Saturday, November 22, 2014

Bali style

We decided to share some Bali joy around this weekend - and maybe in the process convince some friends to join us in future visits?? Luckily our friends are AMAZING cooks themselves so our feasting was also a shared affair.

Judy brought back many happy memories with her ginger, mint and lemongrass refreshers! 

They were a great starter to a few rounds of G&Ts and Bintangs in the back garden.

You'll note we came dressed Indonesian style. The boys are wearing $7AUS shirts we bought at Morita Batik in Yogyakarta last month. I'm sure Mr Abbott would have liked to shirtfront Mr Putin wearing one of these at the G20 last weekend!

The group is looking very happy in the pic below because they are about to sit down to first course - Jennie's amazing, slow cooked duck stuffed with spicy greens and Maxie's Urap Urap (coconut salad).

There was a second course too - Judy's fragrant Beef Rendang, my spicy red fish curry and Maxie's Gado Gado - yum.

Jennie's coconut pannacotta with glazed ginger syrup was another highlight of this very special feast.

and Rob's & my Pandan pancakes filled with fresh coconut and palm sugar syrup were a yummy little side dish.

It felt very Bali like sitting outside as the sun went down - a 32oC day and much warmer weather predicted for Sunday.  Great weather for wearing silk sarongs and a scarf or two from my Bali collection (and maybe a bit more of that delicious duck if there are any leftovers).

Sunday, November 9, 2014


Summer arrived this weekend - with two dry sunny 30oC days. Josh and Jody had a wedding to attend on Saturday so we had the girls for a sleepover.

We entertained them with plenty of time in the garden and an evening meal with all their favourite dishes (roast chicken and potatoes and pancakes and Maggie Beer burnt fig and caramel icecream for dessert).

Abi slept a lot better than on our previous sleepover and so did we as a consequence. They both woke in the sweetest of moods this morning (and not too early either) and had another feed of Rob's pancakes and fresh strawberries.

Back at their place this afternoon Ella was perfecting her handstands - she is just about there - another week or so and she'll be able to give Davey a run for his money.

And if there is a vertical surface anywhere she still can't resist climbing up it!

Abi's interests were more cerebral this weekend. She seems to have decided that I am quite useful for reading her books - on demand and that Rob is a useful card playing partner - with direction of course!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Seventh Sydney Reunion

It's hard to believe this is the seventh time we've met up in Sydney for the sisters and spouses reunion long weekend.

The fun started on Wednesday this year. We all arrived early afternoon and after an initial catch up, set out like we always do for the headland walk to Bondi and a close up view of Sculpture By The Sea.

The first glimpse, as we rounded the headland South of Tamarama, was a bit of a disappointment compared to previous oversized frying pan buried in sand? ...and a very uninteresting winning entry! We spent some time admiring the very temporary looking beach detritus installation but apart from that we didn't feel motivated to get on the sand and interact with the works more closely at Tamarama.

Other works along the headland inspired us more - I love the ones that play with the coastal light and make you look at the landscape in a different way.

We'd all had an early start to the day and a light lunch so we were exceptionally pleased to conclude Sculpture By The Sea with an Israeli beer and one of Sabbaba's amazing pita bread feasts (the Tunisian is our favourite) in Hall Street Bondi.

Thursday morning and the sisters were off to the CBD for their day of shopping. Rob took charge of the alternative men's program - an hour and a half  Rivercat ride to  Parramatta, the oldest inland European settlement in Australia (1788), some time to explore and then lunch at our favourite Criniti's in Church Road. The boys seemed very happy with their day and us girls also had a very satisfying time. This year there was a focus on shoes, although outfits were also researched, coordinated with jewellery and eventually purchased. In fact I think we set a record in terms of total value of purchases this year. As is our habit now we also made time to enjoy a leisurely lunch and glass of wine at the lovely Cloudy Bay Restaurant overlooking Market Street to Hyde Park.

At the end of the day we all met up at the Trinity Bar in Surry Hills (for happy hour) for a long awaited Stone and Wood beer and eventually a delicious meal (roast cauliflower salad for me - yum) served on the breezy front terrace.

Friday dawned sunny and 29oC - a perfect day for our planned outing to Manly. A trip on the Manly Ferry is always a great way to enjoy Sydney's perfect harbour and today's ride across the sometimes choppy waters of the Heads was really uneventful. Our plan to eat Moroccan at  Out of Africa on East Esplanade had to be revised when we found it was closed for lunch (just for today apparently). Luckily Peter had spotted another Criniti's at Manly so the boys were extremely happy to show us some of the delights they'd enjoyed the day before at Parramatta. Ros and I hit the jackpot with our shared antipasto sampler platter for two. Criniti's is obviously a big Sydney brand now with its own gelateria and pasticceria and in house pasta etc. I do rate their gelati very highly!!

 We finished off our time in Manly with a walk along its glorious long beach all the way to Queenscliff. It was so glorious it made us wonder if Manly might be an alternative to consider if a Noosa stay is ever too difficult.

We were back in Coogee in just enough time for an evening drink and nibbles before a walk to The Randwick Ritz to see the "amazing" Gone Girl. That film engendered a lot of discussion afterwards and a few nervous laughs especially from the boys. It's a long film- two and a half hours - but we were absolutely riveted the whole time.

We didn't plan too much for Saturday - a hot sunny and windy day in Sydney. We caught the bus to Surry Hills for a quick look at the (unimpressive) markets on Shannon Reserve and a long wait (too long) for the boys while us girls did more shopping at Pure Magik on Crown Street. The main business of the day was to introduce Ros & Peter to our favourite Danjee in Albion Place off George Street in the city.

We managed to order some of our favourite Danjee dishes (not always easy with such an unfamiliar menu), certainly enough for Ros & Peter to get why we love this restaurant so much. I could eat Korean food like this all the time; so fresh, flavoursome, healthy and vibrant with flavour and textures.

Ros elected to finish off some shopping in the city while the rest of us enjoyed a few hours rest from the heat back at the apartment. We managed to squeeze in one last look at Coogee Beach too between some heavy rain squalls that included lethal lightning and thunder further up the coast (there was a fatality on the beach at Newcastle from a lightning strike).

A highlight of our last night in Coogee together was a Skype call to the London branch. Seeing Davey in his Marshmallow Man hallow e'en costume, talking to Eddie in his shoe shop (while dressed in his bat costume) and hearing all about Cath's meeting with Beyoncé (for Topshop) were just some of the highlights. Davey took us for a tour of the South Woodford house in the course of the conversation - it's amazing what they've achieved in less than a year! Gwyneth Paltrow's decorator (painter) has obviously spent a lot of time at the house with them.

Sunday morning and our collective departures from Sydney arrived too soon. The six of us have coped with some health scares this year and it is a great relief that everyone is in recovery mode now and we can all enjoy wonderful times like this together. Here's to good times ahead for the sisters and their spouses and lots more opportunities to share them together. 


Sunday, October 26, 2014

Two girls

This is the first time I have ever managed to get the girls to sit (still) together  long enough for me to try to get a sisters portrait shot.

 Unfortunately, despite A & E's undoubted perfection, it looks very unnatural!

 Hmm a bit better....

 ..and better still......

This is a normal Sunday afternoon for us...hanging out with J & J & A & E, playing with the girls outside, admiring all their feats on the play equipment, keeping Nellie the Beagle calm, paying close attention to the feast we're lucky enough to have Josh prepare for us - every Sunday - how lucky are we?

Thursday, October 23, 2014

grandparent alert

My advice to any grandparent out there is to make sure you stand at the bottom of the slippery slide and WATCH your grandchild slide down!

For some reason I took it upon myself to break all the slippery slide rules last Saturday - and have ended up with a broken arm. I did a very good job of it - which meant I required a bit of surgery too - to have it pinned (on Monday)!

I'm still learning about life with only one useful arm (luckily only a short term prospect for me) but so far Rob has had to take the brunt of opening lids, cooking meals, doing up watches, driving the car, cutting up fruit etc etc etc.

It's coming up to November, a busy time of the year plans, summer fun plans, Christmas plans, some textile plans with Maxie, finishing off the work year plans...I just have to let a lot of it go now - that will be good learning for me...

But I find I can still take a picture with my little compact camera.................

The garden is looking Springtime pretty at the moment so I can take some time to smell the roses (although there aren't too many of them blooming yet). And I was pleased with a couple of my orchids this year, flowering so well...

...and my African violets have excelled themselves.

I brought this little guy back from Borobudur - a pretty tacky souvenir of an amazing temple I know. However, he's looking pretty comfortable in my "Judy" pot in the front courtyard now - though I'm not impressed with his ability to keep bad things at bay with that raised hand.....(come to think of it that left arm of his looks a bit like mine did after copping that fall off the slippery slide!)

Like many other Australians of my generation I have been reflecting on the incredible legacy of the venerable EG Whitlam (Prime Minister 1972-1975) who died Tuesday morning this week. Rob and I voted for the first time in December 1972 (voting age was 21 in those days) and I will never forget the excitement we felt that we had played a (small) part in the election of the new Whitlam Labor government after 23 years of "Menzies turbidity" (marvellous quote from Paul Keating this week).

We will also never forget our dismay upon returning to Australia House in London (from France) in November 1975 and learning about "the dismissal".  We could not believe it!  Three tumultuous years in government - but so much achieved - and Australia at last dragged kicking and screaming into the 20th century.

Thank you Edward Gough Whitlam, for those three years - and everything else since!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Last day in Yogya

Thursday, and its our last morning in Yogya. Sophie and Maddie have loved our tour bus (with a full bench seat to themselves, opulently padded and fully air conditioned) and we need a pic of them with it - just for the memory. For some unaccountable reason the bus is decorated with an unmistakable (and very apt) kangaroo!

We didn't have too much planned for the morning: a visit to the Sultan of Yogyakarta's Palace Kraton at the southern end of Malioboro Road.......

We were amused by the large numbers of Sultan's guards on the palace grounds. Apparently it is largely a volunteer force, most often retired members of the Indonesian army. They look like they're enjoying their roles and hanging out all day with their old army buddies. One of their important duties is to air the shadow puppets once a week to check they're working and free of mould.

I hadn't realised before the significant role the Sultans of Yogyakarta have played in the government of Indonesia. This century the various Sultans have been Vice Presidents, Governors and Defence Ministers in the central government. The current Sultan (number 10) lives at the palace in Yogyakarta.

We also visited the old Sultan's water palace Taman Sari. Designed by the Portuguese in the mid 18th century, today only the bathing complex and a few pavilions have survived, although not in pristine condition any more.

We finished off the morning with the inevitable visits to the arts workshops (and goods for sale of course!).  I quite enjoyed our quick visit to the batik workshop.

These ladies can take up to a year to complete the intricate batik waxing and fabric dyeing processes for costumes for royal ceremonies and weddings etc.

As our last Yogya treat Rob and I ordered the dish the city is renowned for - gudeg (otherwise known as "green jack fruit sweet stew"). It was quite a sweet dish based on coconut milk and palm sugar flavours. Its characteristic reddish colour is due to the addition of teak leaves as a colouring agent. Our gudeg was served with chicken, egg and beef skin(?). An absolutely beautiful dish that will be a definite favourite of mine forever more!

Our flight left Yogya at 4.15pm, with a few hours in Denpasar, and arrived in Sydney early Friday morning. We've had a fantastic two weeks in Indonesia - plenty of indulgence in beautiful Ubud and lots to learn and experience in Java too - all shared with great friends, making it much more fun and enjoyable. We'll definitely be back!!