Sunday, 6 December 2015

Botanical update

I haven't written an update on Mum's garden in quite a while. Things have happened and the garden has rippled through the phases of its life with very little drama.
Things grow, things get severely pruned, things get mulched, things surprise Mum by erupting into a mass of beautiful flowers when she thought they never would, or were on their last legs.

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

A new wardrobe - potentially.

I spent the last week cat-sitting up near Joondalup and was delighted to discover that the Textile Traders up that end of the world was having a 'moving' sale. Even better than that though was the fact that the fabrics on special were the printed cottons that work perfectly for the 1950s and '60s dresses that I am currently partial to.

So, over a couple of visits I may have just bought an entirely new wardrobe for myself.

Monday, 16 November 2015

Ikea Skirt

The renovation of the family beach shack has meant that we've ended up at Ikea on more than one occasion. If not buying various bits and pieces, then at least looking at and chosing bits and pieces to buy at a later date when we are able to cart them home or have the room in the shack to store them until we have time to assemble them.

As always, this meander through the store includes a short stop in the fabric department (yes, Ikea sells fabric by the metre). This is where we found the fabric for the shack's curtains and more recently where I found the fabric for this amazing skirt:

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

The Island of Delos

17 July 2012

My week touring the Greek islands didn't feel complete without a visit to Delos, one of the small islands off Mykonos. 

Once the centre of the political world, it is now an archaeological reserve with ruins as far as the eye can see, and unfortunately, acres of dry grass that obscured various monuments, murals and carved marble remains. Progress is slowly being made in clearing away this organic matter, but given the size of the site and the state of the Greek economy, this will take a while. In the interim, one requires a good camera, a better imagination and an appreciation of the bits that are visible. 

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Met Opera - Aida

A screening of Verdi's opera Aida was showing at Luna Palace this past weekend, and with Mum keen to see it, we wandered down to Fremantle for the afternoon session.

Aida is a Verdi opera sang in Italian and set in Ancient Egypt. It centres around a love triangle of Aida, Ethiopian Princess and slave to the Egyptian Princess Amneris, Amneris and the Egyptian General Radames. Aida and Radames love each other and consequently lose all common sense, and Amneris loves Radames but not enough to let him be happy even if she is not. Aida's father, King of Ethiopia mounts a battle to rescue her from Egypt, and Radames thinks that leading the Egyptians into battle, routing the Ethiopians and killing their king will win him Aida's love.
Like I said, common sense went out the window before the curtain even rose.

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough, and Blenheim Palace

19 August 2011

Blenheim Palace has always intrigued me, and so one August weekend C and I decided to make a trip up to Oxford and spend the day exploring the estate.

Saturday, 12 September 2015

Met Opera - The Merry Widow

For me, The Merry Widow is an operetta anchored in fashion history. The title role was once played by Lily Elsie (not Rachel Weisz) and her costumes were designed by Lucile, Lady Duff Gordon.

Lily Elsie in The Merry Widow

This made Lucile a major name in fashion, something which was amplified by the way the general public embraced the infamous 'Merry Widow' hat. This was a hat significantly larger than the head on which it sat and caused some delight to the cartoonists of Punch magazine who got considerable mileage out of lampooning women's fashion.

As a result, when I discovered that this operetta was playing at Luna Palace, I decided I had to check it out. This was the 2015 Met Opera version starring Renee Fleming in the title role.

Monday, 7 September 2015

Onion Marmalade

Onion Marmalade was something I discovered a couple of years ago, however it wasn't until I was house-sitting and discovered an open jar in the fridge that I re-remembered the delightful substance.

Having polished off the remnants of the open jar I decided I needed to make my own batch or two.

Sunday, 6 September 2015

West Australian Wildflowers - Wireless Hill

Dad was the one who discovered that the native orchids were in bloom at Wireless Hill, and it being Father's Day, he decided that that was the perfect place to spend the morning. 

Thursday, 3 September 2015

Chasing the Albany Municipal Library.

For one small insignificant reference in my novel, I wanted to know where the Albany Library was located between the years 1900 and 1908. My secondary character needed a pre-occupation for a morning which would result in her running late for a meeting with friends. Given the character's occupation and interests, being immersed in some research at the local library seemed to be ideal.

Provided of course the library was in the centre of town. I assume it would be, but never liking to make assumptions I thought I'd discover the exact location. Just as I'd discovered all the details regarding the way to travel down to Albany from Guildford. The characters may be fictional, but the historical setting has to be historically accurate to the best of my ability.

Tuesday, 1 September 2015


The need for supper at the recent play reading of our writing group meant that Biscotti was made, and for once, I actually managed to take enough photos through the process to be able to write up the recipe here.

Biscotti has always been a go-to recipe in our family, particularly at Christmas time when an orange and chocolate batch is made and taste-tested more than a few times before the festive season begins. 

Of course, there is one slight problem with Biscotti, particularly if the people you're entertaining happen to be at the older end of the age scale. Biscotti means 'baked twice', resulting in very dry, very hard, teeth-chipping biscuits.

For this particular rendition, I decided on Cranberry and Almond, with a scented tissane thrown in for added flavour and a slight twist. Because why not.

Monday, 17 August 2015

Beach Shack Renovation Five

There have been a few more improvements to the beach shack, but with it taking time, and it being winter, things seem to be progressing slowly.

Monday, 10 August 2015

Boeuf Bourguignon

As my sister recently mentioned, one of my favourite winter dishes is Boeuf Bourguignon, a rich French beef stew flavoured primarily with red wine, tomato paste and bacon.

It isn't a dish that holds memories of travels to France but instead was just an appealing looking recipe in the first of the French cookbooks I was given. Since then, it gets made every winter, possibly several times over and seems to be thoroughly enjoyed by everyone (it was the recipe my sister decided to make for her Bastille day party this year).

Saturday, 8 August 2015


Photo from Claire
Mum has always loved the fact that when my sister and I first learnt to sew we were never interested in using existing patterns, preferring instead to replicate existing clothes (without pulling that piece to pieces in order to achieve this).

Logically it makes sense really, we had clothes we knew we loved and that fitted us (an increasing problem). So why put in all the time and effort on a pattern you don't actually know you'll like.

I do use patterns now, some of the time, and I think I can say the same for my sister, but there are still times when replicating existing items in one's wardrobe is just the more sensible option.

Years ago now, I acquired from my mother's wardrobe a beautiful mid-calf-length wool skirt. It is rust coloured and of eight gores which flare below the knee. For remaining warm whilst running errands, it is perfect. So perfect in fact that I decided I needed another one, in a dark grey/black.

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

C.Y.O'Connor Beach

Off South Beach
Being located on the water, Fremantle is a port after all, one of the things I like to do while house sitting in the area is to head down to C.Y.O'Connor Beach to explore the wrecks and memorial, and watch the setting sun.

My first venture down,several years ago now, had been purely accidental; arriving at South Beach an hour before sunset, I didn't feel like hanging around and so rode south, past the cattle slip lanes before climbing over the sand dues and onto the beach. There, about 50 metres off the coast, partially submerged in the waves, is a statue of a man on a horse. It is the memorial to C.Y.O'Connor who committed suicide off this beach in 1902.

O'Connor is one of this state's great engineers. He is responsible for the transformation of Fremantle Harbour into the commercial success it is today and for the pipeline that transported water from the Perth hills to Kalgoorlie to support the growing gold rush.

Sunday, 2 August 2015

In Memoriam

My grandfather passed away August 2, 2014, leaving behind two daughters, four grandchildren, one great grandchild and a tonne of memories and stories.

Monday, 20 July 2015

The Porongurups and Drive Home

As we were 'in the area' and had an afternoon at our fingertips we headed towards the Porongurups. 

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Researching Lower Kalgan

Common Forest Heath
Having heard of our reason for visiting Albany, our host Jim suggested that we talk to one of his friends Don, a historian of the area.
Discovering that the property in my novel would likely have been an orchard, he suggested we head out in the direction of Lower Kalgan to check out the scenery.

By today's standards Lower Kalgan is about 20 minutes north east of Albany town centre, but 100 years ago, it is likely that it would have taken closer to an hour to make the journey, particularly as it is possible the route was a little less direct than the one we took.

Dawn on the Princess Royal Harbour

I'm not really a dawn person.
I much prefer staying up late into the night reading or writing and then spending the morning curled up in a warm bed, maybe with a purring hot water bottle.

However, with it being the middle of winter and the sun rising after 7 am, and being on holidays, and being surrounded by beautiful scenery and being in Albany to see the scenery, I declared that I wanted to see the sun rise one of the mornings we were in Albany.

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Albany Wind Farm

The final stop of our day in the Torndirrup National Park was the Albany Wind Farm. 
However before the hugging and the singing, we decided we needed afternoon tea. 

Torndirrup National Park - Stony Peak

Next stop on our sun drenched tour of the Torndirrup National Park was Stony Peak. 

A location, during the war, for a signal lookout, now it is the perfect place to sit whale spotting or just soak in the beauty of the surrounding landscape. 

In the foreground is an iron nail, remnant from the rock's use as a signal lookout.

Torndirrup National Park - Salmon Holes and the Blowholes

I think I'll let the photos of Salmon Holes do all the talking.

Torndirrup National Park - Frenchman's Bay

I'd planned to spend Saturday in the town of Albany checking out the historical buildings, visiting a few museums and house museums..
However when we woke to blue skies and sunshine, Claire suggested that we make the most of the weather and spend the day in the National Park instead.
Couldn't have asked for a more excellent suggestion.

Friday, 17 July 2015

William Bay National Park

Our extensive research on the internet led us to add Green's Pool and Elephant Rocks to our list. They were a stones throw from each other within William Bay National Park on our route towards Albany.

And we were pleased as punch with this decision.

Valley of the Giants

Our first official stop on Friday's journey from Bridgetown to Albany (after breakfast) was the Valley of the Giants,

Located just out of Walpole, this allows you to wander through the canopy and undergrowth of a Red Tingle forest.
Turning off the hwy, we were delighted by the sunlight streaming in and hitting the straight slender trunks of the trees that lined the road.

Bridgetown and Beyond

Many of my childhood holidays were spent in the South West of this state, and yet sadly, I have barely any memories of my time there. All right, I was about 5 years old then, maybe 7, but the few snippets of memory I do have of those holidays cannot be placed in the landscape.

I remember walking around a caravan park early in the morning in wet duck-bill slippers. I couldn't tell you it was Albany. 
I remember playing on a boat in a park which was lower than the road. Don't ask me where. 
I remember the interior of Granddad's car as we drove down to Albany for a holiday. I don't remember the holiday though.
I remember the carpark of the place we stayed in Albany when we were on our way to Esperence. I remember the carpark of the Albany YHA. That, it would seem, is my only memory of Albany?

So... As I have no memory of being down in this neck of the woods, yet knowing I've been here, and having set part of my novel in Albany, I thought it was about time I visited it. 

The landscape needed confirming, the angle of the sunlight at 16:00 within one of the buildings, the view down York St. Additionally, there were historical buildings I'd discovered that needed visiting.
Just don't get me started on the location of the Albany Library.

Monday, 29 June 2015

So as not to go to waste

Living in London, I bought some work shirts. Crisp, fitted cotton shirts with good sturdy collars and cuffs.
Only problem, before long while the arms fitted, the neck fitted, the waist fitted, even the shoulders fitted, my 'ample' bust did not. By a good 4 inches.

To say I was slightly miffed was an understatement. They had fitted when I'd bought them, naturally, but a combination of a luxurious lifestyle and birth control meant that before long, they didn't.

One faded away, fraying at the seams in a way that meant nothing could be done to it to make it fit again. The others were simply too delightful to throw. After all, I'd gone to pains to chose a delightful selection. One was snow white, another with a stiff V neckline, but my favourite was white, with vivid green satin stripes down it's length.

Not wanting to waste them (they reminded me so strongly of the stiff shirtwaists of the Edwardian era), I kept them, neatly folded away in a suitcase in London, packed them into the tea chests carefully nestled amongst the numerous shoes and transported them half way around the world, supposedly never to wear them again, before packing them again into a hat box to store on the top of my wardrobe.

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

A Mystery Foot.

At one of the recent antique fair I stumbled upon (and bought) a Singer surprise box. At least that's how the guy selling it had labelled it, clearly knowing nothing about its contents except that they related to a Singer sewing machine.

Monday, 25 May 2015

An Unfortunate Encounter - Bad Service

One of the writing exercises of the playwriting group I attend was to write a quick 10 minute monologue based on one of two themes; 'Knife Fight' or 'Bad Service'. 

Unlike a previous topic where nothing had sprung to mind, here I was instantly reminded of my delightful experiences with a tour guide in St Paul's. As a tour guide her job revolved around customer service, otherwise no one would have been on her tours, and yet as someone who was not a customer but was still affected by her service, I was immensely displeased. And so in my response to her actions, I felt justified. 
I doubt there are many who did what I did, but I'm sure there are many who would have been as irritated. This is just the well structured verbalisation of that irritation. 

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Beach Shack Renovation Four

My aunt then decided that since the new furniture (and antique fridge (which weighed a tonne and was difficult to move)) was scratching the floors and lifting the grey paint, in the communal kitchen/living room we needed a new floor covering. Something like laminate floor boards.
A more sensible (cheaper) suggestion of lino was made and as lino now comes in a range of styles and patterns we were able to find one that suited the style and colour scheme of the room.

So one bright Sunday morning my uncle and I got to work installing it. When it's substantially larger than the room in all directions and tears easily, we made the executive decision to remove the 'key decision makers' from the visual vicinity so we could lay it in peace and do what was necessary to squeeze it into the corners and remove the excess. The last thing we needed was them pointing out where it was ripping, stressing if a rip got too close to the important bit...

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Bunker Beach

The beauty of the South-West is something of which I am always aware, and yet I find myself undertaking very few opportunities to actually head down and enjoy it.

Friday, 15 May 2015

Caramelised Onion and Cheese Muffins

As is only to be expected, the original recipe has been adapted... more than once

Originally there were just caramelised onion muffins.
Then they became caramelised onion and cheese muffins.
Today, they transformed again into chutney and cheese muffins.

So here goes...

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Reproducing a Plum and Star Anise Jam (and Fruit Leather)

Somewhere, somehow we ended up with a jar of plum jam in our pantry. It was beautiful, rich and with the surprise ingredient of star anise.
And unfortunately there was only one jar and we had no idea where it came from.
You see, the problem is that Dad occasionally buys jars of interesting jam at fĂȘtes and rota-marts, and various family and friends make preserves of their own and gift jars at Christmas or whenever we run out of a necessary product.

So when I saw a cheap box of plums, I decided the easiest way to get more plum and Star anise jam was simply to make it.

That and fruit leather. After all, I did have about 8 kg of plums to pit and dice.

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Beach Shack Renovation Three

With 12 family members having access to the shack (two currently living in Berlin), it seemed sensible to streamline Granddad's amount of furniture and have more than a main bed and two hideous foam mattresses.
We decided on a Queen bed in the main bedroom, a double bunk in the second bedroom and a sofa bed in the living room.

The new furniture was bought as part of yet another shopping spree by my mother and aunt, but it was left to other members of the family to assemble it.

...and the three year old to test its possibilities as a tent by hanging a sheet from the upper bed over the lower one.

It was decided that she was too young for the top bunk and yet too clever at climbing up the ladder by herself, and so the rungs were removed for the time being.

To compliment the very colourful curtains, make the most of the opportunity to do some interior decorating with vibrancy as opposed to the whites and off-whites with which most people decorate their houses, and add vibrancy to what is essentially a summer beach shack, we went with the most outrageous sheets for the beds.


The discussion of what to do with the kitchenette unit was lengthy, though as one of the two decision makers insisted on keeping it, the suggestions of the rest of us are virtually unheard. It's currently getting a new paint job and a patch up as the green and cream no longer goes with the decor.

In the kitchen we decided on a buffet unit for more storage (can never have too much storage) with a smaller under-bench fridge. 
The former was put together from flat pack (like the rest of the furniture) while the fridge was an amazing bargain buy from Ebay. 

Beach Shack Renovation One
Beach Shack Renovation Two

Beach Shack Renovation Four

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

An Open Garden plan

Just the other weekend, Mum and I disappeared off to Fremantle to check out a private garden opened to the public as part of Open Gardens Australia.

Friday, 3 April 2015

An indecipherable recipe - Baton Sale/Salty Biscuits

At that time of the year when Kahk and Cornetti made their appearance at Granddad's, a form of savoury biscuits also appeared. My sister and I would eat them, but they weren't the thing we'd make a bee line for. 
Instead they were left for Mum, solid savoury sticks with cumin seeds mixed throughout that she would nibble on, as happily as we would devour the Kahk. 

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Sprig Cotton Sun Dress

This was the fabric I decided I could definitely wear and therefore shouldn't leave in Spotlight:

Monday, 23 March 2015

Mystery of the Silver Container

Yesterday, Mum and I headed into town to check out a small exhibition of antique Georg Jensen pieces. We'd been exceedingly fortunate to even hear about it though a jewellery designer friend who happens to work at Georg Jensen, because it was not advertised anywhere.

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