Sunday, October 31, 2010

Sydney stars

Some of our favourite things from our last few days in Sydney together:

1. Sculpture By the Sea
Is it just luck that we time our annual reunion in Sydney to coincide with Sculpture By The Sea or a matter of careful planning? Either way the walk from Coogee to Bondi and a close encounter with the sculptures exhibited on Tamarama Beach and along the coast from Tamarama to Bondi are always a highlight of our time together.

These two figures at Tamarama, looking like your average Aussie beachgoers, just personify the bliss of the perpetual state of ignorance.

As usual there were school groups everywhere. We're so lucky we don't have to visit at the weekend when the crowds are overwhelming at Sculpture By the Sea.

We all agreed that the selection of pieces wasn't as spectacular as last year. Apparently the GFC has had a delayed impact, with a significant loss of sponsorships and donation revenue over the past two years. Artists no longer receive their $2000 contribution towards the cost of producing and installing works. No wonder the number and scale of works has been affected!

It's still a wonderful experience to view and interact with the works in this amazing coastal setting.

2. Being together beside our favourite harbour
We spent most of Friday on the North Shore - Mosman (shopping, eating), Balmoral Beach and Chowder Bay.

The visit to Chowder Bay was a first for all of us. The whole area from Middle Head to Clifton Gardens (including Chowder Bay) is now part of the Sydney Harbour National Park since it ceased its naval base role in 2005. It's very beautiful (naturally!)

3. Sister time together
Including silly sister time, shopping sister time, talking sister time, sharing secrets sister time - while the boys are very sweet about enduring all the inevitable waiting time................

4. Lunches in Sydney
Including gorgeous Mediterranean salads and proper coffee from Lunchbox Cucina in Mosman, our favourite Israeli food from Sabbaba in Hall Street, Bondi and yesterday's great find: an amazing yum cha lunch from The Palace Chinese Restaurant in Picadilly Square in Castlereagh Street.

Terry Durack had published his guide to the top ten yum cha restaurants in Sydney in the smh back in August and The Palace was in his top ten. We found it the best we've tried yet (although it was very affirming to see our other favourites in his top ten list too).

5. Shopping with sisters
I learnt about belts this visit, they learnt about my favourite jewellery designer at the Paddington Markets (Ant Haus Designs), and my favourite chocolate maker (Delicaseys). I also introduced them to the joys of Military Road, Mosman and Ziera Shoes. Despite our best efforts we found it difficult to make our mark in the buzzy CBD yesterday afternoon. We even ran out of time to take a good look at the new Westfield complex in Pitt Street.

Our least favourite thing is saying goodbye. We don't like the fact that it will be a while before we can do this again..................

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Slow birthday

It's been a week of heavy rain (nearly 5 inches for Canberra), cold windy weather and two belated birthday celebrations; one for Angus and one for me. I think there is a lot to recommend the slow food and slow travel movements . Drawing out the celebration of birthdays is another excellent way of getting maximum enjoyment out of life!

Before setting out for Angus's party at Monkey Mania on Monday Ella enjoyed playing dress ups (trying a few outfits on Joshy's 30 year old teddy bear was pretty funny!).

But Monkey Mania proved to be an outstanding choice for entertaining a bunch of 3-4 year olds on a wet windy Monday (for over 3 hours).

This was another 2010 Angus birthday cake. Claire just keeps these brilliant cakes coming....she says she's getting far more efficient at the maximum impact for minimum input aspect of birthday cake making.

Josh, Jody and Ella entertained me at a birthday celebration dinner last night, followed by an extended family breakfast this morning-complete with a glass of Majella and bagels with scrumptious fillings.
It was a gorgeous warm sunny day, our first for the week, so Claire only allowed the boys a brief stint playing computer games,

before we headed outside for the usual fun and games with the kids. It got so warm that sunscreen and hats were even required.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Fun with Ros & Pete

One of the best things about our holiday weather was that it prevented Pete from working and left us very few options other than making our own fun together - usually over fine meals with fine wine. We started with lunch at Ocean Noir on Tuesday near where the grommits battled to ride the brown water surf where the ocean meets the harbour in the Rip Curl Gromsearch Classic.

There were fine meals at home together too. We bought fresh whole snapper and local prawns at the marina and enjoyed a wonderful home cooked meal later that night, before settling in to watch Mad Men (episode 10, series 3) while the rain beat down outside. What a wonderful series; I'd never watched it before; thank you Ros.

We found a cafe, full of character and charm at the very top end of the village of Bellingen, Lodge 241, for our lunch on Wednesday. Even the boys were pleased we had taken the time to search this place out, despite all their comments about how hungry they were and how long it was taking to find JUST THE RIGHT cafe.

We saved the best to last, last our favourite Saltwater, right on the beach at Emerald Beach, a few minutes drive from Sandy. This place has won so many awards, we've been there a few times before, but it is still just as good: beautifully crafted food, the best ingredients, and that wonderful setting, overlooking the ocean.

I had swordfish, Ros & Rob had a superlative lamb dish, Pete had a Royal Thai seafood curry. Our salmon ballantine appetizer was gorgeous.

We left Ros and Pete at Sandy Beach this morning. The day dawned very clear and sunny. Pete was off to work to catch up on time lost with the rain. Ros was looking forward to a few days break from work. Our time together had been very precious.

Big Wet

The Coff's Coast had over 300mls of rain from Saturday through to Monday, so we had to negotiate a few flooded roads between Brisbane and Sandy Beach on Monday. The trip took us over seven hours (instead of the usual 4 and 1/2).

This minor flooding near Ballina caused us a 3/4 hour wait. Only a single stream of cars was being let through at low speeds (the sides of the road were too deeply flooded to have two lanes open). As the rain got heavier the closer we got to Coff's we had another major hold up (over 1 hour) at Blackadder Creek near Corindi Beach. That was a scary one to cross - they closed the road altogether later that night, it got so deep.

Tuesday dawned just as wet. We headed to the marina with Ros and Pete for lunch at Ocean Noir and got a wonderful view of the choppy, wind swept, brown water ocean.

Wednesday was wet too. We drove to Bellingen where there was water lying around everywhere.

It was a thrill to see Maxie and Claire's work hanging in the Bellingen Art Prize exhibition in the main street of this pretty village. I managed to get a quick picture of Maxie's before I was "admonished". Ironically, the surface of Maxie's ceramic sculpture depicts the river story - inspired by the impact of our recent devastating drought.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Brisbane eats

Yesterday we caught up with Brisbane family at some great eating places. We started the day with a leisurely breakfast at Anouk on Given Terrace in the very hip and happening Paddington. I enjoyed the privilege of being able to catch up with Matt & Mel while we sampled the great breakfast menu at Anouk (I had Spring whiting omelet with fennel).

Last night, with more storm clouds brewing, we met up with Joel and Imogen at their place to start with before heading out for a night on the town at West End: drinks at the soulful Lock n Load Bistro on Boundary Street and then a wonderful Turkish meal at Caravanserai on Dornoch Terrace. This was a very special night as we don't get to see Joel very often now and meeting the beautiful Imogen for the first time was a great privilege too. They share our love of family, travel, Middle Eastern food, politics and broadcast news (an industry they are both passionate about and doing so well in!!) so we ate and talked and talked while the Brisbane weather grew wilder and more windy as the night progressed. Caravanserai is located in an old, character filled Queenslander and the wind just howled through its open verandah overlooking the river and the night lights of the city. It would have been beautiful on a warm night. We voted it the best middle eastern food we had eaten anywhere.

The rain really settled in today. A drive to Wynnum for fish and chips and a walk along the bay esplanade ended up with us huddling under cover at the Pelican Nest fish & chippery and sticking to a slow drive in the car past the rain soaked Manly Yacht Club and the Wynnum wading pool we all remembered so well from our childhood days in the 50s.

For our last afternoon in Brisbane I met up with my friend Jane in familiar territory at Jetty on Oxford Street at the Bulimba ferry wharf. We enjoyed a relaxed few hours catching up on our news while appreciating our ringside view of the scudding rain on the river and the rolling drama of the storm clouds behind the Tenneriffe Wool Stores as the day drew to a close.

Friday, October 1, 2010


Brisbane is hosting the wonderful Valentino Retrospective at the Gallery of Modern Art in the Southbank cultural precinct. We (me especially) were very excited to see this magnificent exhibition of 100 beautiful dresses, including those worn by Cate Blanchett (2005 Academy Awards), Julia Roberts (2000 Academy Awards), the Jackie Onassis wedding dress and iconic dresses worn by Nicole Kidman, Elizabeth Taylor and Princess Grace of Monaco, all very rich, tall and thin women.

The exhibition has been enormously popular. The $75.00 catalogues were all sold out long ago, much to my disappointment.

The Valentino exhibition was not the only joy at this gallery. It was also a privilege to see the Douglas Kirkland photography exhibition. I was stoked to see he's a Canon man now he's gone digital although those iconic Marilyn Monroe, Coco Chanel, Audrey Hepburn, Judy Garland and John Lennon portraits and those famous stills for The Sound of Music and the Thriller video were from his Leica days.

We found Brisbane cool and windy today, not at all how we were expecting it to be. We kept getting confused at the way our 35 years ago mind map of Brisbane has failed to incorporate all those office and apartment block towers, the hemmed in Brisbane River and the looping freeways. The old Treasury building and the South Brisbane railway station look like funny little old fashioned toy buildings in amongst all this development.