, I pushed the pram down to Franklin Square to the Ban Live Animal Export Rally:

Where the children and I all signed the petition.