Saturday, August 23, 2014


Good friends of ours are off to Europe on Monday with stops in Greece, Crete, Spain and other places. They left behind a new film/slide scanner for Rob to work out its secrets. He solved the puzzle by scanning an ancient collection of our slides from our eight month trip to Europe and Russia way back in 1975.

I thought I would show you a few highlights - but promise you won't laugh too much...

We'll start in Athens.......this is how the Plaka looked back in 1975, looking towards the Acropolis. Guess who that fairly derelict looking guy is in the foreground.........

In those days you could wander all over the ancient temples of the Acropolis.

There's that derelict looking guy again, sitting on the steps to the divine Temple of Athena Nike, with a very smoggy looking Athens in the distance.

And there is me on the streets of Athens, looking very well padded by now from eating all the delights of Europe; unlike Rob who seemed to get more skinny the longer we were on the road.

..... and there's the derelict guy again waiting for the bus from Athens to Patras (to catch the ferry to Corfu).

We spent a couple of idyllic days on Corfu where the conditions were ideal for camping (unlike some of the other places we stayed in 1975).

From Corfu we crossed to Italy where we captured this cheesy shot (below), which Eddie may particularly enjoy if he doesn't find the hairy guy too scary.

There's me wandering the streets of ancient Pompeii, overlooked by a hazy Mt Vesuvius in the background....

The Ponte Vecchio in Florence in 1975...

 and just by way of comparison, 38 years later (yikes!) in 2013......

This is Rob looking very suave on a beach on the French Riviera...

..and looking nice after a haircut in Nice....

 ....and a few days later standing in the Place de la Concorde looking towards L'Arc de Triomphe on a cold wet November day in Paris.

Other random shots:
Rob standing in front of the painter El Greco's villa in Toledo Spain...

....and that is me standing in St Peter's cemetery in Salzburg. PS I really am a natural blonde; I used to dye my hair dark brown in those days (!!)

We loved our time in Croatia, on the Dalmatian Coast. The pic below is of Rob as we were leaving Split old town to catch the ferry over to the beautiful island of Hvar.

..and below is a pic of me drinking Croatian beer in Split old town (just adding more to my 1970s avoirdupois).

.....and ready for another day of backpacking in picture book Interlaken in Switzerland.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Reconnecting, celebrating 100 years and family

We've had an enormous two days of celebrations for BK's 100th birthday. Twenty four family members from as far away as London, Perth, Melbourne, Brisbane and Sandy Beach travelled to Canberra to help Mum celebrate this awesome milestone.  Those that weren't able to travel have sent messages of love via Skype (all the way from Korea) and mobile phone (a show stopper from Great-grandson Eddie in London) and via cards, letters and email. A beautiful bunch of flowers was sent from Mum's nephew in Brisbane as was a personal letter from our much admired ACT Chief Minister, Katy Gallagher MLA (as well as around 65 lovely links for Mum's 100th birthday paper chain)

It is fair to say that Mum has LOVED seeing the far flung members of her family all together again even though she would have much preferred it if we didn't go on so much about her being 100 years old like we have!

We hosted "Open House" on Friday so that we could all catch up in a relaxed way that catered for people arriving and leaving at different times. It also meant that the little ones in the family had a chance to catch up on nap times if needed.

It was pretty clear right from the start that Mum was LOVING all this attention from her favourite people!

I had made a "Betty Book" of photos and a narrative about the ten decades of BK's life....a century that has seen two world wars, a Great Depression, a Cold War, a GFC and enormous societal changes. In the midst of all this Mum and Dad raised a family and made a happy home for them. Over the past thirty years, after Dad died, Mum has proudly watched her grandchildren grow and thrive and go on to make wonderful careers and families of their own.

The "Betty Book" created some interest among family members we haven't seen in a while. That's our cousin David, Mum's nephew, from Perth, enjoying a bit of reminiscing with Betty over the Betty Book.

and then there's Davey from London (not too jet lagged) and sister Claire and David's wife Karen enjoying memories captured in the Betty Book....

Even those cousins who see each other more regularly loved the chance to catch up like this (on a Friday afternoon WORK DAY too).

..and Erin and John and their little treasures had made the HUGE drive up from Melbourne so they could help us celebrate (along with Granny Ros from Sandy Beach).

..and it wouldn't be any kind of a party without these two girls.....

..and these two couldn't believe their luck--a whole afternoon of giggling, stacks on, jumping and sliding, being nice to Great Granny K - and an afternoon off SCHOOL too!

The main event on Saturday was lunch (for 24 people) at the Hyatt Hotel. Mum always enjoys family outings at the Hyatt - including the lunchtime seafood buffet - so it was the obvious choice of venue for this occasion. Rob got to sit at the Young Ones table!

And the youngest family member (baby Sam) got to spend a lot of time at the Older Persons table.

We could hear these cousins enjoying a lot of laughs together....

.....but these little cousins hardly talked at all.  They both share the same passion for Peppa Pig.....and that is enough - with no need to talk about it!

There was a lovely Hyatt moment as we were about to leave. We were able to sing Happy Birthday to Mum, accompanied by the very accomplished resident Hyatt pianist. Despite my best intentions I was never able to get all 24 of us together for a family photo - but this was not a bad second best attempt (only 8 people missing!).

Mum was still really enjoying herself at this point despite the acute embarrassment of everyone knowing it was her 100th birthday.

 Then it was back to our house again for an afternoon of more celebrating...

receiving a Skype greeting from Granny K's beloved grandson Joel in South Korea.........

..time to show off an Alanah Hill headband (borrowed from big sister) (looks very fetching with Peppa Pig top and green tulle skirt)...

..and then of course there was birthday CAKE........

It was very special to share this time with family members we've not seen in a while - like cousin Robert from Queensland, and Margaret.... Mum recognised her nephew Robert immediately, despite the years since they had last seen each other.

and so nice to share this very special celebration with those we see a lot more of...

..while remembering that in essence all birthdays are really all about the C-A-K-E! especially when it has cream cheese icing....


Sunday, July 27, 2014

Truffle weekend

The Canberra region is celebrating truffle season with a full festival program this year.  We headed out to Grazing at Gundaroo last night, with Jennie & Wayne, for a gala event: a degustation dinner - featuring our region's sublime black truffles, throughout the six course menu.  The evening started with a Zierholz Brewery truffle infused ale, served at the bar with a scrumptuous duck foie gras with apple on dark rye.

The star of the evening was Antonio Carluccio, the so called Godfather of Italian gastronomy, and a man who is passionate about mushrooms!  He was in an expansive mood and told rambling stories and questionable jokes with the odd recipe or two in between courses.  Although one interesting point he made was that there is currently nowhere else in the world where you can go out and harvest a kilo of truffles like you can in the farms around Canberra!

Grazing was filled to capacity for the event but the food was wonderful (superb), the waitstaff was super professional and we really enjoyed the lively company. Along with Jennie and Wayne we also enjoyed meeting the gorgeous Amanda Whitley, editor of the well known Her Canberra website and the garrulous Dallas who sat on the other side of me and shared a lot of my own views about the way the PM is handling the aftermath of MH17 (not that that has anything to do with truffles).
Every dish was amazing - and generously flavoured with the fragrant black truffle - but the two stand outs for me were the: venison carpaccio with lardo, truffle shavings, remoulade and soft boiled quail egg.

..and dessert: warm chestnut fondant and fig fritter filled with truffle honey and caramelised white chocolate icecream (and a surprise little chocolate package on the side - yum!

On the same weekend as this unforgettable meal we were still lucky enough to be invited for one of Joshy's Sunday roasts this evening. It has been a lovely sunny winter warm day today and so the girls were able to play outside until quite late - without feeling too frozen.

 Abi's finally graduated to a big girl's swing - and the toddler seat has gone for good!

She's been going down that slippery slide for about a year already so I don't know why she looked so doubtful this afternoon.

Ella is getting ready for a hand stand duet with Davey when he arrives from London later this week. She's progressing well but is still not quite at the standard he demonstrated at his wedding last year.