Sunday, July 21, 2013

le passe temps - c'est parfait

There are a couple of things that I love. I love all things French. I love small bars where I can enjoy fine wine and food with my friends. I love sympathetic restoration of heritage buildings. 

So, naturellement I love Le Passe Temps as it combines all of the above.

The East End of Newcastle is undergoing a revitalisation as a food and wine destination - and I think that Le Passe Temps deserves the title of a jewel in that sparkling crown. This building is glorious, and the sympathetic restoration of Le Passe Temps deserves prolonged applause.

I love that the glorious wooden counters, rich with patina, are being used as the bar. Whereas once you'd exchange your dollars to a teller over this counter, now you're served by French-speaking staff who make you feel like you've been transported to France. Yes, everyone who works here speaks magifique French - I'm pretty sure they're all natives. 

Look!  Every single aspect of the old bank has been retained and reimagined. So clever. I have a feeling that man in the black shirt may be the owner, Serge. You sir, are a legend. Look at the ceilings, with all the details perfectly picked out. Those chandeliers. Oh my. And those windows, with the Post Office lit up in the frames. When {please, when?} that glorious building is restored this will be THE centre of our city. Particularly when Reserve Bar opens diagonally opposite.

One thing many small bars find difficult is getting the food right. Le Passe Temps get it VERY right. The menu is small, and very, very French. This assiette de charcuterie {roughly translated as selections of meat} was divine. Just what you need for a light supper with champagne - it perfectly satisfied S, A and me. My friend J had a saucisson and cornichon baguette, while my friend C had a delicate morsel of creme brulee. 

It's all table service too - or lounge service. Way to feel pampered. We may have *pretended* on more than one occasion to have not heard what our gorgeous waiter had said so he'd say it again with his divine accent.

C'est parfait!

From the opulent original marble, to the superb mezzanine level, Le Passe Temps dazzles. It's my new favourite place in Newcastle - quelle surprise! It's open 7 days. To find out more, visit their website.

French word of the day: Le Passe Temps (le pass tomp) to pass time, or time goes by.

Friday, July 19, 2013

flowers for friday

Hello, sorry this post is late - it's been one of those days! How adorable are these roses? Don't you think I need a couple of bunches of these in my home? Don't you?

I've got a fabulously girlie night planned tonight. Catching up with friends for a Gallery opening at 6pm, then we're off to the movies to see Before Midnight then off to the new French wine bar Le Passe Temps. Bliss.

Have a fabulous Friday.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

lady in red

I seem to have accidentally become someone who accessorises with red. It wasn't my intention. But, before you know it, you have a couple of red handbags, a fave red pair of shoes that make every outfit pop, red sunglasses and THIS! A red vintage wool cape! This is an early birthday pressie, something I've been hankering for. And I love it. It's so RED. And capey!

Do you find you accidentally accessorise with a certain colour?

French word of the day: Accessoires (access - waaahs) accessories.

Monday, July 15, 2013

meal planning monday

Hellooooooooooo! How was your weekend? Hectic? Fun? Relaxing? All of the above? Well school goes back tomorrow {hurrah} so we're back to normal routine in this neck of the woods. So here's what I'm hoping we'll be eating:

 Monday: ballet for my gal, netball training for me. We've had such a big weekend of eating I'm going to cook up grilled chicken breasts and salad tonight.

Tuesday: we had an early Bastille Day celebration with duck, champagne and lemon tart on Friday night with friends, and tonight, we're having a late Bastille Day celebration with friends {with duck, champagne and, um, lemon tart}.

Wednesday: poached chicken salad with baby spinach, orange segments and pecans. Hopefully I'll make it to burlesque tonight - I need the exercise!

Thursday: lamb backstrap fillets with roasted veg tonight.

Friday: I'm off to the movies with friends to see Before Midnight. Yay! Apparently we're also going to the new wine bar Le Passe Temps before or after {depending on film screening time} I'll prepare spaghetti bolognaise for the family.

Saturday: nothing planned so far, so it's a day in the garden for us. I'll make a slow cooked beef stew for dinner, served with lots of green veg and mash.

Sunday: garlic-roasted chicken tonight. With all of the veg!

French word of the day: oublier {oooh - blee - ay} forget - because I forgot the French word of the day yesterday! Pardon moi!

Image from

Sunday, July 14, 2013

hop on your {vintage} bike

There are just too many good things happening in Newcastle - including this! The Newcastle Tweed Ride for lovers of vintage and vintage bikes. Tres fabulous! While my bike's not strictly vintage, it looks the part - and has a basket on the front for a thermos too!

What a sight this will be to see cyclists frocked up en-masse.

Me? I'll be wearing my vintage red cape! Why would I not?

Friday, July 12, 2013

flowers for friday

Happy Friday everyone! It's a busy old day here today - so I thought I'd re-share these gorgeous flowers from Underground Epicureans - aren't they sublime?

Well, my gal got braces yesterday. She looks fab, but oh, poor little thing with a sore mouth. I've been trying to give her lots of love, and soft foods to eat.

Tonight we've got friends coming to dinner, so we'll have an early Bastille Day celebration with all things French. I have French cheeses, duck confit and I'm making a tarte citron! Oh, and of course there's champagne chilling!

It's been a very foggy morning, so let's hope that means bright blue skies this afternoon. Have a fabulous Friday my lovelies xx

Whoops, forgot my: French word of the day: brouillard (brew- yard with a soft d at the end) fog! Weather is soooooooo much better in French!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

the simple things

I've been trying to squish in as much vitamin D into my winter life as possible. And reading time too! So that's why I lunged at the chance to have a cup of coffee in my new mug (love it, it's a cross between a mug and a bowl!) while reading my book on the front veranda.


I've recently been diagnosed with Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. Well, I've been self-diagnosed... I know that if I don't get enough sunshine I get the blues, and those blues turn black the longer the skies stay grey. So I've been trying to stash up my vitamin D whenever possible and I've been feeling MUCH better.

French word of the day: pamplemousse - (pahm - pluh - mousse) grapefruit. This is my favourite, happy-making French word. J'adore!

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

joyeaux anniversaire

Guess what? Today's it's the 20th anniversary of when my lovely husband and I met.


I feel I should have something more celebratory than meatloaf on the menu for dinner... It's pretty amazing to think that we've been together for nearly half of my husband's life.

French word{s} of the day: joyeaux anniversaire (joy - yo  ann - e - vehr - sair) happy anniversary.

Monday, July 08, 2013

meal planning monday

Well, here we are into week two of school holidays. Hurrah! We're home all week, but with the added bonus of netball training. So here's what we're eating;

Monday: I'm going to make spanish chicken tonight and ask my gal to pop it in the oven at 6pm so when I get home at 6.40 it'll just need a quick green salad and it'll be ready to serve.

Tuesday: My gal's netball team are training, but her coach is away so I'm stepping up. I'll make a meatloaf that my husband can pop in the oven at 6pm with some roasted vegies. Hopefully it'll be cooked when we get home after 6.40pm.

Wednesday: Burlesque for me, and my gal's last night before she get braces! Best make something she'll really get her teeth into. Ribs? With mash? And veg? Yes.

Thursday: It'll be either milkshakes for my gal or pasta. I'll make carbonara just in case she can eat it - and if not, more for me and hubby!

Friday: I think she'll be able to eat salmon, it's pretty soft. So salmon it is. With salad for those of us without braces.

Saturday: I'm off to a Twitter meet up (#NewyTwistmasInJuly) so I'll eat something before I go out, and have something to nibble at The Grand Hotel. Hubby and gal can fend for themselves.

Sunday: Roast chicken perhaps? With veg. And french lentils!


French word of the day: dent - (don-t) tooth!

image from

Sunday, July 07, 2013

how blue is blue?

I am a sucker for bare grey branches framed by a deep blue sky. I took this after admiring the view at Govett's Leap Lookout at Blackheath.

So much pretty out there in nature isn't there?

French word of the day: ciel (see elle) - sky.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

secret supper club

You know it's a sign of a very good night when there are very few pics on your phone - just a lot of fabulous memories in your head. Last Saturday night was our third Underground Epicureans adventure, and, once again, the White Rabbit EXCELLED herself.

My inner Nancy Drew was working overtime when we received the email on Saturday morning asking us to meet at Broadmeadow train station for a strict 6.45pm departure. A steam train? I thought? A-ha, perhaps Newcastle's Famous Tram. Yep, in this I was correct. We joined around 20 or so excited peeps for the first trek to our venue, and, I was stumped when we turned left instead of right into the city.

New Lambton? Jesmond? Wallsend? Where were we going? As we turned up the freeway past the uni, I started to get an inkling. When we hit Birmingham Gardens and drove past The Regal Cinema with lights ablaze, I nearly cheered. Then we kept driving.


But it was only to kill time, and we pulled up in front of the Regal to everyone's great delight. I have fond memories of checking out films in my uni years at the Regal. It's an iconic venue. But it was closed down in October 2006 to howls of community dismay. However, it a true display of community spirit it's been magnificently restored and is almost ready to re-open.

Our supper club was the sneaky peek.

Apparently they were tossing up between gold and rich red for the upholstery. Good choice.

While the front of the cinema was set up with theatre chairs, three long tables lined the back of the room. Deliciously appointed with fabulous floral and feather arrangements.

Pretty non?

Our appetisers, served with sparkling pink wine, were these gorgeous little hot dogs with caramelised onion. They were served by the waitresses in the old-style concession boxes (like the cigarette boxes in the olden days!) I tried for a pic, but failed. These hotdogs were too delicious and too many people surrounded them for a clear pic. Those buns were sourdough brioche, quite possibly the lightest, tastiest bun I've ever had the pleasure to bite into.

Here's the rest of the menu, you'll just have to imagine the food - it was too good so I just ate it. We settled down in the cinema seats, watched two sweet short films and sipped on corn chowder topped with popcorn!

These guys were behind the food, and oh my, did they do a fabulous job. Harry Callinan created the first three dishes superbly. The main dish of crispy pork belly was divine, with supporting acts of roasted beetroot, jerusalem artichokes and goat cheese croquettes. Sublime!

And the dessert? Oh, it was spectacular.

Taking inspiration from The Candy Bar Dean Gibson created a Gobsmacking, Scrumdiddlyumcious chocolate bar. See that macaron? It tasted more like popcorn than any popcorn I've ever tried! The red carpet was inspired by jubes, and there's honeycomb, maltesers, popping candy and more.

Pretty sure that my husband died and went to heaven with every mouthful. Me too actually - I can still taste it all.

What a night. The setting, the intrigue, THE FOOD - oh my.

Thank you White Rabbit. Hats off to you. See you next time!

French word of the day: plume (ploom) feather.

Monday, July 01, 2013

meal planning monday

Well hello, how's things? It's still a bit soggy here, but I'm looking forward to a mid-week getaway, so all's good. Here's what we're eating this week:

Monday: I have some leftover pork shoulder on the bone, and I wasn't sure what to do with it. Luckily, I watched Jamie's Great Britain yesterday and he made a rabbit ragu that gave me an idea. I'm putting the pork whole into my dutch oven. I'll throw in two whole carrots, an onion, washed but with skin intact, a whole head of garlic, two celery sticks, bay leaves and salt and pepper. I'll top this up with 1/2 bottle white wine, a tin of tomatoes and some water. I'll bring it to the boil, then pop it in the oven on slow for the rest of the day.

Before serving I'll pop on some kitchen gloves, smoosh all the vegies into a pan, discarding skin, shred off the meat and give it a stir. I'll add lemon zest and fresh thyme and serve tossed through pasta. Yum.

Tuesday: I didn't get to make fish last week, I cooked that pork shoulder instead. So tonight I'll do fish with salad and homemade chips.

Wednesday: we'll be in the Blue Mountains, I'll cook up something yummy from the local butcher for dinner for us and my in-laws.

Thursday: night two in the blue mountains. We'll have been exploring all day so let's have pies, mash and vegies!

Friday: home again. To take-away thai!

Saturday: I really want to make Beef Wellington with my gal. Today we shall.

Sunday: Roasted chicken with garlic and lemon, and lots of veg will do.

French word of the day: vacances (vah - kohns) holiday!

Image from

Sunday, June 30, 2013

sweet sunday

We're onto Day 9 of rain here. Le sigh. But apparently it's set to clear by Wednesday, which is when we're headed to the Blue Mountains for a couple of days. Hurrah!

I've got a big blog post brewing before I leave - sharing the details of last night's secret supper club. It was incredible! Just need to try to do it justice.

French Word of the Day: montagne (mon - tahn) Mountain.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

half yearly report

Wowzers, we are pretty much halfway through the year. How did that happen? Now funnily enough, I was planning on assessing how well I was going with my 52 New Things and then there was a comment yesterday from Lorrie reminding me of my French Word a Day.


So let's see how I'm going shall we?

Let's start with what's going well. Making the bed every day is pretty much a given, aside from the odd day or two. But considering I went from never, to virtually always that's pretty good!

I took a cooking class with my friend A, and it was fabulous. Shall be doing that again one day.

I've been discovering new music, probably not one a week, but I've added quite a few to my list, including wunderkind George Barnett (whose version of Get Lucky may even be better than Daft Punk's!).

Go on more dates with my husband. This is a big YES! Tonight we're going to an Underground Epicureans secret supper club where we'll be dressing up big time and having a blast.

I've organised another Newy Tweet Up for Twitter peeps. We're having NewyTwistmasInJuly next month! Yayness!

I've been pretty good at putting away the washing. Not great, but better than I was. Probably 60/40.

I've been trying to up the vege ante in my husband and daughter's diet, which has coincided with trying new recipes. Husband is now a fan of roasted purple cauliflower and brussell sprouts cooked in chicken stock and then baked. Daughter, well, we're still searching for her fave...

See more live music - oh this is a YES! Sarah Blasko next month, The Breeders in October, and we're taking the gal to see Harrison Ford, the winner of The Voice, in November.

I'm also shopping locally more often, hence last night's enormous pork shoulder from the butcher. It was delicious!

Start saving for our holiday next year - yes, this IS happening!

Join a book club! Yes! This afternoon we're having our fourth meeting, and I'm loving it.

So there you go, that's 11 out of 52. Not bad. Now I just need to get back on track with French Word of The Day and a few others.

So let's start now:

French word of the Day: souper (supper!) to have supper. (Pronounced super!)

Have a fabulous weekend x

Friday, June 28, 2013

fabulous friday

The sky has been very grey lately, and, along with it, so has my mood. So I thought I'd post this pic from my ride the other week to remind myself that there is beauty out there. It's just behind the grey clouds...

Monday, June 24, 2013

meal planning monday

How on earth is it Monday again? Does anyone have some kind of magical stop-the-clock machine? It's nearly midway through the year for goodness sake! Hmmm, I can't turn back time, but I can plan this week's meals. Here's what we're eating.

Monday: I'm going to flatten and marinate some chicken breasts and then grill them tonight. What am I marinating them in? Hmmmm, perhaps olive oil, lemon juice and zest and herbs de provence? I'll serve it with a salad and roasted cauliflower.

Tuesday: a quick steak and vegies meal is in order for when we get home from netball training. I'll prep the vegies early on by par-boiling them, then I'll sprinkle them with herbs and throw them in to bake for 10 minutes when we get home. Carrots, sweet potato, pumpkin and potato. With some green beans on the side.

Wednesday: I think I'll make a quinoa salad with roasted vegies tonight. And serve it with poached chicken? Yes?

Thursday: homemade corn cakes with bacon and guacamole. And salad tonight.

Friday: fish, some kind of fish. Grilled with herbs. And salad.

Saturday: we're FINALLY off to another Underground Epicureans adventure tonight, somewhere with a supper club feel! Exciting!

Sunday: beef and guinness pot pies, mash, peas and roasted carrots.

Phew, am exhausted just thinking about all this! What are you having?

image from

Sunday, June 23, 2013

illuminations - positively luminescent

If you follow me on Instagram you'll see that I spend quite a bit of time photographing the harbour, the ocean, clouds and sunsets. I'm always trying to capture that perfect moment that delights me - so I can share it with others. Sometimes I succeed, but it's always a two dimensional version of something spectacular.

So when I heard of the Philip Wolfhagen Illuminations exhibition at Newcastle Art Gallery I was intrigued. The pieces of his work I saw in the promotions seemed to beautifully capture those moments that entranced me so. On Friday afternoon I was blessed with the opportunity to look at the new exhibition before it opened, and to speak with the man behind the works.

Philip Wolfhagen is Australia's foremost landscape artist. He captures those moments in time where nature, the light and the seasons combine to form the most exquisite scenes.  Wolfhagen then frames these scenes, gives them a personality and he takes us there.

This exhibition marks the first time that Wolfhagen has seen his works together in the one place - and he is suitably impressed. Newcastle Art Gallery has scored a coup is securing the opening of this exhibition, and I think it's an exhibition that Novocastrians will embrace as their own.

There's a luminosity to his work, that I've never seen before. Each piece is utterly delightful, and, when viewed en-masse it's an uplifting experience.

It's the shades that speak so eloquently to us in his art. Working from a palette of what he describes as the four primary colours: red, blue, yellow and violet, Wolfhagen can spend hours mixing colours on a large glass bench to find just the right hue. Often he'll try to replicate a shade used in one of his past works, so he'll mix, dab it on to the older painting, then smudge it off with his finger. If you look at his works in just the right light you'll see dull patches where colours have been tried, tested, then tried again.

Working from a combination of memory, photographs and notes - Wolfhagen captures a new side of the Australian landscape. It's not the sunburnt country of old, but something vibrant and luminescent. This is a fresh view of Australia: a rich meld of violets, blues, greens and their many silvery tones. Landscapes are seen anew through Wolfhagen's eyes. They're complex, with layers and hues that change with our moods and the eyes we've viewing them through.

The luminosity in Wolfhagen's work lies in his techniques and the manner in which he mixes the paint using ancient techniques and a little something special. Beeswax is mixed with the oil colours before painting and this technique really helps the works glow, giving greater depth and luminosity to the colours and textures. The fact that there are no readily identifiable landscapes in his work means that its possible to place yourself before the painting, and feel like you're engulfed in the landscape. There's a chance it's reminiscent of a cloudscape you've experienced, somewhere you've stumbled upon in your travels. If it's somewhere you haven't been, it's somewhere you'd like to be.

These works are rare in that they offer much to the experienced art lover, but also form the perfect entry point for those who feel they don't really 'get' art. There's an accessibility to these pieces, with a work to touch every heart. Spanning decades, it's fascinating to see the progression of his works. One of my favourite duos is Transmutations no 1- solid (1997) and Transmutations no 1 - liquid (1997) where Wolfhagen has taken a solid landscape, and transferred the shapes and forms into a seascape. Walking around the Gallery Wolfhagen told me that Transmutations no 1 - liquid comes from a private collection on Martha's Vineyard and it took a lot of negotiation to get it to Australia. I'm glad they succeeded, the colours in this piece are simply breathtaking, and the transformation from solid to liquid is stunning.

Wolfhagen says that it's his most minimal works that please him the most. Working with a simple three colour palette there's an extraordinary complexity and depth to the more minimal works. The First 5 Days of April, 2011, is a stunning example of this. One scene, over five days, with many, many moods and hues.

Wolfhagen's paintings are not only influenced by what he sees, but by what he's experienced. I think that's what makes them so extraordinary and enjoyable. Wolfhagen is enthused by what he sees, and wants to share his vision with us through the art of landscape painting.

I'm so very grateful that he did.

Illuminations by Philip Wolfhagen is on display at Newcastle Art Gallery from June 22 to August 11. It will then tour Tasmania, Australian Capital Territory, NSW and Victoria.

images are copyright Philip Wolfhagen

Friday, June 21, 2013

and the winner is...

Well, using Random Number Generator I have drawn the winner of the High Tea for Two at Anchorage Port Stephens and the winner is Erin! Hurrah!

Well done, you'll have a fabulous time. Email me your contact details and we'll get the prize sent out to you. Thanks everyone for entering - I think we'll have to organise a girly high tea get-together in September - what do you say?

Enjoy your Friday x

Thursday, June 20, 2013

you light up my life...

Well, you light up my city. I am super-excited about City Evolutions lighting up Watt Street. Newcastle's oldest street and surrounds will be lit up with a range of exciting light installations. Art! In lights! On the streets! Bring it on.

You coming?

To find out more, go here.

Friday night shall be fun, with market stalls, extended trading and just lots of good stuff. Can't wait!

Monday, June 17, 2013

meal planning monday

Oh, morning, how's things? I'm a bit sleepy, a bit snuffly, and a little bit frosty. Brrrrrrrrrrrrr. So this shall influence my meal planning today. Here's what we're eating.

Monday: I have netball training sessions from 4 - 6.30 tonight - eep! So I'm making a big pot of chilli con carne for dinner. I'll serve it with brown rice (the cheaty microwave packet).

Tuesday: chicken noodle soup is called for when you are snuffly. I have some garlic shoots I bought from the farmers market to slice into it. Mmmmmm.

Wednesday: burlesque tonight, so we might have steak and salad for dinner. Nice and early.

Thursday: it's my netball meeting this week, not last week. So I'll make an early dinner of chicken meatloaf with mash and steamed vegies.

Friday: my gal has a school dance and hubby and I are off to the opening of Watt Street Illuminations - where Newcastle's oldest street is lit up for a whole year. There is music, food and lots of fabulousness. We'll eat there, my gal can have pasta and pesto before she heads out.

Saturday: it's the Travelling Film Festival this weekend - lots of fabulousness from Sydney Film Festival. I shall be attending as many as possible, but am also going to an Art Opening at 2pm. I'll cook up some chicken kebabs with salad and a rice pilaf tonight.

Sunday: more film fest I'd say - so homemade pizza will be squished in amidst the viewings.

Done. You?

image from