Saturday, January 20, 2018

in bruges

Oh Bruges, you're a beauty. This post has been brewing for days, mainly because I just couldn't manage to cull my photos into a small enough batch for a blog post. Bruges was my husband's idea, one of his best. As we were going to be in the Europe over Christmas he thought we'd best try somewhere new, and of course cycling led him to Bruges. 

And us.

What an absolute stunner of a city. We arrived late at night after taking the fast train from Ebbsfleet in London through to Brussels before switching to the train to Bruges. Along the way I saw so much snow, I got a bit excited about the whole White Christmas scenario - but we didn't need it.

 Have you ever seen anything prettier? This was a mere 100 metres from our front door. We rented a house on AirBnB in the old town, and a more perfect position you could not find.

I was worried that the shorter days of a European Winter would limit our sightseeing abilities, but Europe in Winter at night takes on a whole new level of beauty.

Bruges is likened to Venice and I understand why - there's just something extra special about homes along canals.

 The sound I'll take away from  Bruges is the clip clop of the horse and carriage on cobblestones. [Oh, those cobblestones, so pretty - but jeez, they take it out on you when you do a lot of walking!]

 Adding to the whole Winter Wonderland vibe was this ice rink in the centre square. We didn't strap on skates [I value my ankles too highly for that!] but it was just lovely to watch.

Nowhere did my eyes alight without falling on something just utterly breathtaking. Religious iconography abounds - particularly on every street corner which is decorated with the Mother Mary and child.

The best thing we did was hire a bicycle tour guide dude. Here he is. An historian with thighs of steel, were were pedalled through the streets of Bruges where we heard so many tales about the architecture, history and politics.

Best money I've ever spent. Seeing a city via bicycle is my fave, and I didn't even have to pedal!

We were blessed with blue skies for pretty much our entire trip ensuring that every iPhone photo looks like a postcard.

Our gal succumbed to a bit of a cold, so hubby and I toddled off to a restaurant around the corner where we shared this plate for two featuring Belgium's greatest food hits. Rabbit, chicken, pork, beef, veal and mussells - accompanied by frites and mayonnaise, and washed down with a local beer.

No filters were required, just the spectacular night sky. This looked like some glorious version of the Northern Lights - and had us in awe.

This here is the wee house we stayed in. A beautifully-restored 16th century home. It's got me yearning to paint the floorboards in our house white...

My cape got quite an outing in Bruges. Hubby was very approving as it provided just the pop of colour he needed for his photos.

Have you ever?

Seeing white swans still freaks me out a little...

There were so many cyclists in Bruges. I'd estimate 1/3 of the vehicles on the roads were cycles. So safe. There's a mutual respect between cyclists and cars in Bruges, like pretty much all European cities. I pine for that in this country.

One of the things we didn't get time to do was take a boat ride on the canals. What a shame, we'll have to go back again...

Look at this light. And I love the architecture of bare branches in winter and how they just provide the perfect frame for photos.

These windmills are still in action - in the warmer months - milling flour. Also: v pretty.

Honestly, my obsession with bare branches and architecture is really only beginning - wait till we get to Paris.

This was our bedroom at the top of the house. So restful.

Now, how do I go about painting our floorboards white?

Next: Paris.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

christmas in london

I've always wanted a white christmas - well, a cold one at least. And in 2017 I got my wish. With my gal finishing year 12 [!!!!!] it was the perfect opportunity. So she jetted off just after her Year 12 formal, and hubby and I left a few weeks later.

Oh, it was magical.

For some black cabs are typical London, but for me, it's the red double-deckers. Aren't they a hint of cherry-topped fabulous!

London really knows how to turn on the lights. Oxford, Regent and Carnaby Streets were lit up a treat. We trudged for miles, gazing upwards, oohing, ahhing and taking 1000s of pics on our phones.

"There must be an angel..." this was my fave. How utterly divine is this display!

Carnaby Street went tropical, because when in the hell has it ever done anything conservative or traditional? While we were there we stopped in at the Dr Martens shop and bought our gal the coolest pair of Union Jack boots. They were the most-commented-upon in New York (to come!)

Is there anything prettier than a Liberty of London store? Doubt it - and this one's my fave. If you think the tudor exterior is a treat, you should see inside - stunning.

Now, I have ALWAYS wanted to go to a traditional English Christmas Panto (he's BEHIND you!) and Dick Whittington didn't disappoint. The Guildford Theatre was chockers with families with young kids continuing their tradition (and a fabulous set of grandparents who didn't bring the kidlets - but brought their childish sense of joy!) It was a riot - I loved every second of it.

While we were travelling our gal received her uni results and ATAR, and, as you can see by the bubbles - she blitzed it. So proud that all her hard work paid off.

After a few days in London we were headed on a fast train to Bruges, Belgium. Oh my, are you in for a visual treat with my next post...

Saturday, September 02, 2017

Spring, so sprung

If there's one thing this kitty loves - it's flowers. Put a vase (or, in this case, a vintage milk jug) full of flowers on a surface and he's up there and sticking his face in them. Seems like Louis is just as much of a sucker for sweet peas as I am.

And don't you love how the jug matches his eyes? (oh, and the tablecloth is pretty much the same colour as the kitty?)

I've been absent, busy year. My gal's in Year 12 - counting down the weeks till the end of the HSC. Eep. Where did those years go? She's coping pretty well, and we're pretty much just focussing on getting her through the year as stress-free as possible.

Luckily we have a pretty good end-of-year-celebration planned. The Monday after her School Formal she flies out to London to spend a few weeks with her Aunt, Uncle and Cousins before we join her in mid-December. Then it's off to Bruges for a few days, before training-it to Paris for a pre-Christmas celebration with aforementioned rellos.

We return to London on Christmas Eve, where my brother-in-law and I will cook up a fabulously British Christmas feast featuring roast goose! So excited.

Then we're off to New York so our gal can celebrate her 18th birthday, then New Year's Eve in this fabulous city.

Fingers and toes crossed for a white christmas!

Hope all's well with you. May your spring be filled with sunshine and sweet scents.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

red(y) freddy

I thought I'd lost my blog.

A few months ago someone hacked our credit card, so we had to get a new one. You know how the biggest hassle about losing a card is working out where it's connected? The biggest pain was my domain registration for my blog.

Many hours of angst trying to find out how to log in to my google account and update it led to the ticking frustration of it being one day before my name expired and "POOOOF!" my blog would disappear.

You know how you only appreciate something when you lose it?

I didn't want to lose it.

So I switched back to blogspot - just in time to work out how to update my credit card details...

All's good yeah?

Well, no.

See, I couldn't work out how to get google to recognise my domain name (despite my actually owning it for years). Posting in a series of incoherent codes into various pages around the web just wasn't working.

And my blog was gone. For a week!

But then a hero came along.

Brendan from Hyperweb Communications heard my cries of distress over twitter and came to my rescue. And see, it's fixed. Hurrah!

This makes me as happy as my new red tights (pictured above).

Thursday, January 26, 2017


I can't imagine that there's a better feeling than FINALLY doing something you've been vowing to do for years. Ever since MONA opened in Tasmania I've had a desperate hankering to attend. And to top it off, I wanted to visit during MOFO - the summer festival of art and music.

So last year, I said "right, that's it, I'm going in 2017."

And I did.

Hubby had his cycling trip to Bright planned, my gal's not interested, so I asked my bestie from Uni. She was IN. It helped that as an academic this was basically a work-related trip for her - made the choice even easier.

Now, when it comes to travelling to MONA, the cry from those who've been there before was loud: travel by ferry and get thee to the Posh Pit. At first, my inner scrooge baulked at the tiny extra cost. But then, in the interest of really experiencing it, we went for it. On the Friday, we wandered down to the Ferry and caught the special MONA ferry.

I heart the posh pit.

Greeted with a glass of bubbles that attentive, boiler-suit-clad staff insist on regularly topping up (yes, even at 9.30am - what of it?) I was already in love.

Then check out the canap├ęs on offer.


Gone to heaven.

Arriving at MONA we had timed tix to the free exhibition On the Origin Of Art. Four scientists curated four exhibits that you viewed after choosing a doorway (so much like choosing a window on PlaySchool!).

This was mind-blowing. We spent hours immersed in these rooms. Words can't describe. It was just the best thing I've ever seen that's all.

This Leda and the Swan was stunning. Bold, lush, compelling it dominated the room.

This, check out this.

Because it was MOFO, there were musical acts in the most surprising spaces. This gallery was one. Haunting.

I had to buy the book on the story of MONA - M and I couldn't believe that an architect and David Walsh could have such grandiose vision realised. Look at this incredibly long concrete tunnel that leads to an intensely powerful pavillion.

If you're going to ferry people to your museum you SHOULD custom build a multi-million dollar ferry with sheep for seats up the back. How can something be simultaneously ominous and welcoming? How?

Look, everyone's been drinking whisky for yonks. Except me. I decided Tasmania would be the place to rectify that. And that this bar underground at MONA would be the optimal venue.

It was. An attentive barman listened to our tastes and selected these babies. Neat.

We visited Battery Point, where a lovely woman in a lovely shop told us we must see the dusk light show in the Turrell Pavillion at MONA.

Holy dooly.

Sitting on warmed marble benches, with the Tasmanian dusk already turning on a show - we were treated to this. Doesn't do it justice - you have to see it.

You really do.

If ever I were to be inspired to take up landscape painting this would be my muse. 

And then, on the final morning, we bid farewell to our heritage sandstone AirBnB, gazed down over West Hobart, and plotted our return. Dark MOFO 2018 - see you soon.

Monday, January 02, 2017

new year, more joy

Hello 2017!

I'm facing this year with optimism and joy. It's a big year in our house - it's our daughter's final year of schooling, so we'll be all hands on deck helping her not just survive, but thrive through year 12. That means a lot of smiles, a lot of support, loads of healthy snacks and meals and whatever it takes to make the year as stress-free and successful as possible.

She's also got a reward to look forward to, Christmas in England with our relatives followed by her birthday and New Year's Eve in New York. If that doesn't inspire her, nothing will!

I'm also looking forward to a new year in my new job. I love it so. I'm surrounded by people in my team who love what they do - and love what I do. It's a joy to go to work every day. Having come out of a very negative and stressful work experience a while back, I won't ever put myself through that again. Life's too short - you've got to do what you love - with people you like.

My motto this year is 'smile first'.


Wednesday, December 28, 2016

my (sand) bucket list

I'm on holidays. I adore holidays. No alarms, nothing urgent to do, just endless time spread before you. Don't worry, I'm making the most of it. In fact, I've decided to create a little list of things I'm keen to do in the summer months.

And, in typical me-fashion, I've already ticked on off before curating the list! Here's my summer (sand) bucket list.

  • Swim in the newly reopened Bogey Hole (I did this yesterday after RIDING my bike there - and pushing my bike up some of the bigger hills - I really need to master gears...)
  • Have an evening picnic at King Edward Park using my new pale blue picnic basket.
  • Ride the Fernleigh Track.
  • Eat fish and chips from Scotties.
  • Have a night swim at Merewether Ocean Baths.
  • Have an early morning swim at Newcastle Ocean Baths.
  • Hone up on my French speaking skills.
  • Read a book a week.
  • Cook a new recipe per week.
  • Paint all the outdoor furniture.
  • Ride my bike every day.
  • Swim at least every second day.
  • Listen to more music.
Do you have any summer to-do items? 

Sunday, December 18, 2016

love this city

When we were in Venice in 2006 I was delighted to see that buildings undergoing restoration were wrapped in a photo-image of what lies beneath. So I couldn't be more happy to see that my hometown has done the same.

Newcastle City Hall is undergoing a restoration (not just a spray from a high-pressure cleaner - NOT what heritage sandstone needs!) After last year's stunning restoration of the clock tower I hold high hopes that this glorious building will live on for another 100+ years to serve as a stunning centrepiece to our city.

So, are you on the countdown to Christmas? We are. In fact, we even hung some lights out the front of the house! Blue icicles, which give it a very pretty glow. I seem to see a lot more lights in our neighbourhood this year - I think we all need some joy after a very trying 2016.

I have two more days of work before a blissful two weeks of time off. Bring on swimming, cycling, reading and hopefully a lil bit of French language learning. Yep, I'm doing it again. With any luck it'll sink in a bit more this time around.

Have a lovely Christmas PPMJ x

Saturday, December 10, 2016

back in the blogger's seat

Well hello there! It's been a while hasn't it? You'll be please to know that it's because I've been blissfully busy. I am besotted with my new job. I work with the NICEST people and have what seems to be an illegal amount of fun doing what I do.
What do I do? Well, my job is to share the research of talented researchers at the Uni. And boy, is there some talent there. I'm yet to interview anyone who hasn't left my mouth agape in wonder at what they do, and the enthusiasm with which they do it. I can't wait to get to work every day and get started. That's a nice way to be isn't it?

Family life's been fab. That pic is my glass of bubbles held up right near hubby's as we celebrated 15 years of marriage with A Day On The Green with the Temper Trap and Garbage. It was fitting, as we met going out to see live music and spent our early years immersed in music. (Still love it actually - and have passed it on to our gal).

Our Gal's finished year 11, only a couple more days of school then next year BAM it's into Year 12. Please explain to me where those years have gone! She's currently the world's happiest girl as it's her fave month of the year. You will be lucky to meet a bigger Christmas lover than this kid. It's her birthday month, so we like to celebrate all month long. 

Why not?

I'm still getting utter joy from my bike rides, and why wouldn't I when this pic above is my mid-way point? No matter what time of day it always turns on a show.

I hope you're all well, and prepped for the festive season. All you need is love really isn't it? From family or friends. Enjoy x