Wednesday, October 3, 2012


As a lawyer I get really annoyed about inaccuracies, misrepresentations and wrong information being given to me.

There is a lot of it out there when it comes to cancer.

But I can only post so many post anonymous comments on the Daily Mail in response to people who comment that anyone who has surgery and chemo for cancer is a fool or a 'Sheeple'.   I would like to help people sift through all that stuff.   I don't want people to feel bad about their treatment, or guilty, or God forbid, as if they have not been positive enough.  

Cape Otway by me
So I would like to mention my little Cancer FAQs at the side. I have just updated it, after leaving it un-updated since last November, which is way too long when you have a potentially life shortening disease.  

The reason for the delay is this. The longer I left it, the more superstitious I became that the very instance I updated it to say all is well I would have some catastrophic relapse into Cancer World. 

The same strange conviction has meant that I have not had my oven cleaned since December 2010, because the day I was diagnosed with cancer was the very day the Man Came To Clean the Oven. He did a great job by the way. But I feel that if I get him back, I will get cancer again.  (In case you are wondering, yes I have cleaned my oven in the last 19 months.  But myself, and not very well.)

From Anna Spiro's Instagram feed.

I know this is regressive, just like being a 16 year old and having some strange lovestruck repetivite thoughts like 'If this tram comes and if the boy is on it and sitting down the end then that means he likes me'.

But I can't help it. I have so little control over my life in some ways that if one way of getting that back is to have some little superstitions and phobias, then so be it. At least I don't have PTSD, which, truly, some people do get following cancer treatment.

Anyway, there it is.  Have a read and you can see where I am.

From Facehunter's Instagram feed

I am also in another place at the moment, the world of Instagram. I must confess, I am finding Instagram a great place to instantly connect with people, in a way which is really simple, and uncomplicated.   You can locate me on Instagram here

I have included in this post some favourite images from the last little while.   Fear not, you do not have to be inundated with images of 16 year old girls doing their nails. There are some wonderful images. 



From NatGeo's feed
To be honest, Instagram reminds me of blogging when I first started.  Before it got a bit cliquey, and a bit complicated, and a bit too much about branding, and advertising and making money from your blog, and counting stats, and linking, and etc etc.  Is that negative? I don't mean to be. 

I am just finding that I seem to have the time to post images to Instagram and I don't seem to have the time to blog. Feel free to follow me, but even better, go to Followgram and or sign up for Instagram if you have a smart phone and check out all the other amazing images, like Greenbeen below, who posts her fantastic breakfasts every day.

And if you have a feed I am not following, please let me know.  I still find the Instagram search function hilariously beta.   What I have found is a whole collection of Japanese people who post pictures of their very elegant, very charming cats.   I cannot resist.

via Ryukutora's Instragram feed

Stay happy, dear readers.


Friday, August 24, 2012

Blue and White Scarves

Still looking around, in a general, aimless way, for some more things for the beach house.   No, I do not move fast.  

I want to frame a scarf, which is of course a not very original design world idea.  Just check out Pinterest for all the gazillion examples of this look. 

Specifically however I would like blue and white and ideally a map.

I love this the most, from Table Tonic (only available in store) which Louise posted on Instagram yesterday:

I actually have a couple of Hermes scarves, as I mentioned in this post, which I contemplated wearing when I had no hair.  You know in the end I never wore a scarf when I was bald.  I just did not like the people staring which went with it.  The expression of someone who looks sad and shocked and sympathetic and pitying all at one time and then quickly tries to disguise it because they feel bad is something you only want to see a few times. 

The sadness for me is that the colours of my scarves, given to me by my mother, really don't suit me. In fact when you browse Hermes designs, some of them are just not that easy to wear.  Maybe that is why people have started framing them.

Here is another with a map in it (actually looks like the same designer as the one above):

(via Absolutely Beautiful Things)

The ones I like tend to be older.   Like this:

This is from 1969, design by Francoise de la Perriere.

Or this one, from One Kings Lane, which is a 2000 design.

And this amazing collage (sorry lost source), has some beautiful little blue and white in it. 

I can see this is going to be a long term project.

Weekend in Melbourne this weekend.  Lots to do including:

  • take children to see Brave
  • fish curry for dinner tonight. 
  • buy bedside table for son's room.
  • buy under bed storage for son's room.
  • clean out dining room.
  • college university reunion dinner tomorrow night. 
  • take bags of clothes to the Salvos.
  • get some sleep. 
  • do a bit of work. 
Have a lovely weekend.   If you want to see what I cook I will try to remember to post it on Instagram

Thursday, August 9, 2012


(at bedtime)

P (five year old): can I stay in this house forever?

Me:  Of course, how long did you have in mind?

P:    Until I am all grown up and me and Immy (big sister) have fallen in love with different people and we all live here together.  Me, Immy, the person I love and the person she loves.

Me:  What about mummy and daddy?

P:     You'll be dead won't you?

Me:   I bloody hope not.  (Note: bloody is not a swear word in our house as it is authentic Australian slang).

P:     (looks puzzled)

Me:   For example - look at Heddy, your grandmother. She is my mummy and she is still alive and I am grown up aren't I?

P:     Yes.

Me:   So there you go, when you are grown up, I should be alive too.

P:     Why do people die?

Me:  All living creatures have to die sometime. Sometimes they get sick, sometimes they just get old. The trick is to make sure you fit lots of life into the space between being born and dying.

P:    When will the Queen die?

Me:  I don't know for sure.  She is pretty old though. Over 80.

P:     Why isn't the Queen in the Lympics?  It's in her country.

Me:  I think she might be a bit old for running and swimming.

P:     It will be good when she dies.  There will be no one to boss us around anymore.

Me:   Not sure about that.  Prince Charles will become King Charles and unless we become a republic he will be our head of state.  Last time I looked he was pretty bossy.  About organic things. And architecture.  And the youth of today.

P:   What's a head of state?

Me: Never mind. (Note to self: need to better explain way constitutional monarchy works to children).

P:    I don't want you to die.  Or go to work tomorrow. Or leave me.  Ever.

Ever since I was diagnosed with cancer, something has been worrying P.   I know that this is an obvious thing to say, but I am constantly looking for signs that the fear he must have had to begin with is going away, at least a little.  After all, it has been almost two years now. 

In my lawyerly way I tried to pin his worry down to something specific, which I would then try to minimise or alleviate.  Was it losing my hair, vanishing to hospital for days on end, talking about my sore shoulder, being tired, being a bit sick or being unable to lift him properly anymore?   I have never lied to him about my diagnosis, and used my best efforts to explain bad cells and good cells and chemo to him.  I was always pretty vague about the surgery I had, simply because it was such an assault to my body that I really don't think he should be exposed to that at such a young age.

Of course that was just way too complicated an approach. 

He is five.  He doesn't care about any of that stuff.  He couldn't care less about my hair or my surgery or my blood counts or my bone scans or my fear of recurrence.

He just wants me to be alive.   Sometimes the simple obvious answer is in fact the correct answer. 

I understand clearly now that he is in contact with a visceral fear of abandonment or loss in a way that I certainly was not at his age.  I don't think I even thought about death once until I was a moody 12 year old listening to A Forest by the Cure (thank you Robert Smith for giving me some great black clothes wearing/goth/moping around teenage years. You were just the backdrop I needed).  Here's another one to mope to:

On a lighter note, we have been building up quite a collection of ecologically sound bedtime reading, ranging from this classic:

I love the Lorax still, complete with the Truffala trees and Thneeds.   It is compulsory reading for all children.  And I know a new Lorax was released last year, but you can also watch the original animated film on YouTube, here it is below.

To this:

Wouldn't this make great wallpaper?  Just as I knew nothing of death at 5, I also new nothing of climate change\recycling\ endangered animals, all topics my children are Full Bottle on.

This book is about a forest which was chopped down and a city which smothers everything with its smoke,  but has a happy ending.  

Don't you just love a happy ending? I do.   Although I now have a major hankering for the Cure. Time to get Faith out again. 

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Where I Work

(no, not here, this is an undemolished house around the corner from home) 

If had been sitting in my current office working away as a solicitor in 1935 (most unlikely given my gender) this is what my building would have looked like:

The National Trust has just released an app which tracks demolished buildings of Melbourne.  Like every city, there are many, although we demolished maybe more enthusiastically than others.  Save for the English of course.  Bill Bryson points out in his book At Home that literally thousands of magical country homes were demolished in the middle of the last century, a sad fact now the subject of a site which Lisa pointed me to in a recent post.

The building above was used by the US General Macarthur as his residence during WW2, and also played host to Mark Twain and Alexander Graham Bell.It was demolished and replaced with the current high rise. 

Almost too sad to think about, that such a building has gone for good.

There are plenty more where that came from.  Remember the 1950's? I don't but apparently old things were considered ugly and out of fashion, and people wanted new clean lines.   There were very limited heritage controls and so people could buy large blocks of land, demolish the inconvenient Italianate mansion located on it, and build a lovely orange brick block of flats.

Here are some no longer with us, just in my area:

(Alta Vista, South Yarra, 1859)

(Corrabert, Toorak) 

(Leura mid 1800s, Toorak)

(Norla, Irving Road Toorak)

So many memories and people laughing, all gone.

But fear not, there are many buildings which have survived.

(Ripponlea in the suburb of the same name)

and many more still in private hands:

(Coonac in Clendon Road Toorak)

(Miegunyah, Orrong Road Toorak) 

(Images via the Age, National Trust (thanks!)

I have a very personal reason for feeling sad about demolished houses.

I grew up in a pale pink 1920s house, which we sold when my parents divorced.  To me that house was happiness incarnate.  I still dream of it.

Eventually, it sold and then sold again.  A few years ago I happened to drive past, and the wreckers were there, busily pulling it down.   I pulled over, a stared in unbelieving horror.  The gingko tree we climbed on, the ancient pear trees, the morton bay fig, the terracotta roof, the slate verandah, all gone.   A little bit of me died that day, I tell you. 

And what is there now?  A large block of neo Georgian neo Tuscan neo Palladian apartments.     What can you say?

Happy post next time, I promise. 

Monday, July 23, 2012

Emergency Winter Food for Children

After last year, where I took 45 (officially noted) days of sick leave (which felt like double or triple that amount), it has been very busy at work. I have child care constraints at the moment (is everyone in Europe or is it just my imagination?) so I have had to be creative with the last minute pick up from after school care.  With complaining \ hungry \ tired children, getting them fed \ bathed all in time to go to bed at 7 pm is a bit of a challenge.

(How amazing is the colour of this camellia? Instagram and its Bad Photography Concealing Filters love my camellias!)

Fast food is a must.   I am a night before person, which means that I try to  have dinner ready to go in the fridge the day before if I am not going to be there to cook it slowly.  So so much easier that way. 
But last week disaster struck - my daughter had a friend coming for a sleepover and the food had been prescribed in advance (spaghetti bolognese, white bread only, Tic Tacs and icy poles because she doesn't like ice-cream) and at the last minute I had neglected to defrost the pasta sauce. So I turned to my emergency bolognese sauce. 

Emergency Bol Sauce for Screaming Children

2 - 4 high quality pork sausages or chipolatas (not with fennel or chilli)
some butter
Splash of milk
A cup of tomato passata
3/4 cup of stock


Squeeze the porky meat out of the sausage casings.   Gently melt the butter in a fry pan, add a splash of olive oil and some crushed garlic if you want.   Fry the sausage meat, breaking it up with a fork.   When the sausage meat is lightly browned and broken into even tiny bits, put in a splash of milk (sounds gross but Italians do it and it keeps the meat moist).  When the milk has bubbled down, add the passata and chicken stock. At first it will be runny, that is fine.  Cook it down until the sauce has the consistency you want. I like my bol sauce a bit runny and not dried out.

Serve proudly with spaghetti and Parmesan.

When I first went to Paris in 1992, my lovely friend Penny took me for hot chocolate at Angelina's Tearooms in the Rivoli.  The hot chocolate blew my mind, so much better than the watery cocoa I had previously had.   There are a number of different ways to recreate proper hot chocolate, but I like this the most.  It is quick and not messy.   I have forgotten where I got this from, possibly Orangette.   Only proviso is that you really do need a stick blender to get it smooth and frothy. 

Semi Authentic Super Quick Hot Chocolate

Ingredients (this serves two, can easily be doubled)
2 cups of milk
2 tablespoons of water
1 1/2 tablespoons of caster sugar
a handful of chocolate chips which is about 1/4 cup.  Or more to taste but these won't melt as well. 


Put the milk, water and sugar in a saucepan.  Heat gently.   Watch it, when milk boils over it is horrible and messy.  When it is just about to boil there will be little bubbles around the edge.   Take it off the heat and put in the chocolate chips.   Assuming your pot has high sides you can do the next step in the pot.  Get your stick blender and whizz away.  The movement and heat will melt the chocolate, and the mixture will become frothy and smooth and thick.

Drink and enjoy.  

Friday, June 29, 2012

Cleaning Up

I have mentioned before that due to distractions like chemo I did nothing at all to the house last year.  So this year I have been on a cleaning and sorting frenzy.

Last weekend it was my daughter's bedroom's turn.

I am not exaggerating when I say I have found it hard to even go into this room this year before the cleanout.  My daughter is a magpie who collects everything and piles it up into further piles in her room. I am concerned she might end up on an episode of Hoarders.    There were dozens of certificates, photos of lost cats and Johnny Depp and netball posters tacked onto the wall. 

I had to resort to the old fashioned way to let her permit me to clean out the room: bribery. 

Off we went to the vintage poster shops in High Street Armadale, and returned with this:

My daughter is in love with all things Tintin (better than Twilight I figure) so this seemed perfect.   

Of course there are some remaining pockets of hoarding in the room, but it would be wrong to get rid of all of it.  Hence these little cuckoo nests of bits and pieces:

Time for some more camellia boasting. 

So many different kinds.  I am loving our winter garden.   

If you have a boy you will relate to this:

Yes, Lego minifigures.  We are obssessed. We buy them on Ebay and in little packages from the toyshop.

This is an extremely small sample.  If you look closely you will see that the Joker is missing a hand.  My son has started removing the hands from the bad guys.  Do you think that is a bad sign?

I love Lego. I could happily do it all day.  Here is some grown up Lego I bought just for myself. 

And here is the real Farnsworth house.

This post is for my dear friend Aussie New Yorker, who said I never post any more.  It's true, I have been inattentive to my blog.  But life gets in the way. ...


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Good Things Autumn 2012

Our garden is mostly a winter garden, due to all the camellia trees, and they are just coming into flower now:

It is only when I attempted to paint a camellia that I realised a flower like this was not just pink, but also purple and grey and white and blue and even orange.  If you like camellias I have a board devoted to them on Pinterest. 

I have been on a cleaning and sorting frenzy recently, mostly because nothing has been done in that department for at least a year.  I have now done the linen press, the wine \ storage room, the Cupboard of Doom, the hallway bureau.  Plenty still more to do like garden shed, garage roof storage, chests, etc.   Anyway, I came across some old children's jumpers.  All coincidentally in pink and green, my favourite combination.   Like so:

(via Style Files)

(via Decorpad)

I can't bring myself to sell second hand clothes.  I either keep them because they are tiny or sentimental, re-use them for something, or give to the Salvos. 

I think I will make another patchwork blanket from them, like this one I did for my son:

It is a bit worse for the wear but he does love it.   These blankets take a long time to put together, I think it  is something to do with the stretchiness of the knits.  Maybe I need an overlocker?  Anyway, I expect it will be draping our dining room table for the next 6 months.

Autumn has been very late this year, too much chlorophyll in the leaves or something but finally the maples are beginning to turn orange.

I have been also doing a huge amount of new cooking.  With ingredients I have not used much before, like farro, and freekah, and lentils, and millet flour, and red and black rice, and steel cut oats, and amaranth flour, and coconut oil and cacao nibs and spirulina and activated nuts and bee pollen and more - the list is endless.   I have been completely inspired by these cookbooks:

Brilliant tip - you mix the kale and coconut and roast it for a bit and then add to your carbohydratey item like rice or couscous or farro.   Divine.

MaAny of you will know that Supernatural is by Heidi Swanson, she of 101 Cookbooks blog, and the one above left by Beatrice Peltre of La Tartine Gourmande (see my side bar).   I have a bit of a prejudice against cookbooks by bloggers don't ask me why I know it is irrational, but anyway these are both brilliant and highly recommended.   It all started for me when I stopped eating sugar, which is about 12 months ago.  Because when you stop eating something you have to fill the gap with other food products, like eggs and bacon and also some healthy things.  I think I will do a little post on this at some point.  I sound terribly pious and boring not eating sugar, but really truly, it has been No Problem At All.  And has sorted out some real health issues for me.  And given me very clear skin. 

There was an article in the Age late last week about a deal a fashion distributor has done with some denim designers including Paige and AG Adriano Goldshmied.  From now on, sites like Revolve will not be able to ship these jeans to Australia and we will have to pay double or triple the price from shops here.  These are my two favourite jeans makers.  This story got more than 900 comments, and I can assure you they were not in support of this move.  I don't mind paying a bit more to buy in a shop around the corner, but double? Triple?

Just as well I bought these jeans a few months ago. They are a dark teal colour and I love them, Very comfortable and soft and strangely flattering, which is not something one can often say about 'cigarette' jeans.  These are by Adriano Goldshmied.

I can't do bright pink jeans though.  I just can't.   I remember them last time round, in 1983.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Three Ways with Plums

I was at a meeting this week and someone made a (reasonably tasteless) joke about getting cancer from a power line.  People laughed awkwardly.  So did I.  I looked around at the meeting attendees and it struck me.  No one here knows I have had cancer.  And they can't tell by looking at me (although why they think I would choose to have hair this short I don't know but there are lots of women around with Voluntary Short Hair and they look great)If there is one thing I have loathed over the last 16 months it is the occasional look of pity or shock or embarrassment I have received when people realise I am being treated for cancer (the wig was a giveaway).   This is a good place to be in, I can tell you.

Something I have done in the last five years which has improved my life by an amount I can even measure in percentage terms (I would say 5%), it would be using one of the duopoly supermarket people to home deliver all my heavy horrible groceries like milk, mineral water and nappies.

In an attempt to further limit pointless driving around I have just started using these people to deliver organic fruit and vegetables to me. The delivery includes a mystery box of what is in season (and presumably cheap).

I think this is something people do perhaps more in the US than here, but I am loving the surprise of it. So what to do with two huge eggplants? Or other vegetables I don't otherwise usually buy like mushrooms. Last time round I got a big batch of plums. Plums remind me of my childhood, I think the plums we had then we a bit different - purple inside rather than orange, but nevertheless, I love their juicy sweetness.

(chopped plums, mint, chilli and spring onions)

The first thing I made was plum tabbouleh, with burghul (ie the traditional way).  The plums contrast very well with the grain.  Lots and lots of olive oil and lemon juice and salt and you can eat a whole large bowl No Problem At All.

This idea came from Nigel Slater' Tender Volume II, which is a cook's guide to fruit.  I have written before about Nigel, and his brilliant cookbooks.  (Nigel is on my dream dinner party list. He would be joined by Anthony Bourdain, Ian McEwan, Malcolm Turnbull, Henri Bernard Levy ands the lead singer of Muse (yes, all men. Why not, it's my dream.)).

Then I made a pudding-ey cakey plum cake with cinnamon and honey.  This was okay but not amazing but I think I may have overcooked it.  A variant on his recipe is here.  

Finally, plum chutney.  Very easy - chopped up plums, onion, cover with splash of water, some malt and apple cider vinegar, mustard seeds and cinnamon.  Cook slowly for an hour. You may need to add more water and check at the end to make sure it is sufficiently sweet \ sour.

Brilliant with pork.

Happy chutney eating to you all. 
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