Thursday, 28 February 2013


This evening the air in my garden hangs heavy with the pungent stink of sheep manure. My beagles are high on the aroma yet disappointed that a picket fence separates them from one of their favourite flavours. Even my husband commented that he could smell that I'd been busy.

I'm ashamed to admit that I've been neglecting my garden....that is up until the weekend when I really got stuck in....ripping out three towering wheelbarrows full of weeds and spent plants....and then this morning, in a feverish blaze of activity, I heavy handedly strewed manure over the mixed borders and started on thickly laying out the sugar cane mulch.

This whirlwind of gardening activity has been inspired by one of the most stunningly beautiful gardens in Hobart that I have ever seen.  I've been toiling away writing an article about it while berating myself about the dismal state of my garden at the same time. See for yourself, isn't it utterly breathtaking:

Photo: Richard Marks

Photo: Richard Marks

Photo: Richard Marks

It's nothing short of a symphony of verdant manicured lawns, winding gravel paths, private garden rooms, a seasonally productive kitchen garden and vibrant mixed borders. Everything that I long for in my own garden....and after eight long years of work still haven't managed to achieve. But wait there's more.....Pierre de Ronsard roses are everywhere...and to further enhance their beauty they are entangling themselves in specially designed wrought iron obelisks to help them reach for the sky. Sigh. The colour and texture of the really spectacular plantings frame gorgeous views which hover over the CBD and extend over the river:

Photo: Richard Marks

It is a gardening idyll.

I've been further feeding my gardening angst by rereading Adam Nicholson's 'Sissinghurst: An Unfinished History'. What an incredibly powerful book about an exceptional place. It brought tears to my eyes reading Adam Nicholson's description of his father described by a friend as 'He is a cold man who wants to be warm, and cannot be.' And don't get me started on the descriptions of Sissinghurst the garden and the quest to refarm the surrounding land according to organic principles to provide the food to serve in the restaurant and to sell in the shop.....there are pages and pages describing the various soils in lurid detail....and it is unputdownable, truly. 

I dragged my husband to Sissinghurst in 2004, back when we had a quick trip to London and Paris to celebrate our 5th wedding anniversary.....leaving the two children that we had at the time at home. It was very early April and it was freezing cold and none of the flowers had really come out yet. He bore up quite well considering. Our visit must have been in the last months before Adam Nicholson's father passed away....before all of the changes discussed in this book were set in motion. I'm planning another trip to Sissinghurst this year....without my husband, this time. So, if I'm not going to be reduced to a gibbering wreck with severe garden angst, I'd better keep putting in the hard yards in my own garden.....I've got a lot of work ahead of me.


Monday, 25 February 2013


On Thursday, I had my wisdom teeth pulled the dentist's chair. I had been putting it off for twenty years. In the lead up I was somewhat gung-ho having been regaled with my husband's reminiscences about when he'd had his taken out, in hospital, and how he'd been at the pub the night after swooshing his sockets out.....with beer. My logic was, that having lived through four caesarians, how bad could it be? Well, let's just say that when you have a caesarian, you don't have to taste your own blood. Afterwards, the dentist gave me my teeth in a sealed, transparent bag. Seeing all of my children were accounted for, I couldn't resist a quick turn around the shops and then I went home and put myself to bed while the anaesthetic wore off. Considerately, my husband picked up the boys from school. When they exploded into my room demanding afternoon tea, I showed them my teeth. They were horrified and rushed downstairs and made me a cup of tea and proceeded to sit on the bed patting my hair. I've left my teeth on the bedside table hoping that the tooth fairy might put in an appearance, alas, after four nights she still hasn't shown up.

I'm pleased to report that having been banned from strenuous exercise for 24 hours after my procedure, it gave me some time to actually make those chandelier shades I'd been meaning to knock up.....since back in the dark days of the school holidays:

I took my inspiration from this Tricia Guild book:

And when Tricia says that richly coloured silks and cut velvets are enlivened by black and white, I was prepared to take her word for it. So, I finally took the scissors to the Rapunzel pink shot silk of an old matron of honour skirt (Heidi and Janelle both egged me on, your honour)  and mixed it up with a black and white check, offcuts of a hot pink silk and lots of bobble braid and ta da, this was how they turned out:

Now, the only chandelier in the house undressed is the one which hangs in the kitchen above the bench....yet I'm just not entirely convinced  that it needs an injection of tizz, so I'm thinking of leaving it alone. Although, saying that the beautiful pink glass is continued in the kitchen windows and the matron of honour ensemble is the perfect match.....not only for the glass but my Kitchen Aid as well. Tempting.


Wednesday, 20 February 2013


We are a family of extremists. When we are interested in something we don't hold back.

It's no secret that I am addicted to Bikram Yoga:

To the sceptics out there all I can say is that this posture is called 'Standing Separate Head Stretching' or to give it its correct title 'Dandayamana - Bibhaktapada - Paschimottanasana' and it is fantastic for.......getting rid of muffin tops. But it gets, in class the teacher reminded us that two sets of 'Half Tortoise' pose is like having a mini facial AND the equivalent of eight hours sleep. I shudder to think what I would look like if I hadn't done this pose. And if that's not enough, over the holidays, when my children were at their zenith of bickering and carrying on, forcing them to drop and adopt 'Dead Body' pose or 'Savasana'.....sometimes even on the pavement....worked no end of wonders on miraculously bringing them back into line. Don't take my word for it, try it.

My husband is obsessed with his road bike. As soon he turned 45....virtually to the day..... he became a the uninitiated that's a Middle Aged Man in Lycra. There's a whole parallel universe inhabited by MAMIL's in much so, that most days mine gets up hideously early to rendezvous with a pack of them down on a specific corner of Sandy Bay Road from whence they go and ride their little heats out up hill and down dale......for an hour and a half. He gets back in time to bring me a cup of fortifying tea in bed before we embark on the horror that is getting children to school on time.

Our eldest daughter eats, lives and breathes, of all things, Irish Dancing. To this day, I have no idea how this came about. On Sunday we took her out to the St Andrews Highland Festival which was held in the gorgeous country village of Richmond for  an opportunity to exhibit. Here's a dance she and her friends choreographed:

This is the year that she is hoping to actually set foot on Irish soil and to manage to convince us to squander more money than was spent on my wedding dress, buying her a special dress to perform in. Hmm, we'll see. She also has this habit of breaking into fast and fancy dancing feet.....with no prior warning. I am now somewhat used to this yet when she does it in public you can register the shock on people's faces.

After school and on weekends, our boys inhabit a world of immaginitis where they believe that they are Aquabats:

Over time they have also been Thunderbirds, the whole gamut of Star Wars characters, Harry Potter and Pirates of the Caribbean. Over the holidays there was some inexplicable connection that buzzed between them and 'The Aquabat Supershow'....a program very spasmodically shown on ABC3. This was enough to incite them to vacuum the entire house every second day, to keep their usual pig sty of a room immaculately neat and to complete a whole host of other odious chores so that they could save up the increments of 50 buy the helmets and goggles. The rest of the costumes were acquired after a turn around the girls clothing department at Target and they leant on my mum to make them the super belts which she kindly obliged and then sent down in the post. Now, they spend most of their time trying to defeat the 'Floating Eye of Death'.

Our youngest daughter loves 'Maisy' mouse and dogmatically demands a 'Maisy' book to be read to her every night before she goes to bed. Most of our collection of 'Maisy' books belonged to her older sister and I remember being surprised a recent convert to motherhood.....when I discovered that Tony, from that utterly dreadful show 'Men Behaving Badly', was the narrator on the TV version. That seemed somehow fundamentally WRONG to me....yet it wasn't as though it was a freak brief foray into children's voiceovers....he even scored the gig for 'Bob The Builder' too. How I wonder.


Tuesday, 12 February 2013


On the weekend I ventured through a portal to a parallel universe......with 220 other scantily clad Bikram Yoga addicts who pushed past racks of  gold lame mini shorts and bandana tops in the foyer to converge in the ballroom of a nondescript hotel on the periphery of Melbourne's CBD. Rajashree Choudhury was in town.....she's Bikram's wife who has helped him to create the world wide phenomenon that is Bikram Yoga.

Don't worry, I'm concerned about what managing to acquire a two day ticket of leave from my family and the resulting military precision of organisation involved says about me.....that I would choose to spend one day of my freedom in a packed room, short of oxygen and high on sweat and complex yoga poses, says about me. But I loved every minute of it.

Rajashree's focus is on the emotional side of yoga....she believes that everything manifests from the mind and the pollution of the mind and sees specifically that yoga can balance the human body's energy which impacts not only disease but also on the connection between the body, the mind and the spirit. For Rajashree, yoga is therapy. She says '....The woman runs the house. The woman takes care of the family. But no one really looks after her. We put less priority on ourselves and focus on everything else. We physically and emotionally deprive ourselves. And then suddenly it's mid life and the time to enjoy is over and it leads to depression'. Scary.

At this point, I started feeling a frisson of all started to make sense and fall into place for me. Forget that today in my first Bikram Yoga class since the seminar, my monkey mind flirted with such subjects as what I was going to write about in my blog/next article for 'Tasmanian Style' magazine.....and of course the eternal dilemma...what was I going to cook for dinner. Still it was not. Obviously, I have an excruciatingly  arduous road ahead of me taming my mind, training it to be still, yet I'm seduced by what it would be like if I I'm headed back to the hot room for another class tonight......after I've dished up dinner service (spelt pasta with a fresh tomato and vegetable sauce, in case you're wondering).

Don't despair, my weekend away wasn't all yoga mats and coconut water. The rest of the time I felt like Linda in 'The Pursuit of Love' when she was surrounded by the chatterers, as the friend I was staying with and I indulged in endless, endless chat. And dinner at Cumulus Inc:

And lunch at Bistro Guillaume:

And maybe a spot of restorative dress trying on:

And now the timer's going so had better get dinner done and dusted so I can hit the mat......needless to say I came home feeling throughly restored.....even though my family saved up three loads of washing for me in my absence.


Wednesday, 6 February 2013


Our house is the process of living through a self imposed biennale of decluttering. It is torturously painful yet it has to be done. There are strict rules and regulations as to what gets to stay and what heads down the road to the Vinnie's bin......with clothes, if it hasn't been worn since we previously went through the process, then it goes....without hesitation. No exceptions.

Have you ever clapped eyes on a more hideous dress:

 Here's a close up of the nasty, polyester fabric just in case you are unconvinced:

Are you surprised to hear that it's staying? It was a present from my dad. He gave it to me when he came back from a trip working in New Caledonia, soon after we'd bought our first home and embarked on babies. As an electrical engineer, dad travelled the world with his work. Soon after finishing Uni he and his cronies headed to the UK and Switzerland. Then, there was a period of relative stability after he and mum got married and we all lived in Sydney....before our family relocated, when I was ten, to a remote Indonesian island halfway between Jakarta and Singapore. This signalled 'hello Sydney boarding school' for my sister and I.....until work took mum and dad to Launceston, of all places......where we all stayed while he continued jetting off solo to work in such far-flung places as Peru and Taiwan.  He would be gone for months at a time with very little communication...we're talking about back in the days before email here. In hindsight, it really was a selfish and evasive way to participate in family wasn't until two weeks before my wedding that he confirmed that he'd be walking me down the aisle.......and he didn't meet my eldest daughter until she was almost a month old.....but then again, he never met my youngest daughter at all. 

So, this atrocious dress was a joke. As he laughingly gave it to me he said that it would be the perfect attire for housework. He gave mum one too. On his next visit I met him at the door dolled up in the dress.....he roared with laughter. 

Then the dress was promptly relegated to the deep dark depths of the rag bag, which was how it somehow escaped vanishing forever. I found it again after he died. It's staying because it's impregnated with makes me cry and laugh at the same time....shame it's so ugly.

My husband has two items of clothing that he religiously saves. On the weekend he squirrelled them away to a safe place in the attic so I couldn't take a photo so I'll just have to describe them instead. One is a jacket which he refers to as his 'Get One'....and no he wasn't wearing it when I met him. Once upon a time, in a previous incarnation, it was his old school blazer.....until he and his university rowing crew came up with the idea of cutting off the magenta braid and having the University Boat Club embroidered pocket sewn on over the top of the school crest. Apparently, so the folklore according to my husband goes, whenever these eight blokes wore these particular jackets they were irresistible. This was well before I knew him and often speculate whether any of the other mothers at school may have known him in his hey day....wearing this jacket. 

The other is his battle suit.....the retired dinner suit that he kitted himself out in every time he went to a B&S Ball. It is still faintly emits the odour of sheep shit and Bundy Rum and is stained with patches of food colour spat by other ute driving revellers. I can't wait to hear the explanation he comes up with one day in the future when the children ask him what exactly these special treasures are. Hmm.


Monday, 4 February 2013


Three of my children went back to full time school today. I thought I'd managed to survive the seven long weeks of school holidays.....until yesterday. When the five year old, in the course of being harangued into tidying up his room, managed by a sleight of hand to completely decimate my bedroom mantelpiece....with a retractable tape measure, of all things. 



See that teacup on the left of the 'before' photo, that once belonged to my grandmother who was an inveterate teacup collector....she even had a specially designed display case to show it off. One day my sister and our cousins were allowed to choose a cup that she was going to give us to remember her by when she died. That was that cup I chose. Notice it's absence in the 'after' was smashed to smithereens.

Look at how the butterflies fared:

I'm afraid that this incident pushed me over the edge into catatonic meltdown territory. I may have been just a tad tetchy beforehand as my husband was heading for Mebourne first thing and I was going to be saddled with the dressed/short order cooked breakfast routine/lunches/hair and bags packed rigamarole.....single handedly. Usually, when he's participating, it's at this point that I wave them all off still in my bathrobe to hang out the washing/do the dishes and get the baby and self dressed in time to get to Bikram Yoga. No, no, no, think again, it was going to be the first day of in addition to all of this I was pensive because I knew that I was also going to have to make myself presentable to front up to each of their respective classrooms. For me, this is always the hardest part of the exercise.....I may have been guilty one day last year of doing the school my bathrobe.  

So I was just a tad agitated and was also workshopping a special 'last night of the hols' dinner menu.....that everyone in the family would eat....and thinking about the stressy subject of what I was going to pack in their lunch boxes....which is extra specially difficult as I have declared a moratorium on pre packaged kiddy muck....everything has to be made lovingly by me.....yet I've eased off somewhat as it no longer has to be grown by me.....I know my limits. Or maybe I don't. Needless to say the china/butterfly carnage which ensued pushed me over the edge. With four children I am well and truly outnumbered. With the numbers so firmly stacked against me I don't stand a chance. Over the course of the holidays I became consumed by my children and lost sight of myself. To the constant cry of 'What are we doing today' I became further and further adrift. Admittedly, on occasion I did drag them all kicking and screaming to the childminding at my Bikram Yoga Studio.....yet it obviously wasn't enough. 

Now that three of them are back in the classroom and the baby is asleep.....and I finally have the luxury of some time to myself....I've been trying to reconcile my reaction to yesterday. I've been thinking of all of the good times that we shared over the holidays....when my eldest daughter participated in a yoga class with me.....seeing the mindblowingly superb movie adaption of 'The Hobbit' which had been read to them aloud by their father last year and all of the conversation that engendered.....laughing at the amusing new games invented and the costumes that accompanied them.....watching my almost ten year old master the art of the unicycle and the sense of confidence that it gave him....and listening to the five year old work through all of his old favourite picture books and tell his baby sister the stories.

Better hurry as it's time to get down and pick the little darlings up.....I've missed them!


Friday, 1 February 2013


On Monday the school holidays will finally be over and I will have three children at full time school.....and only three years to wait until all four are ensconced. Last weekend,
when my husband had totally lost sight of me under the deluge of children and activities we took matters into our own hands and unceremoniously ditched all of the children with my mum (thanks mum) and escaped for 24 hours.

Our ultimate destination was Quamby Estate, in the countryside 20 minutes outside Launceston:

Of course we had to have lunch en route.....I dressed up in this Collette Dinnigan number which I bought in Melbourne almost two years ago and accessorised it with every pink bead that I have in my wardrobe.....some of which had to be restrung by my daughter in the car on the long drive up north:

At the Joseph Chromy Restaurant we had lunch overlooking the vines:

Which on closer inspection looked remarkably like the paddocks which made up the long and arduous cross country course from my schooldays.....this was momentarily off-putting as I was a notoriously bad runner back bad that people who knew me at school have difficulty reconciling how two of my children could possibly have represented their cross country.

The food was quite good though:

And it was buzzing with people....coincidentally there were old school friends having lunch at another table.....and they may have almost consumed a bottle of bubbly each by the time we finished up.

Look how nice Quamby Estate was:

Oh the utter luxury of having people bring you food and drinks when you ask for them from the comfort of a sofa.....usually it's me who has to get up and go and rustle something up. I loved every minute of our stay at Quamby and momentarily fantasised about what it would be like to live there. Then it was time to drop back down through the portal into everyday reality and rescue mum from the children.

The effects of this relaxing 24 hour respite may have been somewhat negated when my husband promptly left me at a friend's farm for two days......with our combined seven children to look after.

Not long until Monday now.