Sunday, August 17, 2014

well hello


As you can probably guess from this pic, I'm yearning for Paris a little. Life's back to normal now, which makes me cast my mind back to days when I had nought to do but wander the streets of my favourite city. Oh well, we'll be back there soon enough.

This weekend was a lovely combo of catching up on stuff, and spending time with friends and my lovely little family. Last night's birthday night out with my gal pals was just perfection. First of all, there was sparkling rosé at Newcastle's newest small bar - The Red Baron's. It was pretty darned cool. We also shared some russian-style tapas before moving on to another pub for a quick drink. Then, we were still a wee bit peckish so we went to Chook and Broosky - a chicken and beer bar! SO GOOD! Fried chicken, coleslaw and chips with lime-zest for the win!

After this we ducked down to the Lass for a dance. We saw THREE great bands/performers, including my new favourites Nova And The Experience. What an experience! They played danceable indie rock while doing such awesome things as throwing paper aeroplanes, passing out newspaper hats for us all to wear, or passing our percussion cuteness and bubbles! We danced our wee feet off we did.

Hurrah for fun nights with the very best of friends.

Today I caught up with a very old friend from way-back-when for lunch and a brainstorming session. It was super-fun. Then I helped my gal with a crazy-difficult assignment for school. Oh, and it was a GOOD DRYING DAY! So hello clean sheet night.

Tomorrow I start a new adventure at work. I've moved over two desks and into a new role. I love a new challenge. Bring it all on.

And you, how's things with you?

Monday, August 04, 2014

meal planning monday


Well, I'm back! It's been a week now, and I think the jetlag has finally vamooshed. Pesky thing that it is. So last week was a bit of a write-off meal planning wise - I think I only cooked once (no idea what we ate…) This week we're back to normal. I'm going to use my food from France and England as an example to follow. See that pic above? It's just a salad, from a café in Paris - but check out the detail. That's finely sliced raw beetroot you're seeing - candy-striped, yellow and white. Seriously. I'll be digging out my mandolin and adding some of this to my salads this summer - it was both pretty AND delicious. Here's what's on the menu this week.

Monday: I'll ease back into the week with a simple meal of Nigella's Greek Lamb with a spinach, feta and walnut salad.

Tuesday: my gal's netball training. It'll be COLD. To warm us up when we get home I'll make a quick butter chicken, rice and wilted greens.

Wednesday: it's my 11-year-old netball team's last training session for the year (*insert sad face here*) so I'll make spaghetti and meatballs. I'll make the sauce in the slow-cooker then brown the meatballs while I'm cooking the pasta when I get home.

Thursday: hubby and I are off on a date with Underground Epicureans. We're off on a marvellous food adventure. Not sure what's happening with the gal yet. Either she'll stay with a friend or we'll ask my husband's parents to come stay. If they stay, I'll make a cottage pie wednesday night so they can heat it and serve it with veg.

Friday: chicken provencale tonight. With roasted potatoes and lots of greens.

Saturday: it's nearly spring isn't it? If the weather's kind I'm going to do a bbq. When in France we'd merely season steaks with garlic, salt and pepper. I'll do that. And serve it with a big salad like the one above (sans the raw salmon).

Sunday: pork belly roast on a bed of rhubarb with lots and lots of veg.

And that'll do it.


Friday, July 25, 2014

last days in london


We made the most of our visit to London, and one of my fave moments was this. I really wanted to see a play in the West End, so we thought we'd make it a family-friendly one and see Matilda. I'm not normally a fan of musicals, but I thought I'd sit through it for the kids.

But I LOVED IT!

Tim Minchin is behind the music, so no wonder it was awesome. The performances were all spot-on, and each player on the stage drew the audience's eye. Miss Trunchpole was played by a bloke, and he was just perfection. Hilarious it was.


The set design was so fabulous too. It was in a teeny, tiny theatre, perfect for such a production. Apparently it's coming to Australia, so if it does - go see it!


After the matinee we walked through to Covent Gardens, where I swooned for quite some time at this floral display, and the gals ate some Laduree macarons (side note: do you know that I did not eat ONE macaron while in Paris?)

We then went to find some dinner along the Thames and found THIS! It's the Summer of Love in London and the city's celebrating. My gal took the opportunity for a wee rest on a deckchair.


Then the three cousins rode these super-cute slides. The girls have had a blast, as have we. We're flying out today (hopefully). We were meant to fly out last night, but we got to the airport to discover that our flight was overbooked so we are now flying out this afternoon via Los Angeles. Another stamp for the passport I guess. So now we're home Sunday morning instead of Saturday. Hopefully it's true that jetlag's better when you fly in from the states...

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

cornish delights


After our four day trip to the Cotswolds we visited another glorious part of England. Cornwall. Coming from a beachside suburb in Australia like Merewether it's hard to be impressed by a beach - but oh, I do love Cornwall.


We drove down this little country lane to visit the family holiday home Viddy Vu. It's perfectly located in the market village of Camelford.


We did lots of drives, gasping at countryside that looked a little like this.


I may have spent a little time daydreaming about owning this hotel on the rugged cliff top near Port Issac. It was boarded up and looked abandoned, but there were cars there making me think someone was in the midst of renovating.


How's this for a view? It made me wish I painted. Look at al those colours and textures. I adore the drystone walls.


This is the port itself. And those were really the colours. There were people swimming away in there, including one older fellow doing leisurely laps. He reminded me of my grandfather who used to walk out the front of his house, dive in the lake and swim and mile each day before breakfast. What a habit.


So many shades of green. And blue.


I love the white and grey of the buildings and how well they contrast with the sky and the sea - and the cliffs!


I am totally going to plant more pots of flowers when we return home. Don't they just make a place?


For fans of the TV show Doc Martin, this is where it's filmed. Apparently that's his house in the shot (somewhere, I'm not sure which one, but if you watch you'll know).


I loved the patchwork nature of the cornish countryside. Fields are outlined with dark green hedges, and the colours of the fields range from pale lemon to deep green. It's stunning.

Oh, and while we were in Cornwall we lunched at Jamie Oliver's Fifteen. OH MY! We had the three course lunch: grilled, flat white peaches, buffalo mozzarella and balsamic was followed by a slow-roasted short-rib ragu, and ended with vanilla pannacotta, shortbread and strawberries. Simple, seasonal perfection.

It's our second-last day today (le sob). We're heading into the city to see the musical version of Matilda! The songs were written by Tim Minchin which delights me to no end. Tomorrow we might need to do a final shop (although we've already boosted the British economy no end!) We fly out at 10.20pm. Wish me luck. Hopefully there will be some good films on the plane, and I'll take a book too, just in case I'm in the mood to read.

I've enjoyed every single second of our holiday. It's been utter perfection. However, I am looking forward to coming home. It's time to see my friends (hurrah!), family (yay!) and get back to work (also hurrah, seriously!).

Oh, and once I plant 1000 flowers I'll probably start planning our next holiday (and saving madly!)

Thanks for coming on the trip with me x

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

picturebook perfect: the cotswolds


See this? This is Plum Tree Cottage, our storybook home for four days in the Cotswolds. Isn't it just super-cute? The garden's off to the side, and way up the top there, you can see the historic church which dates back to 1180. It's just stunning.


This house has been recently renovated with a real decorator's eye. It's a Grade II Listed cottage, in a row of terraces which were built around the mid 1800s. Spring chickens really.


How's this for detail? A wee windowsill on the stairwell contains this pop of prettiness!


I adore this kitchen and feel terribly guilty for not cooking in it, but, a mere two minute stroll up the road is the Great Western Arms, a recently renovated pub that serves rather delicious meals such as Toad In The Hole, scampi, fish and chips and cottage pie.

Oh, tonight I had scampi followed by a steamed syrup pudding.

Delish.

Check out the girls' beds. What you can't see from this shot is just how high they are. They have gloriously soft mattresses AND mattress toppers! So soft and pillowy!


Our room is right at the tippy top.



How's the serenity in our secret back garden? I really need to purchase some Pimms to sip up here one afternoon don't you think?



The house across the road has the most stunning shocking pink climbing rose.



Here's a dream house, just behind us. Can you even IMAGINE driving in those gates and calling this place home? Oh, I can!


Today we visited Upper and Lower Slaughter. Despite their gruesome-sounding names, they're utterly gorgeous. We wandered around, took snaps, ate icecream, and sighed.

PRETTY!


Oh, finally we went to Bourton on the Water. A stunning place, but so heavily populated with tourists it was hard to catch breath. We found a fab little Italian place in a quiet back street where we ate a delish pizza, then the girls got lost in a maze (my worst nightmare, but they had a ball!)

Tomorrow we'll head back up to Brockley Village Shop and café again where we had the most amazing breakfast of a scrambled egg and (OHMYGOD) bacon on a bagel, with GOOD coffee.

This place is a delight. All the joys of the Cotswolds without the hoardes of tourists.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

au revoir france



We sadly said au revoir to France, but only after totally making the most of it. We took a cruise on the The Lot river where we were treated to blue skies and stunning scenery.



Including breathtaking scenes of St Cirq Lapoppie from below. Isn't it glorious?


At one stage, the river becomes too shallow for ships, so the clever French have created these locks. What happens is the gates are opened, you ride in, and then the water is slowly equalised to the new level - either up a few metres, or down. It's very clever. And apparently was invented by Leonardo Da Vinci. Once you go through the lock you then travel along a totally manmade canal, until the river's a decent depth again. One thing I loved was the detail - see the flower boxes on the gates? Everything's considered an opportunity for a bit of fabulous. 



We also visited the historic hilltop city of Rocamador. We parked our car down the bottom and rode a wee train up to the historic village. We wandered up the streets, ate some icecream, then climbed the 200+ steps to the historic chapels. Apparently pilgrims would make the journey up the stairs - on their knees! My knees had enough difficulty with just the walk.

When we arrived there were massive groups of school kids who'd just completed some kind of bike-riding pilgrimage. Groups of family and friends lined the stairs and applauded them as they climbed into the chapels for a service.

Because of the crowds we couldn't fight our way inside to see the very famous Black Madonna. But we saw plenty of fabulous.


Now we're back in England and have a jam-packed itinerary planned. Today we're off for a family bbq at my brother-in-law's family home Cherry Hill. Our visit coincides with the annual family gathering, so that will be lovely. Tomorrow we're off to The Cotswolds for four days, then three days in Cornwall. 

Taking advantage of every minute of this trip? Damned straight I am.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

how's the serenity?


We just keep discovering the most darling things here in The Lot. Such as this brocante store nearby. I need that car. And those pots. But don't fret, we didn't walk out of the store empty-handed, we bought a few pretty things for our house.


The extraordinary history of this place is still blowing me away. Check out this nearby chateau, with parts still standing from the 13th Century!


We arrived just as they were closing for lunch, but never mind, they do night tours Wednesday and Friday nights by candlelight and in COSTUME! I chatted with the owner who told me all this. I'm pretty sure I understood around 60% of what he said and he spoke nice and slowly, and used a bit of English for me. A few more weeks and my French would really improve I'm sure.


We stopped in a village for lunch, and I just couldn't stop snapping pics of prettiness. The care people take with their homes here is astonishing, so many pots bursting with floral prettiness everywhere.


While there's been grey skies, and even some rain, there's also been plenty of sunshine and time to lie beside the pool. And my gal's taken full advantage of it. This house is just sublime, so perfect for two families. I wonder if they'd sell it to us...


If I moved down here I'd probably need one of these don't you think? In either red, blue or creme.


Look at this! Troglodytic houses built into the side of the cliffs - yes, their rear wall is a cliff-face - how were they built? I spend a lot of time pondering building methods from days gone by.


Just in case you're wondering how good entrecote steak and corn-fed chicken tastes when cooked over an open flame, seasoned only with salt, pepper and really good garlic - the answer is SUBLIME.

Today marks the halfway point of our trip: two and a half weeks gone, two and a half to go. We have certainly enjoyed every second so far, and have a lot more to look forward to.

I love The Lot.

Monday, July 07, 2014

the lot south of france


I thought we were spoiled in Paris, but oh my, the South of France is putting on a show. We drove for four million kilometres yesterday {approx} in school holiday traffic {merde} and arrived at our next holiday house is Tour le Faure around 8pm. We arrived to this view.

Hello.

I went out, lay in a deckchair for five minutes, then leapt into that pool - frock and all. Divine.

My brother-in-law went out in search of food and found some awesome pizza, which we consumed with wine on the terrace.

How divine is this? See that room in a wee wing off the main house? That's our bedroom.


The pool? Oh, it's just carved into the side of the hill and overlooks the valley in the most perfect possible manner.

This is our bedroom complete with MASSIVE king sized bed and stone wall. Hello heaven.


This is our bbq, how proper is that? We went to a market this morning and I bought the most amazing steaks that shall be cooked over an open flame on that later tonight.


This morning we went to our neighbouring town, St Cirq Lapopie and discovered why it's won the title of Most Beautiful Village in France on more that one occasion. It's magnificent. You have to park on the outskirts and walk up or down to the village, and it's simply breathtaking on every level.


See?

I GOT A PHOTO WITHOUT TOURISTS! It's a miracle!


How's this for a pop of colour? Because the town's so steep there are loads of places to stop, to sit, to catch one's breath and admire the view.


We had lunch under these vines. Nobody spoke, we just kept mumbling, "mmmm", 'Ohmygod" and "delicious". I had a forester's plate {assiettes des foriestes - I think} which was an amazing salad, carrot salad, smoked duck breast, omelette, CHIPS, walnuts and goat cheese. It was massive, and so, so good.

So much history.




The French really care about asthetics. Everywhere you look are gorgeous flowers which perfectly match the buildings. Each area has its own distinctive style. It's incredible.

This week we'll be boating, canooeing and swimming in this.


I needed an icecream to sustain myself before walking up the hill to collect the car. Yep, it tasted of watermelon and the seeds were crispy bits of chocolate.



Bears crossing. Apparently. Or is it more sign mischief?

I think I've found where we'll retire...