Friday, January 31, 2014

fabulous friday

Oh my goodness, it's a really lovely day today. Fresh air, blue sky and it's FRIDAY! I've also realised that I've developed quite the fetish for the colour green on these chairs - I need to paint something this weekend in this colour. Or blue. I'm looking at my dining chairs actually.



So, plans for the weekend - do you have them? We're pretty free so far, but I'm sure it'll fill up. There will be swimming. And cycling. And visits to the markets. You?

French word of the day: béatude - bliss

image: MarthaStewartWeddings

Monday, January 27, 2014

meal planning monday

Sorry this is late - it's a public holiday here today and I've been chilling out with my gal, swimming, lolling etc while hubby's been on a loooooooooon bikeride.

But we're now getting back into the swing of things for the new school year - my gal goes back to school on Thursday {and cannot wait!}. Here's what we're eating {at my gal's request}:

Monday: I have some chicken sausages from Aussie Farmers Direct, and I'm planning on cutting them in thirds and roasting them with potatoes, sweet potatoes, capsicum, zucchini and corn cobs. YUM!

Tuesday: homemade pizza.

Wednesday: Mexican fiesta as a back-to-school feast.

Thursday: chicken kebabs and salad.

Friday: duck confit to celebrate the end of school week!

Saturday: salmon on the bbq with salads.

Sunday: roast beef on the bbq with warm potato salad and greens.

Plus we'll be doing lots of back-to-school goods - banana muffins for breakfasts on the go, potato and chorizo pasties, bean salads and whatever else tickles my gal's fancy.

image from

French Word of the Day: école - school!

Friday, January 24, 2014

bill henson - across time

It's very rare that a person is afforded the chance to meet an idol, let alone the opportunity to interview them in a room with their work. For me, that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity occurred with Bill Henson when he came to Newcastle to generously offer his time sharing his wisdom with an enraptured audience. I arrived early which gave me a chance to settle in to a back row seat while Henson spoke to over 150 high school students who'd come to listen to his lecture.

Lucky kids.

He was so generous. He obviously wanted to share his talent and his passion - calling regularly for questions and spending an extraordinary amount of time giving detailed, intelligent answers.

I hope most of them went home inspired. 

I know I did.

Newcastle Art Gallery is currently hosting Across Time, a collection of Henson's work stretching from around 1974 to the early 2000s. Breathtaking works from his Paris Opera Garnier series feature, as well as haunting landscapes with a saturation of colour that makes you sink deep into the frame, pondering what's in the richly-hued depths.

With a Bill Henson display there is one consistency - the walls. They're a special colour that Henson specifically mixed to showcase his work perfectly. It's a deep, dark, velvety brown. Rich, yet unobtrusive. On this background the works pop.

For an artist, it's rare that they have the chance to see their work in a collection once it leaves their hands. It's only when it's on display that they have the opportunity to explore it again, seen through a curator's eyes. I loved watching Bill Henson rediscovering his works in Newcastle, and discussing the cohesion of colour in all these works, as diverse as they are.

Henson says that darkness expands the suggestive potential of a photograph. "The palette is quite subdued in the Opera Garnier works - the light on the audience is the light that's reflected from the stage. And there's uplighting too - which we're not used to - they create an ethereal and unreal atmosphere. When they asked me to do that commission it was interesting as they told me it could be anything - I could design sets, photograph the building anything. But watching the audience gather together with a sense of anticipation, I found that fascinating."

These works are stunning - with a haunting quality that's beautiful and begs for closer inspection. Bill Henson has a very distinctive photographic style, it's considered more painterly than your typical photographs. I asked him how he came upon this style, and he said he didn't set out to develop one - everything's just determined by the individual picture.

He works in groups of photographs, considering each of them as they relate to the other - which is probably how this style is formed - we're seeing a world through his eyes.

That's a true artist, someone who doesn't work thinking about what an audience wants to see - but what he wants to show them. His final piece of advice to the students, and something that's still ringing in my ears, is: "Be true to yourself and don't stop working."

Seeing photographs like these hung in an exhibition is an experience that many deny themselves, "The funny thing about photography is it suffers more than any other artform in that if people think they've seen a reproduction somewhere they think they've seen it," said Henson. "But it's really important to have the experience of seeing the photographs in person - hung with so many others. Seeing an exhibition gives you so much scope for your imagination. Contemplation and deeper examination requires silence and a little bit of time."

Bill Henson: Across Time is on display at Newcastle Art Gallery until February 2 - don't miss it!

And what do you do when you meet an internationally-renowned photographer? You take a selfie with them and pop it on Instagram. Natch.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

a place in paris

Well, in super-dooper exciting news we've booked our accommodation in Paris for a week! Yep, arriving on June 28 we get to spend a whole week in my fave city before driving way down south to The Lot for another week.

This time it's all about location. We really wanted to stay in The Marais, which is probably my favourite place in Paris {aside from Ille St Louis, which is teeny and only has limited accommodation}. We're staying with friends, the friends we regularly holiday with in the Southern Highlands, and we've found a glorious apartment with three bedrooms, two bathrooms, parquet floors, french doors with ironwork lace balconies and fireplaces. So pretty.

We're a mere 500 metres to Place des Vosges {pictured} a place I just adore. And then, in the other direction, 500 metres to Ille St Louis. Now plans just need to be made. On the essentials list:

  • dinner at the Musee de Orsay
  • a romantic dinner for hubby and I
  • a day trip to the champagne region
  • lots of shopping!
  • climbing the Arc de Triomphe
  • a guided tour of the Louvre with my friend G who's an Art Gallery Guide!

French word of the Day: promettre - to promise.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

my imaginary dinner party

For years I've been addicted to the TV show Come Dine With Me. Have you seen it? It's where a group of between four or five strangers each host a dinner party - and are scored in secret. It's been going for YEARS. It's a hugely successful franchise with versions from the UK, Canada and Australia. There are also celebrity versions (currently screening in Aus is our celebrity version, which I'm loving).

Anyways… ever since I started watching it I've been planning my imaginary menu - what I'd cook if I were ever on the show. Because it's been going on for years my menu's displayed a range of fashion trends - from lamb shanks to pork belly. But last night, just after going to bed, I think I've nailed it.

There's a fine line on the show. See, the people who talk themselves up as gourmets tend to be marked down for their arrogance. Similarly if your menu's too simple, or too healthy, you'll also lose points. Entertainment can be a cool way to notch up points, but it can also lose you points if you have a party pooper who hates dressing up in your midst.

You need three courses, some kind of cocktail on arrival - and then, ideally, after dinner entertainment. You need to have obviously spent a lot of time on the food - but don't spend too much time in the kitchen or you'll be accused of not tending to your guests.

Chances are they'll throw a curve ball your way: if you say on your entry form that you're a big meat lover, then a vegetarian will be included in your dinner guest list. You've got to be prepared, and unflustered. So here's my plan.


A 1970s theme.

Who doesn't love the 70s? It'd be easy to pick up some 70s style plates from an op shop or on eBay (not like my floral ones above - they'd be ideal for my Marie Antoinette dinner party!). Guests would have to frock up and wear 70s style clothing to get into the mood, obviously. And the food?

Okay, here's the menu:

Canapes - retro cheese cubes, cabanosi and red and green pickled onions on sticks with tequila sunrise cocktails.

Entree - prawn and avocado cocktails served in martini glasses.

Main - beef bourguignon with mash and greens (fancy French foods were big in the 70s) mushroom stroganoff if I get a vegetarian.

Dessert - creme de mente pie - this is a grasshopper pie with a chocolate biscuit bases and a fluffy green inside made with creme de mente.

For drinks I'd decant decent wine into Ben Ean Moselle or Mateus Rosé bottles. And have a punch bowl on the table too.

Afterwards - disco dancing! Yep, I'd get an instructor in, fire up a mirror ball and have everyone busting a move like John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever. Televisual gold and great fun!

And there you go. That's a good, solid 8 - 10/10 night there.

What would YOU do?

Monday, January 20, 2014

meal planning monday

Oh, I've been such a slack blogger. But last week I had an excuse, I was feeling poorly and could do no more than lay on the couch. And moan. But now I'm back baby and ready to leap into a new week - and back with the daily blogs and daily French Word of the Day. Now, here's what we're eating - healthy stuff!

Monday: green chicken curry with lots of green veg and sticky rice.

Tuesday: steak with beetroot, persian feta and walnut salad - and a green salad.

Wednesday: garlic prawns with a mango salad.

Thursday: cold meatloaf with salad (I love cold meatloaf even more than I love hot meatloaf, so I'll whip one up earlier and put it in the fridge to chill).

Friday: salmon patties with salad.

Saturday: I cannot believe that I don't have anything on tonight - after two weekends in a row in Sydney this is a very good thing. I might make chicken with 40 cloves of garlic tonight.

Sunday: bbq lamb, with chickpea and roasted capsicum salad and green salad.

French word of the day: s'imaginer - to imagine oneself.

image from

Monday, January 13, 2014

meal planning monday

Forget sliders, Jaffles are the new kids on the food block. This sweet modified Kombi was serving Jaffles at the Sydney Festival on the weekend - cuteness! I was too Starvin' Marvin for just a jaffle, a burger was needed after a long day of public transport - but let me assure you that Jaffles will be added to my meal plans - with a wee side salad!

Another busy week in this neck of the woods. Here's what's on the menu:

Tonight: my gal's off to spend the night with her cousins, so it's just hubby and me. Steak on the bbq and salad will do it.

Tuesday: I'm off to see a French film, A Woman In Paris with my friend C, so an early dinner of bbq pork and lemongrass kebabs is called for. Served with udon noodle and veg salad.

Wednesday: my gal's keen to try Sloppy Joes - so who am I to deny her?

Thursday: bbq chicken with a shredded salad.

Friday: salmon on the bbq - with lemon potato salad.

Saturday: I'm off to Sydney again, to see one of my fave authors - David Sedaris. YAY! Opera Bar for dinner I'd imagine.

Sunday: home again. Sunday night Jaffles?

Saturday, January 11, 2014

oh i do like to be beside the seaside

And we're back.

How cute is this almost identical pic to the one I took on our last holiday to Manly. Amazingly, we stayed in the apartment block right next door to the one we stayed in last time so I could replicate the image quite easily. How much the girls have grown! {see my last blog post}.

Manly was gorgeous. We had such a lovely, relaxing holiday - with lots of long strolls along this lovely beach. One of the things that struck me about the Northern Beaches were the fabulously painted surf clubs. They're all in lovely seaside colours that just sing of their heritage and make a fabulous pop of colour in photos. Sadly, all the Newcastle surf clubs have recently been painted - in beige. Blah. Beige doesn't belong at the seaside.

Manly council has also installed filtered water stations so you can sip from a bubbler or fill a water bottle with lovely fresh, cool, filtered water. What a fabulous initiative. Great for tourists and all the locals who walk, run, cycle, skate or scoot along the promenade.

The Sydney Festival is in residence, so we had to peek. We took a ferry to Circular Quay and had a fabulous lunch at Opera Bar. Love this installation of Summer Backyard themes! So cute.

The girls had the best time ever, with loads of twilight walks and cartwheels on the beach. Thanks Manly, you were ace. We'll be coming back.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

a wee beachside break

So, you may have noticed that yesterday's blog post was NOT about meal-planning. And I'll tell you why - it's because today we're headed off for a short holiday with the English rellos.

In 2007 we spent a few days with them in Manly {see pic above} and it was just lovely. So we thought we'd best do it again. I love this shot of the three gals, we'll have to recreate it now they're all so much taller!

We've managed to do plenty of touristy things in Newy while they've been here, so it's a good chance to get away from it all and explore some place a little different. There will be swimming, there will be dining out, and there will be a ferry ride to the mainland.


Oh I do like to be beside the seaside.

French word{s} of the Day: en bord de mer {on bord d mayr} seaside.

Monday, January 06, 2014

girls just wanna have fun

I'm having a very girly night out tonight. One of my friends, who's been living in Canada for, like, EVER is back in Oz. Hurrah. So while she's here we're catching up for drinkies at a lovely bar.

Time for a little fabulous frocking up I'd say…

French Word of the Day: robe - frock!

PS: isn't this image divine? It's from a Calleija Jewellers promotion for pink diamonds. I need pink diamonds. And that frock. And that table setting...

Sunday, January 05, 2014

summery sunday

If there's a flower that reminds me of summer it's petunias. While Frangipani are the obvious symbol, I remember my nana digging up the pansy beds and replacing them with petunias, so, for me, it's petunias all the way.

These purple pretties are currently providing a pop of colour on my back veranda and making me smile every time I walk out the back door.

What is your summer flower?

French word of the Day: floraison - flowering.

Saturday, January 04, 2014

hello beautiful

While planning this year's trip OS, I'm also revisiting our holiday from 2006 - and swooning over some of the beautiful sights we saw. This was my favourite fairytale castle - Chateau d'Azay-le-Rideau - isn't it dreamy?

We've decided that after our week in Paris, we're going to drive down to our second French destination in The Lot. That way we can hopefully veer off and take in a few sights en-route.

I do love making dreams a reality.

French Word of the Day: Réve - dream.

Friday, January 03, 2014

holiday. celebrate.

Are you a quick unpacker? Or, when you come back from hols, does your bag sit sulking in a corner for a few days {weeks…}. I used to be the latter, now I'm the former. I love delineating that was now, this is then by the simple act of unpacking.

It's the same when we have people come to stay. We had the English rellos here for a couple of days, and boy, was it fun. There was much swimming in many locations {pool, Bogey Hole, ocean baths}, feasting {again, in many locations, Nobby's Beach, harbourside, back verandah, in the pavilion by the pool, the Beach Hotel…} And so much fun had  - the main one seemed to involve a sheet fort that took up 1/3 of our living room!

By the time our rellos had turned the corner from our street I'd stripped two of their three beds and gathered up beach and bath towels to wash. One hour later the fort was dismantled and back in the linen closet, loads of washing were chugging away and the house was back to normal.

Time for the next adventure {or aventure as they'd say in France!}.

French Word of the Day: lavage - wash!

Thursday, January 02, 2014

whip it good

My gal requested a Blue Velvet cake for her birthday on Monday. It's like a Red Velvet cake, but with blue food colouring instead of the red. I used Nigella's recipe for Red Velvet, and, oh my, it was as delicious as you'd expect. Here it is {complete with wee French sugar teddy bears!}.

And here's the interior. It's more green than blue because of the cocoa, but nobody cared. It was delicious! One thing I discovered was this. I googled a recipe for Buttercream Frosting, which suggested whipping the butter on its own, for around three minutes, until it's white and fluffy. THEN you add the icing sugar a little at a time. Hello - revelation! This is the best icing I've ever made. Normally the icing sugar doesn't integrate very well, and the mix often splits before it's dissolved. This was light, fluffy and delicious {and very blue!}. Happy days.

We had three very content gals; the 14-year-old and her two cousins.

French Word of the Day: glaçage {gla sahj} - icing!

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

happy new year

Happy new year lovelies! This is where we spend a big chunk of New Years Eve {day} - having an adventure in the Bogey Hole. This fabulous ocean pool was carved out of rocks by convicts many, many, many years ago and is Newcastle's most wonderful swimming spot. Waves were crashing over the edge - but we decided to brave it and oh, how glad we were.

Afterwards, we went here.

To Nobby's. For lunch.

I know, hideously ugly isn't it?

Then we made our way to the foreshore for a lovely relaxing picnic, followed by fireworks before coming home to champagne and more fireworks on the telly.

This is the life.

Now, onto my 52 new things - both these shots were taken with my new baby - my Nikon digital SLR - I am in love. Secondly, here's my
French Word of the Day: Aventure - adventure. Shouldn't we treat our lives as an adventure? Let's!

Happy 2014 everyone x