Sunday, August 29, 2010

Rutherglen (near All belly!)

Our three day trip to Rutherglen provided an opportunity for Jody to celebrate a birthday dinner and get together with her friend Elissa (they both celebrated their birthdays this week, although Elissa's was more of a milestone than Jody's was!) while Josh was doing some "PD" in Melbourne. We just loved having an excuse to spend some quality time with our gorgeous girls (Ella AND Jody) in this gorgeous part of the country.

We took a leisurely approach to driving to Rutherglen on Friday (past All Belly), leaving us plenty of time to explore the grounds of The Tuileries in the mellow afternoon light of this cold wintry end to August. Ella is addicted to her pink Micro scooter at the moment so she was impressed with being able to scooter around all the pathways circling the villas and the vineyards bordering the property.

I was entranced with the play of late afternoon light on the rows of heavily pruned vines around The Tuileries. Later, that night we found we were just as entranced with the wonderful Bobbie Burns Shiraz produced by Campbells (of Rutherglen), recently awarded a 5 star winery rating by James Halliday in his 2011 Wine Companion. James Halliday awarded the Bobbie Burns Shiraz a 93/100.

I was stoked to see that Campbells use a similar image of the winter pruned vines for their classy wine labels.

Saturday morning dawned sunny but cold, a perfect start to a day in the country. We set off for Beechworth, about a half hour drive South-East of Rutherglen.

Beechworth is Victoria's best preserved gold mining town and full of shops, B&Bs and foodie destinations for the "quite well heeled". We found a wonderful (and very cheap) bucket of pavement chalks in one of the chi chi little shops in the main street. Ella couldn't wait to create her impressions of winter storm clouds on the dusty pavements of Beechworth, quite oblivious to other activity going on around her.

We eventually managed to lure her away from her artwork by the opportunity to be "a big girl on the tuckerbox 5 miles from Gundagai"! (That was her joke, referencing our attempts to sing that old Australian song the day before as we passed through Gundagai.)

We've visited Wardens Food & Wine in Ford Street Beechworth for lunch before and loved its honest Italian inspired flavours and great choice of wines. It was wonderful this visit to see Jody and Ella enjoying it as much as we always have. Ella ate her parmesan crusted flathead and tartare sauce and roast pumpkin and dressed salad with gusto.

While Rob tried a number of tapas plates and Jody and I had the wonderful kingfish and eggplant carponata.

Saturday night was Elissa's big birthday bash at The Tuileries Restaurant in Rutherglen. Ella was quite happy to stay home with us (and her Koko Black chocolate loveheart on a stick) while her Mummy and the other girls went out partying.

This morning was sunny, clear and a little warmer in Rutherglen. We took Ella for a longer walk after breakfast, past the sheep and alpacas grazing in the paddocks adjacent to The Tuileries vineyards. Ella was a bit shocked to find the wheels of her pink Micro scooter were getting covered in country dirt on these rough bush tracks and she kept stopping to clean them down.

I couldn't work out if this was a typical reaction of a city girl in a foreign environment or if it was just an expression of her gene pool (neither her Daddy nor her Grandpa allow their cars to get dirty either!).
Either way it was an endless source of curiosity for the alpacas.

Driving home Rob fulfilled his dream of exploring the old HMAS Otway at Holbrook with Ella, something he never got around to doing with Joshy on our trips to Melbourne back in the eighties.

Ella gave her now famous "Now don't do that!" salute as she disappeared down the hatch. It will be quite hard for her Mummy to teach her when it is appropriate to do this and when it is not, as we find it very amusing (and can't help laughing) when she uses it either appropriately or inappropriately!

Rob was suitably rewarded for his guided tour of the HMAS Otway!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

3, 4 and 6

The day after a rather sobering election day was a good day to forget our woes and get into celebrating Angus's fourth birthday.

At this stage Josh was feeling a lot more stressed than Angus, taking responsibility for transforming Optimus Prime back into a Prime Mover. It seemed a lot more difficult than back in the Eighties when he was starting his Transformer collection.

Ollie, the six year old has achieved a milestone this week - losing his first baby tooth - left front tooth on lower jaw.

The kids were all in a gorgeous mood this afternoon; just a quiet, family only, celebration of a birthday - the best kind!

I've included this shot of Ella (at 3 years and 3 months) because it shows two milestones this week: line drawings of people now include legs and arms (and bodies, as of last night) AND she is able to cut around the shapes she draws with quite a deal of control, even around the curves.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Emerald City

We laughed our heads off watching the 1988 film of David Williamson's Emerald City on ABC2 last night; especially at the inept househusband antics of the Colin character (John Hargreaves) in the midst of his midlife crisis brought on by his (and his family's) move to Sydney from Melbourne. There was Nicole Kidman too, lighting up the screen, as an EIGHTEEN year old!

Avaricious, self centred, superficial Sydney......22 years on it seems that everywhere North and West of the Murray River has caught the superficiality disease and our Emerald City seems more lustrous to us than just a shallow, glitter city now!

This weekend there were so many events in Sydney for us to choose from: the Moran Portrait Prize Exhibition at the State Library, the Ferrogosto Italian Festival at Five Dock, the Young Blood: Designer's Market and Sydney Designboom Mart at the Powerhouse Museum......

I opted for a long session at the design market at the Powerhouse Museum,

which gave us just enough time to squeeze in some QVB scanning in the afternoon and a refreshing Guinness at the Royal Hotel Randwick on the way home. We had a lovely time at the pub, enjoying a lively conversation with an intelligent, well informed older woman about the election campaign. She left us in very good humour to get ready for a concert that night at the Opera House: Let it Be with John Waters, Doug Parkinson and a cast of thousands.

We'd met up with Tania and Aine the afternoon before at the Rosewood Cafe in Roseville and watched hundreds of expensively uniformed private schoolies emerging from the railway station and being picked up in the assortment of late model 4 wheel drives lining Hill Street. Tania is looking forward to "outing herself" next Saturday by handing out How to Vote cards for the local Labor candidate (with no chance of winning this very safe Liberal North Shore seat in Sydney (Bradfield)).

Travelling by bus from Coogee to the CBD and seeing all the posters on display made us very aware of the high profile candidates for the federal electorates we were passing through: Peter Garrett (Kingsford Smith), Malcolm Turnbull (Wentworth) and the beautiful and intelligent Tanya Plibersek (Sydney). This very strange election campaign is an insistent backdrop to the gorgeous, late winter sparkle of this emerald city.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Doing better than Julia

I can't claim credit for either of these photos, but they represent wonderful moments in our weekend; a much better weekend than Julia has experienced I am sure!

We looked after Ella yesterday while her Mummy and Daddy were celebrating Christmas in August with the workers. We met up with Angus and Ollie and C&J at the beautiful Lowe Street Park for a long afternoon of scootering, having crash kaboom rolls on the grass and playing "stacks on" on top of Robbie's stomach. It was all quite idyllic!

I was much too busy last week organising "PD" at the National Museum of Australia to have a good look at the wonderful new Canning Stock Route exhibition myself. Rob and I indulged ourselves this morning with a long interrupted look at what is one of the most amazing and inspiring exhibitions I have ever seen.

The Canning Stock Route was first established around a 100 years ago (although not used now). It's nearly 1900 klms long and runs through three great sandy deserts of Western Australia, allowing movement of cattle southwards, from the Kimberleys. The paintings and objects (and multi media) in the Canning Stock Route collection tell the story, so vividly, of the impact on the Aboriginal people whose Country was bisected by the stock route.

I'm still absorbing the richness of the material but one of the first sparks of realisation for me was that the world renowned Papunya and Turkey Creek Art movements (e.g. Rover Thomas) are only based in the areas they are because these amazing artists were forced off their traditional lands around the stock route. The government blocked off their access to water and sent shooting parties after them if they killed any of the cattle for food!

The exhibition is dominated by the large collection of paintings completed by over 90 Aboriginal artists who participated in this collaborative project to tell their peoples' story of the Canning Stock Route. Despite the injustices, the tragedies and the ongoing disadvantage it is a joyous, exhilarating, spiritual and celebratory exhibition. Every Australian should see it.........even Tony and Julia!

This picture shows three elders from the Martumili Art Centre working on The Seven Sisters painting from the exhibition.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Stop press

We've just been to the Queanbeyan City Council 2010 Art Awards at the beautiful Q Gallery at the Queanbeyan Performing Arts Centre. Two of our favourite artists had work represented in the Awards exhibition (Maxine and Claire). Maxine's sculptured torso was beautifully placed in the centre of the exhibition space.

Claire's dry point etching from her recent "From little things big things grow" exhibition was hung quietly just at the right hand entrance to the gallery, with some other graphic pieces. Claire selected the work that got a special mention in the Canberra Times review of the exhibition for this year's Queanbeyan City Council Art Award.

And the winner of the Highly Commended Award was........our Claire.

First prize went to a sensitively painted treescape that you can just glimpse above Claire's head in the first photograph.

We enjoyed meeting up with our favourite gallery director, Georgina, the judge Mel and the ceramicist Debra Boyd-Goggin and her partner Chris. Both Debra and Chris had work in the exhibition. I don't know how Mel was able to effectively judge such a diverse group of art works!

Although we certainly think she got something right in recognising Claire's incredibly original, sensuous, lively and authentic work.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Tania, Jane and me

Our 20 year old, Canberra High teaching connection has stayed strong even though we've all moved to different states of Australia, we're different ages and despite big changes in our careers and family directions.

Jane had a 50th birthday to attend in Sydney so it was a great excuse for us three to meet up again and continue conversations we've shared together over the past few years........mainly catching up with news of partners and family, art, travel, teaching, politics, food, skincare(!)....all accompanied by lots of laughter, long lunches and many glasses of wine.

Friday we met up at Coogee and a long lunch at Barzura's. We were so grateful to Tania for hauling along a big laundry basket of sheets and towels for us to use over the weekend. Rob and I had left home without our two big bags of freshly laundered Coogee linen. We didn't discover our huge omission until we got to Sydney on Friday morning. What a horrible way to treat Jane - no sheets for her bed and no towel for her shower (and none for us either).

Jane, Rob and I managed to squeeze in a pretty rushed visit to the wonderful 80s exhibition at the Powerhouse Museum on Friday afternoon after our long lunch. The exhibition deserves an extended viewing as its richly detailed, exuberant and many layered (just like the 80s).

Jane and I spent Saturday morning strolling around the Paddington Markets and window shopping along Oxford Street and Glenmore Road. We found the landmark Royal Hotel at the five ways in Paddington (our lunch date with Tania) really easily. It was a perfect afternoon for sitting in the warm sun on the tiny cast iron lace hotel verandah drinking white wine enjoying lunch and some extended time to continue our endlessly fascinating conversations together.

Tania takes the prize for being the coolest Mum on the North shore. She used to bring Morgan over to the Royal at Paddington after school sometimes for a drink (orange juice for Morgan). That is when they weren't heading off to Manly or Bondi for an after school swim. Morgan's in London now experiencing a gap year before university study next year. I bet she really misses her times with Tania at Paddo.

Jane's party was at Petersham on Saturday night so our time together was over really quickly. We've made a tentative date for our reunion in Canberra next year - maybe to celebrate my BIG birthday in 2011!