Monday, November 29, 2010

Coconut Chicken Salad in the Sunshine and a Giveaway Winner

Everyone has their own personal stress demon.  That little something which is upsetting way beyond the bounds of proportionality.  Mine is the childcare catastrophe.   The most extreme version of that happened to me last Friday as follows.

Once I had done all the 5 million things which needed doing in order to leave the family at home alone for 3 days (lists, $5 for casual clothes day packaged up, appointments made, food in fridge, food defrosted and labelled, instructions set out on the bench, clothes washed, netball cancelled, children prepared, bags packed, training cancelled, work documents squeezed in, taxi organised) I found at 7.30 am on Friday morning that I had a window of 30 minutes after the temp child care lady arrived and before I caught a taxi to the airport to fly to the Sunshine Coast.   I even had time to double check my hairdryer was packed (for defrizzing hair purposes).

That's funny, I thought, she should be here by now.  At 7.45 am I was worried so I checked my emails and discovered to my horror that in fact I had failed to book her for the day I needed her. I had completely messed up my dates and booked her for the following week when I most certainly did not need her.   

A good 10 minutes of hyperventilating followed, where the fact I was about to get on a plane and had no childcare and no options for emergency childcare for a whole day with a husband who had work commitments to keep really hit home.   I have never confused my dates in such a way before.

(Noosa main beach viewed from Bistro C - 27 November 2010)

A solution was found.  It was one of those no choice solutions really. Husband ran his 7 hours of telephone conferences from home, and my son got to watch a lot (and I do mean A LOT) of television.  

And I arrived home to a happy little family who had had lots of daddy bonding, scootering and dungeon building time over the weekend (once the television was switched off).  Which made me feel warm after a weekend of worry...

  (coconut chicken salad from Bistro C via here)

Meanwhile, I had a long weekend of meetings and briefings.  And a wonderful lunch with a perfect Shaw & Smith chardonnay at this beachfront restaurant in Noosa, Bistro C.  

There is a reason Noosa is crawling with Melburnians.  It is a fantastic place...

Now, to my paw paw cream giveaway.   In the time honoured manner of this blog, I arranged for a small superhero (Superman this time) to select the winner.   I put you all in, even though some of you said you were already fully supplied with paw paw cream.  As I said, you can never have too much.

The winner comes from the US, from Seattle: Jessica from 24 Corners.

Dear Jessica - email me your address and I will have a lovely package to you before Santa arrives at your house. xoxo

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Flower Fields

I have spent more time than is normal lately staring at this wallpaper:

(Blazing Poppies wallpaper by Anthropologie)

wondering if there is some way I could buy it, and then conspire to find a way to use it.   Wallpapering a powder room comes to mind, of course, but we don't have a powder room.  

I have always loved dense floral patterns.  I love it in art:

Untitled no 5 by Kent Rogowski (available on 20x200) 

but most of all I love it in skirts.

(The Sartorialist on the streets of Milan) 

(Prada resort 2007)

(more Anthropologie)

I even know why I love this look so much (and I loved it long before Mad Men came along). It is something to do with this book, which I read as a child:

Because fields of flowers and full skirts make me think of the Swiss mountains.  

Just as children who live in the snow dream of the strange orange dust of the desert, I, growing up with pale green eucalypts and dry hot summers, dreamed of a little Swiss chalet and green fields of wildflowers.   For us, green lawn came for half the year, but tended to dry up over summer.  

When I actually went to Switzerland as an adult, I could not believe how like my imagination the country was.  It was just like I pictured it.  The emerald green, and soft rolling hills.   The little dappled flowers everywhere by the roadside.  Just perfect. 

But back to business.   When, I ask does it become inappropriate to wear a flowery full skirt?  I have been sorely tempted online and in the shops recently.   Does it get to the point where it is a bit silly if one is over 40? 

(Am sorry for my intermittent posts and comments lately. I am flat out at work, and heading up to Queensland for a conference later this week.  Looking forward to the weather (hot and rainy! How can you Queenslanders keep your hair straight?)  Thank you all for taking the time to read and comment over the last few weeks)

Monday, November 22, 2010

Miracle Cream Monday Morning (Giveaway)

I had some of our family over for lunch for my father's birthday over the weekend and I thought I would try something different for the table setting. I used a fuchsia table cloth from Market Import.  Most unlike me, colour wise, but it suited the beautiful sunny spring day.  The little milk bottle vase is from Ada & Darcy.

(lunch setting Sunday 21 November 2010)

The colour also suited the conversation, which was a typically lively one.  All current topics were covered (the Greens, climate change, asylum seekers, planning approvals, the Federal minority government, violence in children's movies,  the forthcoming State election and so on).  I felt a bit like I had gone 10 rounds at the end. In a good way.

I have changed my training spot in the mornings, we now do it in Alexandra Avenue near Morell Bridge in South Yarra.  The other day my trainer, who like all trainers I suspect is not prone to exaggeration, said to me 'Look at that vista, Jane.  This must be the best place to train in the world'.    So I took a photo this morning to show you all.

(View of part of the city taken from Morell Bridge, 6.04 am)

(view of some of the rowers on the Yarra River)

Now, to the point of this post.  Yes, it has a point.

A couple of weeks ago I had a severe bout of gastro.  After I recovered I made the mistake of looking in the mirror.  Looking back at me was Actual Death.   So I went straight to High Street where every second shop is a beauty salon, and immediately got a facial.  The excellent lady also sold me many Vitamin C, Vitamin A, soothing, cleansing bits of cream and potion.  

After a week of ill judged and overzealous application of the paint stripper cosmeceuticals my skin was peeling off in strips and had gone red and blotchy.  Note to self: when she says just one pump she means just one, not 5. 

I was getting reasonably desperate and then I remembered this product, currently residing in my daughter's room.  Lucas Pawpaw Ointment is made of fermented paw paw (papaya).  It is spruiked as great for 'boils, burns, chaffings, cuts, cracked skin, gravel rash, splinters, open wounds, insect bits and nappy rash'.   I use it all the time on the children's bottoms and elbows.  

I slathered it over my face and two days later, my skin is perfect.

The ointment is made in Brisbane, you can read about it here

I love this stuff so much I want to share it with you.   I realise that if you live in Australia you can buy it very cheaply from the local chemist.  But still you can NEVER have too much.

If you leave a comment, and are a follower, I will put you in the draw to win the biggest tub I can find plus a handy purse tube. 

Giveaway is open until close of business 29 November 2010. If you post about it, you get an extra entry.

Happy Monday. 


Thursday, November 18, 2010

Being a Recycled Baby Alien Plum

A lot has changed at my school in the 25 years since I left.  And I know this because my daughter now goes there so I can make constant forensic and slightly obsessive comparisons.   

To whit, check out these differences:

  • they learn Mandarin, not French.
  • they have a philosophy class where they learn to ask things like 'If 7/11s are open 24 hours a day why do they need to have locks on the door?' 
  • they have values, which include respect and kindness and bullying is frowned upon.
  • every week there is a gold coin day for an unheard of but worthy charity.
  • they go on interesting excursions to places like the Footscray Market to buy Vietnamese vegetables and fruit which they then learn about, cook and eat.
  • there are no winners in the house sports competitions.  There are 'finishers' and people who 'competed'.
  • maths is studied on line at home and school by logging on to Mathletics which treats maths as a game.
  • they have a market garden where they make compost, breed butterflies and harvest cauliflower.
  • they have 'Nude Food' days where you have to rip the wrappers off the bars before they go into the lunchbox because everyone's lunch waste is weighed and tallied.
  • they have groovy teachers who ride red scooters to school and wear leggings. 
  • they are taught to give presentations to large numbers from an early age (I didn't have to do this until I was 25 which gave me a crippling case of the red and blushies).
  • they have to wear their hats everywhere and noone has a suntan.
  • the maintenance workers and gardeners are young surfie types not slightly creepy \ mad older men.
And nowhere are these differences more apparent than in the annual Christmas Concert,    which was held this week. Quite a long time before Christmas, you may say.  Well it may as well be, because the concert has nothing to do with Christmas. Instead, it is a Celebration of Learning.   This week's concert was about a baby alien who landed in my daughter's school and was amazed by all the things the girls had done.   Since starting school, my daughter has dressed up in a bewildering array of non Christmassy characters for her Christmas Concert:

  • a plum
  • a star
  • a farmer
  • the rain
  • Autumn
I loved the concert.  It was touching and cute.  They were all so nervous, and so excited.  The dancing was sweet and slightly imperfect, and my reticent little girl stood up and spoke her line loudly and proudly, which I know was not easy for her. 

And like the last 5 concerts,  recycling and the environment were prominentlyy mentioned.   Maybe recycling is the new religion.   

But, and I say this as a largely non denominational person,  just a teeny tiny little bit of me would like to see either:

  • a Christmas concert with Christmas Carols, and two children inappropriately dressed as Mary and Joseph with a local screaming baby as Jesus in the manger and the Three Kings in the background or
  • a concert which looks at the way other cultures celebrate their key festivals or religious days..............
Is it just me?

(All images via Sarah Kaye)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

AM's Compass

'Your inner knowing is your only true compass' (Joy Page)

Last year I won a compass wall art \ decal thingy in a giveaway.  The giver of this wonderful decoration was the wonderful AM.  Of course it was entirely coincidental that my son's room has a kind of nautical bent.   So it suits it to a tee. 

I have been meaning to post pictures of the compass in situ for months now.   This giveaway was so typical of AM, generous and perfect. 

Ancient Chinese boy doll on my son's bed.  (Sorry for blurs. I am hoping Father Christmas will come through for me this year with a new camera - I am a bit over the rubbish photos this one takes.)

Decal above his bed

AM is having a terrible time at the moment.  Whilst I generally believe that nobody (regardless of who they are) deserves bad things to happen to them,  this applies especially to someone like AM who has a fantastic positive attitude to life, and is a great mother, with pretty damn good taste too. 

If you have not already, please go visit her and give her some big electronic Kiss Hug Action.


Friday, November 12, 2010

I Love My Stickblender

Nigella Lawson's new book Kitchen has a couple of useful chapters about the way she sets out and designs her kitchens, what she uses in terms of knives etc and very interestingly, the appliances she loves and those she is ashamed of purchasing. 

I declare upfront - as you can see by this picture of our kitchen. I do not share her dislike of a zen kitchen and I don't agree you can't cook properly in such a kitchen.   Whilst it is true, it does not always look like this, I find that as with an office, I can't concentrate properly if there is crap everywhere.  

As you can see, all food groups are represented in my kitchen (bread, red wine and herbs) 

I do however share her dislike of pointless appliances (and I speak as someone who doesn't even have a microwave, which sometimes makes me feel like a wartime bride).  This is partly because we don't have a huge amount of benchspace, and you have to have appliances to hand if you are going to use them.  I found her list of what she considers critical very interesting.    You can see from this image (taken some time ago, I would say at least 10 years) that she has always liked her kitchens to have everything within reach. 

Nigella in her kitchen (photo by Paul Clements)

These kitchens illustrates perfectly why I don't like lots of stuff piled up.  Where is the bench space?

Here is Nigella's list of key appliances and kitchen equipment:

1.   Potato ricer

2.   Rice cooker.

3.   Timer (must be portable so you can do other things whilst food is cooking).

4.   Electric whisk (if you have ever tried to make meringue by hand whisking you will see the wisdom of this).

5. Free standing mixer like a Kitchenaid.

6. Stick blender.

7. Food processor.

8. Thermometers (meat and candy).

9. Mezzaluna.

10. Graters. 

And in her Kitchen Hall of Shame? Appliances including a yoghurt maker, professional icecream maker, electric jam maker, electric grater and electric waffle maker. 

I actually love my icecream maker. If you have children, as you can whip up a sorbet in no time at all.    I also think those manual pasta makers are fun to do with the children, but otherwise you don't use them much.    

My completely and absolutely must have kitchen appliance is a stick blender like the ones Bamix make, which I use for soups, curry pastes, pesto, chopping nuts, mincing meat and everything in between.   They are not very expensive at all.  

Being a Good Wife, and always trying to improve myself, it did make me wonder if there was some appliance I might need which I don't have.   I started thinking about this when someone emailed me this ad this week. 

I can assure you if I received either of these for Christmas I would be officially over the moon:

Magimix see through toaster

I know, I know everyone laughed when this toaster was released.  I certainly did.  But I have come around a bit. If you are a litle bit obsessive, as I fear I may be, and just a little bit distrustful of your toaster and its cunning plots, you will be constantly popping the toast up to check its shade of brown.  So, I admit it, I can now see the logic. 

Kitchen Aid Premium Stand Mixer in steel grey

To bake properly, you need a mixer.  This is what I am told anyway. I am not really a baker, or a dessert maker, but if I had one I would probably do it more.   

And for completeness, my list of pointless appliances:

1. Sandwich Maker (too hard to clean.  An Italian friend taught me to make toasted sandwiches in a fry pan over heat, squashing the sandwich down by pressing a plate on it and resting a heavy tin on top.  And student-y as it is, I still do it this way).

2. Juicer (too hard to clean. Yes, there is a theme emerging here (laziness)).

3. Rice cooker (in spite of what Nigella says, I find I get really good results using the good old absorption method over the stove top).   We did have one once, and I am ashamed to say I threw it out after a few years. 

4. Popcorn maker (please.  You can hold the lid on a pot can't you?)

5.  Exploitative Baby Food appliances (you know, the ones that prey on your paranoid fear you will kill your baby by food poisoning him or her - baby food trays and containers, mini baby food mashers and choppers and heaters etc.  Read Smitten Kitchen's sensible suggestions about how to do baby food without all of these extra things).

6.  Gimmicky things like a 'Muffin Maker' (in an online spiel for this I read this pitch 'Compact and easy to use, it cooks three large, light and fluffy muffins without the hassle of pre-heating the oven.'  Because you know what a hassle it is to twist a knob right? And besides, who ever needs only three muffins?)  

And finally, I have heard speak of a magical German appliance called a Thermomix which can allegedly chop, beat, mix, whip, grind, knead, mince, grate, juice, blend, heat, stir, steam and weigh food.  So, you put the ingredients in, and 30 seconds later, risotto is produced.    It sounds like something JK Rowling would come up with.  Like the see through toaster I started laughing when I heard about this.   Does anyone have one? 

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A Tiny Market Stall

There are many things from my childhood I wish I had kept and saved.  Others I am not so fussed about. (My mother recently produced my teenage diaries complete with lock and key which she had kept all this time.  Oh the angst and high emotions in just one day's entry.   I decided after a quick glance not to read them any further).  

When my parents travelled to the UK in the 1970s they made a point of seeking out these little hand crafted market stalls to bring back with them.   Yesterday I got them out of the shoe box and tissue paper they had been residing in for more than 25 years.   I thought I might give them to my daughter for her upcoming birthday.

Apart from the disintegration of some of the glue, they were in remarkably good shape.    They are quite small, only about 20 cm across. 

The quality of the workmanship is quite incredible.  And they are also a little history of traditional English food.   There are pork pies, fresh butter, pigeons, wild rabbit, turkey, Swiss rolls, chocolate eclairs and strings of sausages. 

These apples look the same as they did when I was given them in 1977.

And this wedding cake was always one of my favourites. I found playing with cakes was every bit as satisfying as eating them!

I also have a fish shop, run by Mr Pike the fishmonger, complete with native oysters, Cornish crabs, lobster and salmon. 

These stalls were designed by Caroline Watt, who in 1979 employed 35 people making these crafts, which is quite a sizable business in one sense.   A bit of googling told me the business ceased in 2000.    Her items are catalogued by the British Design Council, and the above photo shows a much newer shop.

What is a cream horn anyway?  I am dying to know. 

I love these little stalls for the same reason I love this book, illustrated by my favourite children's book author, Raymond Briggs, and which tells the story of an elephant and a bad (red-haired) baby who run around an English village stealing various food items from shops, including a pork butcher and a snack bar. 

The illustrations evoke the now gone past world of the specialist food shop.   In our current world of over airconditioned food halls and supermarkets which sell everything, I find that I miss the little local shops.   And I could do with some more East End barrow boys hanging around the place menacingly!   Like this one, who doesn't even notice the elephant behind him. 

After all, it was only in the early 1960s that they stopped delivering milk by horse and cart in Melbourne.  (It's true.  My husband can remember hearing the clip clopping noise of the hoofs).

Monday, November 8, 2010

Back from the Nether World of Castles

I have spent the last 3 or so days and 4 very long nights half dead in bed from stomach flu, which I could have done without.  If you were to ask me what is the very worst thing about having children I would have to say 'being sick' because it is so hard to recover from anything when you have to attend to their every need and that, combined with guilt that you are not attending to their every need in a remotely satisfactory way, renders the whole experience twice as bad.  Mind you I was fully delirious for one whole day so I didn't much notice how hungry they were.  (Only joking, I did have a husband who can in theory look after them.  But to this day one of my fears which cannot be stilled is the fear of becoming chronically ill.   Who would make sure that the children are really okay?)

I did manage to do a lot of this though:

The Distant Hours by Kate Morton (with some weak tea)

Kate Morton is now an 'Internationally Best Selling' author, trumpet her publishers.  Her first two books also received the little golden 'Great Read' sticker handed out by the Australian Women's Weekly which usually guarantees mega sales. It also connotes girly chick lit whirlwind slightly bitter romance. And her work is better than that.  Still pretty fruity in its language, perhaps searching for the less well known word when the ordinary one would do just fine, it's true, but I have loved all her books, resonant with secrets, dark English houses, overgrown gardens, pre and post War romances, and the tragedies and misunderstandings of family relationships.   

Have you ever wondered about your mother's life before she married and had you? I have, and like most people I have never really broached the topic with her.  The Distant Hours explores the life of the heroine's mother as an evacuee to a castle located (I think) in Surrey which was inhabited by three sisters and their mad brilliant writer father in the depths of World War 2 and the secrets the sisters then keep there for 50 years. 

Here is Kate Morton at her desk at home in Brisbane.  Yes she is Australian, but writes so well about England.

photo via The Australian

And most wonderfully The Distant Hours features a castle with a tower and a filled in moat.   Kate Morton recently said in an interview 'I wanted to write something that made me feel so enveloped by a story that the real world dissolves around me'.   I would say that is the secret to all great writing, that transportation into another world, and another point of view.


Whilst Kate Morton was apparently inspired by Sissinghurst Castle in her depiction of the fictional Milderhurst Castle, I pictured this castle as the home of the Blythe sisters, Juniper, Persephone and Seraphina.  This is Herstmonceux Castle (Tudor, constructed from 1441) at Bexhill in Sussex, taken I suspect, before it was refurbished. It now houses an outpost of Canada's Queen's University.   

How I wanted to live in a castle when I was little.  And the Distant Hours made me think back to some other favourite castle books.  

I read Dodie Smith's 'I Capture the Castle' many years ago, and when the film was released in 2003 I rushed off to see it by myself.   The film was set here, at Manorbier Castle (Norman, constructed from 1140) in West Wales, a castle which has now, like so many others, fallen into disrepair.

No post about English castles in books would be complete without Malory Towers.   I have read that the real life inspiration for Malory Towers, the four towered school in Cornwall, was this castle, Lulworth Castle (built in 1610) in Dorset.   Isn't it funny that as a child I so fervently wanted to go to boarding school. I probably would have hated it, but the idea of school in a stone castle was just so exciting.

I do often wonder if Brideshead Revisited would have died a quiet 20th century death were it not for the BBC TV series from the early 1980s.  After all, I have to say I found the book a bit turgid.  Far away, at Melbourne University at the time of the TV series, people got up in boaters and blazers channeled Sebastian Flyte in their every utterance.  But the setting, in this, the castle of all castles, Castle Howard in North Yorkshire (built from 1699 to a design by Sir John Vanbrugh), makes up for almost everything else.   

Other castles of my dreams? I prefer them craggy and stormy, like this one, Eilean Donan Castle (originally built in early 13th century as a defence against the Vikings):

Have I missed any other great castle books?

(Photo of Manorbier Castle by Stephen J Franklin)

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Delft Blue from the Past

Over the weekend we made our annual pilgrimage to Handworks to buy cardboard and envelopes for my daughter's 8th birthday party invitations.   Theme as yet undecided.   Date decided but timing as yet undecided, but it will be in the early evening.   Anyway my daughter graciously said I could choose the colour for the invitations if I would let her buy 6 sheets of  origami paper which she tends to keep in secretive piles and never uses.

And this Delft blue colour is what I gravitated towards.   How I love this shade.

Half finished invitations, flowers hand cut and glued by me

Why do I love this colour so?  For me, it begins, as does so much for us, with my childhood.

(by Janeych on Flickr)

When my parents separated and we moved out of the pink house into a considerably smaller white house and my mother went out into the workforce for the first time ever, she promised me that I could decorate my bedroom in colours of my choosing.  In Laura Ashley.  Of course. I say of course because in those days Laura Ashley was THE fabric of choice.  And indeed clothing of choice.  I can remember being pretty thrilled with my Laura Ashley pinafore as a little girl, which looked rather like this:

The fabric I chose for my bedroom was Campion (third along, second row down) for the curtains, and Wood Violet (third along, fourth row down) for the wallpaper.

For me, getting that room decorated my way symbolised some kind of completion of a very horrible stage in our lives.  And a transformation into a more grown up girl.

Go here to see some wonderful Flickr photos of vintage 1980s Laura Ashley prints by Janeych. I do not understand why these old prints are not re-issued.   They still look great.  It's not my taste anymore, but I think they still look wonderful in a little girl's room, or in a guest room.

I still love Delft blue, but now like it like this:

(J Crew from a season or so ago)

(Cocco Lave bag by Bottega Veneta)
Or this:

(Wrottingham Castle)

(via Design Crisis)

(House to Home)

A blue dining room. I think I could live with that. 

Related Posts with Thumbnails