Wednesday, September 26, 2007


Just a quick note to say I've posted some photos from my York trip last month on our Flickr site. West England and Germany photos will hopefully follow shortly.

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Monday, September 24, 2007

A delightful weekend

Our greatly expanded household braved the M25 on Saturday and ventured down to Hastings and Brighton to see the sights and, more particularly the seafood and wine festival. Despite Vaughn's amazing ability to hear 'turn right' regardless of the instruction, we made it down to Hastings in time for morning tea, or morning scallop in my case and explored the festival, sampling heavily along the way before working it off on the trek up the hill to Hastings Castle. Not surprisingly, given its location (Battle of Hastings, 1066 and all that), it was the first Norman castle in England, though much of it has been lost to the sea and a particular king (no prizes for guessing who) who ordered the wanton destruction of Churches around the country. Still, it was a lovely site and the view was spectacular.

We then ventured over the Brighton via Eastbourne and the South Downs Way, which was as lovely as I'd hoped and sufficiently hilly to make me a little glad I got the flu when I was supposed to ride it. We enjoyed our second trip to Brighton just as much as we enjoyed the first almost a year ago, walking around the town and along the pebbly beach. Everything and everyone seemed so much more relaxed than in London and I find the feeling of the place not dissimilar to some areas of Australia - Brighton has rather a hippy reputation. We arrived home exhausted but really pleased to have gone.

And as if that weren't enough to make my weekend Vaughn and I went to lunch yesterday at the Petersham Nurseries in south west London. It was our first time driving through London (as opposed to heading straight out of London which is very easy from our place). Suffice it to say the drive was not the highlight of the day. The 14 mile drive took very close to 2 hours - drive five metres, stop; drive five metres, stop. But it was all worthwhile when we finally arrived. The setting was absolutely beautiful - lots of mismatching wooden tables and chairs with plants all around, attentive staff, wonderful food and wine and a very pleasant atmosphere. Having sneaked a look at the dessert menu, I opted to go straight for mains so I'd have room for pud. The whole menu looked fantastic, but it was an easy choice for me. I simply had to order the roast pigeon. It came out succulent and rich with lovely crispy skin and lots of herbs. I almost cried it was so good. Vaughn's meal was also excellent - a chicory gratin, slightly tangy with a great consistency. Not suprisingly I preferred the pigeon, but it was a lovely change to have interesting vego choices on the menu and not just the usual mushroom risotto or pasta. For dessert we shared a hazlenut ice cream with roasted figs and a sheeps milk ricotta with honey and walnuts. They were both superb - the ricotta creamy and smooth and the ice cream fresh and full of nuts. I was also pleased to note the consistency was very similar to the ice cream I've been making recently.

Walking through the adjacent meadow afterwards by the river, we chatted with a local farmer, who had hitchhiked around Australia in his youth. It was a lovely end to a perfect weekend.

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Thursday, September 20, 2007

Awake and Sing!

Continuing our theme of seeing theatre involving West Wing actors, we saw Clifford Odet's 'Awake and Sing!' last night at the Almeida Theatre in Islington, which was excellent. Set in the 1930s in the Bronx the play caputures the hopes and struggles of an impoverished and passionate extended Jewish family. The matriarch (Stockard Channing), was particularly captivating as she waged war against the threats against her family as she saw them. It was a wonderful play and I highly recommend seeing it.

It was also nice to spend some time back in Islington and eat at our favourite kebab place.


Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Avast and ahoy!

It's international talk like a pirate day, me mateys. That's all I've got. The rest is in landlubbers' English. Hee hee.

Yes, I've been very slack with posting. I've got an impressive list of excuses if anyone would care to see them, but mainly I've just been slack.

Exciting and fun things in the last month have included: a trip to the Rhine Valley for a wedding, eating strawberries from our garden, my birthday and birthday party. I think I've been excited about all of these things in roughly equal measure.

We had a wonderful 5 days wandering around the Rhine Valley with good friends, new and old, drinking Riesling and new wine and eating fried potatoes, sausages and sauerkraut. Vaughn's self-inflicted culinary misery continued while the rest of us were in raptures. Alice and Michael's wedding, the reason for our trip, was absolutely beautiful - set in a ruined castle with ivy on the walls and vineyards all around, it was just stunning. As was the bride, who looked like a 1940s film star and was just as cool and collected. I'm sure enough of you remember me turning into Bridezilla for a few days before our wedding (days, I tell you - no arguments!). Well, Alice couldn't have been more different. Not only did she have around a dozen people drifting in and out of her room while she was getting ready, which I consider incredibly noble in itself, she and Michael also encouraged everyone at the wedding to stay around for the next few days - with Michael's parents', who are angelic to say the least - before they headed off on their honeymoon. And stay we did. We drove through little towns which looked just like those in train models, took a cruise on the Rhine and went to the Bakfischfest in a neighbouring town. We also spent countless hours soaking up and ambiance of Marianna and Manfred's home, which we've decided is the perfect grandparents' house and Alice and Michael should get onto populating it with grandchildren.

Back in England, we came home to our first ripe strawberries, which we ate straight from the garden while they were still warm from the sun. They were just delicious. I think we've now finished the first crop and I'm hoping the warm weather comes back so we get a second crop. Also because if the only memory of Summer I've got to get me through Winter is two short weeks of sunshine and 20+ temperatures, I'm gonna cry.

We also had a lovely birthday last weekend, which filled our tiny apartment just about to capacity and diminished our wine supplies, including, I was slightly mortified to notice the next day, my cooking wine - an all in collection of any left over white wine from the last few months. It must have been absolutely awful. Mortification or no, I still chuckle to think about it. I wonder who it was?

I love entertaining and enjoy the preparation at least as much as the party itself. Having slightly under catered last time, foolishly giving up control of these things and suggesting people bring a plate, I cooked enough food this time to fill everyone for the rest of the weekend. I also tried out a new ice cream on our unsuspecting guests - lavender and honey - which seemed to meet with approval and I think will now be a regular on our table. And the food extravaganza continues this weekend with a trip to Hastings' seafood and wine festival, and a belated birthday lunch at the Petersham Nurseries, which I've wanted to go to for ages.

At some stage I will endeavour to put up some photos from my York, West England and Germany trips. But probably not this week when we have 3 house guests. In the meantime if you're curious, Vaughn has posted several on Facebook.

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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Chaser

Mostly I find The Chaser intensely irritating. Seeing them live was one of the worst pieces of theatre I have ever seen, quite apart from the fact that I had to cancel some non-refundable flights to see it because apparently it would have been too rude not to use the tickets we were given. But I digress.

This week, I'd happily nominate those irritating gits for just about any humour award under the sun. Absolutely hilarious! Reading the newspaper articles, both Australian and British, and watching the youtube videos of the various escapades I had tears rolling down my cheeks from laughing so hard. From the insecurity passes to the cut out car to the Osama bin Laden outfit, it was absolutely brilliant, and served to highlight our esteemed leader's noticeable focus on anything but Asia (hello - APEC!) and usual brown-nosing with Mr Bush, who, to his credit, actually did manage to mention Asia, albeit as a token gesture at the end of his speech. Oh dear, I'd better stop here before I get carried away on this soapbox of mine. Bring on the election!

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Monday, September 03, 2007

Count down

The calendar barely grazes August usually when I start getting excited about my birthday, but now that it's September and the month of my day is upon us, I'm just about beside myself. I'm on draft three of the birthday menu already and there'll almost certainly be at least another two. Really, I'm not sure it's possible to have A SINGULAR favourite cake. I have LOTS of favourite cakes. And that's before (of course) I even consider entrees and mains. No wonder I love degustation menus. I just don't have the patience to cook them myself.

I'm also looking forward to cooking for my birthday party - please let me know if you're coming and what your favourite food is! I'm going to spend some quality time with my favourite cookbooks this weekend and put together my shopping list.

I love birthdays!

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