Wednesday, 28 November 2012


I'm afraid to say that I have been somewhat shirking my housewifely duties recently while I have been living through my flower/gardening obsession. This has been causing my husband some angst as dinners have tended to be tediously repetitive, usually something with salad.....every single night of the of the week and because he just doesn't understand my gardening fixation.....he doesn't hold back when he says that it makes me seem prematurely middle aged. Insert snort of derision from me.

In my dreams I live in an utopian idyll where in my suburban backyard I grow all of our fruit and my reality my vegetable patch is somewhat neglected and choked with inedible lettuce and coriander that has bolted to seed. I console myself with the fact that many of the flowers that I tend with such care....nasturtiums, pansies, borage and marigolds can be mixed into a salad and eaten, conveniently, as can the dreaded weed, oxalis. In my quest for self sufficiency I still long for a sheep....although my husband points out that I struggle to look after the 2 adults, 4 children, 2 geriatric beagles and 1,000 worms.....safely ensconced in the worm farm.....that are already in my care. I live in hope.

I used to find cooking everything from scratch therapeutic yet now I'm flabbergasted that I ever had the time. So, at the end of my tether last week I succumbed I bought Jamie's 15 Minute Meals: 

I must say that I was sceptical, yet so far it has passed my intensive testing and give or take 5 minutes, everything that I have made has been on the platter within the 15 minute timeframe and quite frankly, the food is delicious.

On Friday I made 'Golden Scallops Sun - Blush Mash & Greens':

On Saturday it was 'Chorizo & Squid Greek - Style Couscous Salad':

On Sunday 'Glazed Sizzling Chops Sweet Tomato & Lasagnetti':

And last night 'Incredibly Delicious Chicken Salad':

I've since learnt on Instagram that Jamie's 15 Minute Meals is available at Kmart for $25, so as a convert I might have to go and buy a few copies as Christmas presents.

As proof that we really aren't boring, staid, stay at home forty somethings, on Sunday we led a family expedition to David Walsh's free concert 'Standing in the Shadows of MONA' a Motown inspired sing along accompanied by the Southern Gospel Choir on the lawn at MONA. Most of Hobart was there from oldies in wheelchairs to newborn babies and EVERYONE in between.....there was barely a blade of grass to be seen:

Let's face it, MONA, David Walsh's own temple of art and hedonism has made Hobart cool. Thanks David!

My children are always embarrassed to see me sing out the supermarket....along with the radio in the car......on the lawn at MONA. Yet how could I resist as they worked up a rendition of one of those old disco anthems, The Jackson Five's classic 'Don't Blame it on the Boogie'. Memories of how wee used to boogie on down to this song at Launceston's nasty nightclub 'Hot Gossip' or rather 'Hot Vomit' came flooding back. For me this one song brought back in vivid detail the halcyon days of the early nineties.....on the multicoloured chequerboard back lit dance floor al la 'Saturday Night Fever' when we knew all the moves. I restrained from demonstrating them publicly on Sunday.

Brian Ritchie, one of the Violent Femmes was also on stage at MONA, as he too calls Hobart home. Remember the Violent Femmes? To me one of their albums takes me back to the year when a friend on a local B & S organising committee gave me and a couple of the girls a gig cleaning all of the dirty plastic glasses from the year return for a free ticket. The things that you do. There were sights in the bottom of some of those glasses that I wished I'd never clapped eyes on. Anyway, the night before the party, in a shearing shed somewhere in a paddock, the Violent Femmes was playing at full volume on the ghetto farmer kept turning it down....because his grandmother, who lived 8 kms up the road, might hear it and be offended by some of the lyrics. True story.

And this weekend I have another opportunity to regress back into my misspent youth, when we go to see Blondie live.....with a friend who used to know every single word to the rap part of 'Rapture'. I wonder if she still does.


Sunday, 25 November 2012


Yesterday, my husband came home from work early and took over the role of coordinating our children's hectic schedule of Saturday that I could flit off on a tour organised by Karen Wagner, a very talented garden designer around town, to Weston Farm in the countryside just outside Hobart to see Richard and Belinda Weston's heartstoppingly beautiful peonies in full bloom:

I dressed accordingly, digging out a very old flowery Collette Dinnigan skirt that I wore to a lunch the day after our wedding.....almost 14 years ago. Think that's old, the Pringle of Scotland knit that I wore is part of a twinset that used to be owned by my aunt and by my calculations it must be almost fifty years old:

Look how fab it all looked out amongst the paddocks full of peonies:

Yet again, I matched....see:

On this occasion, I didn't have a compliant husband to take photos for me and frankly, I was too embarrassed to ask anybody case they thought that I had been sniffing something other than the heady scent of peony flowers.

With access to real live peony farmers, I didn't hold back and asked a million questions. At one stage, I shamelessly pulled out my iPhone and showed Richard photos of the peonies growing in my garden in the quest to try and determine which varieties they actually are. Now let me properly introduce you to what could possibly be 'Adolphe Rousseau':

and what most definitely is 'Monsieur Jules Elie':

As for the rogue peony in my garden that has caused me no end of angst because it hasn't flowered for five long years....well, we narrowed the causes down to being that the plant could have been too small when we bought it (beware, always check the roots and the crown as there must be a minimum of three nodules to guarantee fast flowing) which means that it has needed the five years just to get to flowering size, or my husband could have planted it too deeply (the crown needs to sit just below the soil level). So, I'm going to feed it with lime around the periphery of the plant in autumn (never put fertiliser on the actual plant), which is prime fertilising time.....and hope for the spring next year. If that doesn't finally elicit a bloom, then I can dig it up in autumn the year after and re plant it.

And KAR from The House A Blog Built, as promised I quizzed the peony farmer all about growing peonies on the Adelaide plains. The upshot being that it's no problem growing them in the hills (yet somehow I don't think that you want to move just to grow peonies after you have put in so much dedicated work on renovating your gorgeous home), yet down on the plains you might just be lucky if you plant in a cool, shady place that gets some direct sunlight. It's worth a try, yet he did clarify that as peonies originated in Mongolia, Russia and Japan......Adelaide might just be too hot.

After tiptoeing through the peonies, there was an utterly magnificent afternoon tea put on in their glorious back garden:

I went home with a serious dose of garden much so that this morning I was out in my bathrobe demonstrating a new dedication to my garden by deadheading roses and the ungodly hour of 8am.


PS If you live in Hobart, Belinda from Weston's Farm sells peonies in season on Sunday's at the Farm Gate Market.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012


How embarrassing. Today while on the phone I was forced to admit that I was at the bottom of the garden taking photos of the peonies. bud:

And full bloom:

I'm going to an actual peony farm just outside Hobart on Saturday.....needless to say, my excitement knows no bounds.

Perhaps my flower addiction may have become just a tad out of hand. As evidenced by the fact that today I may have selected my clothes while bewitched by my singleminded obsession. Look, here's a photo of me inside:

And then, outside:

See.....I match my garden:

And just for the record, it was my husband who suggested that I stand precariously perched on top of the heat pump you do.

I love this LK Bennett skirt, it brings back such happy memories of a trip to London almost 9 years ago when we stayed with friends in the way, same friend, if you happen to be reading this we need to talk to workshop next Saturday night!

This afternoon, between school pick ups, I rushed into town because my phone was beeping to remind me that today was the day that the Collette Dinnigan for the Australian Ballet at Target launched. One of my girls may have outgrown it, yet I was keen to deck the little one out in it....honestly what a gorgeous combination, Collette Dinnigan and ballet inspired outfits:

Source: Target Online

So imagine my disappointment when I had to take two turns around the children's department at Target and still couldn't find any trace of Collette Dinnigan's collaboration. I was somewhat concerned yet kept telling myself that they must have created a special display. I was deluded. When I finally found a staff member to ask it was only to be told that it was unavailable in Tasmania, the stock only went to Target in Launceston. Quelle horreur. Especially as various bits and pieces had already sold out online when I checked this morning. So what did I do.....I rang my Mum, who lives in Launceston, and she was only to happy to go shopping. Phew.


Monday, 19 November 2012


You could set your clock by my day to day, term time routine, so repetitive is my behaviour......although if you did you'd no doubt be running just a little bit late and invariably quite bored. During the week, the first thing that I do once my pulse has recovered from the panic induced by breakfast and school run preparation, is to go and lie in the hot room on the mat and do a Bikram Yoga class. Here I must apologise for forgetting to announce the winner of the Bikram Yoga introductory pass without further ado.....drumroll please....the prize goes to my newest follower A Smaller Pond....if you can email me with your details then we can organise your first Bikram Yoga class.

In the short window of time after yoga and before picking the children up from school, time which is enhanced by the fact that this is when my almost two year old conveniently has her nap, last week I spent it gardening:

Which has been reaping rewards as look at some of the flowers I've picked:

And finally, hurrah, the peonies are flowering:

Before we moved in, our house had been uninhabited for 18 months. The garden was choked with waist high ivy so I really had no idea what was underneath. In the year that it took for me to work my way around pulling the ivy out by hand, I was rewarded by red shoots signalling herbaceous peonies. I'd hit the gardening jackpot. Subsequently, I've planted two more peonies, one of which has been in the ground for FIVE long years and has never flowered. I had been hoping that this might be the year.......however it's not to be.

Our suburb has an annual streetscape prize which is awarded to a house which has beautified it's appearance. I'm disappointed to say that we've never won despite SERIOUS house and garden tarting up efforts. I'm thinking that the very front garden has let us suffers from the tyranny of distance as it's way away in the bottom of the garden, so it tends to get overlooked. Years ago, it used to be the home to an assortment of massive, self seeded cotoneaster trees and carpeted with the dreaded ivy. Having done away with the cotoneasters and waged a constant battle against the ivy, we planted hedges of box and Magnolia 'Little Gem' which are just starting to join together.  I used to have a hedge of white lavender in the middle yet last year I replaced it with the white flower carpet rose in an attempt to fill in all of gaps and smother any weeds which dare to show their ugly heads. As there are a lot of gaps while the plants are little, there have been a lot of weeds.

I used to have a chap who helped me with the garden yet he's upped stumps and because my husband is determined not to become my new garden helper, I've been carrying the can solo. Yesterday, he let himself be talked into a bit of a gardening session and we gave the front garden a good weed:

Last month a gardener around town quoted to undertake this task for a jaw droopingly huge amount of money as he said that it would take two men a whole took the two of us two hours.....AND I trimmed the hedges.....AND planted more roses.

I may have been gardening but all I've wanted to do is sit around and read this book which I am utterly besotted with:

Paris, travel, history, food and restaurant recommendations it's all here and written in such a charming conversational style. I've just finished the chapter about Orleans and Joan of Arc and couldn't help giggling when Ina recounted how on arrival in France before she set out on the Joan of Arc trail, she booked herself into a health spa in preparation for all of the delicious food she was anticipating eating. I've been known to do a similar thing myself.....I once did the cabbage soup diet for two weeks before our first trip to Italy as I knew that I was going to be consuming an awful lot of pizza, pasta and gelati. It worked. I will be sad to finish this book yet have Irrepressible: The Life and Times of Jessica Mitford sitting on my bedside table all set to go, so that should be some consolation.

Maybe because my head has been full of thoughts of Paris inspired by this book, on the weekend we gave up our curry fixation and I cooked a French meal instead.....although how French it is exactly is questionable as the recipe came from a Rick Stein cookbook. Anyway, it was Duck Breast in a Chocolate Sauce with pommes puree and it was delicious and easy. So, if you are tempted to cook this all you need is a duck breast per person which you brown in a pan for 2 minutes on each side and remove to a plate. Then add a roughly chopped carrot, onion and garlic to the duck fat left behind in the pan and sautee, stirring occasionally for abut 10 minutes. Then pour in almost an entire bottle of red wine.....I purposely bought a bottle of Languedoc red from our local bottleshop which is from the part of France Rick said inspired the recipe and because if was only $15.....with a couple of bay leaves and a few thyme sprigs. Let this bubble away gently for about 10 minutes and then put the duck breast back into the liquid and give two more minutes each side. Remove the duck, cover and put in a low oven to keep warm. Strain the liquid and get rid of the chunky bits, then put the liquid back in the pan and add a handful of squidgey prunes (you may need to soak) and 15g dark chocolate. Reduce to a nice saucy consistency and then spoon over the sliced duck breasts. I didn't take a photo as it was late and it looked too brown and not particularly appetising, yet trust me, it tasted sublime. To make the pommes puree, all I did was make mashed potato with extra milk and an electric hand mixer to make them extra fluffy.

On Saturday, I led an expedition with our two youngest children to see the Myer Christmas Pageant. I must say that this year was better than in the past, yet once again, all of the strange Star Wars fetishists donned their kit and had the opportunity to parade down the main street of town:

It did make me laugh, yet there really is something quite nice, unpretentious and very Hobart about the homemade aspect of the Christmas Pageant.....I recognised four of various friends children skipping rope or dressed up in Christmas costumes and waving as and they participated......and the children loved it.

As my routine dictates, I've also been haunting various auctions around town. I missed out with my absentee bids when Mossgreen Auctions came to town to auction off the contents of a house just up the road, which was a shame as they had some very covetable miniatures:

Yet I struck success at Gowans with this hall table which I instantly gravitated to, even though it was in the ugliest part of the shed, because one of the legs looks like that of a lion:

I've put on the upstairs landing.....a part of the house which has previously been very sparsely furnished:

I wonder what I'll find at the auction this week.........when I'm perusing what's on 11.37am.....precisely.


Wednesday, 14 November 2012


I have been busily putting in the hard yards in the garden:

Weeding, weeding, weeding and mulching.....and weeding. Last year, when I was desperately trying to eradicate an outbreak of twitch in this very same garden bed I stumbled upon Organic Sugar Cane is fabulous as it turns into a sort of garden carpet which smothers weeds.....well, for a while at least. My husband snickers and says that it may be labelled 'organic' yet once a chain smoking truckie has driven it all the way down to Hobart from Queensland, he is sure that it's not good for the environment.

It's good for my gardening state of mind though. Look how miraculously neat it's made my topiary border look:

Along with the hours last week that I spent trimming it all with a pair of scissors. I have a bit of a thing for English Box topiary and grew all of my own from cuttings. It only took about six years for my hedges to join up:

And long periods of time were involved in creating these standards:

This poor rooster that looks like a reindeer is in a bit of trouble as it's roots somehow became waterlogged:

I'm hoping that I can resuscitate it by re potting it with new compost. Fingers crossed, as I've been cultivating it for eleven years.

Gardening is all about patience. A virtue I'll admit I'm not very good at, and I know this for a fact because I have a garden and four children. I'm working on it, though.


Friday, 9 November 2012


So, last night we had the babysitter in for the second night in a row. What a treat. In the teeming rain we donned our Indian garb and headed down the road to the Indian Cultural Society of Tasmania Annual Dinner. A lovely school mum had given me a tutorial on Wednesday on how to wear my sari that I'd bought last year in the Udaipur market. Of course, when it came to wrapping, pleating and tucking all of that fabric on my own I turned into a tea pot. This was the best I could manage:

Even though I was channelling Elizabeth Hurley's big fat Indian wedding with every fibre of my being....I don't think you can tell, really. As soon as we arrived, my sari mentor whisked me into the loo's and told me to 'take it all off'. I did as I was told and in no time she had me fixed. There were so many gorgeous sari's. Truly, does a more exotic, glamorous, flattering outfit exist. It is even better to wear it while eating Indian food and watching Indian adds extra atmosphere, a certain je ne sais quois.

There was a fashion parade....can you believe that Hobart boasts it's own Bollywood fashion boutique. This prompted my husband to comment that I need more bling.....I couldn't agree more.

They had prizes and somehow we took out the 'Best Dressed Couple' title and were rewarded with a curry voucher and a discount in the Bollywood boutique. I'm sure we only won because not many other women in sari's had managed to induce their husband to wear a Kamahl style knee length shirt. Sorry there's no visual on this, really I am.

I loved every minute of last night.

Yesterday afternoon I'd led an expedition to Salamanca to see Charles and Camilla. Sorry, Faux Fuchsia, I failed to pass on your best to Camilla. In my defence, it was bucketing rain and I may have been wearing my Hermes Scarf, which of course they warn you can be irrevocably damaged by rain...I also had to preserve my hair from rain induced frizz so I could go to the Indian Dinner. We saw Charles though:

Tonight, my second cousin, who I've only met once, back when I was extremely young (e.g. a v. long time ago) is dropping in for a tipple. Mum was reminding me how in her misspent youth she became a Hare Krishna..... I can't wait to meet her. As children my sister and I thought having an earring your nose was the height of exotic glamour. I wish I'd had one last night to match my sari. Who says nothing exciting ever happens here in Hobart?


Thursday, 8 November 2012


I'm afraid to admit that when I'm driving in my car and not listening to iTunes, I listen to a local radio station that features the 'Awesome Eighties'......much to my husband's horror. He has trained our children to make disparaging remarks about this particular station. My loyalty remains undaunted. Yesterday, they played  one of my all time favourite songs, Kate Bush's Wuthering Heights. You can refresh your memory with the 'Red Dress' version here:

When it came on, I was in the midst of school pick ups and stuck in the interminable wait involved in trying to get a park in the school car park so I had time to listen to all of the words. They never fail to send a shiver down my spine. All of that pretence of singing from the other side. So then I started thinking about the book and what a disturbing, emotionally manipulative and abusive plot it has......dressed up as a love story. I must say that out of all the Bronte sister's books I prefer Jane Eyre, even though it too shares some of these elements....AND has a mad wife locked away in the attic to boot....yet at least they get there in the end. By making Mr Rochester blind and burning his estate to the ground, he and Jane can be happy. Happy.....not dead and tapping at the window in the middle of the night.

So then I remembered that when I was at boarding school in Sydney, a long, long time ago, the house I was in was 'Bronte'....not surprising as it was also the name of the suburb next door....yet there was also a house called 'Casterton' which lo and behold was the school where the Bronte sisters were educated. I have just utilised the magic that is Google and discovered that my old school in Sydney had been founded and modelled on the very same Casterton School which the Bronte sisters attended. Funnily enough I always felt an affinity reading about Jane Eyre's experience at school.....having been a boarder in the 1980's when I was still in primary school.....spooky. 

About this time I finally parked the car.

I've been to the Bronte Parsonage in Haworth:

During the UK road trip my now husband and I took soon after we became engaged. I must give him credit....he drove the car to Jane Austen's house as well.....he only insisted on seeing HMS Victory for himself. And of course, on a more recent holiday, he drove the motor home to Nancy Mitford's grave. But anyway, back to Haworth 1997 and here's me patting a sheep up on the moors at Top Withens which was supposedly the inspiration for the location of the Earnshaw family's house in Wuthering Heights:

Last night I went to our Art Collecting Group meeting. I wore this:

My mum may have done a fab job looking after my children last weekend......but she faded my fluoro pink jeans in a hot wash. The jacket was on sale at ASOS and the Chanel handbag was dug out for the outing to Derby was a gift from my husband for our 5th wedding anniversary, which we spent sans enfants in Paris. He may live to tease me.....yet he's not all bad.

Too bad about my jeans, however, I will be embracing hot pink again tonight when I don this tangle of fabric to go to the Indian Cultural Society of Tasmania's Annual Dinner:

A mum at school gave me a sari tutorial was a tad complex so I'm hoping that I can remember exactly when to pleat and when to tuck.

Wish me luck.


PS Am thinking about leading an expedition with the children down the road to Salamanca this afternoon to see Charles and Camilla. Hobart crowds are notoriously tiny so we would be guaranteed a good long as it's not raining.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012


On the weekend I escaped from Hobart and my usual housewifely duties. My mum came down and assumed my post.....going far beyond the call of duty as during the course of the weekend she even had to navigate an Irish Dancing Competition and all of the carry on that goes along with it. And that was only for one child on one day.....there were birthday parties and playdates for two of the others and naps, serious supervision and time strapped into the pram for the baby. Thanks again, mum.

So instead of the usual rush around between sailing and dancing on Saturday we entered a parallel universe which was Flemington Racecourse on Derby Day:

It involved a lot of preparation. We started on the Vitamin B on the Monday before. Look at the miracle worked on my gardener's hands....gel tips with a French Polish rendered them almost unrecognisable:

They lasted perfectly until yesterday.....when I broke one off on the child lock on the bathroom cupboard.

Before we went to the track I got a do at  The Blowout Bar in Toorak.....and had my first glass of champagne:

It is fabulous there. I wish that we had one in Hobart and that my lifestyle included this kind of behaviour on a regular basis.....unfortunately it doesn't.

Once we got to Flemington, there was lots of this out in The Nursery:

Is there anything more hedonistically decadent than drinking champagne while the sun shines.....OK, maybe don't incriminate yourself by answering this!

I rendezvoused with some old friends:

One of whom may have made it home to where she was staying later that night via the dog flap in the back door.

And I met a new friend when I caught up with the lovely JMac in the Birdcage. I love reading her regular comments on my was a surreal but really nice experience meeting her in person.....we didn't stop chatting.

Look how gorgeous the flowers at Flemington were:

On Sunday, because we live in Hobart and don't have Ikea....we made a pilgrimage. To buy light fittings for houses we are building:

And then we paid a visit to another Larder....The Richmond Hill Cafe and Larder where we had a late lunch:

And of course my husband let me eat cake:

And I did...except that it wasn't really a cake but a macadamia ice cream bombe and it was DELICIOUS.

I loved every single second of our weekend away. Now.....I've got to go and check that the baby isn't scribbling on the wall with a texta, referee a bicker between the boys and get the dinner on. Sigh.


PS An extra big thank you to Heidi at Adelaide Villa and The Farmer's Wife for their suggestion to substitute the existing belt on the dress that I wore with a thick black made the outfit!

PPS And and even bigger thank you to everybody who made kind comments on my last post and restored my whole faith in the blogging process.