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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Sweet treats...

One of the great benefits of finishing your Christmas shopping early is that it gives you time to make all those little sweet treats that make the festive season so special. Today I managed to make three different kinds of chocolate truffles (hazelnut, orange and peppermint); a batch of Rocky Road and two batches of Snowballs.

The first batch of Snowballs I made using cup measurements and I could tell they were spreading too much as soon as they had been in the oven for just a few minutes. So I made a second batch using weight measurements which resulted in a much stiffer paste and rounder 'snowballs'. If you like ameretti biscuits you'll love these. They are incedibly easy to make and if you use pure icing sugar rather than icing sugar mixture they're gluten-free to boot!


60 grams almond meal
60 grams hazelnut meal
120 grams pure icing sugar, sifted + extra to coat
1 egg white

1. Preheat oven to 160 degrees celsius and line a baking tray.
2. Add almond meal, hazelnut meal and sifted icing sugar to a large bowl.
3. Add egg white and stir until mixture forms a stiff paste.
4. Take teaspoons of mixture from the bowl and roll into approx. 18 small balls.
5. Roll each ball in icing sugar to cover thoroughly.
6. Place balls on baking tray and bake for 10 minutes.
7. Allow to cool on tray then store in an airtight container.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Return of the Christmas Spirit...

I'm feeling very Christmassy this year. I've finally found the right settings on my oven and have been baking every chance I get. I've been shopping locally and early to avoid any unnecessary present-buying anxiety and I've even given in to neighbourly pressure and installed some solar Christmas lights!
This resurgence of Christmas spirit has really bought home to me just how hard the past few Christmases without Mum and Dad have really been. When I look back now I've endured the last three Christmases rather than celebrated them. I've put on a brave face for the kids but in all honesty I've been relieved when the day itself is over and I've managed to hold it together. Things haven't been made any easier by having to spend parts of the past three Christmas/ New Year periods in the Emergency Department of the local hospital with Henry battling to breath after severe asthma attacks (a tradition I'm really not that keen to continue!).

So this year I'm hoping to start afresh. Rather than trying not to think about Christmases past I've leapt right in and bought a real Christmas tree for the first time in years. Surely nothing smells more like Christmas in Australia than a good old pine tree? Last year that smell would have reduced me to tears but this year it's helping me bridge the before and after grief gap. Decorating the tree with the kids is also balm for the soul. It's such a special time especially as we bring out each ornament and talk about where it came from, who made it or who gave it to us. I have a soft spot for two ornaments (a stocking and a bauble) that I made using a 'stained glass' craft kit when I was about eight but my favourite decorations are these funny little reindeer. The reindeer faces were made by tracing around the kids feet and the antlers by cutting around an outline of their hands or stamping them in paint. Henry's was made when he was only one year old so it is teensy tiny and it reminds me how important it is to grasp every moment of their childhood before it slips away.

So how are your Christmas preparations coming along? Do you have any favourite rituals to help kick-start the Christmas season? Any fabulous Christmas baking recipes I should know about?

Saturday, December 3, 2011

You know Christmas is coming when...

:: the agapanthus burst into life...
:: you can finally put the hot water bottle away...
:: the first day of Total Fire Ban is announced...
:: there are butterflies just like this one all over the place...
:: you have an unstoppable urge to preserve things in jars...

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Little Dancing Queens

I cannot tell you how many times my sisters and I listened to this album with when we little.

When I was about eight I used to 'choreograph' routines to my favourite ABBA songs then I'd rope my friends into performing them with me in front of the class (and any other class who'd let us in if I remember correctly!). Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined that one day I'd have a daughter of my own who would be doing the same thing. Well, it seems some things never change. Today Bella is playing out the same scenario performing 'Dancing Queen' to her classmates with her her friends from the ABBA Club.

Bella and her friends started their own ABBA Club some time ago so they could write out lyrics at lunch time, talk about their favourite songs and do the odd performance. It intrigues me to think that ABBA still holds sway over little girls after all these years. What's really interesting is that it's all about the music. They don't seem to attach themselves to the personalities the way we did (I was definately a Frida girl) and I'm sure they must wonder why on earth they're dressed that way!

They love their Lady Gaga, Katie Perry and Adele too (I'm glad they're not writing down some of their more colourful lyrics!) but there is just something about ABBA that they all love. Is it the music, the lyrics, the harmonies? Perhaps I'll never know but it is a lovely link with the past for this aging ABBA fan who doesn't mind joining in when no-one is looking...

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Books vs apps...

You may (or may not) have noticed that things have been a bit quiet here in Golden Seed Land. That's because I've been busy teaching one family member to read and spending seemingly endless hours setting up iPods and Kindles for the other two. It's been an interesting time caught between an old-fashioned school reader and navigating the e-reader world (which has so far failed to excite much enthusiasm!).

Do you remember a time when you couldn't read? I must say I really don't and I can't imagine looking at a page of English words and not being able to interpret their meaning. Ours is a reading family. We live in a house with books in every room and spend many hours a week reading, visiting bookshops and thinking and talking about books so you can imagine my excitement when the jumbled letters on the page suddenly started to make sense and Henry started reading.

Henry's favourite book to read is Book 1 of the Victorian School Reader (pictured above) which was used by all Victorian children from 1928 to 1950. It's not like we don't have any other books to read but there is something about the way the story builds with a mixture of familiar and new words that both Henry and Isabella have found irrestistable.

Sure you can teach your kids to read with any number of apps on an iPad but for me it just wouldn't be the same (KJ Dellantonia seems to get what I mean here and I wonder if the Silicon Valley moguls sending their kids to no-computer Waldorf schools do too). I love books as things as much as for what they contain and I want my kids to know about dust-covers, endpapers and fontispieces. That's why I love the idea of the Dolly Parton Imagination Library. Imagine getting a free book in the mail (personally addressed to you not your mum or dad) every month from birth until you turn 5 - bliss!

Obviously, we're aiming for the best of both worlds here. Isabella loves her new iPod Touch (which she saved for two years to buy) but even though she knows she can download books onto it she hasn't shown any interest in doing so and far from taking up reading time she has read more books in the past couple of weeks than ever before (thank you Roald Dahl , Jeff Kinney and Megan MacDonald.) Tom's Kindle, however, lies idle and yesterday we bought 6 new books between us so we're not there yet!

How about you? Book, e-reader, both or neither?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

My new kitchen...

'On days when warmth is the most important need of the human heart, the kitchen is the place you can find it'.

(E.B White)

Welcome to my new kitchen! It's not quite finished as you can see (still needs painting and a bit of decorating) but I couldn't be happier with it especially the way the new bamboo floor contrasts with the all-white cabinetry and the way the oven is given prominence by doing away with any overhead cupboards. I'm not so convinced about my choice of a smaller pantry (what was I thinking?) as I didn't realise just how much room you lose with those nifty slide out shelves. Still, it has led to some pretty ruthless culling (way past its use-by-date fish sauce anyone?) which can't be a bad thing.

One of the things that used to really depress me about our kitchen was the view from the front door. You'd open the door ans see a blank paling fence out the window and a freestanding dishwasher with a basket on top that we used to put recycling in. You then had to shimmy past that dishwasher to get to the toilet (before we closed off the doorway as part of the bathroom renovation). All most unsatisfactory!

Now I see this when I come in the front door at night...

So much more satisfactory! Some of the best changes have been small ones . The view out the window is so much more welcoming now that it includes a burst of colour from a hanging basket and some little red window boxes. The window boxes are full of my favourite herbs which means I don't have to go out into the backyard in the dark anymore to pick those essential last minute herbs. I also love my new sink and tap (really!). Again it's not a big thing but the previous one had hot and a cold twist taps which always seemed to end up covered in cake batter or schnitzel crumbs especially when cooking with the kids. It also had a fixed faucet so you couldn't swing it out of the way when you were washing up (many a plate met its maker after accidently colliding with that damn faucet!). Now we have a mixer tap with a flick control and a double sink with strainer plugs and it's amazing how much more streamlined that little detail makes things.

I feel slightly embrassed about the size of my enormous new oven (900mm) in such a small kitchen but it's so much more efficient than the old one (so much so that I've already burnt my first batch of biscuits!) and I figure if you love cooking as much as I do (and increasingly the kids too) it's worth the investment.

There's still plenty of room for improvement - I haven't worked out where to put the recycling station yet and we have a space on one wall for a nice dresser/ sideboard or bookcase but for now I'm just going to enjoy getting to know my new oven and using up all that new bench space...

Monday, October 31, 2011

What Lies Beneath...

It never ceases to amaze me just what's lurking beneath the surface of our everyday surroundings. While ripping out our old hot water service last week we found this amazing remnant of floral wallpaper underneath the pelmet of an old sliding door (the romantic in me likes to think it might be from the original 1950s version of the house but of course it could be from a little later) and when we had our fairly revolting 1980s kitchen ripped out we discovered all sorts of goodies including yellow and green striped enamel paint and lots of 1970s faux-tile lino.

The archaeologist in me loves unearthing these reminders of past lives but also shudders at the destruction. There wasn't much I could do about the floor (and let's be honest it wasn't any great loss) but I made them leave the wallpaper which now lives happily behind my new pantry. No-one can see it but I know it's still there which makes me very happy. Thankfully, not all urban archaeolgy ends so brutally. I recently came across this amazing online project The Greenwich Village Bookshop Door: A Portal to Bohemia 1920-1925 in the New York Times. If you love that period and its eccentric writers, artists, poets and entertainers you will love this site. The door is signed by over 200 bohemian types who frequented Frank Shay's bookshop during the early 1920s and the University have slowly been identifying and linking all the signatories. Like all good 'discovery' stories the door could so easily have benn lost. When the shop closed in 1925 the manager took the door home where it stayed until 1960. It was donated to the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas after 'a dealer spotted an ad in the Saturday Review asking 'Want a door?'

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Old-fashioned or not...

The tiles went in today and I love them. I chose them against all advice to the contrary (all the tradies told me they'd make a new kitchen look too old fashioned) but the way I see it it's an old house and a totally contemporary kitchen would look out of place. Only three more sleeps until it's all finished!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Surprise lunch...

The other day the kids offered to make me a salad for lunch. Lovely I said thinking that they were playing their favourite game, 'cafes'. About 15 minutes later I wandered into the kitchen only to see Henry cutting up carrots with a sharp paring knife and Isabella cutting up a tomato with a butter knife! Not wanting to rain on their parade (but praying that no fingers were going to end up in the salad) I allowed myself to be shoo-ed away. A few minutes later they brought me a lovely salad of tomatoes, carrots and marinated fetta finished off with french dressing and some basil they picked themselves. It was the best salad I've ever tasted...

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Twinkle, twinkle little star...

Over the weekend my little star won her first ever award. Her team placed 2nd in a state aerobics championships and she just couldn't get the smile off her face. Well done baby!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Parties, pancakes and chocolate cake...

Yesterday we celebrated Henry's 5th birthday and although we went to a well known pancake house out for his party we stuck with tradition and made our own cake. It's taken a few years for the lesson to sink in but I know realise that for most kids cake is simply a vehicle for icing and candles. With that in mind I trawled through my recipe folder for a suitably simple recipe. My standby is usually a Chocolate Fudge Cake made with no diary or eggs to cater for any children with allergies but as that wasn't a problem this year I decided to make a variation on Stefano de Pieri's Chocolate and Olive Cake. It's a lovely close-textured, moist cake but nowhere as rich as a chocolate mud or flourless chocolate cake which I think is sometimes a bit much for little ones. Stefano uses drinking chocolate in his recipe which gives the cake a lightness of flavour but as I like a bit more of a chocolate hit I've opted for cocoa.

Here's my version...
EDIT:: I've added metric and imperial measurements for those who prefer them

Chocolate Olive Oil Cake


6 eggs, separated

1 cup (200g/ 7oz) caster sugar

1/2 cup (110ml/ 4 fl oz) olive oil

1 cup (140g/ 5oz) self-raising flour

1/2 cup (50g/ 2 oz) cocoa

50ml (2 fl oz)warm water


1. Preheat oven to 160 degrees celsius and grease and line a 24cm springform pan.

2. In an electric mixer, beat egg yolks and 3/4 cup caster sugar on a high speed until light and fluffy.

3. Turn the beater down to medium and add olive oil in a steady stream. Add sifted flour and cocoa and water and beat on a low speed until combined.

4. Wash and dry the beaters thoroughly and in a separate bowl, whip egg whites to soft peaks. Add remaining 1/4 cup of caster sugar and beat to combine.

5. Using a metal spoon, gently fold egg whites into chocolate mixture then pour into prepared pan.

6. Bake for 45-60 mins depending on your oven (check at 40 minutes by inserting a skewer into cake - skewer will come out clean when cake is done).

As you can see I iced my cake and decorated it with white, milk and dark chocolate discs but it is equally good dusted with a mixture of icing sugar and cocoa or crowned with chocolate ganache if you like your cakes a bit more grown up...

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The First Time - Silk Scarf

Images via

Many years ago I remember my boss telling me excitedly that he had just had his first martini. He was close to 60 at the time and he told me how glad it made him to think that that even at his age he still had lots of 'first times' to look forward to.

I thought of him again recently when I bought my first silk scarf. I've always had lots of scarves but most of them I've received as gifts - a beautiful black devore one from my sister, a pink pashmina and a graduated pink raw silk one from my mother-in-law, and a wildly coloured cotton one on a black backgound that has been a wardrobe staple since my best friend gave it to me as a 21st present. As a die-hard devotee of the all-black wardrobe scarves have come to the rescue many times allowing me to change the look and feel of an outfit without changing the basic black building blocks.

But a silk scarf is something else. I think I'm in love. The weightlessness, the drape, the 'floatiness' and suprisingly the warmth have all taken me by surprise - I never want to take it off! So here's to 'first times' at any stage of life. May they always be this simple, pleasureable and surprising.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The right white...

Image via

I feel like I'm slowly going insane. Have you ever tried to choose the perfect white paint? Who knew there were so many options? Pink whites, yellow whites, blue whites and even black whites? Do I go Antique White USA, Whisper White, Natural White or White on White? Really I feel like I'm going mad...

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Luscious Lemon Yoghurt Cake

Feeling much better this week so I decided to celebrate by baking a cake. With the exception of chocolate, lemon would have to be my favourite cake flavouring. There have been some lovely lemon cake recipes whizzing around lately especially here and here but I went back to a tried- and-true recipe for my return to health celebration. This is one of those incredibly reliable cakes that always seems to work out the same way even when you use different tins or slightly under or over cook it. You can dress it up with a lemon syrup or a thin lemon icing glaze but as often as not I just dust it with sprinkling of icing sugar. It has a lovely moist, dense texture which means it can also be used as a dessert cake accompanied by some fruit and double cream. Who would have thought that a cake made without butter could taste so good?

Luscious Lemon Yoghurt Cake


280g Greek yoghurt

180 ml vegetable oil

330g caster sugar

335g self-raising flour

3 eggs, lightly beaten

2 teaspoons (or more) lemon zest

80ml lemon juice


1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius

2. Grease and lightly flour a 24 cm bundt, round or square tin (even if it is a non-stick one as this cake has a tenacious crumb that likes to stick to the sides!)

3. Beat all ingredients together - really, it doesn't seem to matter what order you combine them. If that seems a bit anarchic you can just add the wet ingredients to the dry.

4. Pour mixture into prepared tin and cook for 50-60 minutes (check at 50 minutes by inserting a skewer into the cake - when cooked it will come out clean.)

5. Allow to cool for 5-10 minutes before turning out on a wire rack.

6. When cool dress up or down as you please...

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Hungry for more...

Do you ever feel busy, sick and hungry all at the same time? That's how I feel at the moment - dizzy, nauseous and trying to ignore a very loud ringing sound in my ears. I had to take a couple of days off work last week which I hate doing both because I love my job and because I know I'm behind on a few projects. Somehow I've also managed to embark upon a kitchen renovation and while I was feeling very sorry for myself in bed on Friday the designer called to say that she had mis-measured the kitchen and it all had to be re-designed (mainly by me - more about this later...)

When I finally did manage to put myself to bed I took along two very beautiful new books for company. The first was Melbourne, a gorgeous little book by editor/ publisher Sophie Cunningham whose idiosyncratic view of Melbourne bought back many memories of my younger years in Melbourne (there's a nice review here). The book opens with the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires and ends with the freak hail storm we experienced in 2010. While I'm not likely to ever forget either event I'm glad I have Sophie's version of events on the shelf to give to the kids when they're older.

The other book was Hungry: Food From The Heart by Guy Mirabella. I must admit I'm a bit in love with this book. Not only is it beautifully designed with luscious colour photos by Earl Carter throughout by it is full of delicious-looking Sicilian inspired salads, pastas, risottos, soups and desserts. Salads are a bit of a bete-noire for me so I'm always looking for inspiration. If you'd like to try Guy's 'Red Salad' featuring radicchio, red cabbage, peaches and pomegrante among other delights you'll find a recipe here.

Now is I can just get the nausea under control...

Thursday, September 1, 2011

A cry for help...

Really must get back out into the garden!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Neglected Garden...

Look at the sorry state of my neglected garden. After so many years of drought I think I'd just really given up on the whole enterprise. Not being able to water the garden except with a bucket and watching things wither and die year after year was so deflating. The only things I've really had any success with have been my herbs and a few vegies.

This winter, however, has been amazing. So much rain! Lush green grass is growing where there used to be brown, brittle little shoots - and the weeds! A small magnolia that has never flowered is suddenly abloom, the blueberry has little pink flowers and no matter how many times I pick up the dead camellia heads there always seem to be more within a few days.

I feel quite inspired!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

National Bookshop Day...

The Paperback Bookshop, Bourke Street, Melbourne by Diego DeNicola via Flickr.

Today is inaugural National Bookshop Day in Australia. It's been a tough year for bricks and mortar bookshops this year so today is a great day to get out there and treat yourself to a book (or two, or three). Here are a few of my favourite haunts...

I love the Paperback Bookshop because it has a great selection of titles (particularly fiction) and because its open until 11pm most nights which makes it a great place to rendezvous with friends especially if you're on your own. The only problem is not buying too many books that then become a burden for the night!

Readings, Lygon Street, Carlton by Snipergirl via Flickr. Ah, home away from home. I also love the store in Hawthorn. Amazing range and palpable love of books radiating from the walls...

Hill of Content, Bourke Street, Melbourne by Michael Coghlan via Flickr.

This little gem has had a number of new closures in past years but has somehow managed to hold on. I remember my Dad telling me about the Hill of Content when I was little. The first shop on the site opened in 1922 and was known form its 'quality antiquarian, second-hand and fine new books'. There are no second-hand books there now but its still a great place for high quality hardcovers of the 'coffee-table' variety especially in art and design, gardening and travel.

Image via

These days if I come over all antiquarian there is only one destination for me and that's Kay Craddocks Antiquarian Bookseller in Collins Street. Time Out Melbourne has described it as 'the sort of proper ye olde shop you expect to find magical ammulets...a fantastical place full of the finest, rarest books and probably a gateway to Narnia if you look hard enough.' See how exciting bookshops can be?!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Early Spring...

Fresh Laundry by Chiots Run via Flickr

See-sawing stockmarkets, sovereign debt out of control and and rioters in the streets. Not the best of weeks was it? I'm not really in any position to fix the worlds larger problems so I've been sticking pretty close to home this week and trying to take more notice of the changes happening in my own backyard.

I've been reading a very interesting book called The Comfort of Water by Maya Ward which chronicles her walking pilgrimage up the Yarra River from the port of Melbourne to its source up near Mount Baw Baw. In it she mentions how the local Wurundjerri people recognised not four but six or seven seasons. This makes a lot of sense to me. I think 'Early Spring' has definately arrived. Not only has the weather been a little warmer lately but there is lots of cheery golden wattle blossom about as well as the more European prunus and cherry blossom. I haven't had a chance to take any photos but I don't think I could top Sophie's images over here. (I haven't seen many wombats about but I'm sure they're out there doing their thing! )

Even closer to home I've been on a bit of a health kick drinking lots of Madame Flavour Green, Jasmine and Pear Tea. I love the pack and the little silk pouches that hold large tea leaves. I think it's also lovely that it comes with a little letter from Madame Flavour letting you know that you can use each teabag three times. What a generous spirit!

We've also been enjoying this delicious Raw Broccoli Salad found over at Stonesoup. The great thing about this recipe is that there is rarely a time I wouldn't have all these ingredients in the house. I was a bit unsure about all that raw broccoli but it was really quite delicious and it was so simple to make that I made the kids do it! We were playing cafes anyway and they often make weird and wonderful (and sometimes inedible) flavour combinations so this made a welcome change. I love Stonesoup's five ingredient philosophy but in Bella's world more really is more so she added some baby spinach leaves and marinated fetta with great results. We'll definately be making this one again.

Raw Broccoli Salad via Stonesoup

Let's hope things settle down a bit this week and that certain members of the global community step back and take a good look at themselves.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Cumquat Jam

Recently, two of my lovely work friends raided their mother's cumquat trees for me. I do have two of my own little trees but they are not yet producing in jam-making quantities. I absolutely love cumquat jam and the fact that it's not easy to find commercially means that I never tire of it (as I do when I OD on cherry or apricot jam!).

Having made my first batch I couldn't wait to tuck in but I'd forgotten that citrus and I have not been getting along so well lately and one teaspoon of this jewel-like jam left me with an ulcerated tongue and skin that felt like it was on fire. I can't tell you how depressing that was...Maybe you'd like to make some and I'll live precariously through you?

Cumquat Jam

1 kg cumquats

1 kg sugar

1 lemon (juice and peel)

1 litre of water


1. Slice the cumquats as finely as possible.

2. Peel the lemon with a vegetable peeler then julienne the strips so you have nice thin strips of peel.

3. Place cumquats (seeds and all*), lemon peel, juice and water in a large saucepan. Bring to the boil then simmer for 1 1/2 hours or until skins are tender.

4. Add sugar and stir to dissolve then bring to a rolling boil for about 25 minutes.

5. While jam is boiling sterilise your jars by washing them in hot soapy water and drying them in a low oven for about 30 minutes. Alternatively you can just put them through a hot cycle in the dishwasher. I never really know how much jam a recipe will make so I usually prepare 5-6 jars just in case.

6. Check whether or not your jam has reached setting point (to test, place a small blob of jam on a cold saucer. Once the jam has cooled a little it should wrinkle up if you push it with your finger). You need to be brave at this point. Don't let the jam boil for too long or it will become progressively darker and will set like a rock. If this does happens don't despair. As long as it is not burnt you can still use it. It will just be hard to spead on bread but will be lovely warmed up as a glaze for meats or a sauce for ice-cream, pancakes etc).

6. Take jam off the heat and allow to cool for 15 minutes or so to allow the fruit to distribute itself evenly. Skim off any foamy looking bits and lift out any seeds you see.

7. Pour the jam into sterilised jars making sure that there are no air bubbles. You can fill jars right to the top as the jam will shrink as it cools. Make sure you clean the inside and outside lip of jar with a hot cloth to remove any spilt jam.

8. Seal while jam is still hot, label and store in a cool, dark place for as long as you like!

* you can take all the seeds out, put them in a muslin bag then add the bag to the mixture but I find that they generally rise to the surface while the jam is cooling so I just skim them out then!)


Sunday, July 31, 2011

Frazzled and 'frurled'...

It's been a long couple of weeks but we're nearly there! Henry has had a lovely time watching the builders and spent almost an hour watching the wall tiles going up. At the end of the day he said, 'I don't know Mum, that bathroom is pretty fancy, I'm not sure I can handle it!'. Bless.

The 'fanciness' hasn't come from nowhere and I've spent a lot of time running around looking, choosing, changing my mind, taking things back, swapping things over and generally getting very confused. On Tuesday I even forgot to go to Isabella's parent-teacher interview and when I collected Isabella from school she said I looked very 'frurled' (I think that's somewhere between frazzled and flustered?).

By Friday the bathroom was really starting to come together. It just needs sealing and painting before we can start using and enjoying it. I really had no idea how big a job it was going to be and I think I was very, very lucky to have found the builder I did. The only real hiccups have been with the crazy 1950s plumbing and with me not checking off my deliveries properly and ending up with two different styles of mixer taps (which were duly installed one day when I was at work). I've also conveniently forgotten that I have children and have nowhere to hang their towels! I'm sure there will be other things I've forgotten to include but hopefully nothing that can't be fixed (or fudged).

So for what it's worth, here are a few things to keep in mind if you're planning your own bathroom renovation...

  • Take your time researching your taps, mixers and spouts and accessories (towel racks, robe hooks, toilet roll holders etc) and order them all at one time. This is actually quite a lot harder than it sounds as you often have to order things based on catalogue or internet images and the first time you see them all together may be when they are delivered at your house.

  • Try and close doors or hang drapes across doorways throughout the rest of the house (the dust is incredible!

  • Stretch the budget a little and hire a portable bathroom rather than just a portaloo (especially if you have a family and it's the middle of Winter!). More info in the comments section of this post.

  • Get at least three quotes before you decide on a builder. We ended up with three very different prices and ideas for what we could do. We went with the builder who seemed most sympathetic to my 'unusual' plan and whose quote was in the middle of two rather extreme ones. We had to wait for him to start the job but I think it was worth the wait.

  • Always remember, a good builder and his trusty sub-contractors are worth their weight in gold.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

A Bit Of A Circus...

Well the bathroom is almost complete and I have lots of photos to show you but I can't find the photo cable to upload the images! Life's a bit like that at the moment - it's a bit of a circus here. Things are not where they should be. Books have gone missing as have shoes and vital paperwork but by next week things should be returning to a more manageable kind of domestic chaos. In the meantime I thought I'd up date you one what else I've been up to...

Marvelling at what the human body can do. You know how they say we only ever use about 10% of our brains? Well, after seeing the awe-inspiring Nederlands Dans Theater and Circus Olympia recently I'm convinced I'm only using .0001% of my physical capabilities!

Reading two great books about Australia in the 1930. The first one 'The Lost Mother: A Story of Art & Love' by Anne Summers is a memoir centred around a portrait her mother sat for as a child. The book explores the life of the artist who painted the work, Constance Stokes and the collector who held onto it for many years, a mysterious Russian emigre, Lydia Mortill.

If fiction is more your style and you're looking for some quirky local colour you might like 'A Few Right Thinking Men' by Sulari Gentill, the first in a planned series of mystery novels set in Sydney during the 1930s and starring gentlemen artist and amateur sleuth Rowland Sinclair. Very snappy dialogue and a colourful cast of characters. Sulari has a pretty nifty website over here.

Listening to Debussy. Many years ago I bought a CD called 'Debussy for Daydreaming'. I usually play music to the kids as they go to sleep and this CD is the current favourite.

Coverting this gorgeous glass Babushka drinking jug and glass.

Waiting patiently for the bathroom to be finished and the midnight treks to the outside portable bathroom to be over!

What have you been up to?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Oh, my!

This is what I came home to after work last night. There's my little 50s pink toilet and check out that creative plumbing. Looks like some sort of surrealist sculpture! There used to be a wall enclosing all those pipes but really, I ask you, how has it been functioning all these years? The builder claims never to have seen anything like it in his life and I'm just waiting to see the plumbers face when he arrives tomorrow...

Monday, July 18, 2011

A Change Is As Good As A Holiday...

Image via

School holidays + bathroom renovation = no time for blogging. Happily for all concerned school is back today and the bathroom is being demolished as I write (including the 1950s pink toilet!). Stay tuned...

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Year of Reading Backwards: Books 3 & 4: 'Animal Farm' (1945) & 'Nineteen Eighty-Four' (1949) by George Orwell

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I've been a bit slack keeping you up-to-date with my reading progress this year haven't I? I've been reading furiously as usual but somehow finding time to write about the books has been more difficult than finding the time to read them! You may remember that some time ago I decided to read George Orwell's anti-totalitarian classics, 'Animal Farm' and 'Nineteen Eighty-Four'.

I have a bit of a phobia about reading 'syllabus books' so had avoided reading these titles for years. I've always resented being compelled to read a particular book and I've never been really into the idea of pulling a book apart and putting it back together. Instead I like to experience a book as closely as possible to the way the author intended - I even wait until I've finished the book before reading the introduction and endnotes!

Anyway, I think I left my run too late to read 'Animal Farm'. The characters, plot and moral of the story are just so well known that I had a strange sense of deja-vu all the way through it. Reading 'Nineteen Eighty-Four', however, was a revelation. I was hooked from the first sentence...'It was bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen'. Although Orwell has been criticised for not writing very rounded characters, I really warmed to the main character Winston as he struggled to carve out a little piece of happiness for himself in a world where individuality and privacy are outlawed. The moments of happiness he shares with fellow worker Julia in the countryside and above the quaint old second-hand shop are like moments suspended in time as we are always aware that the life they have set up is as fragile as the glass paperweight Winston carries around with him.

As the reality of their situation starts to catch up with Winston and Julia, the second half the book develops a more serious, philosophical tone (I can well imagine my 16 year old self throwing the book aside at this point) and the sense of inevitablility that has built throughout the book comes to a climax. Will they or won't they agree to follow the party line and admit that 2 + 2 = 5?

More than sixty years on 'Nineteen Eighty-Four' is still shockingly relevant in both its description of totalitarian rule and its investigation of what makes us tick - the pull of memory, the need to connect with others and most importantly the need to have a place where we can feel 'utterley alone, utterly secure, with nobody watching you, no voice pursuing you, no sound except the singing of the kettle and the friendly ticking of the clock.'

If you haven't already read it perhaps 2011 should be the year you do...

Favourite lines...

'Winston was gelantinous with fatigue'. (I read that sentence while I was in hospital with Henry having not really slept for two nights so it really hit home!).

'He wondered, as he had many times wondered before whether he himself was a lunatic. Perhaps a lunatic was simply a minority of one'.

'It was a heavy lump of glass, curved on one side, flat on the other, making almost a hemisphere. There was a peculiar softness, as of rain-water, in both the colour and texture of the glass. At the heart of it, magnified by the curved surface, there was a strange, pink, convoluted object that recalled a rose or a sea anenome...What appealed to him about it was not so much its beauty as the air it seemed to possess of belonging to an age quite different to the present one. The soft rain-watery glass was not like any glass he had even seen. The thing was doubly attractive because of its apparent uselessness...'

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Trip to Daylesford

One of the things I really love about living in Melbourne is that you can jump in the car, drive for an hour or two and end up in the most beautiful country towns. Last weekend we left town and headed for the hills. We have family living in lovely seaside climes so often get away to the coast but it's been a long time since we'd been truly land-locked. I can't tell you how long I've been wanting to go to Daylesford. Having grown up not all that far away as the crow flies I have circled it for years visiting Kyneton, Woodend, Macedon, Hanging Rock and Trentham without actually making it to the 'Spa Capital of Australia'. Was it worth the wait? Oh yes! Daylesford is my kind of place - beautiful mountain scenery......this is the view from the Convent Gallery...

Great secondhand bookstores and market stalls -we particularly liked the Paradise Books (14 rooms of books!) in the Vincent Street where we were greeted by this lovely black cat...

Fabulous local produce prepared and served with love at places like Cliffy's Emporium (below)which has a daily/seasonal/ local produce menu and Koukla where we had great wood-fired pizzas using local ingredients including some delicious slices of Tuki lamb sausage.

We also visited Lark whose fortunes I've followed for a number of years through Alison's blog. The kids absolutely loved the place and Isabella discovered swap cards ( she'd never even heard of them!) and bought an album and 18 cards to start her collection.

Inside the oh-so-sweet retro world of Lark...

But the piece-de-resistence for me was definately artist David Bromley's extraordinary, 'A Day On Earth', an enormous old factory shed full of industrial antiques, quirky set pieces (including an army tent and several rooms displaying mid-century modern furniture) and, of course, his own remarkable paintings and sculptures. We visited 'A Day On Earth' on our last day when the fog was so thick that you could hardly see your hand in front of your face. The wind was freezing so we rugged up in hat, scarves and jackets and made a dash from the car.

While I was in element from the moment we arrived it was interesting to note Henry and Isabella's reactions. Henry loved it and literally had to be restrained from touching and exploring everything...

A mini cover inside and out with Bromley's children's paintings (it also had a little half size trailer!)

Isabella on the other was what she described as 'a bit freaked out'. The poor love just didn't know what to do or think about such a seemingly random accumulation of 'stuff'. I tried to explain to her that an artist is someone who has a particular way of looking at the world and that we were actually quite lucky to see what went on in David Bromley's head. That just seemed to freak her out even more! I assured her that it was OK to feel uncomfortable sometimes because it reminds us that everyone sees the world in a different way. She seemed to settle down a bit after that but she complained of a stomach-ache for the next half hour (an anxiety sufferer in the making I'm afraid):(

Over-sized blocks featuring David Bromley's nostalgic children's series...

...this section reminded me of a play set and I half expected actors to emerge from some hidden door...

If you do get the chance to visit 'A Day On Earth' I highly recommend it - my photos really don't do it justice. If you're in Melbourne he also has a studio in Chapel Street, Prahran which is even bigger!